“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”
William Stafford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

insomnia forces a body to prioritize
Wed 2020-07-22 18:04:40 (single post)
  • 520 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Oh, hey, so, speaking of recovery days after insomniac nights, I had one of those on Monday night/Tuesday afternoon. And I'm not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg here, but two things were going on: it was very hot, making it difficult to sleep, and also I stayed up stupid-late reading. We're going to say that I stayed-up stupid late reading in order to not be bored while I couldn't sleep, how's that?

The book in question was T. Kingfisher's A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking. It stars a fourteen-year-old wizard whose magic only ever works on dough and baked goods. Bread, cookies, sweet rolls, great. Lightning, fireballs, not so much. Nevertheless, this turns out to be surprisingly useful in many ways, even after it becomes clear that this is a story about political intrigue and war. Also, this wizard's familiar is an omnivorous sourdough starter colony named Bob. Bob has a temper, which also turns out to be useful. Do you want to read this book? YES YOU WANT TO READ THIS BOOK.

Just try not to stay up all night doing so unless you can afford to sleep all day the next day. Because I did, and I couldn't, and, well.

It wasn't so bad. The crash didn't hit until well after my writing group's critique meeting was over. But it was bad enough. The crash hit while I was holding down a table at Collision Brewery waiting for the Volt to finish getting its leaky windshield wash fluid reservoir tank replaced. Falling asleep at a restaurant is Not Done, especially in pandemic season, so I did my best not to. I drank a lot of coffee. I tried (and failed) to work. But just as soon as I got home, and got my scheduled Bunny Care Chore done, and spent a couple minutes playing Katamari Damacy to sooth my rattled and caffeinated brain with peaceful absurdity, I collapsed in bed and stayed there until late evening.

And that was a small problem because I had a story due that night.

I'm participating in another Codex contest. This one's called Flash: Savior of the Universe. It's a lot like Weekend Warrior, in that each round consists of a handful of writing prompts and the assignment to write a new piece of flash fiction on an absurdly tight deadline, after which point everyone gets to vote and comment on the stories. But the word count for FSOTU is a touch roomier (1,000 instead of 750), and the deadline is less absurdly tight. And thank goodness I'd been actively working on my entry every day since the prompts landed, because I did manage to get that thing submitted, and even slightly polished, with about twenty minutes left before the 1:00 AM Mountain Time deadline. I wrote nothing else that day, but I got that much done. Huzzah!

But hey woo bad timing on the insomniac night and recovery day thing, yeah?

(Hey writers! Contests like these are one of many reasons why you should join Codex the moment you qualify. You get motivation to write new fiction and/or poetry. Plus you get instant feedback on said fiction and/or poetry. This can easily lead to more published fiction and/or poetry. It's a great racket! Remember my announcement that "The Ascent of Inanna" was going to see print in September? That poem originated as a Weekend Warrior short-short story. Remember "Other Theories of Relativity"? Weekend Warrior 2012. And the piece I just submitted to Daily Science Fiction, about which crossed fingers--hey, they liked something of mine before, maybe they'll like this one--that was from Weekend Warrior too.)

(Join Codex, join Codex contests, write more, publish more. That's typically how it goes. See you there maybe?)

one hundred words closer to upgrading my SFWA membership
Wed 2020-04-08 00:31:07 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have happy news today! One of the three stories that sold back in January has now been published--it is online where you can read it and everything! "The Rarest of Prey," what I've been referring to as "that tacky little unicorn drabble," is now live for your reading pleasure at Daily Science Fiction.

Meanwhile, I continue plugging away at all the daily and weekly writing tasks...

This morning's freewriting session resulted in a couple potential poems, one about the pandemic, the other about prejudice, and both depressing as heck. (Sometimes poetry is like that.)

This week's Friday Fictionette is slowly but steadily taking shape. That's particularly reassuring to see, since this one started out more nebulous than most.

Another page of a very overdue Fictionette Artifact got typed up. The very last of the the ribbons I ordered back in January 2017 is on its last legs, so I placed an order for more yesterday with Ribbons Unlimited--and they've already been shipped! Should be here Thursday. They are not just speedy, but solicitous, too. In response to a note I included with my order, the proprieter called me up on the phone to reassure me that, despite a change of verbal description, the part number I had ordered was indeed compatible with my particular typewriter (a Tower "Quiet-Tabulator" from the 1950s that an acquaintance in Oregon sold me for $50 back in, oh, 1998 or so).

The early novel revision efforts are inching along. I wrote The Bookwyrm's Hoard using a very early version of yWriter. Possibly version 2? I installed version 6 and it didn't want to open the novel directly; instead, I had to use one of its Import Earlier Version commands. 2006 was that long ago in software years. In any case, I've created a Scrivener project and have begun importing the draft, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. (I'm up to Chapter 3.) As each scene gets imported, I read it and make notes broadly identifying areas I need to fix or pay special attention to. (There are a lot of problems need fixing. Some of them are very embarrassing. No, I'm not going to list examples.) I'm trying not to judge but rather to observe and acquire data. I'm also getting surprised a lot. I remembered the basics of the plot, such as it was, but there are loads of details I'd forgotten, and some of them are actually a delight.

And of course there was dinner. (Bonus food content!) Native Foods said "Hey, it's Takeout Tuesday! Double points if you order today!" so I was like, OK, fine, let's try your fancy Plant-Based Roast. I scheduled an order for 5 PM delivery. It arrived right on time. My hunger also arrived right on time. Only problem was, the fancy Plant-Based Roast arrives frozen solid and requires an hour and a half in the oven. Whoops. Good thing I had also ordered a 4-pack of their burger patties. Those cook up in about 5 minutes on the stove.

The roast, when it was finally done, was delicious. Also it will feed me for days. (Just me. It's not really John's thing, although the burger patties might be.) A+, would recommend. Just understand that, once it arrives at your door, you aren't going to get to eat it for at least two hours, and schedule your delivery accordingly.

Cover art incorporates and modifies illustration from page 7 of Mjallhvít (Snow White), an 1852 icelandic translation of the Grimm-version fairytale, via Project Gutenberg.
on the benefits of high pressure fiction practice; also a recipe
Thu 2020-02-06 18:12:43 (single post)
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,021 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hey, I just posted another overdue Friday Fictionette yesterday! It was the release scheduled for January 17. It's called "The Huntsman's Assignment" (ebook, audiobook) which, yes, is a reference to the dude who gets sent out to kill Snow White and bring back her heart in a box. It isn't a Snow White retelling, but the assignment remains. Look, it comes with a content note for suggested harm to children. Best go in knowing that.

Now I'm working on the January 24 release in hopes to push it live tomorrow night. It's looking like Momo fan fiction. You know Momo? The lesser-known children's novel by Michael Ende, author of The Neverending Story? The little girl who listens, and the Men in Grey who convince everyone to "save time"? Ok, so, the Jan 24 story-like object is about her, but all grown up and living in a complicated world, and, well, apologies in advance, but I'm about to commit mild character assassination.

I do not always write grim cynical things! OK, the drabble forthcoming at Daily Science Fiction is pretty cynical. But the stories forthcoming at Cast of Wonders and Community of Magic Pens are sweet! Bittersweet, maybe. But they are guaranteed to contain a significant portion of your daily recommended intake of hope and heart! Promise! But... sometimes the grim stuff comes out. You're not surprised, right? I also write horror. You know this.

On a related note, I'm realizing yet another benefit I'm getting from the Friday Fictionette project: behind schedule as I am, I'm still getting a lot of practice at producing presentable story drafts in a very short amounts of time. The Magic Pens story has my Friday Fictionette practice to thank for its existence. Mostly written all in a single evening, but still polished enough to submit and sell? That's not something I could have done without some five years' practice writing four short-shorts a month.

So the project is stressing me out some as I scramble to get back on top of the release schedule, but my writing skills are improving in all sorts of ways because of it. And of course now I have this huge stable of reprintable flash fiction, which has led to two paid publications to date. So. Conclusion? Worth it.

All right. Time for a recipe. Let's talk West African Peanut Stew

I've been making a lot of this lately. And eating a lot of it, too. I could probably eat it three meals a day for three weeks and not get bored. It's hearty, nutritionally dense, and full of complex flavor and texture. It's super easy to make, and it's a great excuse to haul out Mawmaw's big iron gumbo pot.

(Gods I love that pot. Me and that pot, we talk chicken fricassee, we talk mushroom bourguignon, and we definitely talk gumbo. But, yeah, we've been talking peanut stew a lot.)

From looking around the internet, I can see this recipe from Budget Bytes is only one variation on a wider theme; the Wikipedia entry for peanut soup led me to a couple that look really interesting. But the Budget Bytes recipe is convenient, as it's not particularly time consuming or difficult to prepare, and its ingredients are all readily accessible at any bog-standard mainstream U.S. grocery store. I don't have to plan too hard about it. All I gotta do is pick up some sweet potato and a bunch of collards on my regular Friday grocery run. Maybe a can of tomato paste too, since I don't have much on hand all that often. It's also vegan and gluten free, which means I can make it for pretty much anyone I know who isn't allergic to peanuts. And as long as they like things like sweet potatoes and collard greens, I guess.

My vegetarian husband doesn't care too much for sweet potatoes and collard greens, which means 1. more for me, and 2. I can carnivore it up if I want. Last time I made it, I added bacon. I cooked three big slices of bacon until the grease covered the bottom of that iron pot. Then I took the bacon out, chopped it up, and set it aside to be added back in along with the broth, peanut butter, and tomato paste. So basically I substituted bacon grease for olive oil, because I fear no cholesterol (thanks, genetics!). But the other adjustment I made was to throw the chopped-up collard greens in to sautée with the sweet potato chunks, because I'm less interested in collards boiled in soup than I am in collards fried in bacon grease and then boiled in soup.

Meanwhile, I'm making the brown rice in the multicooker. This last time I actually used the BROWN RICE function, not the PRESSURE function. I still don't know how the two functions differ, but it worked just fine. 2 cups brown rice to 2-3/4 cups water, set the timer for 22 minutes, turn it off when it beeps and allow it to sit 20 minutes longer before releasing the pressure. Definitely turn it off; leaving the multicooker to KEEP WARM for too long resulted in burnt, dried-out rice that one time I made that mistake.

Also, don't mistake the BROWN function for the BROWN RICE function. "Why? Why are you beeping at me? What is your emergency? ...Oh. RIGHT. Got it."

It took me maybe three days, maybe less, to get through all of it. Now I am ready to make more. And tomorrow is Friday! Friday is grocery day! How convenient!

all right, 2020, you can stay
Tue 2020-01-21 23:43:43 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have a couple new pending publications to announce for the New Year!

...Wow, that sounded a lot like the way last blog post started out. Of course, last blog post was almost a month ago. Twenty days, anyway. More or less. What'd I wrap up that post with, something about how "tomorrow" I was going to share a recipe? Sheesh. Hold that thought, though.

Here's the thing. When 2019 ended, three of my outstanding submissions were in HELD PENDING FURTHER CONSIDERATION status. Which is always a hopeful thing, but more often than not ends in REJECTION, PERSONAL. I have learned to get my hopes up only so far when I receive a HOLD notice.

And then on January 11, two of those HOLDS converted into ACCEPTANCES.

I can tell you in detail about one of them: Daily Science Fiction, well-respected purveyor of exactly what it sounds like, will publish my drabble, "The Rarest of Prey", in the coming months. The estimate I was given was two to three months, but thanks to intel from acquaintances I know this may in practice mean anywhere between 10 and 90 days. So you might as well just make a visit to DSF part of your complete breakfast. Read stories, love stories, rank and comment on stories, and maybe even support the stories so that the stories continue to appear in the green and white boxes. You won't be sorry!

The other story soon to be published will in fact be a reprint, and if you follow my Friday Fictionette project, you may already have read it; it's a past month's Fictionette Freebie. It is soon to be reprinted by one of my dream markets and I am over the moon. I should be able to reveal more details soon; I just returned the contract with my signature today.

I keep visiting each story's submission status on each publisher's interface and hitting REFRESH just to reassure myself that it's really real, it absolutely happened, two of my dream markets actually sent me acceptance letters this month. Payment's small beans because the one is only 100 words long and the other's a reprint, but it's a huge deal on my Wanna-be Writer Bucket List. Thus, I am happy dance for the forseeable future.

OK. So. I promised a recipe. Turns out I did already post the mirliton casserole recipe a whiles back, so you can click that link, or you can read on for...

Multi-cooker Recovery Dal: a tale in three functions

...for when you've just got home from roller derby practice (or tryouts!) and you're hungry but also too tired and brain-fried to cook anything complicated. Multi-cookers are GREAT for this. You may be familiar with The Instapot; I have a Lux Fagor Multicooker, which is less revered the internet over but does basically the same thing. Like so:

  1. SAUTE function: 5 minutes. Couple tablespoons canola oil (or a tbl canola and a tbl mustard if you can get it); half an onion, chopped; couple cloves garlic, smashed and minced. If you have a bunch of root vegetables from last fall you're trying to use up, chop 'em up and throw them in. It'll make it more filling. I like parsnips. When onions are soft, add black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, turmeric, whole cumin. Those last three are key. Don't stint. Toss in any additional fancy peppers and salts that make you happy. If you haven't got any mustard oil, toss in some ground mustard at this time, too. (Mustard oil must be labeled EXTERNAL USE ONLY/NOT FOR CONSUMPTION in the US because of reasons. I got mine at India's Grocery around the corner here in Boulder. If it's a massage oil product, double-check that it's 100% mustard oil and not full of random other ingredients. I'm all, erucic acid, sure thing, but shea butter? Hard pass. Anyway...) Stir the spices around in the sauteeing veg until your kitchen smells wonderful (about a minute).
  2. PRESSURE/HIGH function: 15 minutes. I add 3/4 cup red lentils and 4 cups water, give it all a good stir, and then seal the lid tight and start the pressure cook function. (I watch it like a hawk for the first few minutes to make sure steam isn't escaping out the sides; I think the lid's gasket is already starting to wear out. Boo.) When the 15 minutes is up and the pot beeps at you, turn the knob from PRESSURE to STEAM, i.e. perform a pressure quick-release. We are all far too hungry to wait on the natural release method, and besides, them beans are cooked. You can serve 'em up now and devour 'em. Or, if you can bear to wait just a few minutes longer, you can do what I do, which is to poach an egg in that glorious mess, like so...
  3. SIMMER: 5 to 7 minutes. Depends on how hard you like your egg poached. Just crack that sucker in there, hopefully without any bits of shell accompanying it, put the lid back on, and start the simmer function for the desired time.

When next the timer beeps, all that remains is to ladle yourself up a bowl and just try not to burn your mouth in your impatience. Which is thoroughly understandable. It's been half an hour since you got home and you need your protein!

Bonus: Enjoy in the bathtub with a soda and/or adult beverage of choice. LOOK, I DON'T JUDGE.

quod erat demonstrandum etcetera
Wed 2018-06-06 00:22:10 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Oh hi there SURPRISE ERRAND TO GET A LEAKY TIRE PATCHED. Car, not bike, so you can see it was kind of immediate. Nevertheless, I kept my promise. Today was MUCH MORE RIGOROUS. Maybe not as many hours logged as I'd hoped, but every task on the check-list got done, so I'm calling it a success.

Also, today was relevant in terms of the new "hard stuff first, easy stuff later" theory of scheduling writing time. Only not in the usual way. I didn't get to do the hard stuff during my morning shift because, thanks to the leaky tire errand, I didn't get a morning shift. So I had to do the hard stuff shift as an afternoon shift, when it is always hard to get back to work. Plus, after the sort of morning I'd had, I really felt like I deserved to skip to my budgeted play time the moment I got home.

But no! I was good. I clocked in and began my submissions procedure session. I figured, it didn't need to be a lot. I'd just check on the status of all outstanding submissions, and then I'd take a look at a couple newly opened submissions windows and give some thought to whether I had anything vaguely ready to go that might be remotely appropriate. And it's a good thing I did! When it turned out that in fact I did have something appropriate, and that it was more than just vaguely ready to go, I revised and submitted that sucker.

It was like the manuscript submission version of tricking myself into an actual honest-to-goodness story revision session with "All right, you don't have to edit it, but at least open up the document and read the draft". Time and time again, we see amply demonstrated that A GOOD WORK ETHIC IS ITS OWN REWARD. If you can't do a lot, do a little, and be open to the possibility of that little turning into a lot after all.

(It was also a demonstration of the principle DON'T SELF-REJECT. I caught myself thinking, "They want science fiction. Is this science fiction enough? There is a unicorn in it. The space ship and the cloning might be considered a pasted-on afterthought." Then I whapped that thought with a rolled up newspaper. I told it sternly, "There is a space ship in it! And cloning! It is science fiction! Send the damn thing! It is better to send something than to not send something!" So I sent it. So there.)

Anyway, where this ties in to the "hard stuff first, easy stuff later" theory of scheduling is here: Getting the hard stuff done during the brief window of time I had open this afternoon meant that I had only the easy stuff remaining when I got home from roller derby practice. After derby is, as we know, not when the hard stuff gets done. It's not realistic to expect me to put on either my editing or marketing hat at that time and not disgrace the headgear. But even exhausted from the heat and tender from new bruises, I can manage about 500 to 750 words of freewriting. And I can at least reread the current draft of this week's Friday Fictionette, make a few line-edits, and scribble some notes toward working on the final draft tomorrow.

And I can blog. How hard is blogging, really? It is not really hard. I mean, even I can do it.

All that done, I may stay up a little late playing Spiral Knights. It is the season of the Apocrea, and I want to go farm Apocrean Sigils on the Grasping Plateau. And during the little bit of play time I budgeted this afternoon, the dang game server kept booting me before I even got to the Grasping Plateau. The random gate rotation would put me through three levels of bog-standard Clockwork Tunnels and Arenas, and then, just before it absolutely had to send me to the Grasping Plateau because it's the last level before the departure lounge and that's all you can get, wham! Lag, lag, lag, lag, logged off. WASTE OF MY TIME, GAME SERVER. I feel owed another chance at it tonight. And if that means I'm up until two aye em, so be it.

Tomorrow's Wednesday, after all. I don't have anything planned for my Wednesday evening. I'm free to time-shift my work day if I choose. That can't possibly go wrong.

just another day on the job
Wed 2018-01-03 23:41:10 (single post)
  • 1,200 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Lesson for today: Submitting fiction is no big deal.

With the new year I am renewing a long-term goal of mine, or ideal, that every workday will include a session of what I call submission procedures. This means tending to the business side of being a freelance author of commercial fiction, which is submitting stories to paying markets.

I successfully did this on January 1 by logging a rejection letter for a story I had submitted, then sending that story on again to another market. I successfully did this on January 2 by identifying a market I wanted to submit to, deciding on a story I wanted to submit to it, and determining to rewrite the story so that I could submit it there. (I began that rewrite today. It's currently a drabble; the rewrite will be about 1,000 words.)

I was sort of stumped as to what to do today.

I mean, I can always pull up my list of what's currently out on submission and double-check that there's been no response yet, but that's sort of busywork. I can't do that every day and call it fulfilling the spirit of my resolution. But what did I have that was ready to submit? Nothing, I thought. Everything's either out or I don't know where else to send it and maybe it should be revised or even trunked because clearly it sucks and no one wants it.

This is not a productive state of mind.

Around this point, my mouse happened to hover over the browser tab with the Codex Weekend Warrior 2018 contest discussion in it. (Codex: an online community of pro and semi-pro writers. Weekend Warrior: a high-pressure contest wherein writing prompts appear on Friday and fresh new flash fiction is due on Sunday. You can see a list of previous winners, as well as contest entries that went on to be published, here.) I'm going to be participating in that contest, and I'm kind of nervous that I just might forget to write my first contest entry this weekend, so I've been keeping that tab open.

Now, a common concern of participants is, where am I going to try to publish all these new stories I'll have written for the contest? So several people helpfully listed markets that publish flash fiction.

Reading through those lists, I felt a light-bulb go on in my brain. It's not that I don't have anything ready to submit anywhere. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles and short-shorts. But somehow I've mentally disqualified them all as "no one wants drabbles" or "this one isn't ready to go out again" or even "this one I've earmarked for rewriting into an interactive fiction piece, so until I do that rewrite I can't send it anywhere."

I've also got this weirdly elevated idea of the very process of submitting fiction. Like, if you're going to send it, you'd better be sure it's perfect and that it's a precise fit for that market and the stars are aligned just right. I'm not sure I consciously realized I had that idea until just now, but, turns out, I do.

Hell with all that, I thought, and sent two pieces out to two different flash-publishing markets in quick succession. One's a drabble about a unicorn that no one's seen except SpeckLit, who didn't publish it (and who have closed since then anyway). The other's the dimension-hopping flash piece that I want to rewrite as interactive fiction but that's no reason for it to sit on its hands all bored and stuff waiting for me to get around to it.

So I have successfully included Submission Procedures on day 3 of 2018. And it was No Big Deal.

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