“Literature is the extant body of written art. All novels belong to it.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Bikini whilst dry
Bikini after a thorough wetting
Aerial view of a sacred site near Hana
The daily afternoon rainbow east of Ka'anapali
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
Sun 2006-09-10 22:02:00 (single post)

Also, the satisfactory conclusion of the bikini experiment.

Saturday: John and I discovered Maui Public Transit. We also discovered that the Westin staff are somewhat reticent about this. "No, we don't have a schedule for the bus--but we have a great free shuttle!" Thank you, but we're hoping to actually get out of Ka'anapali. Ka'anapali is beautiful, but I am told there is more to Maui than the various hotels and timeshare resorts lined up along the beach here.

In fact, there's the town of Lahaina. John and I spent some time wandering up and down Front Street. It's a bit touristy, but we managed to find the Old Lahaina Bookstore. Also the library.

Sunday: We woke up at 1:30 AM and stumbled downstairs to await the Maui Downhill van. Today was our day to view sunrise from atop Mt. Haleakala and then coast all the way down! Alas, when Maui Downhill hears "Westin Ka'anapali" they think, for some reason, we mean the Westin Maui Spa & Resort rather than the Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas. This should have been trivial to correct, but what with the ongoing brush fire outside Ma'alaea and all the attendant smoke, radio communication was futzed. And the drivers don't have cell phones. Why don't the drivers have cell phones?!

We rescheduled for Monday and went back to sleep. We managed to sleep through the very thing we'd lamented scheduling the Maui Downhill trip against: the weekly Lahaina Craft Fair. Dammit.

Later that afternoon: More wandering about Lahaina. The discovery that Cheeseburger In Paradise does gardenburgers. Also, a visit to the Chinese Museum and Taoist Temple on Front Street.

Monday: Another 1:30 AM wake-up. And the van showed up this time! Yay! Our driver and our tour guide were both absolutely wonderful, but they insisted on playing Sheryl Crow on the drive up to the top of the mountain. Discovering the rest of the album was detrimental to my already minimal appreciation of the artist. I'd have preferred that Presidents Of The United States Of America album that the tour guide had on him.

We were about an hour atop the mountain. Stargazing was excellent; a breathtaking amount of twinklies were visible, and we even got a shooting star. Sunrise was just as lovely as advertised. The crater is just as immense. And the summit just as cold.

We got to check out the observatory higher up the mountain and admire the rare spectacle of a Silversword plant in bloom. Those things live anywhere between 2 and 50 years, and they bloom only once. They have very shallow root systems, too; we were told not to walk off the path for fear of unknowingly damaging them.

Our tour guide told us all sorts of interesting things about Maui. For instance, pineapple farming is a dying art on that island because, apparently, Del Monte and Dole are taking their operations off to the Philippines. They don't like the expense of paying their workers a fair wage under U. S. labor laws, see. What they have to pay hourly in Hawaii they would only have to pay daily elsewhere.

/me makes mental note not to buy Del Monte or Dole pineapples ever again; from now on it's Maui Gold if I can get it.

Also, sugar cane. It's a grass. They plant it any which way, no walkable rows necessary, and then when it's time to harvest, they set it on fire. "That fire you see off to the left," our tour guide told us in the pre-dawn hours, "it's not the brush fire you've been hearing about. It's a sugar cane field, and the burn is planned and controlled." Apparently, the fire causes the sugar cane to pull up all its juices from the roots and into the stalks as a defense mechanism--the wetter it is, the less it burns. So there's more sugar in the stalks, and what's more, the fire causes it all to get a little carmelized, giving it a texture akin to molasses. Then the stalks are sent to the one remaining sugar mill on Maui (another dying agricultural art there), where "sugar in the raw" type stuff is produced. To get white sugar, this raw output is sent to the mainland and milled further and bleached and sent back to Maui to sell at about $1.50 extra per pound over mainland prices. Yay commerce!

Apparently the reason Maui has remained so agricultural, instead of going all condo, is the Baldwin Piano Company. The Baldwin family/estate consider Maui their pet project. Viva.

The ride down the mountain took us through several different environments. At one point there was cloud on the road--the peak of Mt. Haleakala is above the clouds. At another, there were cattle practically on the road, making a very irritated "muuaaaawww!" noise. Our noses got treated to the scents of eucalyptus groves, a lavender farm, and white ginger flowers. Finally we ended up at a little roadside cafe and general store for breakfast. John had french toast, I had a breakfast burrito, and for later I bought a jar of mango chutney and a bag of handmade coconut candy. That coconut candy was good.

Back at the hotel, we napped a lot, getting up in time to go to a luau at the resort two doors down--"Myths and Legends," I think it was called, hosted by the Royal Lahaina. We got in kinda cheap by reserving with Boss Frog's, but when offered an even deeper discount if we agreed to attend a timeshare salesman's presentation, we demurred. Time is precious, after all. An hour and a half spent listening to a sales pitch is an hour and a half not doing something delightful and vacation-y. Like, say, sleeping, or playing another round or two of "The Mysteries Of Horus" on my computer.

We walked along the beach until we got to what looked like the right resort, and then squiggled a bit to find our way to the proper entrance. The band was playing ukelele-and-yodelling music--I had thought ukeleles and yodelling were just an unfair stereotype, but no, this is actual Hawaiian music. "On the Island," sang the band, "we do it Island Style, from the mountains to the beaches, from the windward to the leeward side." They sang the words in something remarkably like an Irish accent, and the tune was suspiciously similar to the Kinks' "Come Dancing."

The buffet was yummy. I had extra helpings of all the meat items: coconut-crusted mahi mahi, teriyaki-style steak, and the traditional pulled "Kalua Pork" which was ready far too soon after the men displayed the pit-smoked pig carcass for all to see. I suspect they serve today's pig tomorrow. There were also complimentary drinks of both the soft and mixed variety, which the nice man gave us each two of after we'd made our selections. I only drank one of my Mai-Tais, though. After that I switched to coffee.

The hostess was lovely, but would have fit in equally well at a Las Vegas lounge or on a cruise-ship. "A-loooooooooooow-ha!" she sighed at the audience, and waited for us to holler it back. ("When she says 'Aloha' that way," I wondered to John, "is it Hawaiian for the Animaniacs' trademark 'Helloooooooo Nurse'?") When she sang traditional songs she sounded lovely; when she sang lounge lizard songs, she got all hoarse and breathy and sounded like she oughtn't to sing at all. She led an extremely Protestant Christian style prayer before the buffet ("this we pray in Your Precious Name, Amen") as though to ask Yahweh forgiveness ahead of time for the glorifying of the heathen traditions of the Tahitian, Hawaiian, Polynesian, and Samoan cultures that was to come, and she described every dance and song whether modern or traditional in terms of love and romance and whatnot. But the dances were worth watching, and I could kind of imagine what actual religious or ceremonial function some of them might have served.

/me makes mental note to better plan visits to sacred sites and exploration of pre-Christian island religious practices next visit.

At long last, at the end of the luau, there were fire dances. John specifically wanted to see fire dances. Aside from the one man performing Samoan-style with the double-ended staff, all the fire dancing was a little pedestrian compared to some of the really spectacular stuff I'd seen at my sister-in-law's housewarming party the other month (and no doubt compared to what was going on this past weekend at Burning Man), but the fact that just about every dancer in the luau cast was doing something fiery was worth applauding.

Tuesday: Recovering from yesterday. Sleeping late, playing more computer games. John decided that what he needed was a manicure, so we sought the concierge's assistance in acquiring this. There was no salon at the Villas, but we were welcome to go to the Westin Maui. Which we did. John went to his 3:45 appointment while I lounged in the courtyard with a pineapple ice and teased the parrots. Both the cockatoo and the blue-and-yellow macaw named Bob could say "Hello!" "Hi!" and "Aloha!" Bob also knew how to wave hello, but I'm afraid that, with his left wing bobbing about above his head, he looked like a particularly uncoordinated person patting his head and trying hard to figure out where, in that rhythm, to fit in the tummy-rubbing.

The lady from the cafe who had turned pineapple chunks into the icecream-like substance I'd just eaten picked a macaw feather out of the bushes and handed it to me. "So are you waiting on a room?"

"No, on my husband. He's in the salon having a manicure."

This made her laugh, a bit too much I thought. You know, the way people laugh a little too big when you've just said something that made them uncomfortable? It had something in common with the doubletake the salon staff gave us when we assured them that yes, it was just him, not me, nothing for me, thanks, I'll be in the bar.

Around that time the swan came up to me and warbled like a puppy, or like one of the Three Stooges ("woo-woo-woo-woo!"), in hopes that I'd throw her some bread. And a flamingo, deciding it was on the wrong side of the lagoon, ran across the water with its wings flapping madly to get to the other side.

John came swimming with me today. Yay! I'd been trying to get a little ocean dipping in every sundown, but this was his first time joining me. We swam a little off the beach outside the Westin Maui, and then a little bit more back at the Villas, "because," as I told him, "you've got to check out these neat weird fingers of volcanic rock that start just a few feet out there. You can stand on them and everything."

(Those of you who know Ka'anapali Beach can stop laughing now. I hadn't bought goggles yet, what did I know?)

Wednesday: Lahaina again. Labor Day weekend done, the library would be open. Also, there's this century-old banyan tree in the Courthouse yard that's worth seeing. It looks like a forest, but it is, in fact, one tree. Banyans have a similar problem to live oaks: they make very big, very heavy branches that need support. Live oaks solve this by letting the branches dip until they rest on the ground before reaching upwards again. Banyans, apparently, solve this instead by sending down liana-like roots to form a supporting column that looks like a brand new tree, especially when the roots come down from a higher tier of branches and totally engulf a section of branch below. And, as branches do when you tie a rope around them, the banyan branches below grow into and around the roots coming down from above until it's just one solid mass of tree.

The sign said "No climbing." Dammit.

Also, lunch at The Blue Lagoon, whose pineapple fried rice has won an award at the Taste of Lahaina event, which we were one weekend too early to attend. Great stuff. But by now I was starting to get sores in the corners of my mouth from all the unaccustomed tropical fruit.

Today we wandered off of Front Street and through the residential neighborhoods, and found ourselves at the historic old fort/jail at Prison and Waine'e Streets. Outside the huge coral wall, an ancient Model-T and an iron cooking vat have been left to rust away to nothing, but signs posted next to them invite passers-by to appreciate them while they remain in recognizeable shape. The huge ship's anchor was doing better, having been built to withstand the sea water. Inside the courtyard was a mango tree, with ripe mangos just lying all about the place. I picked one up. Bird noises that were not myna birds or doves were emanating from behind the tree, so I headed back there and discovered the jail birds. Four parrots--one green and three gray--in a big cage, all of them yelling "Hello!" at us and squawking. After watching them for a bit, I started slicing up the mango and handing them slices, which they accepted gravely and with great decorum. When the mango was all done, I tossed the seed into the cage and we started to leave.

"BYE!" yelled the parrots. "BYE!"

Thursday: Today we left our habitual stomping grounds and caught an extra bus into Ma'alaea so we could visit the Aquarium. The Aquarium has an awesome reef exhibit with lots of neat fish in it and all sorts of educational plaques. It has a shark exhibit, too, and a guy who swims with the sharks. There's a tide pool exhibit where you can touch, gently, the starfish and the sea urchins. And there's an expensive but delicious restaurant with a kick-ass seafood salad and a signiture bloody mary mix that involves at least half a bottle of tobasco per glass.

We let one bus go because we wanted to bop around the harbor shops for a bit. Five minutes later we had seen it all and regretted letting the bus go. An hour later, we realized that there is no bus back to Lahaina at 1:50 and we'd have to wait another hour. During that time, I finally finished knitting the top half of my bikini experiment, which you can see in the pictures above. I am happy to say that once we got back to the Villas and I surf-tested the bikini top, it withstood everything from freestroke to being dragged across the sand by a particularly violent wave without ever baring my boobies (such as they are). Next time I try out this pattern, I might increase a bit more from the bra line to the bust, and I'll probably use #3 needles for a tighter guage to better avoid nipples peeking through. But, imperfections regardless, I've still got a functional bikini top. Yay!

We got a rainbow that afternoon. We got rainbows practically every afternoon. "Tuesdays, Thursdays, and some Saturdays," John had joked when we saw our first one on Saturday while riding the bus home from Lahaina. Thanks to the near-constant low-lying clouds over the western mountain, which seem the reason for the rainforest in the 'Iao Valley, he turned out to be 100% correct.

The day before, John and I had bought goggles from the general store. After the photo shoot with the bikini top, I put those goggles on and took a closer look at what I'd thought were "fingers of volcanic rock." They turned out to be actual living coral reef, complete with all the little bright-colored fishies from the Aquarium's "upper reef" exhibit. Including the round brown one with the bright blue snout and the orange bands around his lower half. And there were anemonae in the cracks! I am never stepping on those "rocks" with my bare feet again!

Friday: Up at 4:00. Why? Because the moon was full. Beautiful time to go swimming.

Rented a car. Drove up to 'Iao Valley State Park. Saw the 'Iao Needle, the botanical gardens, the exhibits commemorating the different peoples to immigrate to Maui, and a heck-a-lot of highway. Had lunch at Marco's, the very place we had dinner while waiting for Highway 30 to open up a week ago. And had a flight lesson which involved four touch-and-gos at Hana and a lot of picture taking.

With a few more hours to kill before our flight off the island, we took the flight instructor's advice and wandered off to Pa'ia... where we just happened to bump into a high school classmate of mine: Daniel Sullivan. Last I heard, he was being a professional photographer in Afghanistan. Now he owns a shop called Indigo, which specializes in Indian imports and displays a wall full of his photography. Apparantly, if you own a shop on Maui, the world comes to you; a couple months ago, another of our classmates, Geoffery, wandered through, too. We exchanged highly summarized versions of what we'd been up to since graduating Country Day in '94; we exchanged Katrina stories (another one of our classmates, Warren, whose mother keeps in better touch with a lot of the class of '94 than its actual students do, only discovered that someone had been camped out in his house when he saw the "squatter" wearing Warren's football shirt on the National Geographic documentary); we exchanged web page addresses.

So that was extremely cool.

We also got propositioned by a marijuana salesman on Baldwin Beach, and we had tofu stir-fry and excellent sushi at a bistro a couple of blocks down.

And then we headed to the airport, where I had to give up the mango and dragonfruit I'd hoped to eat on the plane, because agricultural restrictions go both ways.

/me makes mental note to chop the fruit up and put it in a jar next time, as canned fruit appears to be A-OK.

The sock! It fits!
Tools of the trade
Confession; and Sock, Take One
Tue 2006-05-23 08:16:30 (single post)
  • 6,708 words (if poetry, lines) long

Behold! Sock. Sock on foot of newly graduated and duly celebrated Tree. It fits! And it is both rainbow and sparkly, as requested by its recipient. I call it "The Margaritaville Parrot". It is made with two different skeins of Sockotta to achieve the rainbow color sequence, red and blue reinforcement thread, and Trendsetter Yarn's "Spruce" added in every fifth row or so in the cuff.

In this picture the sock is only crew length. I've got it off the needles on a bit of string for the sake of letting Tree try it on. I am now extended it to knee length. There will be more pictures when the sock is done.

So, I am a good knitter.

But I am a bad, bad writer-wife.

Back in 2002, I dug up an old science fiction cum horror story called, at the time, "Quiet In The Night" (after a line from Yeats's "The Two Trees", stuck in my head thanks to Loreena McKennitt), and gave it a thorough revision in preparation for the Weird Tales Short Story Contest--winners to be announced at that year's World Horror Convention in Chicago. It was my first year attending, and it only occurred to me to go because Neil Gaiman was a guest of honor that year.

At the time, my husband was living temporarily in Las Vegas for reasons to do with work. I sent him a copy, now entitled "Putting Down Roots", after I submitted the story to the contest. And for months and months, he didn't read it, also for reasons to do with work. He was working from home when he wasn't in the office, and falling asleep at the keyboard was a daily occurrence. He did not have a lot of time to read fiction, not even his wife's fiction, and this was a story he'd already expressed some dislike for.

A brief pause for synchronicity: In Chicago, across from the Airport Radisson, there was a Mediterranean restaurant that served gyros and falafel and the like. They also served fried perch. I had not hitherto associated fried perch with Mediterranean cuisine. I associated it with summer weekends at my Dad's friend's fishing camp on Lac Des Allemands, upon which memories I had based the setting of "Putting Down Roots". There's a scene in there in which perch are caught and fried and eaten. Although I didn't even place in the contest, and Weird Tales decided not to publish the story, I couldn't help but interpret the odd menu item as one of the ways the Universe has of patting me on the back. "Good job, Niki. You wrote it, you finished it, you submitted it. You went to a convention and met people in the industry, too. You, my dear, are on the right path."

And then months went by, and John didn't find time to read the story. Finally I morphed into my Mr. Hyde phase and began badgering, pestering, and guilt-tripping him until he finally agreed to read it and call me back with comments. I am not proud of myself as Mr. Hyde. It isn't the best side of me, and it makes me wonder why this man continues to stay married to me. I can be a real bitch.

Well, in spite of or because of my bitchiness, he read it. And he called me back. And he gave me a lot of good critique. I mean, a lot. Better than I deserved. I took notes all over the back couple of pages of my current writing notebook, and I resolved to do a new rewrite on the strength of my husband's comments.

Flash forward to today. This is the story I want to bring to the Borderlands Press Writer's Boot Camp to workshop. But since I haven't touched it in four years, I want to do the rewrite I promised myself and my husband that I would do.

And I can't find those notes.

I've flipped through every notebook I've filled since WHC02. And they just aren't there--or else I'm too blind to see them.

I'm deeply ashamed. John was exceedingly patient with me in spite of my Mr. Hyde phase; he took the time out of an exceedingly busy working life to read the story; his critique was exceedingly thorough. And I can't find the notes. I wasted all that generosity. All I remember of his comments is a vague sense of the expository bits being long and boring.

So... I guess I'll just be rewriting the story from my own current reread, with only my own 4-year-detached eyes and instincts to go on. And although he's heard this several times already, in person, I'm just going to continue apologizing to my long-suffering husband for having lost the notes.

And when I have time I'm going to read every effin' page of those notebooks until I find those notes. Dammit.

Various Packages In Transmission
Mon 2006-05-15 08:24:36 (single post)
  • 1,900 words (if poetry, lines) long

The story workshopped Saturday has been committed to email as of nine hours ago. As for myself, I am in the Emeryville train station, ready to be committed to rail in about an hour.

Before leaving San Francisco, before finishing and emailing my story, before sitting around half the night in the Hospitality Suite at the Dead Dog Party knitting and watching Adult Swim, I actually got out of the hotel for a bit. I started out by asking the hotel staff, "How do I get to an Amtrak bus stop tomorrow morning?" Oddly enough, the staff member seemed aware only of the Ferry Building stop, and the only way he seemed to know how to get me there was allll the way down Van Ness on a southbound #47 to Market Street, and then alll the way back over on the Market Street cable car, forming a nice big "V" shape over the map of downtown San Francisco in doing so.

"What about Pier 39?" I asked, because Amtrak's pamphlet showed it would pick up passengers there too, and the northbound #47 bus would go right there. Believe me, with my luggage, I didn't want any more transfer points than were strictly necessary.

"Look, all you need to do is get to the Ferry Building, see?" He redrew the "V" shape. "Like that."

"And there's no route to just get me there straight?" I drew a line across the top of the "V" from the circle he'd drawn at the Holiday Inn to the circle he'd drawn at the Ferry Building. The line that capped the "V" went along a street I'd become familiar with, California, as I'd taken the #1 bus along it to the hotel on Thursday morning after checking out of the Green Tortoise Adventure Hostel. It was one of the cross streets that demarcated the block containing the Holiday Inn. "Nothing runs directly along California between here and there?"

"Not that I know of!" he said cheerfully.

I was doubtful. I decided to scout things out for myself. I took the northbound #47 up to Pier 39 / Fisherman's Wharf, found the Amtrak bus stop there, and said to myself, "A-ha!" Then I commenced to putter. I was at Pier 39, after all. There were supposedly all sorts of fun things here. Restaurants, and candy, and an arcade, and a merry-go-round, and seals! Well, actually, sea lions, you can tell the difference because they're smarter and have visible ear flaps and so forth, but--seals!!!! Like fifty or sixty of 'em, laying out on the platforms between the piers and barking at each other and scritching themselves behind the ears with their foot-like flippers and lounging with their furry bellies in the air and--wow! Sea lions. Dude.

Then I figured I'd just walk along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. It was good exercise and pretty too. I located the Amtrak stop there as well, ate an Ahi sandwich and worked on the workshopped story at a restaurant in the Ferry Building, and finally turned inland to get on the Market Street cable car.

And then I found out that there is a public transit route that caps the damn "V" that the hotel staff member drew. I found the damn rout that runs right along California. It's the California cable car, duh, and it runs practically from the Ferry Building right out to Van Ness and then stops.

Rather a convenient line of public transportation for the hotel staff to be completely unaware of, don't you think?

At this point in the narration, the author pauses to regale you with a nightmare. I don't have many nightmares. When I do, they tend to fall into one of a handful of categories. There's the airplane or car trouble dream, in which I can't brake or steer or land worth a damn--I had one of those Sunday morning, finding myself awakening at the controls of a Boeing 757 which I had absolutely no training to handle or certification to pilot and which my husband was steering within mere feet of the water. I had to grab the yoke to force us into a wings-a-tilt position so we'd fit underneath a bridge coming straight up. "Why are you flying so close to the water?" I screeched; "Because I'm more comfortable there," he said. I corrected this as soon as I could, but we were not in VFR conditions and I didn't know what to do other than land and wait for help. I later told the jet pilot who came to take the plane home, "Really, I swear, I just sort of woke up in the cockpit. I don't know how I got there."

So that's the vehicle trouble dream. It used to take place in cars, but now it almost exclusively takes place in airplanes because, well, piloting stresses me out more.

Then there's the nightmare of pursuit in which some monstrous person or thing chases me at a walking speed, knowing I can run but I can't hide. That one has happened only very, very rarely since I got into my 20s.

And the nightmare of being unprepared for school happens fairly frequently. It almost always puts me back in high school, not college. I've heard others say the same. We form more of a stressy connection with the school our parents chose, maybe, than with the school we chose to escape to. Or maybe high school is more grounded in the subconscious, being usually in our home neighborhoods and associated with rites of passage like the sweet sixteen, learning to drive, and so forth.

Well, you probably recognize all those dreams. Especially the school one. And you'll probably recognize this one, too: the nightmare of falling. Only when I have it, it's special. It's quite precise. It very rarely involves a straight freefall; instead, it begins on an inclined plane. And I'm in a vehicle of some sort: a roller coaster, a car, a bus, maybe even a waterslide. And I am going down or up a very steep incline, so very steep and increasingly so that inevitably my vehicle's wheels (or, in the case of the waterslide, my butt cheeks) lose contact with the road (or track or slide) and begins to fall as though the plane had become perpendicular to the ground.

The entire way up Nob Hill while riding the California Street Cable Car, I kept thinking, "Greeeeat. Fresh fodder for my falling-off-an-inclined-plane nightmares. Just what I needed."

Because California Street is pretty damn steep. I'd wager 10%, some of those blocks. And the cable car is two-thirds open to the sides. My entire stay in the Holiday Inn, I'd fallen asleep and woken up staring at a Photoshop-filtered picture of people riding a San Francisco trolly (ding! ding! think Rice-a-Roni!), and I'd marvelled at the way they some of them stood on the running board and held onto the side pole as they rode. Was that allowed? Was the driver aware? Yes the driver is aware, and it is in fact expected, and it is not the norm for someone sitting on the bench in the open bit to clutch the side pole and the back of the bench with white knuckles and shaking arms as the car rides up past Chinatown.

Yes I'm a wimp. What's your point?

On my way back to the Ferry Building with luggage this morning, I sat in the enclosed section in the middle. I still did my share of white-knuckling, especially when a young lady stepped right out onto the running board in preparation for her stop about two blocks above the heart of Chinatown. I suppose people get used to the darndest things.

Hell, I suppose if I can get used to steering an airplane, or to chatting with Big Name Authors at conventions without going all "hrrrr dahhhh thhbbbb uh You Rock, Sir! i er ummm....", or with reading my own fiction aloud in front of a group of strangers (which group includes said Big Name Author(s)), other people can get used to seemingly death-defying feats such as hanging out the side of a cable car going 10 miles an hour down a 10% grade incline. Each to their own.

Sat 2006-05-13 23:57:57 (single post)
  • 680 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,689 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK. Everyone who knows my husband needs to give him a hug for me. Like, right now. Because if it wasn't for him and his generosity in emailing me the latest copy of "The Right Door, The Right Time" (title now condensed to the latter phrase) on absolute short notice and in spite, it must be admitted, of my sickness-shortened temper, I wouldn't have been able to enter that story in last night's Flash Fiction contest.

In which I placed third! Squeeeee! Happy dance!

And among the illustrious personages upon the judges panel was WHC 2006 Toastmaster and, of course, celebrated horror writer Peter Straub! Squeeeeeeee!

There were pictures taken of everyone involved, which Tina Jens of Twilight Tales will be emailing to me, so, pictures as soon as I've got 'em. Tina also invited all the winners to send her their stories so they could be published on the Twilight Tales website, so, links when I've got 'em too.

(Interesting. I hadn't been aware, until going to their website, that Twilight Tales was connected to Tim Broderick's Odd Jobs series. It's obviously been awhile since I've checked in--maybe it's not called that anymore--but they seem to have the whole Lost Child storyline hosted there, and they sell a hard copy graphic novel edition of Something To Build Upon.)

I won a great Twilight Tales T-shirt and copy of one of their anthologies, Blood and Donuts. But I am in much covetous admiration of the first place prize--which was well earned by that winner, whose story was amazing and funny and totally effed up. That was a plain white shirt with black sleeves which sad, simply, in red serif print, "I Read Like A Motherfucker"--in homage to that immortal countdown which starts the five minutes ticking for each competitor. ("Three... Two... Rrrrread like a motherfucker!")

I'm writing this while sitting in on the traditional Gross-Out Contest, which I am emphatically not going to participate in. I could absolutely not compete with champions in this tournament. There's a lot of potty humor involved. In great detail. And with much hilarity. After a few minutes, the MC takes away the microphone and asks the audience to show by their thumbs--up or down--whether the contestant should be allowed to continue. I'm almost ready to leave, not because I'm too grossed out or anything--I've no problem hearing descriptions of things as long as I don't have to watch them acted out on TV--but because some of the more enthusiastic contestants get a little close to the mike and sting my ears.

As for the second session of the Editing Workshop, that went well. We only went over out 3-hour time window by about 15 minutes, which was pretty impressive, and the critiques were more in-depth than I would have expected from a read-aloud format. Stephen Jones did indeed join us, but not for the reading and critiquing; instead he gave us a great talk and Q&A on the business of anthology publication. He also gave us his atcual web address, which found myself strangely unable to Google up yesterday. My story went over well, with much love for the POV character and the diary format, and the main thing everyone pointed out that needed improvement was the ending. No surprise; I still haven't figured that on out myself. I got some good suggestions as to how I might resolve that. The title needs changing, too; I need to think about that.

Next, I hope to get a new draft done in time to submit it to Borderlands Press's "Writer's Boot Camp" (deadline May 15, no application fee, workshop takes place August 4-6).

And I'm feeling much better today, thanks!

Uh-oh. Gotta go. They're about to start throwing chickens at the contestants.

It's dooooooone.
Mon 2005-10-24 07:31:04 (single post)
  • 2,100 words (if poetry, lines) long

So, that work-for-hire thingie? Yeah. That's done. Time for me to remember where I left off in the various novels and short stories I'd put on hold in order to hit the deadline.

While writing up a brief bio for the editor to use or not as appropriate, I discovered something. PanGaia issue #42 is now online. And my article is indeed among those you can read in PDF format: here.

In other news, it's looking like my yen to blog about my surroundings will be fulfilled once the Denver Metroblogging website gets up and running. Yay! Metroblogger is a fine old respectable venue, for online values of "old" anyway, and I'll be proud to be on the team.

Meanwhile, down here in the New Orleans area, we are feeling the effects of Hurricane Wilma. Stupendous northerly winds are rushing across the city--not wings of the storm, precisely, but a current caused by the hurricane's low pressure system in the Gulf yanking the air out of the high pressure system that is our incoming cold front. The ghost town of the 9th Ward got two feet of water last night. The blue tarp on the roof with the long slats on top was flapping, bumping, and squeaking all night long. And you can actually hear the wind howling in my parents' sink. 35 years in this house, and they've never heard that happen before. I leaned over, put my hand to my ear, and said, "Mom! I can hear the sea!" We didn't stop laughing for something like five minutes.

Once more, from above...
Mon 2005-10-03 18:29:04 (single post)
  • 50,029 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 88.50 hrs. revised

Wow. I didn't think yesterday when I was writing in the cemetery that today I'd be flying over it.

I had a pilot lesson today at Boulder Municipal Airport, specifically a lesson in mountain flying. I learned how you have to slow down when you hit an updraft, so as to stay with it, and I learned how to speed up when you hit a downdraft, so as to outrun it. This because a Cessna 172 from the 1970s doesn't command a lot of horsepower; if you want to climb over an 11,000 foot mountain ridge, you're better off letting the natural wind currents do the work for you. In order to catch those updrafts, I flew a lot closer to mountain ridges than I was strictly comfortable doing, and I kept telling myself I'd get used to it. I flew over Winter Park, and I flew within sight of Granby, but I didn't actually fly to Granby, since my instructor was under a time crunch.

And I did something that's totally a no-no. I flew a long final into Boulder. Dude. "Aren't we not supposed to fly west of 30th?" "Why not?" "Because that's pattern procedure." "Why?" "Um... because of noise abatement policies?" "Well, if you're making no noise, who cares?"

Me: *boggle* "You mean we're going to pull the power and glide in? From here?"

Instructor: "Well, we're still five thousand feet above pattern altitude..."

So we pulled the power and glided in from freakin' Nederland. I got aligned with the runway before I could even see the number on the runway. The instructor told me to make my radio call when I was over the cemetery, and I thought, Cool, that's where I took my laptop off to write at last night. The storage shed tower looks even more impressive and monument-like from 2,000 feet above ground level.

(We in fact underestimated the distance, and I had to put power back in while I was still over, I dunno, 16th Street maybe. I ended up floating a good way down the runway due to still carrying 70 knots when I got over the numbers. But still! What a view. Whattavyooooo!)

Then I came home and remembered exactly how exhausted I get after going a mile up in the air and coming back down again.

On the novel front, I am very annoyed with my characters. I had to erase some 500 words of last night's dialogue because it fricken' sucked. But I think what's going in now is better, so, OK then.

Coming soon: Weather permitting, a 4.5 hour cross-country flight on Sunday. This time, I'll get out my camera and take some pretty pictures. (Today, I'm afraid, I was a little preoccupied with, y'know, flying the dang plane.) This may mean no dust bunnies. We'll have to see.

And, from the department of "Oh yeah, that": Denver CityScene? CitySceneBlog.com? Not writing for them anymore. I was holding out bunches of skeptical benefit of the doubt, but once the players in the controversy started going at it, it was clear that Tim Gilberg was not someone I'd even want to sit down to coffee with, much less write for. Note to people accused of ripping off other people's websites? The "you'll be hearing from my lawyer" response will not make you any friends at all.

The levee done broke, Minnie.
That which was given up for lost, still stands.
Wed 2005-08-31 20:56:48 (single post)
  • 46,917 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 78.50 hrs. revised

Abundant good news today. My parents' house has been seen with real eyes; the good folks at NOLA.com's Jeff Parish Forum have posted that houses are standing, have sustained little wind damage, and have endured very little flooding, relatively speaking.

More good news: Mom's safe in Atlanta; Dad joined her there today; my brother's in Memphis looking for a job; John's sister weathered the storm in Hammond and repaired shortly after to Dallas; and the St. Tammany Parish Hospital contingent is both safe and still possessed of their Covington home.

Dad regaled me with the tale of two of his hunting buddies who blustered that they'd stick the storm out; this is home, if we leave they won't let us back in, and besides, when it's your time it's your time, that's all. Well, one of 'em got smart and left between the hurricane and the flood; the other's still there. Dad's been in touch with him every day, and he's been reporting on the state of the city. When we last heard from him, he was going to see if he could get to my parents' house, and, oh, while he was there, maybe borrow the generator Dad bought to keep the freezers going during blackouts. Heh.

As you might imagine, very little novel got done today. Scratch that: I did very little work on the novel today. (I prefer the active voice; passive makes me sound like I'm deferring responsibility.) Continued to tune in to WWL's live coverage, bop around the NOLA forums, and hit blogs.

But at least I did start rewriting the beginning of Chapter 10. Brian is headed up the channel towards the Sound, and he's beginning to think like an underwater person. Boats, for instance, are noisy, especially when the motors turn on. Things won't get quiet 'til he hits the salt water.

Huh. Boats. Wonder why I'd be thinking of boats.

Hey, look, a follow-up on yesterday's tirade about looters. After reading the racist ramblings of some of the (otherwise good-hearted) NOLA.com forum members (ain't namin' no names, go figure it out yourself), I realized that some things I thought were obvious aren't, and some things I didn't think needed saying, do. For instance, I sure as hell don't begrudge a NOLA refugee his grocery store spree. You gotta eat; shelter operations are woefully short on food, and what's in the flooded groceries will get thrown out anyway. Right? And to a certain extent I understand the grabbing of pawnable goods along with. Barter may well be a life-saver after the flood dries out but before NOLA's infrastructure is anywhere near back in place.

But. Shooting policeman? Shooting my NOPD? Trying to kill the very people who are helping to see you through the crisis? Bad! Bad! Bad! Terrorizing my unevacuated neighbors, who're hiding inside their homes for fear of the armed gangs roaming their streets? Bad! Bad! Bad! And you sure as hell don't need a plasma-screen TV and 50 pairs of Nikes. Put those BACK, you opportunistic asshole.

That said... don't trust the national media on this. The difference between opportunistic looting and survivalist scavenging is one of motive, not one of melanin.

And to the guy on NOLA.com who said of the looters, "Besides, look at them!" I say, look in your own mirror, chump.

And now you may cease to hope.
Tue 2005-08-30 05:55:05 (single post)

The 17th Street Canal levee is gone. Lake Pontchartrain is swallowing the city.

Residents are warned not to return until at least Monday, and that just to retrieve possessions. New Orleans is uninhabitable, will be for at least six weeks. Or months. I forget which Mom said.

Goddess, haven't we all suffered enough? Haven't they?

Dad's still stranded at Touro Hospital, able to do nothing but watch the water rise. I can only pray he'll be all right. Him and all the many other New Orleanians still in the city for whatever reason.

(Writing-blogging will resume this evening, if I can get my mind off the impending apocalypse long enough to return to plot my main characters' personal armageddon.)

This was home.
Something that probably isn't there anymore.
Mon 2005-08-29 18:05:54 (single post)

I'm breaking my promise. I wasn't going to do any blogging that didn't have something to do with actual progress on an actual manuscript. But life throws us for unexpected loops, and this makes no sense in the context of writing, not really.

The image featured here, courtesy of Google Maps, shows my home. My parents' home, actually, but I grew up there. Eighteen years I lived there. Every time I visit, I stay there; I sleep in the bed that I probably wet as a very young child, stare at the ceiling that sheltered me, listen to the same annual peeping of nesting purple martins in the eaves, start at the same creaks that once I believed were made by "baby bugs in the walls, calling to their mothers for dinner." That's it, right under the pink arrow with the dot. Home.

The bit in the white circle is the Bonnabel Canal Pumping Station. The Bonnabel Canal runs off into Lake Pontchartrain, a bit of whose south shore you can see here.

You've already heard about Katrina, right?

The good news: My Dad's OK. Mom, who evacuated to Hot Springs, has heard from him. He's been working hard all night at Touro Hospital, so he's tired, frustrated, and unhappy, but he's alive. And WDSU video shows UNO pretty dry, even if Robert E. Lee Blvd. and Paris Ave. is flooded up to the eaves. Dad's office, near Robert E. Lee and Franklin, is closer to the one than the other.

The unknown news: We're unsure about the status of family members last heard from at St. Tammany Hospital. We think they're OK.

The bad news: The pumping station circled here no longer has a top. I wasn't clear on whether it was the storm surge from the lake or the winds in excess of 150mph that blew its top off, but according to Dad, it's gone.

I imagine that if the pumping station succumbed, my childhood home fell like a house of cards. Either the wind took the gabled roof, or the water leaping the banks of the canal rushed into the back yard. In any case, the message I left on my parents' answering machine last night when I was still panicked with casuality predictions and cell phone silence, the one that just says, "Dad, I love you," I don't think anyone will ever listen to it. Thankfully, it's because the answering machine is gone, not because the people who own it are.

But still. Home. Is probably. Gone.

Somewhere in Metairie or maybe out in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, a big Rubbermaid bin full of Dr. Seuss books and other childhood favorites is floating away. If anyone finds it, give it a good home.

The crayon scribbles in One White Crocodile Smile? I did those.

Meh. Me without a camera.
Fri 2005-08-12 20:14:11 (single post)
  • 40,625 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 63.75 hrs. revised

At Conor's again. The Indulgers are playing tonight. John just arrived. Wednesday I had a date with my writing; tonight I have a date with my husband. Woot! More later...

OK, it's later. The band have finally started. We probably won't stay for the full set, having been here for at least an hour already, but it's been fun thus far. They're sounding good, but unfortunately the balance isn't quite surviving the transition to the back room. We're mostly getting the bass and the fiddle.

Not much to say about the novel today, beyond that the current scene advanced some 400 words, technically, and by leaps and bounds, conceptually. Sometimes you just need to spend a few minutes with the cats, a lint brush, and an itty bitty spindle to spin the cats' nondescript tabby fur on, to make the next few pages of dialogue come clear in your mind.

Hey look! They just dimmed the lights. I'm bliiiiiind!

(Half the drunken forum posting on the Internet, I'm convinced, comes of installing wiFi in Irish pubs. I mean, what were they thinking? Oh, don't look at me--I've barely half-drunk my own pint. I'm just doing my best impression of drunken posting. I live to amuse.)