“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

short story season, novel writing season
Wed 2016-10-05 10:55:25 (single post)

I'll be getting on a train in about three hours (as of the time of starting this blog post), so I'm blogging now rather than later. Today's topic: My cunning plan to accomplish all my fiction goals, both long and short.

I have for many years now considered myself a novelist as well as a short story writer. Even so, I still haven't finished a novel to the point of commercial viability. Some may say this means I don't get to call myself a novelist; I am not going to waste time arguing with them, as there's no profit in it for them nor me. I'm more concerned with problems that actually need solving, to wit, (1) there are only so many hours in the day, and (2) I have not historically excelled at time management.

In short: Until something about problems (1) or (2) changes--say, the Earth's rotation slows down to afford us extra hours in a day, or, possibly more likely, I start using my available hours more effectively--it's simply not realistic to expect myself to make progress on both the short and the long fiction goals in a single work day.

So I'm looking at the space of a year instead.

The inspiration for this obvious-in-hindsight idea was episode 11.33 of the podcast Writing Excuses: Crossover Fiction with Victoria Schwab. Schwab writes across the age spectrum of audiences, from middle grade to YA to adult. She writes one novel in each of those three categories every year. What caught my ear was the way she does it--and I'm having trouble finding the exact quote, but what I remember is, she designates a particular season of each year to each to each of those projects. Which struck me as an absolute genius solution to my own problem. If I were to designate certain months of the year for short fiction and others for novels, then I'm not responsible for making time for both in every single day. Instead, I'm only responsible for making daily time for fiction, period. And that is a reasonable goal.

While I don't want to try to plan the whole year out from here--there are probably factors I'm forgetting to take into account, like travel and appointments and the rhythms of the 2017 roller derby season--it's a no-brainer to reserve November for novel work. Which means this month, October, I'm buckling down to get several short stories newly ready to go. That way, during novel-writing months, all I have to do with short stories--all I am allowed to do with them--is submit and resubmit them.

Which means this month I'm going to get a little antsy about days without a short fiction work session. My hope is that yesterday will have been the last of those. Shouldn't be too hard to bank today toward the goal, since I'll be getting on a train in about two hours (as of the time of uploading this blog post)....

Bike. Jog. Skate. OK.
well maybe more of a workout vacation
Tue 2016-10-04 23:22:30 (single post)

I've come to the last night of what has been an exceedingly active visit to the New Orleans area. It has not in any way been a working vacation, which, OK, I shouldn't have expected. But it has been an active one. Darn near athletic.

I've spent a lot of time with Dad, mostly to do with cooking, sometimes to do with housecleaning, often just watching TV and chatting. We went to the Tremé Fall Festival, then out for a beer at Dad's favorite bar. (Between beers while out and mixed drinks while home, I accuse Dad of trying to get me drunk. Which isn't to say he should stop, mind you.) We went grocery shopping several times. I've visited a couple times with my brother, once at the bar and once here at the house. Visited also with various people who dropped by. I've been up early every morning and asleep early every night, because that's what Mom and Dad do and I have an easily influenced sleep schedule.

But I've also been dropping off early every night because I am exhausted. And this is probably because I've been skating. And by skating, I mean a lot. I came here with the intention to skate all the trails, and by all the Gods, I have skated on the trails. Not all of them, but a healthy selection thereof. And every single full day of my stay.

It goes like this:

Saturday, October 2: Home to Bonnabel Boat Launch via streets and Lakefront Trail (0.8 miles)

Mom goes to mass every morning. Her routine these days has contracted to a small handful of set rituals, and that's one of them. She can't drive anymore (at least, not and reliably get where she's going), so Dad and their network of friends have arranged for a transport rota.

On Saturday AM, a friend of the family drove her there, and with that particular friend there is also a ritual: After mass, they drive over to the Bonnabel Boat Lanch to look at the waves and the sea gulls. Dad and I met them there, him by car and me by skates.

The Bonnabel Canal is a big landmark of my childhood. It flows right behind my neighborhood and into the lake; the Bonnabel Pumping Station sits where the one meets the other. If you cross the canal on any of the little bridges and head north on Bonnabel Boulevard you wind up at the boat launch. Since my childhood, and since Hurricane Katrina, there has been a lot of development on all of the above-named structures. The pumping station has a concrete storm shelter on concrete pillar stilts, three stories above the ground, so that never again will the pumping station lie inactive during a storm because of the engineers having been evacuated out of reach. The boat launch is cleaned up and green and built out, with lots of parking spaces for vehicles and a park with a children's playground and a fenced dog yard and a pier that's strong and new and surfaced with concrete. The bike path crosses the canal on a flat bridge behind the pumping station, so there's no need for pedestrians, bicyclists or skaters to detour through the neighborhoods as I used to have to do.

And the little cross street that I take from my house to the bike path access spur has been repaved since last time I was in town. That was a nice surprise. It was smooth and pleasant on my way up to the levee, and safe to descend to from the levee at speed. So I got to the boat launch about the same time as Dad's car arrived and only just a few minutes behind Mom and the family friend who was driving her, and got home before any of them did.

It was a nice easy start, sort of an appetizer. Other trips would be longer. Not heroic, not epic marathons, but certainly longer.

Sunday, October 3: Home to Lakeshore Drive, Picnic Shelter No. 1 via streets and Lakefront Trail (5.6 miles)

That bike path I was on Saturday, labeled by Google Maps as "Lakefront Trail" but referred to on other websites as "Linear Park," traces the entire length of Jefferson Parish along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, never leaving sight of the water. As of 2014, its 10-mile length is entirely uninterrupted, to say nothing of the much shorter distance between the Bonnabel Canal and Old Hammond Highway. So it was without much difficulty that I rolled in at the door of Captain Sid's Seafood at 9:50 AM and asked for a dozen boiled blue crabs.

"They won't be ready until about 10:45," I was told. "Can you take another few laps around?"

So I continued on into Orleans Parish and over down Lakeshore Drive to watch the sailboats for a while. This was somewhat bumpier, as the streets aren't uniformly in as good condition as the trail, and the sidewalks along Lakeshore Drive are paved with red brick, but it was pleasant. Things smoothed out like a skating rink when I reached the park along the water. I remember being taken out to this park, which the grown-ups simply called "The Lakefront," to sit on the sea steps and drop crab nets in the water. Skating alongside those steps now, I reflected that, in case of a fall, roller derby gear will protect one from impact but not necessarily from a wetting (nor the undertow, which a friend's parents informed me would, should I fall in, promptly suck me under the stone steps to drown--that's hot spicy nightmare fuel if ever an 8-year-old heard some), and proceeded with caution in the area.

At 10:45 the crabs were ready for pick-up. The folks at Captain Sid's put them in a brown paper bag, I put that in a plastic kitchen garbage sack, and the whole thing went carefully upright in my Riedell gear pack. Dad and I ate the whole dozen practically in a single sitting. They were that good.

Monday, October 4: Covington to Abita Springs via the Tammany Trace (6.92 miles)

Plans could not have been more perfect, I thought. Lunch with a high school friend in Covington, skating the Trace into Abita Springs, then a beer at the Abita Brew Pub. The weather was good and the trailheads were each pretty much on the doorstep of what I wanted to do in their respective towns.

Only problem: A fair number of restaurants are closed on Monday. Including the ones I had planned my day around. I thought I'd done my homework, but apparently I missed some little details.

It wasn't a day-wrecker. It was just a disappointment. Dad had been talking up DiCristina's and I really wanted to try it. And not only have I wanted to visit the Abita Brew Pub since I first realized it existed, but I was holding that visit out to myself as a reward for all that good exercise on the trail. "I did it! I got here! Yay! ...Oh." I'll have to do it again next trip, and not on a Monday. Meanwhile, lunch wound up being at a deli that was even closer to the Covington trailhead, and the beers I enjoyed at Rosie's Tavern across the street from Abita were in fact Abita seasonals I'd never tried before. So that was fine.

The trail was just gorgeous. Skating it was its own reward. Just the portion that crosses Bogue Falaya I would happily skate back and forth on for hours. And the whole way the trail traveled on land, it was bordered by those same lush ribbons of varied plant life, narrow strips of something like swamp forest, that I've always loved staring at out the window of my parents' car on the way to visit northshore family. Dragonflies everywhere. Birds and bugs and things. And shade. Shade is important. Also there was a snoball stand where the Trace continues on after crossing Highway 190. There is nothing like skating along a scenic trail with a purple king cake flavored snoball in my hand. Unless it's skating along with a snoball of a different flavor, of course. (Purple is my least favorite color of king cake. It tastes like numerical red food dye. Should have had the wedding cake flavor, or the coffee-and-cream.)

I had my only real fall of my whole 5-day stay. It was on my way back to Covington, after--ironically--the bartender at Rosie's had said having my wheels on in the house was fine as long as I didn't fall. Well. I didn't fall there. Anyway, during much of the ride there and back I'd been practicing my transitions at speed, which is to say turning around to skate backwards then turning around to skate forwards without affecting my rate or vector of travel. That had been fine. But for some reason when I transitioned just one more time to get a better look at some asphalt splotches that seemed to form letters across the track, I went down backwards on my ass. Thankfully, nothing took damage, neither the laptop in my gearpack (snug against my back and cushioned away from the point of impact by my hoodie stuffed into the large compartment where my protective gear usually goes) nor the camera hanging off my wrist nor my phone tucked into the strap of my left elbow pad. I did not even rip my brand new Saints leggings. (I have brand new Saints leggings! I got them here.).

And then I drove back across the lake to the southshore, listening to podcasts the whole way.

Tuesday, October 5: Audubon Park to Oschner Hospital via the Mississippi River Trail (5.6 miles)

The Mississippi River Trail aspires to continue along the river all the way from Louisiana to Minnesota. This has not yet been accomplished, but some hefty segments are done and ready for travel. Among them is the 60-mile stretch along the east bank from New Orleans to Reserve, Louisiana. I skated the first half hour of that today--which is to say, a half hour out and a half hour back. That amount of time took me from my car in the Audubon Zoo parking lot (Google tells me I was where Aquarium Drive meets West Drive, where the River Drive one-way begins) onto the trail and back the way I'd come as far as Oschner Hospital on River Road.

For the first ten minutes, I seriously considered giving up, turning around, and just skating a lap around the golf course in the park. That trail has been recently paved and is said to be smooth as silk as it circles under the shade of the old oak trees. By contrast, the Mississippi River Trail is in full sun and starts out punishingly rough with no view whatsoever to speak of. But then it finally ascends to the top of the levee on smoother pavement. The view of the river is fantastic. Looking over the city, you get the feeling of being at the top of the world.

Unfortunately, the sun is very much a factor. Despite the trip being shorter than the day's before, and despite the two bottles of water consumed over the hour of travel, I was starting to get slighlty short of breath in that particularly asthmatic way that I associate with impending sunstroke by the time I returned to the car.

If I do that trail again, I'll skip the zoo parking lot and come in by way of one of the access spurs I spotted in Jefferson Parish, one at The River Center and one at Oschner. Just skip that awful bit of trail that's sandwiched between a chain link fence and a parade of what appeared to be industrial government facilities. And I won't forget my sunscreen next time.

So that leaves Wednesday. Wednesday I get on the train to start the two-day trip back to Colorado. I have my usual volunteer reading to do and parents who'll want to maximize our visiting time before I go, so I doubt I'm going to get a chance to skate more tomorrow. Besides, four days of trail skating in a row is plenty; I think my body needs a slight break. But I won't swear not to do any skating in Chicago on Thursday.

Cover art features original photography by the artist. The building is in Burlington, Iowa; the hand belongs to a random person in a crowd.
this fictionette fulfilled almost all expectations
Sat 2016-10-01 13:03:52 (single post)
  • 2,784 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,209 words (if poetry, lines) long

The Friday Fictionette nominally for September 23, 2016 but functionally for September 30 has gone up. I put it up last night, but then I pretty much collapsed, so you get the blog post today. It's "Living It Up," and, as mentioned before, it's mostly a shameless hate-fic in reaction to one of my least favorite stories of recent years. (Because of the Puppying of the Hugos, I feel I should specify that nothing makes it onto my "least favorite stories" list if it didn't stand a chance of not being on that list in the first place. Otherwise the list would be unmanageably long.) But as I wrote it and had to give examples of the main character's boyfriend being a jerk, I wound up coloring him in with the broad brush I obtained as a small child being bullied by my older cousins and one particular uncle. The rest of the family had various enabling spins on the bullying; one of them was that I clearly had no sense of humor or else I'd find the bullying funny. So... that kind of informed the development of the antagonist of this fictionette.

Look, I never promised you subtlety in this exercise. You get an ebook and an audiobook version depending on your subscription tier, you get them four times a month, you get sentences and paragraphs that more or less make sense and add up to a story-like object, and you get a glimpse into my writing process whether you want it or not. You don't necessarily get literature.

I had a nice long day in Metairie after my nice long day on the train: rental car adventures, traffic on I-10 West, the last 15 minutes of game play (which is to say, the better part of an hour) of my high school's homecoming game--which they won by a comfortable margin and with several showy interceptions too--and then dinner courtesy of My Father the Cook. (Venison and green onion sausage with a side of garden-fresh okra? Yes please thank you any time!) Stayed up late talking with Dad and exchanging stand-up comedian recommendations--not the best of ideas, as it turns out; he didn't get Maria Bamford, and I'll be happy not to hear any more of Anthony Jeselnik pretty much ever. But we both partake of the geek/nerd/fan nature and want so much to share with each other the things we enjoy! In any case, we didn't part ways for the night until well past 9:00 PM. Generally I consider that downright early, but after all the day's activity and travel I was ready to drop.

Oh, right, predictions for Thursday. They were good! Everything happened as hope--including skating in Chicago! There was no rain falling when I got there, though it clearly had fallen (and was still falling in Naperville). I did indeed skate the Lakefront Trail to Navy Pier. The trail's paving is not the best for skates--it's very bumpy--but it goes all the way there. Then a very diligent security guard made me de-wheel myself on the pier itself. I met my friend for dinner at Giordanos by the Children's Museum and we had a far too short visit before he had to drive me back to the train station.

Once I got settled on the train, I spent some time trying to prepare "Stand By For Your Assignment" for submission. That story is giving me such trouble. I can't seem to make the words do what I want them to do. The story goes clunk, clunk, clunk. I think I need to stand back and give it more of an eagle's eye once-over, ask myself what I'm trying to do with the story overall, and only once I have the larger structure pointing in that direction will I be able to get any joy on a line-by-line level.

I'm terribly afraid I'm stuck in the perfection trap, though. The one where you never finish and you never move on because you can't seem to get it perfect. I keep telling myself, just let the story stand as a record of where your craft is now, so you can move on to where your craft is trying to go. But the story needs to be at least publishable before I let it go, right? In theory?

Anyway, that was Thursday night. Friday morning, instead of doing more work on "Stand By...," I played around with a new story idea inspired by an anecdote I overheard, told by one of the train staff (assistant conductor, maybe?) in the sightseer lounge. I'm not going to get this right, and I have no idea how true it is, but it began, "This town we're passing through here, Stanton, Iowa..." Seems there was a woman who traveled from France to the U.S., took a job as a nanny for some family somewhere, but turned out to be unsuited for the job, possibly due to mental illness, also possibly due to not having the proper immigration documents, and she just... ran away? Disappeared into the midwest, I guess, and wound up in Stanton, Iowa. And that's where the immigration officials finally caught up with her, months later. Or at least found out what became of her? I'm not sure; I just remember that the last thing the storyteller said, which seemed like a complete non sequitor, not to mention at right angles to reality, was, "I guess the feral cats got to her."

*Blink. Blink.* Feral cats? Did I mishear? I don't know, but that day's freewriting exercise had the writing prompt "The feral cats of Stanton, Iowa." (It may also have been influenced by having recently read "If You Were a Tiger, I'd Have to Wear White" by Maria Dahvana Headley.) It seems likely to turn into a real story, too. And that's good, because I need to stockpile submission-ready short stories this month--but that's another story which I shall tell at another time.

The view from this morning
eighty percent chance of solid offline productivity
Thu 2016-09-29 14:30:44 (single post)

Tonight, like last night, I'll spend on a train with no internet access. My only chance to upload a blog post will be during my five-hour layover, and only a very little of that since I have made plans to visit with an old friend. Which means I'm blogging from the naive and optimistic beginning of the day rather than from the resigned and exhausted end.

So. Hello from 9:20 in the morning!. That's rather earlier than my morning shift usually starts. But I gave up on sleep as a lost cause when I heard the man in the seat behind me saying, loudly, clearly, in an unmoderated daytime voice, "They don't start serving coffee until six o'clock." Thank you, good sir, for that information, which is only relevant to my life because you and your loud voice and lack of situational awareness wouldn't let me sleep past six. But since you have made it relevant to me, thank you for passing it along. Also thank you for your continuing updates on how you think everyone around you slept. Slept, past tense, as though no one around you were still trying to sleep.

From here it is still impossible to tell whether I'll get to go trail-skating in Chicago. I leaned on another passenger and their smartphone to give me an update on the weather forecast; they told me "Sixty percent chance of rain diminishing to fifty and then forty as the day goes on." That sounds slightly more optimistic than the NOAA's bare-bones prediction of fifty percent all day. I do not like uncertainty! I want to make plans. I don't want to spring last-minute changes on my friend, who has to drive and park and navigate a work schedule. I'm almost to the point of saying, whatever, fine, I'm skating, I'm committing to it, meet me at Navy Pier. If my wheels get wet, who cares? I'm riding on my oldest and crappiest set of bearings. But then I think about attempting to get traction over two miles of wet pavement, and I get doubts.

From here, too, I can't so much report on today's writing as make predictions about it. So. Based on the time available to me on the train, I predict hitting the five hour mark. Based on how close I got to completing the overdue September 23 fictionette during yesterday's five hours, I predict there will be a solid session of short story revision today. I'm a little disappointed over not having a revision session yesterday, but it couldn't be helped. The fictionette's lingering. The story itself is... well, not very subtle, I guess. Not a surprise. Lack of subtlety is why it's a fictionette. One way a freewriting session becomes a fictionette is, when the 25-minute timer goes ding, I say to myself, "I'm going to get a lot of satisfaction out of turning this into a real story, but there is no way any editor in charge of a budget will want to buy it." But it would appear I'm less resigned to producing a 1200-word clue-by-four to the head than I thought I'd be. Also there's this temptation to turn the author's note into a full-on detailed review of the short story to which this fictionette is reacting. Not a favorable review, as you might imagine. Intensely unfavorable. There's the temptation to go on and on.

Still, I got it mostly done. I expect to get it all the way done today, or at least as close to done as I can while both offline (no uploadig) and in public (no recording the audiofictionette), such that what remains will be easily accomplished Friday evening in Metairie.

So those are my predictions. Come back tomorrow to see how accurate they were!

The view from here.
less stress more beer. i mean train. more train.
Wed 2016-09-28 17:55:48 (single post)

So as it turns out I did have time to make those tomatillos into salsa verde. Roasted them this time. Added lots of raw onion and garlic. Also, instead of simply omitting the cilantro, I substituted parsley. I like parsley. Anyway, that'll be waiting in the freezer for me when I get back (or for John if he wants some while I'm out). Also made five hard boiled eggs into egg salad, and made a stupid amount of egg salad and cucumber sandwiches on sourdough. Chopped up a bunch of farm veg raw for the snack bag too. Never made it to the grocery, but, hey, monster ton of sandwiches and raw veg! Also did a bunch of clean-up around the house and in the fridge, folded all the laundry, read the volunteer reading, and was generally all-around industrious.

I did not manage to type up the Fictionette Artifacts, though. I packed a caligraphy pen instead.

Since leaving the house and toiling, overladen with luggage, to the bus station, I have begun making a list of things I have forgotten. (Lists. I make lists. That one character in Valente's Palimpsest, the one who makes lists? She and me, we're like this.) The first item kicked off the list while I was waiting at the bus stop within view but not reach of my house: the surprise I wanted to include in one of the Fictionette Artifacts By Mail. Drat. The most recently added list item--that pair of disposable earplugs I'd worn on the lawnmower Monday and thought might come in handy on the train--I only thought of just now. I'm sure there will be more. That is the nature of travel. You sacrifice a few petty items to the Gods of Forgetting, and They ensure you don't forget any of the important stuff. Like, say, medications, or any vital part of my skate gear.

Speaking of skating, I have heard that there is a bike path that runs along the lake east of the Loop in Chicago that is very nice. Possibly associated with Navy Pier? I know nothing. Google tells me it's called Lakefront Trail. I should like to skate there tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately, the forecast for Chicago calls for a 50% chance of showers all afternoon and evening. Thwarted! But I suppose that, according to math, that forecast also represents a 50% chance of no showers. Perhaps I will be lucky.

Meanwhile, I'm having a well-deserved rest from pre-travel stress in Denver Union Station. Denver Union Station is the best. I devoured a shrimp salad sandwich from Acme Delicatessen, over on the left. I am now enjoying a Citradelic IPA from the Terminal bar, just behind me. I am utilizing wi-fi provided by the Crawford Hotel, on my right, and electricity from the charging hub right in front of me here. Life is good.

(The jukebox in my brain is all, "Hey, that sounds like a Kate Bush song! You will now have 'Lily' stuck in your head all evening. You're welcome." I sure hope I have a copy of The Red Shoes in my Music folder.)

Nothing left to worry about except making sure I finish my beer before the train arrives. *checks time* I think I'm up to the challenge.

It's OK. The tomatillos can wait.
less stress more veg
Tue 2016-09-27 23:59:59 (single post)

I woke up this morning with ALL THE STRESS because tomorrow is departure day. I've been excited and happily looking forward to "Five days in New Orleans, yay!" and "Double overnight train trip, bliss!" since I made the reservation, but apparently "Oh shit I have so much to do before I leave town" didn't become emotionally real until my alarm went off today.

Thus, interlude with soothing vegetables. In theory, anyway. I am trying not to think things like "Gotta cook and puree the tomatillos in another batch of salsa verde which I will freeze before I leave" and "Wash carrots! Chop carrots! Bag up carrots for trip! Make salad-to-go! Egg salad and cucumber sandwiches! Must also get to grocery for trail mix, hard cheese and beef jerky!" and also "I'm going to be gone nine days, I have to boil down all the leafy greens now!" No. Hush. Soothing vegetables. Vegetables with a respectable shelf life. It'll be fine. Ssh.

I've been stressing and snappish and despairing and panicky by turns. It's been icky. Finally, on the drive over to roller derby practice, I realized that by 9:30 I'd be even more panicky and also exhausted from practice, and that discretion was the better part of valor, and that it might be kinder to myself to skip practice in order to Get Pre-Travel Stuff Done. So I dropped John off, packed up my gear (I'd left it at the practice space rather than shlep it home Sunday), and turned right around for home. And, damn, I Got Stuff Done! I'm in a much happier place now.

Still, some things remain necessary to do before I go:

  • Type up the September Fictionette Artifacts to mail from New Orleans
  • Put my outdoor wheels on my skates
  • Do all the laundry
  • Pack all the things
  • Call the car rental place to reserve a car and also pick-up service at New Orleans Union Station
  • Scrapbook all the browser tabs I have open that contain short fiction I want to read on the train
  • Download podcasts
  • Do the usual volunteer reading for Wednesday
  • Visit the grocery store to finish provisioning my snack/meals-on-train bag

This is not an impossible list, thankfully. Especially since I'm not exhausted from derby. Also, one of the tasks I'd accomplished this evening was something I'd been Procrastinating Through Dread, and it is scientifically proven that accomplishing such a task frees up three times as much energy as the task itself requires. So I'm actually feeling pretty chipper now. My get-up-and-go has arrived with a can-do attitude in tow.

Meanwhile the list of things I need to do but which can wait until I am actually on the train, or at least until I'm at Denver Union Station, is much shorter:

  • Finish preparing the Friday Fictionette that was for September 23
  • Other daily writing tasks
  • Giving some long-overdue attention to the short fiction revision queue

In other words, I finally get to write. Yay for trains!

i see what she means now
Mon 2016-09-26 23:43:12 (single post)

Story time! Some ten or so years ago, I was possessed of a sudden desire to learn to fly. I had walked from my house to the Boulder Municipal Airport, where I saw a sign that said LEARN TO FLY HERE and watched a little plane do a touch-and-go, and I thought, "That's right--I could!"

At the time, I had a neighbor the next stairwell over who was a flight attendant. Upon hearing my thought, she immediately tried to dissuade me. "No, no, you don't want to do that. Those little planes are awful. They shake and they rattle and you can feel every tiniest bit of turbulence like you're going to fall out of the sky any minute, and they're noisy. You know those lawnmowers that you ride on? They're like lawnmowers with wings. And that's what you'd log your first kajillion hours in. You don't want to do that, trust me."

I found her reaction odd. I'd been expecting encouragement. I mean, she was up in planes all the time. Why would she want to discourage another person--another woman, even--from being a pilot? By contrast, my mother, whom I'd expected to get nervous and scared at the thought of her daughter risking her life fifteen hundred feet in the air every week, got really excited about it when I told her. "You can do anything you put your mind to," she told me. "If you want to learn to fly, do it!"

The short story is, I began taking lessons and eventually earned my private pilot's license. Mom was thrilled; she bragged to friends that her daughter was a renaissance woman: "She writes stories, programs web pages, spins her own yarn, and flies planes." I don't remember what my neighbor had to say about it. She eventually moved away, but not before contriving to have a bridge-burning fight with just about everyone in the condominium building whom she knew, including me. (In my case it was a fight about my expecting her to bring used wine glasses back to the kitchen or at least stand them upright on a table when she was done with them rather than leaving them on the couch for me to discover between the cushions the next day. Or something like that.)

Anyway.

I haven't been in the cockpit for years--since before I began skating roller derby, in fact--but that's not the point. The point is, today I learned how to operate a ride-on lawnmower. And whatever else my neighbor was wrong about, she was right about this much: that machine really is rather reminiscent of a Cessna 172. The engine noise is similar, if not to the same scale. Earplugs help. The lawnmower also has in common with a small plane the throttle that you sometimes have to futz with to get things started. It has a checklist for startup and shutdown, if a shorter one than the airplane does. And if its engine suddenly dies on you, your first course of action is to see if you can restart it. Just like in a plane, except without that fiddly "set attitude for best glide speed" or "identify a an emergency landing location" stuff.

And that's my story. The end.

tomatillos rolling everywhere
friday service is delayed, please stay tuned
Fri 2016-09-23 22:11:14 (single post)

This week's Friday Fictionette will trickle on into the weekend, because it's been One of Those Weeks. So instead I present you with a picture of this week's farm share, also late for the same reason. The sharp-eyed among you will notice the little baggie of tomatillos next to the jalapeño and are possibly wondering "So, when's salsa night?" Salsa night will be Sunday. John and I will make salsa, eat salsa with chips, and possibly watch the latest episode of Steven Universe. Details are still up in the air.

Tonight was zucchnni, garlic, kale (or possibly kohlrabi leaves), and sausage night. With bits of farm bread added to the pan at the last minute to soak up the sausage grease. The sausage was cheddar bratwurst.

Tomorrow night will be marinated chicken night. I have all this beer I didn't drink in time to enjoy as beer, so I will enjoy it as a marinade. The chicken will be a bunch of boneless, skinless thighs from the SALE bin at Whole Foods. Like it just knew I had all this beer to marinate it in, or something.

Next week is looking a little less likely to be One of Those Weeks, because of Deliberate, Assertive Action and also I'll be getting on a train for New Orleans. Traaaaaaain. Five days back home bracketed by hours and hours of just me and my computer on a train. BLISS.

About this, more later, inevitably.

Cover art incorporates orignal photography by the author, who really should have taken the picture while it was still daylight.
this fictionette is part of a complete breakfast
Fri 2016-09-16 23:56:46 (single post)
  • 1,051 words (if poetry, lines) long

The Friday Fictionette for September 16 is up. It's "The Starring Role" (subscriber links: ebook, audiobook) and it's about fairy tales and protagonizing in them. It's not a lot of fun, really. Lots of ashes to sweep. Lots of fiddly grains and seeds to sort. And then at the end of it all, what do you get? A prince, sure, but is he really all that and a bag of Zapp's Cajun Dill Gator-Tators? Also, fairy tales generally don't stock Zapp's potato chips. *Sad.*

It's bout weekend for the Boulder County Bombers "Bombshells" team--tournament weekend, actually. Two days. Seven teams. A heck of a lot of roller derby. We went in this evening and taped the track, set up tables and chairs, erected a scoreboard projection screen, and arranged other assorted props and items of furniture. The place is set up and more or less ready to go. Skaters begin checking in bright and early tomorrow morning, and the first bout begins at 10:00 AM. The last bout of the day won't be over until at least 7:30 PM, and then we do it all over again on Sunday. YOU WANT TO BE THERE. No, you do, you really do. I'm going to be there. So should you.

Dang. This blog post is a complete and balanced breakfast, isn't it? Writing, derby, grains and legumes, potato chips. All it needs is coffee or something.

advice to alternate universe me
Thu 2016-09-15 23:18:32 (single post)

Note to self: Do not begin Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song as bedtime reading because you WILL NOT be able to put the book down (it was almost every bit as good as advertised) unfinished, and a night of only four hours of sleep is not conducive to getting anything productive done the next morning.

Possibly this is a note to an alternate universe version of myself for whom the advice does not yet come too late.

It really was a very good book.

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