“adventure is just
one mistake away.”
e horne and j comeau

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

This is a reenactment. I forgot to take pictures during the actual boil.
It was a nice coincidence that the milk jug fit so exactly into the Ziploks, and the whole fits so well in the refrigerator door.
So much easier this way. Perfectly rectangular! Except for the bit I sliced off to nibble on. Cook's privilege, OK?
painless paneer and a fictionette freebie
Wed 2015-07-01 23:53:35 (single post)
  • 1,571 words (if poetry, lines) long

I've got more recipes to share! Why? Because I win at leftovers, and that is a fine, fine feeling.

I've also got this month's Fictionette Freebie for everybody. I decided on "You Could Go a Long Way in Shoes Like Those" because I think it's funny and I wanted to show it off in full. You can download the PDF ebooklet or the MP3 audiofictionette, be you subscriber or no, just as you please. Enjoy!

OK, so. Recipes! Here we go. Today, it's How to Make Paneer Without Making a Mess.

This is not originally my recipe. It isn't even a recipe, no more than instructions on how to turn cream into butter is a recipe. (Step 1: Put heavy whipping cream in a sealed container. Step 2: Shake container until the contents are no longer sloshing. You've got whipped cream. Step 3: Shake container some more until contents are sloshing again. You've got butter and buttermilk.) Paneer is just a form of fresh house cheese, which is to say, curds separated out of milk. You can find out how to make it on the internet. So did I! I follow the instructions linked from a Tea & Cookies blog post from June 2007. (I also use the Tea & Cookies recipe for saag paneer. It's the best.)

But I have also developed a method that makes it less of a pain in my butt.

But first--why do I make paneer when I can easily buy it in the store? Well, for one thing, it's very satisfying to make my own. For another, I'm terribly prone to letting the better part of a half-gallon of milk go to waste. I do not want to waste milk! Thus I make cheese.

The main innovation: I no longer boil the milk in a pot over direct heat. I got heartily sick of scraping burnt milk solids off the pan when I was done, see. Now I take my biggest stainless steel pot, and I fill it with enough water such that when I nest the next biggest pot inside it, the nested pot's bottom is only barely submerged. Milk goes in the nested pot, of course, with a lid on top to keep the heat in. Then I turn the heat to full boil and I just walk away.

Well, not too far. But from my desk in the office I can easily hear when the water in the big pot reaches full boil. It sounds weirdly like footsteps. The milk, meanwhile, not being over direct heat, isn't quite so prone to froth over and make a mess on the stove. It will also leave no worse mess in the pot than a ring of (unburnt) curd crumbs that I can knock off in seconds with a sponge.

(Caution: If water keeps slopping over the side once it's boiling, take the milk pot out of the boiler pot, then take a sturdy coffee mug and scoop out about half a cup of water. Replace the milk pot. Repeat until water no longer slops over the side.)

Milk reaches boil, lemon juice goes in, stir stir stir, strain. For straining, I use clothespins to secure a folded-over piece of cheesecloth to the top of my largest resealable leftovers container--the square-bottomed tall one I call my "soup tupperware." This is for retaining the whey. I don't like the whey to go to waste, either. (Note to self: Acquire more recipes that use whey. Besides roti.)

Drip drip drip squeeeeeeze, OK, now what? Now I have two smaller resealable containers--I think they came in a Ziplok set of four--ready to mold the cheese. It's important that they be identical, because what happens next is I nest the containers one inside the other with the cheese in between them. Very important to note that the cheese remains wrapped in cheesecloth! The cheesecloth helps wick away excess water, and it also makes it easier to extract the cheese from the mold. So the cheese-molding sandwich, from bottom to top, goes like this: Container, cheesecloth, cheese, cheesecloth, container, milk jug filled with water (better compression through gravity!). Then the whole shebang goes into the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, the paneer comes out the cheesecloth, gets wrapped in Press-and-Seal or plastic wrap, then sealed inside a gallon-size freezer bag, then put in the freezer. Eventually I'll feel I've accumulated enough to make saag paneer with, and that's a happy day.

That's what usually happens, anyway. This week, however, the paneer is just going in the refrigerator. My roller derby team is coming over to watch film of our most recent game, and the paneer's going into my potluck contribution. My plan is to fry the paneer in ghee and add it to some sort of curry. I'm also going to cook up a big pot of vegan red lentil dal and a batch of rice. HUNGRY ALREADY.

Tomorrow I shall share the other recipe I'm quite pleased with, the one that made me say "I win at leftovers." I'm calling it Pot Pie Calzones. Stay tuned.

This is my flute. I've had it since 1986. I mostly remember how to play it.
this fictionette can carry a tune
Tue 2015-06-30 23:44:29 (single post)
  • 1,103 words (if poetry, lines) long

Behold! On this very last day of the month, we have the Friday Fictionette for the fourth week of June 2015. It's called "Every Note Passes Away Forever." It's got music in it, and also another funeral. Possibly a tiny bit derivative--I mean reminiscent--of the beginning of Tepper's Raising the Stones, now that I think about it. Sorry?

Patterns! After weeks of doing these freewriting sessions every day (or almost every day, shut up), patterns tend to emerge in the way I respond to writing prompts. After a while, it's like a metro bus system, and each writing prompt is like a stop on a bus route. Turns out, some of these stops are on the same bus route. They go to the same places, but maybe they see different sights along the way.

I'm still a bit behind and will have to choose the June 2015 Fictionette Freebie tomorrow. I'm also like two months behind in posting Wattpad excerpts. Backfilling the audiofictionettes? Have not even begun to think about it. But this is a good week for getting caught up. My roller derby team is taking the week off (a well-deserved break after the game on June 27) and some of our friends are out of town, so hopefully I'll be able to put all that sudden glut of free time to good use.

Meanwhile, I have begun reading Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs. I brought it home from the Boulder Bookstore on June 19, the Friday that was declared TorsDay in response to a threatened boycott of Tor Books. (The threatened boycott was in fact laughable, but we're SFF fans. If we can at all afford it, we'll jump at any excuse to buy more books.) Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Bennett isn't published by Tor, is he?" Indeed, City of Stairs falls under the Random Penguin umbrella. (OK, Random House Inc. But "Random Penguin" is more fun. It sounds like a chapter of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) But while my arms were full of books by Elizabeth Bear and Jo Walton and Cherie Priest and an anthology by the VanderMeers (and if you think that sounds like a heavy armful, you are right!), I spotted the Bennett and I pounced. Without dropping any books.

Bennett is also the author of the Shirley Jackson Award-winning American Elsewhere, which persists in being one of my favorite books ever. It lives on the horror end of the SFF street and it's got beings from beyond space and time, a female protagonist who kicks ass while dealing with seriously strange mother-daughter issues, no romantic subplot whatsoever, and supernaturally unreliable architecture. I am a fan of supernaturally unreliable architecture. (Speaking of which, have you read this fantastic House of Leaves/Sherlock Holmes crossover fanfic? You're welcome!).

Bennett's Locus Award-nominated City of Stairs also has supernaturally unreliable architecture (the eponymous stairs, miraculous walls that are sort of transparent and opaque at the same time, buildings stuck half inside other buildings), but the beings from beyond space are less cthulhuoid and more, well, Gods.

I'm only three chapters in, mind you. I would very much like to be four chapters in or more, which is why I'm going to end this blog post here.

The planks and bricks came home today and boy am I exhausted.
the workshop ate my homework
Fri 2015-06-26 23:56:01 (single post)

Pictured at right is a large part of the reason that the July 26 Friday Fictionette will be late. This is the walking-in-the-door view of our storage closet, which is located downstairs in the parking garage. Every unit in the building gets one. Bigger units presumably get bigger storage closets. Our unit is a 2-bed 2-bath, which apparently corresponds to a huge storage closet.

It was also a huge selling point for our new home. From the first time we looked at the address's listing online and saw pictures of all the rooms and amenities, John declared that, if we did buy the place, the storage closet would not be used exclusively or even primarily for storage; it would in fact become his new workshop. He has all kinds of DIY projects in various stages of development, and he needs a place where he can store all their components and work on them in comfort.

If he were that sort of a dude, this would be his "man cave." But he is not that sort of a dude (I probably wouldn't have married that sort of a dude), and he finds the whole gender-normative and gender-restrictive idea of a "man cave" to be repulsive. Scrapping and woodworking and electrical projects aren't just for men. And, as he was quick to point out, the workshop/storage unit isn't just his. Some of my DIY is down there too: fleeces I have yet to card and spin, used roller derby equipment to be donated or upcycled, my homebrew equipment for when I finally contemplate making mead again, & etc.

John's been excitedly showing me every step in the ongoing process of organizing and furnishing the place. Like when he brought home that work bench from Home Depot (you can barely see it on the left in the photo) and pointed out where he was going to hang a peg board. And how he met a neighbor who's put his own storage closet to similar use, and got some useful tips from him.

Today we went to the rental storage unit and, together, ferried back four 8-foot planks and a whole bunch of cement blocks. Back at the old place, these used to be part of our entertainment center, where we kept and used our TV, computer, phonograph and records, CDs, and video games. Now they've been erected as storage shelving. See how well they work?

After bringing those things home, I was officially beat. I have no idea how John found the energy to go down there, put a bunch of things on the shelves, sand his workbench to a satiny finish, sweep the whole place out, and make a first pass at staining the workbench. Me, I was flat. It also bears mentioning that in addition to the planks and bricks, we brought home two boxes of paperbacks, and I wasted no time picking out one to reread. So I wasn't just flat, I was flat with my falling-apart copy of Patricia McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe. I had the self-restraint to put it away after fourteen chapters and several hours of on-and-off napping. Would that I had not picked it up in the first place, but it was probably unreasonable to expect me to resist that much temptation.

(Books! Books are coming home! We have a house full of books once more!)

We don't have a name for the workshop besides "the workshop," other than agreeing, with much rolling of the eyes at the mere mention, that it is not "the man cave." But we do have a name for the house. We came up with it last week: The Conservatory. It is phonetically similar to the previous place's name (The Observatory), and it makes reference to almost all the senses of the word we can think of:

A solarium/greenhouse. We've got the herb and vegetable container garden out back, the tropical plants indoors, and the flowers on the front patio.

A place for the performance arts. We've got a number of musical instruments, many of them real (piano, guitar, hammer dulcimer, cornet, etc.) and a few of them fake (Rock Band 2 and 3 on the Wii). Transitioning from a third-floor unit with neighbors below to a street-level unit with nothing underneath but a parking garage has made us much more free to indulge in melodious noise-makers.

A sunroom. AKA the back half of the house. Since the summer arrived in earnest, it's gotten quite bright and warm. The plants are happy, but we find ourselves retreating to the office, kitchen, and front patio for a little relief.

A pun on "conservation." I've already made mention of the wildlife in the neighborhood, specifically itinerant whitetail and mule deer. And then there's the bird-and-squirrel TV on the back porch. We get house finches, sparrows, and the occasional grackle on the feeder. Then there's a very timid bird, somewhat smaller than a sparrow, that visits the feeder quickly and stealthily, almost before I can get a good look at it. I think it's a black-capped chickadee. Squirrels show up to eat whatever winds up on the deck. Sometimes the squirrels investigate our garden, at which point we chase them away with brooms. It'll be a pleasant surprise if any of our sunflowers make it to the flowering stage.

The most recent bird drama has been a family of grackles--possibly more than one family--the adolescents of which have been doggedly resisting their parents' attempts to teach them self-sufficiency. They yap and yap until the adult birds shove a mouthful of suet cake into their faces. Or until the parents make it clear they are not going to do this anymore, but instead showily demonstrate how one goes about getting one's own damn mouthful of suet cake from the feeder. Today, the youngsters have been shyly arriving on the back porch, unchaperoned and determined to figure things out.

Best of all today was the dragonfly swarm at dusk. I don't generally get to see dragonflies in Boulder in anywhere near the numbers I would back home in New Orleans. Usually I just see one or two, mostly out by the small private lakes, along the creeks, or in the pocket "wetlands" where the cattails grow. But as I walked down the block to go see how John was coming along in the workshop, I happened to look up at the place where our building separates into two "towers," into the space in between that's open to the sky, and in that narrow alley was a mob of dragonflies, all swooping and diving and hunting their prey. John came up with me to see the spectacle. We went up to the second floor walkway for a better look, and it was that much more amazing--especially when some of them repeatedly swooped at our faces. I only wish I could have seen their colors better; at twilight, small things turn monochrome.

Well, I also wish I'd gotten a picture, but I doubt my crappy 10-year-old Kodak would have done the scene justice. Maybe I'll try anyway on Sunday. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow's bout day. Come twilight I'll be skating roller derby at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. (If you would like to see this for yourself, doors open at 5:30 PM and tickets are $15; I'll be in the second bout.) But I'll be home at twilight on Sunday, unless plans should change.

Sunday is also when I'm hoping to post the July 26 Friday Fictionette. Monday at the latest. (Sorry again.)

So that's the week, that's the news from the Conservatory, and that's it for me for now. Good night!

we have met the enemy, yadda yadda yadda
Thu 2015-06-25 23:59:59 (single post)

Being a terribly self-indulgent iteration of the steps by which a mind sabotages itself. This is how it begins:

  1. "Oh, crud! I overslept! The whole day is ruined!"
  2. "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of day left. Not all is lost!"
  3. "In fact... heck, I could go back to sleep. There's still plenty of time."

Second iteration

  1. "Oh, crud! I wasn't supposed to go back to sleep for that long! I've overslept! The whole day is toast!"
  2. "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of time. Let's not panic."
  3. "In fact, let's relax. Have a nice breakfast (er, lunch). Let off a little steam."

Third iteration

  1. "Crud! How did another two hours pass while I was just reading blogs/playing games over breakfast/lunch? It is now futile to get anything done today!"

...And so forth. Steps 1-3 repeat for some indeterminate number of times until Step 1 is followed by Step APOCALYPSE, which is, "Seeing as how it is futile to get anything done at this late hour, I might as well not try. It's not worth the stress. I'm sorry, but, good night."

What I'm trying to do is build exit ramps for this merry-go-round.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with "It's OK, there's still plenty of time, don't panic." As a source of hope, Step 2 is quite healthy. The problem is Step 3, wherein Step 2 is used as an excuse to procrastinate.

I'm experimenting with an alternate Step 3, which goes, "So if I get started on my work now, I'll finish it early and have plenty time for other things, like spinning or practicing piano or playing video games!" Followed by actually starting the work, no matter how late the day's gotten. I mean, hell, no matter how impossible it has become to log a whole 5 hours of writing, I can always at least log a few minutes. (And, for the record, I did. This blog post is part of that. Go me.)

Practice, as they say, makes permanent. Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice finding excuses to never get started at all. Doing otherwise requires a certain amount of escape velocity. Doing otherwise repeatedly is damn difficult. Thus, Tuesday was pretty good, Wednesday was only half-good, and today... was barely any good at all.

Tomorrow will be better.

For our purposes, "tomorrow" starts now.

Cover art incorporates a photo of a Greyhound bus by Kevin.B on Wikimedia Commons. Click to see original photo.
this fictionette is only for the strong of stomach
Tue 2015-06-23 22:21:33 (single post)
  • 1,192 words (if poetry, lines) long

So here's the Friday Fictionette I was supposed to post for June 19. It's called "All Creatures Great and Small," and it is, at least partially, about puking. (That's by way of your content warning. You may not want to read it while you're eating.) It's also about the creation of teeny, tiny, cute yet disgusting monsters after the manner of a particular fairy tale.

Today's work day went almost exactly as planned, down to taking five-minute spinning breaks out on the patio in between 25-minute sessions of writing. I'm spinning a lovely half-fleece of "black" (really a very dark brown) CVM lamb. At least, I think it's CVM. I used to have this written down on a card that I kept with the fleece, but the moths ate it along with a shameful amount of wool.

When I discovered the moths had gotten into it--this was last year when I was cleaning out the office closet at the old address--I went into Emergency Wool Rescue Mode. The first step of Emergency Wool Rescue Mode was wash it all right now. The second and subsequent steps were to allow it to freeze, then allow it to thaw, repeat until sure all moth eggs have been destroyed.

Despite the emergency washing, the wool still feels greasy. But it's nice. Lanolin is good for your hands, after all. And each flicked lock seems to stretch like taffy as I draft it into the twist. It's pleasant and easy work, and very rewarding as the yards and yards of thin single ply wind onto the bobbin.

We've been spending more and more time out on the patio since bringing home the deck furniture. John and I had breakfast out there together, along with our usual post-breakfast state-of-the-household chat. Then I brought the spinning wheel, fleece, and carding combs out, and they sat beside or on the table all day, ready for me to come out and take each five-minute break. When the five minutes were up, I could easily hear the Pomodoro Timer's "get back to work" whistle through the open office window. Neighbors passed by and waved, smiled, commented on the weather. Lawn mowers sent their buzz-saw serenades up into the sky, where small planes doing airport pattern work occasionally echoed that song back down.

Despite the heat of the summer, it's cool on the patio, cooler even than in the house. It's a very nice place to be--at least until the mosquitoes start their twilight hunt. I may start taking more of my work out there.

Buck chillin' on the lawn.
Me chillin' on the patio
the great and hyperlocal outdoors
Mon 2015-06-22 23:41:51 (single post)

I've many times sung excited praises of our great new indoors. But the great outdoors in our neighborhood is worth a mention.

First, have I mentioned that we get deer? This first photo is the sight that greeted me when I headed out the door Saturday morning. I saw the tips of the deer's antlers over the half-wall, but it wasn't until I emerged out onto the sidewalk that I realized it wasn't some bush or shrub I'd somehow never noticed before. "Oh, my," is what came out of my mouth. Then I ran back inside and got John. He came out, took one look, and said, "Oh, my." "That's what I said," I said.

John's the one who took the photo. All credit where credit is due.

I'm not sure I've seen a buck in the city with such thick antlers. That and the grizzled look to its face makes me think he's an older animal than I usually see in town. And he just lay there on the lawn, chillin', while neighbors emerged onto the sidewalks and upper walkways to gawk. He didn't get up and leave until the garbage truck thundered into the cul-de-sac. Even then I'd be hesitant to describe his exit as "scared away." It was more like, "What the heck is this noisy thing? What a nuisance! I'm out."

John also took the second photo, which shows off our front patio.

All the first floor units in our building have what I suppose are "privacy walls," based on their apparent purpose being to be shielding the front room's window from the casual glances of passersby. This creates an enclosure which I've referred to as the "front patio" despite that being an overly optimistic description. The space gets perhaps a little sun in the morning; otherwise, it's dim and empty and a little dire. Or at least it was. We were determined to turn it into somewhere pleasant to be.

So we hung up our hanging spaths there on the preexisting hooks that bracketed the window. Then I installed some supports on the privacy wall and hung up some more plants, being careful to choose ones that might flower despite getting very little direct sunlight. (The begonias appear to be doing well. The impatiens in the rectangular box are less enthusiastic, but I hope they'll come around.) And at last, yesterday, we acquired patio furniture.

Now I have an outdoor office!

And these have been our weekend adventures in the great and hyperlocal outdoors.

Click for excerpt hosted at Patreon, along with full cover art credits.
this fictionette sees all, knows all, but takes a week to tell all
Fri 2015-06-19 23:35:21 (single post)
  • 1,157 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hey look! It's last week's fictionette. It's called "Adventures in Posthumous Journalism," which, given Wednesday's blog post, is about what you'd expect. Weird thing is, I never got around to the idea that first kicked things off (the fanatical group that opposes utopias as leading to stagnation). Which is great. The idea that kicked things off was dauntingly huge--like, a novel's worth of worldbuilding--and that wasn't going to fit in under no 1,500 words, unh-uh, no way. Much less threatening to just let the main character make her way through the first scene of that hypothetical novel, mouthing off as she goes. But I thought I might at least get to mention the original idea just a bit before the cut-off. But no.

I should just stop issuing positive statements about timing. Yesterday was worthless. There was no getting things done yesterday. Yesterday I woke up with a headache and a sore back and a sore neck and things didn't so much get better as they got vaguely tolerable, at least tolerable enough to go to scrimmage carrying along with me the even vaguer hope that roller derby cures everything. It cured most things. Everything was a lot less sore afterwards. Well, the big sore things. There were new little sore things, but that's roller derby for you. I'll happily take on new bruises in exchange for getting rid of that sore, tight upper back.

But the moral of the story is, I'm not allowed to say things like "Tomorrow is as late as I'm letting this thing get," because some fool imp in my brain hears that and sabotages it to kablooey.

So I'll say this much: I'm not going to get the June 19 fictionette up over the weekend! My weekend is totally full! It involves a wedding anniversary date at the new drive-in theater in Denver, a sort of roller derby barn raising, a furniture shopping trip, a grocery trip, some various housewarming operations, and quite possibly even more excitement than that. So I'm not even tempted to promise the weekend.

But it'll go up just as soon after that as I possibly can manage.

if you can't choose what to write you still must make a choice
Wed 2015-06-17 23:46:58 (single post)

So things continue to be late over here. But they are getting better! I at least managed to get a solid work session in on the Fictionette that was due out June 12. To no one's surprise, it didn't get done in the car on the way to Nebraska--but I did actually work on it then, which is something. Since then I've been nibbling on it a bit every day. I hoped to have it up by now, but I suppose it will have to be tomorrow. (It had just better be tomorrow. I am not letting it go later than that.)

It's kind of a dark one, involving a terrorist plot and a tragic death. I honestly wasn't looking forward to writing it. This is what happens if I don't get my freewriting done every day; when it's time to choose one to turn into a Fictionette, I don't have lots of choices, and I wind up having to choose the one that's the least bad. And comforting myself that I won't have to Fictionette it up until this week next month. Then "this week next month" turns into this week and I'm all, er. Really? This is what I assigned myself? Oh, hell.

I've been warming up to it over the week, though, especially since I decided the narrator would be the dead person. Writing from the point of view of a ghost, especially one who's not letting death stop her from becoming a great journalist, is kinda fun. Interesting, at least.

I don't even remember which of the freewriting sessions from this week last month is scheduled to become the June 19 Fictionette. I haven't even looked at it. Gah.

Which is not to say this hasn't been a productive week! It has! I've been more-or-less sticking to my daily plans for writing. But it's just been slow, not least because there's all this other stuff to be productive about. We've been cleaning up, rearranging stuff, and retrieving things from the rented storage unit. Also shopping for hardware. John has been slowly converting our storage closet downstairs into an honest-to-goodness workshop; to that end, he has brought back from Home Depot an honest-to-goodness workbench. Also an AC outlet that stacks into a lightbulb socket. Tomorrow or the next day, the boards-and-brick-bookshelves come home. (They won't be enough, especially since some of them are going into the storage closet, to better organize our storage. We need more bookshelves. One over there, and one over there, and also one out there.) Then Sunday, we just might, for the first time in our lives, become the proud owners of patio furniture.

And yet, with all this going on (and roller derby too), I somehow found time to post to File770.com a filk of half of Rush's "Freewill" on the topic of the Sad/Rabid Puppy Hugos Ballot Takeover of 2015. Because it got in my head and wouldn't leave, OK? These things happen! ...What?

Maybe I need sleep.

making the write decisions
Tue 2015-06-16 23:53:28 (single post)

There are no wrong decisions. This is very important to remember. I keep forgetting, which causes me no end of problems until I remember it again.

For a little while, I was working through the exercises in Creativity Rules! (A Writer's Workbook) by John Vorhaus. I never made it all the way through the book. Partially due to a feeling that the exercises were becoming less relevant to my particular practice, and partially due to some irreconcilable issues I came to have with the author's perspective, I fell out of the habit and eventually put the book aside.

Nevertheless, that book did introduce me to a couple of eternal verities that I have tried to hold onto. To wit:

  • All writing is good writing. Any writing is more writing than you had before.
  • Today's goal: Be a better writer than I was yesterday.
  • Writing means deciding, often arbitrarily, between infinite possibilities.
  • There are no wrong decisions.

It's that last bit I have to keep remembering. Of late, my freewriting sessions have devolved into circumlocution when they ought to be zeroing in on specifics. "The main character investigates too closely into some mystery," I'll write, "which results in he or she uncovering a Terrible Truth which they will always wish they'd never learned." OK, fine, but what's the mystery? What's the truth? Who is the character?

And that's where I'll stall out--I don't want to make any decisions. I'm afraid I'll make the wrong decision. I'll write myself into a corner. I won't know what I'm writing about. If the mystery and the terrible truth involve a corporate outfit, I'll trip over my total ignorance of corporate culture. If it's an IT environment, my memory of how that goes is more than ten years outdated. And that's before I consider the implications of what gender I make the main character, or what economic background, or what their particular role is in the environment where they are investigating the mystery, and...

And paralysis.

Which is silly, because, as I must constantly remind myself, there are no wrong decisions. Any decision leads to story. Different decisions lead to different stories. And no decision is final! Sure, each decision narrows the possibilities available within any one story. Once I decide to make the main character a trust-fund baby used to getting his own way at his father's bank, I no longer have the option of making her a woman who has clawed her way out from poverty and up the corporate latter. But after writing for twenty-five minutes about the banker's son, I can open up a new blank document, reset my timer, and write for twenty-five minutes about the self-made woman. Different decisions lead to different stories, and I can write them all.

So I just have to remind myself: Angst over arbitrary decisions is just another way to put off the actual act of writing. It's one of the sneaky ways Resistance and Avoidance manage to crash the productivity party. The moment I notice that I'm writing around the story idea instead of writing it down, that's when I need to convert all that circumlocution into a game of Mad Libs. "[Character] investigates [mystery] in [some corporate environment] and discovers [the horrible truth]... OK, make that 'college intern,' 'weekly meetings she's not invited to,' and 'demonic invocation.' Go! ... OK, now let's try it again with 'newly appointed interim director,' 'shameful inefficiencies concerning environmental studies,' and 'deaths being covered up in appalling numbers'. Wait, doesn't that sound kind of familiar? Who cares, play with it anyway."

Point is, it's a game of fill-in-the-blanks, and there are no wrong answers. Fill in the blanks more or less at random. Write about the results, in good faith and with actual scenes and characters and details. Then fill the blanks again, and write those scenes and characters and details.

Every decision is the right decision, so long as it's the "write" decision.

...And there's your cheesy inspirational slogan for the week. You're welcome!

Click to view original photo of Estonia's Tallinn Tunnels
this week has barely got its shoes on
Thu 2015-06-11 23:54:58 (single post)
  • 1,571 words (if poetry, lines) long

...and tomorrow it's going to take the wheel. We have an eight hour drive ahead of us, followed by quite possibly a visit to the National Museum of Roller Skating (if we get to Lincoln in time, which is, alas, not likely) and, if we've still got any energy, a session of recreational rolling around at the Skate Zone (which is pretty definite).

And then we'll be competing against the No Coast Derby Girls on Saturday. Which is the whole point of the trip.

I'm also looking at composing and publishing the June 2015 Week 2 Friday Fictionette in the car. Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to count on that. Well, that was before the week got squandered on--well, this and that. Mostly this, a little of that. We'll see.

And what about Week 1? Well, it's up. Finally. "You Could Go a Long Way in Those Shoes" is kind of comedy, kind of horror, and kind of vaguely influenced by having recently read Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The writing prompts for the original freewriting session were "Underground Railroad" and "cleats." It wound up having much to do with the importance of good running shoes in scoping out the possibilities of a cross-continental subterranean passenger railroad system.

I'm undecided whether the world of this fictionette is fantasy or science fiction. It's comparable to present day Earth in many ways, including the technological, but the entire continent which provides the story's setting has sort of a basement floor. I toyed with the idea of making it a post-space-colonization planet, but I was honestly too lazy to come up with any concrete details about the history of space travel and the future tech they'd have to have. So it's more sort of an alternate Earth on an alternate North America with less urban sprawl. (Which seems like a plot hole. There'd be a very good incentive for urban centers to sprawl all about the place, as you will see.) In any case, I'd like to write more in this setting, once I know a little bit more about the setting.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to say I met one of my goals with the June 5 fictionette: It's not just a story-like object. It's actually a complete story. Enjoy!

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