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

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

reporting from the personal writerly bright side of 2020
Tue 2020-09-01 16:37:53 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long

Happy September all! I have a couple of things made out of words coming out where you can see/hear them this month, and I thought I should let you know.

"The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" - Cast of Wonders: This story, originally a Friday Fictionette, was accepted and contracted for reprint back in January. This immediately helped guaranteed that, whatever happened, my 2020 was going to have a bright side. This past weekend, I received word that the story is with its narrator and is slated for publication in a September episode.

Cast of Wonders is the leading voice in young adult speculative fiction, podcasting a new episode every week. Most recently they have been serializing "The Curious Case of Miss Clementine Nimowitz (and her Exceedingly Tiny Dog)", written by Alex Acks and narrated by Sandra Espinoza. It's up to Part 5. Part 1 is here. Go check it out!

"The Ascent of Inanna" - Dreams and Nightmares: Originally a flash fiction story entered in a Codex contest in early 2020, then whittled down to its heart and soul and reimagined as a poem. D&N accepted it back in April and scheduled it for their September 2020 issue. And now it is September 2020!

Dreams & Nightmares is a long-running print magazine of speculative poetry and flash fiction. You can buy single issue (I obviously recommend the one for September 2020) or subscribe. Subscriptions are available in two flavors: six-issue and lifetime. Lifetime sounds like a bit of a gamble until you figure that A. it's only $90 and B. the magazine's been printing issues since January 1986. The landing page of the magazine's website is a blog whereon the editor posts something tiny every day. Usually it's a tiny poem. Sometimes it's a tiny something else.

The numbers! Publishing even a small amount of stuff is largely a numbers game. Which isn't to say it's not also a matter of craft and quality. Just, the more manuscripts of craft and quality that one submits, the more chance of a manuscript happening to cross the desk of an editor inclined to purchase publication rights. Here are my numbers for 2020 so far, including a few submissions and rejections already logged for September:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep 2020
Submissions: 10 10 15 8 5 9 11 7 3 78
Rejections: 8 11 13 9 4 11 6 7 1 70
Acceptances: 3 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 5

Next time: the August 2020 Friday Fictionette round-up.

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?)

a long road to nowhere but with some interesting stops along the way
Tue 2020-05-12 23:45:53 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

Item the first: I want to make sure I've linked y'all to the correct version of the Dreams and Nightmares website, which is here: https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/. That's kind of important, since the place I linked you before is out of date; I hadn't realized that where it said the May issue had just been released, it was referring to May 2011. Whoops. Sometimes I am not a very careful reader.

It's early days yet. The issue featuring my poem "The Ascent of Inanna" won't be out until September. But why not get a head-start on bookmarking the webpage and maybe subscribing? (I will point out again that for $90, the same price as a three years' subscription outside the US, you can get yourself subscribed for life.) Meanwhile, the editor is posting a new poem every day on the magazine's blog (the page you'll land on when you click the link above), so you might as well make a habit of checking back every day, maybe over your lunch break. Doesn't lunch go down better with poetry? I certainly think it does.

Item the second: The Laptop Saga appears to have arrived at a satisfying conclusion, if by a long and twisty route. No, Thursday's replacement replacement motherboard did not resolve matters. But it got the ball rolling in the right direction.

Also, the onsite technician who visited on Thursday? He was a lot more pleasant than Tuesday's guy.

Tuesday's guy--I won’t sugarcoat this--he was a tool. Rather a jerk, is what I'm saying. He was the kind of guy who shows up during a pandemic under Colorado's "Safer at Home" phase of restrictions with no mask and no gloves (which I was cautiously OK with) and a snide attitude about how "everyone's getting paranoid these days" (which made me less OK about the no mask or gloves thing). The kind of guy who asks you what's going on with your computer, and when you try to answer, he talks over you. The kind of guy who says "I've been doing this thirty years, trust me, I know what I'm talking about" multiple times in a conversation. The kind of guy who, when the planned hardware replacement results in unplanned problems (the aforementioned failure to load Windows), calls up Dell Dispatch and straight-up abuses the dispatch tech. "Do you even know what you're doing? Look, I've been doing this 30 years, I am telling you, this motherboard is glitchy! It needs to be replaced!" The kind of guy who then, after hanging up the phone, starts explaining to you, his captive audience, why it was justified for him to yell at the dispatch tech like that, that dispatch tech doesn't know what he's doing, dealing with people like that dispatch tech is so hard. Also, the onsite tech was white and the dispatch tech was not, but that couldn't possibly have factored into the situation, could it? (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

So Tuesday's onsite tech made everything extremely uncomfortable. But a different technician showed up Thursday to install the replacement motherboard, and the difference was like night and day.

Thursday's tech was not a tool. Thursday's tech was entirely pleasant. Thursday's tech I would quite happily go out for beers with, or coffee, once we're allowed to go out to bars and cafes again, and talk tech and play board games.

To start with, he had no snide attitude about the pandemic; on the contrary, he arrived in facemask and gloves, and he opted to do the repair out on the front patio, "to minimize contact." So I, too, donned a facemask and helped him get set up on the folding table and chair out there. I pried open the screen on the office window so we could pass the laptop's charger cable through. Then I hung out at my desk in the office so we could easily communicate through the window while practicing responsible social distancing.

When he asked me questions about the computer, he listened when I answered. When I had questions, he took them seriously.

When he found the screws that the previous tech had stripped, he replaced them. (Seriously. Tuesday's awful toolish, jerkish tech stripped the screws. I suppose that, when he said, for the tenth or twentieth time, "I've been doing this 30 years," I should have asked, "Doing what?")

And then, after Thursday's entirely pleasant and professionally cautious tech put my computer together again, and it booted up successfully, he said, "I've got a couple other appointments in the area; when I'm done with those, I'll give you a call to see how it's doing and whether you need me to come back." That's how awesome Thursday's tech was.

And indeed, when we spoke again, the computer was not doing so great. Again, on the second or maybe third reboot, right after I installed all the drivers Dell's SupportAssist app told me to install, it choked. Black screen, Dell logo, infinitely revolving wheel of dots forever. Alas.

So the tech set me up another dispatch, one where they ship me a box for me to ship the computer back to the Repair Depot, and that was that.

Only, over the weekend, I got to thinking--am I really helpless here? Does my laptop have to be a paperweight? Must I limp along on the backup ASUS, afraid of running two programs at the same time for fear of bringing the whole machine to a grinding halt? So I booted up the Dell, tapped F8 until the advanced startup options menu appeared, and I invoked Windows Startup Repair.

And it worked. Dang thing rolled back the driver installs and booted up like a charm.

After that, I installed the recommended drivers one by one until I hit the one that caused Windows to fail to load. Turned out to be one of the optional drivers. Easy enough to just refrain from reinstalling it. Meanwhile, replacing the motherboard did seem to have resolved my webcam flicker issue. Sound out the speakers was worse than ever, but after some hours spent juggling Realtek drivers I apparently hit a winning combination; the stutter-lag-static is more or less gone now. I was able join in yesterday’s co-writing session over Zoom and my writing group’s critique session today over Discord without any problems.

The only real issue of note is that the power button will only power the computer on; any attempts to perform a hard shut-down by depressing the power button fail. Which is weird, but hardly worth shipping my computer away for a week. If the computer stops responding and I need a hard shut-down option, I know how to detach the battery.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the computer's fine now.

The box for shipping the computer to Dell arrived yesterday. I emailed the Repair Center to let them know I won't be using it. And they're cool with that.

poetry is a help in times of water falling from the ceiling
Thu 2020-04-30 00:24:13 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

About that poetry sale from the other weekend: I've got the go-ahead to share the details with you! My poem, "The Ascent of Inanna," will be part of the September 2020 issue of Dreams and Nightmares Magazine. Founded in 1986, it's one of the longest-running print publishers of speculative poetry, and I am so pleased to get to be a part of it.

The thing about this poem is, it started as a piece of flash fiction, which I wrote for Codex's annual Weekend Warrior contest. I'm sure I've mentioned it before; this was my third time participating. Each entry must be written new for the contest in the space of a single weekend and can be no longer than 500 words. For Week 2, somehow I lit on the idea that after Inanna hung around three days dead in the Underworld, it must have been just the absolute pits to have to climb back up to Heaven and be Queen again.

So that's what I wrote. But I couldn't figure out how to end it properly. There wasn't enough story in the moment of Inanna's contemplation of her re-ascent to the Great Above. But attempting to pack her entire return into 500 words, right up to the bit where she finds her husband celebrating rather mourning and tells the demons they can have him in her stead, was a little much. I knew that no matter how well or poorly the story did in the contest, it would need a significant revision.

I wound up revising it into a poem. And the editor of Dreams & Nightmares offered to buy it. And you will get to read it in September. Information on subscribing to the magazine can be found here. (I'm intrigued to see that lifetime subscriptions are an option at roughly the cost of a three-year subscription. That's super tempting.)

The acceptance email came on Sunday the 18th, and payment, as the guidelines said it would be, came shortly after that acceptance, on Saturday the 25th. And on Thursday the 23rd, my laptop came home from the repair depot full of brand new hardware that worked blissfully well. It was a good week! And apparently I needed it, because the next week--this week--was gonna start out pretty crappy: In the wee hours of Monday the 27th, I was awakened by the sound of a waterfall where a waterfall had no business being.

About a gallon of water, all told, just poured out of vent fan unit. (This was due, I found out later, to a toilet in the unit above me overflowing. Also, this is not the first time something like this has happened. My upstairs neighbor has let me know she's doing what she can to make sure it's the last.) But it started slowly enough that, before the deluge hit full force, I had time to hop out onto the back porch, select the bucket that was full of pruned bits of tomato plant rather than potting soil, and then--this is key--stand there wavering groggily over what to do with those tomato prunings. I think I stood there for about twenty seconds, just paralyzed over having nowhere to put 'em. This is what happens when I get woken up suddenly at 3:45 AM. My brain does not work. Finally I came to my senses, dumped the compost-to-be onto the patio deck, and raced back inside to position the bucket where it would do the most good. Maddeningly, the water was coming down precisely onto the edge of the toilet seat, not a stable place for the bucket. I wound up using a stool to support it.

Then I went to call the condo association's emergency maintenance line. The emergency maintenance line unexpectedly went to voice mail. I left a rather pathetic message, which was returned around 7:30 AM by the property manager, telling me that they'd get the property restoration people on the case right away, and also that I should have called the emergency maintenance line. "Option four," they tell me. "You press four, that gets you the after-hours emergency people." I told him I did press four, and that's how I got the answering machine. Why did that happen, did they think? "Oh. I don't know why that happened." *facepalm*

So now we are living with two heavy duty fans and a dehydration unit in our bathroom, making the whole bedroom/bathroom area hot and noisy. But the noise is surprisingly easy to sleep through, and the weather outside is nice enough to leave the bedroom window open all night, and the heat in the bathroom has made my sourdough yeast starter experiment encouragingly vigorous. So things aren't all that bad.

Besides, I just sold a poem! I can't get too far down in the dumps before I remember that and smile.

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