“The people who need what you have to say are waiting for you and they don’t care that you think it's boring, unoriginal or lacking in value.”
Havi Brooks

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

I won that.
Annnnnd That's a Draft
Fri 2012-11-30 23:44:43 (single post)
  • 53,489 wds. long

It's not so much a revised novel as it is a brand new first draft written from a revised outline. It's got a lot of plot holes, its characters need more development, and there are places when I couldn't figure out how to get from A to B so I just jumped over to B and started writing anyway. But as a novel draft it wanders less than the first one. And, unlike the first one, which kind of dribbled off into December, it's got an honest to goodness ending. It's not the right ending, but it's an ending. It's got a denouement and everything.

Two small excerpts are up on my NaNoWriMo.org profile. For posterity, yo.

About the freelance gig we will talk later. Tonight I do not want to spoil my happy with thoughts of the miles to go before Friday the 7th is allowed to get here. Tonight I'm just happy that, this November - or, for that matter, at all - I wrote an entire novel draft from beginning to end.

Or I'll Put You in My Novel
Sun 2012-11-18 20:55:54 (single post)
  • 26,601 wds. long

So I just did something rather unpleasant to my female lead. I'm sorry. It isn't even plot-related, not really. It's not that sort of rock. It's just... the world being the world. And me being exasperated with it.

Sabrina is Timothy's ex-girlfriend. She's an aspiring sculptor who is currently paying the bills by waiting tables at a diner. She met Timothy while in an art class at a vocational college in Taos; it's probably got a real-life counterpart, but I haven't done the research on that. Research is for December. But what little I've seen of Taos in person has given me the impression of a very artsy town. So, art. Yay! Also, Sabrina is of Mexican heritage, that being a rather important demographic in the U.S. southwest. In fact, it's rather an important demographic in the U.S. full stop, as a certain presidential candidate learned to his chagrin earlier this month.

(One of the problems with the first draft: Despite much of it being set in New Mexico, every single character was pasty white. This made me about as frowny-faced as realizing I had only one named female character. The second draft has Sabrina in the protagonist tier and her co-workers, Sonora and Rosa and Jazz, in the secondary character tier. It's a start. Rosa runs the diner where they all work.)

With me so far? OK good. Now, back in October, I had reason to drop my husband off at the airport. Having done this, I took myself off to the TravelCenters of America along I-270 and treated myself to brunch. Then I took home a hell of a lot of Popeye's fried chicken for eating over the rest of the week.

This may sound familiar. But what I didn't mention in that blog post was the conversation I overheard while taking revision notes and eating oatmeal.

It's a truck stop. Truckers go in and get fed. And while they sit at the counter and have second helpings of everything they order (at the Country Pride restaurant, every single menu item is all-you-can-eat; the waitress comes to take your plate and says, "You want seconds on that, hon?" whether you're a 250lb dude who just finished his steak and eggs or a 150lb writer gal who just had oatmeal), they talk about things that are relevant to the interest of truckers. Like, this one Denver-area loading dock guy who doesn't know the first thing about securing a load. Like, the recently approved increase on tolls on New York highways and its expected impact on long-haul freight. Everyone talks shop. Like you do.

But the bit that stood out for me was this one guy. I can't tell you what he looked like; guys who talk this way, you don't look at them, you don't want them seeing you listening in, because then they might talk to you. I can tell you kinda what he said, though, because I nearly snorted milk out my nose listening to him.

He was a genuine conspiracy theorist, I'll tell you what. He shared with his counter-mates his recent discovery, via this secret memo that "they" just released, this secret memo between President Obama and the president of Mexico (who will be hereafter referred to as Felipe Calderón because that is his name, a fact of which our conspiracy theorist appeared oddly ignorant for being so well informed on secret memos and the like) which revealed that Obama and Calderón we conspiring to flood the U.S. labor market with immigrants who would then "revert," that was the word he used, "revert" at a later time...

"What the hell are you talking about?" his conversation partners kept saying. "What memo? What do you mean?" In response, he would simply reiterate, which is to say repeat word for word everything he'd already said. He could not seem for the life of him to tell anyone where he read this, for instance, or who "they" were who uncovered this memo. Nor could he explain what he meant by "revert."

I am still befuddled to understand exactly what he thought was going to happen. Obama was going to relax immigration law specifically to allow cheap Mexican labor to flood the unskilled labor market, until at some point Calderón would give the signal and call all the workers to "revert" back to Mexico, leaving the U.S. economy to crumble in their wake? Or did I mishear him, and the word he repeated was actually "revolt," alluding to a future civil war in which good upstanding white workers will be forced at gunpoint to drop English for Spanish and replace their steak and eggs with huevos rancheros y bistec asado? I honestly do not know. This guy would not explain. He would only repeat.

Finally one of the other truckers turned to someone else and loudly revived the discussion about New York toll increases, and I heard no more from the conspiracy theorist for the rest of my stay.

What all this has to do with NaNoWriMo is this: Sabrina is on the road, half-unwillingly, with the Big Bad. She's helping him in some way to track down Timothy, mainly because the Big Bad has convinced her that Timothy needs their help. And so they have both stopped at a 24-hour diner modeled after that Country Pride Restaurant at the TravelCenters of America, only the one in Limon which I have not been to as opposed to the one in Commerce City that I have. And while she was there, I confess I made poor Sabrina, who absolutely did not deserve it, overhear this conversation.

Not that anyone deserves to get slapped in the face by random casual racism, mind. Or casual sexism, for that matter, which I have also run into at the TA. (Do not get me started on the guys ahead of me in line at the Popeye's who were relentlessly demanding that the woman behind the counter "smile, baby, come on! Smile for us!")

Forgive me. Sabrina totally did not deserve it. But it happens. Adding that conversaton to the scene not only helped ground the book in the real world (which has people in it and also racist people), but on top of that it did help to relieve my feelings about having been Racist Conspiracy Nutbar's captive audience. Though I'm sure if it had been Sabrina there rather than pasty white me, her feelings would have been a lot more intense and, frankly, more relevant than mine. And so, in the scene, they were.

The encounter added 600 words and three extra bit-part charecters to the scene, so I guess that's a win? Maybe I can have the Big Bad go back in there and eat them all.

High on Caffeine and Pseudofedrine
Mon 2012-11-12 23:01:10 (single post)
  • 14,015 wds. long

This is apparently the only way to get anything done while in the grip of a cold. And even then I didn't really get upright until 7:00 PM tonight. Argh. Have I mentioned that this is extremely bad timing? Extremely.

Just now logged another 2000 words on the novel rewrite, though. I must be feeling better or something. Of course, it could just be the pseudofedrine talking.

The 2000 words all went into a scene I'd created blank and written "I don't know what goes here" in the description. It was going to be a driving scene, which is generally not the cleverest way to make time pass in the novel. But I couldn't see a way to get around it. When the last scene involving Timothy and Rocket involved the latter using his superpower to compel the former to get in the car and drive, the next scene involving them can legitimately take place in the car.

And so it did. It mostly comprised a lot of dialogue, a good bit of US 285 and State Highway 17, and a bunch of emotional reactions on Timothy's part. He has a lot to react to. There's Rocket's rather frightening ability to compel Timothy's actions; there's the idea that the person he thought was his ex-girlfriend was actually a really scary being disguised as her; and, last but very much not least, there's that peculiar embarrassment that comes from spending time, perforce, in the company of someone who inspired your lust-at-first-sight reaction and then kidnapped you. I'm sure you can sympathize, because this happens all the time, right?

A big difference between writing the first draft in 2010 and writing a new draft now is this: To a large extent, I know where it's going. In 2010, I stumbled across the sexual tension between the two male leads rather late in the story -- which is to say, rather early in the story I caught myself saying things like, "The slash just writes itself!" but it wasn't until quite late that I entertained the notion that the slash was canon. This year, I know the romance is coming so I can foreshadow it. Which means I can have a whole new layer of writerly insecurity about whether I'm laying it on too thick.

On the other hand, there's a lot about where the story's going that I don't know, mainly because I introduced an entirely new protagonist. In the first draft, there's a waitress they cross paths with who ends up getting pulled along in their wake. Mostly her role is A) to show how dangerous the coin Timothy found is, an B) to show how dangerous the Big Bad is. Somewhere between then and now, I realized that I was guilty of, more or less, fridging the poor woman. Oh, I tried to give her agency and let her play an active role in the way the story turned out, but there's only so much agency you can exert while essentially imprisoned, isolated, and assumed dead from about Chapter 3 onward. It didn't help that she was pretty much the only named female character in the book, either. I guess the combination of two male leads plus my tendency to underpopulate the story world led to almost total erasure of women from the novel.

For obvious reasons, this didn't sit well with me. So I've changed the character substantially and given her a bigger, more active role. She gets involved in the story for a different reason and she reacts to her involvement actively. She is no longer this random waitress that Timothy and Rocket run into on the road; Sabrina is actually Timothy's ex-girlfriend, who dumped him when it became clear they wanted incompatibly different things out of life. The story will throw them back together, create new conflict between them that has nothing to do with their previous relationship, and, because neither wants to see the other hurt, motivate them to protect each other.

So pretty much any scene to do with Sabrina is a brand new scene, a total departure from the first draft. Which means I'm still writing quite a bit of first draft. Argh. Still, it also means I get to keep being surprised by my novel. That's a plus.

With any luck, improving conditions or continued application of good drugs will mean I can get further progress logged tomorrow, both on this and on the WFH gig. Niki out, hitting the sack with fingers crossed.

More or Less Simultaneously
Sat 2012-11-10 22:25:19 (single post)
  • 11,834 wds. long

So I'm doing National Novel Writing Month. And what's different this year is I'm not writing a new novel; I'm rewriting one. To be specific, the one I wrote in 2010. The story I'm sticking to is this: I have not yet succeeded at revising a novel straight through to Professionally Submittable. I've only ever gotten something novel-length all the way to THE END by participating in NaNoWriMo. Thus, NaNoWriMo is clearly the engine that will propel me to the goal.

The theory is, I spent the months revving up to November in examining the existing draft and making good notes about character development and scene structure and plot. Now all I have to do is type the new draft. In actuality, the new draft bears striking similarities to a fresh rough draft. It's OK, though, because I'm having Big Picture Thoughts to guide my choice of new scenes to write (or new versions of old scenes to rewrite). I am thinking in terms of Theme! and Symbolism! and Parallel Character Development Tracks! This does mean I'm moving through my word count a bit more slowly than I do most Novembers, though. As my word count so far shows.

Will there be excerpts? There probably will not be excerpts. As this thing gets closer to "hopefully publishable," the whole excerpts-on-the-blog thing becomes more of an issue in terms of first rights and encumberment. Which, drat. But hopefully I'll have other fun things to post, like Niki's Plot Dilemma Of The Week or Essay Topic: Why My Characters Hate Me. It'll be fun. For certain values of "fun."

Within the NaNoWriMo community, I also continue in the volunteer position of Municipal Liaison for Boulder, and Boulder is requiring a little more planning this time around because there are so darn many of us. We've exceeded several write-in venues' capacity, prompting me to come up with new plans in a haze of emergency panicked inspiration. I do not like emergencies. I do not like panic.

Too bad! Because this month I've also picked up a new work-for-hire gig which is very similar to the National Novel Writing Month thing in that its official deadline is November 30. It is unlike NaNoWriMo in that the word count requirement is twice as big. Also, like every other WFH project I've undertaken, it's not fiction. It requires research. The words must be correct, factually and stylistically, the first time around.

I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of this timing.

No, no, it's OK, I can do this.

Also in the work-for-hire category, Demand Media Studios is a viable source of income again. They've finally rendered a decision on whether I can write for their Fitness & Well-being channel, and the decision is "Approved." My reaction, given my long history of writing LIVESTRONG.com articles for them, is sort of "Well, duh," but you never know. They rejected me for the Garden channel despite my long history of writing for GardenGuides.com. So OK. In any case, I now get to chose from a huge list of titles that I can actually feasibly write for $20-$30 per article (as opposed to two or three titles which nobody can write and that's why they're still available, and by the way they only pay $15 per article).

And hey roller derby! Did you know Boulder County Bombers are in their off-season? Do you think that makes much of a difference to any of its members' time commitment to fast-skating, hard-hitting awesomeness? The correct answer, in case you're wondering, is it does not. Were you thinking that? You probably were. Congrats! You Are Smart.

tl/dr: I got a lotta stuff going on this month. If I seem in a hurry when we pass on the street, I promise I'm not avoiding you. I'm just in a hurry.

And I seem to be coming down with a cold. GREAT TIMING, IMMUNE SYSTEM. Feh.

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (1/5)
Tue 2012-04-24 21:41:50 (single post)
  • 1,400 wds. long
  • 62,769 wds. long

Today's contribution to the April 23 festivities is my short story "Passengers". You can read it here. (Just as a reminder, you can always click the title of a manuscript in the upper left area of the blog entry to see all blog entries related to it. Then you click "Read more here", if such a link exists, to read an excerpt or the full text, whatever I've made available.)

"Passengers" is another one that counts as juvenilia, if anything does. It's probably older even than "Rhododendron". Possibly. In any case, it, too, was also written during high school, though I can't recall precisely which year -- my notes say 1994, but my notes weren't written in the same century as the story itself, so, grain-of-salt time. In any case, it had to have been the year when Betsy Petersen taught my English class, because I remember someone who shared her class with me critiquing it.

It's like a deathless digital audio recording in my memory, triggered every time I reread (or think about) the line, "...and ties a special knot in her bracelet just for him." My classmate's grinning and saying, "That's when she's got him. She just pops him into her little jar!"

Or something like that. I have a tyrannical memory for conversation -- it forgives-and-forgets nothing -- but it is not infallibly word-for-word.

The line that stays with my husband and me, of course, is, "Everybody likes peppermints." We have been known to quote it at each other on the least plausible provocation.

The other event that dates the creation of the story is its sideways inspiration: my first solo cross-country bus ride. And even that I'm not 100% certain about, timing-wise. Again, though my notes say August of 1993, my notes came a lot later than the actual journey. I know this much: it had to have been after June, 1992, my third attendence at the ADVANCE summer program (a.k.a. "nerd camp"). That was the year I met a boy named John Little and roomed with a girl named Cat Bakewell. Those two would become my closest, dearest, and most lasting friends. (One of them even became my husband!) Well, either later that summer or in the summer that followed, it occurred to me I could take a Greyhound bus to Cat's home in Nacogdoches, TX (not to be confused with Nachitoches, LA) if she and her parents were OK with the visit. It took a lot of wheedling on my part to get Mom to grant the all-important permission (and pay for the bus ticket), but in the end teenage persistence prevailed.

Mom wasn't very happy about it. She was convinced that you meet all sorts of crazy people on bus rides. It would be years before I recognized this as class-and-race prejudice, but right away I sure recognized it as bullshit. If there were any crazy people on the bus, I determined, I would damn well be one of them. I chose my traveling wardrobe accordingly.

Put that together with the friendship bracelet I occupied myself with creating during much of the eleven-hour ride, and also with my seatmate who was not at all crazy but rather delightfully unconventional, and you've got the fictional character who opens the story.

But we can't just go living in the past here. There's writing to be done in the here and now. Today saw about a thousand new words on the rewrite of Like a Bad Penny, and a solid, carefully chosen 300 words or so on the very short story I hope to offer up for your reading pleasure on Friday.

And there you go.

I Show Up on Other Blogs. Also, Roller Derby.
Wed 2012-02-29 23:50:00 (single post)
  • 2,850 wds. long
  • 57,023 wds. long

So, remember when I said something about author Diane Dooley soliciting authors to interview on her blog? (This was in the context of Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading List WHAT?! Oh, and, by the way, the Stoker nominations are out, and Blood and Other Cravings is a nominee in the anthology category; Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe," which kicks off the anthology, is nominated for a short fiction Stoker. This is very very cool.)

O HAI THERE RUNAWAY PARENTHESEES! U R IN MY SENTENCE STEALIN MY TRAIN-O-THOUGHT.

In any case, I volunteered to be interviewed, and so Diane Dooley interviewed me. You can read it here. It appears as part of her series of posts celebrating Women in Horror Recognition Month, which you should read, every bit of it, because it is awesome. Pro-tip: Follow ALL the links!

So there's that. Also, today, I wrote sort of a love letter to my roller skates. It will show up real soon now in the blog section of the Boulder County Bombers' new and improved website, when said website goes from being just a glimmer in the Website Committee's collective eye and becomes reality. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can visit the Boulder County Bombers on Facebook. And here's a direct link to the photo that esteemed ref "Shutter Up" took of us during endurance practice on Saturday the 25th. I'm in the middle row, towards the left, black T-shirt with white printing, red belt, and a black helmet that looks weirdly gold/copper in the camera flash.

Speaking of roller derby: I'm skating with the Boulder County Bombers. I'm officially a member and everything. I'd been skating Sundays with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and they are exceedingly awesome! I was going to join them and everything! But they practice in Commerce City. This requires a route from Boulder involving Highway 36, I-270, Highway 2, and I-70. On a Sunday afternoon, that's about 30 to 45 minutes. I hate to think what it would be like for Tuesday and Thursday evening practices. And the bus ride is two hours. Each way. Once I became aware of the existence of a league that practiced in the same county I live in, it was a no-brainer. Weeknight practices still involve rush hour traffic, but rush hour traffic to Longmont is oodles less soul-crushing. And the bus ride is under an hour, if you don't mind a 10 to 15-minute bike ride to/from the bus stop. Which I don't, at least not when the wind isn't 80 freakin' miles an hour (this is me glaring meaningfully at last week), especially since that bike ride takes me past a burger joint, two coffee shops with wi-fi, and several sit-down restaurants which I can enjoy if I take an early bus.

But then I don't often have to bus, because A) John now works in Boulder, so he can leave me the car most days, and B) three or four other BCB skaters live within a half-mile of me and like to carpool. Life is good.

It's no secret -- in fact, it's probably the sport's best-known feature -- that roller derby is bad-ass. Skaters take pride in their injuries, 'cause we get 'em being PHEARLESS!!!! Here's my running injury report thus far. See if you can spot the common thread.

Tue. Feb. 14 @ BCB Phase 1 practice: Fell on my face during tomahawk-stop/toe-stop running drill. Injury: Split lip. Symptom: a fantastic bruise like an off-center soul patch for about a week.

(Interestingly, if someone does a horrified double-take and gasps, "What happened to you?!" saying "Roller derby! It was awesome!" puts them immediately at their ease. I've gotten very good at saying that. Possibly too good. Not everyone wants to hear the entire Tale Of The Faceplant in second-by-second detail, despite what an entertaining story it does make. But better to risk TMI than being all self-consciously mumbly and accidentally communicating the wrong thing thereby. It is all too easy for well-meaning acquaintances to mistake "Meh, fell down, no big deal, let's talk about something more interesting" for a situation requiring immediate attention and possibly phone numbers of Places That Can Help.)

Sun. Feb. 19 @ RMRG tryouts: Fell on my butt while practicing turnarounds (step one in a tomahawk stop) before try-outs began. Pretty much sat down hard on a wheel. Injury: Bruised tailbone. Symptom: I'm still occasionally yelping if I sit down on the ground and then shift wrong. Sit-ups suck.

(But I did pass try-outs! Evaluation only, since I had decided by then to join BCB, but still, very cool.)

Tue. Feb. 23 @ BCB Phase 1 assessments: Fell sort of backwards and sideways while trying to hold the toe-stop stance after completing a tomahawk stop. The evaluators wanted to see us hold for 3 seconds. On that particular try, I failed miserably. Injury: Jammed three fingers on my left hand. Symptom: Stiff, sore, swollen fingers. The segments of the middle and ring finger especially look like the first stages of making a balloon animal. On the middle finger there's some really artful blue blushing, too. Last night I could barely tie on my tennis shoes, had to use my teeth to get my mouthguard case open, and I almost needed to ask a fellow skater to help me button my jeans. I wimped out entirely on making the bed. I just couldn't grip anything. Today I'm doing much better, but I still can't lift a tea-cup with the left hand. Interestingly, my ability to play Spiral Knights, or indeed type, has not been affected.

(I passed assessment and will begin attending Phase 2 practices starting tomorrow. My evaluator told me I'll need to work on smoother turnarounds. I was not surprised.)

So that's the news, and I'm off to bed. Tomorrow: March 1! Day one of NaNoEdMo! Will I be logging hours? I don't know! Will I be editing a novel? Damn straight!

Qualified Candidates Please Submit List of Characters and Themes
Wed 2012-02-08 23:13:06 (single post)
  • 57,023 wds. long

OK, so, novel. I'm officially stating it here: The novel currently known as Like a Bad Penny is the one to which I'll be devoting All The Revision Energies this spring. Hopefully the results of this will be -- unlike the last time I decide to do this -- a submittable manuscript. Then I can angst about query letters and synopses. I've never gotten to angst about query letters before. Not for novels, anyway.

I should apologize to my husband that I did not choose to work on Melissa's Ghost. John's always asking me, "When are you going to finish my novel?" All I can say is, I have to go with the one that's been hammering on the walls inside my brain.

On the other hand, once I finally get a novel revised and into the query cycle for the first time, it's likely I'll want to do it again. Because by then I'll know I can do it, see? Magic!

So the same goes for my 2011 NaNoWriMo draft, Caveat Emptor. Some weeks ago I was telling a good friend about starting without a clue and having finally, fifty thousand words later, come to some sort of a decision about a premise, and I was describing that premise to her, and she was all, "I want to read it," and I'm all, "Eventually, you will! Eventually." Eventually just got more eventuallyer.

On the other hand, this decision means that the "eventually" associated with Like a Bad Penny, also known as "the one in which I swear I'm not ripping off X-men or Jumper or Heroes either," just got shorter. Shorter than it would be, anyway.

What I did with it yesterday: Dedicated a new blank spiral notebook to it. Gathered notebook, pens, a bottle of beer, and a print-out of the first part of Holly Lisle's "One-Pass Manuscript Revision" strategy. Ran a hot bath. Sat in hot bath drinking beer and noodling on theme, sub-theme, character arcs, etc. Also made a list of the first few scenes in the book, the ones I know will actually be in it.

The "hot bath and a beer" element is part of my "stop procrastinating and do the dang thing" kit. Sometimes it's "hot bath and a shot of single malt scotch." Needs vary.

Anyway, the novel draft is not ready for a One-Pass Manuscript Revision. The novel draft currently consists of a muddled beginning and a possible muddled ending connected to each other by means of a muddled muddle. This is to be expected after NaNoWriMo. I am a firm believer in babble drafts, or, as Laini Taylor puts it, "exploratory drafts." Sometimes I call them "zero-th drafts." It's what I write when I think I know what I'm writing but because I haven't written it yet I can't be sure. I had an epiphany about this early in 2010's NaNoWriMo: I don't know what I'm writing until I read what I've written. So the first (or zero-th) draft is mainly me babbling to myself about the story I want to write. I mean, the narrative voice isn't "And then this happens and then that happens," it's more novel-like than that, but it's pretty darn babbly.

Thus with Bad Penny. In the next few weeks I hope to go from babble draft to an actual first draft. I'll start with the scenes that I know have to be in there, and I expect I'll find out how to unmuddle the middle (and the end) while I'm writing them.

NaNoEffects: Writer, Meet Non-Writer
Tue 2008-12-02 21:52:42 (single post)
  • 51,704 wds. long

Met Ellen and Lady T for lunch today at Saxy's. Wrote. Inserted a new small something into the current Rocket-and-Timothy scene (the one where I left off Nov 30). That being, "Don't just have Timothy say that 'I'm better and quicker at this teleporting thing now.' Have him demonstrate it. This will both terrify and impress Rocket--but it will not change his mind." Ooh, more contradictions!

Anyway, we gently bothered the couple sitting beside us to pass my power cord under their table and plug it in for us. This was followed by my usual explanation for why I keep a 6-plug power outlet with me at all times; because often, and especially during November, I am in cafes with limited outlet availablity in company with several writers-with-laptops. The couple sitting at the table next to us were impressed, or curious, or something, and so we got to talking.

Confession: I don't have too many "clueless non-writers say the darndest things!" examples. Many writers have them, but I have been blessed with supportive family, lots of writer friends, and a laptop-cafe culture. When I whip out my laptop in a restaurant, I get mistaken for a college student, which occupation is much more widely understood. I don't typically get inundated with "What are you working on?" style questions followed by clueless assertions about my answer.

I have a few examples. They're pretty mild.

Example the first: I recall my former boss telling me over lunch that, whatever novel I was currently working on, I should try to get it published by Random House, because they publish good books. I said, "But I'm not sure this will be suited for Random House." (In fact, I was thinking Tor would be a better first choice. Or simply seeking an agent who works with urban fantasies, and letting them make that decision.) He said that I should try Random House anyway. What could it hurt? I might even get published by them! ...Now, I've received my share of "not suitable for this market" rejection letters, and those from markets I actually consciously concluded were suitable matches. Their opinion differed from mine on that subject, but not for lack of my trying. Sometimes you just miss. But at least you're trying to hit the dartboard, not just flinging missiles at random vertical surfaces! But, I suppose, to someone who has not made a study of the industry, there are simply publishers who publish good stuff and those who do not. I think he intended to pay me a compliment by suggesting that my work was good enough for a publisher he admired. Sweet, but rather baseless if so; he hadn't actually read my writing.

(Herein lies a rant about "if you think I'm easily pleased enough to accept baseless flattery as a compliment, you're not complimenting me; you're insulting my intelligence!" But that is not the topic for today.)

Another example: Once upon a time at the bar at Gunther Toody's (the one on middle Wadsworth in Denver, possibly no longer extant), I pulled out my spiral notebook and began a fifteen minute writing exercise on the topic "I am looking at." Restaurants are a great place for these, because there's a lot to look at. Furnishing, bric-a-brac, customers, oh my. Anyhoo, some of them customers came up to sit near me, and one asked, "What are you writing? A book?" I didn't feel the need to discuss, so I gave a curt little Yeah, sure, whatever. "Can I read it?" Er, sure. Once it's published. I kept scribbling. This was really par for the course. What made my jaw drop was the man responding with, "Well, I'm a publisher!" What the hell do you say to that? Indeed you are, my dear, and I'm Agatha Christie! I think what I actually said was Then you can read it when it's finished.

So much for my limited repertoire of Clueless Non-writers Say The Darndest Things anecdotes. I actually have more Clueless Writers Say... anecdotes than otherwise, strangely enough. Among them is the oft-cited "But if writing is your life, it isn't really work, is it?" Yes. Yes, it bloody well is. "Oh! I'm sorry to hear that you consider it work. But I have to ask, though, if that's the case, do you really consider writing to be your calling?"

This year's NaNoWriMo added to my anecdote stash admirably! Because here's the thing with NaNoWriMo: You write in public places a lot, and you do it in groups. And so you print out a "National Novel Writing Month Write-In" table tent so that other participants who may not recognize your face can find you. And this means explaining to non-participants what the words on your table tent mean.

Generic Conversation While Waiting For Write-In Quorum:

Me: "National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge: Write a story of minimum length of fifty thousand words in thirty days."

Them: [Expressions of awe at this feat, followed by] "So you're a writer?" [Followed by inquiries as to subject matter, followed by Clueless Non-writers Say The Darndest Things! anecdote.total++]

Probably the silliest to date had been some disjointed conversations after sharing my table in the Twisted Pine. Silly, but not surprising. "Is your novel fiction?" showed up, as did, "There, you hear that? [referring to some conversation with her friends] You should put that in your novel!" I should be keeping track on a BINGO card.

But today... You know, I'm really not sure where today's conversation falls. Non-writer, or writer? Depends on why the man in Saxy's asked me what he asked me...

Conversation with table-neighbor at Saxy's:

Him: "So do you write for yourself, or do you write to be published?"

Me: "Well... I write. And then sometimes I try to publish the results."

Him: "But do you do one more than the other? Or at the same time? Or..."

Me: "At the same time, certainly. All my fiction begins as something I write for myself. Otherwise it's no good; it doesn't get finished or polished or sent out."

Him: "But, don't you sometimes just give the audience what they want?"

Me, getting bewildered: "No, not really--if I wasn't personally interested in it, the results wouldn't be good enough to give them what they want, see? It wouldn't be any good."

Him: "Not necessarily. They might not have the intelligence to see that or to want better."

At this point Ellen saved me by mentioning her technical writing, which reminded me that "Oh, well, I guess you could say I 'give the audience what they want' with my freelance gigs, where I'm contracted to write on a certain topic that may or may not be of interest to me, and I do it.... But never in my fiction."

I suspect he left unconvinced. And I was left to wonder: is he a generic salesman mistaking writing for an industry akin to sales (he was clearly a real estate or apartment lease broker, judging by the cell phone conversations none of us could help but overhear)? Is he someone who simply misunderstands the entertainment industry? Or is he perhaps nursing dreams of busting out as a novelist, and he wants to hear that it's as easy as "giv[ing] the audience what they want"?

The one thing I clearly got from that conversation was a clear and distinct contempt for the consumer. And, hey, having worked in customer service, I can share that contempt in very specific anecdote format. I have some war stories, boy. But contempt for the consumer as a business model? Bad, bad, bad bad bad wrong. Worse still when I hear it from the mouths of fellow writers! Ick ick ickity ick! Add to the "ick" factor the implied assumption that I should share this contempt--ew! I... I need to go wash my soul off. With anti-bacterial scrub, chlorine bleach, and vinegar.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Er.

For now, anyway.

That's 7 of 7, thank you very much!
Congratulations! You Win A Day Off! (Just one, though.)
Mon 2008-12-01 21:47:11 (single post)
  • 50,202 wds. long

So, yes, as of about 9:30 PM last night I completed the eking out of my 7th NaNoWriMo win. (7th? Good Gods--quickly assembles mental list of NaNoWriMo novel drafts of yore--Yes, that's right, I've done this every year since 2002!) "Eking out" because, once yWriter told me I had more than 50K words, I used its handy "Export obfuscated NaNoWriMo text" command, opened the resulting text file, Selected All (CTRL-A), Copied (CTRL-C), and Pasted (CTRL-V) this into the NaNoWriMo Word Count Validator, and was rewarded with a word count downsizing to about 49380. I think it's the usual deal where the em-dash formation I'm in the habit of using (word!--'nother word!) causes two words to count as one in more conservative word count algorithms. Whatever. So I went back to the scene I was working on, did another few paragraphs, tried again, and so forth until the word count you see here. And the purple "Winner!" bar and the proud happy Viking Longship image and the web page icons and all that.

So I took today off. Well, not off off; I had to tackle the household finances, which had sort of languished for a month and a half. Dug out all the bills from the pile of Stuff To Be Dealt With, some of them past due; paid them; pulled up the checking and saving accounts online and made sure my balances matched theirs; y'know. The stuff you ignore when you're frantically trying to meet a deadline. I got that done. But otherwise, today was a play day. I went to the gym and rocked out in the bouldering cave, and I went to IHOP with friends and played Puzzle Pirates until I was completing carpentry puzzles in my brain on the bike ride home.

Tomorrow, however, I write again. For one thing, the novel still isn't really done. I haven't really gotten my characters from point A to point B, where point A is "at each other's throats" and B is "angrily declaring love for each other". I still haven't entirely disentangled my idea of how the bad guy functions and how the main character plans to fight him/her/it, although I do understand how the main character actually ends up defeating it. And, as usual, I haven't figured out a useful denouement. A novel-length story will often exist in my head with a total Hannah-Barbera laugh-track ending ("Quick, someone say something goofy so we can all laugh and go home!") for months before I finally figure out how to tie the bow on that package.

Also, there are other stories than the Demonic Sweater Story that could be finished and sent out to meet the nice people.

So. Today was playtime. Tomorrow is back-to-work time. To be precise, tomorrow at 11:30 when some NaNoWriMo buddies and I will meet up for coffee and writing time. Just because the calendar's ticked over from November to December doesn't mean the write-ins have to stop.

PH34R TEH FROOTCAKE! It is imminent!
Annual Fruitcake Warning. Also, NaNoWriMo Win Inches Closer.
Sun 2008-11-30 15:15:51 (single post)
  • 48,264 wds. long

It's that time of year again! FROOTCAKE TIME. As we speak, the concoction is in the oven being converted from jewel-studded goop to jewel-studded yummmm. Well, the raw goop is yummmm too, but it doesn't have nearly the same shelf life. Still, looking forward to cleaning out the mixing bowl, 'cause that'll be the last taste I get until Solstice.

After a one year hiatus, I have returned to the most excellent recipe received some years ago from fellow long-time Misc.Writing netizen Wendy Chatley Green, whose own annual fruitcake warnings in the newsgroup prompted me to beg shamelessly for instructions. I went astray last year, I admit it. But the temptation was understandable. When in the course of blog controversy a regular doesn't simply call an ill-mannered comments troll a fruitcake but instead hands them a recipe, well, that's just too cute not to try. The recipe, sadly, was dry, not as tasty, and suffered furthermore by my not having cheesecloth on hand to wrap the cake in during its three-week boozing period. Tea towels, sadly, make inadequate booze delivery systems.

Anyway, this year's fruit-a-licious ingredients are...

  • 12 oz. papaya spears
  • 12 oz. candied ginger
  • 9 oz. dried blueberries
  • 9 oz. dried strawberries
  • 12 oz. dates
  • 9 oz. Buddha's hand citron
  • 8 oz. slivered almonds
Which is a little bit more fruit than the recipe called for. For some reason I persisted in thinking I only had 9 ounces of ginger, such that it added up to 60 ounces dried and candied fruit and half a pound of nuts. Oh well. No fruitcake ever failed due to an overabundance of candied ginger, I think.

On Buddha's hand citron: It's the tentacular yellow thing in the picture. It's basically like a lemon, only it's nothing but rind. The recipe wanted it candied, but in the excitement of actually getting my hands on one, I forgot. So I just sliced up half a pound of it real thin and let it soak with the dried fruit in the brandy. There's a lot of citron left over. I shall probably candy that later on this week.

I'm now out of brandy and forgot to get more, so I'll either pass by a liquor store this evening (I can do that; Colorado finally repealed its Puritanical "No Liquor Sales on The Lord's Day Of Rest" stupidity; now if only it would allow real liquor sales in supermarkets it might be as enlightened as Louisiana, she said ironically) or just use a mixture of rum, bourbon, and Amaretto.

So there's the fruitcake.

You'll notice it's November 30th. This is fairly late for me to be baking fruitcake, but as long as I do it during November, it gets its minimum three weeks of boozing time, so what's to complain about?

You might also notice that my NaNoWriMo word count isn't yet 50K. That's all right. After I turn off the oven, I'm going to Denny's with some other local participants for a Mad Dash To The Finish Line! I think I'll actually manage to reach "The End" tonight in addition to the word count goal. I just need to bridge the story's current "where we last left our heroes" position with where the "candy bar scenes" I snarfed two weeks ago pick up. Then I need to write some sort of denouement.

More later (i.e. when I "win"!). For now, I have a mixing bowl to clean. Yummmm.

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