“...and I didn't know how it was going to end until I got there, which is the best and the worst kind of writing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

The view from this morning
eighty percent chance of solid offline productivity
Thu 2016-09-29 14:30:44 (single post)

Tonight, like last night, I'll spend on a train with no internet access. My only chance to upload a blog post will be during my five-hour layover, and only a very little of that since I have made plans to visit with an old friend. Which means I'm blogging from the naive and optimistic beginning of the day rather than from the resigned and exhausted end.

So. Hello from 9:20 in the morning!. That's rather earlier than my morning shift usually starts. But I gave up on sleep as a lost cause when I heard the man in the seat behind me saying, loudly, clearly, in an unmoderated daytime voice, "They don't start serving coffee until six o'clock." Thank you, good sir, for that information, which is only relevant to my life because you and your loud voice and lack of situational awareness wouldn't let me sleep past six. But since you have made it relevant to me, thank you for passing it along. Also thank you for your continuing updates on how you think everyone around you slept. Slept, past tense, as though no one around you were still trying to sleep.

From here it is still impossible to tell whether I'll get to go trail-skating in Chicago. I leaned on another passenger and their smartphone to give me an update on the weather forecast; they told me "Sixty percent chance of rain diminishing to fifty and then forty as the day goes on." That sounds slightly more optimistic than the NOAA's bare-bones prediction of fifty percent all day. I do not like uncertainty! I want to make plans. I don't want to spring last-minute changes on my friend, who has to drive and park and navigate a work schedule. I'm almost to the point of saying, whatever, fine, I'm skating, I'm committing to it, meet me at Navy Pier. If my wheels get wet, who cares? I'm riding on my oldest and crappiest set of bearings. But then I think about attempting to get traction over two miles of wet pavement, and I get doubts.

From here, too, I can't so much report on today's writing as make predictions about it. So. Based on the time available to me on the train, I predict hitting the five hour mark. Based on how close I got to completing the overdue September 23 fictionette during yesterday's five hours, I predict there will be a solid session of short story revision today. I'm a little disappointed over not having a revision session yesterday, but it couldn't be helped. The fictionette's lingering. The story itself is... well, not very subtle, I guess. Not a surprise. Lack of subtlety is why it's a fictionette. One way a freewriting session becomes a fictionette is, when the 25-minute timer goes ding, I say to myself, "I'm going to get a lot of satisfaction out of turning this into a real story, but there is no way any editor in charge of a budget will want to buy it." But it would appear I'm less resigned to producing a 1200-word clue-by-four to the head than I thought I'd be. Also there's this temptation to turn the author's note into a full-on detailed review of the short story to which this fictionette is reacting. Not a favorable review, as you might imagine. Intensely unfavorable. There's the temptation to go on and on.

Still, I got it mostly done. I expect to get it all the way done today, or at least as close to done as I can while both offline (no uploadig) and in public (no recording the audiofictionette), such that what remains will be easily accomplished Friday evening in Metairie.

So those are my predictions. Come back tomorrow to see how accurate they were!

The view from here.
less stress more beer. i mean train. more train.
Wed 2016-09-28 17:55:48 (single post)

So as it turns out I did have time to make those tomatillos into salsa verde. Roasted them this time. Added lots of raw onion and garlic. Also, instead of simply omitting the cilantro, I substituted parsley. I like parsley. Anyway, that'll be waiting in the freezer for me when I get back (or for John if he wants some while I'm out). Also made five hard boiled eggs into egg salad, and made a stupid amount of egg salad and cucumber sandwiches on sourdough. Chopped up a bunch of farm veg raw for the snack bag too. Never made it to the grocery, but, hey, monster ton of sandwiches and raw veg! Also did a bunch of clean-up around the house and in the fridge, folded all the laundry, read the volunteer reading, and was generally all-around industrious.

I did not manage to type up the Fictionette Artifacts, though. I packed a caligraphy pen instead.

Since leaving the house and toiling, overladen with luggage, to the bus station, I have begun making a list of things I have forgotten. (Lists. I make lists. That one character in Valente's Palimpsest, the one who makes lists? She and me, we're like this.) The first item kicked off the list while I was waiting at the bus stop within view but not reach of my house: the surprise I wanted to include in one of the Fictionette Artifacts By Mail. Drat. The most recently added list item--that pair of disposable earplugs I'd worn on the lawnmower Monday and thought might come in handy on the train--I only thought of just now. I'm sure there will be more. That is the nature of travel. You sacrifice a few petty items to the Gods of Forgetting, and They ensure you don't forget any of the important stuff. Like, say, medications, or any vital part of my skate gear.

Speaking of skating, I have heard that there is a bike path that runs along the lake east of the Loop in Chicago that is very nice. Possibly associated with Navy Pier? I know nothing. Google tells me it's called Lakefront Trail. I should like to skate there tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, the forecast for Chicago calls for a 50% chance of showers all afternoon and evening. Thwarted! But I suppose that, according to math, that forecast also represents a 50% chance of no showers. Perhaps I will be lucky.

Meanwhile, I'm having a well-deserved rest from pre-travel stress in Denver Union Station. Denver Union Station is the best. I devoured a shrimp salad sandwich from Acme Delicatessen, over on the left. I am now enjoying a Citradelic IPA from the Terminal bar, just behind me. I am utilizing wi-fi provided by the Crawford Hotel, on my right, and electricity from the charging hub right in front of me here. Life is good.

(The jukebox in my brain is all, "Hey, that sounds like a Kate Bush song! You will now have 'Lily' stuck in your head all evening. You're welcome." I sure hope I have a copy of The Red Shoes in my Music folder.)

Nothing left to worry about except making sure I finish my beer before the train arrives. *checks time* I think I'm up to the challenge.

It's OK. The tomatillos can wait.
less stress more veg
Tue 2016-09-27 23:59:59 (single post)

I woke up this morning with ALL THE STRESS because tomorrow is departure day. I've been excited and happily looking forward to "Five days in New Orleans, yay!" and "Double overnight train trip, bliss!" since I made the reservation, but apparently "Oh shit I have so much to do before I leave town" didn't become emotionally real until my alarm went off today.

Thus, interlude with soothing vegetables. In theory, anyway. I am trying not to think things like "Gotta cook and puree the tomatillos in another batch of salsa verde which I will freeze before I leave" and "Wash carrots! Chop carrots! Bag up carrots for trip! Make salad-to-go! Egg salad and cucumber sandwiches! Must also get to grocery for trail mix, hard cheese and beef jerky!" and also "I'm going to be gone nine days, I have to boil down all the leafy greens now!" No. Hush. Soothing vegetables. Vegetables with a respectable shelf life. It'll be fine. Ssh.

I've been stressing and snappish and despairing and panicky by turns. It's been icky. Finally, on the drive over to roller derby practice, I realized that by 9:30 I'd be even more panicky and also exhausted from practice, and that discretion was the better part of valor, and that it might be kinder to myself to skip practice in order to Get Pre-Travel Stuff Done. So I dropped John off, packed up my gear (I'd left it at the practice space rather than shlep it home Sunday), and turned right around for home. And, damn, I Got Stuff Done! I'm in a much happier place now.

Still, some things remain necessary to do before I go:

  • Type up the September Fictionette Artifacts to mail from New Orleans
  • Put my outdoor wheels on my skates
  • Do all the laundry
  • Pack all the things
  • Call the car rental place to reserve a car and also pick-up service at New Orleans Union Station
  • Scrapbook all the browser tabs I have open that contain short fiction I want to read on the train
  • Download podcasts
  • Do the usual volunteer reading for Wednesday
  • Visit the grocery store to finish provisioning my snack/meals-on-train bag

This is not an impossible list, thankfully. Especially since I'm not exhausted from derby. Also, one of the tasks I'd accomplished this evening was something I'd been Procrastinating Through Dread, and it is scientifically proven that accomplishing such a task frees up three times as much energy as the task itself requires. So I'm actually feeling pretty chipper now. My get-up-and-go has arrived with a can-do attitude in tow.

Meanwhile the list of things I need to do but which can wait until I am actually on the train, or at least until I'm at Denver Union Station, is much shorter:

  • Finish preparing the Friday Fictionette that was for September 23
  • Other daily writing tasks
  • Giving some long-overdue attention to the short fiction revision queue

In other words, I finally get to write. Yay for trains!

The weekly bounty. Mmm, all those brassica-type leaves...
a short story for when i can't manage a longer one
Tue 2016-08-23 23:53:51 (single post)

OK. So. D2 Wichita. That... was a thing that happened.

It is much easier to talk about vegetables.

Yesterday I managed to drag myself up to Longmont for chiro and then back down to Boulder to drop off the rental car. Then I managed to walk home from the Hertz establishment (via the Parkway Cafe for brunch and the bank for check deposits). Today I managed to get out of the house like a regular human being and bike up to the farm for CSA pick-up. I keep saying "managed" because it feels like an accomplishment.

Quite a few of my teammates--and my coach, too--had to go back to work on Monday. I am not sure how they managed it.

While I was at the Parkway Cafe, one of the waitstaff looked at me and said, "So who's been beating on you? Roller derby, right?" I said, "Yeah, about four teams worth. It was playoffs." When she brought me my check she told me to "go home and heal up." I have come home from derby looking bruised before, but this time around, I looked like a plague victim. It was ridiculous. And I had a swollen, tender lymph node on the right because apparently sufficient blunt force trauma can trigger an immune system reaction. Turns out that four games against D2-level teams can do that to a body.

Nevertheless, like I said, I did manage to bring home the veggies today. What we have here is the weekly loaf of bread plus kale, collards, kohlrabi, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, and radishes. I immediately broke into that bounty to use up most of the rest of my stuffed chard leaf stuffing from Thursday: breakfast sausage, wild rice, garlic, chives, parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper, and an egg. This time I blanched all the kohlrabi leaves from this and previous weeks, and some of last week's kale, to wrap it up in, overlapping leaves where a single leaf was too small. That, plus some cucumber-and-tomato salad, was dinner.

The stuffed chard leaves worked out quite well, by the way. I munched half of them on the ride over to Wichita and the other half on Friday between games.

Do I sound a little scattered? I'm still a little scattered. Getting better. Managed to get some writing done and also some league admin stuff--mostly the bout production and forum admin stuff that was waiting for me. Spent most of the evening pruning spam registrations out of the database, as that takes mercifully little brain.

The weekend used up all of my brain. Well, most of it. What little mind it didn't use up it simply blew. Lots of minds were blown. Because out of our four games, we won three. We came in as the #8 seed but walked away with 5th Place. We came within 15 points of beating the #1 seed, and we did beat the #2 seed, making WFTDA history thereby. Then we drove home, essentially going "That game. OMG that game" to each other pretty much all 550 miles of the way.

OMG that game. Those games. OMG this weekend.

That's the short story.

I may manage the longer version tomorrow.

Cover art features original photography by the author; this is not the first time one of her hands has modeled for fictionette cover art.
this fictionette is having a secret magical affair
Sat 2016-07-02 01:40:57 (single post)
  • 1,070 wds. long

Hi, y'all. It's stupid-o-clock in the morning and I have to be out of here by 9:30 am, so here we go: The Friday Fictionette for July 1 is "Partners in Crime," which is sort of like Romeo and Juliet except it's more like Romeo and Horatio and it's not a love story. Well, you can read a love story into it if you like. I'm agnostic as to whether there's romance involved. I haven't written about it. Doesn't mean it's not there. But by goshawks and grackles, there's damn well magic involved.

Those of you who are Patrons at the $1/month level and up will notice a difference this time around: The ebook post is now available for download in PDF and .epub formats. I know that many people prefer not to read ebooks as PDFs, and they've got darn good reasons for it. So here you go. I need to go back and clean up the fonts, because Scrivener goes a little overboard with its CSS when you export as-is, and before I can add a .mobi version to the mix I need to figure out why my attempts to convert result in Kindle Previewer losing chunks of text at its soft page breaks, but this is what you get for now.

I think it's pretty snazzy. It has, however, kept me up later than anticipated. (Why? Why won't you stop adding like three blank pages after the cover art? I swear I have removed all the page-break-after crap, where are you getting this from? Is this a calibre thing? Do I need to look at it in Nook for Windows?)

I'll release the Fictionette Freebie for June sometime over the weekend, most likely late Sunday. I'm putting off everything until late Sunday, because on Sunday I will be spending 15 hours on a train passing through gorgeous scenery and I will finally have time to do stuff like that. This would also be why I still haven't blogged about Salt Lake City, Part 1: BCB vs. The World, and the Tragedy of the Saturn's Last Stand

Don't worry, the Saturn gets brought back to life in the sequel. At least, so I was told, over the phone, by a very nice mechanic in Salt Lake City. We will find out for sure during Salt Lake City, Part 2: Independence Day Resurrection. Hence taking the train on Sunday.

In the meantime, I have got to get to sleep. (Can I sleep now? Please? Pretty please? But why not? Too bad, I am going to sleep anyway. Pththbbbp.)

Click through for excerpt and also all cover art attributions.
but half these puzzle pieces are blatant forgeries
Wed 2016-02-17 00:33:09 (single post)
  • 917 wds. long

Please excuse the radio silence. It was bout weekend. (No, we didn't win, but we gave 'em a darn good fight. We also picked up some good experience to help us prepare for our next bout in 6 weeks.)

Anyway, despite not blogging about it on Friday night, I did get last week's Friday Fictionette out on time. Barely. It's "Day-to-Day Invasions," and while it looks a bit like "The Magpie's Big Heist" only with a different type of bird, it's not, OK?

Meanwhile, there's the new short story to write. The freewriting session I chose as its source material is worryingly slight. I mean, there's a tree that turns into a man, and a woman who's turned into a bit of a hermit, and they absolutely positively do not fall in love at all. I've got that much. That's... not a lot to got, honestly. It's enough to make my resolve to Write A New Thing waver like the air over a hot road. I kind of want to run screaming back to my revision queue where I know all the stories back to front even if I'm not sure how to make them right.

When did "writing a new thing" become the scary part of this gig?

Anyway, I spent some time today babbling to myself about the possible plot points, thematic aspirations, potential pitfalls, and obvious literary allusions. There's actually a good deal of material available in that initial freewriting session, but it's like a collection of random jigsaw puzzle pieces which number somewhat less than the 2500 that the box promised and include too few edge pieces to be of use. Most of what I've got are middle pieces depicting things like blue sky and undifferentiated masses of tree leaves.

If this was actually a jigsaw puzzle, I'd probably throw it away. But the thing about writing, which is not a thing about jigsaw puzzles, is, you get to make up the missing pieces. Just invent them, out of your own head. No photo-printed cardboard nor scroll saws required!

So that's the rest of my week taken up. I hope yours is off to at least an equally good start.

notes toward next visit
Wed 2015-12-30 22:33:35 (single post)

Today's report from My Christmas Vacation will be brief and numerical.

1. The Crab Cake Pontchartrain is delicious. It is even more delicious enjoyed in exceedingly good company.

2. I should visit downtown Covington more often. (Afternoon tea!)

3. Also Abita Springs. (Birthplace of Abita Beer!)

5. Driving alone across the Causeway Bridge is a wonderful opportunity for audiobooks.

4. I should also visit my Aunt June more often.

5. Aunt June may well be the Boulder County Bombers' newest superfan.

outdoor activity, the automotive edition
Tue 2015-12-29 23:19:15 (single post)

Today, the last day of fine weather I'll enjoy during my visit home, I succeeding in getting outside via driving across the lake and back. Since that's a 24-mile one-way trip just from shore to shore, nevermind the remainder of the journey to my relatives' house, I think this counts as significant time outdoors.

There was very little wind and very little traffic, and the bird-watching from the bridge was fantastic. Pelicans soared close over the bridge and right along the rail, probably taking advantage of the updraft off the warm cement and hot car engines. Mallards and cormorants stuck closer to the water's surface, flying low or just resting in duck-at-aquatic-repose position.

Every one of them Mom spotted, she said, "Look, there's another one, isn't that wonderful." I'm afraid she's lost the distinction between pelican and seagull and duck these days; they're all just "birds" to her now. She still remembers the rhyme about the queer old bird that's the pelican, and her own version of the rhyme that celebrates New Orleans's basketball team, but she no longer can pick out a pelican from a lineup.

The whole way across the bridge, too, she reads the tenth-mile markers aloud. 14.8, 14.9, 15. Exercising her grasp of numbers. Practicing, maybe, or maybe just reassuring herself that she can still do numbers even if she can't entirely do words or faces anymore.

We were visiting my cousin and her family. Turns out her 18-month-old son was fighting off a cold and not up for all-day adventures in New Orleans. We wound up just visiting at the house and ordering lunch from the Covington location of New Orleans Food & Spirits. I had the grilled stuffed catfish, which was delicious and so very filling that instead of going for one last skate along Linear Park when I got home, I put myself to bed for a nap with a couple of new-to-me Bunnicula books.

Now I'm doing my daily writing tasks--the ones I'm actually holding myself to, being on vacation and all--from one of my parents' comfy armchairs, having watched LSU handily win their bowl game against Texas Tech. I don't usually watch college football, but it's bowl game after bowl game during the holiday season, the best of the best playing on TV nearly constantly every day, so I might as well watch my Dad's alma mater show off their current roster's stuff. And their stuff was seriously amazing, I gotta say. Some of those catches were unbelievable.

Tomorrow sees some more visiting on both sides of the lake, and maybe a trip to the post office to get some fruitcake in the mail. The tradition continues!

This fictionette's cover art is brought to you by NASA! And also some clip-art from Wikimedia Commons.
this fictionette is going to town
Tue 2015-12-29 00:05:34 (single post)
  • 1,101 wds. long

Again, apologies for the belated Christmas Fictionette. Well, it's not really anything to do with Christmas. It's set more in the fall, I think, round about harvest time, though I've just realized there's a tiny, insignificant, yet unsightly plot hole concerning this detail. There is an impending birth, and I suppose it's technically a virgin birth, but that's just a coincidence of species. In any case, no midwinter festivals were harmed in the making of this fictionette, which is called "Premature Labor."

This brings my first full year of Friday Fictionettes to a close. New Year's Day will be the first Friday in 2016, and I intend to begin another full year of 'em at that time. (That fictionette probably won't have anything intentional to do with its holiday, either.) It's not that I find the sheer number of Patrons a compelling case for continuing the Patreon campaign. But I do continue to find value in the weekly routine. It's good for my work ethic. It's good exercise for my writing muscles. And it's just plain good fun. So! Roll on 2016, with another 52 fictionettes in store.

The visit home continues at a leisurely, unpressured pace. I thought I might head into the city over the weekend, but in fact I never quite crossed the parish line until today, when I took my freewriting and my fictionette work over to Rue de la Course. This was followed by lunch at Pho Bistreaux (shrimp spring rolls and Vinh's special) and a little window-shopping up and down Oak Street.

That doesn't mean I didn't get out of the house all weekend. Did some biking Saturday (and had the Pasta Carmella at Bistro Orleans). Skated over to Bucktown on Sunday (and wound up watching part of that very enjoyable Saints game at Melius Bar over a couple of Abitas and a chili cheese hot-dog).

Tomorrow all depends. If my cousin and her family wind up doing fun things in town, I may wind up tagging along. If not, I'll probably end up combining the skating thing with the writing at a public establishment thing, as it's the last day of my trip that's forecast to be at all dry and sunny, or at least dry and overcast. In any case, it would be a shame to waste it indoors.

Dad shows us how it's done.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
Thu 2015-12-24 23:07:37 (single post)

We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.

Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.

At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.

("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)

So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.

And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.

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