“What is writing? Telepathy, of course.”
Stephen King

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

further rail misadventures and their companion silver linings
Tue 2014-07-15 12:31:45 (single post)

Got on the City of New Orleans train yesterday afternoon, and it's coming into Chicago today. It was scheduled to get in at 9 this morning, but someone driving an 18-wheeler near Independence, Louisiana decided they were in just too much of a hurry to wait for those seven or eight cars of our southbound opposite number to go by. The ensuing collision disabled the engine of train, leaving them immobile on the tracks while they waited for a replacement locomotive to come get them. So we sat around in Hammond for a few hours, and are now running 4 hours late.

Once again, instead of a five-hour layover, it looks like I'll have just 15 minutes before it's time to board my connecting train.

My sympathies go out to anyone who was hurt, or worse, in the collision. All I know is what they told our crew, which is that the crew on train 59 were all fine, and that the load the 18-wheeler was carrying swung around and knocked a hole in the wall of the first car behind the engine. At the very least, that had to have seriously startled some people. As for the driver of the truck, I don't know. I do know that when we finally passed the site of the accident, it looked like the cab was unharmed but its load had been reduced to scrap, and that scrap was being loaded into a dumpster.

Update: Reading the link above, it looks like all passengers were unharmed, but the driver of the semi was ejected from the vehicle and is now in the hospital in stable condition.

What is it about the area between Hammond and McComb that tempts people to race the train? Don't ever, ever try to race the train, y'all. Not for anything. Not even if lives depend on your on-time arrival. Because you will not arrive on time. You will lose that race, and you will lose it messily.

Despite indirect misadventures, I've had a pleasant trip. I'm returning via sleeper car, enjoying the chance to decompress in solitude after an extremely social vacation. The meals have been tasty, and oddly peaceful; I've been fortunate to not have to sit with that aggressively gregarious sort--sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, always older than me and conscious of it--who interrogate other travelers for every single personal detail in the name of making conversation. I think they especially do it because they see I'm traveling alone and don't want me to feel left out, bless their hearts. But they leave me feeling invaded, without socially acceptable recourse to say, "Those are uncomfortably personal questions for a woman traveling alone, and I choose not to answer."

I mean, I've said almost those exact words before, but before I say them I have to be willing for the rest of the meal to be chilly and awkward. Society exacts a price when a woman patrols her boundaries, and it's shitty. But I've blogged about that before and I won't bore you with it now.

Anyway, I was ready for that sort of person, should I have encountered them; I had determined, at the least provocation, to talk their ears off about roller derby. But the family I sat with last night and the couple this morning were mostly content to talk quietly among themselves, asking me nothing more than, "What are you knitting?" For the most part, whole-table conversation tended to be low-pressure, and centered on shared present experience: speculation about the collision, observations of the world outside the train, guesses about how far we'd come and what town we were passing through.

Speaking of which, somewhere in southern Illinois there is an A-J Bank. I think it stands for Ann-Jones; at least, that's what I thought I read on another building. Maybe that was the name of the town. When I have a little internet time and no errands to run, I'll look it up. But at first I thought I was seeing a different letter, and I thought, "Oh, the Wyverary has a bank!"

I can tell you who I'm glad I didn't sit with at dinner last night. I had to overhear him all through the meal. [TRIGGER WARNING FOR EFFIN' RAPE CULTURE, Y'ALL. THERE IS A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH.] He was one of those jolly married gentlemen who, seeing the opportunity to "entertain" another couple across the table, makes a belittling joke out of every single thing his wife says. Every single word out of her mouth, he pounced on it to show how stupid he thought it was, how silly, how easy to serve it up for common ridicule. Oh, the condescension. Oh, the mocking. It was awful. But then he capped it off at the end of the meal by saying, presumably to the other man at the table, "I don't have to get her drunk; she's my wife!" Because when casual misogyny is already a fun social party game for you, why not make jokes about how sex with the person you supposedly love never actually involves getting her consent?

I was so relieved that he left the diner before my table received our entrees, and that he was only just going to breakfast this morning when I was returning from my meal. I suppose the lady in the next room who woke me up at 5:45 AM (seriously, y'all, these compartments aren't soundproof, so please refrain from shouting) is in fact to be thanked; she's the reason I went to breakfast pretty much the moment they opened at 6.

So, anyway, it's been a good trip. All my direct encounters have been pleasant, I'm about halfway through my writing day already, and I'm looking forward to a solid afternoon of short story revision on the Californial Zephyr. That is, as long as I don't miss my connection. And I don't think I'm going to. As I type, it's 12:57 and we're waiting on the signal that we can enter the station. I suppose it's possible we could sit here until 2 PM, but I'm going to be optimistic about that.

(Update: Made it into the station with minutes to spare, and another few minutes to upload this. Yay!)

what i learned on my summer vacation
Mon 2014-07-14 10:57:52 (single post)

That while a skating distance of 2.1 miles looks unremarkable on paper, and indeed is not so difficult on a bike path in the Vail Valley, it's somewhat more grueling in high heat, high humidity, and over streets that are in dire need of repaving.

That when skating from the warehouse district to the Irish Channel on a beer pilgrimage, it's very important to check the tap room's hours of operation so that one need not wait another 45 minutes to get a cold glass of water out of the sun.

That a 10oz pour of NOLA Brewery's "Girl Stout Cookie" is always worth it.

These were only some of the things I learned during the 2014 edition of the San Fermín en Nueva Orleans celebration. And here is one more:

That if you skate some 8 miles in a day, in crowds, up and down curbs, over treacherous terrain, and you fall just once, it will not be somewhere discreet, like under an oak tree on the ridiculously wrecked sidewalk on Washington Avenue. No. It will be at high noon on the corner of Canal and N. Peters in front of God and the street cars and everybody.

However, I did only fall just the once that day. So there's a thing.

revision versus avoidance behaviors; also karaoke and a surprise DNS outage
Thu 2014-07-10 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 6,515 words (if poetry, lines) long

Tonight I'm writing this from Hurricane's Sports Bar in Metairie, on Vets not far from Bonnabel. My brother tends bar most nights there, so hanging out at the bar means hanging out with him, which is nice. Hurricane's is on Facebook. You may like them if you're so inclined. I quite like them myself, and not just because my brother likes to cover my beers.

It took me a minute to figure out what their event schedule for the weekend was, because rather than hosting an itemized calendar or using FB's event pages interface, they simply take a photo of their calendar and make it their cover image. Once I figured that out, I saw that Thursdays were "Rock the Mic: Live Band Karaoke," and I thought, huh, that's different, and also I like karaoke. I should go. And so I did. And it was joyous. They had one of my standby tunes in their list, and they played it, and I sang it, and they sang backup, and a good time was had by all. It was unlike any karaoke experience I have ever had, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Rock the Mic is also on Facebook, and you may like them if you are so inclined. I like them.

This afternoon I took my short story revision time to the CC's coffee house on Vets at Division. (I had unearthed a decade-old gift card for use there. Alas, its balance turned out to be zero.) I am trying to be virtuous despite being "on vacation," so I am continuing to push my dogged way through the lumps in the draft-in-progress. There are, however, moments when I ask myself, am I actually doing a revision here, or am I just pushing prepositions around in a bid to avoid finishing the damn thing? This is a thing we are sometimes prone to: getting stuck in the mid-book or halfway through a story, and going back to the beginning and endlessly tweaking rather than pushing through the stuckness. I worry that I'm doing that...

...right up until my slow pass through the draft brings me a perfect opportunity to plant a little foreshadowing, based on something I just figured out about how the story needs to end. Then I stop worrying, because obviously revision is getting done here.

Up with foreshadowing! Down with worrying! I like giving myself reasons to stop worrying.

And now, a deep sigh for the frailties of internet. The internet went down at the bar, so I ran along home to upload this, but the internet was down there too, and also for my parents' desktop computer. "DNS server cannot be reached." Ain't no amount of rebooting the router going to fix it when Cox Cable appears to have DNS trouble. I really need to commit some alternate DNS addresses to memory for times like this.

(Oddly, popping in Google's DNS addresses didn't help, nor did it hurt the next morning when service had resumed. I wonder if yet something else was going on. Cox is not saying.)

In any case, this post won't get uploaded until Friday, but it will be backdated for Thursday, just to be confusing. Also I shall be restoring my HabitRPG streaks because I did all the things, I just couldn't click on all the things. Phooey.

as the unicorn said to the harpy
Wed 2014-07-09 17:58:58 (single post)
  • 6,468 words (if poetry, lines) long

As it turns out, I was right--I got to Chicago barely 15 minutes prior to boarding time on my connecting train. There was no time for anything except the ridiculous walk down the long boarding platform, into the station, then clockwise around via the main concourse and the central ticketing/passenger services hub to finally arrive in the South Terminal and wait in line to go right back out onto the main concourse and thence to the boarding platform once more.

I was oddly jealous of the passengers connecting with Train 30 who were told, "Your train is on the tracks opposite ours. When you get off this train, just cross the platform and get right on Train 30." None of this walking-the-long-way-around-to-get-back-where-you-started business for them! And "all" it cost them was the stress of a will-we-won't-we nick-of-time arrival in Chicago. Yes, I'm joking. But only sort of.

Anyway, I did manage to get online while the California Zephyr was stopped at the station in Galesburg, Illinois. O fortuitous Galesburg and your free city wifi! I was able to run all my internet errands there: Upload yesterday's blog post, check off all my tasks on HabitRPG, disable the Dailies that I can't do whilst out of town (sorry, plants, but I cannot water you from all the way over here!), attempt to download my email and the latest posts on my roller derby league's online forum. I say "attempt" because the email did not, in fact, download. And while I could retrieve the Activity Stream on the league's VBulletin forum, I couldn't pull up any actual posts. "Response denied by WatchGuard HTTP proxy. Don't think you should be going there?" Apparently the city's wi-fi gateway disapproves of VBulletin cookies. They are too long and full of suspicious characters.

Speaking of HabitRPG, I seem to have turned on my Train 6 seatmate to its joys and wonders. Huzzah! More lives gamified! Let us go smite Shadow Dragons with such fearsome weapons as Taking Out The Trash and Returning Books To Library!

In story news, I am working my way from beginning to NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING GOES HERE slowly, smoothing out the lumps as I go. My hope is to have some idea how NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING goes by the time I get there.

Meanwhile, as part of my campaign to Be An Informed Hugo Voter, I've just finished reading Campbell Award candidate A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar. (I'm pretty sure I misspelled the title in a recent Tweet. Forgive me!) It is a gorgeous piece of work, written in a lush poetic language that transforms my very thought process as I look out the window of the train and watch towns to which I am myself a stranger roll by. I even dreamt in the book's cadences the other night after reading myself to sleep. Samatar might have my vote for that alone. But then she uses such language to create a rich world complete with competing cultures and vibrant mythologies and their own canonical works of literature. And then on top of it all, the story it tells belongs to that category most near and dear to my heart: In Praise Of Books.

It belongs to other categories, too: Coming of Age Story. Like Father, Like/Unlike Son. Feet of Clay. Unrequited Love. Changing The Course of Empire. Laying the Ghost. But for me, the most important thing is the main character's falling head over heels in love with reading, and how that love frames every other passion in the story.

Once, when I was perhaps eight, on one of the many nights when I stayed up long past my bedtime with a book I couldn't put down, I heard my mother coming up the stairs. Quickly I doused the light and hid my book under my pillow. Moments later, when Mom opened the door, I was pretending to be asleep. She was not fooled. What she said next will live in my brain forever, in shades of both pride and rue: "God help me, I have one child who won't read and another who won't stop!"

Which is why passages like the following speak so keenly to me:

The silence. End of all poetry, all romances. Earlier, frightened, you began to have some intimation of it: so many pages had been turned, the book was so heavy in one hand, so light in the other, thinning toward the end. Still, you consoled yourself. You were not quite at the end of the story, at that terrible flyleaf, blank like a shuttered window: there were still a few pages under your thumb, still to be sought and treasured. Oh, was it possible to read more slowly?—No. The end approached, inexorable, at the same measured pace. The last page, the last of the shining words! And there—the end of the book. The hard cover which, when you turn it, gives you only this leather stamped with old roses and shields.

Then the silence comes, like the absence of sound at the end of the world. You look up. It’s a room in an old house. Or perhaps it’s a seat in a garden, or even a square; perhaps you’ve been reading outside and you suddenly see the carriages going by. Life comes back, the shadows of leaves. Someone comes to ask what you will have for dinner, or two small boys run past you, wildly shouting; or else it’s merely a breeze blowing a curtain, the white unfurling into a room, brushing the papers on a desk. It is the sound of the world. But to you, the reader, it is only a silence, untenanted and desolate.

It doesn't hurt that this passage is saying something else at the same time, about other griefs, other abandonment. But even if it were "only" talking about how reaching the end of a book, even one with a happy ending, is always in some sense a tragedy, it would still give me the chills.

It put me in mind of a similar passage in Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, to which Olondria felt in many ways like a tribute:

If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger--

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early--

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless--

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won't understand what Bastian did next.

What did Bastian do next? Why, he stole the copper-bound volume from the bookshop while Cornelius's back was turned, thus unknowingly committing himself to saving Fantastica. (And no, Cornelius didn't set Bastian up. That knowing nod and smile is entirely a fabrication of the movie. In the book, Cornelius actually lost all memory of ever having had the book at all.)

There's a shock at finding oneself recognized so closely by an author; this, by the way, is why Dorothea Brande warns us that the non-writer may regard us as witches. "Nothing but witchcraft, [the layperson] seems to believe, could have made another human being so wise in the ways of his kind." But after the shock of recognition comes the warm relief of having been recognized. It takes one to know one, as they say. Being understood means not being alone. "Oh, you are like me!" as the unicorn said to the harpy.

Another point in Samatar's favor is that she made me cry in plain sight in an Amtrak sightseer lounge car. Dammit. Talk about your awkward moments.

As I finish this up, the train is sitting somewhere south of Jackson, Mississippi, waiting for the freight traffic ahead to clear. We've been precisely on time up until now. Outside is a swampish waterway lined with trees I ought to be able to name. A constant drizzle polka-dots the surface of the green-brown water. White crestless wading birds with long necks and yellow beaks stand on one black leg, single-knee-deep in the water or perch warily in small trees. The only sign of human encroachment is the very railroad track that brought us here and the small square wooden sign beside it bearing some code unintelligible to layfolk.

No one is in any hurry at all. It's glorious.

I'll upload this post from my parents' house, my old house, in Metairie. But that's several hours off yet. Between now and then, I hope to make some real progress on the story. So, here's to good news on that front tomorrow.

from the slim and hypothetical wedge of wifi between trains
Tue 2014-07-08 14:21:24 (single post)
  • 6,344 words (if poetry, lines) long

If I get this posted, it'll be from Chicago, but I'm not certain I'll be able to upload it at all.

I had been planning to spend my layover time in the library, uploading work, downloading more work, recording my Wednesday show for AINC. I'd been planning to skate to the library, in fact, having taken a few minutes while still on the train to put my outdoor wheels on my skates.

But the train's almost four hours behind schedule. It only left Ottumwa, Iowa just before 1 PM. At this rate, we might not arrive in Chicago before 7:00. I'll probably still manage to board the City of New Orleans for 8 PM as planned, but the likelihood for pratical internet time between trains is decreasing by the hour.

Still, here's a blog post. I remain optimistic.

It's been so many weeks since I left off revising "The Impact of Snowflakes" that I couldn't remember where I'd left off. So I spent a few minutes rereading the version in progress. It's rough, y'all. It's lumpy and awkward and overwritten and wordy. I suppose it addresses the problems unearthed by the last round of critique, but there's new text-level problems like woah.

Which is OK, I guess. Once I get to the end of the version in progress, I can print it out and fill its margin with performative scribbles that will hopefully restore it to a state of approximate gracefulness.

But first I have to get to the end of the version in progress. And that's going to be a trick, considering that I left off right around where I'd placed a mental marker saying NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING BEGINS HERE.

New and improved ending. Right. OK. This is a thing that's going to happen.

Any minute now.

Here we go.

just another muddy monday
Mon 2014-07-07 16:37:22 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Most weekday mornings, my Mom gets together with her friend for an hour or so of either 1) swimming laps and other aquatic exercises at Mom's place, or 2) tending garden at her friend's place. Now, I'm not certain of all the details involved in 2). When I'm in town, I don't go with them to the garden. I just visit with them at Mom's place when they've finished swimming and I've finished stumbling out of bed. But I hear them laughing about "Muddy Mondays" and "Weeding Wednesdays," so I can guess.

Back here in Colorado, it was a very Muddy Monday at the farm, and a 100% Weeding Weekday. It was muddy enough that everyone else pretty much gave up on their boots and went barefoot. And the weeding went on at every level: speeding through and between the peppers with the hula hoe, or carefully picking and pulling by hand the jungle of weeds that were drowning the delicate parsnip sprouts.

It's depressingly easy to accidentally uproot a delicate young parsnip sprout when you're pulling up a three-foot-tall lamb's-quarter. The key is to pull the weed sideways, then stick your hand in the mud between its roots and the tender crop you're trying to save. And even then a few experimental tugs may only demonstrate that it's time to just cut the weed's stem rather than risk such a soil disruption.

I'm sure there is a very clever writing metaphor here, but it probably won't occur to me until I am actually writing.

Usually we end up taking a break for an early farm-cooked lunch around 10:30 or 10:45. After lunch, there's usually time for me to put in another hour or so before taking my leave at 1:00 PM. But today I left pretty much at lunchtime in order to do something about my pre-travel stress. I'm getting on a train tonight, heading down for San Fermín en Nueva Orleans. All weekend I've been stressing out about getting myself ready to go along with taking care of some other very necessary housework. I figured if I gave myself a couple hours extra after the farm today, I'd be in better shape.

And so I am. I got packed up, I did the household accounting, I took out the compost and cleaned the fridge a little, I watered the plants, and I did not at all hurry through the very necessary time spent soaking in the tub after getting home from the farm.

And I made you a blog post, 'cause I love y'all.

Tomorrow's blog post will come to you from somewhere in downtown Chicago, though it will likely be drafted on the train because I aim to be virtuous. Virtuous! With discipline and a work ethic! In the key of Ragnarok!

Speaking of virtue, here is where I offer my sincere apologies to certain Chicago-area friends that I plan on keeping my layover all to myself rather than spending it on visiting with y'all. Maybe we can catch up on my back? But tomorrow I'll need to go nose down in various obligations and not come up until they are done.

In half an hour I head out the door. In about an hour I'll be at the station. In about two hours from now, barring unexpected delays, I'll have boarded the train. And that is when I will get to relax, because once I'm on the train, ain't nowhere else I have to be until the train gets where it's going.

But for now, pre-travel stress continues for just a little while longer. At a lower level than it might have, though. And also with less mud than earlier.

sometimes you just accidentally take a day off
Thu 2014-07-03 23:58:28 (single post)

Last night was one of those nights when everything and anything wakes me up. Minute motions from the other occupant of the bed; various outdoor occurrences, some involving cars; the apparent hallucination, if that's the right word, that shot me bolt upright, certain I was smelling a house fire; the bat that I watched fly back and forth outside the window, before it came to rest hanging upside down from the awning so it could screech its head off for several minutes straight; my own thoughts chattering away the way they do--

Blargh. I stayed in bed exceptionally late trying to make up for it all. Consequently, I got very little done today.

Well. I did a rather ridiculous amount of futzing around on the Gimp file I use to solve my daily jigsaw sudoku. I set up a bunch of selection paths to make it quicker to remove candidate digits. This probably has more to do than the crappy sleepless night did with today's lack of productivity, in all honesty.

And I scrimmaged in BCB's very last scrimmage in our beloved Bomb Shelter #2. That's right - we are moving out of the practice warehouse on Weaver Park Road. New location is still TBD. In the meantime, we'll be practicing in a variety of places, including a few Thursday scrimmages in July at the Wagon Wheel in Brighton. But that's still to come. For tonight, it was three periods of fun mix-up roller derby with a 4th of July theme, followed by tearing up the track, packing up all the things, and moving stuff out or at least toward the door.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. To commemorate the occasion, I am taking the day off. On purpose, I mean. As my actual plan. So. Have a happy weekend, everyone!

speaking of floral f-bombs
Wed 2014-07-02 23:18:27 (single post)
  • 51,730 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 5,984 words (if poetry, lines) long

Yesterday's successful last-minute completion of "Caroline's Wake" and submission of same to its very first market (which has now sent me an receipt acknowledgement email of the "We look forward to reading it" variety, which I believe means I no longer need fear that it will be deleted unread due to various infractions of the... idiosyncratic guidelines) has led to the usual feeling of "now what?"

The pressure's off. The deadline's past. The battle's been fought and won. So... "Now what am I supposed to do?"

This should not be a hard question. There's always the next story in the revision queue. There's always content writing for fun and small amounts of profit. And there's always the novel I'm supposed to be working on every day but, well, haven't.

"The" novel. Honestly, that's more like the twelve or fourteen or so novel drafts that have been accumulating since I first discovered the existence of National Novel Writing Month. But my serious efforts this year have been on behalf of Iron Wheels (working title, naturally), the YA urban fantasy teen romance roller derby novel that I tried to write last November.

I've started poking at it again, picking up where I left off re-envisioning its eagle's-eye-view outline with Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method" for novel-writing. One of the steps in this Snowflake Method is to write a synopsis of the story from the point of view of each character. It's actually a lot of fun, and a useful reminder that every character is the protagonist in their own autobiography. When the "real" protagonist is being heroic out in the forest approaching the castle, the evil overlord isn't just sitting up in the high tower playing solitaire and twiddling his or her thumbs. The evil overlord is living that story, too, and from his or her point of view, they're the main character and the hero.

What I'm mostly uncovering is the fact that I don't actually know what the evil overlord--which is to say, the Faerie Queen--I don't actually know what her story looks like. I know its general arc, from wanting to having to losing to desperately trying to regain to finally resigning herself to loss in the end--the story arc of an antagonist is often tragic--but not its details. So I keep poking away at it, hoping details will fall out of it like candy.

By the way, did you know Shakespeare never actually named the flower that Oberon and Puck use to restore everyone to normal at the end of "A Midsummer's Night Dream"? The love spell flower, the one that causes all the ruckus in the first place, that one he names. Heck, he even gives that flower an origin myth (apparently Cupid is a bad shot with that bow of his). But despite what my big book of illustrated retold Shakespeare stories for young readers led me to believe, the flower that cures everyone has no name or reference other than "Dian's bud," which has greater power than "Cupid's flower" and thus can nullify love spells.

("Dian" of course is "Diana," also known as Artemis, the chaste Goddess of the Hunt and of the Wild. I have opinions about this whole "pristine wilderness = celibate woman" thing. My own personal theory is, it got thought up by men who considered women's only roles in sex to be "witholder of" or "endurer of." If you consider that there's another role, "enthusiastic participant," then you start wondering why Diana/Artemis wasn't allowed to enjoy any of what Her forest critters were getting plenty of.)

(Oddly, there is a plant called Artemisia that sounds like, via Artemis, it ought have something to do with this "Dian's bud" business, but no, it's thought to be the bitter "wormwood" Hamlet namedrops.)

Anyway, I'm kind of relieved. I wanted to reference the Shakespearan herbs by name when that very same type of love spell gets cast and later broken in my novel (and I'm still having thoughts about that), but damned if I was going to refer to any herb as "Sweet Normality" with a straight face.

Not, mind you, that "Love-in-idleness" is any easier to take seriously.

and i say this as a fan of Concrete Blonde
Tue 2014-07-01 23:59:00 (single post)
  • 5,984 words (if poetry, lines) long

Well, that took longer than expected. "What took longer than expected?" Oh, everything. But it's OK. I got the story submitted just under the wire--or if not just under the wire, than within a minute of the wire. Look, if they refuse to read it because it came in at 00:00 on July 2 rather than 23:59 on July 1, well, there's other markets.

And the story has cleaned up mighty fine.

(I just checked my email. My submission has neither bounced nor triggered an automatic reply. OK then.)

Have I mentioned that writing this story has resulted in me having this song stuck in my head? For weeks? I finally dug up the album so I could play it and exorcise the earworm. Unh-uh. That's not how it works. At least, not if you're me. No, now I have the whole album stuck in my head, one song after another.

It's a pretty good album, though.

and i say this as a big fan of garlic
Mon 2014-06-30 23:23:38 (single post)

At the farm, I spent my first hour and some-odd there harvesting garlic scapes--the flowering stalk of the garlic bulb. I spent nearly the rest of the my working time there tying up bundles of garlic scapes and hanging them in the barn to dry so that they might eventually be turned into garlic powder. And when we took a break for lunch, we ate eggs scrambled with garlic flowers.

This sort of thing has an effect. I have showered and scrubbed virtuously, but the smell of garlic is still following me around.

I mean, I like the smell of garlic as much as the next garlic-loving person. But the smell of garlic itself is one thing; the smell of a person who smells of garlic is an entire 'nother kettle of aromatherapy.

Today was not a good day to be around me, is what I'm saying. Thankfully, I wasn't around anyone else post-farm other than my husband, and he is very tolerant of a smelly wife. As you can see:

Minutes after the BCB Bombshells vs. South Side Derby Dames bout ends, Fleur de Beast hug-tackles Worldnamer on the bleachers.

Worldnamer: "Good job, sweetie! Congrats! Er... you kinda smell."

Fleur: "I know! I smell like derby! Isn't it glorious?"

Worldnamer: "It's... strong!"

OK. But he didn't seem to mind my sitting behind him for pretty much the entirety of the BCB All Stars vs. DRD Bruising Altitude bout.

In other news, I've been slowly making my way through various Hugo-nominated works so as to cast my ballot. And I'll be honest with you: I don't always finish all the works in the category before I cast my ballot. Like slush readers and bookstore customers, I have a tendency to form an opinion before I read the whole thing, and sometimes that opinion is a form of "I've seen enough. Next?"

This is a subject that's been a titch contentious this season. I'm not going into the whole thing here (it would take too long, and besides, others have gotten there first); I'm just going to point vaguely at the part of the kerfluffle where a small contingent of bigots and bigot-enablers have been challenging "lefties" to honestly evaluate each nominated piece "on its own merits" rather than on assumptions about the authors' politics. Then I'm going to point at what they're holding behind their backs, which is the slate of works they campaigned for getting nominated purely based on those authors' politics.

Which is the long way of saying that, by declining to abstain from a ballot just because I haven't read each work start to finish, I am undoubtedly Doing Hugo Voting Wrong by some people's lights. And if it means enough to them to take up a significant portion of their brain with disapproving of me (and others) for it, that's cool. It's no more my business how they use their brains than it's their business how I use my vote. But I'm not going to change how I use my vote in response to how they use their brains, so.

That said: Here are some things that can make a work a work, shall we say, smell of garlic to my nose long before I've reached the end of the piece.

  • Dialect so thick as to transform Character into Caricature, especially a racist and classist caricature.
  • Persistently maintaining that thickly-spread stereotype of a dialect despite logical reasons not to, i.e. having a character painfully sound out the words on a page yet flawlessly transliterate those words into dialect as they go.
  • Distracting me from the story by committing glaring factual error in the narration.
  • Failing, after five chapters, and despite ample opportunity, to introduce any female characters who aren't A. objects of male desire, or B. secretaries.

These are just a few examples taken from what I've read so far. There will be more. There have already been more. These are just the ones that jump immediately to mind.

Lastly, not so much in the "smelling of garlic" as in the "just not getting my vote" category: In-jokes, cute Tuckerizations, scatological humor, and other flavors of funny that destroy my sense of wow. There were laugh-out-loud moments in works that I am voting at the top of my preferential ballot, but they were more ilke human-to-human humor, if that makes any sense. A self-deprecating turn of narrative, dialogue that's heart-warming as well as clever, absurd situations for the characters to navigate, wry observations of human foible that I can relate to--I don't know. Both humor and wow are very subjective senses. I'm sorry. It's not you, it's me.

I suspect I shall continue Doing Hugos Wrong for the foreseeable future, or at least for the better part of the next month. But I shall only smell of garlic until my next shower. I hope.