“If they weren't solidly real dragons... it wouldn't have been worth doing.”
Jo Walton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

In which winning at life is measured in XP and hit points. Also, muttering
Wed 2014-03-05 23:34:00 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

OMG it is late and I am tired and there was derby and now there has been beer. And now I'm supposed to blog about my day? Arrrgh. OK. Let's see.

  1. Roofing continues! Woke up early to show a worker the one tiny leak I suffered last night. Worker was perplexed, as roofing as proceeded past the point where leaks should not happen. Got a phone call from same worker later assuring me that it should definitely not happen again. (Apparently chimneys are tricky things to roof around.)
  2. There is so much work to do with "Impact of Snowflakes" and I can't put it off any more with mechanical process things like "Oh, I'm still just compiling my workshop critiques into a single document." There is so much more story that needs to be put into this story. Arrrgh. Spent some time adding to the critiqued draft bright red comments in which I muttered to myself about very important things, like, whose idea is this trip to Vail anyway, and where exactly are Katie and Josh when they call the narrator, and how much did Josh's Dad know about how things were going to turn out anyway?
  3. By the way, the narrator has a name now. It's Ashley. This is meant to be a terribly witty allusion to the World Tree, which is an Ash. Why the hell should the World Tree be an ash, anyway? You want a tree that's already among the biggest land organisms on the planet, you want an aspen. Aspen groves are like freakin' fungi covering humongous square footage below ground. The only land organism bigger than an aspen grove, in fact, is a fungus. But no, Snorri Sturluson apparently decided Yggdrasil was an ash, so an ash tree is what we get.
  4. Also by the way, those striking purple trees in autumn, here in Boulder? Ash trees, apparently. Autumn Purple Ash trees, to be painfully literal about it. (This is not what Yggdrasil looks like in my mind, but then they are only one of several kinds of ash tree in the world.)
  5. Day two of using HabitRPG (thanks to Jim C. Hines for turning me on to it). Still didn't complete all my dailies, mainly because "if you can't do a lot, do a little" isn't enough to achieve my ambitious daily goal of actually achieving five hours of writing. (Today's going to come up to only about 3. Not going into detail on that.) But I did everything else on my list, so I get all sorts of gold and XP and only lose maybe one or two hit points overnight.
  6. One of my HabitRPG to-do items was "Take care of travel fare to New Orleans for high school reunion." This I have done. It earned me 37 XP, some amount of gold or other, and, most importantly, peace of mind. Now I just have to get through the March 29th Season Opener roller derby bout with all my limbs intact so I can enjoy the trip.
  7. Those are the high points of my day. But the best bit is happening in just a few minutes: I'm going to go to sleep. Yay, sleep! It knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, and it even comes with in-flight movies. I am greatly in favor of sleep.

one thing continues to follow another despite all requests to the contrary
Tue 2014-03-04 21:59:33 (single post)

I had such high hopes for today. Too high, perhaps. My intent was to prioritize two household tasks that were long overdue, and then jump back into the writing.

I did not expect these tasks to take me until past 2:30 PM.

It wasn't just that "Do the books; pay all bills" is already a large task (which it is). But it was larger than it should be because I'd let some of the bills go overdue. There were more of them than there should be, and none of them could wait. And so this task took 'til past ten, and so you see why I avoid this task on a regular basis. Why, hello there, vicious circle! I am in you, attempting to escape...

Additionally, The Box of The Book (the box where all the papers I'm to deal with when I "do the books" go) had ceased to fit in a box years ago. It's been more of pile the bottom third of which I have not touched since before it outgrew the box. Theoretically this means I should be able to just throw it away and never miss it. But you never know when things like the original kitchen appliance manuals or the amortization schedule might come in handy or, indeed, in vital. So. My optimistic quest has been to stick a chunk of that pile in my clever folded-cardboard inbox hanging off the nails in the wood of that bare wall in the office... and then deal with that chunk until it is gone. Everything dealt with and either filed away or disposed of. So that chunk took a while to deal with, too.

I won't bother to go into the other task on my "immediately after Morning Pages" to-do list. Transferring a mail order prescription to our new provider was easy cheese. It took two phone calls, neither taking longer than five minutes. This was not the task that pushed writing out of the picture.

No, that honor went to the task I did not realize I had to do, the really overdue bill I had forgotten about for maybe three months now: Renewing my car license registration.

I have a vague memory of the bill arriving. I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in the Box of the Book (of Doom). That memory dates back to either late December or early January. It's been sitting quietly in a corner, making no fuss, letting me pretend it's not there, ever since.

And then I looked down at the stickers on my plate while balancing some boxes on my knee to negotiate the trunk latch, and I saw a 1 and a 14, as in my registration expired in January, and I thought, "Oh, shit. Guess I'm going to visit the County Clerk and Recorder building today."

Whose motor vehicle technicians looked me up in their system and said, "Did you know you also are due for emissions testing?" This after the usual fifteen to twenty minute wait to be helped out at Desk 18.

So they gave me a temporary plate to affix to my rear window, for which they charged me about $6.00 on top of the $30.00ish late fee. So I removed my permanent plate and stick it in the trunk, just like they told me to ("An officer might give you trouble for the outdated stickers"). So I drove over to spend a goodly while at emissions testing. So I got my test results (a clean bill of health for my '97 Saturn) and paid my $25.00. So I returned to the County Clerk and Recorder building to wait another twenty or more minutes for number R503 to be helped at Desk 11, so I could now pay about $76.00 for the actual real true permanent (until next year) registration renewal and a shiny new pair of stickers that said 3 and 15.

And so, upward of $130 later, I went home. And it was almost 3:00 PM.

Now, admittedly, an hour of this day was spent having lunch at BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats right after the first County Clerk/DMV visit. I had a phenomenal bowl of shrimp and grits and a lovely pint of coffee stout (I believe it was called the "Osito Stout," after local coffee roasters Ozo). And I didn't do any writing at all, despite having the chance.

Scratch that--I didn't do any workday writing, but I did write. Embellishing and proofreading the morning's dream recall into something I could post on the LD4all.com forums is absolutely writing. It involves words and the craft of words. It's just not writing that fits on my daily timesheet nor accomplishes my current set of writing goals.

It may well be writing laid up against future goals. I have many reasons for recording my dreams with a thoroughness; among them is that it replenishes the well from which springs story. I believe this, despite any obvious direct connection between the dream in question and the stories I'm currently working on. I believe this even when the dreams aren't handing me new stories on a silver platter. I believe that no writing is ever wasted.

That includes this, by the way.

Tomorrow will be better; that's another belief my ability to get from day to day utterly hinges on. Tomorrow will be better, or if not, the next day for sure. And who knows what I'll dream tomorrow morning?

If nothing else, tomorrow will be better than today simply by virtue of dawning with no overdue bills outstanding.

Overdue library books, now, that's another story. And travel plans that should have been cemented and paid for months ago, there's that too.

Argh.

For a moment, you can see the sky through the ceiling.
Then the gap is closed as new construction materials are installed.
in which the Observatory earns its name
Mon 2014-03-03 14:11:33 (single post)

I think--and I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying this--I think I'm not sick anymore. I'm still coughing, but it seems to be the post-cold "clearing the pipes out" cough. The viral infection has moved out, but its physical effects remain as a nasty reminder of the unwanted guest's unwelcome and lengthy stay. Said effects include irritated respiratorial apparatus and also phlegm the consistency of glue.

Times like this, we pause to observe how work habits built carefully and maintained over the space of almost two weeks go all to hell after one week of sick leave. Dammit. But it's a new Monday, the start of a new week, a week during which I am no longer sick. I might just get some work done.

In any case, there was no sleeping late this morning. Today the roof work got underway in earnest. Hammering, sawing, and machinery of undetermined description have provided a constant soundtrack. The workers have removed the foam layers that comprised the old, leaky roof, causing the last bit of water trapped therein to drip through in unexpected places. A fine dusting of sawdust, rotten wood particles, and dirt keeps drifting down from the areas where my ceiling's boards are bare, making it inadvisable to sit on the sofa or work at the desk. For a little while there I could see the sky (and occasionally the workers' boot soles) through places where the frequent leaks and small mold colonies had eaten away at the edges of the wood panels.

I kind of want to take a walk down to Pekoe or bike on over to Fuse. Home is not currently conducive to getting work done, not with all these alarming noises coming from above. But I kind of want to stay, because they're fascinating noises. How often do you get to watch your roof get replaced, after all? The signs of progress are endlessly intriguing. I wanted to take a picture of the aforementioned hole where I could see the sky, but in between taking one with flash and one without, the workers evidently laid down a brand new layer of something. Insulation, possibly. The first picture shows bright light shining through; the second shows a pinkish filter. Since then, they must have laid down something more opaque, because now light isn't getting through at all.

(The evergreen branches are a leftover winter solstice decoration. We wanted to have something more seasonal and warm to look at than the bare beams.)

Well. Just because I didn't sleep late doesn't mean I didn't lie around reading and feeling all bleah. But I have at last treated myself to a shower and some strong tea, so I'm feeling a lot more lively. Having nowhere to be tonight, thank goodness, I have no obstacle to simply timeshifting my day into the afternoon and evening. Theoretically, anyway.

All for now. More tomorrow.

prevent manuscript loiterment in two easy steps
Mon 2014-02-24 23:39:12 (single post)
  • 3,329 words (if poetry, lines) long

In my head, I had this rant about Ray Bradbury all lined up to play Part 2 to Friday's Part 1. But I am very tired right now and not at all up for it. I'm just back on the bus from spending all afternoon and evening in Longmont, for the following reasons:

  • 2:30 - 3:30 PM: Running some errands along Main Street (10%)
  • 3:30 - 4:00 PM: Getting most of the post-bus biking over with before the winds "may gust up to 28 mph" (5%)
  • 6:00 - 9:15 PM: Taking a roller derby optimized CPR/First Aid certification class (85%)

The time between 4:00 and 6:00 PM was spent at Red Frog Coffee, which is relatively in the neighborhood of the Bomb Shelter, thus requiring less wind-o-clock biking. There I not only enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich and a mug of tea, but I also A. discovered that Interfictions, alas, did not consider "It's For You" the perfect fit I'd hoped; and subsequently B. sent "It's For You" out to the next market listed in its personalized Slush Piles To Visit guidebook.

Two things made it really, really easy to keep this particular rejected manuscript from sleeping over. One is that the next professional market on my list has an online, web-based submission form for my use. It isn't the only market to do so, either. This development of our modern age is spoiling me rotten. I mean, forget envelopes and postage--half the time I don't even have to write an email!

The other thing, the thing of the two things that is the really key thing, is having a list in the first place. Huzzah for good planning!

I feel compelled to admit, however, that this story's list of slush piles to visit was exactly two markets long. Happily, since the market I just now sent it to estimates a 40-day response, I should have a little time to think of a third. If, that is, I can shake that nasty, baseless superstition that doing so is jinxing my chances...

Right. So. Anyway, that rant about Ray Bradbury? Here's the preview version: When finishing a book that makes me angry, it is very important to have some sort of palate cleanser available so as not to go to sleep angry or in fact fail, through anger, to go to sleep at all. Note to self: A collection of short stories that, despite their varied, sometimes futuristic, and often interplanetary settings nevertheless all feature 1950s style gender relations is not the palate cleanser you are looking for.

And that is all. Good night.

In which my inner child weeps and rages for Louise Bradshaw
Fri 2014-02-21 13:59:32 (single post)

My inner adult is none too happy, either.

I knew re-reading Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved would make me angry. I said it would, and it did. I remembered that it was full of beautiful prose that told a really unfair story which would make me furious. Given this indisputable fact, it was a really stupid idea for me to read it last night when I was sick and likely to have trouble sleeping, so that I could lie awake for hours thinking about how angry I was with that book. Unfortunately, it was right there when I decided I wanted to read something before bed. I have no self-restraint when it comes to books.

It's worse than that, though. It made me even angrier than I thought it would. When I first read it, I was probably a teenager or even younger. I was old enough to understand intimately the direct day-to-day injustices Louise suffers at the hands of her sister and her grandmother. But I don't think I knew enough at that time to recognize how everyone else on that damn tiny island was complicit in those injustices. I had not yet learned that what Louise suffers her entire life is honest-to-God abuse.

Because that's what it is; and, what's worse, the author doesn't seem to recognize it as such.

Spoiler warning from here on out. Yes, I give spoiler warnings even for books that came out more than 30 years ago and won awards and get assigned as classroom reading. Everyone's read a different subset of the books that have come out since 1980; you might not have read this one yet. You get a spoiler warning now, just in case you haven't read it and you'd like to. Here is the warning: I'm going to react angrily to specific things that happen throughout the novel, right up to and including the last page. There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

Onward.

For almost the entire book, Paterson shows you what it's like to be Louise: the unregarded twin sister to Caroline, the island's golden child, for the sake of whose talents every sacrifice must be made. She puts you right in Louise's head. At no time is the reader asked to view Louise's situation as run-of-the-mill sibling rivalry which she'll eventually grow of taking so seriously. From the beginning--from, as I said, the moment of her birth--it's made clear that Louise doesn't matter. To anyone. And the reader is encouraged to feel that disregard deeply, and to resent it on Louise's behalf.

While everyone scrambles to make sure Caroline has music lessons and the best education the island can afford, no one ever asks Louise what she wants out of life. The few times she expresses any wish or desire, it's squashed. When she begins to secretly put away a little of her crab-fishing money for her own use, guessing rightly that no one other than herself considers her future worth investing in, she suffers terrible guilt over it--because her family, like all families in their community, is so poor, and besides, any resources the family has left over after their basic needs is earmarked for sainted Caroline. When Louise finally buys something of her own with her precious hoarded funds, Caroline steals it--and has the gall to tell her, "Don't be selfish." Louise has only two real friends on that island, and in the end they, too, abandon her for her sister.

(This childhood doesn't really do Caroline any favors, either; she never quite learns that other people are as real and vital as she herself is. Her natural childhood egotism never gets told "no" and so it flourishes into outright narcissism.)

And then, after chapter upon chapter of this--a little hope here only to be dashed there, a small bit of affection or concern offered here only to be withdrawn there--we come to the climax of the novel: when Louise is told, "You had dreams and ambitions all this time? Well, why didn't you say so? Why have you wasted all this time and energy in resentment when you could have been going after the life you wanted to live? That's the only difference between Caroline and you, see. She went for what she wanted but you just sat here and stewed."

Right? Eighteen years of abusive and degrading social conditioning should just roll off Louise's back like water off a duck.

I use the term "abusive" advisedly here. Between the time I first read the book and now, I've come to know a wider circle of friends and acquaintances, many of whom suffered and survived ongoing abuse in the bosom of their dysfunctional families. Abuse isn't just about the physical and verbal violence done to the victims; it's also about the long-term damage done to their self-esteem, to their sense of themselves as a person. It is not uncommon for victims of childhood abuse to reach adulthood having internalized that they don't matter, that what they want isn't important, that they don't deserve happiness or safety or affection or adequate nutrition or medical care for an injury, that the very act of wanting such things makes them bad people. That they are bad people, that they don't deserve to take up space on the planet.

This is some of the damage that abuse can cause. It is quite possible to cause that damage to child without landing a single physical blow on their person nor directing overt anger at them. Lifelong emotional neglect will do the trick.

And this is where I think the author herself doesn't understand the full impact of having subjected her narrator to lifelong emotional neglect. Because Louise's response is pretty much, "Why, that's true! The only thing really holding me back has been me! Off I go, then!"

And off she does go into the rest of the novel, which proceeds at the pace of a denouement. It's like a several-chapters-long epilogue pasted on, in which after agreeing that she's fully capable of creating the life she wants to live, she absolutely fails to do so. The college advisor who smarmily informs her that no medical school will admit a woman, is she sure she wants to be a doctor, has she considered nursing school? Or, being an attractive woman, simply getting married? This should have been a challenge for her to overcome with her newfound Carpe Diem epiphany! But no, she cheerfully settles for nursing school. Crisis over in less than two pages. Then, after establishing herself as a nurse in a tiny, claustrophobic mountain town that's pretty much a landlocked version of the place she grew up, she meets a man who infuriates her with his arrogant assertion that "God in Heaven's been raising you for our valley from the moment you were born," but then he smiles her father's smile, so she marries him. This encounter, too, takes about two pages.

It's like the author ran out of steam for developing Louise into the confident, capable woman that all the other characters insist Louise is, so instead she steam-rolled Louise toward a future of settling for this, settling for that, settling, settling, settling.

It's worse than that. While the author seems to be saying "And from then on, Louise created a life for herself out of her sister's shadow," what she actually does is line up the rest of Louise's life according to a checklist driving the story to return where it began in a deeply symbolic way. That horrible Bradshaw family story that preserves in lavish detail the heroics required to keep sickly infant Caroline alive, while simultaneously erasing healthy infant Louise from memory? It plays out all over again on the final pages of the book, and it feels like the reader's supposed to be happy about it.

I was sort of looking forward to this scene as mitigating the unrelenting awfulness at last. But that's only because I totally misremembered how it goes.

Here's what I thought happened: Louise suddenly remembers the healthy baby whom she set aside hours ago in order to perform life-saving heroics over the sickly one. She thinks, "Oh no! I'm creating another me-and-Caroline!" So she gives the healthy baby a memorable story of his own: she picks him up and cuddles him and nurses him with her own mother's milk.

Wrong.

What actually happens is, Louise spares a bare few sentences for the healthy, forgotten baby about how he should be held and nursed rather than left lying in a basket. Then, her duty done, she returns all of her attention to its proper recipient: the perfect tiny infant she's just saved from death and to whom she offers her milk-taut breast.

Well, shit. So much for that.

I don't know what Paterson intended in this final scene. Maybe she really intended Louise's "You should hold him, you should let his mother hold him" to indicate that the healthy baby wouldn't grow up neglected like Louise. But I can tell you how it hit me. My emotional takeaway is basically that Louise has finally realized that of course all attention and care was lavished on Caroline, how could it be otherwise? This was the proper order of things, which only now is she in a position to understand and accept.

I'd like to believe that the author intended to tell a story about how a child survived abuse without losing her sense of self-esteem, and how she finally managed to create a place of her own in the world. But that's not how the emotional equations balance out for me. When I solve for X, what I get is "Yeah, life's rough. Too bad. Suck it up."

And here's where I remember that Paterson also wrote Bridge to Terabithia. Damn it.

Paterson's novels have won awards, and rightly so. She is very, very good at what she does. But what she does is very much not for me. She writes lovely, intimate prose about deeply felt childhood hurts that resonate in my soul, that are never adequately healed but instead provide the framework for quietly triumphant coming of age stories, which can be defined as "the process by which one realizes and makes one's peace with the fact that life is unfair and life will always be unfair." In other words: Suck it up, kid.

I just don't need that in my reading life. Especially when I'm sick.

care and feeding of a sick writer
Thu 2014-02-20 21:51:54 (single post)

The writer is sick again. Why is the writer sick again? Has not the writer been sick enough this year? We're not even out of February, for the love of lovely things. How can there have been room in 2014 to have gotten four freakin' colds already?

Some mysteries, I suppose, will never be explained.

Being sick, I've not left the house today. No co-working at Fuse. No roller derby scrimmage. I've been hoarding my germs very carefully. I've been working on my various writing projects at a very, very leisurely pace. I've been playing a lot of Spiral Knights too.

When I'm sick, I either order vast amounts of hot and sour soup from Golden Sun, or I turn to Maangchi for Korean-style comfort food. Today I opted to do the latter.

Mild steamed egg for a late breakfast, with the fish sauce option and with frozen chopped green onions I'd put by some months ago. For some reason the custard-like texture with the savory salty goodness of the fish sauce just hit the spot.

Kimchi and mackerel stew for an early dinner, only I don't actually have mackerel on hand, so I used a couple cans of skipjack tuna instead. Other substitutions included McCauley Family Farm's sriracha sauce for the hot pepper paste and MMLocal's spicy pickled carrots instead of the green chili pepper. (I guess I could have used MMLocal's pickled peppers, but the carrots were already open in the fridge.) The kimchi was Ozuke's vegan napa cabbage and garlic variety. The potatoes were the ones I grew on the porch this past summer.

And now I'm enjoying a nice mug of tea. And coughing.

Please to be having this nonsense over with immediately?

well in that case nevermind
Wed 2014-02-19 21:34:42 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

So that color-coded comment woe I mentioned yesterday? Because I aspire to be a good Scrivener citizen, I report bugs. And so I find things out.

Apparently it's the Scrivener for Windows manual that is at fault, not Scrivener for Windows itself. It should not have made me promises it could not keep.

During tomorrow's annotations type-in (which will be the last, as I have five copies full of feedback from five workshop members), I'll just need to go into the Appearance options and change the default color to whatever color I want to use for Critter D. Probably blue.

Now my short story revision process involves significantly less right-clicking. Huzzah!

Yes, there really is a gap of five years between the completion of the draft and its latest critque. I'm getting better--!
assembly lines in no particular hurry
Tue 2014-02-18 23:32:39 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,329 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 566 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 443 words (if poetry, lines) long

With recent deadlines behind me and unstructured fiction time ahead, I'm working on "The Impact of Snowflakes." This is another story that has been through the critique mill several times; most recently it received the attentions of my current neighborhood group.

I'm developing a process for this. It's a gradual process, an unhurried process, a process involving itty-bitty bites at a time, a process above all involving very little pressure upon myself. Revision is not a task I approach gleefully. Any strategy I can use to Not Scare Myself Off is a good strategy.

Anyway, it's how "It's For You" got revised and ready to submit, so I'm doing it again. It goes like this:

First, the scribbled-upon hard copies get three-hole-punched and popped into a three-ring-binder. Yesterday I made this process More Fun by acquiring color tab dividers (to separate story from story) along with sticky tabs in fun quilt-print patterns (to separate copy from copy).

Next, the story finds a home in a new Scrivener project using the short story template. An RTF copy of the story gets pulled in under the "Critiques" folder.

Then, I annotate this critiqued draft by entering each critic's feedback as linked comments. Linked comments can be created in any color; I assign one color to each critic. If the critic left me any general comments, I'll type that into a new file that lives folder-wise inside the critiqued draft.

(Here is where I complain a little about Scrivener for Windows. The manual claims that Scrivener remembers which color you used last in a linked comment, such that it will automatically create the next linked comment in that color. LIES. Every single one comes up in default yellow. So it's Highlight text, hit Shift-F4, hope like heck I didn't hit CTRL-F4 instead, type in the comment, right-click on the comment, select "Purple"... and repeat.)

Lastly, I begin typing in the new draft. I use a horizontal split-screen layout so I can reference the critiqued copy and its comments below the split while I type in the new draft above. The new draft, of course, goes in the "Draft" folder, either as one file or many depending on whether I work the scenes out of order.

Right now, I'm in the annotation stage. I'm giving myself permission to go through a single critiqued copy per day. This means that the work goes very slowly. But it also means a certain amount of composting--that background-level "thinking about things" process--happens too. Each person's feedback gets a day and a night of subconscious chewing-over. Hopefully that means that by the time I begin working on the new draft, possible solutions to the problems raised in the workshop are beginning to bubble into consciousness.

And oh boy are there problems in this story. The main thing I'm wibbling about is the isolation of the main character. I mean, yes, you get somewhat isolated when you live alone and the Snowpocalypse is shutting down the world little by little, but there's phones and internet and TV and stuff, and emergency personnel with their vehicles with their flashing lights and sirens. This is not an intimate two-person story like "It's For You." This is a worldwide crisis story. Which means I have to populate the world in which it occurs.

*wibble*

When wibbling, it's so very helpful to focus in on small, bite-sized tasks. Nibble-sized tasks. Tomorrow, I don't have to worry about populating the whole world. All I have to do is annotate the critiqued draft with the feedback scribbled on the next copy in my binder. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief that is.

In other news, Lightspeed has already declined "Other Theories of Relativity" for their Women Destroy Science Fiction issue. Which means that story is free to go knock on another editor's door. And because it's always easier to knock on a stranger's door if you've got a buddy, I sent along "The Day the Sidewalks Melted," who's seeking a first reprint home, to keep it company.

The two stories are oddly similar. I'm trying to consider this a plus. It's not "oh, dear, not one but two stories about broken relationships and loss and disaster written in a sort of Second Person of Direct Address point of view, hasn't this author any other tricks?" No. It's "My, what a lovely diptych of microfiction this is." Yes. That's exactly what it is.

mother may i
Mon 2014-02-17 23:38:04 (single post)
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  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

If last week moved slowly, still it finished up where it needed to be. "Other Theories of Relativity" and "It's For You," both much transformed from the previous drafts, both went out into the wide world. And then, just for grins, so did "First Breath" in hopes of seeing it in reprint.

This is my second time sending it out as a reprint. The first time, I had the unmitigated chutzpah to suggest it might be appropriate for the VanderMeer's feminist spec fic anthology.

About which, I hasten to add, there is nothing wrong. An author needs unmitigated chutzpah to believe her writing worth others' reading at all. And this was a story that at least one editor had judged worthy to pay pro money for and press between hardback covers in a table of contents alongside some pretty awesome authors, so its quality wasn't in question.

However, I had some moments of crawling insecurity about it. One the one hand, the VanderMeers' anthology was to survey feminist speculative fiction from the 1970s onward; did I really think this little story could stand up in that kind of company?

Obviously, the proper answer to that question was, "Don't deny the editors a chance to decide for themselves. Send it in."

But on the other hand, there was the much more devastating insecurity having to do with not having published nor even finished another story since then. Did I think that having made this one sale, I was done? Was I just going to try to milk those 2,900 words or so for all I could get out of them and call it a career?

Well, no, of course not. But all those demons of the family Imposter Syndrome were jeering at me about it. Or shaking their heads sadly. Or just asking, in a tone of grave concern, whether I thought I had the right to try to reprint this story when I hadn't sold any new ones since.

So I sent it anyway. And it was not chosen for the anthology. And that was fine and good and about how these things generally go. (What was chosen? I do not know. A brief search has not turned up news on the anthology. I presume it's still in production.)

Flash forward to yesterday, when I sent it out again. Whole different story.

For one thing, far less pressure: The market I submitted it to is quite respected, but it's just another market. It isn't trying to be a piece of literary history. So that made things easier.

What made it even easier was knowing that it was one of seven pieces I had out in the slush. Seven! Two reprint submissions, one unpublished story on its eighth trip out, and four stories that were Brand Spanking New, Never Before Submitted, Never Before Seen By Editorial Eye, Setting Foot In Slush For the First Time! Seven. And by the end of the week I'll have sent two more reprint submissions out.

That's more stuff simultaneously in slush than I've had since, oh, 2006 or so. I think that's a dandy measure of the success of my new day-to-day work routine.

Now, it can't be overstated that my little fearing monsters' concerns that maybe I hadn't yet earned the right to try to reprint "First Breath" yet were--there's no way to say this gently--total bullshit. Well-intentioned bullshit, true, but bullshit none the less. You earn the right to reprint a story by having the rights of a previously published story of yours revert to you. Simple as that. There's no additional mechanism required and no further permission that you need.

But having what feels like a shit-ton of other writing out on editors' desks really helps.

Yes, this has been an "I feel like a writer!" blog post. Yes, I'm still doing those from time to time. Kinda pathetic, I know. Hey, we get our affirmation where we can, right? And the best kind of affirmation is the kind we can make on our own. Behold: I am a self-affirmation-making machine, my friends. A veritable one-woman factory cranking out the stuff.

Which will no doubt comfort me later on in the week when I'm trying to individually position grains of salt and pepper on the soup of the next short story in the revision queue.

not quite like athena
Thu 2014-02-13 23:11:55 (single post)
  • 443 words (if poetry, lines) long

And then yesterday didn't happen. But look! Today, I finished a thing and I submitted that thing. I submitted it to Lightspeed. I am helping to Destroy Science Fiction!

*pats self on head*

The opening line I posted earlier? Didn't end up using it. It now lives in a file in the "Deleted Scenes" folder of the story's Scrivener project, along with a few other false starts and removed verbiage. This is because the story went in a different direction than it did during that first draft, which makes it an entirely different story. Which means the story that the first draft was pointing toward could yet happen. You never know.

Writerly observation of the week: Write it down, no matter how little or incomplete.

Unpacking that: Sometime this week, probably during a drive to or from Longmont (tomorrow night will be my first night all week not doing anything derby-related), I got an insight for the story. In the stalled-out draft, the Caroline-type character has just said a thing to the Louise-type character, and her voice sounded very calm and clear despite the situation. In my head, the Louise-type character makes an observation about her sister's voice, how it reminded her of other times her sister had whispered audacious ideas in her ear and led her into trouble. That's it. That's all. Just a small observation that added a small amount to what little I knew about their history.

I spent far too much time turning that over and over in my head. "OK, but so what? What does that mean? How am I going to use that?"

Today I said, "All right already," and took that tiny insight and added it to the draft. And that's when the draft changed direction and raced headlong toward its brand new goal.

I keep rediscovering this: Stories cannot be completed inside my head. They will not erupt from my skull fully formed and with gray eyes flashing. No, sadly, there comes a point where they simply hit a brick wall in there. And yet, magically, once I give in and just write down what I've got so far, that physical act of writing it down (and also the visual act of reading it) sparks the next idea that I'd been straining for in vain thus far. It's like a small plant that's gottne root-bound in its seedling cup; it needs to be transplanted into the wider world. Only once I put it on the page does it finally bloom.

Also, here's another writerly observation: Drop one name from a classic novel, and it's a literary allusion. Drop two names, and you risk your story looking like fan-fiction. This is not ideal if you're trying to sell the piece to a professional market.

Anyway. Here's hoping tomorrow's rewrite project goes as well as today's did.

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