“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live.... I'd type a little faster.”
Isaac Asimov

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

This used to be the ticket counter, y'all. Everything is weird and wonderful.
like night to a supernova is union station then to now
Thu 2014-12-18 19:28:25 (single post)

OMG you guys. Union Station is beautiful.

Last time I was here, I think it was July, the Train Hall was still under construction. If you were waiting to board an Amtrak train, you sat in a tiny walled-off corner of the Hall on the seats they'd toted over from the temporary station, which were crammed so close together that you'd find yourself literally knocking knees with other people. People you didn't know, I mean. You entered through a sort of hobbit door after dodging through construction cones on Wynkoop Street. Last time I was here, it was drizzling rain, but passengers were electing to wait outside in the wet where there was room to breathe.

Comparing my arrival then to our arrival today, it was like night to day. No--it was like night to supernova. First off, the door into the Train Hall now says "Crawford Hotel," which made us hesitate a bit before going in. But it was the only door waiting for us at the top of the escalator, so, we went in.

Do you remember the sort of hollow, high-ceilinged, echoing, pew-furnished purgatory that Denver Union Station used to be? No more. All those alcoves that looked sadly like they used to be something but were now abandoned? They're something now. They're AMCE Burger & Brat Corp.. They're Pigtrain Coffee Co. and Milkbox Ice Creamery. They're Snooze for brunch, the Mercantile for upscale delicatessen grocery shopping (and dining in), and even a little miniature Tattered Cover bookstore with darn good selection for its size. Where the forlorn ticketing counter used to be is now the Terminal Bar, with "patio" seating and live music.

Down the hall, past where the brand new, modern ticketing counter and baggage check office are now, you'll find the seafood bar Stoic & Genuine and the aforementioned The Kitchen [Next Door] Community Pub. The latter is where I spent the last hour and some, eating small plates and drinking beer.

Meanwhile, the Train Hall doubles as the Crawford Hotel's lounge--hence the insignia on the door when we came in. The huge penitent pews are gone, and, historic though they were, I am surprised to find that I don't miss them. There are smaller pews, all in a row by the exit to the train tracks, but mostly there's comfortable seating in leather and upholstery. There are charging stations that are actually comfortable to sit at, and well lit. There are shuffleboard tables, dear Gods in alphabetical order. There is a bluegrass band playing everything, including a gorgeous cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." Followed by Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes." I'm kind of overwhelmed. And happy. And, it must be admitted, a little drunk.

The train, unaccountably, is early. And I'm not nearly ready to leave!

Well. I'll be posting this from the train thanks to John's smartphone wifi uplink. But you can bet I'll be coming back down to Union Station even when I'm not traveling by train. Because this will be a fantastic place to work, once I've got enough home improvement out of the way to take my writing out of the house for once. I mean, for once when I'm not on vacation.

the inevitability of pre-travel freak-outs
Wed 2014-12-17 23:33:09 (single post)

So I'm currently in pre-travel freak-out mode. I know you can't tell from where you're sitting--I'm very good at hiding it!--but it's true. I'm in the last 24 hours before departure, and inside my head where nobody can see, I'm freaking out.

This is a thing that I do. Last-minute deadline stress isn't just for writing deadlines, y'all.

Tomorrow, John and I get on a train bound for New Orleans. Which is to say, we get on the train to Chicago, and in Chicago we will catch the train for New Orleans. This is the most direct route, and will be until such time as Amtrak becomes convinced it'll be feasible to create or reinstate other routes through Denver. (Cross your fingers with me. I want to see this happen in my lifetime.) Should the train be on time (as so far it's said to be), it will depart at 7:10 PM, so theoretically we don't need to get our happy luggage-toting butts down to Denver Union Station until about 6:30 or so. However, I've also got this fun but completely unnecessary idea that we should eat dinner there before we go. Which means we need to get out the house and onto a bus no later than 3:00.

Here are all the things I have to do before that time:

  • Pack all the things. Clothes, computer, headphones, knitting, cross-stitch, fruitcake, skates, etc.
  • Re-booze the fruitcake before packing it.
  • Give freshly-washed derby gear a chance to dry before packing.
  • Clean the fridge - freeze or throw out what'll go bad before our return.
  • Read the AINC programming that's due Saturday, since I can't very well do it on the train.
  • Maybe go to the dentist if they have time to look at the bit of today's filling that feels like a popcorn shell stuck between my teeth.
  • Whatever else I'm forgetting. There's probably something.

(I wanted to get the current closet bi-fold finished by now, but, alas, that didn't happen. I have given myself permission not to worry about it. It's a bold move but I think, in this particular circumstance, it'll work.)

The up-side of all this stress is, it vanishes the moment I board the train. I mean completely. At that point, everything is done, or almost everything; and anything that isn't done can no longer be done, so it's not my responsibility anymore. My responsibility at that point becomes "Enjoy the ride. And maybe get some work done, too." I can't begin to describe how very much I'm looking forward to that point.

It's now nearly a quarter 'til midnight. I suppose I'd better start cleaning that fridge. Best place to begin, I think, is by eating some of what's in it. I haven't had dinner yet and I'm starting to feel it. Good night, all; when next I write, it'll be from Union Station.

free booze, saints on top, and a twitter road trip
Mon 2014-12-15 22:28:12 (single post)

Tonight was a good night for Monday Night Football and free alcohol. First Harpo's sent a server around with free pudding shots (consisting of, I think, banana pudding and Fireball whiskey). This led almost directly to another diner offering me the rest of her wine bottle. "I have to drive home, and then the pudding shots happened, so I figured I had to stop drinking for the night--but it was a $13 bottle and I hate to waste it, and I saw you sitting all alone over here..."

If this was a variety of the "woman! alone in bar! must be lonely" impulse, well, I can't exactly complain. Not, I think, that it looked like I needed company. I was yelling at the TV like I usually do when football's happening. Yelling, and laughing, and occasionally screaming, because that's how I react when surprised by a good play. It was at least a five-scream game. The Saints won, improving their record to 6-8 and taking the lead of the NFC South.

I did manage to finish off that wine. And the pudding shot. And my beer. Don't worry--I was on my bike tonight.

Speaking of the need for company, Havi Brooks has requested some on twitter tonight during her seven-hour-and-forty-minute drive through the tumbleweed-infested wilds of eastern Washington state. Bring some music.

notes from a mountain town
Tue 2014-12-02 23:46:49 (single post)

As mentioned before, I'm in Avon, Colorado for the week. This is a little town just down the highway from Vail, in Eagle County. Given its nature as a ski resort/mountain town, it has certain peculiarities which I feel moved to mention at this time.

First off there is no straight line path to anywhere. Even if you can see the building you want to get to, there's no "as the crow flies" route from where you're standing. All the streets curve, and many of them have large traffic circles at their intersections. I'm pretty sure I've unnecessarily doubled the length of my trip between points A and B, for any given points A and B, by choosing to walk the long way around intermediary landmark C when it looked like it would be the short way around. It's very hard to gauge these things, especially when what looks like a direct route turns out to involve a six-foot drop or a near-insurmountable pile of snow.

And speaking of snow: Every day since I arrived has been sunny and warm, or at least sunny and warmer than you'd expect from a prediction of highs in the low 40s. I looked at the forecast before I left Boulder, and I thought, "Sunny and warm-ish, at least until mid-week. I'll bring my skates." But the problem with street skating in Avon in early December is this: it may not be snowing now, but it has snowed. And that previous snow is still hanging around, melting. And depositing mud and truly malicious gravel at every cross road.

Which is the long way of saying that my trip home from the library yesterday was--uncharacteristically, given how much I love skating--not particularly fun. But I did get a good toe-stop workout out of it. And I only fell once. Go me!

Meanwhile, have some pictures of the place where I'm staying. I'm at the Christie Lodge, which is unusual, but there was nothing available at the Sheraton Mountain Vista that I could take advantage of, so here I am. The Christie Lodge is much more convenient to Loaded Joe's, which I'm sure I'll appreciate on karaoke night when I will no doubt stumble back to my room late, tired and tipsy. It's also closer to the grocery store, which I have already had occasion to appreciate.

On the other hand, its layout is weird. It feels a little bit like staying in a long, narrow shopping mall made to look a little bit like an outdoor retail village. And it is built on a slope. This is obvious at all times. There is only one set of elevators at the center of the arc, near the lobby, and unless you are very lucky your trek from the elevator to your second-floor room at any distance down the east or west concourse will involve a half-flight of stairs. Maybe two. This is no fun at check-in.

Even some of the first floor rooms are inaccessible to wheelchairs. There are ramps for getting from one level of first-floor concourse to the next, but then you get to your room and there's a four-step rise to the door. It just looks like the architects, designers, somebody wasn't wearing their best thinking cap when attempting to solve the problem of building on a slope. Or maybe their target demographic is exclusively able-bodied enjoyers of snow sports, I don't know.

On the positive side, here is one of the things that the odd layout makes almost too convenient: Pho 20, their newest in-resort restaurant. It's practically right below me. I am no judge of how authentic a particular restaurant's pho is, but I can tell you that it was yummy and warm and filling, and the spring rolls were tasty too. I have been very, very good about eating most of my meals in the room--salads, instant noodle bowls in the microwave, omelets in the electric skillet--but Pho 20 is right there, beckoning.

Maybe tomorrow.

I'm so lucky. I could have been assigned a room on the Subway Sandwiches end of the resort.

the many hues of being born yesterday
Mon 2014-12-01 23:29:08 (single post)
  • 6,559 wds. long
  • 1,200 wds. long

This blog post comes to you after a successful arrival and first couple days in Avon. I have run away from home for the weekend, which means I've got no responsibilities but the writing ones. Granted, this theory has been put sorely to the test by my having visited the library and brought six books with me back to the Christie Lodge--Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals is the first temptation on the to-be-tempted by pile, and I'm halfway through it already--but it is a test I intend to pass, darn it. Look, there's evidence in my favor. To wit:

  • "Keeping Time," a 1,200-word expansion on what was originally a 739-word entry in the 2012 edition of the annual Weekend Warrior flash fiction contest on Codex, got emailed to a prospective market late Sunday night. Sunday, of course, was the deadline for that particular submissions call.
  • Sunday was also the deadline for submissions to SpeckLit for publication during the first quarter of 2015. I sent in two new drabbles. I'd have preferred to send the full slate of ten, but two was what I had. I'm rather proud of those two, too.
  • Speaking of SpeckLit, I cast my votes for the Best of SpeckLit 2014 Q3 (also a November 30 deadline). Did you?

I got right back to work on the novel today, too, and with inspiration from the most unlikely of places. I recently stumbled across The Pervocracy, "a kinky, feminist sexblog" if I may borrow Cliff's own words to describe it. (My own words began with "a whip-smart kink blog," but I couldn't seem to continue on from the pun. Which, I hasten to add, was meant with sincere admiration.) Cliff is reading Fifty Shades of Grey and blogging about it one chapter at a time. Like many people, I began reading this series for the lulz, but past chapter 12 my attitude became one of horrified ongoing enlightenment. I'd heard about this book's representation of BDSM being offensively inaccurate. What I hadn't known, because I hadn't gone looking for details, was that E. L. James has chronicled a deeply abusive relationship in disturbing detail--you can play Potential Abusive Partner Red Flag Bingo with these books--then marketed it as desirable romance. And if you're saying, "Well, but, duh, it began as Twilight fanfic, and that's exactly what Twilight is." To which all I can say is,


when Edward broke into Bella's room, all he did was watch her sleep. He did not rape her and leave her sobbing all night long on the bathroom floor.

Seriously. Chapter 12, y'all. It makes Edward's hinge-oiling shenanigans look sweet by comparison. Apparently some people really need to be told that D/s doesn't mean "the Dom is allowed to sexually assault the sub if it sounds like she's trying to end the relationship."

So what does this painful horror story have to do with Iron Wheels beyond a both having a nodding acquaintance with Twilight? I'm getting to that.

Much earlier in the read-through, when there were red flags for potential abuse popping up everywhere but it was still possible to laugh about it, Cliff had a fantastic observation about the character of Anastasia Steele. James has, for the purposes of the plot, carefully written her to be so "pure" as to be unrealistic. This goes well beyond our toxic social notions of "virginity" or "innocence." Ana has not only never kissed anyone, had sexy thoughts about others, or experienced orgasm--she has also apparently never exercised in her life? Oh, and she has no idea how to use a computer. She has never used Google nor sent a frickin' email, ever, in her life. Despite being a college graduate (apparently I'm wrong here, she graduates in chapter 14) who is currently pursuing a career in journalism. I cannot imagine how one can be a journalist in the 21st century without being able to do cursory fact-checks on the internet, but then I can't imagine writing a novel set in Seattle without fact-checking things like what the nearby international airport is called, or the relative positions of Vancouver WA and Portland OR. And yet here we are with a novel for which the author has apparently fact-checked none of these things and more besides. So there you go.

But Cliff's observation is this:

Okay, new theory: Ana spontaneously appeared out of nothingness, full-grown, a few days before the events of the book. She's never done anything before because she literally did not exist.

And I thought, "Oh. That's almost literally true of Etienne Farfield, isn't it?"

Etienne is a changeling. Her entire function for hundreds of years has been to look exactly like, so as to temporarily replace, stolen infants. The way I imagine it, this means she has not been an autonomous being at all until the novel takes place. Between "assignments," she is simply stored, in stasis, a wind-up toy that isn't wound up. So her conscious existence up to now has consisted entirely of a brain incapable of verbal thought and a body incapable of performing any but the most rudimentary of voluntary movements. But now, suddenly, she's walking around like a real girl, pretending to be a normal human high school senior.

For some reason, it took reading Cliff's half-joking observation about Ana Steele to make me realize that if you really do have a character that was born yesterday, you have to put some real thought into all the implications of that. You have to work with those implications. But the good news is, you get to play with those implications. What's it like, thinking in words for the first time? What's it like, suddenly confronting the ability to do things? How does she get up to speed on this whole "being human" thing? How does it work when she's not actually replacing someone this time around? Or isn't she?

So that's what I played with today--writing yet another brand new first scene, one that starts with her narrating what it's like to wake up as a human teenager for the first time.

Where it will go tomorrow is anybody's guess.

in which the avoided thing becomes the exciting thing
Wed 2014-11-12 23:37:03 (single post)
  • 2,179 wds. long

So I started writing it today. And it's not a revision, it's just rank rough draft, exactly as awful and wrong as I expected. But I kept on writing it, because sometimes the process toward completion involves multiple rough drafts rather than a series of neatly and incrementally improved drafts. And because "discovery writing" leads to discovery, darn it.

So away with expectations of a more structured draft and a more disciplined outline! Let's have experimentation! New points of view! Different framing devices! Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks! If 51K in 2013 wasn't enough to figure this story out, maybe another 50K in 2014 will help.

Not that today's progress represents the rate that will get me to 50K by November 30, mind you. But to go from zero per day for eleven days to 2179 on day twelve is, I think, significant.

Something that helped a hell of a lot was a chance conversation on Saturday with someone who's been on the local roller derby scene for years. He was regaling us with tales from the bad old days of High Melodrama In Colorado Derby. "I probably shouldn't be telling you this," he said, so I'm not going to relate any of it here myself. But what made my ears really prick up was when he said that his dream is to see junior roller derby in the high schools along side football and basketball and soccer & etc. He had a concrete idea of how to do it, too, which he shared with us. And I said, "This may sound weird, but please go on and don't spare the details--I need this for my novel."

Sadly, I don't remember the details. But whatever they were, they totally inspired me.

See, my original idea was that my fictional high school, much like many real life schools in today's political climate of ill-advised austerity, loses its physical education component entirely due to budget cuts. Katie's dad, Mr. Greenbriar, who's the president of school board or the principal or something like that (why I thought I was ready to revise this novel when it's still full of "something like that" holes, I do not know), is trying desperately to keep the kids active on no budget whatsoever. One of the things he does is partner with a nearby league's junior derby program.

My thought now is that it's actually a county-wide recreational junior derby league that he's collaborated with a nearby adult league in creating. Its membership pulls from area schools, resulting in two or three teams that play each other in exhibition bouts at the different schools over the course of the school year.

So in the first scene of the novel, in which Old Mack (the puck) brings Etienne (the changeling) to a junior roller derby bout, the featured bout is an import. It's more of an exhibition bout. Like, "Here's an option we'd like our kids to have. What do you think?" Mr. Greenbriar is desperate to get local parental buy-in so that the rec league he has in mind can actually happen. So when Katie--who's been commuting out to practices with one of these out-of-town leagues for several months now, so she gets to play with them in the expo bout--when Katie gets impatient with her teammates' level of play and just hauls out and hits the opposing jammer as though this were a full-fledged adult WFTDA bout, Mr. Greenbriar benches her. He doesn't want her scaring off the community. (He's also not happy that she got an insubordination penalty on top of the hitting penalty. He wants her to take the rest of the bout to think about what she's done.)

That's another thing. In the first draft, Katie was just penalty heavy in general because she didn't give enough of a damn to be careful, to play clean, or to work with her teammates. But I didn't realize at the time that JRDA rules differ from WFTDA rules--and why the hell was that? Shame on me. Boulder County Bombers has a junior league--I could have picked the brains of any one of our dedicated junior derby instructors! In any case, the missing piece for me was knowing that, for juniors at level 1, all hitting is illegal. And at level 2, though intentional contact becomes legal, it's limited to "leaning into" opposing skaters. Accelerating into the hit or block remains illegal. There's even an added hand gesture for signaling the penalty.

So I could just see Mr. Greenbriar arguing the school board around with, "It's not violent! No more so than basketball. Skaters try to keep other skaters from getting past each other, but they don't hit each other. It's not like what the adult leagues do at all!" And he's just about got them convinced when Katie lays the opposing jammer flat.

Did I mention that Mr. Greenbriar's political goals are going to get more stage time in this draft? It's true. Just as soon as I figure out what those goals are.

Anyway, the climactic Roller Derby Bout Against a Faerie Team With Our Protagonists' Happiness and Freedom at Stake--that's going to echo this first expo bout very closely. For the regular humans who don't know the first thing about Faerie, it's the bout that they've been working toward all school year long: an away team wants to come and play our league! Excellent! They just don't know how very far away is. And, again, Katie's going to pull a totally illegal (for juniors) hit on their jammer. With consequences.

So this has been a lot of enthusiastic brain-dumping about Iron Wheels. I guess that's what happens when I finally sit down and start the rewrite. I get excited about where it'll go this time. Excited is good! Excited keeps the writer coming back to the page day after day.

Tomorrow I'll be looking for the 5K mark. 5K and change, ideally. Wish me luck!

From this point, you continue forward until you reach the next fork. Then turn left to visit the stone shelter.
have camera, will create Friday Fictionette cover art
Fri 2014-09-19 23:20:38 (single post)
  • 1,141 wds. long

One of these days, I'll publish my Friday Fictionette somewhat earlier in the day. Like, maybe while it's still light out. This ten-at-night business is silly.

In any case, it's up now. You can read an excerpt right here on this blog, over at Wattpad, or in my Patreon activity stream. You can read the Fictionette in its entirety by becoming a Patron at the suggested minimum pledge level of $1/month. As a reminder, Patrons get to see a new one of these every first through fourth Friday, and one of those four will become free for non-Patrons to read at the end of the month.

"While the Sun Still Shines" went through almost as heavy a revision process as last week's Fictionette. I wanted to give it more shape than just "Oh, good Lord, Katie's whining again, make it stop." And I kind of wish I'd done this back when I was trying to get "The Impact of Snowflakes" out the door. I chose these characters to write a slice-of-life scene about in hopes that I'd get to know them better, but it wasn't until I revised the scene this week that I realized that, gosh, Ashley's kind of being a jerk here. It's not two patient, stoic characters against one whiny one; it's one patient character and one fun-loving character together against one easily irritated narrator throwing a bit of a tantrum.

This would have been a useful insight to have before submitting the short story. Well. Revisions may yet happen. The story's fate in its current slush pile has yet to be determined.

To create cover art for this Fictionette, I scoured Flickr for photos having to do with Mount Sanitas. Most of what I found were copyrighted, "all rights reserved." The few that were released under Creative Commons licenses also specified that commercial use was prohibited. That left one gorgeous photo of Boulder as taken from a Mt. Sanitas trail overlook--but it wasn't quite what I wanted.

Heck with that. I'm a capable person in possession of a functional camera. I went and took a photo myself.

Then I finished the brief walk up to the stone shelter on the cultural resource trail, and I sat inside the shelter in the cool of the stones and I did my morning pages. It was my first time visiting the structure in years. I wondered why that was. I think the previous time I was there, I climbed on top of the shelter (like you're not supposed to do) and watched a meteor shower--again, that was several years ago. It's a nice place. The hike to get there from 4th and Valley View Drive is short but steep, a pretty respectable workout for only 15 minutes.

I was surprised to see new residential lots marked out and new houses going up in an area centered on of 4th and Dewey. There's also a brand new stairway giving access to the trailhead from within what's now the construction zone.

Anyway--click the links, enjoy the view, see you on Monday!

it's a very nice rabbit hole, its bookshelves are well-stocked
Wed 2014-09-03 23:46:17 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

Today has been a surprisingly exhausting day for not having actual physical roller derby in it. There was a lot of not knowing the shape of my day because I was waiting for the next phone call to tell me what shape it would be. Just for starters, I brought the car to the shop at eight in the morning, so I was waiting to hear back from the mechanics all day. I had errands to run that I couldn't run until I had the car back. And because of various circumstances, the location and time of roller derby practice was TBD right up until less than an hour before I'd have had to leave for it. (The combination of these factors were a large part of me not going to practice at all, but that's neither here nor there.)

Turns out, I don't function very well when part of my brain is On Call. My brain translates On Call into On Hold. The tendency is to fly a holding pattern, unable to exert real effort while uncertain of what my immediate future holds.

So I'm quite pleased with myself for actually getting some work done on the short story.

Granted, it was mostly down the rabbit hole of research. But I was finally persistent enough to get the answers I needed to the questions I'd scribbled on the first couple pages.

Example 1: My main character laments that there are no suitable books in the house to distract her little brother from Peter Pan, because the roof leaked during the storm right onto their bookshelves. And they couldn't just go to the library because the libraries weren't open yet. True or false?

As it turns out, false. While the Jefferson Parish Library system was deeply crippled, and some branches were entirely destroyed along with all of their books, there was library service in Jefferson Parish as early as October 3. At least, that's what I understand to be the case from what library director Lon R. Dickerson writes in "Building Even Better Libraries, Post-Katrina" (American Libraries, Nov. 2005, Vol. 36, Issue 10):

With a service population of 455,466 residents, Jefferson Parish Library was already the largest library in Louisiana. Before Katrina hit, we had an operating budget of $15 million. By default, we're now the only large library in metropolitan New Orleans that can serve people as they return to Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes.

JPL has dropped its nonresident fees and is issuing "Katrina library cards" to anyone in the area. Staff and library users alike say that having libraries open is part of their need for normalcy. We expected the rush of people on October 3 who wanted to use our computers, but we also had long lines of people waiting to check out books. We expect to have at least 10 branches open by November. Schools are more dependent on us than ever before, and our library is essential lo the rebuilding of this community's economy. A stronger and more vibrant library will help us attract new businesses and residents.

Now, the last time this story was workshopped, the critique hive mind basically side-stepped the question of veracity. They informed me that most readers wouldn't need an explanation for the dearth of books in the narrator's house. "A lot of people just don't read much. Certainly not as much as us writers do," they said. "You're spendig a lot of energy trying to explain a situation that most creaders won't even question in the first place."

It made sense at the time--at least, once I got past my initial "Huh? Houses without books? That is un-possible!" reaction. But today I'm not so sure. Seems to me, the readership of the types of market I'd try to get this submitted to, they're readers. Right? I mean, someone who reads commercial science fiction and fantasy short fiction... is a reader. I think it's not unreasonable to expect that the target audience of, say, F&SF or Shimmer, is someone who sees unoccupied walls as an opportunity for more bookshelves, then stacks those shelves double-deep with paperbacks. (Also, a not insignificant portion of that reading population comprises writers.)

In the end, though, that's not what matters. What matters is, the family in my story used to have a lot of books before Katrina hit. Now, they do not. This is notable enough for the main character to mention it, even though she herself is not the huge reader that her brother and mother are (or so I've decided for this draft). Revision should result is these facts being plausible character notes and part of a larger important story theme.

(Of course it's an important theme. The main character's little brother is literally getting lost in a book. Of course books are important.)

Example 2: The main character notes that her father used to take the kids fishing in Lake Pontchartrain, despite there being nothing much to catch. True or false?

Again, false. In this case, I was going off my memory of being a kid in the late '70s and early '80s watching Dad catch nothing but the odd croaker--which he'd throw back--and then getting his bait stolen by a needle-noser. That's not a particularly reliable memory to go from. It lacks perspective. It's not accurate to infer the fishing viability of the entire lake from vague memories of Dad casting a line next to the Bonnabel pumping station.

Also, those forays were some 20 years before my story takes place. The lake had benefited from a concerted clean-up effort in the years since my single digits. Heck, in 2000 some parts of the lake were actually declared safe for swimming. That still blows my mind.

Anyway, not only was there plenty of successful fishing in Lake Pontchartrain just before Katrina hit, but it turns out that the environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina on Lake Pontchartrain was surprisingly benign, and in some respects actually beneficial. No reason to think the narrator wouldn't have seen any fish caught on those family expeditions.

In summary: Research is fun! And it is useful. It might even keep the author from looking shamefully uninformed about her own hometown. Yay research!

also we research our avoidance processes meticulously
Thu 2014-08-21 22:36:32 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

Holy cow, hotel business centers are super techy these days. You open up the "printerOn" webpage for your particular hotel--if your hotel does have one--you upload your document, you give it your email address and a fresh 5-digit security code you made up on the fly, and then you saunter down to the business center, enter your security code, and you tell it to print on their fancy laser printer. It was a none-too-fast fancy laser printer, but it got the job done. I now have a printed copy of "A Wish for Captain Hook" for me to deface at my leisure.

Now, our household printer is here in the room with us. I was all set to use it. But because the printer got here less with plans for using it and more for just getting it the hell out of the house and out of the way of the restoration project, it has not sufficient paper with it for the job at hand. Our supply of paper, you see, was already stowed at the top of a closet and out of harm's way.

So that's where half the time I spent on the story went today: Printing the draft. (Like I said, slow printer.) Also getting the draft ready to print in the first plase--for reasons I no longer recall, it was a text document with its italics indicated by underscore characters before and after the text to be italicized.

I spent the other half of the time researching.

No, look, it all started with good intentions. I was scribbling away on the freshly printed draft, honest! But I was scribbling things like, "This was true in 1984, but was it true in 2005?" and "When did different libraries reopen after Katrina?" and "Maybe by then you could get an Orleans Parish library card as a Jefferson Parish resident? Again, 2005 v. 1984" and "Double-check: Nov 24 was Thanksgiving that year?"

Next thing I knew, I was looking up not only the days of the week that the story takes place on (yes, November 24 was indeed a fourth Thursday in 2005, thus Thanksgiving) but also sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and phases of the moon. So now I know for sure that the last scene really can take place on a night with no moon, and when the sun comes up after the characters' long vigil, I will know precisely what time that means.

So, yes, the metaphorical cat has been metaphorically vacuumed within an inch of its remaining fur. This is just one of the many valuable services we writers provide. For an additional charge, we will also metaphorically wax your metaphorical cat. The cat will not appreciate it, metaphorically speaking, but haven't you always wanted your metaphorical cat to really shine?

arranging metaphorical furniture a month in advance
Mon 2014-08-18 22:40:24 (single post)
  • 7,077 wds. long

It did not take me until 5 AM to get "Snowflakes" ready for submission Friday night/Saturday morning. (Thank goodness.) It only took me until 2 AM. I continue to ask myself, why do I do this to myself? But that's not the important question. The important question is, which of my many remaining unfinished short stories shall I work on this week?

For the answer, tune in tomorrow!

September inches closer. Today and yesterday, my very brief task toward launching the Friday Fictionettes project (oooh! It has a name now!) was to choose the story-like objects which will provide the raw material for the first two Patron-locked offerings of September. Meanwhile, the first freebie is ready to go. My intent is to do everything a month in advance. That way I have a huge margin of error before I fall behind my promised schedule.

If I can get this month-in-advance process down cold, that'll be a huge step toward "implementing important changes in my time management strategy which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."

Meanwhile, waking up in a hotel in Louisville meant a half hour drive to the farm this morning rather than the fifteen minutes it usually takes from home. Only it was longer than that, because I had to stop by home anyway and pick up necessary things. Watered the plants, too. And our home was at that time in stasis between stages of repair, the abatement procedure done and the restoration not yet begun. Most of the large furniture was shoved, stacked, and stowed in a sort of cube formation roughly in the kitchen and dining area. To get at the kitchen sink, I had to sidestep an upended sofa, step on the edge of the coffee table, and step over the back of the futon, sometimes with a full watering can in tow. To get into the refrigerator, I had to shove aside a bookshelf that was standing right up against the fridge door. To get a shirt out of the bedroom closet, I had to wedge myself behind a trio of bed components, all leaning upright against where the door would be if that closet still had a door. In any case, that's the state the house was in at 6:45 this morning. Given that the restorations began at around 9 and I haven't been back since, I have no idea what configuration the furniture is in now.

By comparison, the farm was very simple. Rake up loose beet leaves, hoe the beds in preparation for sowing cover crop, pick all the purple string beans, pick the best of the green string beans. No climbing over furniture involved. And now I have about a half pound of fresh-picked string beans in the fridge. (The hotel fridge, not the fridge I needed to wrestle with a bookshelf to get into.) Given my propensity for snacking on them raw, I predict that none of them will see the hot side of a stove.

I have been awake since just before six, and I am feeling it. Time for bed. Niki out.