“Write what you feel and not what you think someone else feels.”
Stephen Sondheim

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Finished the lap blanket; just getting started on the granny square afghan
quarantine crafting, cooking, and poetry publishing
Mon 2020-04-20 22:34:34 (single post)

Hello from a fairly satisfying Monday! The sun is shining, the paving is dry, and I just went for a big long street-and-trail skate. Looped around 28th to Elmer's Two Mile to Goose Greek to Foothills to Wonderland Creek and home again. It took nearly the entirety of the album Best of Blondie.

I'm coming off a pretty damn good weekend for poetry. One came home with the kind of personal rejection that makes an author walk on air and smile foolishly for the rest of the day. The editor responded, at paragraph length (and not a short paragraph, either), with an in-depth interpretation of the poem, teasing out meaning I had not consciously put in there (but wished I had, because damn, that's some clever stuff!). We are talking exegesis here. Another poem came home, from a different market, with an offer to buy. (I said yes, of course.) No contract yet, so details later, yadda yadda yadda. I shall reveal more when I can.

So. One amazingly thoughtful personal rejection and one acceptance. That's a damn good weekend.

There has, meanwhile, been more quarantine cooking and quarantine crafting. John's missing his California Pizza Kitchen fix; he found a copycat recipe for their Kung Pao Spaghetti, and we gave it a shot last night. (Sans chicken, of course.) It got all the thumbs up from this household. The recipe calls for a whole pound of spaghetti, so we figured there would be leftovers. There were no leftovers. There would have been if we had possessed any self-restraint whatsoever, but we did not, and so we ate it all.

Next time we will make half the recipe, just out of self-defense.

The effect was not unlike that of Pinch of Yum's Rainbow Pad Thai. The sauce is very similar. Veggie broth, soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, vinegar. The main difference was that it was thickened with cornstarch in the bowl rather than with egg in the pan. I'm thinking next time I might try the egg method; I find that the flavor and texture of cornstarch is just a little too front-and-center. But obviously I had no real complaints. NO LEFTOVERS.

Meanwhile, I dug up and finally finished this lap blanket, pictured above. I started work on it some three years ago or more. I'd just made one for a Boulder County Bombers silent auction following the Gingerbread Lady's Ribbon Afghan pattern, and I thought it would be nice to have one of my own. This time I'd substitute a half-double stitch for that one chain stitch that separated the blocks of double-crochet from the blocks of single, see if that resulted in a smoother effect. It did, and I liked it, but somehow I just never got around to finishing it. Well, it is now finished. Finished and warm and soft and cozy.

That done, I investigated another couple bags of acrylic yarn someone gave me--this is a thing that happens when one crafts out in public; other people offer one yarn when they want to winnow down their stash. I have yet to learn to say no, mainly because I keep thinking, "I'll make it into another patchwork afghan!" Well, time to get busy on that. That bag of brightly colored balls of yarn you see in the photo next to the lap blanket is getting turned into a bunch of granny squares, more or less following the Crayola Colors Afghan pattern in Women's Day Granny Squares #8, which was on my shelf for some ungodly reason and seemed like a good place to start.

Crocheting granny squares is not a bad way to spend time waiting for a Puzzle Pirates voyage to get under way. Did I mention I'm playing Puzzle Pirates again? Yep. Logged on this afternoon after my work was done. Promptly won a bunch of Easter Egg furniture in an Ocean-wide competition that happened to be going on at the time. When it comes to Rigging and Navigating, I've still got it.

Anyone to whom that actually made sense, drop me a line. We should pilly.

talk about foreshadowing
Thu 2020-04-09 22:39:40 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

About that novel: The easy part is almost over.

I have imported into the new Scrivener project seven chapters comprising in total 13 scenes and 26,455 words. Since the entire novel is just over the NaNoWriMo finishing line of 50,000 words long, that means I've imported half of the existing novel in about a week. Taking it slow, remember. Reading each scene through and jotting down notes along the way.

The problem is, my notes are already saying things like, "You don't know either, do you?" and "Ah, still need to figure this out, I see."

In one of the scenes I imported today, a teenager, Tess, says to the protagonist, Gwen, "Have you found Mrs. Nimbel's quill pen yet? It's important!" and Gwen says that no, sorry, she hasn't even had a chance to look for it, what with trying to save the bookstore from a really nasty and unfounded reputation in the neighborhood, trying to stay alive long enough to do that, and, oh yeah, trying not to miss the deadline on her next book. "Can you tell me why it's so important?"

This is where the reader (who is me) says Yes, please tell us! What is up with the damn quill?! And Tess... does not tell us. She says, "You mean you don't know? You expect me to believe you practically grew up in this bookstore, and now you own the place, and you don't know? You don't know anything, do you?" Whereupon she runs off in a passion and loses herself among the bookstore shelves.

Which is where I say to the author (who was me), "You don't know either, do you? You never figured it out at all. Oh crap. That means I'm going to have to figure it out. Great."

So, yeah. I'm only halfway through the easy part in terms of word count, but I'm very much almost to the hard part in terms of content. I'm very much almost to the part where I have to come up with the answers I failed to come up with fourteen years ago. And then I'll have the harder part still to do, which is to make it all hang together as an actual novel I might consider sending out to agents someday.

See, I remember thinking up the quill. I remember being so damn proud of it. I'd gotten to one of those middle-of-November crisis points where I had no idea what to write next, so I pulled one of my usual tricks: I reread my material so far looking for a throwaway detail that I could make into a plot point. I found a description of Mrs. Nimbel's desk with its permanent inkwell, and how Gwen remembered watching her dip a quill pen in that ink to write special notes and letters and even sign credit card slips. Ah-ha, said I, that quill pen will be the engine that drives the next third of the novel! It's gone missing, and Gwen has to find it in order to save the bookstore! I'll figure out the details later.

I guess later is now.

Amusingly, when Tess comes back out from among the shelves with a book to buy and an apology for her tantrum (which Gwen, not being a total jerk, meets with an apology of her own), she and Gwen exchange email addresses so they can talk about it later. You know what that means, right? Come on. What happens in pretty much any story full of intrigue when a secondary character has vital information but, instead of revealing it right away, tells the protagonist that they will have to tell them later?

Well, no. There will be no underage deaths in this book. But Tess is probably going to have to be the next kid to go missing, isn't she?

If I didn't write that in the first draft, I'm damn well writing it into the second.

my personal version of original sin or something like that
Wed 2020-04-08 21:49:27 (single post)

As I've been delightedly chirping about, my work days lately have been fantastic. Partially because of Cat Rambo's co-writing sessions, partially because of all the appointment cancellations and stay-at-home routines of the pandemic, and partially because changing to a different hypertension medication at the beginning of the year means that, after four years of not, I'm getting enough sleep at night... I'm doing all my work, every day. I'm hitting every item on my checklist at more or less the planned time. With results including: I've got a good amount of manuscripts out on submission at any given time, I'm finishing my Friday Fictionette releases a day early, and now I'm rewriting a novel!

It's wonderful. I'm getting an amazing amount of things done every day, and come five or six o'clock, I'm more or less off the clock. My responsibilities are met. I can relax.

But just try telling my scarred little brain that.

Stress is a habit. Guilt is a habit. The conviction that, if I'm playing or reading or cooking a meal or going to sleep early, it's because I'm procrastinating the day's writing and that makes me a bad, lazy, undisciplined wanna-be of a writer, that shit carves a rut in the brain. So that conviction lingers, even when it no longer reflects reality.

Which leads to scenes like this:

It's eight p.m. and I've completed my checklist of writing tasks. I've logged four and a half hours of solid work. I've even taken care of some financial chores during my lunch break. I'm done. Now I get to play! I boot up Spiral Knights, I log in... and then I sit there looking at the mission screen, feeling a nagging sense that I shouldn't be here. I should be doing something virtuous right now. Something productive. It's simply not valid for me to spend the next couple hours smashing jelly cubes and gremlins in the Clockworks.

So maybe I play anyway. And the whole time I'm playing, that sense continues to nag. And it makes the game not fun.

So maybe I don't play. And I sit there at my desk, staring at my computer, wondering what else I should do with my time. No ideas occur.

And that's how the rest of the evening passes: half-heartedly poking at this or that pastime but never really settling in to enjoy myself, and then suddenly it's bedtime. I earned an evening of fun, but I failed to cash it in before my credits expired.

This is not insurmountable. I'm not really complaining. Like all bad habits, this tendency to never feel sufficiently off the hook to enjoy myself just needs to be replaced with good habits, which I will practice until they become, well, habitual. It'll take a certain amount of mindfulness, but I'll get there. It's no big deal.

It's just weird, that's all. I thought it was worth mentioning.

one hundred words closer to upgrading my SFWA membership
Wed 2020-04-08 00:31:07 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have happy news today! One of the three stories that sold back in January has now been published--it is online where you can read it and everything! "The Rarest of Prey," what I've been referring to as "that tacky little unicorn drabble," is now live for your reading pleasure at Daily Science Fiction.

Meanwhile, I continue plugging away at all the daily and weekly writing tasks...

This morning's freewriting session resulted in a couple potential poems, one about the pandemic, the other about prejudice, and both depressing as heck. (Sometimes poetry is like that.)

This week's Friday Fictionette is slowly but steadily taking shape. That's particularly reassuring to see, since this one started out more nebulous than most.

Another page of a very overdue Fictionette Artifact got typed up. The very last of the the ribbons I ordered back in January 2017 is on its last legs, so I placed an order for more yesterday with Ribbons Unlimited--and they've already been shipped! Should be here Thursday. They are not just speedy, but solicitous, too. In response to a note I included with my order, the proprieter called me up on the phone to reassure me that, despite a change of verbal description, the part number I had ordered was indeed compatible with my particular typewriter (a Tower "Quiet-Tabulator" from the 1950s that an acquaintance in Oregon sold me for $50 back in, oh, 1998 or so).

The early novel revision efforts are inching along. I wrote The Bookwyrm's Hoard using a very early version of yWriter. Possibly version 2? I installed version 6 and it didn't want to open the novel directly; instead, I had to use one of its Import Earlier Version commands. 2006 was that long ago in software years. In any case, I've created a Scrivener project and have begun importing the draft, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. (I'm up to Chapter 3.) As each scene gets imported, I read it and make notes broadly identifying areas I need to fix or pay special attention to. (There are a lot of problems need fixing. Some of them are very embarrassing. No, I'm not going to list examples.) I'm trying not to judge but rather to observe and acquire data. I'm also getting surprised a lot. I remembered the basics of the plot, such as it was, but there are loads of details I'd forgotten, and some of them are actually a delight.

And of course there was dinner. (Bonus food content!) Native Foods said "Hey, it's Takeout Tuesday! Double points if you order today!" so I was like, OK, fine, let's try your fancy Plant-Based Roast. I scheduled an order for 5 PM delivery. It arrived right on time. My hunger also arrived right on time. Only problem was, the fancy Plant-Based Roast arrives frozen solid and requires an hour and a half in the oven. Whoops. Good thing I had also ordered a 4-pack of their burger patties. Those cook up in about 5 minutes on the stove.

The roast, when it was finally done, was delicious. Also it will feed me for days. (Just me. It's not really John's thing, although the burger patties might be.) A+, would recommend. Just understand that, once it arrives at your door, you aren't going to get to eat it for at least two hours, and schedule your delivery accordingly.

someday never happens but nano comes THREE times a year these days what the hell
Mon 2020-04-06 19:31:37 (single post)
  • 50,059 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

April is Camp Nano--basically National Novel Writing Month but in April and with a summer camp theme. I've never really gotten into it. My annual participation sputtered out around the time I decided that twelve years in a row, ten of them as a Municipal Liaison, was a lot and I was ready to set that particular tradition aside for a bit. (My apologies to anyone who's been hanging out in my "[USERNAME] wants to be friends!" queue for the last 5 months--I only just logged in today and saw you there!) Besides, I was tired of how few short stories I had out on submission at any one time, so I decided I'd get back to my novel-writing attempts once I had a more healthy stable of submittable manuscripts.

Thanks to last year's 100 Rejections goal and corresponding Submit Every Day initiative, and the ways in which I've continued those patterns this year, my stable of submittable manuscripts is much healthier, and I think I'm ready to spend a month focusing on novels again.

My Camp Nano goals--and, to be clear, I'm still not really participating in Camp Nano, not in the social aspects of it, anyway--I'm not joining a "cabin" and I don't feel the need to add new virtual write-ins to my life at this time--my goals for April are very modest. They are as follows:

  • Review existing novel drafts on my hard drive.
  • Pick one to begin completing and revising this month.
  • Spend a little time each weekday doing that.

That's it. No end-goal, no X-amount of words written nor even a strict Y-amount of time to accumulate by the end of the month. I'm just folding novel-writing activities into my day-to-day writing life, into the slot on my timesheet reserved for Revising Stuff Destined For Commercial Submission. And the novel is allowed to take priority over short fiction and poetry. The latter two aren't going away, of course; I've got four new poems to revise and submit thanks to the poetry-writing contest on Codex I participated in last month, and this morning's freewriting session gave me hope I might yet get an entry into Escape Pod's Flash Fiction Contest for 2020 after all. But I have plenty of short works ready to submit and resubmit "'til hell won't have 'em," so this year's collection of rejection letters won't stall out just because I take a month to see where I'm at in regards to long-form fiction.

At this time, I've completed the first two items on the above list. I found myself falling in love with the first couple chapters of 2005's NaNoWriMo effort, Right Off the Page, in which a character goes missing from the protagonist's latest work in progress. But that's the second book in a vaguely planned series. Happily, the next year I took a stab at writing the first book, The Bookwyrm's Hoard, in which that same protagonist inherits a hometown bookstore and discovers its unusual quirks. So that's the book on which I'm going to focus the efforts implied by the third listed item. I'll see where that gets me by the end of the month, and whether I'll want to continue with it or with a different novel for the July edition of Camp Nano.

Bonus food content! So one of our old roller derby friends used to host a "Potluck of the Month Club", but then she moved out of state. Inspired by all the virtual hangouts that the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated, she scheduled an online potluck for yesterday. So John and I made cheese enchiladas and refried beans, which we sat down and ate in front of the computer while logged into our club reunion via video conference. There were a lot of smiles and laughter and gossip and also some ranting and commiserating. It was good. A+ would virtual-potluck again.

And right now this minute I am eating french fries that John made for me. John makes very good french fries.

it's a horrible plan but it just keeps working
Wed 2020-04-01 22:27:18 (single post)

I am trying to learn my lesson. I really am.

Last time I had one of those "Holy crap, the submission window closes TODAY, hurry hurry hurry!" days, I only made the deadline by staying home from that night's roller derby practice. Then the story wound up getting accepted for publication, which was, of course, awesome, but possibly unwise of the universe to reward me like that for basically sucking at time management.

Because I had another one of those days yesterday. It wasn't quite as desperate a situation; instead of writing a whole new story out of nothing, I only had to lightly revise a few existing stories. (It was a situation where reprints from Patreon were welcome, so I had the majority of my Friday Fictionette catalog to choose from.) Also, I didn't have to skip roller derby practice. (Roller derby practice consisted of about a half hour long really intense quad and core workout.) But still, I really shouldn't do this last minute stuff to myself.

Today I got word back from the publication that two of the three stories in my submission package are being held for further consideration. That is (a) super quick, and (b) pretty darn cool. Obviously a hold pending further consideration is not a guarantee of eventual acceptance--with this particular publication, I've had hold notices go either way--but it does mean those stories made the first round cut, which is good news any way you look at it. So I'm feeling pretty spiffy about the whole thing.

I suppose the universe is not so much rewarding me for sucky time management, but for persevering in the face of pressure. I put my submission packet together rather than just giving up, and that's a good thing. Even on the last day of the submission window, it is better to submit than not submit. I get that. I just think it would be even better if I could reliably submit in a timely fashion, and not wait until the last day of the submission window.

Here endeth the lesson.

Time now for some food content, because cooking is fun and eating is even more fun. This, right here, is fun: How to turn a box of Annie's Peace Pasta & Parmesan into one-pot mock carbonara.

  1. Cook the cute little peace-sign shaped noodles like you always do. Drain and set aside.
  2. Chop up two slices of bacon into bite-sized bits, maybe 1/2" wide, whatever you like. Pop those in the pot and let them cook on medium, medium-low until cooked through but not crunchy and the grease is coming out. If you've got some cognac on hand, and this sounds like a good idea to you, deglaze the pan with a generous splash of cognac.
  3. Pour in a nice half cup or so of heavy whipping cream and let it come to a gentle simmery sort of boil.
  4. Add a cup or so of frozen green peas. Stir them around, maybe add a little milk or more cream if things are prematurely thick in there, and let the whole shebang come back up to temperature.
  5. Once the peas are no longer frozen and the cream sauce is starting to bubble again, stir in the packet of Annie's Peace Pasta & Parmesan cheese powder. Turn off the fire. Add the noodles. Add a hefty wodge of grated parmesan. Combine thoroughly.
  6. Consume. Self-restraint not required. You win at dinner.
what i did every friday in march and also for dinner tonight
Tue 2020-03-31 22:32:36 (single post)
  • 964 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,202 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,064 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,109 words (if poetry, lines) long

Here, as promised, is the Friday Fictionettes round-up for March 2020. I can do one because, for the first time in a very long time, I am not only caught up to the regular weekly release schedule, but I am also caught up with the monthly Freebies. It feels so good, y'all. Now all I've got left to catch up on is the Fictionette Artifact schedule; that's been a rather longer work in progress, as it entails a certain amount of physical craft, but I am at least sending them out at a rate of no less than one a month, even if the one I sent this past month was for April 2019.

So! Life is good, and here is your round-up:

Friday, March 6, 2020: "On the Predilections of Drakes" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which we closely question the reason women aren't allowed in the stable-caverns. This is the Fictionette Freebie for the month!

Friday, March 13, 2020: "Growing Up Is Optional" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which we discover what bonds remain between Evelyn and the imaginary friend she fired fifteen years ago.

Friday, March 20, 2020: "What Queens Are For" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which we learn that even someone who's far too young for astronomy lessons might yet be old enough to comprehend duty.

Friday, March 27, 2020: "Triptych: Dryad Green" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which you think you know how this story goes, but you're wrong.

The Friday Fictionette Project is a Patreon-powered flash fiction subscription service. A brand-new story-like object in the range of 850-1,200 words, more or less, goes up every first through fourth Friday of the month. The $1/month pledge tier gets you access to the ebook (and every single ebook ever uploaded to the project, going back to August 2014). The $3/month pledge tier additionally gets the audiobook (and all archived audiobooks, going back to somewhere mid-2015), which I narrate. On the last day of the month, I turn one of those Fictionettes into that month's Freebie, making it available to all and sundry, Patron and non-Patron alike.

The Monday Muse posts are also available to the public at large. These go up every first through fourth Monday, showcasing the writing prompt associated with the upcoming Fictionette release. Readers are encouraged to do a little writing to the prompt themselves and maybe share the results, just to demonstrate how, given the same prompt, different authors will write very different stories from each other. There's also generally a little bit of mini-blogging in there, just a touch of status report, sorta The View From Where I'm At.

And now for dinner.

I brought home more kimchi from the Asian Market at Valmont and 28th. They were still open as of Friday the 27th, but not particularly busy. Which was fine for me, because six feet of separation would be impossible in those narrow aisles, but I do worry about the business. I hope they are doing well, and that they are getting all the customers--just, y'know, sequentially rather than simultaneously. Anyway, I made kimchi jjigae.

In previous blog posts I've blathered about how I treat the recipe's proportions more like suggestions than instructions. Tonight, however, I did it according to Hoyle. Which is to say, according to Maangchi. Half a cup of onion! Half a pound of pork belly (well, pork loin, since I couldn't find belly or shoulder at Sprouts that day)! One pound of kimchi plus 1/4 cup kimchi brine! And so forth! I even made the stock, although I made it with a bunch of shrimp shells rather than dried anchovies. Used my last daikon radish from last season, too. (Really, it was about time.) Anyway, everything was exceedingly tasty, even if the pork loin really wasn't fatty enough for the purpose. And if I made less of the stuff than I do when I follow my usual stew and soup mantra of "Throw it all in and let the Gods sort it out," well, I can make it again tomorrow because I didn't throw everything in, so I've got half that pound of pork loin and half that package of tofu and so forth left in the fridge.

Well, I'm out of daikon and green onions now, but tomorrow's version can handle substitutions.

on the fourteenth day of quarentine my true love gave to me
Mon 2020-03-30 18:20:36 (single post)

It's been two weeks since I came home from the Berthoud Inn and John bid his last Conlorado out-of-town guest farewell. Accordingly, our isolation-from-each-other ends today. From here on out, we isolate from the world as a household unit. We celebrated this landmark date with a very big, much-needed, long-ovedue hug. Several hugs. ALL the hugs.

Tonight I get to sleep in the bedroom again, with my husband, in the Actual Real Bed, instead of in the office alone on the futon. Hooray! The bedroom is also better insulated from neighborhood noise, so you know that won't suck. That one time that snow removal activities woke me up around six a.m. was memorable.

In other pandemic news, for my most recent obligatory excursions out of the house, I followed this tutorial to turn one of my fun colorful bandanas into a better-than-nothing face mask. The tutorial is very easy to follow. It also has an Epic Stirring Soundtrack. But it turns out that I don't have the right sort of ears to hold a face mask on. They just sort of fold over under the tension, two wimpy flaps of skin and cartilage, until the bands just slip the hell off. Not really a surprise; I can't stow a pencil behind my ear, either, left or right, and I have trouble keeping sunglasses on when I tilt my head downward. Just another way in which I'm a damn mutant. Only a small problem, though, easily solved by threading a length of ribbon through the bands so I could tie it behind my head. Et voila! Fashion statement, gesture of community solidarity and rudimentary protection measure, all using items I already had around the house.

Everything else has been more or less "same old, same old." Writing a lot every day, getting my exercise either by skating outdoors or working out with my derby group online, cooking tasty things... and, by those means, mostly keeping my mind off the thought of the world burning down around our ears.

All for now. Tomorrow I'll have the end-of-month Friday Fictionette round-up. Til then!

sometimes it's ok just to not
Thu 2020-03-26 21:43:01 (single post)

As expected, I produced and uploaded both of tomorrow's Friday Fictionette posts today, scheduling them for an automated release of 8:00 AM. Then I was so pleased with myself over this that I barely did anything else afterward.

Well, that's not quite true. I finally sat down and Did The Books, which consists of comparing the checkbook with our online banking account and making sure that everything adds up, then, confident I know how much we have in the bank, using that account to pay all the bills currently due. Or overdue, as the case may be. Which was tiring but satisfying. But then I also needed to gather up all the documents related to our household tax return and organize them in a fashion that makes sense? Except maybe I don't have to do that today, since Tax Day 2020 got pushed back to July 15 because of how everything's been disrupted by COVID-19? So I just said "Screw it," had a late lunch/early dinner, wrote and uploaded the Monday Muse post (scheduled for an 8:00 AM release on the 30th), and called it a day.

Except for this blog post, of course. Even though I got all sweaty and tired with my derby friends during our online workout, I've still got a little energy left to say hi. Hi!

The Atthis Arts AMA was fun! You can read it here. It is possible that there was more participation from Atthis Arts authors, with a heavy emphasis on authors of the stories in Community of Magic Pens, than there was participation from anyone else; but if that was the case (I honestly am not sure, and I'm not going to comb over the thread with a spreadsheet and checklist in order to become sure) it diminished my enjoyment of the event not one whit. It felt like finally for the first time gathering a significant portion of the authors in a single room and letting them get to know each other. It felt like putting us all on a convention panel and having us interview each other for the delight of an audience spread forward across time. That includes you. Go read it; you'll see what I mean.

So now I am doing the thing with the hot bath and the wireless mouse and keyboard and a sandwich and a beer. It is very nice. But it could be even nicer. I am thinking longingly of the self-care package someone on Cat Rambo's Discord server shared the link to. Put together by a trio of small women-owned businesses uniting forces to survive the crisis, the package contains two scented candles, two tea blends, and a random surprise book with vintage bookmark. Doesn't that sound great? I could see those really enhancing my post-derby soaking time. If you are also tempted, let's give in to temptation together. Temptation is this-a-way.

All for now. Good night!

physically distant but not socially
Wed 2020-03-25 20:41:07 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

The pandemic with its attendant Stay-at-Home/Shelter-in-Place orders--and yes, my residence has received separate orders from the City of Boulder, Boulder County, and now the State of Colorado over the course of three days--has, oddly enough, made what I do more social, not less. Writers are reaching out to each other in a conscious effort to stay connected in the face of quarantine and isolation, canceled conventions, and more.

Me, I've been attending Cat Rambo's co-writing sessions.

Cat Rambo is an author, a writing teacher, and a member and former president of SFWA. Their novelette Carpe Glitter is a Nebula finalist this year--SFWA members, vote now! Don't wait! The voting period ends March 31! And their Patreon is here.

They've been hosting co-writing sessions open to Patrons supporting them from the $1/month tier on up. (That tier also gets you access to her Discord server, which is a seriously good community for these troubled times, or any time at all.) They've been doing it for a while now, once a week Wednesday mornings, but I only discovered the joy of these co-writing sessions for myself a few weeks ago. When the social distancing measures began to be recommended and the stay-at-home orders came down, they'd already begun hosting a weekend session. Now the schedule's up to darn near daily.

So what's a co-writing session? It's a virtual write-in, basically. Just before time, Cat posts a link to her Patreon and to Discord, which participants use to join their Zoom room. That's video-conferencing software--it downloads and installs itself the first time you use it--but you don't strictly need a web cam to participate. You don't even need a working microphone; there's a chat bar. Sessions will run about an hour and a half. At the beginning of each half-hour, participants introduce themselves and tell the group what they're working on. Then everyone mutes their microphones and gets to work. At the end of the half hour, everyone shares how they're doing. Then lather, rinse, repeat, until it's time to say goodbye.

I cannot begin to tell you what a boon this has been for my workday. Well. I can begin, anyway. When I have an unscheduled day ahead of me, no appointments, no out-of-the-house obligations, nothing on my agenda but writing, I typically... don't, at least not as much as I should. It's so easy to put off getting started. Then once I've completed a task--say, a 25-minute session of freewriting to a prompt--it's so easy to let my 5-minute break become a 10-minute break become a couple hours. Next thing I know, I'm out of time. But these co-writing sessions have increased my accountability to a schedule. If the schedule says Wednesday 8:30 to 10:00 Pacific, I've got to be at my computer and ready to work by 9:30 Mountain. When the half-hour ends, a new one's coming right up, so I have to get right back to work if I want to stay in sync with the group. If I've told them that I'm going to draft this week's Friday Fictionette, I'm not going to futz about in dread and avoidance for the next half hour--however could I show my face at next check-in if I did? And if, as very very rarely happens, Cat hosts two of these in a day (just once, that I know of, and only because of a scheduling snafu), why, I'm going to make darn sure I'm ready to begin my afternoon shift in time for the afternoon session!

I'm not joining in on these every day. But the days I do only reinforce the habit of timely and purposeful work. I've made my aspirational five hours per day more days than not, of late...

...and it's still not enough! I have so much I still didn't get to today! It's maddening! So I have to figure out which part of tomorrow's regularly scheduled routine daily tasks get bumped for the extra-special one-time assignments. Gah. Life!

But that is, as we say, a dilemma devoutly to be wished-for. I mean, I'm going to have this week's Friday Fictionette uploaded a whole day early! For the first time since I started this dang project (in August 2014!), I will have a buffer. A buffer of one single day, mind you, but that's how it starts. Also this month has seen several new poems written and two pieces of flash fiction made ready to submit to paying markets. PRODUCTIVITY! It isn't the be-all end all, but it feels pretty damn good.

Anthology News Recap!

Remember that tomorrow, March 26, Atthis Arts, publisher of forthcoming anthology Community of Magic Pens (which includes my story "One Story, Two People"), will be hosting an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on Reddit Fantasy. The link should go up around 10 Mountain/Noon Eastern. I'll be participating in some small way, still to be determined. Join us!

Additionally, another of the anthology authors, Ether Nepenthes, has begun tweeting their way down the table of contents: one capsule review of a story daily--spoiler-free!--right up until the May 4 release day. Thread starts here.

(Hey, look--three days of daily blog posts! PRODUCTIVITY!)

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