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

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

They often wander through, flicking an ear in courteous greeting as they pass.
Optimism!
Mon 2014-01-06 22:47:11 (single post)

It's a new year. I'm thinking optimistic thoughts. You know the sort: New year's resolutions, making a fresh start, and all that general gung-ho go-get-'em population of the mental nation known as The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.

Unfortunately, Life sometimes has minor upsets that mess with planning The Rest of. Seems like John and I both picked up head colds when we were in New Orleans--and how much of that is due to our insisting on spending a rainy Saturday in the French Quarter, I couldn't say--so our new year has been off to a slow start.

John's been staying more or less active throughout. I'm not sure how he does it. Me, I spent Thursday in bed. Friday I started getting better, Saturday better still--then Sunday I had my first roller derby practice since A) being sick and B) returning from sea level, which landed me back in bed most of the daylight hours of today while my lungs threatened to go on strike. But I made it to the Rock Day Spin-In and Potluck at Shuttles tonight, having baked banana bread for my contribution during the afternoon. I'll mark my small triumphs where I find them.

Tomorrow, I hope, I'll be able to put my new year's optimism to work pursuing my newly determined daily work schedule (about which, more tomorrow). There are distractions in the near future: preparations for out-of-town guests, then the actual activities involving the out-of-town guests, not to mention sharing the house with said guests between Wednesday the 8th and I think Monday the 13th. But if I waited until my life was distraction free to really settle into a daily work schedule, it might be New Year's Day 2015 before anything got done. So I guess one of my new year's resolutions should be to stop using distractions as an excuse.

Another resolution is, once again, to get back to blogging here daily or at least five days a week. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of one of our neighbors. He came around the side of our building while we were chatting, then headed across the street to spend some time in the Atrium's loading dock. John followed him with a camera, for which exercise he graciously posed. Happy New Year!

But but but tell me what you REALLY think...
Thu 2010-03-11 17:44:55 (single post)
  • 2,680 words (if poetry, lines) long

Thing about nervousness in the face of a story critique is, I don't ever get over it. All I do is get used to suffering it. So last week I told myself, "So what, you're nervous? So what else is new? Send the thing." Then I found out that while the nervousness never gets better, it damn well can get worse. There's "I wrote a story and other people are reading it" nervous, and then there's "I wrote a story that's sort of transgressive and psychosexual and may reflect badly on the state of my sanity" nervous.

An additional large part of my nervousness came from not really knowing what I'd written. I spent two hours last Saturday doing a type-in revision of the story, after which I simply spell-checked it and sent it out. After which my only clear memories of the story were all the things that were potentially bad. Predictably, this was followed by a bout of "Oh my Gods what have I done?" panic.

According to my critique group, I wrote a damn fine story that steers just shy enough of purple prose ("it's more lavender, really") to have some stunningly poetic moments and breaks a lot of conventional rules and gets away with almost all of them.

OK then. *pauses to blush and grin uncontrollably*

The "almost" is where the difficulty of revising it will come from, because I think what I'm trying to do there is worthwhile but needs to be done in a gentler way. In any case, the negative parts of the peer review were all the right kinds of negatives. My story has grown-up problems. Now I gotta be a grown-up and fix them, the sooner to send the story out into the wide world.

Today, however, I am being a lump. I work 5 days a week, and I am deciding this week to trade my Thursday for my Sunday. I drove John to the airport today, after sharing breakfast and several bouldering problems with him. Though it's hard to find anything to complain about in a day that started with rock climbing and green chile, I am now unexpectedly tired. And being all alone on Sunday means a good block of time to write then. So tonight I'm doing nothing much productive.

I've been rereading old blog entries since last night. And laughing at them. I don't know if I'm just a vain nut or what, but damn I've written some funny things in these pages.

(I'm sort of snorting soft drinks through my nose over these two.)

And I'm contemplating the new crafting puzzle at Puzzle Pirates. Weaving. I'm still not entirely sure whether I like it. The physics of it are satisfying, but the animations are a little slow. In any case, I may be doing that for a while tonight. Also, my Sage Ocean pirate Nensieuisge ("Nancy Whiskey") bought an Emerald Class Sloop and really needs to take it a-pilly. So that's what I've got on for the night.

Then tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday, there will be work.

Incidents Following An Interception
Mon 2010-02-08 16:31:26 (single post)

Of course the bar went wild. If my cell phone weren't A) set to vibrate and B) in my hand, I would have missed Steve's text message: "HOLY SHIT!" I tried to write back: "I KNOW, RIGHT? That's it! That's the game!" At which point my phone told me that it had encountered difficulties sending my text message, sorry, it had been saved in my outbox please try again later. So I did.

Sorry 4 delay... Tracey Porter broke my network.
I had sort of lost track of the game at this point. Everytime I looked, some Colts play was going wrong, as though everyone on the team, except the quarterback, had accepted that it was over. But I was getting text messages left and right, so I kept ABCing my way through responses that may or may not have gone through.

Then the 4th-and-goal attempt got stuffed and it began to rain indoors.

I actually looked for some sort of sprinkler system that McGuire's might have triggered to go off in celebration. The reality was much less high tech. All of the high tech in the bar had been channeled into showing the game on four TVs and a home-rigged cardboard projection screen. ("I love it when I win," said Zack, bartender and entertainment system MacGuyver. "That's my favorite game in all the world.") Thus the wi-fi wasn't working and even the electrical outlet under the bar was dead, which is why my computer was safely in my bookbag underneath my seat when people began buying bottles of beer to baptize the crowd. Purchase, shake, pop the top, spray. Friends and strangers hugged, screamed, clasped hands in the alcoholic drizzle. Two women near me were crouched to the ground, though whether in emotional overload or because they'd dropped something I wasn't sure.

Some guy jumped up on the bar and began strutting from one end to the other. I handed him my spare Krewe of Carrollton beads to throw and got myself together to head out into the street.

For a moment, all I could think to say was, "I love everybody in the world right now!" I shouted that, and things like it, a lot last night.

Car horns sounded without cease: jubilation, not irritation. As they passed me, or I passed them, windows rolled down, shouts of "WHO DAT?!" were exchanged in call-and-response, hands extended to slap palms with anyone close enough. After awhile, I stopped wincing and started just holding out my hand at the sound of a car fast approaching behind me.

In the Quarter, gently and sloppily drunk adults tripped over families towing toddlers and apologized loudly and politely. Children in pint-sized number jerseys made the most of their rare chance to yell at the top of their lungs at passing strangers without getting rebuked for rudeness. "Who dat?!" they yelled, and adults yelled right back, "Who dat?!" And the kids were delighted. They were part of something tonight. This wasn't going on over their heads or in the next room. They were part of it.

Bourbon Street was as crowded as any festival night, possibly more so. At the intersections, it teemed like a salmon run but without direction. Any attempt to navigated foundered. You entered the current not to get somewhere, but just to be there, pressed up in full-body contact against three or four other people at any given moment, sharing joy like body heat and not caring that your feet were barely touching the ground.

From the river to South Claiborne, there was no traffic. Well, not what you'd call traffic. What there was, was a non-stop tailgate party, traffic signals having lost their meaning, horns continuing to sound in rhythm with the ubiquitous "WHO DAT?!" chanting, sunroofs and windows sprouting upper bodies, styrofoam pointing fingers, second-line umbrellas, hands, voices. Past South Claiborne, lakeward Canal Street flowed smoothly but riverward Canal Street remained bumper to bumper, and if anyone was annoyed by this, you didn't notice them. You noticed the convertible with the top down where five or six riders stood up on the seats and danced to the music pounding out their car stereos. Some riders were standing on roofs and hoods--not that the cars were going fast enough to make this a danger.

"How ya do?" I called, passing fans walking north along the street car tracks. "Wait," I amended, even as the automatic Fine, I do fine, I'm doing great, came back. "Dumb question, is that even a question? Don't I know the answer already? WHO DAT!"

Music ranged from brand-new hip-hop gonna-be-standards written in honor of the Superbowl opportunity, to reworked classics like the "Superbowl Mambo," to old favorites that Louis Armstrong used to sing. Which could also stand to be reworked.

Oh when the Saints
Came marching in
Oh when the Saints came marching in
I was proud to be in that number
When my Saints came marching in

Traffic at South Broad and Canal was somewhat more normal. People stopped at red lights and weren't backed up more than half a block. Kids in a pickup truck parked at a drugstore called out "Who dat sayin' gonna beat dem Saints?" at passersby, who shouted back the only possible answer. "Who dat? Who dat?"

Across the parish line, things fell silent. The party never lasts as late in Metairie. But before locking up and heading home to bed, business owners had left their acknowledgments. The cycling light board at Old Metairie Bank said,

Superbowl
XLIV
CHAMPS
thank you
THANK YOU
THANK YOU
SAINTS!
But this suburb had gone to bed, and I was about to do the same.
WorldCon 2009, Sunday: The Hugos and The Community
Sun 2009-08-09 22:03:35 (single post)

This will be a brief post* and not very polished as blog posts go. I'm tired and attempting to make an early night of it. I know, I know--an early night at WorldCon? That's unpossible! Yet I shall try.

Tonight's big event was the awarding of the Hugos, when the World Science Fiction Society presents big heavy rocket-shaped trophies to people what done good. This is my second time attending the Hugos, and once again they made me both giggly and teary-eyed. The reason for that is why I wanted to blog a bit before I slept.

Towards the beginning of the presentation, we get the IN MEMORIAM list. Names of those members of ours community who have died since the last WorldCon are projected on the big screens. Charles N. Brown, founder of Locus Magazine. Forrest J. Ackerman, "Mr. Science Fiction." And, heartbreakingly, the list went on for pages. After each name was a word or two describing what their role had been: author, editor, artist, etc.

The list was a very inclusive list. Walter Cronkite was mentioned, though he was not someone you'd have thought of as being part of SF/F fandom. His tag was "space exploration enthusiast." Michael Jackson, too: "genre music video." Fandom is ecumenical and all-embracing. Many of the people we count as our own might be surprised to find themselves in that number.

So that's the easy answer to why I get teary. But it goes deeper. See, a lot of the names, they got tagged with just one word: "Fan."

Science fiction and fantasy has its celebrities. Dang straight it does--ask Neil Gaiman, who appears increasingly chagrined as the years go by at his rock star status. (He observed at the "Finding Fandom" panel that his power to create a roomful of applause with a single word--"Sandman"--was a dangerous one that ought only to be used for good. He has been heard to observe that his simply walking into a con party halts all conversation.) And yet in fandom, "celebrity" doesn't imply the same sort of separation between the celeb and pleb as it does in other entertainment industries (my parenthetical comments last sentence notwithstanding). The line between fan and pro blurs to the point that someone might get nominated for "Best Fan Writer" the same year they're nominated for "Best Novel." The line blurs because every pro started out a fan, many fans aspire to be pros, and every pro remains a fan. Thanks to cons, acquaintanceships and friendships form across that blurry line and grow strong.

Tonight, John Scalzi won a Hugo for Best Related Book. Last year, I sat down with six or seven other fans at Scalzi's kaffeeklatsch and we all enjoyed a rambling conversation with him about anything and everything. Tonight, Ellen Datlow won a Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form. Friday morning she and I and several other early risers all chatted beside the fountain while waiting for the daily walk around town to get under way. Tonight, Elizabeth Bear won a Hugo for Best Novelette. This morning, I sat in a small conference room with a handful of WorldCon attendees to hear Bear read us some excerpts from her upcoming novel.

And all of us have been passing each other in the hallways, nodding to and smiling to and greeting each other right across that pro/fan boundary line that isn't much of a boundary at all. "Fan." It's a title we all share here. It doesn't get replaced by other titles--it just gets augmented. "Fan." It's title enough to get you missed sorely by the rest of the community when you're no longer with us here on Earth. The inclusiveness of that is truly touching. It reminds me that "home" isn't just a place; it's people too.

So that's the second reason the Hugos make me teary. The third, which is also the reason I get giggly--well, you watch. Watch what happens when someone gets the award and comes up to accept it. Watch Frank Wu (Best Fan Artist sorry, got that wrong before) galumphing up onto the stage, tripping over his own feet up the stairs, out of breath with hurry and utter surprise. Watch him playing with his Hugo, zooming the rocket ship around in the air and making whooshing noises. Watch him bounding back to his seat, still wielding his Hugo in toy rocket position, while the next category gets underway. And this isn't even his first Hugo, either! It's heartwarming and funny and makes you want to go over and give him a hug. Because you'd be galumphing and bounding and whooshing, too! And listen to the recipients who can barely utter their thanks over the sudden lump in their throats. Or the ones who get punchy and start interrupting their own acceptance speech trains of thought by looking down at the trophy they're holding--as though they can't believe they actually have one in their hot little hands--and blurt out, "Fuck this thing is heavy!"

The Hugos event is full of those little human moments--those moments when you realize, with the force of epiphany, "We're all humans together, and I love these humans, they're funny and wonderful and just like me, really." You want to just encircle the entire auditorium in your arms and not let go.

So I'm a little weepy right now and full of smiles. And very, very sleepy. And now that I have said what I wanted to say, hot damn! I get to go to sleep now! G'night!

* or not. Brief, that is.

In Which The Author Is Inspired
Wed 2009-01-21 11:42:29 (single post)
  • 5,737 words (if poetry, lines) long

To my fellow United States citizens and residents, and to my fellow citizens of the global community: Happy Inauguration Day! The U.S. has a new President as of yesterday, and his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I can't stop grinning.

I will put my exuberance here, for the record. Should I have occasion to regret it, as supporters of the previous President eventually did, I'll own up to it. But right now I can't imagine being disappointed because I don't expect miracles--I expect a continuation of the hard work and competence I saw during his campaign.

What the heck does this have to with a writing blog? Just this: I pledge to work as hard, in my own life, in my own career aspirations, in my craft and art, as I see our new President working for his own ideals. I admit that sounds cheesy. But watching him during his candidacy, watching his constant activity since the election (really, since when have we seriously paid attention to the Office of the President-Elect?), and watching him get to work on Day 1 (I am actually tuning in to CNN to find out what's up to--I've never done that before, and I actually avoided coverage of the previous President because he made me angry and nauseated), is nothing short of an inspiration. And it makes me feel like a bum. And I don't want to feel like a bum.

We find our role models where we can. I pledge to work as hard as I can see my role models have and do--because that's what "role model" means. We model our behavior--hopefully--after the inspirational examples set before us. So. Add another name to my list of role models.

It's kind of like a New Year's Resolution, except made on Inauguration Day rather than New Year's Day. I think that's fairly appropriate.

In other news, "Lambing Season" is in the slush again; I wish it well. And on the freelance non-fiction side, I'm working on some articles for upload to Constant Content. I was mildly excited to learn that one of my existing CC articles was recently purchased, and to find that this customer, unlike some previous ones, honored the Usage License requirement of including my by-line. (Read it here.) Apparently CC has also lowered their payment threshold from $50 to $5, which effectively removes the disconnect between selling an article and getting paid. All of which makes seeding that particular cloud look more worthwhile. So I will.

This is my wedding ring. The stone has been recovered!
This will one day be my engagement ring. Yes, I know it's a little late.
On Being Deliriously Happy
Sat 2007-04-14 22:59:59 (single post)

And this one has no manuscript stats attached because it's just not writing related. Too bad. Not everything is.

This update goes out to anyone who's ever grabbed me by the left hand and said, "Oh no! Where'd the stone from your wedding ring go? Emergency! Nobody move!" and got my sad-eyed puppy-dog-faced story of how it's actually been missing since December 2005, on a Friday that began with an hour and a half of periodontal surgery, continued with me lying all miserable in bed, and ended with me half-heartedly helping my husband paint the bathroom and move books around. After which we discovered that my ring was without stone.

It's a unique ring. It's got a History. It started out as half of a $5 pair of one-size-fits-nobody hematite bands bought at a vendor table in the New Orleans French Market. A diamond-tipped Dremel bit for etching Meaningful Runes into each ring before exchanging them at the altar brought the total cost up to about $15. Well, hematite being what it is (brittle), my ring broke about a year or so later. I was wearing it when an automatic grocery store sliding glass door stuck halfway open as I tried to leave. I slapped at the door to make it move, and the ring flew off in three pieces. A couple years after that (and a couple income brackets higher), we brought the etched piece to Hurdle's Jewelry where Keith Hurdle accomplished the daunting task of setting it in a white gold band.

An uncharitable eye might liken the effect to that of a mood ring stuck on Bleak Despair And Sadness. But that wouldn't be fair. Mr. Hurdle really did a beautiful job. Nothing else walking out of a jeweler's shop looks quite like it. I'd get asked about it all the time. Heck, the periodontist asked me about it on that fateful day while we were waiting for the anaesthetic to take effect.

And then the dang stone went missing.

I took our bedroom apart, bared it to the walls. I looked all over the tarp I'd sat on to spray-paint the bathroom fan cover. I looked under and around the bookshelf I'd helped John set in order. No little arc of hematite showed up. I went over the carpets with a fine-toothed comb before vacuuming. I then went through the contents of the vacuum bag with my bare hands, and in a household containing two tabby cats and two long-haired humans, that's not for the faint of heart. Still no stone. Could it have come loose as I bussed home from the dentist office that morning? Could it have popped out during the fan-cover-painting project and rolled right off the balcony? Bleak Despair And Sadness!

Between recovering from surgery and hitting other scheduling obstacles, somehow we never got around to searching the guest room more thoroughly. Then, a few months later, we had a friend move in. I asked him to keep half an eye out for it in his travels. In the meantime, I tried to convince myself that it wasn't gone forever--it was safely in the guest room somewhere just waiting for us to find it.

Our friend moved out about a week ago. With the room suddenly uninhabited, John and I decided it was high time we painted those four walls. (We've been painting at a rate of about one wall per six months ever since we bought the place in August 2000. We hope to finish the job before we finish paying off the mortgage.) So today we emptied that sucker of all furniture and wall fixtures. This included the bookshelf that I was helping John reorder at the time the stone got lost. My pet theory was that the stone popped loose while I was trying to shove more books onto that shelf than reasonably could be expected to fit. I think my hand had been sandwiched between a C++ Primer and a Chemistry textbook at the time.

We proved that theory tonight. Blessed, blessed be!--we found that stone.

I was carrying one of the cement blocks from the guest room to the kitchen when I saw the little arc of hematite lying on the living room floor. It must have been stuck to one of the blocks, or sitting inside it, and then fallen off as the block was being transported.

After a year and a half, my wedding ring is complete once more.

I have to keep telling myself that every fifteen minutes. Bleak Sadness And Despair gets to be a habit after fifteen months, y'see. I have to keep reminding myself that we found the stone, I have it back, and that the proper emotions are in fact Delirious Joy And Happiness.

The stone and the ring are in a sandwich bag waiting to be taken back to Hurdle's for reassembly. I may also finally ask to have my engagement ring assembled. The ring is a gift from both of our mothers: John's mom gave me the band, which had been her mother's; and, seeing that the original stone was long gone (strange how generations fall into parallel), my mom, a most knowledgeable and obsessive collector of gemstones, gave me one of her tanzanites to crown it. It's about time I had the stone set and the ring sized for actual wearing. And yes, it's kind of unusual to wait until one's ninth year of marriage to start wearing an engagement ring, but what's one more unconventionality, more or less?

My wedding stone came back. We found my wedding stone. Hooray!

This has been the best Saturday ever.

More. A couple hours later.
Wed 2007-02-28 23:10:51 (single post)
  • 5,000 words (if poetry, lines) long

I sent the bastard. Yes. It is on its way.

I'm not displeased with how it turned out, actually. I look forward to a good excuse to revise it good, of course, but for the rush job I gave it I'm not entirely dissatisfied.

I like the way it ends.

I spent the bulk of the past couple hours working on the opening, to make it more likely that it will be read all the way through to the end. As anyone in this business knows, that's never guaranteed. The wishing business is more understated and the exposition is, I hope, a little better woven into the action. And there's a smidge more tension between Louise and her Dad, which I like.

Hey, just as a reminder? This story is not autobiographical. I stole a bunch of autobiographical details from it, but Louise's Dad is not my Dad, for all that they're both pediatricians in Metairie after Katrina hit. Louise isn't me, for all that we both like(d) to spend time hanging out despite parental prohibitions on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Louise's house is not my house, for all that I gave it our big bookshelf at the top of the stairs that got soaked when Katrina blew a hole in the roof. And Louise's brother is not my brother in any way shape or form, even though I stole the two-year-old pronouncement of "cars going splash into the water" from him. Similarities notwithstanding, this is fiction.

Sometimes I just feel like I need to reiterate that.

Genghis Con 2007
Fri 2007-02-16 12:17:31 (single post)

I have participated, or plan to participate, in more role-playing games this weekend than I have played in the entire last five years.

Life is good.

More later, when life ceases to be quite so distractingly sparkly.

Reprieve! Reprieve! And Temptation!
Tue 2007-01-30 00:45:50 (single post)
  • 606 words (if poetry, lines) long

This just in: The deadline for submissions to Shimmer's "Pirate" issue has been extended a whole 'nother month! (Well, a little less than a whole month, what with the next month being February and all, but anyway...) So saith the Slush God!

This means I can procrastinate that sucker right up until Feb 26 and submit roughly the same quality I would have tomorrow!

...but I won't. I did a good solid 500 words on the new draft Monday/yesterday (haven't been to bed yet, all confused about how to define "tomorrow" and "today" and such), and I expect to do no less every day until the draft is finished. No breaks! I'm just allowed to be slower, that's all.

(I'm also allowed to prioritize my Feb 12 freelance deadline. Which is a relief, 'cause it would be nice to get that in on time, get paid on time, and pay my credit card bill on time. Yay for promptitude!.)

I have too much fiction lined up behind this story waiting to be finished and sent off; another month spent dawdling would not be a good idea.

On a not entirely unrelated tangent: Over at AbsoluteWrite.com, the regulars are asking each other this timeless question: What's the difference between a writer and a wanna-be? I have been avoiding that thread because Certain People make me all Huffy about it, and I have a tendency to get a bit Snarky. But I can tell you the difference. Yes, I can. The difference is this: a writer writes. A wanna-be only thinks about writing.

Here's the big secret, though: Being one doesn't mean you can't also be the other. You can be both. On alternating days, maybe. Or months. A wanna-be in January and a writer in February and then, as soon as the story's done, you're a wanna-be again for a few days until you jump back in the ring and become a writer writing a brand new story.

In Spanish, there are two verbs that mean "to be." Estar is for temporary and locational conditions (death, oddly, being one of them, which may bespeak an tacit cultural belief in reincarnation, or zombies, or more likely looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come etc. etc. but that's beside the point); ser is for more permanent, defining characteristics. I think the description "wanna-be" probably takes estar.

Yes, I biked that sucker home.
Scenes from a short story.
On Using yWriter for Short Fiction. Also, Yule Logs On Bikes.
Fri 2006-12-08 16:31:54 (single post)
  • 2,448 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today I could have easily been overtaken even by a very out-of-shape Muse. I found me a Yule Log lying alongside the Boulder Creek Path, and I strapped it to my bike (cf. illo). The rest of my ride home was slow, careful, containing as few sharp turns as possible, and punctuated by cheers and thumbs-up from random passers-by. As far as bicycling machismo goes, I have nothing to prove.

Also, yWriter. Can it be used for short fiction as well as for novels? Why, yes it can. But why would you? Possibly because you have some scenes in your head just waiting to be written down, but you're not sure what order they go in or what other scenes to use as glue in between. Watch out for that NaNoWriMo mindset, though. You know the one. That's where you just have your characters totally babble because you've got a word quota to meet, dammit! Well, you don't. You just need to end up with a draft of a short story, is all.

I do not yet have a draft of a short story. But I've got almost all my scenes in place. I hope to get it to Full First Draft tomorrow, maybe even upload it to my fellow VPXmen. I want this guy out the door early.

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