“A novel is something that stands at the end of a lengthy process called writing.”
Victoria Nelson

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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
  • 1,012 words (if poetry, lines) long

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)
  • 2,266 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 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.

doing things by halves
Tue 2016-03-22 23:51:41 (single post)

Well, I survived the weekend. We didn't win, but, looking at the final score, we could have, which is a pretty amazing thing to say the first time you face off against a team of that caliber. Tonight's practice was mostly taken up with talking about the game, about lessons we learned, skills we need to drill going forward, things we wished we could have done better and things we're glad that we did so well.

Next up, I will most likely be skating with our B team on April 30 in Eagle, Colorado, at a one-day tournament hosted by our friends and arch-rivals the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls. Between now and then, all the practice.

Got only half a work day in today, but it was a good solid half-day. Spent a good session on this week's planned fictionette offering--I've got a couple characters and a premise, but I'm still a little undecided on the shape and structure of the story. Figured I could at least start to draft the opening paragraphs despite my uncertainty about where they were going, and, as usually happens when I "just write it anyway," I found out some useful things that way. Seriously, it's amazing how useful and important those throwaway details, the ones that turn up because I sort of filled in a blank at random, turn out to be.

In addition to that, there was my designated half hour for dealing with the business side of freelance writing, which usually involves submitting a story somewhere or figuring out where next to submit a story. This time, since I didn't have anything lined up and ready to go, it was spent in pure research. "Research" here means catching up with an online writers' community bulletin board that I frequent and seeing where others have been submitting stories lately. It's a big, sprawling forum, and it's very easy to get lost in about fifteen different conversations. I focused very specifically on the part of the forum dedicated to discussing individual pro markets. Even so, I felt a little guilty. I was on the clock! I was supposed to be writing! What was I doing reading the internet?! Still, I reminded myself that reading this particular corner of the internet was a legit part of my business plan. Call it networking. Call it market research. I have a half-hour of every writing day set aside for precisely this, and this is how I get to use it.

As a result, I do, in fact, now know where I am next sending a story. Tomorrow I'll probably figure out which story.

YPP Weekend Blockades, Mar 19: Blockades. That's... pretty much it.
Sat 2016-03-19 13:13:43 (single post)

Although no one seems to have much to say about them on the forums, there are blockades going on this weekend--everywhere but the Cerulean and Jade Oceans, in fact. Most of the action is against Brigand Kings, especially ones that have already got their claws into the islands what ought to be pirate strongholds.

Saturday is also one of the days when swordfighting and rumbling tournaments are free to play, in case that's relevant to you in your hunt for the Seal o' Piracy: March 2016 edition.

Are you one of those who enjoy trying out new features and braving the strange economy of the Ice Ocean? Be advised that it had a bit of downtime recently due to a physical server move. Should be all better now, but stay alert out there.

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, March 19 ***

12:00 p.m. - Maia-Insel, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Glare
Attacker: Schwarzes Netz (1)
Undeclared: Ursa Major

12:02 p.m. - Kiwara Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Daddy Issues

12:22 p.m. - Ix Chel, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (6)
Attacker: This Means War
Attacker: Animosity

1:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (9)
Attacker: Dutch Glory

4:00 p.m. - Akhlys Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Radioactive
Attacker: Black Veil (3)

5:14 p.m. - Windward Vale, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (5)
Attacker: Daunting Rewards

9:00 p.m. - Wissahickon Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: This Means War
Attacker: The Enlightened (4)

*** Sunday, March 20 ***

11:35 a.m. - Amity Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Coming In Hot
Attacker: This Means War

11:57 a.m. - Tigerleaf Mountain, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (7)
Attacker: Cream Pie

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author, who can't seem to help collecting cheap masks.
this fictionette is very, very nervous but STRONG LIKE OX
Sat 2016-03-19 00:51:36 (single post)
  • 2,691 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,004 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK, real quick 'cause it's late and all: It's Friday--well, it was Friday about 51 minutes ago--and we got Fictionette. "This Will Be My Origin Story" is about someone who thought she knew her own strength, but didn't really, and now it's all gone to hell. You know how it is.

It was another night up late reading again (my self-control is indirectly proportionate to my proximity to a book) and sleeping until noon. So I got started quite late. And yet somehow I managed to get all of the things done, writing and otherwise. By otherwise, by the way, I mainly mean my motor vehicle registration renewal and change of address. This required two phone calls so far. It will also require a trip to the emissions testing tomorrow morning and a visit to the license tag renewal site in the middle of next week.

I put in another hour on the new short story. Or, rather, I eked out another hour. Turns out I didn't have all that much more ready to scoop out of my head and dump on the page. So I wound up talking to myself about the story in the Document Notes fields of my virtual index cards. A lot. Unfortunately, this doesn't count toward the story's word count. Well, maybe fortunately. It was a lot of babble. Also, I did some research and found out that first off, dryads are literally the spirits of oak trees, and secondly, there doesn't seem to be a handy word for the spirits of maple and cottonwood trees. Then there's the bit about dryads don't so much turn into trees as they simply live inside them. I may need a different mythological creature word entirely for what I'm trying to do.

The reason I deliberately let myself sleep so late is roller derby. Of course. Scrimmage last night was particularly rough--fun, satisfying, exciting, but rough--and further more Saturday is bout day. Our A and B travel teams are going to play Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' Fight Club and Contenders, respectively. That's "Fight Club" as in "Currently ranked #16 in the world," by the way. And also? I've been substituted in for someone on our A team. Baby's first bout with the BCB All Stars is also going to be baby's first sanctioned bout is going to be against Fight Club. Egad. Cue all of the imposter syndrome. And also the nerves.

So I think maybe we can forgive me for indulging in all the sleep? You know. Just in preparation for stuff?

Um. If you're in town and free tomorrow night, it would be awesome to see you in the stands. ALL THE HEARTS AND FLOWERS Y'ALL.

approaching the rough draft in scattershot fashion
Fri 2016-03-18 01:48:35 (single post)
  • 2,100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today's been an unusually glorious and productive day. I'm hoping to do something about the "unusually" part, going forward--days like this ought to be routine, drat it all!--but I've been in deplorable sleeping habits the last few days (or weeks). Up reading until sometime past two (and I'm not going to try to say how far past two, because around two is when I just stop looking at the clock), then, as effect follows cause, unable to get out of bed until dang near noon.

I did mention I was binging on T. Kingfisher ebooks, right? This would explain the "up until sometime past two" part of the equation. Nine Goblins was a lot of fun. Bryrony and Roses was amazing. Now I'm waiting on a paperback of The Seventh Bride to come in the mail.

Anyway. Today, despite being up until stupid-o-clock reading last night, I got up on time. That made everything else possible, including a substantial session on the new short story.

Yes! The new short story. It still doesn't have a title, but I've changed the working title (more like a working not-a-title) to reflect the main character's name. She has one now. It's Ellen. Well, in full, it's Barbara Ellen, and if you are at all of a folksongish bent you'll see what I did there. Maybe.

Good grief, was February 18 really the last time I touched it? (My database doesn't lie, but sometimes I forget to give it the whole truth.) Well, the draft is about 1500 words longer than it was. A neat trick, considering I really didn't know where to go after the first scene, or even how to finish the first scene.

I had--I continue to have--certain things I want in the story, plot elements and character backgrounds and so forth, but no clue just yet how to get from one to the next narratively. So, instead of spending another hour obsessively revising the first 500-word chunk, I switched over to what I'm thinking of as the Scattershot Strategy.

For each story element I knew that I wanted to include, I created a new Scrivener text file, and I just started writing in it without any thought for how the results would fit into the overall story. Just get everything that's in my head down on the page, regardless of whether it all works together yet. It wound up feeling a lot like plotting with index cards, only instead of physical index cards I've got virtual ones that I can drag and drop into any order. One of them has the very last two sentences of the story, and nothing else. One of them tells the tale of Ellen's mother's disappearance. Another is the scene where Ellen and the man who was a tree show up at Ellen's sister's house--that will probably be the third scene in the story. (The second scene still hasn't come clear.) Yet another "index card" has a few disjointed lines representing the climax of the story's central dilemma.

Point is, once I stopped worrying about how I'd get from here to there and gave myself permission to just teleport, more or less, it got fun. Like my freewriting sessions are fun. Like writing rough draft is supposed to be fun. I'm in the sandbox, playing with words and characters and ideas! Nothing has to be perfect! This, this right here, this is something I absolutely love about writing.

I sometimes lose track of the things I love about writing. Today I got reminded.

Hooray! More tomorrow.

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