“...and I didn't know how it was going to end until I got there, which is the best and the worst kind of writing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art features original photography by the artist. The building is in Burlington, Iowa; the hand belongs to a random person in a crowd.
this fictionette fulfilled almost all expectations
Sat 2016-10-01 13:03:52 (single post)
  • 2,784 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,209 words (if poetry, lines) long

The Friday Fictionette nominally for September 23, 2016 but functionally for September 30 has gone up. I put it up last night, but then I pretty much collapsed, so you get the blog post today. It's "Living It Up," and, as mentioned before, it's mostly a shameless hate-fic in reaction to one of my least favorite stories of recent years. (Because of the Puppying of the Hugos, I feel I should specify that nothing makes it onto my "least favorite stories" list if it didn't stand a chance of not being on that list in the first place. Otherwise the list would be unmanageably long.) But as I wrote it and had to give examples of the main character's boyfriend being a jerk, I wound up coloring him in with the broad brush I obtained as a small child being bullied by my older cousins and one particular uncle. The rest of the family had various enabling spins on the bullying; one of them was that I clearly had no sense of humor or else I'd find the bullying funny. So... that kind of informed the development of the antagonist of this fictionette.

Look, I never promised you subtlety in this exercise. You get an ebook and an audiobook version depending on your subscription tier, you get them four times a month, you get sentences and paragraphs that more or less make sense and add up to a story-like object, and you get a glimpse into my writing process whether you want it or not. You don't necessarily get literature.

I had a nice long day in Metairie after my nice long day on the train: rental car adventures, traffic on I-10 West, the last 15 minutes of game play (which is to say, the better part of an hour) of my high school's homecoming game--which they won by a comfortable margin and with several showy interceptions too--and then dinner courtesy of My Father the Cook. (Venison and green onion sausage with a side of garden-fresh okra? Yes please thank you any time!) Stayed up late talking with Dad and exchanging stand-up comedian recommendations--not the best of ideas, as it turns out; he didn't get Maria Bamford, and I'll be happy not to hear any more of Anthony Jeselnik pretty much ever. But we both partake of the geek/nerd/fan nature and want so much to share with each other the things we enjoy! In any case, we didn't part ways for the night until well past 9:00 PM. Generally I consider that downright early, but after all the day's activity and travel I was ready to drop.

Oh, right, predictions for Thursday. They were good! Everything happened as hope--including skating in Chicago! There was no rain falling when I got there, though it clearly had fallen (and was still falling in Naperville). I did indeed skate the Lakefront Trail to Navy Pier. The trail's paving is not the best for skates--it's very bumpy--but it goes all the way there. Then a very diligent security guard made me de-wheel myself on the pier itself. I met my friend for dinner at Giordanos by the Children's Museum and we had a far too short visit before he had to drive me back to the train station.

Once I got settled on the train, I spent some time trying to prepare "Stand By For Your Assignment" for submission. That story is giving me such trouble. I can't seem to make the words do what I want them to do. The story goes clunk, clunk, clunk. I think I need to stand back and give it more of an eagle's eye once-over, ask myself what I'm trying to do with the story overall, and only once I have the larger structure pointing in that direction will I be able to get any joy on a line-by-line level.

I'm terribly afraid I'm stuck in the perfection trap, though. The one where you never finish and you never move on because you can't seem to get it perfect. I keep telling myself, just let the story stand as a record of where your craft is now, so you can move on to where your craft is trying to go. But the story needs to be at least publishable before I let it go, right? In theory?

Anyway, that was Thursday night. Friday morning, instead of doing more work on "Stand By...," I played around with a new story idea inspired by an anecdote I overheard, told by one of the train staff (assistant conductor, maybe?) in the sightseer lounge. I'm not going to get this right, and I have no idea how true it is, but it began, "This town we're passing through here, Stanton, Iowa..." Seems there was a woman who traveled from France to the U.S., took a job as a nanny for some family somewhere, but turned out to be unsuited for the job, possibly due to mental illness, also possibly due to not having the proper immigration documents, and she just... ran away? Disappeared into the midwest, I guess, and wound up in Stanton, Iowa. And that's where the immigration officials finally caught up with her, months later. Or at least found out what became of her? I'm not sure; I just remember that the last thing the storyteller said, which seemed like a complete non sequitor, not to mention at right angles to reality, was, "I guess the feral cats got to her."

*Blink. Blink.* Feral cats? Did I mishear? I don't know, but that day's freewriting exercise had the writing prompt "The feral cats of Stanton, Iowa." (It may also have been influenced by having recently read "If You Were a Tiger, I'd Have to Wear White" by Maria Dahvana Headley.) It seems likely to turn into a real story, too. And that's good, because I need to stockpile submission-ready short stories this month--but that's another story which I shall tell at another time.

The view from this morning
eighty percent chance of solid offline productivity
Thu 2016-09-29 14:30:44 (single post)

Tonight, like last night, I'll spend on a train with no internet access. My only chance to upload a blog post will be during my five-hour layover, and only a very little of that since I have made plans to visit with an old friend. Which means I'm blogging from the naive and optimistic beginning of the day rather than from the resigned and exhausted end.

So. Hello from 9:20 in the morning!. That's rather earlier than my morning shift usually starts. But I gave up on sleep as a lost cause when I heard the man in the seat behind me saying, loudly, clearly, in an unmoderated daytime voice, "They don't start serving coffee until six o'clock." Thank you, good sir, for that information, which is only relevant to my life because you and your loud voice and lack of situational awareness wouldn't let me sleep past six. But since you have made it relevant to me, thank you for passing it along. Also thank you for your continuing updates on how you think everyone around you slept. Slept, past tense, as though no one around you were still trying to sleep.

From here it is still impossible to tell whether I'll get to go trail-skating in Chicago. I leaned on another passenger and their smartphone to give me an update on the weather forecast; they told me "Sixty percent chance of rain diminishing to fifty and then forty as the day goes on." That sounds slightly more optimistic than the NOAA's bare-bones prediction of fifty percent all day. I do not like uncertainty! I want to make plans. I don't want to spring last-minute changes on my friend, who has to drive and park and navigate a work schedule. I'm almost to the point of saying, whatever, fine, I'm skating, I'm committing to it, meet me at Navy Pier. If my wheels get wet, who cares? I'm riding on my oldest and crappiest set of bearings. But then I think about attempting to get traction over two miles of wet pavement, and I get doubts.

From here, too, I can't so much report on today's writing as make predictions about it. So. Based on the time available to me on the train, I predict hitting the five hour mark. Based on how close I got to completing the overdue September 23 fictionette during yesterday's five hours, I predict there will be a solid session of short story revision today. I'm a little disappointed over not having a revision session yesterday, but it couldn't be helped. The fictionette's lingering. The story itself is... well, not very subtle, I guess. Not a surprise. Lack of subtlety is why it's a fictionette. One way a freewriting session becomes a fictionette is, when the 25-minute timer goes ding, I say to myself, "I'm going to get a lot of satisfaction out of turning this into a real story, but there is no way any editor in charge of a budget will want to buy it." But it would appear I'm less resigned to producing a 1200-word clue-by-four to the head than I thought I'd be. Also there's this temptation to turn the author's note into a full-on detailed review of the short story to which this fictionette is reacting. Not a favorable review, as you might imagine. Intensely unfavorable. There's the temptation to go on and on.

Still, I got it mostly done. I expect to get it all the way done today, or at least as close to done as I can while both offline (no uploadig) and in public (no recording the audiofictionette), such that what remains will be easily accomplished Friday evening in Metairie.

So those are my predictions. Come back tomorrow to see how accurate they were!

The view from here.
less stress more beer. i mean train. more train.
Wed 2016-09-28 17:55:48 (single post)

So as it turns out I did have time to make those tomatillos into salsa verde. Roasted them this time. Added lots of raw onion and garlic. Also, instead of simply omitting the cilantro, I substituted parsley. I like parsley. Anyway, that'll be waiting in the freezer for me when I get back (or for John if he wants some while I'm out). Also made five hard boiled eggs into egg salad, and made a stupid amount of egg salad and cucumber sandwiches on sourdough. Chopped up a bunch of farm veg raw for the snack bag too. Never made it to the grocery, but, hey, monster ton of sandwiches and raw veg! Also did a bunch of clean-up around the house and in the fridge, folded all the laundry, read the volunteer reading, and was generally all-around industrious.

I did not manage to type up the Fictionette Artifacts, though. I packed a caligraphy pen instead.

Since leaving the house and toiling, overladen with luggage, to the bus station, I have begun making a list of things I have forgotten. (Lists. I make lists. That one character in Valente's Palimpsest, the one who makes lists? She and me, we're like this.) The first item kicked off the list while I was waiting at the bus stop within view but not reach of my house: the surprise I wanted to include in one of the Fictionette Artifacts By Mail. Drat. The most recently added list item--that pair of disposable earplugs I'd worn on the lawnmower Monday and thought might come in handy on the train--I only thought of just now. I'm sure there will be more. That is the nature of travel. You sacrifice a few petty items to the Gods of Forgetting, and They ensure you don't forget any of the important stuff. Like, say, medications, or any vital part of my skate gear.

Speaking of skating, I have heard that there is a bike path that runs along the lake east of the Loop in Chicago that is very nice. Possibly associated with Navy Pier? I know nothing. Google tells me it's called Lakefront Trail. I should like to skate there tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, the forecast for Chicago calls for a 50% chance of showers all afternoon and evening. Thwarted! But I suppose that, according to math, that forecast also represents a 50% chance of no showers. Perhaps I will be lucky.

Meanwhile, I'm having a well-deserved rest from pre-travel stress in Denver Union Station. Denver Union Station is the best. I devoured a shrimp salad sandwich from Acme Delicatessen, over on the left. I am now enjoying a Citradelic IPA from the Terminal bar, just behind me. I am utilizing wi-fi provided by the Crawford Hotel, on my right, and electricity from the charging hub right in front of me here. Life is good.

(The jukebox in my brain is all, "Hey, that sounds like a Kate Bush song! You will now have 'Lily' stuck in your head all evening. You're welcome." I sure hope I have a copy of The Red Shoes in my Music folder.)

Nothing left to worry about except making sure I finish my beer before the train arrives. *checks time* I think I'm up to the challenge.

It's OK. The tomatillos can wait.
less stress more veg
Tue 2016-09-27 23:59:59 (single post)

I woke up this morning with ALL THE STRESS because tomorrow is departure day. I've been excited and happily looking forward to "Five days in New Orleans, yay!" and "Double overnight train trip, bliss!" since I made the reservation, but apparently "Oh shit I have so much to do before I leave town" didn't become emotionally real until my alarm went off today.

Thus, interlude with soothing vegetables. In theory, anyway. I am trying not to think things like "Gotta cook and puree the tomatillos in another batch of salsa verde which I will freeze before I leave" and "Wash carrots! Chop carrots! Bag up carrots for trip! Make salad-to-go! Egg salad and cucumber sandwiches! Must also get to grocery for trail mix, hard cheese and beef jerky!" and also "I'm going to be gone nine days, I have to boil down all the leafy greens now!" No. Hush. Soothing vegetables. Vegetables with a respectable shelf life. It'll be fine. Ssh.

I've been stressing and snappish and despairing and panicky by turns. It's been icky. Finally, on the drive over to roller derby practice, I realized that by 9:30 I'd be even more panicky and also exhausted from practice, and that discretion was the better part of valor, and that it might be kinder to myself to skip practice in order to Get Pre-Travel Stuff Done. So I dropped John off, packed up my gear (I'd left it at the practice space rather than shlep it home Sunday), and turned right around for home. And, damn, I Got Stuff Done! I'm in a much happier place now.

Still, some things remain necessary to do before I go:

  • Type up the September Fictionette Artifacts to mail from New Orleans
  • Put my outdoor wheels on my skates
  • Do all the laundry
  • Pack all the things
  • Call the car rental place to reserve a car and also pick-up service at New Orleans Union Station
  • Scrapbook all the browser tabs I have open that contain short fiction I want to read on the train
  • Download podcasts
  • Do the usual volunteer reading for Wednesday
  • Visit the grocery store to finish provisioning my snack/meals-on-train bag

This is not an impossible list, thankfully. Especially since I'm not exhausted from derby. Also, one of the tasks I'd accomplished this evening was something I'd been Procrastinating Through Dread, and it is scientifically proven that accomplishing such a task frees up three times as much energy as the task itself requires. So I'm actually feeling pretty chipper now. My get-up-and-go has arrived with a can-do attitude in tow.

Meanwhile the list of things I need to do but which can wait until I am actually on the train, or at least until I'm at Denver Union Station, is much shorter:

  • Finish preparing the Friday Fictionette that was for September 23
  • Other daily writing tasks
  • Giving some long-overdue attention to the short fiction revision queue

In other words, I finally get to write. Yay for trains!

i see what she means now
Mon 2016-09-26 23:43:12 (single post)

Story time! Some ten or so years ago, I was possessed of a sudden desire to learn to fly. I had walked from my house to the Boulder Municipal Airport, where I saw a sign that said LEARN TO FLY HERE and watched a little plane do a touch-and-go, and I thought, "That's right--I could!"

At the time, I had a neighbor the next stairwell over who was a flight attendant. Upon hearing my thought, she immediately tried to dissuade me. "No, no, you don't want to do that. Those little planes are awful. They shake and they rattle and you can feel every tiniest bit of turbulence like you're going to fall out of the sky any minute, and they're noisy. You know those lawnmowers that you ride on? They're like lawnmowers with wings. And that's what you'd log your first kajillion hours in. You don't want to do that, trust me."

I found her reaction odd. I'd been expecting encouragement. I mean, she was up in planes all the time. Why would she want to discourage another person--another woman, even--from being a pilot? By contrast, my mother, whom I'd expected to get nervous and scared at the thought of her daughter risking her life fifteen hundred feet in the air every week, got really excited about it when I told her. "You can do anything you put your mind to," she told me. "If you want to learn to fly, do it!"

The short story is, I began taking lessons and eventually earned my private pilot's license. Mom was thrilled; she bragged to friends that her daughter was a renaissance woman: "She writes stories, programs web pages, spins her own yarn, and flies planes." I don't remember what my neighbor had to say about it. She eventually moved away, but not before contriving to have a bridge-burning fight with just about everyone in the condominium building whom she knew, including me. (In my case it was a fight about my expecting her to bring used wine glasses back to the kitchen or at least stand them upright on a table when she was done with them rather than leaving them on the couch for me to discover between the cushions the next day. Or something like that.)

Anyway.

I haven't been in the cockpit for years--since before I began skating roller derby, in fact--but that's not the point. The point is, today I learned how to operate a ride-on lawnmower. And whatever else my neighbor was wrong about, she was right about this much: that machine really is rather reminiscent of a Cessna 172. The engine noise is similar, if not to the same scale. Earplugs help. The lawnmower also has in common with a small plane the throttle that you sometimes have to futz with to get things started. It has a checklist for startup and shutdown, if a shorter one than the airplane does. And if its engine suddenly dies on you, your first course of action is to see if you can restart it. Just like in a plane, except without that fiddly "set attitude for best glide speed" or "identify a an emergency landing location" stuff.

And that's my story. The end.

tomatillos rolling everywhere
friday service is delayed, please stay tuned
Fri 2016-09-23 22:11:14 (single post)

This week's Friday Fictionette will trickle on into the weekend, because it's been One of Those Weeks. So instead I present you with a picture of this week's farm share, also late for the same reason. The sharp-eyed among you will notice the little baggie of tomatillos next to the jalapeņo and are possibly wondering "So, when's salsa night?" Salsa night will be Sunday. John and I will make salsa, eat salsa with chips, and possibly watch the latest episode of Steven Universe. Details are still up in the air.

Tonight was zucchnni, garlic, kale (or possibly kohlrabi leaves), and sausage night. With bits of farm bread added to the pan at the last minute to soak up the sausage grease. The sausage was cheddar bratwurst.

Tomorrow night will be marinated chicken night. I have all this beer I didn't drink in time to enjoy as beer, so I will enjoy it as a marinade. The chicken will be a bunch of boneless, skinless thighs from the SALE bin at Whole Foods. Like it just knew I had all this beer to marinate it in, or something.

Next week is looking a little less likely to be One of Those Weeks, because of Deliberate, Assertive Action and also I'll be getting on a train for New Orleans. Traaaaaaain. Five days back home bracketed by hours and hours of just me and my computer on a train. BLISS.

About this, more later, inevitably.

Cover art incorporates orignal photography by the author, who really should have taken the picture while it was still daylight.
this fictionette is part of a complete breakfast
Fri 2016-09-16 23:56:46 (single post)
  • 1,051 words (if poetry, lines) long

The Friday Fictionette for September 16 is up. It's "The Starring Role" (subscriber links: ebook, audiobook) and it's about fairy tales and protagonizing in them. It's not a lot of fun, really. Lots of ashes to sweep. Lots of fiddly grains and seeds to sort. And then at the end of it all, what do you get? A prince, sure, but is he really all that and a bag of Zapp's Cajun Dill Gator-Tators? Also, fairy tales generally don't stock Zapp's potato chips. *Sad.*

It's bout weekend for the Boulder County Bombers "Bombshells" team--tournament weekend, actually. Two days. Seven teams. A heck of a lot of roller derby. We went in this evening and taped the track, set up tables and chairs, erected a scoreboard projection screen, and arranged other assorted props and items of furniture. The place is set up and more or less ready to go. Skaters begin checking in bright and early tomorrow morning, and the first bout begins at 10:00 AM. The last bout of the day won't be over until at least 7:30 PM, and then we do it all over again on Sunday. YOU WANT TO BE THERE. No, you do, you really do. I'm going to be there. So should you.

Dang. This blog post is a complete and balanced breakfast, isn't it? Writing, derby, grains and legumes, potato chips. All it needs is coffee or something.

advice to alternate universe me
Thu 2016-09-15 23:18:32 (single post)

Note to self: Do not begin Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song as bedtime reading because you WILL NOT be able to put the book down (it was almost every bit as good as advertised) unfinished, and a night of only four hours of sleep is not conducive to getting anything productive done the next morning.

Possibly this is a note to an alternate universe version of myself for whom the advice does not yet come too late.

It really was a very good book.

impending kettle-bell hell and possibly too much beer
Wed 2016-09-14 23:44:47 (single post)

I'm just back from viewing D2 footage with some of my teammates. I have thoughts. I will probably incorporate those thoughts into the long-delayed blog post, tentatively titled "What I Did On My Summer Vacation in Wichita," that I've been meaning to write for going on a month now. I will probably write it tomorrow. Definitely not tonight. Tonight I do not have any thoughts. It is late and I am tired. I am also inordinately full of beer, having hung out at Skeye Brewing again after my chiro appointment and having purchased a growler of their Jinxie Wheat. It's a little more bitter than I generally like my wheat beers, but that did not stop me from drinking it all afternoon and evening.

(When I do write that long-delayed D2 blog post, I need to remember Whiskey's comment about back-block penalties and chiropractic treatments. Not now. Tomorrow. I'm just dropping this parenthetical here so I stand a chance of remembering tomorrow.)

Note: Turns out, the restaurant I ordered the crispy duck from last week was Spicy House. I ordered from them again today. They're on Eat24.com, so I placed my order over the internet while I was still at Cafe of Life enjoying a post-traction ice pack on my neck. Food arrived maybe five minutes after I arrived at Skeye. Super convenient! I had the Seafood Delight this time. Its portions of jumbo shrimp, fish, scallop, and squid are exceedingly generous.

Anyway, I arrived home tired and a little tipsy, but not so much of either that I couldn't accept a little help from Papa Whiskey with my push-up form. We got to talking on the drive home about what I need to be a more effective blocker on the track, and, in his opinion, it's more muscle. He made an off-hand comment about "if we could just pack about 50 pounds more muscle on you," then, after acknowledging that this was quite probably an exaggeration, he noted that, realistically, when I go to block an opponent and my timing is good, my technique is good, but the execution still somehow just fails, it's a matter of strength.

Honestly, says he, what I really need to do is start lifting. I say, cool. Please to suggest some baby steps toward incorporating lifting into my life. So what we come up with is, let's start with 10 push-ups twice a week, then add some kettle-bell hell in a couple weeks. So we spent a few minutes finding space in the house where we could have me do push-ups and swing a kettle-bell to make sure my form is correct, which is to say, likely to work the target muscle groups and also unlikely to injure me.

I should point out that extra-curricular one-on-one strength-training is not in the job description of the Boulder County Bombers Head Coach position. That John tolerates, even encourages, my continuing to pick his brain at home, is rather above and beyond the call of duty. I recognize this and appreciate it accordingly.

But anyway, so, that's why Fleur is just that much more tired tonight. Yay?

Hey look there's CORN!
life is what obliges you, when you're planning to be virtuous, to be virtuous in some other way
Tue 2016-09-13 22:56:54 (single post)

Ever had one of those mornings where you wake up ready to do all the things, and then life gets in the way? Right. Like that. I even got up early for an 8:00 a.m. dental cleaning, came home around 9:00, and didn't go back to bed. I was awake all of the hours, but life kept wedging its way into every one of them. Appointments! Errands! Cleaning! Importunate hummingbirds!

Thankfully, I was able to convince myself with a clean conscience that some bits of life counted as writing. "Business copy-writing, pro-bono." Sound good? Right. Well, that bit of business copy-writing pretty much filled up my afternoon shift and brought me to four-hour mark; this blog post will bring me to the coveted five-hour mark.

And if it doesn't... well, I have ever so many other writing tasks need doing. And for once I'm not suffering a total enervated poop-out after derby. (I had derby tonight. Yes, my team's still on break, but heck if I'm going to miss a RollerCon debriefing practice. That's where they teach us all the things!) So. Hi.

Here's a bit of life that is tasty: the weekly CSA pick-up. The bread's a walnut sourdough this time because the regular wasn't available sliced at the moment and I was feeling adventurous. John seems to like it too; he's been munching on it while taking notes on the bout footage our team's going to be studying tomorrow evening. Collards, kale, and chard are all making an appearance. So are tomatoes, cucumber, and squash. Peppers are back--turns out they really are just bell peppers, despite that last week's did have more of a hot edge than I expect in a bell. Must have been all that hot and dry weather (where did it go, by the way? Woke up this morning and it was overcast and drizzly. Are you telling me fall is finally here?). And, making its exciting debut (at least in this venue), corn! These ears were grown at a farm in Longmont which appears to have set up a trade with the Diaz Farm for mutual fresh yumminess.

Today was a good day for eating farm fresh goodness. Breakfast was one of those hashbrown/omelet/fritter concoctions featuring kohlrabi leaves still kicking around in the crisper drawer. Also garlic, because by now I've got oodles. Lunch was Annie's Mac & Cheese, var. "Peace Parmesan," featuring kale and yellow squash from the Diaz Farm and ground Italian-style sausage from Spring Tree Farms. That would be the show pigs farm in Longmont CO, not the wedding location in Tennessee--although Baconator has hosted a few weddings on her farm, to be sure, and they were lovely affairs. But mainly she's about the pigs--hence the skate name--and she always gives her roller derby league advance notice when she's about to process a critter into sausage. We buy it up like woah, because it is delicious.

Cooking experiments inspired by Patricia McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe also continue, sometimes almost by accident. Last week Wednesday I left my chiropractic appointment and wandered up the road to Skeye Brewing. Skeye has beer, and not much else. But Skeye wants you to drink more of the yummy beer, and if that involves helping you pick a tasty nearby food joint to order delivery from, then by all means. I ordered the crispy duck from one of the Chinese options (I honestly don't remember which; it's the one with a minimum delivery order of $12 instead of $15. I'll pay better attention next time). I brought home the bones and what shreds of meat I wasn't able to devour all in one sitting, and I wound up over the weekend simmering it with bay and cloves for soup, remembering the bit where the fictional head cook decrees a similar fate for the bones of a ham that went uneaten because of Plot Crisis. When it had simmered for a few hours, I drained the broth, put it back into a pot, added what meat was left along with the leftover fried rice, and had a fine light-yet-hearty soup for dinner. It was a lot like dirty rice, only soupier.

So with a certain amount of life out of the way, I go now to enjoy the bits of life that involve doing absolutely nothing productive until bedtime. Huzzah!

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