“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

but questions only lead to more questions and also a higher wordcount
Thu 2018-05-24 23:19:26 (single post)
  • 3,496 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 566 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hi. I'm in a hotel in Loveland right now. I'm doing the derby thing this weekend. It is a tournament called Mayhem; details here. (Sorry, it's a Facebook event page, I don't think they have a regular web page about it.) We play at 2:15 PM tomorrow against the team from Colorado Springs. Our schedule for the rest of the weekend depends on whether we win or lose that first game. The latest bracket and schedule is... hard to find, actually, but it's in a Google Drive pdf that's viewable by anyone who has the link, so, here's the link.

So as you might expect, this complicates my Friday. My whole week has been complicated. But I have been good! I have been prioritizing the ongoing revision of "Survival, After" rather than doing just "the easy stuff" and sticking a fork in the rest of the day. So I actually have progress to report.

Progress has been... rather daunting.

As I've said before, I'm already daunted, disappointed, alarmed, something like that, by the story's refusal to remain a flash fiction story, and by its insistence on needing more than just a quick polish before sending it off to potential publishers. But I had become somewhat resigned to it. I gave in. I began indicating section breaks and expanding the resulting sections into full-blown individual scenes. I watched the word count rise and I shrugged and said, "So be it." I even got excited that I might have a brand new full-length story by the end of this process!

Then I took a look at the world-building and things really started blowing up.

Heh. That's almost literal, given how the story starts. As of last week, the draft began, "Within an hour of the bombs falling..." The original prompt had to do with immigrants and refugees, so my character was a refugee fleeing a war zone. Thus, bombs. Only bombs and war means territories and nations and policies and I just can't. Whatever it takes to arrange fictional wartime politics, I just don't got. I'm sorry. So, no. No one is dropping bombs on the protagonist's city.

So what does that mean? It means unexplained uncanny phenomena, of course! Again. I mean, it's basically "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" except survivable (and not flash fiction). Because that's what I do. Apparently I write stories about the real world turning quite suddenly into a science-fantasy world, and how everyday people cope with that. It's OK. If I'm a one-trick pony, there are worse tricks to have.

And so but anyway the point is, the story's beginning just keeps getting longer. Look, if you say "bombs," the reader can kind of imagine what that's like. Things go boom. Stuff gets smashed. People get smashed too. The fallout effects may be fantastical, but the initial concussive impact is can pretty much go without saying. Right? Well, delete the bombs and nothing goes without saying. How does the surreal effect happen? What does it look and sound and smell like? What do we know, what don't we know, and what can we hope to find out? QUESTIONS.

I also decided the protagonist can't just be a bystander when the cars at the traffic light go feral. The protagonist is in one of those cars. Which means the protagonist has no idea how widespread this is until they run home to reassure their family: hey, the thing you are no doubt staring horrified at on the morning news? I survived that. So I have to actually write the scene where the protagonist discovers what happened to their family's house. And I have to decide what happened to their family's house, because since it's not bombs I can't just refer to "the rubble that was my parents' garage" and leave it at that. And, damn, did I actually originally have the protagonist just fleeing the area without finding out for sure whether their family is OK? That's cold, y'all. That's super cold. The protagonist has to dig through the rubble. They have to go back to their brother's school and try to find him. They can't just leave without making sure.

So now I'm writing even more new material. For a story that started out 750 words long.

I'm in this weird back-and-forth between feeling really awesome about watching this story take shape, and getting all white-knuckled anxious WHEN WILL THIS BE DONE PLEASE?! Like, I would like to write other things in my life. Other short stories. Maybe even a novel! Could I not spend the entire rest of my career on this one used-to-be-flash story? Because right now it feels like this is my life now.

Anyway. Today I did not prioritize short story revision because tomorrow is Friday, and, having prioritized the short story revision all week, I had not made even a little bit of progress on this week's Friday Fictionette offering until today. And that sucker needs a lot of revision between today, because the hot mess I have babbled out isn't presentable. Also it is too long. It is almost 3000 words of not even a little bit presentable. So... I am hoping to be on time with it tomorrow, but tomorrow is Bout Day 1 of 3. Adjust your expectations accordingly and I shall try to do the same.

It's new!
It's on time!
YPP Weekend Blockades, May 12-13: a new ship and a newly committed work ethic (sorry not sorry)
Sat 2018-05-12 11:25:03 (single post)
  • 1,362 words (if poetry, lines) long

Woo. Haven't done one of these for a while. Partially it's because my Saturday mornings have been hectic lately. Either there have been events to attend and/or prepare for, or there have been leftovers from my Friday workday that absolutely had to get done instead. (Hello, chronically late Friday Fictionettes!) Or both, of course. It can always be both.

But also, I just haven't been playing Puzzle Pirates much lately. Which is sad! But I've been trying to exercise good time management during my weekday, which means not playing video games until I've gotten my work done, which means not enough time to play all the video games, which means I've pretty much only been playing Spiral Knights. (I have a new Sinister Skelly Shield! It is sinister.)

But there's a lot more New Stuff going on in YPP than in SK, so let's hit it.

New stuff for May:

  • The Seal o' Piracy for May 2018 requires that you complete 20 sea battles. This is not hard, but it is time-consuming, so you'll want to get started early.

  • The War Galleon has been released! For the first time in... well, a long time, anyway... we get a new ship. Holds a crew of 40, moves three times per turn, is equipped with 24 cannons and fires 2 large cannonballs per side per move. More details are accumulating on the yppedia page.

  • And the blockade schedule is below. I don't have time today to trawl the forums for intent posts, but I can tell you that all four English-language oceans are represented (that's the three classic plus Dark Seas). Full schedule is below.

(And speaking of getting my work done, yesterday's Friday Fictionette went up at 10:30 PM last night: "Adventures in Felinity," in which you take a vacation from humanity only to get thrust right back into the midst of human drama. 1,362 words long, ebook here, audiobook here, teaser excerpt for general consumption here. Having published the offering on time, I then celebrated my diligence with a very long Clockworks dive undertaken from the comfort of the corner pub. It was a good Friday.)

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, May 12 ***

12:05 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Consider it Sunk
Attacker: Brenda

12:05 p.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pull Out
Defender: Cluster Service

12:05 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pull Out
Attacker: Cluster Service

12:06 p.m. - Isle of Kent, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pull Out
Attacker: Cluster Service

12:06 p.m. - Caravanserai Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pull Out
Attacker: Cluster Service

12:49 p.m. - Conglin Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: Infierno De los Diablos

12:55 p.m. - Polaris Point, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: Infierno De los Diablos

1:33 p.m. - Prolix Purlieu, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: Infierno De los Diablos

3:25 p.m. - Paihia Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Comin For You

4:00 p.m. - Tumult Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Jade Empire (3)
Attacker: Mid Knight

4:36 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (7)
Attacker: Keep the Peace

5:00 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Gucci Gang

5:00 p.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, May 12 ***

6:00 p.m. - Ostreum Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Kings of Oblivion

collecting data and assembling furniture
Thu 2018-05-10 22:06:47 (single post)
  • 2,211 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long

So... let's not talk about yesterday. Well, OK, let's; it's a very short story. The story is this: Brand-new epiphanic schedule reversals can only do so much when you're so bone-weary from the previous evening's off-skates workout that you can't get out of bed. (Seriously. How do my teammates do all those things and still go to work the next morning like functional adults?) It's fine--I did a little of most everything on the list. But it was an uncomfortably late start.

Today was much better. It was pretty much perfect. Well, except for that part where I totally forgot I had a 4:45 appointment in Longmont. I was hip deep in polishing tomorrow's Friday Fictionette offering when the 4:15 reminder went off. This is why I make myself reminders. Other than that, things were awesome. I have logged another great day's worth of evidence supporting the new schedule theory, and it isn't even 6:00 yet. (I've begun this blog post from the bar of the Outback Steakhouse next door to the building that houses Cafe of Life, where my 4:45 appointment was. I expect I'll be finishing it later tonight, after scrimmage, though.)

This morning I was bubbling with ideas for today's short story revision session. I wound up taking those ideas on a short walk around the block, talking myself through them out loud and getting weird looks from neighbors. Then I sat down and spat out notes about those thoughts all over the story draft. (This would be another example of learning from self-observation: having learned that I work best by alternating periods of writing with periods of thinking about writing, I'm now deliberately scheduling time for the walking-around-thinking phase of the cycle. I'm counting it on my timesheet, too. YOU CAN'T STOP ME.)

During the contest I wrote it for, "Survival, After" got some feedback along the lines that maybe we need to see what life was like before. This is a fantasy story, so we can't just assume mundane here-and-now reality before the apocalyptic event. Also, in order to make the story an actual story and not just a verbose outline of a story, I need to give the protagonist a real, tangible life that got interrupted by the apocalyptic goings-on. They need to have memories that mean something to them and add emotional and thematic content to the story. Those are two problems in search of the same solution, which I began implementing today.

It's a little like architecture, or maybe like assembling prefab furniture according to blueprints I'm writing as I go along. Insert tab A into slot B. Assemble boards and nail them together just so. Open bag labeled COMPACT FLASHBACKS and affix contents to the story where indicated.

strike that. reverse it.
Wed 2018-05-09 00:07:13 (single post)
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,722 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,097 words (if poetry, lines) long

I HAD AN EPIPHANY YESTERDAY. About the extreme difficulty of getting to the short story revision part of the day. About my entire work-flow. ABOUT HOW TO FIX IT.

First up in the equation is time.

I write more efficiently and productively in the mornings. That's just a given. The long day is still ahead of me, I'm awake, I've just had my first mug of tea and done all the morning-wake-up things, maybe I've had a little walk around the block, I'm ready.

I do not do so well in the afternoons. I have a hard time circling back around to the writing after a couple hours not writing--whether it's making lunch or going out and getting it, doing household chores or running errands, or even just having a well-deserved play break. Two o'clock comes round and everything about me says "noooooo." Sometimes I wind up just crashing from sudden fatigue. The afternoon shift quite often doesn't happen.

And then there's tasks.

It's easy to get my "daily gottas" under way. They are rote, they are mechanical, they have the inertia of habit behind them. The stakes where they are concerned is low. Fictionettes are not guaranteed to be sparkling undying literature, and freewriting is no-holds-barred crappy-as-you-want-it idea generation. It is play.

It's so much harder to jump into the revision process. The stakes are off the charts. Making things perfect becomes my job, and it is a scary job.

There you have it. We have two times of day, one that lends itself more effortlessly, more energetically, to the writing than does the other. We also have two types of writing tasks, one that is much easier, brings lower stress, and feels more fun than does the other.

So.

Here's where I *facepalm* forever:

I have been pairing up the unfriendly time of day with the more difficult writing task. WHY. WHY AM I STUPID. Why would I do that to myself? Why would I take a hard thing and make it harder? That is not a nice thing to do to myself! That is not what we call reasonable expectations! Seriously, this is basic self-observation, writing efficiency, Rachel-Aaron-2K-to-10K stuff: Gather data, find out how you work best, and then work that way! Do not attempt to work in a less-than-best way! That way lies less-than-best work. Sheesh.

So! In the name of getting out of my own way already, today I tried reversing the workflow.

For my morning shift: Submission Procedures and Short Story Revision.

  • I submitted "Soup Witch" to a new market. A big one! Big enough that I've never submitted to them before, but always thought, "No, this isn't good enough for them." But, hey, DON'T SELF-REJECT, we have people to do that for you, they're called editors. (I kid. Except I don't.) Anyway, they happily take second publication rights, they don't seem to care where the first rights were used up, and they specifically publish for a younger audience. IT'S PERFECT.
  • I reread the Cast of Wonders submission guidelines for Banned Books Week and this time my eyes snagged on the bolded words new stories only. They in fact they don't want reprints for this particular call. Whoops. (In my defense, I don't think I'd looked at the guidelines on Submittable before, but only at the very brief guidelines at the CoW website. So. I guess I will not be emergency-editing "Making Friends" for them after all.
  • Upon not finding anything in my searchable manuscript list that's unpublished, less than 3,000 words, and in any way to do with libraries, I resigned myself to returning to the rewrite of "Survival, After." Which is fine. Honestly, I feel like I was using EMERGENCY DEADLINE REVISION DISTRACTION as a way of avoiding it, because it's hard. All revisions are hard.
  • So I worked on the bit in "Survival, After" about the singing beef jerky. (It gets its own scene in this longer version.)

For my afternoon shift: Freewriting and Fictionette Prep

  • Freewriting. Yay! For a writing prompt, I turned to InspiroBot, who gave me this creepy beauty. Be strong! Don't die!
  • Fictionette. Drafting is coming right along. It's too long, but that's OK; Tuesday is early days. I've already condensed two characters' functions into a single character, always a welcome development when writing flash fiction.

And for my lunch break, I...

  • Did some household financial chores.
  • Played about an hour of Spiral Knights!
  • Then spent an extra couple hours avoiding getting back to work.

So the rearranged schedule is not a panacea. But! It helped. I did not at last look at the disapproving clock and decide there was no point trying to fit a meaningful session of (difficult, impossible, nebulous, ill-defined) short story revision into the hour and a half remaining before I had to get ready for derby. Instead, I thought, OK, 25 minutes for freewriting and another, oh, 45 minutes for fictionettes. Golden! And off I went. I damn near made myself late for derby because I was not going to put down the fictionette draft until I'd soundly defeated the possessed Villager and taken their stash of Dust and Wood (4TW brings all the motivation), but I did it.

One day does not constitute a sufficient body of evidence, but it'll do for proof of concept. Let's see how well it works tomorrow.

a tent door closes, a submissions window opens
Thu 2018-05-03 14:00:26 (single post)
  • 1,097 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,722 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long

The April 2018 edition of Camp NaNoWriMo is over. Toward my goal of 40 revision hours, I got about 10.75. Toward my story submission goal of getting all five Weekend Warrior contest entries revised and submitted, I got a whopping zero. I started one revision but still have not finished it. Still, I did revise and submit something else along the way! So. Not ideal, but toward my meta-goal of "have a healthier daily workflow that regularly moves my commercial publication goals along" goes, it's a dang good start.

I've had to put "Survival, After" on hold again, though. Cast of Wonders has reopened for submissions! But not for general submissions, so I can't simply resubmit "The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" there (my one completed revision and submission in April) as the folks at Podcastle suggested doing. I ought to have submitted it during their most recent general submission period. I could have done! Podcastle sent me the rejection letter with that suggestion the day before the April 15 deadline, and then by the morning of deadline day I had received the rejection letter from Cast of Wonders for the story I'd had on slush with them at the time. So I could have submitted it without it being a simultaneous or multiple submission! I had about half a day's window to get it in. But I didn't get moving until late that night, however, at which time I discovered that they reckon end-of-day according to Eastern Time Zone hours.

Alas.

Cast of Wonders's next general submission window is probably going to be August 15. That's kind of a long way off, so I'll be looking for some place I can resub "Soup Witch" in the meantime. It would have to accept Patreon reprints of about a thousand words in length that either read a little young or a little like a fairy tale. There must be somewhere, right? Quick! To the Submission Grinder!

Meanwhile, here's what the current Cast of Wonders submissions window is about (in case you want to play along at home). They're preparing for Banned Books Week by inviting submissions appropriate to the theme of libraries. So I've dug through the Friday Fictionette archives for a potential reprint more likely to fit the bill: "Making Friends," in which a lonely orphan child, having learned the pros and cons of friendship from reading through her guardian's carefully curated library, tries to put those lessons to work.

It is not going to be simple. On reread, I'm struck by what a mess it is. The beginning rambles. The ending abruptly cuts things off just before the two main characters can meaningfully interact. It is not made clear what the protagonist's situation actually is. Also the role of the Duchess's library could be heightened just a bit, just to give the story a clearer connection to the theme, but only once I've cleaned up the major malfunctions.

The good news is, with a maximum word count of 3,000, I've got all sorts of room in which to let the story unfold. The bad news is, once again, I'm going to need to generate new draft. It'll probably take me right up until the May 15 deadline to finish.

Well, if it does, at least this time I know not to leave it until ten o'clock at night.

and sometimes food, and maybe a movie or play
Wed 2018-04-25 23:06:22 (single post)
  • 1,722 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm still working on the same story. The same 750-word flash fiction piece that I was just going to give a brief spit-and-polish revision before submitting to, oh, I dunno, Flash Fiction Online. Well. It's not flash anymore and I'm still working on it.

I mean, to be fair, first I had to get to the point where I was actually putting in time on it every workday. Despite my lofty Camp NaNoWriMo goal, or perhaps because of it--because of the pressure such a goal created--I didn't manage to get any short story revision time in most days, let alone two hours every workday. I talked about that a little bit last blog post, which was... gosh, almost a week ago. Blogging's been a victim of the same mess of pressure and unreasonable expectations. I mean, here's the truth: I'm not going to go from "zero hours most days" to "two hours every day" without some sort of transition period, like "some non-zero number of minutes most days."

That's about where we're at this week. Yesterday, an hour and a half. Today, an hour. Monday, a little less than an hour. Some non-zero number of minutes.

Turns out the story needed its ending completely revised. To support that ending, the scenes needed a little fleshing out, both to improve pacing and to allow the themes involved to seed themselves more naturally through the plot. Next thing I know, the scenes are getting quite a bit longer, long enough to be worth separating into discrete text sections. And now the thing's more than 1700 words long, and instead of Flash Fiction Online I'm thinking Shimmer. I think it's gonna be really Shimmery.

But here's the other problem with two hours: Unless I have two-hours worth of stuff that I know how to fix, I can't. I can't go two hours. It's not a matter of stamina; it's a matter of creative process. An hour, an hour and a half in, I hit a wall.

Oh, you doubt me? You think I don't know what a wall looks like? This is what a wall looks like: Me, changing a sentence into two sentences, then, five minutes later, changing it back to one sentence with two independent clauses joined by a semicolon. Occasionally I will take a prepositional phrase and move it to the other end of the sentence. Then I will move it back.

Now, sometimes that sort of useless copyeditorial wittering means the story's done and you should just send it out already. That is not what is going on. How do I know? I know because the scene's still broken. Like, there are two different versions of this or that paragraph because I'm in the middle of moving text around for better flow. Only now I don't know how to fix the segues. It's messy. And my brain is just sliding off the problem like a jammer on 94-durometer wheels sliding out of Turn 2 at Mayday Mayhem. (Have you seen that track? Polished cement. Slick as never-you-mind. I plan to bring my 84s that were grooved aftermarket and I'm still nervous.)

That wall, I have learned, means that it's time to take a break. Stop writing for a bit and go do something else. Best if the something else is partially mindless, like taking a walk or cooking a meal or even re-reading a too-familiar book. It's got to take my conscious mind off the writing problem but leave room for things to simmer on the back-burner. Or maybe I should just go on with the rest of my day and plan to come back to the revision tomorrow.

That's what happened yesterday. I got to an hour and a half and knew I couldn't make two hours. I put it away. I went to derby. (Derby was very much not mindless. SO MANY THINGS TO LEARN, omg.) I played Spiral Knights a bit. I went to sleep. Then, this afternoon, I took a short walk just before getting back to the revision--and damn if some interesting things didn't just jump right into my head.

Well, I wrote them down, of course!

I hit a similar wall when I'm specifically trying to think about a writing problem. I discovered this when I was in Cincinnati for our bout back in February. Day of the bout, I decided to walk somewhere for lunch and cogitate on that week's Friday Fictionette, which, like many this year, was running late into the weekend. It was running late because I didn't know how to make it work. So I figured, I'd take the fifteen minute walk to figure it out in my head, then I'd take lunchtime to implement whatever I figured out.

Halfway through my walk--you guessed it--I hit a wall. That kind of wall looks like this: My brain, running over about half a scene, arriving at some insight or other, and then repeating from start. Over and over again.

But! When I sat down to write, I implemented that one insight... then discovered another insight on my way there. And another. Turns out I had to take the thought to the page before I could proceed to the next thought. There in fact wouldn't be a next thought until I switched from thinking to writing. So I wrote down the next thought, and the next. Then I ran out of thoughts and didn't find the next one until I was walking back to the hotel.

That's my creative process. Write, hit a wall, put it away. Think about it, hit a wall, proceed to the page. And repeat.

This may also be why I'm complete rubbish at pulling all-nighters, and why even on completely unscheduled days I can't whip out a complete new draft from scratch. I need time for this write-wander-think-write cycle to iterate. Time, and sleep. (But not too much at all. Is really all I want.)

Humpty Dumpty silohuette photo by ME! which is why it`s maybe hard to tell that`s what it is
Cover art incorporates and modifies “Lamia” (1905) by John William Waterhouse
someone who isn't me reads a friday fictionette and you can listen
Thu 2018-04-19 23:39:03 (single post)
  • 982 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 739 words (if poetry, lines) long

It has happened at last! Y'all remember I said that a revised version of "What Dreams May Hatch," the Friday Fictionette for September 26, 2014, would be featured on the Toasted Cake podcast sometime in April 2018? WELL, GUESS WHAT. It's April 2018, and the blessed thing went live Monday.

Here it is.

Someone who isn't me is reading it! That's kinda cool. And of course Tina Connelly is one of the best someones I could ask to read it. You should all follow Toasted Cake and listen to her read flash fiction every week, because she is a joy to listen to and she picks great stuff to read.

I should probably also mention that last week's Friday Fictionette, which went out on Saturday again, was "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" (public teaser excerpt, ebook and audiobook for Patrons). It was not inspired by the Cars song by that name, but rather by The Church's "Reptile." That plus the cover art is kinda sorta a spoiler. Sorry? Anyway, I think this is the first time I've written a story in the form of a letter to a relationships advice columnist. That's kinda cool.

Let's see. How's Camp NaNoWriMo going? Not so great over here. I've had to resign myself to the impossibility of reaching my goal. My goal was 40 hours of short story production, revision and submission by the end of April. Alas, there will be no last-minute panicked scramble to catch up. It is no longer feasible at this point. But that's actually kind of OK. While I still thought I could make it, it was actually harder to get anything done, because I was all like, "I have to do two and a half hours or there's no hope! But I don't have time or energy to do two and a half hours today! So I fail. Why bother?" Letting go of the 40-hour goal has made it easier to do a few minutes here and a half hour there and still feel it's worth while. Instead of a daily failure to hit my daily two hours (the original weekday goal), it's a daily success at spending any time on the short stories at all. Because, in all honesty, most days I don't manage even a little. This April may fall short of the original goal, but it's still been a huge improvement.

I mean, look! I already revised and submitted a thing! It came home two days later with a rejection letter, but that's OK! I can send it somewhere else! Somewhere else that welcomes Patreon reprints, anyway. (I know just the place.)

So now to spend a few minutes--just a few!--on the next thing I'm revising. It's post-derby, I'm tired, it's almost midnight, I want to sleep--but I can open the darn thing up and, oh, stare at it for a few minutes. Think about the changes I want to make to its ending. Jot down some notes about that. Then maybe even unravel a little of it in my dreams tonight.

(It would be nice to dream about the stories I'm working on. Mostly these days I have weirdly roller derby themed anxiety dreams. Those are typically not fun.)

Click through for excerpt and full cover art credits.
They came in 1 lb baskets. I had 2 to start, and a milk stout.
where i'm at and where i'm going
Sat 2018-04-07 16:46:54 (single post)
  • 1,217 words (if poetry, lines) long

No Puzzle Pirates/Spiral Knights blogging today. Had as much as I could do getting the Friday Fictionette for April 6 out on not-quite-time, and then it was half past noon and time to go eat crawfish. More about both in the paragraphs what follow.

I swear, as late as I was all through March, a Saturday morning release for a Friday Fictionette feels practically on time. I finished up production this morning and scheduled them for release at 1:00 PM today. Well, 1:00 for the ebook, 1:01 for the audiobook, and 1:15 for the HTML teaser excerpt. It's called "Contract Negotiations" and it's about the games goddesses play when they're bored and, possibly, in a mood to provoke each other.

So, here's the thing I just discovered about that. I mean, about the Friday Fictionette production process, but really about the process of drafting in 4thewords and copying the results into Scrivener? Turns out, 4TW introduces a bunch of non-breaking space characters and other invisible, unpredictable factors into the text where bog-standard word processor functions like copy/paste and turning italics on or off is concerned. It wasn't obvious until I'd already created the ebooks and was working on the excerpt and noticing "Huh, why's it look like there's double-width spaces sprinkled throughout the text? Please tell me those aren't visible in the ebooks...." THEY WERE. I had to do some really detail-oriented manual replace-and-find-next maneuvers and then recreate all three ebooks. Which was kind of infuriating. But oh well.

About crawfish: There seem to be more crawfish boils in the Denver/Boulder area all the time. Used to be, I knew one place to go, and I went there once a year: NoNo's Cafe in Littleton. Sometimes a bar would announce a very special party, but that was random and not to be counted upon. But this year I'm seeing crawfish events popping up all over my Facebook feed, like the one today at the Dark Horse in south Boulder. Which I went to. And it was fantastic. And apparently this was their third this year HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE NOW and they might do one more maybe. Oh, I'm still going to go to NoNo's; they do them the best and have the most generous serving for your buck, and I'm not just saying that because the owner's practically family. But Dark Horse has become a surprisingly close second.

In case you're wondering, I can't recommend French Quarter Brasserie on Pearl Street for boiled crawfish. The one time I went, they were overcooked and underspiced, like maybe they tried to skip the post-cook seasonings soak time and instead just boiled them a few minutes longer. You can't get away with doing that and charging $14 per pound. By comparison, Dark Horse was $12 per pound, and NoNo's comes to about $11 per pound when you do the math (they do all-you-can-eat 'til they're gone, like a proper Gulf South neighborhood crawfish boil, pouring them out onto newspaper-covered tables for everyone to dig in).

(Don't get me wrong, I am happy with FQB for oysters on the half shell. I'm pleased enough with what they call po-boys despite that what they call po-boys involves remoulade instead of mayonnaise and soft hoagies rather than French bread; for me, the hard crust that crackles to pieces, sprays a five-foot radius with crumbs, and cuts the roof of your mouth is not a selling point. Maybe that makes me a heretic. Whatever. I prefer soft bread. And the amount of fried crawfish they put on my so-called po-boy was delightfully generous. I'm not a po-boys purist, OK? But I have standards when it comes to crawfish, and, much as it pains me to say it, FQB did not meet them.)

So that's where I'm at today as of right now: pleasantly full of crawfish and finally done with the April 6 Friday Fictionette. As for where I'm going, that'll be a reprise of last week's pizza-cocktails-and-Spiral-Knights date with John (at Beaujo's in Longmont and Vapor Distillery in Boulder). Saturdays are good.

lather rinse whine repeat
Thu 2018-04-05 00:33:42 (single post)
  • 1,097 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 727 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have been slowly working my way through the revision of "Survival, After." It was under 750 words when I first wrote it; it had to be, given the constraints of the contest I wrote it for. Now it just has to be whatever length it needs to be in order to succeed at what it wants to do. Turns out it needs to be longer than it was; no surprises there. New scenes need to be created. Existing scenes need to be fleshed out more, their implications teased out. New rough draft needs to be written. And that's not fair! This teeny tiny short-short story was supposed to only need a quick once-over before it was ready to submit somewhere! I don't want to write new rough draft! New rough draft will itself need to be rewritten! Where does it end?

Fiction is frickin' fractal.

Today I wound up working on something different. Yesterday, during the submissions procedures portion of my work day, I discovered that a market I want to submit to is in the middle of a submission call for themed fiction under 1,000 words. And this market is not only reprint friendly--reprint encouraging, in fact--but it's also Patreon reprint friendly. I think "The Soup Witch's Funeral" might fit the theme pretty well, but I'll have to trim it down to two-thirds of its length first. I got a start on doing that today. Looks like when I get through this first pass it'll have gone from 1550 to maybe 1250, and I think I can do a second pass to tighten it up the rest of the way tomorrow. Then I'll be able to submit it.

And then I'll go back to writing brand new rough draft for the "Survival, After" rewrite. And rewriting the new material. And whining about it.

whether it's an excuse or an explanation depends on the night
Tue 2018-04-03 23:52:51 (single post)
  • 4,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

OMG lookit me I'm writing after derby. Help.

I go back and forth on whether I can usefully get stuff done after derby. When I started this post during the last half hour before practice, I was thinking, this whole "can't work after derby, sorry" thing is just an excuse. But at that time I hadn't had derby yet. It's easy to plan to be virtuous when I haven't had three hours of skating hard, hitting and getting hit, attempting to perform strategy while metaphorical bricks are being thrown at me, and then doing a whole bunch of off-skates conditioning hell. Now that I have done those things, I'm feeling less gung-ho about writing, or in fact doing anything other than collapsing into bed. But I had a Perfect Day on Habitica yesterday--a day where I completed and checked off all my Dailies--and I'm damn well going to make today a Perfect Day, too. So I'm doing writing stuff after derby. Gods help me.

In addition to finishing this blog post, I also committed to doing my submissions procedures. Submission procedures isn't just one of my Habitica Dailies, and thus required for a Perfect Day, it's also hours I count toward my Camp NaNoWriMo goal! Any work done on drafting, revising, or submitting short stories counts. (I'd already done today's short story revision work, which was also a Daily I needed to check off. I only worked on it for about a half hour, but that counts.) But the thought of attempting to put together a submission late at night on a post-derby brain is kind of scary. I mean, post-derby brain is capable of all sorts of ridiculous mistakes. Post-derby brain has trouble telling black from white and counting to five, y'all. How am I going to rely on it to scrupulously follow submission guidelines, remember which editors I'm emailing, and attach the right file?

Theoretically, this can be easy and even mindless. Take that same manuscript file that went out last time, attach it to an email going to the new place (or upload it via their submission form, whatever), and off you go. Theoretically. But that's before you consider that some markets require blind submissions, so you have to scrub your identifying information off the page headers. And some editors prefer real italics and some prefer you use underlines in place of italics. Some editors really, really hate the Courier font, so you probably better change that to Times New Roman or Verdana or whatever it is they like. (Or maybe you hate Courier, but the market you're considering is all MONOSPACE OR DIE. Everyone's a potential casualty in the font wars.) So it's in the author's best interest to read the submission guidelines carefully and make whatever adjustments they require.

But before I get into all that, I have to know which story I'm sending out and where I'm sending it to. And that's really hard for post-derby brain to figure out, especially when pre-derby brain kind of had no idea either.

Thank goodness for the Submissions Grinder. It's a free-to-use submissions-tracking system built on top of a truly enormous market database. The whole thing is a labor of love and community service by Diabolical Plots and David Steffen, and I don't know what I would do without it. Poor post-derby brain Niki can just log in, click "Manage Pieces," and scroll down the list, and say to her self, "Oh, 'Caroline's Wake' isn't currently out in slush, is it? It should be. It's one of my best stories. I should submit it somewhere." Then I can click on the corresponding "Run Search" link to pull up a market search form already filled out with the stats for this particular story, and easily get a list of markets which accept submissions of that length, in that genre, and which I have not submitted this story to before. (That last is important. I got that last bit wrong once recently and it was so embarrassing. The rejection letter was very kind. They said they remembered the story and how much they admired it the first time they read it, but they would really like to see something else by me, pretty please.)

Anyway, that's what I did when I got home from derby. And while I didn't actually find a place to submit that story, I found a place I could submit it just as soon as they reopened to general submissions. In the meantime, they are reading for a very particular theme and format, for which one of my other stories might be a perfect fit, only first I need to trim it down to about two thirds its current length.

Which I will attempt to do tomorrow because, having fulfilled my duty vis-à-vis blogging and submissions procedures, collapsing in bed is imminent. Me and my sore, beat-up, worn-out body wish you a good night.

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