“When writing doesn't work, the writer is assumed to be the guilty party.”
Teresa Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Thu 2006-11-30 22:32:04 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

Not, however, the novel. I took my own advice and jumped forward to the Gala Bookstore Grand Opening scene, and didn't even get through that before crossing the mythical 50K line. I did have another one of those plotting breakthroughs, though. I realized I should conflate Charles Welton (father of vanished Sam, fomenter of anti-Bookwyrm sentiment) and the beat cop (also fomenter of anti-Bookwyrm sentiment and an extra rock to throw at Gwen whilst she is up her tree) because 1) they served too similar functions, and 2) that would make things even harder for Gwen. Bad enough when the police officer she should be able to rely on for protection thinks she's guilty, if only by association, of unspeakable things; worse when said police officer has been directly affected by said unspeakable things.

So what's up in December, eh? Well. Wouldn't you like to know. I think I shall continue working on this novel, 2K a day where possible, but I'll make a more concerted effort to also allot time for short story rewrites. You'll notice, for instance, that I haven't blogged about finishing the rewrite on either "Turning the Earth" nor "Seeds of Our Future." There's a reason for that. Maybe I could have done it if I wasn't also one of the Boulder NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons. Maybe I could have done it if I hadn't spent so many Tuesdays and Thursdays sleeping past noon, dammit.

I may begin upping my articles/essays output, as I won't have any immediate paying projects in December. Between Constant-Content (who seem themselves supportive even if I have to get medieval on one of their customers) and a new venture my current non-fiction editor is possibly undertaking, there will be opportunities for such. Also, it's really about time I wrote something to send to a Blessed Bee publication again. It's been far too long since "Faith Based Charity, Pagan Style."

And speaking of RichLifeMedia, blogging at Splendid Gardening will be on hiatus in December. I'll continue blogging here, of course, and also at Denver Metblogs.

Sounds a lot like a New Year's Resolution post, doesn't it? Well, when NaNoWriMo ends, it's like a brand new year dawns on December 1. Try it sometime! You'll see.

Obligatory Fruitcake Post
Tue 2006-11-28 19:42:51 (single post)
  • 45,925 words (if poetry, lines) long

Every year, around this time, some version of this conversation occurs:

Me: "Oh my Gods! It's November!"
John: "Well, yeah. Hence all this NaNoWriMo stuff."
Me: "No, but, it's November! And I haven't started fruitcake yet!"
John: "Oh. Must you?"

Yes, I must. Preparations have begun. A couple pounds of dried stuff (currants, dates, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, mango) are at this moment reconstituting themselves in brandy. In other bowls, measured and chopped quantities of candied things (papaya, ginger) and nuts (walnuts, almonds) lie in wait. Tomorrow, all these things will go into the oven with just enough cake batter to hold them together. Then, the cake will sit and sit and sit and furthermore get drunk.

John and I plan to spend Christmas and New Year's in New Orleans with my family. The fruitcake will come with us. My family likes fruitcake (I usually mail Mom and Dad a slice) which is why John thinks we're all fruitcakes.

In other news, for all intents and purposes, I'm at 46K. 2K each tomorrow and Thursday, and I shall have a sparkling purple WINNER! bar. But I don't think I'll have THE END. There is loads of character drama betwixt now and then. Not to mention 6 days worth of plot.

Sorry To Disappoint You
Sat 2006-11-25 09:40:10 (single post)
  • 37,986 words (if poetry, lines) long

Generally it's a good idea to sic your dreams on a plot conundrum. However, I'm afraid that Charles Welton will not be piloting a miniature giant robot in an attempt to assassinate Gwen during her reading/signing/wine-and-cheese reception at the bookstore's Grand Opening.

More Plot Revelations
Fri 2006-11-24 22:37:31 (single post)
  • 37,986 words (if poetry, lines) long

Dude! I know where the quill is! And I know what it does!

It came to me on the bus Wednesday night--I was using the hour-long bus ride between Boulder and Denver to get my daily 2K written. I was working on the scene with the one sympathetic family in the neighborhood, the one that actually tried to bring abuse charges against one of the missing kids' parents. The family comes to visit and they have a bit of a pow-wow. Well, the mom is more prepared to trust Gwen than the dad is, mainly because she grew up in the neighborhood too (so why doesn't she already know Gwen? Must think about this), but she wants to make sure Gwen really does have a history with The Bookwyrm's Hoard.

So she tells a story about Mrs. Nimbel and the quill, and she gently challenges Gwen to tell one of her own:

"...Anyway, I stormed out the house and came here. Like always. And Mrs. Nimbel said--" I could still hear her voice, surprisingly agile and sly, her voice "--she said, 'Gwen, what's with the glumsickle you're sucking on? Get over here and spit it out.'"

Cindy gave a little peal of laughter. "What's with that glumsickle, Mommy?" Dierdre patted her hand and favored her with a cautious smile.

"So I told her. And she did get out that quill, didn't she? A peacock's wing feather fitted with a brass wide-tip nib. And she made me tell her a question, just like you said. 'Do I have to be a doctor?' That's what I asked."

"And then what?"

Ron's voice made me jump. I hadn't been expecting him to get into the story. I looked up at him and said, "Well, I flung myself onto this sofa here, all dramatic-like, and I grabbed a magazine. I paged through it, got caught up in the articles, and after a while I reached the back cover and there was Mrs. Nimbel standing there with the paper in her hands. I read the question out loud back to myself, and what came out of my mouth, immediately, was, 'No. I have other obligations.' And then I just--like this--clapped my hand over my mouth, and said through my fingers, 'What the hell does that mean?'"

Among possibly other things, that quill is an oracle. Or a rorshach test. I'm not exactly sure how it works. It's definitely connected with the Space Between The Stories, though.

And I know where it is. That came to me too. I know where it is, why it got there, and how it's going to get found. It has also occurred to me that the thug's message about the parents wanting the bookstore gone isn't entirely a red herring. At least one parent is connected with the evil corporate mastermind guy, but it's not why I thought. It's much darker than that.

That I'm not going to reach THE END by 50K has nothing to do with plot after the Bookwyrm's grand opening. It has to do with how much plot is required in order to reach the grand opening.

Boring Status-Check Post
Tue 2006-11-21 22:09:02 (single post)
  • 33,487 words (if poetry, lines) long

Not much to say today other than it was a 3,400 word day, bringing me past the 33K mark. Also, as I've been telling friends, it looks like--unless I'm horrendously overestimating how much plot comes after the climactic scene at the bookstore's grand opening--this may be the first time I don't manage to reach THE END in 50,000 words. I'm not sure whether that means I'll have more to cut, or less to add, during the rewrite. Is my writing getting fluffier, or are my plots getting more complex? I suspect it may be a touch of both.

Suprise! Political Content
Mon 2006-11-20 22:55:24 (single post)
  • 30,252 words (if poetry, lines) long

Regardless of how the finished product looks, please believe me when I say that I very rarely set out to make a political point with my fiction. In fact, I can only think of one example--the post-Katrina New Orleans ghost story I began writing, flush with rage and helplessness during that first week after the storm as reports came in that the Red Cross had been denied entrance and trucks full of water were held indefinitely at the parish border--and that story will probably never be finished.

I certainly never set out to put politics in the books about Gwen and her bookstore. But tonight's writing turned up politics, all right. Tonight's writing featured the talemouse, that shy, retiring is-not-a-character, giving the Bookwyrm a furious lecture on reproductive freedom. I didn't expect that at all.

Her name is Gwen. Not 'prodigy.' Has a name. Isn't just a function. The talemouse is getting really mad now. How can the Bookwyrm be so obtuse? It knows so much, it governs the entire Fictional Hierarchy--how can it be so blind? Men characters, bad ones mostly, say, 'Woman's function is to reproduce.' Say, 'Should not have a job, should not write, should not be distracted from making babies.' Bookwyrm says, 'Gwen's function is to reproduce. Should not have bookstore, should not have family, should not be distracted from making stories.' He doubles over, panting with the effort of such speech. He has had to remember the voices of certain tertiary characters he's hidden inside in order to express himself so clearly. Bookwyrm. Woman-hating villain characters. Can't tell the difference.
Well then. Rakash Sketterkin tells us how he really feels.

Perhaps we can blame the never-ending Election Thread over at Slactivist. I just caught up on reading it today, watching the thread go from readers staying up all night tracking county-by-county results from Virginia to all abortion, all the time. Or maybe this had been building up for a long time now, and I never knew it until my timid little talemouse got mad enough to stand up and say--to the Bookwyrm, who is for all practical purposes his God--"People aren't just functions. They're people."

Brave little talemouse. Bless him. One day he may become a real character after all.

A Couple Of Quick Observations
Sun 2006-11-19 22:32:18 (single post)
  • 28,235 words (if poetry, lines) long

First: When your main character is reluctant to do a certain necessary thing--like, say, confront the parents of the missing children in hopes of alleviating their suspicions--it helps mightily to give her more than one reason to do it. It's a good idea to get in their good graces, because they're the force behind the neighborhood distrust that keeps her business in the red. It's a great idea because they not only have influence in the neighborhood but they also have the police officer's ear; if they suspect her, he'll suspect her, which will make him less inclined to protect her from knife-wielding thugs. And it's a FANTASTIC idea because she knows she's supposed to think one of them hired the thug that's threatening her life. The last thing she needs is for the Evil Corporation Guy who hired the thug to realize that there's a cuckoo in his nest (the security guard that's in both their pay) feeding her vital information, like, "This actually has nothing to do with missing children. It's to do with property take-overs. Pretend you don't know that."

"Oh, God," she thinks, "I really am going to have to call these people! And talk to them! And make nice with them even though they are trying to run me out of business and quite possibly abused the children that I'm quite certain ran the hell away from home! I have to treat these people like they're human beings who have authority over me. Shit!"

Second: Nothing says "interesting stage directions" during a wee-hours-of-the-morning conversation between the protagonist and her de facto bodyguard like sexual tension! Yay! She's, so, hot-for-him, she's, so, hot-for-him... Bwahahahaha!

Poor Gwen. She's all nervous about having maybe been too forward and stuff. She doesn't know that by the second book she'll end up married to him. I know just how she feels. Well, aside from all the threats to her life, safety, and livelihood, and whatnot.

Brief Status Update, With Short Story Angst
Wed 2006-11-15 23:12:43 (single post)
  • 740 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 20,193 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hullo. Broke 20,000 today on the novel. Tess arrived at the bookstore with all her friends; the Talemouse nipped ahead in the plot and changed the course of events in a very specific way. I'm planning to break 25,000 tomorrow. To that end, I'm hoping to have a useful dream tonight that makes very clear to me exactly what the next three scenes will consist of. Go, subconscious, go!

In other news, my paralysis on "Seeds of Our Future" (nee "Putting Down Roots") persists. In a desperate attempt to get something done, I plan to put it aside for a couple days in order to perform a crash revision on the short-short I wrote at VP (working title: "Turning The Earth"). The hope is to shove it out the door by the end of the week and then return to the longer story with the fresh wind of optimism in my sails.

My, I'm full of gardening titles today. Look! A gardening blog! See, I is prolific, gettin' all bloggity on ur d00dz.

...That made no sense. The management sincerely apologizes and resolves to address the issue.

More fun with Adobe Illustrator
Two New Characters Whose Names Start With "T"
Sun 2006-11-12 22:40:41 (single post)
  • 15,685 words (if poetry, lines) long

First off, I promise not to go all anal with this Celtic Knot thing. I'm just having fun doodling, is all.

So. Meet Tess Helen Holland. Tess is the spiral in red. Tess is a middle school girl who likes books (especially those by Gwen Halpburn) and doesn't like boys (much) or sports (at all). Tess is the one who shows up at The Bookwyrm's Hoard and notices the quill is missing. She helps Gwen look for it. They don't find it, but during that time it becomes obvious that the bookstore is a good place for this little mousy misfit. Tess blossoms, sheds her self-consciousness, and even mouths off a little as she and her idol take apart old Mrs. Nimbel's desk in search of the writing implement. Gwen is inspired to keep the bookstore open for the girl's sake if not for her own.

Next, meet Tim Smith. He's the loop in green. When Gwen calls around looking for a security company who can spare guard personnel, like, now, he's the one who shows up. Thing is, after he sees Gwen safe home from the bookstore, he goes directly onto the graveyard shift at the office of a certain corporation which wants the bookstore property and doesn't think twice about using dirty tricks to get it. That's why Tim's loop crosses itself. He's crossing his own interests to take this job. Only he doesn't know it yet.

I might play further with the doodle if I get stuck, see what kind of neat repeating patterns these new lines might cause; they'll make interesting new intersections that might suggest future scenes. But right now I have plenty to work with for several days to come, just with these new characters and all their hangers-on. So for now I'll put away the colored pens and instead open up a paintbox full of words....

Natalie Goldberg Was Right!
Sat 2006-11-11 23:02:42 (single post)
  • 13,461 words (if poetry, lines) long

She said "Get closer." She said, "What are you looking at?" She said, "Keep the pen moving." Presumably she's still saying all of that, and well should she, because it's true.

If the name is unfamiliar to you, get yourself a copy of Writing Down the Bones to start with. Read it. Do the "Try this" exercises. It won't take you long. At worst, you may simply decide it's all new age hokeyness designed to keep amateur writers eternally amateurs, and you'll kick the dust off your heels and move on. Or you may decide that it's a valuable addition to your personal arsenal of inspirational tricks and that you will go forth and do likewise forever more.

I'm in the latter camp. Today's NaNoWriMo session is an example of why.

Gwen is sitting at the big check-out desk in the bookstore, trying to figure out how to save both the store and her life. Doing the one seems mutually exclusive with the other. As she sits there thumbing through the phone book (SELF-DEFENSE, she thinks, and then thinks, but how much can I learn in a week? He said if I didn't clear out of here in a week I'm dead), she does like I do: her brain slides off the difficult thing and onto a thought more pleasant. To wit, herself as the owner of the bookstore she's loved since childhood, doing the things she idolized the previous owner for doing.

"Get closer," says Natalie. "What are you looking at?"

She runs her hand over the wood of the desk (sturdy oak, dark, glossy and smooth with age and use) and notes the many little cubbies, pigeon-holes, and drawers. One for every possible object. There is a cut-glass inkwell permanently affixed to the desk; the ink has dried to a crust in the months since the previous owner's death. Gwen will have to clean it out before she refills it. Metallic purple, she thinks, and remembers how the previous owner would take a quill pen from its place in that inkwell and write a fabulously curly-cued X at the "sign here" part of credit card slips and IOUs. Gwen imagines doing likewise. And because she is a young adult novelist, she imagines signing her name with that quill for teenage fans of her books.

The room takes on all three dimensions. I'm in there with Gwen. I'm reading the titles on the magazine rack, I'm lounging in the faux-leather chair by the window to the left of the door, and I'm opening the door to make the bells tied to the return bar jangle.

It occurs to me that what distracts Gwen from her reverie is a customer. Her first ever. A young girl here against the express wishes of her mother, who knows that the children who went missing over the past year were last seen at the bookstore. And, after much introductory conversation, the girl says, "Where is the quill?"

And Gwen looks around and says, "Crap! Where is the quill?" Neither of them can find it. Finding it will be vitally significant to the plot, especially as regards Gwen's relationship with the Bookwyrm and the Space Between The Stories.

The plot thickens. And all because Natalie Goldberg said "Get closer."

Of course, the guy I'm thinking of who can't stand Natalie Goldberg also doesn't much like NaNoWriMo, so this won't convince him. But for folks like him we can just pretend I didn't say NaNoWriMo, and that this is merely the first draft of a novel like any other novel. It is, actually. I simply happen to be writing it in November at the rate of 1,000-2,000 words per day.