“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
Robert Benchley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates the photo “Spyglass” by Wikipedia user Hydrargyrum, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Cover art also incorporates a photo of my desk.
this fictionette had trouble wording its wishes
Fri 2015-07-24 23:55:19 (single post)
  • 1,283 words (if poetry, lines) long

We're back to wrapping up the Friday Fictionette at stupid o'clock at night, I'm afraid. In addition to my usual bad time management, there was the problem that this fictionette, despite my having worked on it every day all week long, was still giving me revision trouble. I was three hours in today before I was finally happy with the text. And even now I'm not so sure. I don't think my attempt at Nesbit's prose style is entirely convincing, nor am I at all confident that I got the UK-specific education terms right. And I'm doubtful as to whether the timeline adds up--can an Edwardian-era child have an email-era grandson? Maybe? But not likely as their oldest grandchild, I don't think?

Look, I'm just not going to worry about it. Plot-holes and inaccuracies are part of the acceptable roughness of a fictionette. They come part and parcel with idea generation and early draft revision. They are part of the process, we shall deal.

Anyway. "And Did You Bring Enough for Everyone?" is my first attempt at E. Nesbit fanfic. It is unlikely to be my last.

As for the rest of this week, it featured sparse blogging and sparse short-story work. Indeed. Right after bragging about working on the short story every work day, I wound up failing to work on it at all. The problem is my usual bad time management on days when roller derby eats my evenings. I get my "morning shift" done, then somehow I never get to my "afternoon shift." I tell myself it's OK, I'll do it after practice. Then I come home from practice and I collapse for the night. This is not how work gets done!

I know I've said this before, but it's going to be an iron-clad rule now: No leaving any writing work for after derby! There is no brain or body left to do it with, so I am not to go fooling myself about it! Which means I need to decide on a specific time at which the afternoon shift must start in order to get it done before derby on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And then I have to actually start at that time. No excuses.

If I can successfully get that habit dug in--and, seriously, there's no reason why I shouldn't--then Friday Fictionettes should wind up getting posted actually on Friday, too. As opposed to the wee hours of Saturday morning, which right now happens to be (the datestamp on the blog post is a lie, of course).

But now that's up and this blog post is up, and I can start heading to bed... in time to catch a few hours' sleep before I get up, do my Saturday morning AINC reading, and then meet some friends in East Boulder for trail skating at 9:00 AM. Whee?

rough drafts are rough. don't like it? tough.
Tue 2015-07-21 23:42:19 (single post)
  • 756 words (if poetry, lines) long

The expansion on the drabble is coming along, but it's coming along rough. I have to continuously remind myself that it's OK, because this really is more of a first draft than a revision. I mean, yes, I'm building off of an already-written 100-word version of the story, but this new version is, for all intents and purposes, all new. The character now has a name, an age, a sister, a mother, a geographical location, a job. The story will have at least five scenes, including the one that got vaguely nodded at by the original drabble. The pacing is different, and the climax will be better developed. It's a whole new story. Of course its first draft will be rough.

At least it is coming along. Getting to spend some time on it every work day feels like getting away with something.

Today also involved some Fictionette work, as usual. The one for this weekend is shaping up to be something like E. Nesbit fanfic from two generations' remove. I'm trying to keep a Nesbit-like voice while firmly setting the story in the era of email. I've also taken some time to begin typing up one of the June fictionettes for my appropriately-tiered Patron (didn't get to it as quickly after the May edition as I'd hoped, but oh well, I'm getting to it now), and I discovered that the task gets ever so much easier when the typewriter ribbon is wound correctly. Who knew? Also, the instructions are not lying when they say that the supply spool goes on the right-hand side; however, it does not mention the existence of a manual ribbon reverse switch, and I had it switched to the reverse direction, so. At this point I'll probably have to retype the first page. It's OK if it's a little messy, but all that fighting with the ribbon resulted in a silly amount of mess.

It is probably time to order a new ribbon, if a ribbon fitting a Sears Tower "Quiet Tabulator" portable can be found. I have a spare "universal" in my desk drawer, but I also have a memory of discovering it to be the wrong width or something. I found a site that sells typewriter ribbon by model number, and discovered that my typewriter's model number is partially hidden under the platen assembly. You can just make it out if you open up the rear enclosure as though to access the tabulator stops, and tilt the hinged bit at just the right angle: 871.600, which seems to match these products. The price for a black-and-white ribbon seems reasonable enough.

I had a lot of fun watercoloring on the typewritten fictionette for May, all the more for doing it outside on the patio. But once again I forgot to take a picture. Maybe I'll remember when I'm illustrating the June artifact.

Not on the patio today, alas. Power-wash operations were underway, in preparation for a new coat of paint on our building. Everything on the balcony out back and the patio out front had to come in. Our entryway looks like a jungle, all crowded with lush spath leaves, and you can barely reach the blinds over the sliding glass door what with all of the containers of tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers getting in the way. It's totally a nightshade paradise over there. All we need are eggplants. And then there are the herbs.

Meanwhile, the birds are so confused. The bird feeders had to come inside, too. There's a young female grackle who keeps perching on the balcony rail and eying the place where the feeder's supposed to hang, as though to say, "Mama told me this is where food comes from! Where did the food go? There is supposed to be food! If I wait here, maybe food will appear?" A couple of sparrows actually flew up there as though under the impression that the feeder had simply turned invisible. I feel sort of bad for them.

Just wait 'til the end of the week, little buddies! 'Til then I'm sure you're capable of finding your own grub. Your mama must have taught you about more than just suet cakes!

Cover art incorporates the actual view out my actual window.
this fictionette skated by faster than the eye can follow
Mon 2015-07-20 23:29:54 (single post)
  • 1,159 words (if poetry, lines) long

I swear I got the Friday Fictionette done on time! Early, in fact. It's called "Protective Coloration" and it's got more fairy-like creatures in the corner of the protagonist's eye. It only took about two hours to proof, publish, and record the PDF and MP3. I wasn't up until stupid o'clock getting it done, either, which was way cool.

But then I ran off to skate at ROLL and was up until stupid o'clock for that reason.

Honestly, I thought I'd only stay until maybe 11:00 PM. That would give me a good two hours of fun, and an exit for when the track got crowded and the crowd got drunk. I'm also, admittedly, not a fan of the DJ. I don't understand why you'd have a Thunderdome-themed skate party and never actually play "We Don't Need Another Hero," or an '80s-themed skate party and then mash up the classic anthems of the decade you are supposedly celebrating such that there's no melody line left to sing along to. But being on skates makes everything wonderful, at least for a little while. So I go, I have fun, and when I stop having fun, I leave. I figured that after about two hours I'd run off to a diner to write up a blog post and get a couple other things done.

But I surprised myself by not actually stopping having fun. As it happened, I didn't leave until they kicked everyone out of Tracks at 2:00 AM. So that was a thing.

It helped that I had friends with me--a couple of gals from my roller derby league met me there, and we hung out. It also helped that we spent Peak Crowded Drunken Hour in the karaoke lounge. (It is possible that the skate floor DJ played "We Don't Need Another Hero" while I was in the karaoke lounge. I would not bet on it, however.) And the singers and their supporters were friendly, and the songs chosen ran the gamut from metal to hip-hop to blues to Broadway. When the karaoke DJ shut it down, we went back out to the main floor for the last 15 minutes of the party, and we discovered it was practically deserted. Plenty of room to try fun dance moves or just skate fast. "I didn't know ROLL shut down with a speed skate," I said.

Anyway, that's why I didn't finish my homework on Friday.

no, seriously, pull up the floorboards, i mean it
Thu 2015-07-16 23:41:11 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,330 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today's Submission Procedures session was extremely productive. I logged a new rejection letter--"It's For You" came back after only 6 days out. I logged it in my own database, and at the Submission Grinder, and I posted about it to a forum where people post about such things. Scrolling up through other people's posts, I saw mention of another pro-paying market I have never submitted to. So I began preparing another story for submission to it. (I didn't quite finish because I ran out of time before derby. I'll send the submission out tomorrow.) Meanwhile, I tweaked my database so that I could use it to note submissions that I plan to make, and it could remind me so I don't lose track. All that, and I still haven't sent "It's For You" back out. Tomorrow!

Rejection letters aren't so terrible. They're the industry's way of confirming that yes, you've been playing the game, and, by the way, it's your turn again.

So, this other submission I'm planning to make. It's an expansion of an existing and unpublished drabble. And it gave me fits today. It's not that I don't know the shape I want it to be. It's that I'm realizing the story lives in that weird borderland between magic realism and psychological suspense-and-dread. It's "The Telltale Heart," that's what the problem is. The speculative element could be easily written off as the protagonist having a nervous breakdown and imagining things. Now, I was that kid in class who insisted that the hideous heart really was beating under the floorboards. But apparently the rest of the literary world agrees that Poe's murderous protagonist is hallucinating, the spoilsports.

So I'm trying to come up with anti-spoilsport ideas. Here's what I've got so far.

Put it in 3rd person to give the protagonist's perspective a sense, however illusive, of authority. Like, look, you don't have to just take the protagonist's word on this; here's a totally reliable narrator voice confirming it for you. It's not a promise on a factual level; obviously you can write an unreliable narrator in 3rd person point-of-view. But it's an attempt to create a particular emotional experience for the reader, encourage them to trust more. It's like painting an oncology waiting room sky blue to induce a sense of calm and comfort in the patients. You're not telling them that everything's going to be all right; you're just trying to help them feel like everything's all right. All right? Right. See also titles like "The facts in the case of..." or "An account of events witnessed at..."

Create internal consistency in the speculative element so that it looks more like an actual coherent thing that's happening and not a series of random weird events. Though it'll never wind up on the page, I need to decide on the complete reality behind these glimpses of the uncanny, and then have every manifestation conform to that. Basically, we're talking about worldbuilding.

Highlight the theme at every opportunity. The story will be submitted to a themed submission call; the theme is "anticipation." The theme of the issue is already present in this story, of course, but it can be underscored, made to do double, triple duty in every scene. Not just waiting, dreading, and anticipating in the context of the spec element itself, but in every incidental detail. In each scene's setting, in each situation, in the protagonist's interactions with other characters, there should be an element of are we there yet? is it over yet? how long to my bus stop? why aren't we done with this meeting? will the person in line before me please hurry up? when will I find out what's going on? what are you waiting for, just tell me! Done right, this will make the story more of a seamless whole, and a claustrophobic one, sort of compressing the reader into identifying with the protagonist. I hope.

Actually, having written them out, they look like pretty decent ideas. For now, anyway. Enough to go on until I think of better ones.

The unicorn looking on is Velvet. He's been with me almost all my life, and he likes to be included in things.
outmoded, inconvenient, messy, elegant, satisfying
Wed 2015-07-15 23:37:55 (single post)
  • 1,141 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

Pictured here is my second-hand typewriter, a Sears Tower which appears to be identical to the 1950s-era portable Smith-Corona Sterling. I bought it from a co-worker back in the late '90s. Then, upon my lamenting that it had features I'd no idea how to use, I was sent a copy of the Sterling's owners' manual by a Usenet acquaintance who guessed my typewriter was largely the same as his. (This was before it was trivial to find PDFs of owners' manuals of just about everything online--though, admittedly, I haven't found the exact document my friend sent me. This is the closest match I've located. My typewriter doesn't have those CL and SET buttons on the right.) That gift empowered me to use the ingenious Page Gage (sic) feature to get consistent bottom margins every time. It's a seriously clever thing.

Five years ago, this typewriter was instrumental in drafting the first recognizable version of "First Breath." This week it'll be key in fulfilling some long overdue Patreon pledge rewards. I owe two, soon to be three "fictionettes in your mailbox" to my $5+ tier patron. This is where, at the end of the month, I type out one of the month's fictionettes, correct some of the typos with white-out, watercolor and scribble and sketch on it, and send it off with my thanks.

At the moment, I am offering this thank-you to the first ten $5+ patrons. That may have been overly optimistic. I am thinking of lowering that maximum to five. A thousand words feels a lot longer on a typewriter than on a laptop. Accordingly, I find myself sometimes revising on the fly and cutting out phrases that no longer seem absolutely necessary. Or rearranging phrases because I got ahead of myself and I am not going back to correct it.

Also, mastering the Dvorak keyboard layout seems to have come at the expense of being able to touch-type in Qwerty. So I do a lot of looking up and looking down between the computer screen and the typewriter keys and the typewriter output, and losing my place in the original document, and shit there went the 1-inch marker on the Page Gage about two lines ago, I guess the bottom margin is going to be a little smaller than planned...

I'm not really complaining. I'm just griping. The difference is, complaints are meant to be actionable but griping is only recreational. I don't seriously want not to do this. I'm enjoying the exercise--reacquainting myself with the typewriter, producing a literary artifact, enjoying the messy elegance of the results (it's not the most precise instrument, this Tower), and creating a physical object as a token of my appreciation. And sending it in the mail! Having an excuse to mail physical letters is wonderful. It's inconvenient and outmoded and I love it. I'm in love with the written word in all its forms. Look, I do my morning pages with a fountain pen. Of course I love the typewriter and the U.S. Post.

Anyway, I intend to finish the May mailable tonight and maybe produce tomorrow the one that was due at the end of June. That'll will put me back on track in time to type up the July mailable at the end of the month. Huzzah! Getting caught up is the best!

the game i'm supposed to be playing
Tue 2015-07-14 23:42:29 (single post)
  • 3,330 words (if poetry, lines) long

So apparently it takes me another, what, three hours? THREE HOURS to get what ought to have been a simple Hugo Awards 101 blog post done. Seriously, it is not worth it. I need to be able to prioritize, and, when priorities are low, turn the exhaustive perfectionist dial wayyyyy down.

But speaking of priorities, I have modified my must-dos for the workday mornings. To date, I've required of myself three things to start each workday:

  • Morning Pages (mental morning hygiene)
  • 25 minutes of freewriting (scales and arpeggios)
  • and 25 minutes working on the next Friday Fictionette (getting it done a little at a time, rather than all at the last minute).

Recently I looked at my timesheet template and realized that there was one line I was consistently failing to visit: "Submissions Procedures." Also, I had a rejection letter in my email that I still needed to log a month after I received it. So I've added...

  • 25 minutes of Submissions Procedures

...to my morning gottas.

What do I do with that session?

Log submissions and responses. If I send off a manuscript, if I receive a response to a submission, I've got to log that. I keep such records in a personal database that's hosted at this domain (it feeds the "Recently Published" block on the front page and the "Works Progressing" list here on the blog). I also make note of them in the Diabolical Plots Submission Grinder, which does a lot more with my data than I've programmed my own database to do. It does things with my data that benefit other writers, too, mostly to do with market statistics. Anyway, communications regarding submitted manuscripts go there.

Query long-delayed submissions. This is what I did next after I logged that pending rejection email. I had a couple submissions out since early 2014 with no response logged. I sent emails to both markets asking after those submissions' statuses, and, when one of them got back to me (and resent the rejection letter I'd missed in my spam last year), I logged that too.

Resubmit rejected manuscripts to new markets. I did this Friday! "It's For You" had returned with a rejection letter back in December. It was about time I sent it out again. Off it went to meet the staff of a different magazine, hopeful and full of energy!

Research markets for future submissions. Here's where being on the clock becomes absolutely essential. I can spend hours doing this--reading the stories published by professional markets, deciding whether any of my existing stories would fit well in a table of contents with them, reading my colleagues' reported experiences with those markets, plugging the stats for my unpublished stories into the Submission Grinder search form to find even more markets, reading all their submission guidelines... But because I'm on a 25-minute timer, I try to stay focused.

Today I spent my Submission Procedures session pruning a handful of browser tabs open to various submission guidelines. With one exception, I discarded non-paying markets. Then I discarded the ones I'm honestly unlikely to come up with suitable material for any time soon. Of the ones that remained, I chose two whose current submission period ended on or about July 31 and decided what I was going to send them. In both cases, I chose unpublished drabbles that could be expanded into flash or full-length short stories this week and next. Then I made note of a couple other tabs open to markets whose next submission period opens in August. I've existing pieces I could send them as-is with a clean conscience.

Making this a daily ritual has got me back in the game. I mean, I've sent off a piece to a pro-paying market! For the first time in months! That's huge! But it's also valuable as a regular reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing in the first place. Things like Friday Fictionettes and Examiner blog posts can feel like such an accomplishment when I finish them that it's easy to forget that they're not my main gig. My main gig is writing fiction for love and getting it published for money. So now, every workday, I take time on the clock to plan or enact the next step required to play that gig.

That way, even if I don't manage to spend the bulk of the working day on fiction for professional publication, even if I throw most of my hours down the black hole of FIND ALL THE PERFECT LINKS FOR THIS BLOG POST, I've at least spent half an hour with my head in the right game, so I don't forget which game I'm supposed to be playing.

different ways of being self-indulgent
Tue 2015-07-14 00:28:51 (single post)

So sometimes Mondays aren't for getting things done. Sometimes Mondays are for recovering from the weekend. I had a very full weekend, and, considering Monday is not a work day under my current schedule, I spent most of today luxuriating in not having to get out of bed.

That said, I really wish my favorite self-indulgent "Not being productive today, thanks" activity, that of alternately napping and devouring books whole, didn't universally result in headaches and cricks in my neck. There's no right posture, no correct amount of pillows, no position whatsoever that's comfortable for long or doesn't result in the abovementioned afflictions if I fall asleep. I think this must be one of those "getting older" things, along with taking longer to heal from minor injuries and not being able to make it through the night without an extra bathroom visit. Dammit.

But I went to the Rush concert Saturday night! That was awesome. Lots of great music, good humor, lovely memories, a stage design that was itself worth the price of admission, all of it only made a little bittersweet by having gone alone to what was likely to be the band's last tour "of this magnitude". Besides, I wasn't entirely alone--I spent a small amount of the second half tweeting back and forth with an old high school friend who'd seen the tour a few stops earlier, so I had someone to share happy thoughts with during the concert after all. Yay!

So that was awesome. And since that's all I really have to report today--here's a recipe! There may be no writing content in today's actually writing blog, but, darn it, you get a recipe. I call it...

"Wait, This Isn't Shakshuka, What Is This Mess?"

I'm a heedlessly adventurous cook. I will throw things together that do not go together, just because the thought of them together sounds good in my mouth. It is a good thing that I am also an extremely non-picky eater. If the experiment had gone poorly, I would probably have eaten it almost as happily as if it went well. As it turned out, the experiment went rather well. It made a dinner that was almost as deliciously self-indulgent as today's reading-in-bed session was.

Defrost and brown a pound of bulk (not link) sausage. I used breakfast sausage, but anything would do, really. Ground beef would have been fine too. Anyway, while it's browning, chunk and crumble it up as best you can. You aren't going to need to drain the oil. Well, you can if you like. I don't.

Chop up and toss in all the tomatoes burning a hole in your fridge. Between a friend's contribution to the housewarming potluck feast and my husband's experiments with pizza, there were a bunch of tomatoes in the refrigerator, in danger of being forgotten until they composted themselves. This was the main reason this meal happened, actually. "Oh, Gods, I have to use up those tomatoes. Why don't I simmer them with sausage and... oh! with some of that kimchi that I also need to use up?" I have thoughts like that. There may be something wrong with me.

Add a generous portion of kimchi. I am guilty of having about four different half-ful jars of kimchi in the fridge at any given time. Look, they're all different kimchi, OK? After a tour of the available varieties, my nose told me I should use the classic daikon kimchi from MMLocal. It smelled slightly sweeter and less sour than the others, thus matching the flavor profile my mind was reaching for when it said, "Let's put those tomatoes in with some sausage and kimchi."

But wait! It gets better.

Add the juice of half an orange, which also needed using up. These were leftover from another of my husband's cooking projects, tofu marinated in orange juice and soy sauce, then baked until delicious. He bought rather more oranges than he needed, and I keep forgetting they're there. I do not know why I looked at tomatoes, sausage, and kimchi, and said to myself, "This needs orange juice." I may be a genius. A very strange genius.

Add a handful of basil, because there's some in the garden on the back porch, and because when orange juice and tomatoes are on the stove, they obviously need basil. That's the herb that goes into the orange juice tomato soup I make for Winter Solstice, from the Cooking Like a Goddess cookbook.

And also a generous splash of fish sauce, because you already put kimchi in there, so what have you got to lose?

Simmer, stirring often, until the sausage looks fully cooked. Then, because the sight of sausage simmering in juices with vegetables reminds you of that time you attempted (with some success) to make shakshuka, even though this dish really doesn't resemble shakshuka at all, considering the kimchi and orange juice and the total lack of cumin or paprika, crack a couple eggs on top of the mess. Do not stir from here on out. You're going for poached, not scrambled.

When the eggs are done to your taste, spoon them out into a bowl along with a heaping helping of the juicy sausage-tomato mixture that they poached in. Then exercise supreme restraint and same the rest to eat later, probably over pasta shells.

Cover art incorporates public domain photograph by Nancy Heise (Wikimedia Commons)
this fictionette proceeded from a sinister game of mad libs
Fri 2015-07-10 23:57:04 (single post)
  • 1,149 words (if poetry, lines) long

Oh my goodness, two on-time fictionettes in a row. It's like she's finally got her act together, folks. And here it is: "Ill Met by Moonlight," a Friday Fictionette whose title aptly demonstrates the value of serif fonts. It's about long nights spent talking to yourself and being startled when something answers back.

As I mention in the author's note, the original freewriting session resulted not so much in a plot as a plot template. I used for writing prompts the two words assigned to the morning and evening "dashes" over at Virtual Writers' World; for June 12 they were "blench" and "angle". I had no idea what to do with that. Also, I was terribly distracted. That was the Friday I spent in the car driving to Lincoln, Nebraska for a roller derby bout on Saturday, and the car was full of people being fascinating and entertaining pretty much nonstop.

But I tried! I took the two words and I recast them and I made a sentence: "He looked at it from a different angle, and went pale with horror at what he saw." I mistook "blench" for "blanch" there. I'd have looked up the definition online via John's smartphone's wifi tether, but we were passing through a dead zone at the time. If you like, you can rewrite the sentence to say "flinched with horror" and get the same results.

After a few minutes I got frustrated with just staring at the screen and/or rephrasing the basic premise ("Main character discovers the horrific underbelly of his daily life! Which will never be the same again!") and gave myself an assignment that would force me to get specific. You may of course borrow this assignment for your own use, should it look useful.

Basically, the assignment was to make four arbitrary decisions. Decide on the REALM, REALITY, FACADE, and METHOD involved.

REALM: In other words, the context in which the character makes a discovery. I mentally flipped a coin/rolled some dice/threw a dart and got "Corporate office."

REALITY: What's the secret the character discovers? What's the true nature of reality that they've hitherto been been unaware of? "The corporation is sitting on an exclusive trading gateway with Faerie."

FACADE: What's the nature of the deception? How is the REALITY covered up from everyday eyes? "Import of cheap goods for distribution to dollar stores."

METHOD: Whereas REALITY was the secret fact about the character's world, METHOD is the action being taken which is premised upon that reality. So. Given a corporation secretly sitting on a gateway to Faerie for economic exploit, how does that corporation in fact exploit their exclusive access? "Smuggling magic items into our world, and into particular pairs of hands, via dollar store distribution."

Thus the "plot template" got filled out with a viable story idea. Finally.

Depending on your plot template, you may pick different key words. But the point is to identify the key decisions you're holding back from making, and then darn well make them.

Remember, writing fiction is about making arbitrary decisions. There are no wrong decisions, except for the decision not to decide. Every decision moves you closer to the story you're going to write. Ta-da.

why bother having a patio if it's going to rain all morning
Thu 2015-07-09 23:58:20 (single post)

It went from baking hot last week to raining constantly. Didn't we do this back in May? And it makes me grumpy, because it is affecting my writing routine.

Since we brought home patio furniture, I've begun taking my morning tea and my Morning Pages outside just about every day. No matter how hot it's predicted to get, it always stays nice and cool out there. During the hottest part of last week, when even the house got too warm, the patio was a cool refuge. It only gets a little direct sun every morning, just this narrow stripe that travels over fifteen minutes between the outer edge of the table and the flowers (which are blooming at last, and fit to riot too). Aside from that, the spot is entirely shaded by the second and third floor walkways.

Sometimes the neighborhood cat comes to visit me. He'll poke his head around the privacy wall, or he'll yowl out in the cul-de-sac to get "someone! anyone!"'s attention; the moment he sees me looking at him and hears me calling, he'll come running up to me. That's how I wind up writing with my right hand and petting a cat on my lap with my left.

And--this is going to sound weird and maybe a little egotistical--another enjoyable thing about it is imagining myself being seen as a sort of "fixture" in the neighborhood, like, "Oh, there's number 17, he rides his bike down the walkway at this time on his way to work. There's the cat, everyone knows the cat, we think he lives at number 41. Don't worry, he doesn't claw or bite. And there's number 15, she's out there scribbling around this time of day. Later she might bring out her spinning wheel."

To put it another way: On my way to and from high school, we'd pass this one house on Poplar Street, just after we crossed the little bridge over the Bonnabel Canal. This house had a small front porch. On that front porch was a rocking chair. And on that rocking chair, at certain times of day, there was an elderly man sitting there, rocking, and waving at everyone who went by. And everyone waved back.

I always wanted to be able to sit on my front porch and greet the people going by. I've never had a front porch before! I have one now. And when people go by, I darn well say hi.

I have begun to depend upon this morning ritual. I don't always look forward to my Morning Pages--sometimes I downright dread them (which is how I know I need to keep doing them)--but I look forward to sitting at the table with my tea and my notebook and my fountain pen, and maybe getting some quality kitty time, and saying hello to people going by.

This is why rain in the mornings makes me grumpy. Because it means I don't get to do that. Why even bother getting out of bed?

Today and yesterday, the mornings were dry again. I unfolded the table and a chair and I had my morning outdoor ritual. And that was nice. But then it started storming in the afternoon and I had to run out there and fold the furniture up again.

Seriously, can we stop this now? At least slack it off a little?

and it's no wonder i sleep so late so often
Thu 2015-07-09 00:27:57 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

As if I don't have enough to work on already, I got up this morning in a terrible excitement about two brand new story ideas, straight out of dreams. That's a gift. That's a precious, unlooked-for gift--the dreams themselves, handing me the kernels of new stories on a silver platter, but also the excitement. Excitement about a new story--it's been way too long since I've felt that. That's absolutely a gift.

It's also very much a mixed blessing when I'm trying to get other things done. Thanks awfully, subconscious!

In one dream, all the statues had come to life, humans alongside animals both fantastical and mundane passing through the city as animate marble, cement, iron. As the bus I was riding on passed through a neighborhood full of old oaks, we saw a big old house whose decorative copper-verdigris fence was waking up. Green deer were untangling themselves from the knot the artist had worked them into, and were picking their way over and around their fellows out onto the sidewalk. Suddenly the neighborhood was full of deer, centaurs, and men and women on horseback, all the color of copper verdigris. "Look," I said to John, who was sitting next to me on the bus, "it's the perfect color for them."

In another dream, an owl I thought I'd shot dead in a careless and much-regretted moment turned out to be alive after all, but the relief of that turned into horror when it changed shape to reveal itself a nefarious spirit in disguise, to whom we both would be in thrall until it finished feeding off of us and we died.

"I had these wonderful mythopoetic dreams this morning," I said to John, "one of them a pure delight and the other a fantastic horror movie. I can't wait to make them into stories. All I have to do is excise all the Daffy Duck bits and give them more of a narrative shape."

"Daffy Duck bits" are the parts of the dream that are too banal or just too silly for the story the dream inspires. My calling them that comes from the dream that gave rise to the short story "First Breath." The dream's main plot repeated itself, as dream elements often do. The first time, I was in a crowd of people in a large cave, and someone pointed out to me a figure in a grey hooded robe. "Don't let her touch you," I was told. "You mustn't let her touch you." Or what? Or she'd become me, and I'd become nothing at all. I ran and ran through the caves, the hooded figure getting closer all the time... Then the chase scene started over, but with an oblivious and sputtering Daffy Duck in my place, comically falling hip-deep into a hole and asking the hooded, robed figure to pull him out.

As you might expect, Daffy Duck appears nowhere in any draft of the story, let alone the version published in Blood and Other Cravings. Similarly, there's some utterly ridiculous things in my dreams from this morning. Some of the verdigris centaurs were cobbled together backwards, such that their human halves face their horse's asses. And when we attempted to lock the owl-demon out of our house, it ran pipes up through the floor, spewing a noxiously yellow sleepy gas into the house to knock us out so it could gain entrance. Which we knew because the gas left a yellow stain wash up and down my legs. Also there was frozen corn defrosting in the oven that happened to be built into the back wall of our bedroom... See? Daffy Duck bits.

Regardless, so much of both stories is already there, fully formed, in the dream. Not an occurrence I can plan for. All I can do is be grateful when it happens. I certainly can't complain, except maybe a little about the timing.

Dreams are awesome! They're what make sleep worth it!

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