“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

The Avon Lady. (I don't know who she's supposed to be. Sacajawea, maybe? She has a baby on her back.)
Dinner: The Cast of Characters
Looks good, don't it?
Leftovers packaged for single microwave-ready serving.
Writing! In Avon! With the Avon Lady!
Sat 2010-12-04 23:23:18 (single post)

So I'm celebrating NaNoWriMo being over by getting the heck out of town. Whee! Bridget and I didn't exactly intend the timing to work out this way -- it just happened to be the first weekend available at the Sheraton Mountain Villa from when I called back in early October to make the reservation. I made the call sort of late; Bridget had to kick me electronically about it. "Avon lady wants to go to Avon!" I emailed back, "Good idea!"

Somewhere along the way we started a tradition of treating ourselves to a writing retreat once a year or so. There are worse ways to make sure an annual time share week gets used.

The first time we did it, during one of our daily pedestrian pilgrimages from the Sheraton to Loaded Joe's, Bridget noticed the statue standing at the traffic circle where Avon Road and West Benchmark meet. "Is that the Avon Lady?" she said? Then, maybe five years later, she became an Avon Lady herself. The connection wasn't causal, though it may have been gestaltic. That first trip is also the origin date for our tendency to refer to our favorite bar/cafe/wi-fi hotspot as "Exploded Joe's." It only takes one slip of the short-term memory to start a tradition. (Ask me sometime about "fermentas" in musical notation.)

So. On a writing retreat. But am I writing? Well... two Demand Studios articles in two days is more than I managed all November. And I've kept up with my Examiner pages, which I did manage to maintain more or less throughout NaNoWriMo. Thus and thus for the daily professional hackery. But what about fiction?

Goal the First: Daily free-writing, also known as "Story Idea Du Jour." I did it Wednesday, the day I finally threw up my hands and said, "You know what? Today's my day off." And I did it Friday morning here in Avon. I'm getting something really juicy about a book that's like the Winchester House, in that its creator believes that something awful will happen the moment that it is no longer actively under construction. Possibly a demon will escape.

Goal the Second: Grab a story from the pile of stories waiting to be made ready for submission, and work the hell out of it. I've decided on "Unfinished Letter" but I haven't done any work on it yet. I think I may be in that stage of composting that resembles procrastination. I have my hard copies with peer critique notes on them; I think I shall read them before I sleep tonight. Also, I'd like to get my hands on some epistolary literature from the U.S. Pioneer West at the turn of the twentieth century, in hopes of shifting the voice away from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and more towards something like, I dunno, that's the point, I don't know. More like the U.S. Pioneer West at the turn of the century, that's all.

But of course we are in Avon. We are not holing up in a hotel room and writing nonstop. We're on vacation. That means Karaoke with Sandman at Loaded Joe's (I don't care how many photos Sandman puts up on Facebook; I only got up on the stage once! This year!). That means walking our feet flat up at Beaver Creek Village and nearly getting flattened by skiers. That means paying homage to the Avon Lady statue, eating at Fiesta Jalisco, drinking our share of Loaded Joe's "Irish Americano", toasting marshmellows for s'mores at the fire pit by the pool.

Also, that means feeding ourselves lovely meals prepared in our minimal villa kitchenette. We're very proud of this. The Sheraton Mountain Vista has rooms of two basic floor plans, one small and one large, paired off into two-bedroom lockoffs. John and I actually own a week in the 2-bedroom unit, but what we had left to use during this season (there's an exchange rate involving StarOptions[TM] and three basic seasons) got us the smaller floor plan. And the smaller unit has, as far as cooking goes, pretty much a sink and a coffeepot and a combination microwave/convection-oven. Also a certain amount of flatware and cookery aids.

Using just these resources, here's how dinner went tonight:

  1. In the large, shallow, uncovered dish: 1 Field Roast brand "Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute". These are fantastic and only produced during the holiday season.
     
  2. In the smaller, covered casserole: 2 apples, sliced but not peeled, mixed with 1 packet syrup from Denny's and about a tablespoon cinnamon from Loaded Joe's coffee condiment bar.
     
  3. Place roast atop rack in oven. Place casserole, its lid on but upside-down so as to take up less vertical space, below rack in oven.
     
  4. Oven buttons: "Roast", "425", "45:00".
     
  5. With about 15 minutes remaining, remove apples from casserole and pile around uncovered roast. Drizzle juices over roast. Return roast to rack in oven; finish baking. Wash out covered casserole meanwhile.
     
  6. Pull roast from oven and set to cool. Meanwhile, follow the microwave directions for a packet of Uncle Ben's Long Grain & Wild Rice, Sun-Dried Tomato Florentine. Nuke it in the covered casserole, mixing in a bag of Eating Right brand Broccoli Stir Fry mix.
     
  7. Eat. Make happy noises if so inclined.
Bridget gets all credit for the maple cinnamon apples and for deciding we needed a wild rice side. Tossing the veggies in, and whim-purchasing the roast Thursday morning, were my ideas. I also take credit for the upside-down lid strategy that allowed us to fit both cooking vessels in the oven at once.

Clearly we are mad geniuses. But then, what else do you expect from two authors?

The Mobile Office, Downtown Boulder Edition
Tue 2010-06-01 20:03:23 (single post)

From the Amtrak to the BX, from the station straight to work. John and I just got back this morning on a train from Chicago, having spent a fantastically action-packed Memorial Day weekend there. A night spent in sleeping accommodations meant we were well-rested and ready to get back to our respective jobs pretty much the moment we pulled in.

For both of us, since May 17, our respective jobs are primarily in downtown Boulder. Which is to say: John took a position with a small programming start-up in a location he can bus, bike, or even walk to (in good weather and with 45 minutes to spare), and I happily rearranged my own writing routine such that I accompany him there most days. He goes to the office, and I go to some place quiet and endowed with electrical outlets and wi-fi. Maybe I do my Morning Pages on a bench by the creek, maybe pull out the laptop and do some freewriting, until the Boulder Public Library opens at 10:00. (Once I gave into temptation and spent the pre-library hour at Tee & Cakes. Hard on the wallet. Easy on the yummm.) Maybe I spend the hours until lunch working on Demand Studios articles in the upstairs quiet zone. Maybe I meet John for lunch, if he has time. Maybe we try a downtown establishment with an interesting lunch special. Maybe we make lunch. (I bought bento boxes! I want to fill them up with Stuff!) Maybe I go to Atlas Purveyors for the afternoon stretch, working on short stories and blogging gigs if there's time.

That's a lot of maybe. The definitely is, I go to work. And I work.

It helps to leave the house to go to work; I don't end up running errands or cleaning the house or chasing the cats instead of writing. It helps even more to leave in the company of someone who's heading to work himself. Self-discipline is largely a matter of mindset, and the morning go-to-work routine changes a mindset. Also, this is my first time since 2004 working roughly in the same location as my husband; I'd forgotten how much I'd missed commuting together, going to lunch together, simply being nearby rather than at opposite ends of a highway.

Today, we got off the BX, walked to his office, stowed our luggage, and then went our separate ways: he to renew his Diet Coke supply, me to order a pot of pu erh at Atlas. I had a lot to do, so it was best to spend the day all in one place. Atlas are very hospitable to all-day work sessions, even bums like me who buy one pot of tea and re-steep it all day long.

(Atlas recently got a hilariously absurd negative review on Yelp.com. The owner blew it up, printed it out, and enshrined it on the wall-to-wall chalkboard for all to enjoy.)

It felt weird how normal everything felt today, being back in Boulder, getting back to work. I mean, last night I went to sleep somewhere in Nebraska. Yesterday morning I woke up in Chicago. I guess traveling has to bring you back home sometime, but the transition was so seamless that I barely noticed it, making Boulder feel a strange place to be.

Then I thought, "You know what's really weird? That 'normal' means calling this cafe my office for the day, watching people walk by, writing stories half the day and paid article gigs the other half. And calling somewhere else my office tomorrow."

Then things got really circular. I stopped thinking and went back to writing.

Today's fiction task: write down the zombie story I've been entertaining in my head all weekend long. If you followed the links above, you'll have found one to Tee & Cakes's short story contest (here's their original announcement). The three words that were the story prompt put me in mind of nothing so much as Popcap.com's "Plants vs. Zombies" game (though I admit playing it during any downtime with John this weekend helped). So it's a bit of a pastiche on that, and a bit of a spoof on popular expectations about the inevitable zombie apocalypse. It also incorporates something I learned about chickens a couple weeks ago at Abbondanza.

The result is now in Tee & Cakes's inbox. If it doesn't make the cut, I think I just might send it to Weird Tales.

And that's the news.

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