“As a writer one of your jobs is to bring news of the world to the world.”
Grace Paley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

next time please super-size my pleasant summer day meal deal
Tue 2015-06-02 23:18:48 (single post)
  • 1,141 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today was one of those fresh summer days that wants to come in through every window. I opened up the patio door and the office window, which have screens. I opened up the front door, which, oddly, doesn't; it has something I want to call a screen door, but it has no actual screens in it. It has three glass panels. I figured out how to slide one of them up, but, again, there's no screen. One must choose between air in or bugs out. One cannot have both, at least not until I install a screen or just replace the door.

Replacing the "screen" door would probably be fine. Its latch is broken, too, such that it's difficult to get it to latch shut from the inside and entirely impossible from the outside.

Nevermind! The fresh summer day came in by the patio door and the office window, and extra light came in by the not-really-a-screen-door, and I found the energy to get some household chores done. Laundry, dishes, taking out the recyclables. Topping off the bird feeder. Attempting to rescue spinach seedlings that got dug up in the night, probably by that jerk the squirrel. (Seriously, I need to just bring all the plants in overnight. This is ridiculous.)

I even took a rag and some lemon oil and my spinning wheel outside, and I made a first pass at cleaning off the storage unit grime. All the dust came off, but there are stubborn stains on the treadles, probably from years of having that little bottle of spinning wheel oil hanging upside and dripping onto them. Still, some progress was made. At least the poor thing is no longer gross to handle.

What I'd really like to do is invite fiber-geek friends over and have a little spin-in on that front patio. Now that the summer heat has reached us, it's no longer a dim and freezing cold dungeon. But it's not so full of sun as to be wearying, either. And I've got happy little shade-tolerant plants hanging out there, the decade-old spaths and the new baskets of impatiens and begonias. It would be lovely to sit out there and sip tea and spin yarn (literally) and also spin yarns (figuratively).

Alas, I didn't get to any spinning today. Nor the piano. Mostly I spent the afternoon fighting with Patreon's new input interface while turning "Because You Weren't There" into the May 2015 Fictionette Freebie. The new interface is, in theory, a great improvement over the old. Not only can you input rich text via HTML now, but you can also upload new attachments to, and change out the image of, an existing creation. (You couldn't do that before. I KNOW.) However, there's a bug such that depending on the click path you use to get to the edit interface, the "save" button might not actually save your changes. That is, if you click through to a single post view, and then click Edit, you're fine. But if you click the Edit button attached to the post where it appears as an item in your posts stream, it will be a no-go.

But the post I wanted to edit--the plain-text excerpt of the Fictionette--I had created through the Activity Stream interface rather than through the Creations interface. Which isn't a distinction that ought to matter, since the new interface files both of them under "Creator Posts" as opposed to "All Posts" (that is, posts you posted, or messages your Patrons posted to you). But it matters this much: Posts created under the Activity Stream rubric appear to no longer have an Edit button within the single post view. I can only get in to edit them via the button on the item in the posts stream. Which click path, as I said, leads to a non-functional Save Post button.

Also, have I mentioned that since the interface update, some Patron-only posts got set to Accessible By Everyone? And probably vice versa? Pardon me while I go double-check the status of every single item in my archive since September 2014. Whee.

Finally, after beating my head against that brick wall for far too long, I struck a compromise. I gave up on trying to edit the post, and just created a whole damn new one, with the full text in HMTL and the links to the PDF and MP3 and also the announcement that it was now free for all to download regardless of your pledge tier or Patron status. And I emailed Patreon's support staff with the bug report, which hopefully isn't too rambling for them to understand. The above two paragraphs should give an idea of whether I succeeded; the email was more rambling than that, I fear. Then, at last, I turned my attention to Other Matters.

Which, it being now an hour until I had to leave for roller derby practice, meant things like getting into my derby clothes, cooking myself dinner, packing up my skate gear, and things like that.

Here's hoping tomorrow's work day doesn't get whittled away by technological frustrations like today's did. And that I get all the things done. And still get time to spin yarn and practice piano and maybe play a little on Puzzle Pirates too. And read blogs. And go for a long walk around Sale Lake. And...

Optimism! It's what's for midnight snackies!

First time using the spinning wheel in months. First time spinning this fleece since rescuing it from moths.
welcome home stranger
Mon 2015-06-01 23:37:03 (single post)

On the occasion of Shuttles Spindles Skeins's monthly spin-in-and-knit-in, I brought home my spinning wheel and fiber stash from our rented storage unit. Some of the fiber appears to have sustained new moth activity, so none of it's coming into the house until I've had a chance to evaluate, treat, and adequately store each individually. Until then, it stays in our storage closet in the parking garage.

Exception #1: My portion of the brown fleece off Sheepfeathers Farm's "Daphne" seems to have escaped the moths' hunger entirely. I pawed through it and found no visible eggs, "confetti" debris, or broken fibers. Still, it was stored close to the other fibers, so it gets put into several gallon-sized resealable bags, and they go inside a lidded plastic bin of their own.

Exception #2: What is left of the half-fleece of black lamb's wool (probably CVM) after I discovered moths in it last year, I've felt confident assuming it's clean of moths now. This is because at the time of the moth discovery, I went into emergency anti-month action. All the bits that had been chewed on got thrown into the compost. What remained, about three-fourths of the original amount of wool, got washed in very hot water. Then it all went out on the balcony to dry and then to freeze and thaw repeatedly at the mercy of the incoming winter. Then it all got put into a big black plastic bag, which got aggressively tied closed. As the bag had no holes in it that I could find, I presumed the wool clean enough to take to the spin-in without endangering others' fiber.

Discovering moths in fiber that I'd last touched months or even years ago is doubly distressing. First off, I paid good money for that wool, I maybe already put good effort into washing it and spinning it, and I had plans for its potential. That potential has now been trashed, or at least significantly curtailed. Secondly, it feels like a rebuke: "If you'd only washed and spun and knit me sooner, instead of procrastinating like you always do, this wouldn't have happened." (The parallel with long-neglected writing projects is an exercise left to the reader.)

Taking action helps. Spinning a good ten or fifteen locks of the black lamb at the spin-in tonight, that helps. Bringing the fiber home and enacting a plan to treat and store it all correctly, that helps too. Deciding that I will spin Every! Single! Day! helps, too, but is probably overly optimistic of me. I haven't actually practiced the piano since bringing the bench home from repair. But I could if I wanted to! And now that the spinning wheel and drop-spindles are home, spinning is a possibility too.

Bunch of other things came home: more sheet music, a couple boxes of T-shirts and jeans waiting to be turned into quilts, all but one of the musical instruments, and a couple of boxes of Random Things. I'm daunted by how much is still in there, though. When we were in the throes of house-moving, we promised ourselves we'd clear out of the rented storage unit in six weeks. But it took us six weeks just to feel like we'd put enough stuff away to justify bringing more stuff into the house. So we're behind schedule on it. So what else is new.

But the spinning wheel is home. So is the majority of the sheet music. These things make me happy.

getting stuff done is for the birds and also weekends
Fri 2015-05-29 23:24:17 (single post)

So I took today off. It's the fifth Friday; I get to do that on fifth Fridays. Especially in the case of a day completely without scheduled obligations and nobody home but me. I pretty much slept until I woke up, then grabbed a book of Cordwainer Smith short stories and read myself back to sleep. It was glorious.

In between short stories, there were breaks for watching grackles raid the bird feeder. The bird feeder is the sort with a nut-and-seed compartment in the middle and suet cake compartments on either side. The grackles like the suet cakes, especially the one that came labeled "no-melt formula." They have a Method. It goes something like this:

  1. Land on the roof to scout out the scene.
  2. Announce intentions via a single chirp/croak.
  3. Flap over to the feeder and stuff beak as full as possible with suet cake crumbs.
  4. Flap down to railing or floor of balcony to spit out the loot.
  5. Eat the loot daintily from this secondary location.
  6. Except for the last crumb, which they will take away with them into the trees.

Basically, they're like diners at an all-you-can-eat buffet who still get to take leftovers home in the doggie bag. It's hilarious. I love watching them strut around the balcony, all crow-like, full of exaggerated decorum.

The house finches are hilarious, too, especially when they arrive in groups, scolding and fluttering at each other in a mobile, airborne quarrel. They look like they're fighting over who gets the best spot on the feeder. They may also be engaging in their typical mating ritual, which as far as I can tell involves the male finch showing off how fantastically red his head and butt are, and the female finch demonstrating how fantastically fed up with him she is.

Sparrows show up less frequently and act a little shy. They're more easily scared off by my movements inside the house, and they give way to the finches without argument. Strikes me as weird, considering that most of my interactions with sparrows involve them mobbing my feet on outdoor patios at cafes and demanding to know whether I'm done with that muffin.

And then there's this little tiny bird, maybe two-thirds the size of a sparrow, that I still haven't managed to get a good look at yet. It makes an aggrieved, high-pitched, descending "peep!" noise and hops around the tree branches with a movement that reminds me of the way woodpeckers hop around on tree trunks. It has a relatively thin tail for its size, which is all I can see when it's on the other side of the bird feeder from me. The moment I try to get a better view, that sucker is gone.

So that's about all I've been doing today. Reading, watching birds, eating leftovers, and fighting off that vague sense of guilt for not having spent today Getting Things Done. It has been long and arduous, that fight, but I think I am winning.

a change of narrative
Thu 2015-05-28 23:36:54 (single post)

I've been kind of spotty in my blogging lately. It's kind of directly related to being kind of spotty in my writing. It gets kind of embarrassing to have nothing writing-wise to talk about (except the odd Fictionette) on a blog that is all about actually writing.

(I appear to have used up my quota of "kinda"s for this blog pot. So soon! How distressing.)

So today I'm going to talk about writing. About me and writing. And the ideal of writing anywhere.

It's a good ideal. It goes hand in hand with writing at any time. Basically, the idea is this: Be open to getting some writing in, even if all you've got are fifteen minutes in the dentist's waiting room.

Or, in this case, an hour and a half at the Longmont YMCA.

I was going to the Longmont YMCA because that's where roller derby scrimmage was tonight. And I was there super early because I'd come directly over from bringing John to the airport. Once upon a time, I went straight from the airport to practice in Longmont with what looked like oodles of time to spare, but instead I ended up in the worst and longest traffic jam ever on I-25 (seriously, it started at the I-70 exit for I-225, and it continued until at least the I-25 exit for Highway 52) and I in fact arrived about an hour late. So I learned not to count on the drive being reasonable. I also learned to take the E-470 toll road whenever possible, which is what I did today, which is why I got to 6:30 practice at about 5:00 PM.

I perhaps should have stayed in the car and did my writing there. But I can't get the YMCA's wi-fi hotspot signal from the parking lot (this is very important if you need to look up definitions for your freewriting word prompts; "paramnesia" is a toughie), and also the lounge by the pool was theoretically a more comfortable place to hang out with laptop and spiral notebook.

Which is how I came to be attempting to scribble in a comfy arm chair in a lounge overcrowded with disappointed kids hoping against hope that the lightning-related cancelation of their swim class this afternoon might yet be rescinded.

I can forgive the five-year-old (that's an estimate) who tried to run through my leg, and kept trying even after he got himself hooked on my ankle. Five-year-olds are not, as a rule, very aware. When they run, they are focused very closely on whatever they are running toward (or away from) at the expense of pretty much everything else, including quiet women sitting in armchairs trying to write.

I am less inclined to forgive the grown-ass men, or at the very least young men in their latter teens (once you get your full growth I'm no good at estimating, I just assume you're "my age," which is a very broad category as I reckon these things) who simply couldn't be bothered to avoid kicking me in the feet as they walked past.

"Apparently that's my superpower," I lamented to a teammate at scrimmage later. "When I'm out in public, I'm entirely invisible."

"Which is great if you're a spy," she replied.

"But not so great if you just want to listen to the band at the bar and not have passing drunks shove elbows into your gut."

"It's OK, though. You're infiltrating the scene."

I dig this suggestion. I would like to apply it to all future awkward social interactons. I'm not being ignored, disrespected, walked on and kicked. I'm successfully infiltrating the scene. Meanwhile, I am taking detailed notes on my marks' behavior, just like Harriet the Spy.

It's amazing what a change of narrative can do.

Click to view original photo (appears heavily distorted in cover art) and photographer credits
this fictionette is going down under the seventh wave
Mon 2015-05-25 22:39:20 (single post)
  • 1,100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Because it's about a mural depicting a shipwreck. It's called "Shipwreck in Progress." It's also about family relations, and maybe doomsday.

And now I have almost two whole weeks to prepare the next Friday Fictionette because May 2015 is a month with five Fridays in it, and I get fifth Fridays off. Nyah!

So I've changed my mind about my hummingbird visitor. Now I think it's most likely a male black-chinned hummingbird who looked red-throated only because I was seeing its neck feathers through the optical illusion of its wing-blur. In any case, it's been back countless times and seems to like what I've got on offer, but it still tries to drink out of the songbird feeder from time to time.

I tried to doctor up the songbird feeder with chili powder, because I've just about had it with the squirrel that it's attracted. It was cute at first, but when it's sitting in the planter and eating the leaves off the just-sprouted sunflower seedlings, it's just not funny anymore. The planter was already propped up on top of a bucket, but that sucker actually scrabbled up the sliding glass door to get into it. I have no idea how, but the noise its claws made on the steel frame of the door woke me up in time to watch it visiting the "salad bar." Now the planter has been moved further away from the wall, and what seedlings remain have been transplanted indoors to give them a chance to grow a few more leaves.

Today was the first sunny day I'd seen in what feels like weeks. It was sunny from morning right up until early afternoon, when we got a hailstorm. But before that I got to open up windows and doors and just let that warm air in, carrying with it all the songs of the birds and the occasional mew of the neighbor's adorable and affectionate black cat.

At one point I heard bagpipes, and I went out to hear them better. It's Memorial Day, and we live within view of a large funeral lawn with many a war veteran's tomb. It was pleasant, if solemn, to stand in the sun with my mug of tea and listen to the pipes playing "Amazing Grace," occasionally interrupted by the sound of the fighter planes doing their flyovers.

I did my Morning Pages late, and I did them on the back patio. In addition to sun and songbirds, there was the smell of a propane grill. Down on the lawn across the fence, some neighbors in the next condominium campus were having a picnic. When the big guy in the football shirt said, "Who wants more brats?" I very nearly called out, "Me!" They smelled that good.

And that's about all I've got. Lazy holiday Monday, a new Fictionette, and a bunch of bird-and-squirrel TV. I hope your Monday has been as pleasant. Cheers!

three happy things and one late thing
Fri 2015-05-22 23:34:06 (single post)

Let's concentrate on the positive. We got the piano tuned today! And the piano bench is sort of fixed, enough to sit on at least; Monday I hope to have it fixed in a more permanent fashion. So I sat down and played the piano today for the first time since we moved. Since months before we moved, in fact.

In the piano bench, which I emptied out in order to fix the piano bench, there's a heap of sheet music that belonged, I think, to one of my aunts. I suspect they were handed down to her from a previous generation. There is a Victor Herbert songbook with pieces whose copyrights range from MCMVI to MCMXXXIII. Victor Herbert died in MCMXXIV, which is the copyright date on a couple of the songs in the book.) I played through one of them--as best I can, that is, which is to say slowly and with many pauses to figure out the next chord. It was pretty dang melodramatic. I think it was supposed to be a cheerful song, though.

In other cheerful news, we have a hummingbird. Or multiple hummingbirds, I don't know. They jingle-buzz around the building, on both sides, and you can often catch sight of one zipping from tree to tree. I hung a feeder outside my office window in hopes of having hummingbirds visit me while I write, but almost a week went by and they didn't find it. Then, today, a hummingbird buzzed our patio window--just flew right into the balcony space and hovered meaningfully in front of the sliding glass door. "All right, already," I said, and moved the feeder from the office window to the patio. And now we have a new friend.

Back when we lived in Oregon, we had a hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window. We weren't always vigilant about keeping it full, but the hummingbirds were not shy about telling us it had run dry. They'd start buzzing every other window of the house, upstairs and down, hovering outside the glass and going vvvrrrreeeee! in a pointed kind of way. I think today's visitor was doing something like that.

I brought a pair of cheap field glasses to the bedside so I could get a closer look next time the hummer came in for a sip (which it did about once every 20 minutes for the rest of the afternoon), but I haven't quite identified the species. It's got a gray-or-green body, a white-or-light-gray chest, and a reddish throat, which could be one of several species that WhatBird.com suggests for Colorado. My best guess is a male broad-tailed hummingbird. I suppose it could also be a calliope, but I didn't notice that striping/striation pattern in the red/maroon throat of my visitor. (WhatBird.com does not suggest the ruby-throated hummingbird this far west.)

One more happy thought: Roller derby tomorrow! Our first home bout of the season--at least, this will be the first competitive event we're hosting in 2015. The January event was a mix-up tournament. Tomorrow's will feature actual rated-and-ranked teams. I'll be skating with the Bombshells against the visiting team from Pueblo in the first bout of the evening--that'll start at 6:00 PM, with the frontman for Big Head Todd and the Monsters as the celebrity whistleblower starting the first jam for us. Right after that, our All Stars will take on Denver Roller Derby's Bruising Altitude.

I was going to put an article up on AXS.com about the event, but literally minutes before I was ready to upload the article, I got an email from AXS saying that they would no longer accept "game-related sports news or timely recaps." Argh. I was not prepared to try to turn it into some sort of "5 things to watch for" listicle at this late date, either, so I just let it go. You get this blog post instead.

$15 at the door! Doors open at 5:30! I'm assuming Georgia Boys will be there, with barbecue and mac & cheese for all. I know there will be lots of local beers and distilled spirits for the grown-ups. Come watch me skate, and then come see me at the fund raiser table during the All Stars bout (at halftime, of course; otherwise you should be watching the All Stars skate, because they are awesome) and help us keep our travel fund in the black! And speaking of the All Stars, keep your eyes on them this season. Latest WFTDA rankings put them at #33, which means this year may well be Boulder's D1 debut.

Meanwhile, it's Friday, and there is a conspicuous absence of Fictionette. I hope to get it up this weekend (where have we heard that tale before? but I really, really mean it this time. Well, Monday for sure). It was taking me longer tonight than I'd budgeted for, and it didn't seem wise to stay up late with such a big day looming over me tomorrow. So you will just have to stay tuned for tales of painted shipwrecks and sinister countdowns, I'm afraid.

Original public domain photograph from Pixabay.com
it really is all about how you treat the powerless (also a fictionette)
Mon 2015-05-18 23:30:36 (single post)
  • 1,412 words (if poetry, lines) long

Happy new week, everyone! I'm pleased to finally bring you the Friday Fictionette for May 15 and announce that now I am entirely caught up. (Except for the pesky audio archives, of course. But back-filling those will be a long process.) Hopefully everything will be back on track going forward.

One scene in "A New Doll for Polly," the one featured in the excerpt, draws on an episode from a family Christmas gathering years ago. I chose to describe that episode in the attached Author's Note. And here we get to one of those classic writerly dilemmas, where the personal experience I'm mining could be read as "airing dirty laundry." In this case, the laundry is only mildly stained. It's just melted wax. You can get that right off with careful application of a hot iron...

OK, that metaphor is kind of strained. Here's the thing. For most of my family, it's just a funny story, an inside joke, a tale retold to get everyone laughing. But for me, it was the moment I realized that it wasn't family policy to deny comfort to the victim of relentless teasing and practical jokes; it was just family policy to deny that comfort to me. I was fair game, because how else was I going to learn to grow a thicker skin and a sense of humor; but do that shit to Grandmama and you were mean and cruel for making her cry. (To be fair, I can't guarantee that my younger cousins got off any more lightly than I did. To be even more fair, it was rare they went after anyone else when I was available.)

So the dirty laundry isn't the story itself, but rather my side of the story. Which resolves the dilemma fairly easily: My side of the story is mine, and I don't owe it to anyone to efface my side of the story to privilege theirs. Also, what kind of loving family member enjoys making a child cry? Repeatedly? Every Christmas day? Especially if said family member is a grown-ass adult? Who the fuck does that shit? Well, whoever does that, they can just shut up about dirty laundry, is what I'm saying.

It was more just the image of an altered doll upsetting Grandma that made it into the fictionette, rather than the discovery that my family had double standards for how bullying victims were treated. The latter was just bad memory litter that the evocative image scattered all over the floor on its way through my brain and into the story, the inconsiderate jerk.

Eh. Go read the fictionette (or just the excerpt). It's more cheerful.

In other news, Mad Max: Fury Road was amazing. It was made of pure distilled rock 'n roll. It was breathtakingly gorgeous and full of momentum that never let up, not once. It maybe could have benefited from subtitles, the dialog being occasionally difficult for me to make out, but on the other hand you don't miss much by missing a word here or there. It wasn't big on words, that movie.

And it was indeed a deeply feminist movie, its plot containing such premises as "Women and children are people, not property" and "You know what? This crap hurts men, too." (Also, I didn't realize an action-adventure movie with a female lead could go from opening sequence to credits rolling without once hearing a man calling her a misogynist slur of any sort for any reason. That was astoundingly refreshing.) It was a deeply moral movie, concerning itself with how those with little power should treat those with even less. Some people kick them and climb over their backs to amass more power of their own, and the narrative tends to deal with them harshly. Others wind up using what little power they have to protect the powerless, and them the narrative holds up as heroes--even the ones who had to be convinced first.

So. Go see it while it's in theaters. It's good medicine for the soul, with the added bonus that it tastes fabulous.

Original photography by me, playing in the dirt over by the soccer fields.
last week's fictionette and my week as an energy see-saw
Fri 2015-05-15 23:37:36 (single post)
  • 1,141 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hello! It is Friday and here is a Fictionette. It is last Friday's Fictionette, but here it is nevertheless. It is called "Because You Weren't There," and it's kind of creepy and kind of sweet and kind of mythic. Basically it's about benign necromancy as a random act of kindness.

As usual, the title above links to a brief excerpt; from there, if you're so inclined, you can click the links at the bottom of the page to become a Patron and read the whole thing, along with all Friday Fictionette archives to date.

I just realized I've been doing this for more than 6 months. I guess it's been more like 8 months? I totally missed my half-year anniversary, y'all!

As for this Friday's Fictionette, it's about toys, siblings, grandparents, and always looking on the bright side of life. (Cue the Monty Python soundtrack.) If I am very diligent, it will come out tomorrow afternoon. The Fictionette itself is very nearly done, so that just leaves the technical details of making the cover image and the PDF and the audio and excerpts that go in various places. Watch for an update to Twitter and Facebook when it goes live.

I am also going to go see the new Mad Max movie this weekend. Mad Max is part of my childhood, y'all. I am totally down with seeing the franchise expand. Also, I hear Charlize Theron's character is making misogynists cry. I want in on that.

The current daily schedule that I'm trying to stick to involves breaking up my daily work into a morning shift and an afternoon shift separated by a long lunch break during which non-writing obligations get done, leaving the evenings guilt-free for playtime and goofing off (and roller derby). The days when I stick to it go great. I get lots done, I feel awesome, and I get plenty of sleep because I'm not up until stupid o'clock trying to clean up my to-do list. The days when I don't kind of suck. I get nothing done and I feel depressed. (But at least, lately, I don't stay up until stupid o'clock on those days either, because I've learned that if I don't get enough sleep then guess what kind of day the next day will be?)

You'd think, given those two types of work days, the choice would be simple. "Cake or death?" "Cake, please." Right? Except the good, productive, diligent sort of day always seems to be followed by a day when I can't seem to get out of bed or get anything done once I do. I've had an upsy-downy sort of week that way, and it's frustrating. Like I only have enough energy to have a good work day every other day; the day afterwards is spent paying for it. If the rest of my life outside of writing could accommodate, I'd move to an every-other-day schedule in a heartbeat. But I really don't think my other obligations and activities will allow for it.

So for now, the only real solution I have for the low-energy days is to apply more willpower. And maybe keep a close eye on myself for any clues to making things easier.

But enough of that! Putting this week to bed now and looking forward to the weekend. Mad Max, roller derby, and getting caught up on Fictionettes--woo!

having more to read all of a sudden is kind of a mixed blessing
Tue 2015-05-12 23:36:16 (single post)

Habitual readers of the actually writing blog will have noticed habitual mention of an online writing community called Codex. Now, I am here to tell you today that you, too, can join Codex if you, too, are neo-pro speculative fiction writer. And if you are, you should. I will tell you why.

Membership in Codex is free, but depends on the applicant having met one of a number of criteria. All of them are detailed on the page linked above. Just for example, when I applied, I qualified under two different criteria, those being having made a SFWA-qualifying sale of fiction ("First Breath" to the anthology Blood and Other Cravings) and in having attended the Viable Paradise workshop. Agent representation, award nomination, and successful self-publishing are also vectors for qualification. Again, click the link and check it out.

Why should you join? Well, for one thing, the Codex community runs a number of contests throughout the year, and contests are really great sources of motivation.

Some are very casual. Every two months, there's a new forum thread where you can report each manuscript submission as you send it out. Whoever does the most submissions for that two-month period gets bragging rights and maybe a lovely doodle by the contest host, something like that. The prize is not the point. The point is to start thinking of manuscript submissions as something you can darn well do a lot of. Just by actively keeping up with the thread and reading others' submission reports, I find myself thinking things like, "Wait, don't I have a manuscript that came back last week with a rejection letter? I wonder if this magazine that so-n-so just reported a submission to would be a good fit. Time to send that sucker back out again!" or, "They take reprints? I didn't know that publisher took reprints! I have just the thing to send them."

See? Motivation!

I've participated in more formal ones, too, like the annual Weekend Warrior competition. That's where between Friday afternoon and Sunday night you write a brand new short-short story based on one of several provided prompts. During the weekdays, you read each other's entries (which are anonymized) and you vote on them. Come the following Friday, the process starts again. And this goes on for a whole bunch of weeks in a row. (I think it was five.) By the end of the contest, you've written a bunch of new flash fiction and you've gotten helpful comments from other contest participants to guide you in the rewrite. One of my Weekend Warrior shorts, in a heavily revised form, went on to be accepted and published ("Other Theories of Relativity" on Toasted Cake). This is not an unusual fate for a Weekend Warrior story.

The contest I'm currently participating in, the Title Rummage Sale, is similar, but it's for full-length stories and your prompt is whatever title you choose from the list of available titles. The deadline was Sunday night. This week, we're all reading each other's stories so we can vote and comment on them next week. This means that not only have I written a brand new 1500-word story, but now I get to read a bunch of brand-new 1500-5000 word stories.

I don't know about you, but for me, getting to read a bunch of new stories written by my fellow Codexians is a real treat. Also, my eyes are among the first ever to see these stories. One day, when they are published and are wowing readers the world over, I will be able to say I knew it when.

(And maybe someone will eventually say the same about one of my stories. Exciting!)

So! Bundles of writing motivation and oodles of new reading material! What's not to like? I mean, other than the problem of having more things to read when I ought to be taking more time to write, of course. But isn't that always the way?

Cover art incorporates a photo of an oven taken by Wikimedia Commons user ArnoldReinhold and licensed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
a fictionette, a typewriter, and a new occasion for carpet snow-angels
Mon 2015-05-11 23:53:58 (single post)
  • 779 words (if poetry, lines) long

Ok! So. Got a Friday Fictionette for you. It's the one for May 1, so I've still got last week's and this week's to go before I'm all caught up. But! I have been doing all sorts of catching up things, and then some.

First things first. The May 1 Friday Fictionette is called "To Come Before The Queen" (click for excerpt and also links to full versions). At 779 words, it's probably the shortest one I've posted yet. Any shorter and it would feel like a waste of time to publish an excerpt. But it's precise. Once I had the basic structure and story in mind, I set myself the challenge of writing only half the dialogue such that the other half could be inferred. It's a neat exercise, and it forces you to really think about word choice.

I wanted the cover art to be a huge honkin' commercial oven like the one the pastry chef baked hundreds of breakfast treats in every morning, back in the university dorm cafeteria where I worked in the mid-90s. You really could imagine a grown woman climbing in and sleeping in it at night. Alas, Google gave me very slim pickings. I might as well have just photographed our own oven (in which John, incidentally, has been baking lots of bread and other yummy things lately; I am, even more so than usual, a very fortunate spouse).

Another thing I caught up on this weekend: I typed up a Fictionette on my typewriter for the first time! See, at the $5/month pledge tier, I send you one of the month's Fictionettes typed up on an actual typewriter with actual typos and everything. Also illustrated capitals, watercolor doodles, and other unique surprises. Now, in my eternal optimism, I limited this tier reward to the first 10 Patrons to sign up for it. However, I think I'll have to lower it to 5. Why? Because 1400+ words on a typewriter takes a lot longer than I remembered! And not just because I'm no longer able to touch-type flawlessly in QWERTY! (I lost that skill when I learned the DVORAK layout. Apparently my fingers only have room for one layout for typing 90wpm with my eyes closed in.)

At least we now live on the bottom floor, with nothing beneath us but the garage. I'd be worried about shaking the floorboards otherwise.

So that was cool, and it's already gone out in the mail. (I was going to take a picture, but I forget to before I sealed it up in the envelope. Oh well. Next week!)

And here's one more cool thing I did this weekend:

I wrote a whole brand new story.

I did! It was for a contest on Codex, the annual Title Rummage Sale, where you pick a title from the virtual hat and then you write a story for it. I just barely made the lower word limit, and the story is about as drafty as a draft can get, but I finished it and I uploaded it and people are going to read it. And then I can make it better, and submit it somewhere.

That's exciting! It's been months since I last submitted something anywhere! Despite my intention to send out something new every month, and resubmit something every week! Well. Better late than never, right?

Also also also, I cleaned up the office. I took most of the boxes and things that have been hogging the floor and the futon since we moved in, and I shoved them all in the closet. Actually, I arranged them neatly and thoughtfully in the closet such that they can be accessed whenever necessary. So now I have a functional closet, and I can sit or sleep on the futon, and I can walk from the office door to the office window without dodging boxes.

How awesome is that? So awesome.

I... I think I have to make snow-angels in the carpet again.

'xcuse me.

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