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

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Original photography by me.
this fictionette just happened to turn up a couple blocks away
Fri 2015-04-24 23:01:52 (single post)

Wonder of wonders, a Friday Fictionette that is on time. With accompanying audio, Wattpad excerpt, and everything. Who's impressed with me? I'm impressed with me. Especially since I stayed in bed until an embarrassingly PM hour, all achy from last night's endurance scrimmage and also tempted into devouring a book from cover to cover before venturing forth for a shower and a late start to my writing day.

(The book was Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go. It hooked me good and hard, despite moments when I wanted to yell at the author for arbitrarily prolonging everyone's state of ignorance about Important Matters. "It is time to tell you everything," says knowledgeable character, who will promptly be Interrupted By Reasons Or Bad Guys. Otherwise, I loved it. Now I need to hunt up the sequel, The Ask and the Answer.)

In any case. This week's Fictionette is "The Hole in the Middle of the Block," which is sort of a haunted house story, sort of a best friends story, and maybe possibly sort of unintentional Doctor Who fanfic. The cover art photography is mine. I went for a walk around our new neighborhood and eventually found a good stunt double for the house in the story. Also, there's a lovely little nature walk around the teeny tiny private lake just north of us.

That was the first time since the day we closed on the house (April 7, to remind you how long ago that was) that I found time to just walk around the neighborhood and let my feet get to know the place. I need to make time for that more often.

I also found time today to plant seeds! I've got lettuce things and spinach and squash things and cucumber and watermelon and tomato and pepper and corn and beans and parsley and dill and chives all in the soil now. Which is not to say they'll all necessarily come up, mind you. My balcony container gardening style is haphazard and hopeful. I just fill all available space with all the seeds, then I thin what comes up, if anything comes up and needs thinning, if I can bear to thin them. I'm a terrible softy when it comes to thinning.

I need to make a version of this photo that says ''It's OK - it's just roller derby''
a report from halfway to destination
Thu 2015-04-16 22:53:12 (single post)

Greetings from Columbia, Missouri, home of the 87th Missouri FFA Convention! We reached Kansas City, KS/MO by about 7 PM and felt we had it in us to push on. Discovering that the convention had eaten up almost every single hotel room in Columbia almost made us regret that decision. But the check-in clerk at the Red Roof Inn, who was the one to give us the worrisome news, volunteered to call over at the Budget Host Inn (which was sufficiently off I-70 that we might not have found it ourselves), ascertained that they did indeed have a vacancy, and gave us directions down the road.

And now here we are. We've brought our suitcases and computer bags in for the night, had some munchies out of our travel snack arsenal, and gotten comfortable. I've traced my skater number on my arms with henna so they'll be nice and dark come Saturday afternoon. (Don't worry; I'll wrap them to protect the sheets from getting henna stains overnight.) And I'm planning to sleep with my boom-mike headset on for its big, ear-covering cushions. The FFA attendees appear for the most part to occupy the central intersection of the venn diagram of "young," "noisy," and "oblivious," and I don't want to be woken up all night.

So I guess we drove some 10 to 12 hours today. Didn't really feel it. I took Boulder to Goodland, KS. John took over until Salina, KS. Then I took us into Columbia. It was fun. John and I used to do mega-epic road trips back in our college days, when we had the whole summer to play with. We'd go all the way from southern Oregon to New Orleans and back in two weeks. This is our first multi-day road trip since then, but we seem to have retained the knack. The knack requires a satisfying variety of travel snacks and drinks, more music than we'll ever need in a month, and a high tolerance for each other's company in a small space. All of which we have. The modern laptops and the AC inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter only make things that much easier. We joke that in another life, or an alternate universe, we'd team up to drive freight for a living.

When we left Boulder, it was pouring down snow and visibility was crappy. And traffic on I-270 was horrendous. But once we were on I-70 we left all of that behind... just in time to drive through not one but two thunderstorms in Kansas. (The forecast said "slight chance." I suppose we just got lucky.) But in eastern Kansas, as the terrain got hilly, the weather got gorgeous. Everything was lovely until sunset, when we hit Kansas City. Then it was dark, which made it hard to tell if anything was lovely. I thing most of it was intercity sprawl; the town names seemed to come at very frequent intervals.

Oddly, I did not manage to get any writing done in the car. John only took one driving shift to my two, and during his shift I ended up reading aloud from a copy of Mind Gym (Gary Mack and David Casstevens) which the All Stars coach is having everyone in the team take turns borrowing and reading. It's a little cheesy at times, this book, but it's given me some good insights, and just in time to use them, too.

(So I'm trying to make up for that lack of writing and other daily duties tonight before I go to sleep. Good luck me.)

I'll arrive at the tournament pre-bruised. Sunday's practice involved all the hitting drills you can possibly think of, and my left upper arm is now sporting two huge, colorful, and perfectly round "derby kisses." They're showy even by derby standards; even other skaters have been commenting on them, or just making that hissing wince noise. The coach said it looked like someone had stood me up in front of a tennis ball service machine. Everyone told me I should take pictures, so here's one with the bruises and the numbers made of fresh henna-goop applied on top of Sharpie.

And that's all I got for now. Time to go do my daily foam roller hell while John takes a turn reading to me. Goodnight!

Click for excerpt at Patreon. Become a Patron to get the full text in PDF or MP3.
and they're off like a herd of tortoises
Wed 2015-04-15 23:55:33 (single post)

All right, already, it's up. "The Moon and the Mage's Gloves" is the Friday Fictionette for April 10, available in PDF and MP3 formats for Patrons at the appropriate tiers. Link goes to the excerpt posted to Patreon. The Wattpad excerpt is not yet up, nor is the one on the blog, nor yet the extra audio I meant to get to--but I'll get to those real soon now.

It felt damn good to sit down and write that thing. Even if it was only a slight, thousand word piece, it was writing and it felt good. It felt like, "That's what I'm supposed to be doing with my days." I look forward to doing more of it in the car tomorrow.

Speaking of which: I've washed my safety gear, I've put my derby wear through the delicates/hand-wash cycle and the air-dry cycle, I've gone to Target for brand new C9 "Champion" brand fitted knee pants to replace the pair that got a hole in during last season's final bout, I've bought road trip snacks at the grocery, and I've put in the car those things belonging to our league which my teammates who are flying entrusted us to take in the car. Am I ready to leave? Almost. By 9:00 AM tomorrow morning, I will be.

Am I ready for the tournament? Well. Tonight's practice was... well, it wasn't our sharpest, I'll say that much. But everyone showed up, so we had all our jammers and both of our blocker line-ups on the track. And our league's head coach as well as our team coach were there to work our butts off. And after our practice, our team coach revealed the secret that, at the beginning of practice, she said she'd share with us at the end. "The secret is this: You have to have a crappy last practice before your bout. It's a good omen."

It wasn't that crappy. Should I be worried...?

Nah.

Bloomington, Indiana: Here we come!

...pending a stopover in Kansas City! ("Do you mean the one in Kansas, or the one in Missouri?" I don't know! We'll find out when we get there!) And a freakin' whole lot of I-70!

imagine if we had to do this every year
Fri 2015-04-10 23:22:24 (single post)

With many an apology, I must sadly announce that this week's Friday Fictionette will be late. Now: Raise your hands, anyone who is surprised by this. Seriously, I thought I'd be able to get at least a little writing done in between stuff-moving carloads and roller derby practice. Turns out I was wrong. My intention is to finish it up and post it tomorrow afternoon between my morning roller derby obligation and my evening one. I'm hoping this will turn out to be possible.

I'm happy to say, though, that in one respect I am most definitely not late. John and I will relinquish possession of our old address on time tomorrow, having emptied it of all our possessions today. Finally. It required pulling a 14-hour day today on that job, maybe eight or ten carloads, I don't know. I don't even want to talk about that last carload. I was hitting the despair cycle of project fatigue and bodily exhaustion. It showed. Also, it is amazing how little seems to fit in the Saturn wagon when we're trying to get stuff out of the old house, but how very much there seems to be in the car when it's time to unload into the new. Does it multiply in there? Does it become extra slippery?

Nevertheless, by about 10:30 PM we were able to walk through a completely empty house, and by 11:00 PM we were unloading the final carload at our new home. (Which is now, of course, choked with boxes and random piles of stuff. But we have all the time in the world to get it organized. It's OK.) Even before we'd quite begun unloading, we'd already placed our order for late night delivery from Golden Sun, because celebratory comfort food is the best. My celebratory comfort food will be chicken egg foo young and a cup of hot-and-sour soup.

Now I just have to compile the packet of things to give to the buyer's agent tomorrow. Shouldn't be too hard. All the owner's manuals are in the file cabinet, neatly sorted. Except possibly a few that are still in the great big packet of paperwork from the original purchase. But I know exactly where that is too, so everything's fine, right? Right? Please? *sob*

My feet are ridiculously sore. I can't say I'm looking forward to putting skates on them tomorrow. But I'm sure once I'm on wheels I'll feel better. That's usually how it works. A good night's sleep can't help but help, too.

Very, very soon, life will get back to normal. Or about as normal as life ever is around here.

scenes from an unofficial house warming
Wed 2015-04-08 23:59:02 (single post)

Things Become Irrelevant. The housewife contemplates the laundry machines. She has options now. She can run a small load on half the water. She can tumble her yoga pants and sports bra on an hour of the air dry setting. It won't be a waste of quarters. Quarters are no longer of pressing concern. Maybe there doesn't need to be a quarters jar anymore, just a single jar for all the household loose change. Later, the housewife will realize that she forgot a load of T-shirts in the dryer. There will be a moment of panic before she remembers she can leave those T-shirts there all night long, and no neighbors will care.

Meeting the Neighbors. The roller derby skater opens her front door, expecting nothing more than a brief wait for her ride to practice. Instead she encounters a pair of young deer. They stare up at her from the sidewalk, as though caught in the act of daring each other to ring the doorbell and run. Skater and deer simultaneously engage in a pretense of nonchalance. If it's a contest, the deer win. They amble away towards a not-very-distant lilac bush. The skater is too delighted to keep a straight face. She watches them snacking on the shrubbery until her teammate arrives to pick her up.

Care and Feeding of Your First Hot Water Boiler.
"Help! I can't get any hot water for the tub!"
"What?"
"I need a hot bath, and the water's coming out lukewarm!"
"I... just can't. I don't know. I'm tired and I need to eat. Can I not deal with this?"
"Wait, it's OK--there's this dial thingie on the boiler thingie, and it was set to VACATION. When I turned it, it started a fire! Look, it's all blue and stuff!"
"Good. That's good. Good for you. We're good now, right?"
"Yeah, I set it somewhere between WARM and HOT."
"Good."

Paradigm Shift. The author sits at her desk, writing with teal ink in a spiral notebook. It is her desk. On the desk is her computer, her printer, her electric kettle and her favorite cup of tea. The routine has been enacted countless times before. But all these things are in a room that is entirely new to the author. Thus she is writing at her desk in her office for the first time. She remembers a previous move, when the cats slinked and yowled in the empty rooms of a new apartment, how they only began to settle down when the humans unloaded the cats' familiar, beat-up, second-hand arm chair from the U-Haul trailer. How they gravitated to it immediately, how they curled up around each other on the stained and much-scratched cushion. The author understands them better now. The move wasn't real until the desk arrived. She can finally convince her habitual self that this isn't a hotel, they won't be packing up again and going home. They are home.

i mean if you can fit every kind of weather in just one day
Wed 2015-03-25 23:44:38 (single post)

Today we got every kind of weather. We got hail and rain and snow and blissfully warm sunshine too. To fit all that into a single day takes a strict timetable, I imagine. "Hurry up," said the weather coach. "We have a lot to do today. And no chit-chatting between drills! Move it, move it, move it--"

Or maybe Colorado was presenting its meteorological portfolio to a prospective employer. At the job interview, when the Rocky Mountain Front Range was asked "What's your greatest weakness?" it probably answered, "Inconsistency." Or perhaps, "I have a tendency to try to do everything at once. But I make up for it by being a great multitasker!"

I had foolishly, optimistically thought that we needn't turn the heat on ever again this spring--in fact, ever again at this address, as we're moving in about two weeks. (Two weeks! Shit-bird, that's scary-soon. I should be making check-lists and writing an inventory of stuff-still-to-be-packed!) But it got cold while the snow was driving at 45-degree angles this afternoon, and it got cold on the drive home from roller derby practice this evening too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, just like yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that) but more-so. Tomorrow, Colorado will wake up with a hangover and declare that it doesn't remember and has absolutely no desire to be told what it got up to on Wednesday the 25th. It's just too embarrassing.

Speaking of roller derby (as I always am), Bombshells team practice failed to kill me. It didn't try all that hard, mind; it only lasted two hours instead of three, but more to the point, it's the environment in which I've been practicing for almost three years. I'm comfortable there. Which is not to say it goes easy on me either, but it's the level of practice I've grown used to. I'm more accustomed to its demands. Whereas yesterday's All Stars practice was a shock to my system. Everything was faster! stronger! harder! longer! and done by people who are so much better at this stuff than me. It's intimidating.

But yesterday's the only taste I'm going get of it, just a dip of the toe in the pool, until next week Thursday. The All Stars are going to the Dust Devil Tournament this weekend in Tucson, Arizona. I was added to the team far too late to go with them, which is just fine. Frankly, I need another week of Bombshells practice just to remind my body, after its enforced two-month "vacation" from skating, what regularly practicing is like.

And it's not just practice I need. I need to adjust my entire lifestyle. Well, that's a bit strong. I mean, I need to get into better self-care routines so that my body is able to handle not just a higher intensity of physical activity when it comes time to skate, but also my unreasonable demand that I do more with my days than just skate.

Just look at all the different kinds of weather that can fit in a single day. If Colorado can do that, I should be able to cram all my writing projects into a day that contains roller derby, right?

But the body is a machine that needs regular maintenance. I haven't been taking very good care of mine. I've been up until all hours and staying in bed late with headaches and exhaustion because of it. Which then leads to a failure to eat right or hydrate sufficiently.

This has been less than ideal for my ambitions to productivity. It probably also has something to do with the way this past weekend laid me out flat.

Preliminary steps to fix this include getting up at 8:00 AM--no excuses!--regularly feeding myself breakfast and a good multivitamin, drinking a glass of water for every cup of hot caffeinated tea, having no caffeine past five in the afternoon, and getting to bed no later than midnight.

I have not been very good at that last thing. Days aren't long enough to start with. I can't get nearly as much done in one as I'd like. Naturally I'm reluctant to let one come to an end.

But this one is coming to an end now, because new good habits have to start sometime.

Goodnight, everybody!

Original photo: 'A long and narrow bridge' by Miika Silfverberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)
fake it til you can at least make it roll it down the hill
Mon 2015-03-02 23:54:33 (single post)
  • 1,472 wds. long

OK, this is as late as I ever want to get with a Friday Fictionette. Just posted the one for February 27 a moment ago--"A Bridge Just Far Enough"--and have plans to release the February Fictionette Freebie tomorrow morning. I honestly can't decide which one of the four to release. I'll stand a better chance making up my mind in the morning.

The edition for Week One of March will not be late. It's fluffy and fun and I've already gotten halfway through cleaning it up and rounding it off. Also, it will not be interfered with by the week from House Buying/Selling Hell.

I shouldn't complain. That week from Hell ended very nicely--with us accepting an offer for our condo unit that's significantly above list price and almost 150% what we paid for it in 2000, from a buyer who isn't much fussed about things like inspections and appraisals. They're like, "Whatever, it looks nice, shut up and gimme," and we're like, "Awesome, yes please, thank you" and the seller of the place we're trying to move into is no doubt, "Yay, contingency met, I can get out of here." I mean, I haven't talked to any of them personally, but that's probably the gist of it.

But it did take us through the week and into the weekend to slow down to a reasonable pace, where we weren't constantly cleaning the house, getting out of the house, inspecting the new house, and talking about the house on the phone. The timeline from here on out is much more relaxed, and hopefully will be until that frenetic period of time between April 7 and April 12 when we will scramble to move all our stuff from Place 1 to Place 2.

Which means this week I actually get to complete the story revision. I am phrasing it that way in order to jump start my looking-forward-to-things engine. Because what I'm actually feeling is, "Er. No more excuses. That means I have to do it this week. OR ELSE I'M A TOTAL FAILURE." That is not a healthy way to think about one's vocation. So I'm telling myself "Yay! I get to play with my story!" and I'm saying it a lot and I'm smiling. Which is that thing we call fake it 'til you make it.

Roll on, the week of faking it effectively!

wait let my check my notes
Wed 2015-02-25 20:18:40 (single post)
  • 5,389 wds. long

Last week I declared this week to be the week of Finishing The Short Story Rewrite, Dammit. Let's see how that's going, shall we?

Monday we spent frantically cleaning the house and putting things in storage, because...

Tuesday was the day the realtor took pictures of our home so it could be listed. There was a lot of frantic cleaning that morning before the photo appointment. But that didn't mean our job was over. We also had to review and sign a bunch of documents, and do some more cleaning and tidying, which continued into...

Wednesday (today). We pretty much have to do everything we didn't get done in time for photos. This includes a not insignificant amount of grout-cleaning and re-caulking. Also a bunch of errand-running with the intent to Get Stuff Out Of the House. Stuff went to storage, stuff to do with stain/varnish/paint-thinner/mineral spirits went to the Hazardous waste facility, stuff to be donated went into the mail, and our old single-band wi-fi gateway got returned to Comcast because it had been replaced by a dual-band wif-fi gateway. (The Comcast stop was actually the simplest of the bunch.)

By the way, you know why today's mini-snowpocalypse hit at precisely the time it did? That was precisely 5 minutes after I headed out on those errands in a T-shirt and jeans. No jacket, no scarf, no hat. Because today I "checked the weather" by looking out the window and saying, "Eh, looks decent enough," rather than actually checking the weather forecast. And the sky demons have a wicked sense of humor.

Today has also involved a lot of time on the phone with our mortgage lender, where she explained things to us very slowly and in words of one syllable because that's what it takes to get some of this scary loan stuff through our heads. We don't know the jargon, we don't know the theory, we just want the experts to hold our hands and make it all happen and just tell us what to do so it gets done right.

Anyway, the reason for continuing the frantic clean-up and errands-running is to get the place ready for...

Thursday when there will be something like eight or ten potential buyers walking through and examining the place. The earliest showing will be at 8:00 and the latest will end at 5:45. Pretty much we have to get out of Dodge for the day. Not that we can just settle down and do our work somewhere; we're spending the morning at the place we're under a contingency contract to buy, getting the visual inspection done.

By the way, that's the one-story, ground floor unit about a half mile to the north of us that's 250 square feet larger than our current home. The two-story one with the postage-stamp backyard (really a front patio) really did feel significantly smaller than our current one, and we didn't like the condition the bedrooms were in. Nor were we excited about the South Boulder neighborhood, once we got down there. It didn't really feel close to anything or anyone we wanted to be close to. So we went back to Plan A, which was to enter a contingency agreement to buy the place I enthused about previously.

And assuming that all goes well,

Friday we will be getting together with the realtor to review any offers made. (One has already been made. Sight unseen, pending tomorrow's walk-through. At a few thousand above the listing price. Wow.) And with any luck by the end of Friday we'll have accepted an offer, and all the quantum waveforms will collapse into certainty, and we can relax.

Which makes this week the week of Selling The House and Buying A New One, For Reals.

Maybe next week can be the week of Finishing the Short Story Rewrite, Dammit.

Anyway. Back to the grout-cleaning with me...

various lights sighted at the end of various tunnels
Fri 2015-02-20 23:16:59 (single post)
  • 5,389 wds. long

Alas, this week's Friday Fictionette will arrive on Saturday. Today has just been one of those days, full of unforeseen things hijacking my plans. And now it is almost eleven o' clock, and the idea of doing a rush job on the PDF is simply painful.

Also, my brain just coughed up the best possibility for an ending, such as these things have endings. I want to let it percolate overnight to see what kind of prose it turns into.

Meanwhile...

  • A bit of hopping has been added to my physical therapy routine--you know the one where they have you lunge, but your back foot is on a raised block, and then you hop on your forward foot? Right. My next appointment is on March 5, at which point I will very possibly, hopefully, if all goes well, be cleared to skate. Setting my sights on a Phase One practice that Saturday!
  • The potential buyer from Thursday won't, but that was only the first showing, so, oh well and onward. Tomorrow we head to a south Boulder condo unit that's smaller but has a two-story layout separating bedrooms upstairs from common areas downstairs, no one living above or below, and a backyard. A postage stamp of a backyard, I'm sure, but still. The property we looked at Wednesday remains an option, too. There are so many options. Wheels continue turning and I am seriously visualizing myself Not At This Address Anymore.
  • The very last closet door panel is fully stained and will get finished with three coats of polycrylic per side over the weekend. I am so glad to be finally done with this project. Then there will be a flurry of house cleaning and moving things to storage so that the realtor can take pictures on Mondays for listing the place.
  • And next week will be the week of Finishing The Short Story Rewrite, Dammit. Yes, small goals, I know, but--this is ridiculous. I'm tired of it not being done. So, small goals, yes, but one small goal every few hours rather than every few days, yes?

February. The month of Getting Things Done Finally Dammit.

Cover art includes images from OpenClipArt.org
this fictionette visited the invisible cities and afterward kept walking
Fri 2015-01-02 23:13:33 (single post)

Your Friday Fictionette for the first week of January is "Moon Island: A Traveler's Guide." For the first time in weeks I've uploaded/posted/published everything on time--the excerpt here on the actually writing blog, the excerpt at Wattpad, the accompanying public posts in my Patreon Activity Feed, everything. I'm feeling rather industrious right now. (I'm also trying not to think about how long everything took me.)

There's something of the tone of "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" in this one, more obviously if you read the whole thing than if you just read the excerpt (insert blatant but brief plug for subscriptions here), but it's less to do with Le Guin's ethical thought experiment and more to do with the sense of wonder you get from the very last paragraph of her story. I was very much taken with the ethical premise and question when I first read the tale, but now what really sticks with me is the contrast between Omelas and the destination of those who walk away.

Throughout the story, the narrator coaxes you into imagining Omelas. She tries to make it easier for you wherever difficulties arise. She invites you to collaborate with her in outright inventing the place: "If an orgy would help, don't hesitate." Even the horror of the sacrificial child has a role in this task: she offers this detail as one last aid to making feasible the task of imagining happy Omelas. But what of the place toward which people who walk away from Omelas go? There the narrator simply gives up. She's in the same boat as the reader. "The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist."

Of course there's an assertion on the level of the ethical thought experiment: that humans may well be incapable of imagining a true utopia, but that won't stop us from "walking ahead into the darkness" to try to find it. But as a storyteller myself I'm fascinated with this meta-treatise on the limits of the imagination, and with the strategies we use to imagine the unimaginable. If we cannot describe it, perhaps we can describe something else, and position the indescribable in relation to it.

There's also a touch of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities in "Moon Island." It's been years since I read the book, but the flavor of it sticks with me: fantastical, fictional places that only begin to exist when the storyteller creates them in the listener's mind. But the city in Marco Polo's mind can't be the same as the city in Kubla Khan's mind. Even if they spoke the same language, which they do not, there would be translation issues. All current forms of speech are lossy data transmission systems. And yet a city comes into being within Kubla Khan's mind. This happens regardless of whether the city physically exists in the Khan's empire or was invented out of whole cloth by his explorer correspondent. That's the magic of storytelling. It's an act of creation. And what has been created can never be wholly lost.

So Moon Island now exists in my head, and that's a happy thing but also a sad thing, because now I want to visit it, and I know I can't. At least, not outside of imagination and dreams.

Drat.

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