“I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

What's Mine Is Yours
Sun 2012-03-11 22:28:52 (single post)

So, of course, when I want to blog things like the foregoing, I feel compelled to double-check things.

Says me: You're OK with me putting this on my blog?

Says he: It's OK. Honestly. I don't care.

Says me: I just wanna make sure. You own half the copyright, after all.

Says he: The better half.

So there you have it.

Overheard. In My Own Damn Car.
Sun 2012-03-11 22:24:47 (single post)

What the hell -- half of it came out of my own mouth.

Says he: New plan. We're just not stopping for any more red lights.

Says me: But if you don't stop for the red lights, eventually you have to stop for the blue and red and white flashy lights.

Says he: ...you mean, the America lights?

Says me: No, no, no, the--

Says he: But you said they were red white and blue!

Says me: But so many things are. Including the lights on top of a police car.

Says he: So, the opposite of a Liberty Wagon.

Says me: We don't have a Liberty Wagon. We have--

Says he: (And that's what's wrong with this country.)

Says me: We have a Liberty Bell. But you're not allowed to ring it.

Says he: And no wonder. Last time someone did that, it got cracked!

Says me: ...and that's why we can't have nice things.

...There are many reasons I married this man. For one thing, I need him in order to have a comedy act.

I Show Up on Other Blogs. Also, Roller Derby.
Wed 2012-02-29 23:50:00 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 57,023 words (if poetry, lines) long

So, remember when I said something about author Diane Dooley soliciting authors to interview on her blog? (This was in the context of Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading List WHAT?! Oh, and, by the way, the Stoker nominations are out, and Blood and Other Cravings is a nominee in the anthology category; Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe," which kicks off the anthology, is nominated for a short fiction Stoker. This is very very cool.)

O HAI THERE RUNAWAY PARENTHESEES! U R IN MY SENTENCE STEALIN MY TRAIN-O-THOUGHT.

In any case, I volunteered to be interviewed, and so Diane Dooley interviewed me. You can read it here. It appears as part of her series of posts celebrating Women in Horror Recognition Month, which you should read, every bit of it, because it is awesome. Pro-tip: Follow ALL the links!

So there's that. Also, today, I wrote sort of a love letter to my roller skates. It will show up real soon now in the blog section of the Boulder County Bombers' new and improved website, when said website goes from being just a glimmer in the Website Committee's collective eye and becomes reality. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can visit the Boulder County Bombers on Facebook. And here's a direct link to the photo that esteemed ref "Shutter Up" took of us during endurance practice on Saturday the 25th. I'm in the middle row, towards the left, black T-shirt with white printing, red belt, and a black helmet that looks weirdly gold/copper in the camera flash.

Speaking of roller derby: I'm skating with the Boulder County Bombers. I'm officially a member and everything. I'd been skating Sundays with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and they are exceedingly awesome! I was going to join them and everything! But they practice in Commerce City. This requires a route from Boulder involving Highway 36, I-270, Highway 2, and I-70. On a Sunday afternoon, that's about 30 to 45 minutes. I hate to think what it would be like for Tuesday and Thursday evening practices. And the bus ride is two hours. Each way. Once I became aware of the existence of a league that practiced in the same county I live in, it was a no-brainer. Weeknight practices still involve rush hour traffic, but rush hour traffic to Longmont is oodles less soul-crushing. And the bus ride is under an hour, if you don't mind a 10 to 15-minute bike ride to/from the bus stop. Which I don't, at least not when the wind isn't 80 freakin' miles an hour (this is me glaring meaningfully at last week), especially since that bike ride takes me past a burger joint, two coffee shops with wi-fi, and several sit-down restaurants which I can enjoy if I take an early bus.

But then I don't often have to bus, because A) John now works in Boulder, so he can leave me the car most days, and B) three or four other BCB skaters live within a half-mile of me and like to carpool. Life is good.

It's no secret -- in fact, it's probably the sport's best-known feature -- that roller derby is bad-ass. Skaters take pride in their injuries, 'cause we get 'em being PHEARLESS!!!! Here's my running injury report thus far. See if you can spot the common thread.

Tue. Feb. 14 @ BCB Phase 1 practice: Fell on my face during tomahawk-stop/toe-stop running drill. Injury: Split lip. Symptom: a fantastic bruise like an off-center soul patch for about a week.

(Interestingly, if someone does a horrified double-take and gasps, "What happened to you?!" saying "Roller derby! It was awesome!" puts them immediately at their ease. I've gotten very good at saying that. Possibly too good. Not everyone wants to hear the entire Tale Of The Faceplant in second-by-second detail, despite what an entertaining story it does make. But better to risk TMI than being all self-consciously mumbly and accidentally communicating the wrong thing thereby. It is all too easy for well-meaning acquaintances to mistake "Meh, fell down, no big deal, let's talk about something more interesting" for a situation requiring immediate attention and possibly phone numbers of Places That Can Help.)

Sun. Feb. 19 @ RMRG tryouts: Fell on my butt while practicing turnarounds (step one in a tomahawk stop) before try-outs began. Pretty much sat down hard on a wheel. Injury: Bruised tailbone. Symptom: I'm still occasionally yelping if I sit down on the ground and then shift wrong. Sit-ups suck.

(But I did pass try-outs! Evaluation only, since I had decided by then to join BCB, but still, very cool.)

Tue. Feb. 23 @ BCB Phase 1 assessments: Fell sort of backwards and sideways while trying to hold the toe-stop stance after completing a tomahawk stop. The evaluators wanted to see us hold for 3 seconds. On that particular try, I failed miserably. Injury: Jammed three fingers on my left hand. Symptom: Stiff, sore, swollen fingers. The segments of the middle and ring finger especially look like the first stages of making a balloon animal. On the middle finger there's some really artful blue blushing, too. Last night I could barely tie on my tennis shoes, had to use my teeth to get my mouthguard case open, and I almost needed to ask a fellow skater to help me button my jeans. I wimped out entirely on making the bed. I just couldn't grip anything. Today I'm doing much better, but I still can't lift a tea-cup with the left hand. Interestingly, my ability to play Spiral Knights, or indeed type, has not been affected.

(I passed assessment and will begin attending Phase 2 practices starting tomorrow. My evaluator told me I'll need to work on smoother turnarounds. I was not surprised.)

So that's the news, and I'm off to bed. Tomorrow: March 1! Day one of NaNoEdMo! Will I be logging hours? I don't know! Will I be editing a novel? Damn straight!

OK!
Wed 2012-02-22 14:45:01 (single post)
  • 1,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Well, that was easy. Apparently I just had the entire Manuscript class set not to pull certain data from the database unless I was in my staging directory. In other words, at some point in the past I clearly didn't want to deal with things, so I applied brute force.

The criteria for having an excerpt page and for showing notes about a given manuscript are now more intelligent. If I'm in staging, I get to see 'em. If I'm not, they only show up if the database entry includes a TRUE value for the brand-spankin-new "shownotes" field. Woot.

The upshot is, if you click on the title of the story in the little blue box here, you'll get the usual list of blog entries to do with that story. But you should also see a small description of the story and a link to read more. Click that link, and you'll get to read maybe the full story, or maybe an excerpt, maybe some just notes about writing it and where it got published.

In the case of "Last Week's Rhododendron," it'll be all of the above (or everything but the publication credit, until I fill in the publication credit. Which I'll do later on tonight. My brain hurts now). Enjoy!

Me, Now, I Forget Things All the Time
Wed 2012-02-22 10:44:09 (single post)
  • 1,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

So my plan this morning was to make "Last Week's Rhododendron" available for y'all to read, along with a bunch of other high school and college era publications. My plan was to say, "Hay you guyz! Lookit! First story I ever published, right here! LOLLERSKATES." It was going to be a very simple change to the website. Very. Simple.

Except I appear to be lost in a maze of twisty PHP includes, all alike. Or not alike, and there's the problem.

I was so clever when I built this website. I was going to do it right. I was going to learn object-oriented PHP properly... and here we'll pause for the Java developers in the audience to get all that snickering out of their system; yes, yes, I know, putting "object-oriented PHP" and "properly" in the same sentence is hilarious, yes, please do enjoy the joke... but anyway that's what I was going to do. Objects for handling blog entries, objects for handling manuscript data, objects for handling the both of them as different species of data entities. Objects for determining whether the viewer was me, and thus eligible to manipulate data, or not me, and thus eligible only for viewing. And all these class declarations filed away in their own include files, and each include file having a copy in staging and a copy that was live.

Then I didn't touch the code for some years. And I forgot how everything worked.

So what I've got is a page for displaying manuscript excerpts that works beautifully in the staging directory, but comes up almost entirely blank on the public version. I know why I did that in the first place -- I didn't want to expose the notes I'd written on each of my stories. Originally I wrote them for my own eyes only. I need to go through and make sure they're ready for prime time before I let y'all see 'em. So today I figured I was going to make an exception to that code specifically for "Rhododendron." BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER HOW THE CODE WORKS.

So I'll just be over here today, grumbling while my eyes glaze over trying to track Ariadne's thread through the labyrinth of code that Past Me created specifically to confuse Present Me.

Past Me was such a jerk. I'm this close to hoping she gets eaten by a minotaur.

The Internet Never Forgets
Tue 2012-02-21 18:09:14 (single post)
  • 700 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Just a quick note regarding "Right Door, Wrong Time" -- I still haven't found a place to reprint it yet, drat me. (Really. It's embarrassing how long ago I said, "I should send it to Brain Harvest." Have I done so? Well, have I? *ahem* Not as such...) However! Thanks to the magic of the Wayback Machine, you can still read it online! Twilight Tales may be gone, but the snapshot lives on, here:

"Right Door, Wrong Time" by Nicole J. LeBoeuf, appearing for the first time in print at TwilightTales.com in July of 2006.

This note brought to you by the question "Where can people read your stuff online?" and the realization that I am struggling to come up with three titles that meet the criteria. In addition to slushing the reprint of "Door," I suppose I should put some of my older stories up on this site like I've been promising to for years...

Question: Can I call my college-era and high-school-era writing "juvenilia" yet? Or is that only something I get to do once I'm a lot more published and a good deal older?

On Unexpectedly Early Mornings and What to Do with Them
Thu 2012-02-16 06:09:32 (single post)

When I was in college, I used to wake up at 6:00 AM every weekday morning so I could write. I'd make myself coffee, soft-boil a couple of eggs, toast and butter a couple slices of bread, maybe scrape some onion shavings onto the toast if I was feeling fancy. Then I'd write. I didn't have a particular work in progress. I just wrote.

Which isn't to say I had no goal. I set myself two constraints. First, I had to fill one whole page of a WP51 document I'd specially formatted for this purpose: single-spaced, 10 point serif, 2-page-per-sheet bookfold. I had to end right on the last line. If I went over, I had to edit back. If I ended short, I hadn't actually ended. Secondly, whatever I filled that page with had to have a beginning, middle, and an end. It had to come to some sort of conclusion.

I was teaching myself to write flash fiction. I didn't know that at the time; I didn't know there was such a thing. But I did it every morning before I went to my 8:00 AM class. I have two home-printed, hand-bound chapbooks to show for it.

Clearly I've gotten out of practice. I'm out of the habit of early mornings. I'm struggling to get back in the habit of daily writing. And when I participated in Codex's "Weekend Warrior" contest -- respond to Friday night's prompts with a story of up to 750 words by Sunday night, five weekends in a row -- I found the exercise exhausting. This is particularly demoralizing considering I have so few demands on my time these days. I'm not a student and I'm not externally employed, so why is it so hard now to do what I did back when I carried a full courseload and worked 20 hours a week besides?

(I'm pretty sure the answer lies precisely in the lack of demands on my time. When all you've got is an hour to get things done in, you effin' get things done, right? When you've got all day, you putter about like you've got all day. Well, I do, anyway.)

Writing habits of days gone by come to mind on mornings like this, when the cat walks across my pillow at 4:45 AM and I can't seem to get back to sleep afterwards and the plot of the short story I failed to finish this past weekend ("Mega Weekend Warrior" -- prompts on Friday, a story of 2,000 to 7,500 words due Sunday night) comes back and tap-dances on my brain. It seems like writing is a better use of time than lying in bed being mad at the cat.

Apparently I can make coffee pretty well in the dark. I still haven't finished that short story, but the first scene is closer to complete.

A soft-boiled egg on toast sounds pretty good right about now.

Qualified Candidates Please Submit List of Characters and Themes
Wed 2012-02-08 23:13:06 (single post)
  • 57,023 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK, so, novel. I'm officially stating it here: The novel currently known as Like a Bad Penny is the one to which I'll be devoting All The Revision Energies this spring. Hopefully the results of this will be -- unlike the last time I decide to do this -- a submittable manuscript. Then I can angst about query letters and synopses. I've never gotten to angst about query letters before. Not for novels, anyway.

I should apologize to my husband that I did not choose to work on Melissa's Ghost. John's always asking me, "When are you going to finish my novel?" All I can say is, I have to go with the one that's been hammering on the walls inside my brain.

On the other hand, once I finally get a novel revised and into the query cycle for the first time, it's likely I'll want to do it again. Because by then I'll know I can do it, see? Magic!

So the same goes for my 2011 NaNoWriMo draft, Caveat Emptor. Some weeks ago I was telling a good friend about starting without a clue and having finally, fifty thousand words later, come to some sort of a decision about a premise, and I was describing that premise to her, and she was all, "I want to read it," and I'm all, "Eventually, you will! Eventually." Eventually just got more eventuallyer.

On the other hand, this decision means that the "eventually" associated with Like a Bad Penny, also known as "the one in which I swear I'm not ripping off X-men or Jumper or Heroes either," just got shorter. Shorter than it would be, anyway.

What I did with it yesterday: Dedicated a new blank spiral notebook to it. Gathered notebook, pens, a bottle of beer, and a print-out of the first part of Holly Lisle's "One-Pass Manuscript Revision" strategy. Ran a hot bath. Sat in hot bath drinking beer and noodling on theme, sub-theme, character arcs, etc. Also made a list of the first few scenes in the book, the ones I know will actually be in it.

The "hot bath and a beer" element is part of my "stop procrastinating and do the dang thing" kit. Sometimes it's "hot bath and a shot of single malt scotch." Needs vary.

Anyway, the novel draft is not ready for a One-Pass Manuscript Revision. The novel draft currently consists of a muddled beginning and a possible muddled ending connected to each other by means of a muddled muddle. This is to be expected after NaNoWriMo. I am a firm believer in babble drafts, or, as Laini Taylor puts it, "exploratory drafts." Sometimes I call them "zero-th drafts." It's what I write when I think I know what I'm writing but because I haven't written it yet I can't be sure. I had an epiphany about this early in 2010's NaNoWriMo: I don't know what I'm writing until I read what I've written. So the first (or zero-th) draft is mainly me babbling to myself about the story I want to write. I mean, the narrative voice isn't "And then this happens and then that happens," it's more novel-like than that, but it's pretty darn babbly.

Thus with Bad Penny. In the next few weeks I hope to go from babble draft to an actual first draft. I'll start with the scenes that I know have to be in there, and I expect I'll find out how to unmuddle the middle (and the end) while I'm writing them.

Five Weeks In
Tue 2012-02-07 21:50:59 (single post)

Hello, the blog. Long time no update. Which is silly, because I have been writing. I've just also been playing a lot too. That's the thing: You finish writing for the day, what do you do next? Do you A) write some more, or B) go play the computer game that best matches the current levels of exhaustion in your brain? I seem to be more of a B gal there.

By the way: Spiral Knights, Puzzle Pirates, or Plants Vs. Zombies (or maybe Glitch except Glitch has sort of turned into just clickety busywork for me these days) in order from "kinda tired but happy" to "totally pooped and don't wanna work that hard for my playtime." Also, roller derby practice is getting to be a weekly thing, and might go semiweekly very soon now. Neat trick, discovering new ultra-physical sports at age 35. My knees seem to be adjusting to the new demands, which is good, as I'm not smitten with the idea of getting new knees. I hear that's very expensive and painful and packs a long recovery time and has to be done all over again after ten years or so. So the longer my original knees will let me skate on 'em, the happier I'll be.

But today I find myself with a sufficient combination of energy and blogger's guilt to do a catch-up post. Look! Here it comes now.

I've written one very short story a week every week for the past five weeks, and yes, I am feeling bad-ass about it. This is thanks to a contest being run over at Codex, the "neo-pro" writing group I joined not very long ago. Fridays, the contest admin posts prompts. A 750-word (max) story is due by Monday morning at 2 AM Mountain Time. During the weekdays that follow, forum members vote on 'em. Only once you've voted do you get to see who wrote what -- but then you only get to see the pseudonym each contestant took on for the contest. Now that the Week 5 stories are being voted on, we get to guess who's behind each 'nym. Not that I'm going to be able to guess. I'm too new to the group to know other members' writing styles. Instead, I'll be getting an idea of people's styles from the stories once their authorship is revealed. Anyway, I successfully competed in each of the five weeks, so that's five brand new stories that I can start submitting to paying markets. Once I give them a bit of a revise, that is.

Now, this weekend we get to play a mega bonus round. Same timing, but the story has to be between 2000 and 7500 words. I predict that I will be very busy this weekend. In addition to other reasons I was already going to be busy this weekend. Yeesh!

So that's the happy productive news on the short fiction front. On the longer works front, I've finally decided which of my NaNoWriMo drafts will be the first to actually get circulated to agents etc., and therefore should be receiving my full attention for the coming months. Really decided, I mean. I pulled out a new notebook and put its title on the front and everything. But more about that tomorrow...

...which means I'd better update this blog tomorrow, right? Dailiness. One day's hardly over before the next one's begun. What's up with that?

Well, THAT Was Easy
Thu 2012-01-26 10:50:05 (single post)

It was around 5:30 PM on Tuesday when I spoke to Dell Technical Support about my non-functioning speakers.

It was around 8:00 AM on Wednesday when the technician who'd visited me Tuesday called up and offered to return between 10 and 11 that very day. And so he did. And though he did not need to install the replacement speakers after all (as expected and hoped), he did indeed have them with him, freshly overnighted from Dell HQ.

Does your math tell you what my math tells me? My math tells me this is barely more than 12-hour turn-around time. I'm not sure how this is physically possible, even under the rubric of "overnight delivery." What I'm trying to say is, I should like to borrow Dell's TARDIS, please.

So, yes, when the tech installed the new motherboard on Tuesday (which continues to perform splendidly, thanks), he'd just managed not to securely plug my external speakers into it. On Wednesday, he opened up the computer again to correct this. It was a matter of five to ten minutes.

"Awesome," was my take on it. "As mistakes go, this one's a lot easier to fix than the one that results in yet another flawed motherboard."

"Well, that one would be easy, too," he said. "I'd just install another motherboard."

"Yeah, but -- how depressing would that be? Another flawed motherboard. Ew. I'm glad it wasn't that."

He pointed out that maybe his employer wouldn't feel the same way. A flawed motherboard would mean someone else had made the mistake, someone that employer didn't have to answer for. I guess field warranty support contractors expect their techs to be perfect. But that's silly -- not to mention deeply unfair. It's not perfection that's obtainable but rather the striving for perfection. Any company policy that expects employers not to make mistakes is a policy that expects employers not to be human. Seems much more practical, more effective, and more humane to focus instead on how to respond to the inevitable mistake that does crop up. And I've got no complaints whatsoever in that department. No one dragged their feet, no one tried to weasel out of the warranty, no one tried to evade responsibility. Everyone concerned had the same goal: me with a functional laptop. I'm happy to say that goal has been achieved. Hooray!

Tangent: While the speaker fix was simple, the tech's visit was a bit longer than planned because an unrelated part of the motherboard decided to give him problems. If you've ever taken apart a Dell Inspiron 1564 -- and why should you? But if you have -- you'll be familiar with the ribbon cable that attaches the power button to the motherboard such that pushing it actually has an effect. It's teeny and fiddly, and so is the plastic clamp that secures it in place. When that plastic clamp pops off, it can be very tricky to pop it back on. He had to use his entire set of pliers and my own pair of needle-nosers AND the tweezers from my Swiss Army pocketknife, in various combinations, before the thing finally decided to cooperate. Then he cloth-taped that sucker into place so there'd be no more of that nonsense.

So now my laptop is stable, functional, and ready for me to move both my working life and my playtime back in. I can now go on with my life.

(Yes, I'm aware of how pathetic that is. Possibly my life needs an overhaul if a broken laptop can bring it to a screeching halt. First world problems ahoy! Still.)

In other posts I've mused on how stress is habit forming. It totally is. And there are different flavors of stress. Right now, I find I'm in the habit of stressing out over the possibility that my laptop will crash if I pick it up, adjust the angle of its monitor, or just shove it farther away from me on the desk. It's downright Pavlovian. Either a week with John's perfectly stable Inspiron 1440 wasn't enough to put me at ease, or being back at the keyboard of my 1564 is evoking stress once more. My guess? A bit of each. Give me time; I'll get back into the habit of taking functionality for granted eventually.

On the other hand, I managed to get almost two years of productivity out of a cracked motherboard. Go me!

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