“If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.”
Mark Morford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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the significance of november's final day
Mon 2015-11-30 23:34:03 (single post)
  • 50,181 wds. long

It is the last day of the month, and that month is November. Which means today is somewhat of a big day!

First off, I done released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2015. While the brand new fictionettes that go up every first through fourth Friday are accessible exclusively by subscribers (which is to say, Patrons pledging from $1 per month), one of those four story-like objects will become free for all to read or listen to on the last day of the month. This month, it's "In the Shadow of Next Tuesday." That's the PDF; here's the MP3. You can download either or both regardless of your subscriber status.

Secondly: A winner is me! I brought my new novel's word count past the 50,000 mark this evening, putting 2015 to bed as another winning year at NaNoWriMo. The draft is rambling all over the place, and many of the characters' conversations comprise no more than me brainstorming the plot through their mouths, but it is a draft. It is not a blank page or a mere idea. And it will be the target of some focused editing hours. When? I don't know yet. Don't bug me! It's still only November 30...

Thirdly: With NaNoWriMo over and out of the way, I get to use my workday afternoons to prepare fiction submission to paying markets! Which is awesome. I have a small handful of stories that just need a few tweaks before they're ready to hit the slush again, and now I have time to make those tweaks. One of those stories in particular I'd like to send to a market that's opening to submissions on December 1.

Oh! FOURTHLY - fruitcake. If I'm going to make it this year at all, I'd better start it, like, tomorrow. I have to go to the grocery anyway. Might as well add "4 lb. dried fruit and nuts" to the list.


so long ago it seems like yesterday
Fri 2015-11-27 21:58:11 (single post)
  • 38,000 wds. long

Did I publish a Friday Fictionette today? Why, yes, I did! Hard to remember that was actually today, it happened such a while back--I posted it by about 11:30 AM. Once again, I gotta tip my imaginary hat to the brilliant idea of getting up on time.

Anyway, "The Oracle Takes You Back" this week to the days when Saturday mornings were magic and you knew all the tricks because, after all, Trix are for Kids. That's your excerpt link, which itself has links to the full-length PDF and MP3 versions which are accessible by Patrons at the per-month pledge tiers of $1 and $3 respectively. If you are not a Patron and would like to become one, follow any of those links, as they all include instructions on how to make it so.

Meanwhile, watch for one of this month's Fictionettes to go free to one and all on Monday. Which one? I don't know yet! I'm sure I'll figure it out by the end of the weekend.

Meanwhile in NaNoWriMo land, Perrie P. Peculiar so much enjoyed the prospect of being a full-on secondary character that she developed aspirations to protagonist status. And with a name like that, why the heck didn't she try to take over the novel sooner? Today's writing session, still underway, produced a scene entirely from her point of view. I think she's in danger. I think she's going to pull off a heist. I think it's all going to turn out OK, but not right away, because some serious suspense and conflict has to happen first.

I've got about 1,600 more words to write in order to meet today's goal of 3,466. I think I can do that in about an hour. Off I go--

they aspire to be secondary characters and get serious pagetime
Thu 2015-11-26 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 35,218 wds. long

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone out there! I hope you're staying warm. Here in Boulder, temperatures "struggled to get out of the teens," to quote a winter weather advisory I read yesterday (and I thought, "Ah, struggling to get out of the teens. Sounds like most of my college career"). I woke up, saw the snow coming down, and promptly went back to sleep.

One of the things I am thankful for, speaking of Giving Thanks, is the opportunity to sleep in and do whatever I want all Thanksgiving Day long. I love my family and miss them, and I miss their traditional epic potlucks (oh, Gods, the shrimp-and-mirliton casserole), but I don't miss how the High Holy Days of Familial Obligation loomed over me and squashed me flat. It's so, so good to have a day off from everything.

Well, almost everything. Cat-sitting continues while our semi-next-door friends are out of town. Their cat is a beautiful, friendly, funny, and terribly needy kitty who will happily spend hours cuddling and nuzzling and dabbing a paw at your face if the quality of your petting is deemed inadequate. Learning how to get my writing done while making the kitty feel sufficiently loved has been an amusing challenge. He wants very much to drape himself over my forearms, and I am using those. But we manage.

Speaking of writing, that's another thing I don't get a day off from. Which is fine. Enjoyable, even. Which is sort of why I do this writing thing for an attempted living. A day with nothing to do but write? Heaven.

I'm about three-fourths the way through today's NaNoWriMo session, which I'll be returning to just as soon as I get done with this post. Today's session has been fueled by Plot Expansion Strategy #15: Promote a throwaway character to a secondary character. In other words, enlarge their role within the story.

The sometime-throwaway character I'm playing with is Perihelion Peculiar, of Perrie Peculiar's Private Peepers. Her original role, buried safely in the backstory, was in unearthing the main character's dad's cheating ways. Now the main character has contacted her again for help in figuring out what's up with the Director of the sleep research lab. He's scary, he's up to something, and he has begun showing up everywhere the main character goes. She's understandably freaked out about it.

I'm also making use of this strategy to flesh out the Director's own backstory. Apparently he's got an extensive criminal record, mostly white collar to be sure but with the occasional bloodstain. He's bad news. Stupid bad news. He's going to be bad news for everyone involved in this novel. If only I could figure out what, precisely, he wants.

Well, back to it for at least another 700 words.

they live just down the ice floe from us
Wed 2015-11-25 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 31,328 wds. long

The weather's getting a head start on tomorrow. It's been overcast all day, and now it's misting down a light sort of rain/sleet mix that's turning everything cement and asphalt into a death trap. I nearly injured myself just walking next door (well, two apartment complexes down) for the late-night cat-sitting visit. There were places where I couldn't walk at all, just "skate"--which is to say, hunker down into good derby position and just slide my sneakers forward very, very carefully.

Speaking of skating, there were plans bubbling through the league to have a Thanksgiving morning "fun skate" at our usual practice location--but with tomorrow's winter weather advisory and the ice only getting worse and the temperatures not predicted to climb above freezing tomorrow, I expect it ain't happening. Well, it might happen, but it'll most likely happen without me. Brrr.

So... a good day to catch up on NaNoWriMo, right? I have a bit of catching up to do. According to the "At this rate you will finish on..." metric, I'm 10 days behind. But according to the "Words per day to finish on time" metric, I only need to increase my daily session from the original 3,125 plan up to about 3,500 or so. This is entirely doable. I've introduced a new plot twist that should be good for at least another 5,000 words, and with any luck it will spawn further plot twists and maybe even a plot resolution.

And speaking of NaNoWriMo: Look look look! I have a title now.

In other writing news, "...Not with a Bang, But a Snicker" (the one about the snow-glue apocalypse) came home from its previous outing this weekend, and it's gone right back out tonight. #WriterDoingWriterThings

get the protagonist up a tree and throw an antagonist at her
Thu 2015-11-19 22:35:03 (single post)
  • 22,622 wds. long

Today's two hours of NaNoWriMo progress netted me 4,151 words, a good few hundred less than yesterday because of the fits and starts. It's not that I had much more sense of where the story was going yesterday that I did today. It's more that yesterday I was able to babble on despite not knowing what came next, whereas today the not-knowing stumped me a bit more. Also I probably put a couple hundred words that didn't get counted in Scrivener's "Document Notes" box, just talking to myself about what might happen next.

I feel like yesterday and today combined to make a great plot twist. Yesterday, the main character realized that a particular secondary character was really her only friend right now, and her only ally in the conflict situation. Today, experimenting with a scene including an antagonist I just made up today, I realized that it was likely the antagonist would cause that secondary character to be eliminated for a good chunk of the book. And because this would be right and proper and a fitting adherence to good conflict-escalation procedure (Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips, No. 20: "Torture your protagonist. Itís not enough for him to be stuck up a tree. You must throw rocks at him while he figures out how to get down"), I went with it.

The antagonist, the director of the sleep clinic where the protagonist's mother has been going, just came on stage today, and he's chillingly similar to creepy bureaucrat John Wither from That Hideous Strength. So it would appear that the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments is running the psychiatric research lab from The Lathe of Heaven. I did not foresee this happening. The moment a disembodied head shows up, I am out.

Tomorrow will of necessity be a short writing day. I'm undertaking a ten-hour road trip on my lonesome for the sake of a roller derby clinic in Las Cruces. It is going to be awesome, but it does mean I'm not going to be at the computer much. I'll try to finish up tomorrow's Friday Fictionette during those times when I take a break from driving, like at lunch and tea time (I get tea time, y'all, I have decreed it), but there is a possibility it won't actually be released until Saturday morning.

Just so's you know!

near five thousand words and also some peach pepper pie
Thu 2015-11-19 00:28:50 (single post)
  • 18,471 wds. long

I remain woefully behind the NaNoWriMo curve. But today I found out how many words I can log in two dedicated hours of nanobabbling. As it turns out, that number is 4,865. Yes, I can type really fast! Also, the internal editor is turned entirely off, so it can't butt in and tell me, "You already explained that last scene, you don't need to have your character explain it again," or, "You realize that this bit of dialogue is just an excuse for you to figure out the backstory's timeline, right?" Internal editor doesn't get to say that stuff, so I just keep typing.

As usual, I'm not sure where the story's going to go tomorrow. But I jotted down some questions that occurred to me during today's session, and those will probably help get me pointed in the right direction.

In other news, my sprained wrist/thumb has not prevented me using the typewriter. Turns out, it's pretty painless. I don't even use my left thumb when I type. It just sits there and watches the right thumb do all the space-bar work. So I'm finally getting that October 2015 Fictionette Artifact done for them what's got one coming to 'em. Yay!

Typing on a manual typewriter is weird. It's not just because I've used the Dvorak layout for more than a decade now, and am no longer reliable to touch-type in Qwerty. I'm actually starting to get Qwerty back so long as I'm on the typewriter. It's a context thing. No, what makes the manual typewriter weird is the way I instinctively try to hit ALT-TAB on it when I switch between it and my laptop. You know. ALT-TAB. To get back to the typewriter "window." *facepalm*

In other other news, I organized our freezer. It's the sort that's one big below-fridge drawer in which everything gets dumped, which means it's hard to find stuff, especially if you keep a lot of ice-packs on hand to bring to roller derby practice just in case. So I pulled most everything out in order to put it all back following some semblance of logic. I discovered two things:

  • There are still like five 1-lb packages of breakfast sausage down there. WHATEVER DID I DO TO DESERVE SUCH LARGESS O UNIVERSE I AM NOT WORTHY.
  • There is way too much stuff in there that's been there for way too long and needs to either get used up or thrown away.

The following recipe/experiment arose from an attempt to use up some of that surplus.

Peach-Pepper Pie (muffin form)

  1. Set one sheet of puff pastry out to defrost. I believe I acquired the puff pastry package when a friend moved out of state and I helped her re-home many of the edible contents of her kitchen. The box was still unopened when I pulled it out of the freezer tonight.
  2. Put some peaches on to simmer over medium heat. Some years ago when I not only had a CSA share from Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce but also a fruit share add-on from Ela Family Farms, I found myself overrun with peaches. So I sliced up a bunch of them into sandwich bags, and I stuffed the sandwich bags into a gallon-sized freezer bag. This experiment used up one sandwich bag full of frozen peach slices. I was worried they might be freezer-burned after all this time, and it might indeed have been an issue if I was going to eat them plain. But instead...
  3. Stir in a crap-ton of sugar. It came out to two heaping soup spoons of brown sugar and two of plain granulated sugar.
  4. Stir in some pickled chili peppers. About one and a half heaping soup spoons of MMLocal's High Desert Peppers (mild).
  5. Season with black and red pepper, then continue simmering until mixture is thick. I like pepper. I put a bunch in. Anyway, I let the whole mess simmer until the pastry was tolerably defrosted, about 40 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Add 1 tbl butter, 1 egg, and some oatmeal. Stir. Four big soup-spoons of McCann's Quick Cooking Irish oatmeal (or whatever kind of quick-cook oatmeal you've got in your pantry), mainly to soak up any liquid that hadn't simmered away.
  7. Apply cooking spray to a 6-hole muffin tin. Line bottom of each hole with pastry. I was going to do a small pie tin, but I was too impatient with the pastry. I tried to unfold it when it wasn't quite defrosted, and it cracked into three strips. So I cut those strips up into twelve squares that fit the muffin holes nicely.
  8. Spoon in pie mixture. Not too much. You want your top crust and bottom crust to meet along the sides.
  9. Layer a piece of roasted chili on top of pie mixture. I also had a sandwich bag of roasted mild pueblo chilis in the freezer, because while I love them on everything, I still never manage to eat a whole package of them before mold sets in. So I've learned to parcel out most of them into small freezer bags and defrost when ready.
  10. Cover with another layer of pastry. Really smoosh it down. Don't be shy. Again, you want this top crust to meet up with the bottom so that the "muffin" doesn't fall apart too much when you go to eat it.
  11. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Let sit to cool for five or ten minutes, then carefully pry them out so you can devour them. Feeds one very greedy cook over the course of one two-hour NaNoWriMo session.

Ta-da!

I am a little uncomfortable that the best CC-licensed photo I could find of a boxcar interior was of a boxcar that was actually used to haul prisoners to concentration camps in WWII. Absolutely nothing on that scale of horror is going on in here.
the future's so fast i gotta wear skates
Sat 2015-11-14 00:00:04 (single post)
  • 12,613 wds. long
  • 933 wds. long

It's Friday, so I've got a fictionette for y'all. "Future's So Bright," in which the curse of psychic powers messes with one's social life and also one's optical prescription, is available in both ebook and audiobook form for those who wish to chuck a buck or three at the Friday Fictionettes project. The usual excerpt is also available--try before you buy! Patrons get access to a brand new one of these things every first through fourth Friday; everyone else gets one of 'em on the last day of each month. Any of the links in this paragraph will take you to a page where you can subscribe if you so desire.

I discovered this week that it's a lot easier to get a Friday Fictionette up on time if I've been faithfully putting in my 25 minutes a day on it every single day. The fictionette itself was drafted by Tuesday, the cover art done on Wednesday, the draft polished up on Thursday, and the MP3 and PDF produced on Friday along with the usual excerpts.

NaNoWriMo is also easier to accomplish if I put in my scheduled time each time a scheduled time comes round. Unfortunately, I slipped up a bit with it this week. Once again, I've been moving slowly through my days, leaving too much to do for the evenings when I have no energy to do them. So I didn't move the novel's word count at all yesterday, and have only made it through about a thousand words so far today.

It is unlikely that I will make significant progress tomorrow, as I will be in Castle Rock all day participating in that league's annual Fall Down Mix-Up rolller derby tournament. But I will bring my backpack with its usual contents, and if there is time between bouts I might jot down a few sentences. A non-zero amount of words is winning the day!

Matter of fact, I was working on NaNoWriMo at my very first roller derby experience. I was sitting in the audience at the 2011 championships, laptop open and accumulating words during halftime. It'll be just like old times, y'all.

Now, considering that I'll need to leave Boulder at 7:30 in order to get to the Fairgrounds by 9:00, I should probably wrap this up and go to bed. Enjoy your weekend, and if you're around, come watch us skate in Castle Rock tomorrow!

wine, disappointment, ambition, persistence, more wine
Wed 2015-11-11 23:56:37 (single post)
  • 1,200 wds. long
  • 4,558 wds. long
  • 11,665 wds. long

Got off to a slow start today. Might have been because it was so cold out--Boulder finally got some snow, and snow makes me want to hibernate. Could also have something to do with the righteously exhausting roller derby practice I had last night. In any case, I slept late, I dawdled a bit, I moved very slowly.

But here's where I'm at now: Two thirds the way through today's NaNoWriMo chunk-o-text, three-and-a-half hours of my workday five done, two half-glasses of red wine toward silly, and one new rejection letter to file away.

Alas, after triumphing over my year of resistance with a gorgeous completed revision, I ultimately received a rejection letter for "Caroline's Wake" from the editor who'd invited me to submit that rewrite. If you also do this freelance fiction writing thing, you won't be too shocked, I hope. This is a thing that happens. A revision request isn't necessarily a promise to buy the results. In fact, it's almost never a promise to buy. It's disappointing, of course, but the story's much better for the revision. It'll have a better chance next time I send it out than it would have had previously.

I won't send it out immediately. The rejection letter included some feedback that gave me pause. I'll see if I can't do some small tweaks in response to that feedback to prevent the problem cited from being a problem for the next slush reader who sees it.

No, the rejection letter did not drive me to drink. Please do not think that. It's just, wine is tasty, and I have some wine here, and I have nowhere to be tonight. Wine pairs nicely with popcorn. Popcorn seasoned with Cajun Land and curry powder. With red wine. My NaNoWriMo characters are also drinking red wine. I have to keep them company.

Where was I? Ah. Yes. So...

I'm also giving some serious thought to converting another story of mine to a form of interactive fiction. There's a brand new web-zine out there, Sub-Q, the interactive magazine for interactive fiction, and they're hungry for submissions. I think "Keeping Time" would be perfect for them, but it needs some work to at least prepare an interactivity proposal. I should probably play a little with Twine just to get a feel for what the kids these days are doing. But I'm thinking something like travelogue-style pop-ups for items and people whom the main character interacts with, a constant sense of the passage of time despite time being weird when you continue on a one-way trip through different worlds, maybe some choice as to which worlds the character visits but with a certain inevitability about the ultimate outcome...

I don't know. I'm still brainstorming.

But not tonight. Tonight I still need to log about 900 more words on the NaNoWriMo novel. And it's nearly midnight, so, really, I need to get back to it.

I do wish the room wasn't spinning so. Stupid wine. Tasty, tasty, stupid wine.

this november you see will be just fine
Tue 2015-11-10 23:20:32 (single post)
  • 9,437 wds. long

So I'm doing NaNoWriMo again. You may recall.

I had the ambitious but perfectly reasonable plan that NaNoWriMo would take up the bulk of my afternoon shift each work day. That is, every Tuesday through Friday, my two hours of working on fiction in the afternoon would be spent producing word count on this new novel. There are 16 Tuesday-through-Fridays in November 2015; I would therefore be responsible for 3,125 words at each session.

Easy. I typically spew some thousand words of freewriting in a single 25-minute timed session. All I have to do is make sure I work all my afternoon shifts.

Well, that turned out to be easier said than done. For reasons already explained elsewhere as well as for other reasons less good and virtuous than those, the first week of November was almost entirely a bust. I got my Friday Fictionette out, but that was all. I haven't even typewriter'd up October's "fictionette artifact" for my gracious Patron, and that's for yet another reason--at some point during the first week of November, I sprained my effin' thumb.

In the grand scheme of things, it's minor. Recommended treatment is to wear my brace whenever I can, give it frequent time under a warm water bath or heating pad, take ibuprofen strategically, and be patient. The pain comes and goes. Oddly, the thing that really brings it on is the natural hanging/swinging motion of arms and wrists that happens during upright perambulation. So I especially make sure to wear my brace while walking or running.

But I can't wear it when I skate, because I have to wear my wrist guards instead. And they don't provide as much stabilization as the brace. Which means that after Sunday's practice, my thumb and wrist were sore again, and after Monday night helping to train the Phase 1 (beginning skating skills) class, things were downright painful. Typing on my laptop this morning and afternoon was a very awkward endeavor. Attempting to pilot a manual typewriter? Unthinkable.

But when my gear came off after tonight's practice, the affected area was magically painless. Typing is fairly comfortable now. I don't get it, I don't trust it, but I'm going to take full advantage of it. If the thumb and wrist feel no worse tomorrow, I'll haul out the typewriter and see if it's manageable.

But anyway--that's what I've got to show for Week 1. Whine, whine, whine; excuses, excuses. But, as planned, I had a writing date on Saturday that got me my first chunk of 3,125. I had another successful session on Monday, and yet another today. Which means my original ambitious-but-reasonable plan still holds, except that it's now Monday-Friday rather than just Tuesday-Friday. Which is fine.

Now, I feared that I'd only have enough story idea to see me through the first three thousand words, and indeed, at the time, having written none of them yet, that was true. But it's amazing how one session leads to another. And how one sentence leads to another. And how, if you give yourself permission to follow every tangent, one throw-away line leads to several hundred words of flashback that reveal more about the character than maybe you already knew, which in turn informs the next scene, which spawns follow-on scenes and more flashbacks and maybe even plot involving incidental secondary characters you threw in just to make a previous scene work, and...

And that's how I know everything is going to be just fine.

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