“It's such a miracle if you get the lines halfway right.”
Robert Lowell

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art includes original photography by the author, who has amassed quite the collection of Mardi Gras beads.
this fictionette is bruised but unbroken
Mon 2016-05-02 23:43:25 (single post)
  • 1,341 words (if poetry, lines) long

All right, already. It's up. Finally. The Friday Fictionette for April 22 is up. It's called "The Queen of Carnival," and it's about a Faerie abductee who, having fought her way back to New Orleans, then has to fight a battle of a different sort for the right to call it her home again.

I'll be playing Friday Fictionette catch-up all week, thanks to the previous couple weeks' absolute failure to stay on top of things. You can expect the Fictonette Freebie for April to be released tomorrow, I think, and then I'll be working on the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5/month Patrons over the rest of the week. Meanwhile I'm already dreading working on the fictionette for May 6 because it is so very vaguely formed at the present time. Well, that's why I get a week to work on it, right? While I work on this other stuff.

In case you are wondering, the tournament in Eagle went splendidly. We lost our first bout against 10th Mountain, which we knew was probable, but we lost it by a lot less than we might have. We made up a lot of points in the second half and finished strong. We went on to win our second bout against Durango, which it turns out we were predicted to have only a 5% chance of doing, so, hooray! I think we're all a little disappointed by the way we lost so much of our lead, but, despite a penalty-plagued ten minutes or so in the second half, we held onto that lead after all.

I have so many bruises on my right side. I'm proud of every one of them. I played in the A position, which is to say, right up against the inside line, and a lot of jammers engaged our wall by slamming straight into my right hip and shoulder. I'm proud to say those initial hits didn't knock me down once. Oh, later in the jam I got knocked down plenty, but never from that first impact, even when I was blocking fully side-on. I'm really pleased about that; it's something I've been working on for a while.

My next bout will be on May 28th here in Boulder County. If you're local and interested, I suggest you clear your calendar for the day. It's gonna be awesome.

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author, who had no idea that genuine doorknobs were so scarce in today's retail scene.
this fictionette will come rolling home eventually
Fri 2016-04-29 22:34:47 (single post)
  • 1,039 words (if poetry, lines) long

Argh! Argh, argh, argh. It's not like I've never been late with Friday Fictionettes before, but I try to at least get them all out in the right month. But the very belated April 22 edition will not be out tonight, and probably won't be out tomorrow.

I am at this moment in a hotel in Eagle, Colorado, preparing for tomorrow's roller derby tournament. It's 10:07 PM. Skater check-in is at 10:00 AM. I am told that getting plenty of rest between now and then is desirable. Thus, not staying up all night. Sorry-not-sorry? It is possible that I might surprise myself and get the fictionette up tomorrow morning before we head over to the tournament venue. Possible. Not terribly probable. If it happens, I'll crow all about it right here. Just... don't hold your breath.

I have no excuse. I was not very good with time management this month, and especially these last two weeks.

Let me at least tell you about the previous fictionette, the one for April 15, which was late but did in fact go up. It's called "The Day the Storefront Let Jen Bledsoe In," and it's about the new norms in business partnership after an event the characters refer to as The Great Awakening. Of the buildings, that is. It's the buildings that woke up. Which means that opening a retail storefront takes a bit more cooperation than some might be used to. Some people adapted to this change more quickly than others, of course.

I'll probably write more fiction in this setting. Not sure whether it'll be related fictionettes to release on Patreon or full-fledged stories to send out for publication, but it'll be something. This one was just too much fun to write.

The current one? The one I'm continuing to be late with? It ought to be fun. I mean, it's not not fun--writing is fun. But some stories come more effortlessly than others. This one would be one of the others.

Anyway, more later. I can say that much for sure. Just don't ask me how much later. As little later as I can humanly manage, OK? Because the first fictionette for May will need to happen too.

when your laptop starts singing Daisy it's time to move house
Wed 2016-04-27 00:41:45 (single post)

Hi! So, I have all sorts of reasons for the recent radio silence. They are all totes valid, too. Probably the most immediate reason is having begun last week the laborious process of replacing my 5-or-more-years-old laptop.

It wasn't the purchase that took forever. That was simple. That was, pretty much, me walking into Best Buy, finding the very small selection of laptops that weren't touchscreens or any of that expensive nonsense, and locating the display model that was all but labeled HEY I HEAR YOUR ASUS IS DYING HAVE A NEW ASUS JUST LIKE IT ONLY NEWER AND FOR A LOT LESS MONEYS.

Details for them what wants 'em: It's an X540, the one with an Intel Core i3, 4Gb RAM, and 1Tb storage. $329 before tax when I bought it on April 13th; $299 today. (Drat.) Battery is emphatically not customer-serviceable, but I'm no stranger to opening up laptops. The keyboard layout is exactly the same as the old, which is handy, except that they put the power button where the END button ought to be, and the END button on the 1 key on the number pad. This resulted in hilarious unexpected shutdowns until I finally went into the Power Options, found "Choose what happens when I press the power button," and chose "Do Nothing."

No, the thing that's taking forever is moving all my stuff and things over. It's like moving house. All my habitual programs, all my customized settings, all my files. Digging up my EditPlus registration key, which was on a decade-old ZIP disk buried in the closet. Locating and installing fonts I'd thought were standard installation features but in fact were not. Stripping the DRM off those ebooks that still need it so I can access them on the new machine. Learning that my Firefox and Thunderbird profiles will take all night to copy over.

All these file-moving operations were made even more tedious by the old ASUS's efforts to reassure me that, yes, I was right to finally replace it. Several times a day it will restart for no apparent reason, or its wifi adapter will have another existential crisis, and I'll have to start a multi-hour file transfer over again. At least the wifi failures are no longer a factor now that I've cabled the old ASUS directly into the router. As for the random restarts, I'm beginning to think that the horrendous noises I thought were a dying fan are in fact a dying hard drive.

And then there's Windows 10. Windows 10 is like Windows, Childproofed and Shiny. Like, who would ever want to edit the parameters of their wifi profiles, right? Who'd want to manually assign them a priority order when Windows will figure it out for you? Connecting you to some ambient unencrypted hotspot instead of to your own home network is just how Windows shows it cares! I'm Cortana! Ask me anything! Why don't you want to ask me anything? And why would you possibly want to prevent Quick Access from accumulating recently accessed locations to itself? I mean, yes, that means that your "Writing" folder shows up twice, because you pinned it there and you accessed it recently, but Windows knows your writing is just that important to you! And why, for goodness sake, would you ever want to create a shortcut in your start menu? Why would you want to manually edit your start menu at all? Wait, what are you doing with that Classic Shell install file? I can't let you do that, Dave...

Well, most of the kinks have been ironed out, most of the files have arrived at their new home safely, and almost all the programs I use in the course of the day have been installed. I'm living and working on the new machine now, and only occasionally going back to the old ASUS (or, in the case of one DRM-locked ebook, the old Dell) for tidbits and scraps.

And the new machine is light and fast and quiet and very nice. It's amazing how much less reluctant I am to boot up the computer and get to work when the computer isn't whining, clicking, wheezing, randomly falling off the network, or randomly choking up over mundane tasks.

So that's where I'm at. One of the places I'm at, anyway. More tomorrow...

YPP Weekend Blockades, Apr 16-17: When the flotilla sinks, we'll have no place to race
Sat 2016-04-16 13:22:19 (single post)

If you're here for blockades, you're in for a quiet weekend. Just one PvP on Emerald tomorrow at 10 and three blockades on Meridian between now and Sunday at 11. As always, scroll down for the full schedule. It should all fit in one window unless your window is very, very small.

If you're here for other Puzzle Pirates events, I've got a couple to alert you to. Both of 'em are on Emerald.

  1. Flag I-N-K are hosting a Kraken Hunt contest next weekend. See how much treasure you can winkle out of the kraken's lair! Prizes to the three best scores. Meanwhile, all participants will be entered into a raffle.
  2. A Sloop Flotilla Relay Race was supposed to be held this morning, only Emerlaus went and sunk the flotilla. SO MUCH FOR THAT. Watch the linked thread for new date/time to be announced.

If you're here for the actually writing blog and you're wondering where I've been all week, I am not going to tell you because it will make me look bad. But do stay tuned for this week's Friday Fictionette, which I hope to post this evening and thus keep its lateness to within a 24-hour margin. (Sorry about that.)

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, April 16 ***

12:00 p.m. - Nightshade Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Black Veil (6)

10:00 p.m. - Carmine Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Chapter Three

*** Sunday, April 17 ***

10:00 a.m. - Ix Chel, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Salmon Aren't Crafty
Attacker: Blow Me Good

11:05 a.m. - Drogeo Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Chocolate Coated

YPP Weekend Blockades, Apr 9-10: Now live from servers owned by Grey Havens
Sat 2016-04-09 12:38:45 (single post)

OK, it's Saturday, and we got blockades, but FIRST!!! The Dread Ringers have some important news for us all. On April 6--just this past week--ownership of Puzzle Pirates was transferred:

... to a company called Grey Havens. Grey Havens is a group of former Three Rings employees who have come together to keep the games and communities we love alive and happy.

This has also been the case for another Three Rings/Sega game, Spiral Knights. Hopefully this is the happy outcome that dodges the prognostications of naysayers averring that Sega was going to shut these games down. NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN NOW LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

*ahem* So. Blockades.

Unaccustomed activity on Opal, where Ursa Major are defending three islands from a simultaneous attack by Der Zorn der Götter. I personally hope UM win because their jobber is a pirate named Momo who leads a crew called Neverending Story. This indicates the presence of Michael Ende fans, which is a faction I can only support.

On Cerulean, Babylon are going to try one more time to oust a Brigand King from the much-abused shores of Tinga Island.

On Meridian, Barely Dressed and Legacy of Life are teaming up to run off a few Brigand Kings of their own.

On Emerald, witness the debut of Salmon Aren't Crafty (Public Statement: "THEY SWIM UPSTREAM!!! WHAT’S CRAFTY ABOUT SWIMMING UPSTREAM!?") as they attack This Means War on Ix Chel. Also there's a thing on Sayers Rock.

And on Jade, Courage are proceeding with anti-Brigand King actions on Isla Spaniel.

Is that all? I think that's all. Details below. Have at it!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, April 9 ***

11:01 a.m. - Ilha da Aguia, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Alianca da Aguia
Attacker: Chthonische Horden (1)

11:45 a.m. - Maia-Insel, Opal Ocean
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Der Zorn der Götter

11:45 a.m. - Edgars Wahl, Opal Ocean
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Der Zorn der Götter

11:46 a.m. - Paihia-Insel, Opal Ocean
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Der Zorn der Götter

12:00 p.m. - Tigerleaf Mountain, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (4)
Attacker: Legacy of Life

12:06 p.m. - Isla Spaniel, Jade Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: La Llama que todo lo consume (1)
Attacker: Courage

1:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (5)
Attacker: Barely Dressed

2:00 p.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Here's the Thing

4:00 p.m. - Ix Chel, Emerald Ocean
Defender: This Means War
Attacker: Salmon Aren't Crafty

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Sunday, April 10 ***

11:06 a.m. - Tinga Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Jade Empire (4)
Attacker: Babylon

Cover art incoroorates original photography by the author, who, like a Traveling Wilbury, would like to be handled with care.
all the fictionettes came home to roost
Fri 2016-04-08 22:53:24 (single post)
  • 1,049 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,329 words (if poetry, lines) long
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This has not been the best of weeks, for--oh, so very many reasons. But! It is Friday, and I have posted a Friday Fictionette to the Patreon "Creator Posts" stream. I have given it the extremely imaginative title of "Nor Rain Nor Heat Nor Gloom of Night," because we are picking up a package in one story for delivery to another. And by package, I mean character. Basically, a character is running away from his story and a U.S. Post Office driver is taking him into another. Some stories are safer to be in than others.

(Standard explanatory text for Friday Fictionettes: Click the link to read an excerpt, click the links you will find there to A. download the full text as a PDF ebooklet or MP3 audiobooklet if you're already a subscriber, or B. to become a subscriber and then revisit step A.)

I've also finally gotten around to producing the teaser excerpt of last week's fictionette, "Reviving the Legends." Additionally, I've released "The Call Is Coming From Inside the Building" as the Fictionette Freebie for March 2016, such that its PDF and MP3 downloads are now free for all to enjoy. Which means I'm almost all caught up on the Fictionette stuff (barring, as usual, Wattpad releases and backfilling all the early MP3s) except for the Fictionette Artifacts for those subscribers who may expect to see them any day now. (I've bought new stamps! They are pretty! You will see them soon! hugs & kisses!)

And that's pretty much all I've gotten done this week on the writing front. There's a possibility--just a slight one--that this may have something to do with the last three boxes full of books having come home from storage this week. (Books! Old friends! All the Patricia McKillip! Alphabet of Thorn, how I have missed you! Oooh, Robin McKinley's Shadows!) But there may have been additional factors.

By the way, there's only maybe two light carloads of stuff to bring home before that rented storage unit is empty, finally, and we can at last declare ourselves--after slightly more than a year since coming to live at our new address--entirely moved in. This is moderately exciting! And for our next trick: Installing shelves on every single wall so that all the books, sheet music, CDs, records, DVDs, and video games have somewhere to live, other than in boxes.

Hello weekend! I deserve you. *dives in*

YPP Weekend Blockades, Apr 2-3: All brigand kings, alllll the time.
Sat 2016-04-02 13:02:39 (single post)

Well HI there Saturday! Insofar as you pertain to Puzzle Pirates, you are full of blockades. Some highlights from the YPP Forum include...

  • CERULEAN: The Coalition defending Dendrite from The Undertow!
  • CERULEAN: Babylon attacking three islands held by brigand kings! (In the case of Iris, it's more like facilitating an attack; Babylon will ally with whoever drops the chest)

Additionally, there's a fair amount of action on the Meridian, Emerald, and Opal oceans as well.

Meanwhile, it's a new month, so we have a new Seal o' Piracy to collect. Earn that trophy by "[e]ngaging in melees with three Brigand Kings!" Whether this means you need three melees total, or three different brigand kings over the course of the month, is not specified. But going by frequent past precedent, we can say with certainty that rumbles on the Cursed Isles and swordfights in Ships' Graveyards do not count toward the seal, despite the presence in these of Vargas and Barnabas respectively. Brigand king encounters via compass, however, are fair game.

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

but the desk has to stay against the wall
Wed 2016-03-30 00:45:45 (single post)

I had really good plans for today, but I managed to scuttle them via the usual reasons, i.e. sleeping late and not starting the morning shift until afternoon shift time. And here's the thing I found out: Even if I have the mental capacity to work four hours straight through--and today I might well have!--I nevertheless cannot because there are other things besides writing that I have to do with my day. Like, making several trips down to the storage closet. Catching up on the 2016 accounting (now that the 2015 taxes are out of the way). Getting up to date with league communications. Clearing out the dishes backlog in the kitchen, for heaven's sake. And etc.

This is probably related to Stephen King's anecdote, told in On Writing, about the huge oak desk in the center of the office. There's an adequate retelling of it here, but really you should read On Writing because it's just that good. Part memoir, part writer's how-to, it's earned a permanent slot in my reference library within easy reach of my own not-so-huge oak desk that's pushed up against the wall of the office that sometimes doubles as a guest room. But this is the money quote: "Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."

Now that I revisit the story, actually, I find it resonates with me even more. The bit where he replaces the monster desk in the middle of the room with a smaller desk against the wall, and this makes room for his kids to come in and share the space with him--it made me think of last night. I was up late in the evening getting some things done at my desk. Or the desk, because I want it to be available to both John and me, except really I'm the only one who uses it except when he needs to print out a bunch of stuff. Really, for the most part, "the" office is for all practical purposes my office. But last night John came in and snuggled under the blankets on the futon-couch with his laptop and some programming work, and suddenly it was our office again, and that felt unexpectedly good.

But to put this in context of today: If I've only left myself some 5 hours of the day to work with, and I owe myself 5 hours of writing, I will still not get 5 hours of writing done, because writing is only one of my responsibilities.

However, the two hours of writing I did get done today were very good. I'm not all that displeased.

But I did put off starting this blog post. The blog post is the last writing task of the night. I have this sense that once I do my blog post, the writing day is over, and my failure to log all five hours has been cemented. Which is silly, because if I had started on it as soon as practice was over tonight, I might have had time for a little short story revision afterward. But I didn't, so I don't. So once this goes up I'm pretty much going to bed.

As always, tomorrow is a new day--another chance to get it right. Hopefully, despite its being a Wednesday, I'll manage it. If not, well, Thursday is a new day too.

There is a reason that tea mug gets so stained.
Cover art incorporates ''Ammonite Fossil'' by Reza via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
unwise but tasty tea consumption choices
Tue 2016-03-29 00:21:23 (single post)
  • 1,138 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I got all my tax documents together today. Finally. Left it 'til the last minute, or at least the last three hours before my appointment, but I got it all done with time to spare. And as though the universe were rewarding me for completing this huge honkin' ginormous looming task, my big monstrous box of ALL THE TEA arrived early.

My favorite morning cuppa is Taylors of Harrogate Pure Assam. Used to be I could buy it at the Pearl Street Whole Foods or, in a pinch, the Peppercorn downtown. But of late nobody has been stocking that particular variety. They will sell me T of H's breakfast teas of English, Scottish, Irish, and Decaf varieties (that last one makes a very nice iced tea), but Pure Assam seems to have disappeared from the shelves. I was beginning to worry that T of H had ceased producing it, its absence was so absolute.

There really is no substitute. It has a deep, rich, malty flavor that's almost sweet despite the tannic bite it gets from my stewing the tea bag forever. (I do not add milk, whatever they say.) Irish breakfast comes close, an oversteeped high-quality Darjeeling is adequately strong (Smith's is expensive but so very, very good), but it's this particular Assam that is everything I want to wake up and write to.

And I haven't had any in months. I ordered some Organic Estate Assam from Upton's, but it wasn't quite the same.

So I finally up and ordered some. I couldn't seem to find my way to this particular product via T of H's retail site (it probably would have required a currency conversion anyway), but wound up instead on a website called English Tea Store. I put two boxes in my cart. I went to check out. And they said, WAIT! You get free shipping on orders of $50 or more, plus here's a 10% off coupon!!! So I said, OK, I'll take 7 boxes then.

(One box contains 50 tea bags. I am capable of consuming four of them a day, though I probably shouldn't.)

So today those 7 boxes arrived, each in their own cellophane wrap to keep them fresh, all stacked up in a bigger box and keeping company with the shipping slip and a bunch of plastic air pillows. And I damn well had a cuppa when I got home from all the afternoon's excitement, even though by then it was 8:00 PM and that sort of caffeine was undoubtedly a bad idea. You can see from the picture that I have drunk it all up right down to the oversteeped tea bag, exactly how I like it. And I deserved it, y'all. For all the things.

I may not sleep tonight until stupid o'clock. But I will go to bed happy.

PS. Last week's fictionette went out on time, if a blog post about it didn't: "In the Hall of the Gnome King," about one possible interpretation of the King of Pentacles. Et voila.

in which the author has temporary favorites among her progeny
Fri 2016-03-25 00:21:36 (single post)
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  • 2,691 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today's topic is The Short Story Development Queue Workflow, also known as "I said I'd work on the new story, but there was this other story screaming for attention..."

This is also about the unintended consequences of holding myself to a daily half-hour Submissions Procedures session.

It's very simple. During Tuesday's session, I decided which market I wanted to submit a story to next. That's usually the only real question. The question of which story is typically very easy to determine. I look at which stories have been submitted before and are A) still not published, and B) not currently in somebody's slush pile. I pick the one of these that is C) the best fit for the market, and I submit it.

The problem is when the story that satisfies all three requirements also D) needs a lot of work before it gets submitted anywhere new. This is what I figured out during Wednesday's session.

So, "Stand By for Your Assignment" last went out to visit with the editors of the late, lamented Crossed Genres Magazine for their themed issue, "Anticipation." Themed issues come with submission deadlines; submission deadlines inevitably correlate with me finishing things in a big goddamn hurry and, as a result, probably sending them a smidge before they're really ready for prime time.

Which is to say, despite having seen the inside of a slush pile before, this story needs a lot of work before it may be allowed to see the inside of another one.

And I'm not talking about a line-level edit. No. Although that's one of the things it needs. No, what it also needs is cohesiveness of theme. It's got two elements in it that could work really well together: the female protagonist is bearing up under the double-barreled assault of familial expectations and corporate microagressions, and she is undergoing increasingly frequent experiences of a disturbing nature that may be hallucinations or may be genuine invasions of her world by the weird. But the story as it stands doesn't actually tie them together. They're just both in there, the latter as plot and the former as background. And in narrative, as in science, correlation does not equal causation. Narrative can go a long way on correlation alone, but in this story, I think, not far enough. So I need to rearrange some things to make them work together deliberately rather than by accident. And then there are the line-by-line infelicities that need to be cleared up...

And that's why, during today's Submissions Proceedures and Fiction Development sessions, I didn't do my assigned homework (the one about Ellen and the man who was a tree). It's because I did other homework (beginning to revise "Stand By..."). I hope I get credit for the other homework, at least.

In other news! That vaguely parental-like guilt that a writer might feel, where all the attention you spend on one of your "babies" is attention you're not spending on the other "baby" and oh my Gods I am a bad "mother" because I am failing to love all my "babies" equally...? Yeah, that's a thing.