“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
Stephen King

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Editing by Grocery List
Sun 2005-12-25 00:38:07 (single post)
  • 54,005 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 101.75 hrs. revised

Another quick writing session at Cafe Bravo today after visiting Computer Renaissance. I swear, what with the ongoing saga of the dead Averatec 5100, we're all on a first name instant recognition basis at those places now. I walk into Comp Ren, and it's all like, "Good morning everybody!" from me, and "Hey Niki, you're here to see Ryan, right? Go on back," from Brian. And then I cross the street over to Bravo's, and it's all, "Hey Josh, Merry Christmas," and "Hi, another tea today for you? How's the computer doing?" Totally scary, I'm telling you.

Comp Ren: So, last week I reinstated my Thunderbird profile on the desktop in the backroom (which we playfully refer to as "ROXXOR" because of having acquired it specifically to play Guild Wars simultaneously with John--what a cruel, cruel move it is to get someone addicted to real-time gaming when all they have is a laptop). Only, all I reinstated was my Mail folder. Then I deleted the rest of it to save space. Thursday I discovered what I'd forgotten: my address book. So today I came in with the Toshiba Satellite's hard drive in the USB adapter so I could have those files copied to me again. Ryan was holding onto my backup for just this eventuality. He'd been sitting on it for a week, all 37 GBs of it. When I told him this was all, he encouraged me to take the files home and make double sure before he hit the delete key. When I did, and I imported the address book, and I called back, he was all like, "Are you sure?" Total sweetheart. Totally.

So now across the street for tea and a sausage Breggo (like a breakfast burrito, only more Italian than Mexican--more like a floury foccacia than a tortilla) and two hours of writing. I didn't quite hit Chapter 12; instead, I went back through all of Part Two up until now with a grocery list of What Changes Happen (Or Get Noticed) When. The grocery list looked something like this:

  • Moon--Brian notices he can sense phase/movement of moon (tides)--
    • upon leaving Amy Friday night, moon is setting, will be down by the time we leave the shipping canal
    • it's up again when Brian runs into Alexis on the fishing boat Sunday dawn
  • gradual adjustment to "seeing" mostly via ear
    • "watching" salmon swim away outside shipping canal (hearing water motion)
    • thinks mermaid's song is making an illusion of crowds, then discovers there really is a crowd of other mermaids in the big cave (hearing echoes of voices, adjusting to what the echoes mean)
  • When does Brian become aware of sea's voice? (sort of a bass pulse, like what you hear underwater in a swimming pool only much much deeper)--
    • leaves shipping canal; hears relative quiet (reinforces how noisy human civilization sounds underwater), but--
    • still plenty white noise in the inhabited depths; doesn't hear sea's voice until the silence of the Shark's domain

It was the "sea's voice" stuff that got me back-tracking. I was rereading the first version of the book in order to start writing about Brian's meeting with the Shark. There always has to be a Damn Big God-Like Shark in books like these, hasn't there? I promise I am not trying to rip off Duane's Deep Wizardry, despite what it may sound like! Trying not to, anyway. Damn, but there are an awful lot of similarities. I suck. Mustn't concentrate on the suckage. Must just finish book--

Rejection letters, supposedly, went out yesterday. Or thereabouts. If I don't see anything in the mail by Tuesday, it might be a sign of That Blessed Dilemma--a request-for-full when the novel isn't finished--in which case no one will be hearing from me for about a week. As a sign that I am allowing myself to hope, no one will hear much from me tomorrow, either. Well, aside from the inevitable mass family phone call session, it being Christmas and all. Hi Mom!

Public Notice of After-Christmas Busy-ness
Thu 2005-12-22 14:30:16 (single post)
  • 53,702 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 99.75 hrs. revised

So, I'm not sure how much I've said about my previous work-for-hire project (or if I ever linked to the finished product for sale over here), but it looks like I'm taking a couple more on from the same company. More will be said after completion. Actually, there will probably be some whining about it during the process, because underneath my hard-working exterior is a lazy ass trying to get out, but it will be non-identifying whining, because of confidentiality agreements, and because there's really a limit to how much whining my sense of dignity--what little of that I have--will allow me to do.

Anyway, work will start on that after Christmas day. You have been worked.

Meanwhile, I've finally finished chapter 11. All that sidling up on the story finally caught me some dinner: I've figured out how Brian manages to hold his inner beast in check for long enough at a time to interact with the mermaids at all. Without going into a lot of detail, it has to do with channeling the urge for violence through his more noble intentions. OK, that sounds kinda woo-woo, but in context it's rockin' cool. Or at least it's viable, and consistent with both character and plot. And now everyone's off to see the wizard--I mean, the shark. Big difference there. Wizard, shark. One of them sits behind a curtain and tries to scare you. The other has like a million teeth as long as your arm and doesn't have to try. Anyway, off to see the shark.

A Quiet Winter Solstice
Wed 2005-12-21 02:01:17 (single post)
  • 53,154 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 97.25 hrs. revised

I like to say that I symbolically fill my Midwinter's Night with those things that I want filling the coming year. If that is the case, then apparently I want a year full of cooking, cleaning, rum & bourbon, too much to eat, and not a heck of a lot of productivity. But Oh Well.

Every year, on the night before Solstice Day, I stay up all night burning a Yule log and keeping the door unlocked so that friends can drop by. I bake a fruitcake and start it marinating in time to offer some to Midwinter guests. I try to follow Bridget's egg nog recipe despite my not really knowing what it means to whip egg whites and heavy cream "until fluffy"; the results tend to be scrumptious despite my ignorance. I put holly over the door and encourage Pagan friends, fellow NaNoWriMo participants, John's gaming groups, and random neighbors to drop by. And then at about 5:30 or 5:45 I take off with a car full of whoever stayed all through and we go to Red Rocks for Drumming Up The Sun.

This year is a little different, mainly because I didn't do a good job of making sure people knew what was going on and when, but also because it's a weekday. And it's mid-December, just like it is every year. Bridget helped me pick out the Yule log (heck, she totally spotted it, and then helped me lug it home), but preparations for an out-of-town stint are keeping her too busy to come over. John brought Dave over for chess, but he's gone home now. Sarah (co_butterfly) dropped by, what with already being in Boulder, but she had to get home for, y'know, sleep, what with having a full day tomorrow. Thus it's looking like there won't be a DUtS carpool, and I really don't want to drive all that way all by myself after a night of no sleep. I may just tend the fire until sunrise and then hit the sack.

It's a huge damn Yule log, by the way. I'll be surprised if it takes less than a week to burn that sucker. I've been propping up grocery store firewood against it and burning them in hopes that it will catch on and follow suit.

As for what I want to fill the year with... Well, I didn't see as much of my husband as I'd like, but it's a Tuesday, and Tuesdays are notoriously busy. We sat about five minutes in front of the fire together to show the new year willing. I also don't have a working laptop yet. My Averatec 5100 series laptop turned out to need a new motherboard, so now I'm waiting on Warranty America Corp. or whatever they're called to decide whether they'll buy me one or buy back my machine. (The latter would not be so bad. I am currently drooling over the Averatec 3225 on display today at Computer Renaissance.)

But as always I have my Ancient Decrepit Compaq. Also pens and paper. Writing is a low tech activity. Working motherboards come and go, but writing never forsakes. And I hear that WOTC's calls for full manuscripts won't go out until the first week of the new year, giving me a little more time to get out of chapter 11 and through the rest of the book. So it's off again to the races for me.

More after sunrise (and possibly some coffee). Stay tuned.

Up And Runn—Nevermind.
Sat 2005-12-17 18:33:29 (single post)
  • 53,154 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 97.25 hrs. revised

The Averatec is not yet returned from the grave, but its resurrection looms ever nearer. And before I go any further, I would like to make another shout-out, this time to Ryan, the tech at Boulder's Computer Renaissance outlet who helped me out so much today.

He called me around 1:00 this afternoon, said that after overnight testing my computer's hardware all checked out but that its WinXP system was beyond repair. He'd backed up the contents of my hard drive to the server, and everything was ready for me to pick up my computer and run the factory-provided recovery media on it.

So I did this. I walked it across the street to Cafe Bravo, ordered up some fine-tasting coffee, and began feeding CDs to the beast. Three CDs and one "Recovery Successful!" screen later, I was growling. That computer just wasn't booting up. It was doing stuff that looked remarkably like Monday afternoon's original breakdown. So back to CompRen I went.

Turns out that they'd tested the hard drive, but not the RAM. The RAM got tested forthwith. Even more forthwither, the RAM failed. Ah-ha. So out comes one stick. The remaining one tested good. The sticks got swapped. The other stick tested good. Both sticks back in. Again, test good. Ah-ha? Ryan ran through the recovery media, and this time met with success. Sometimes, apparently, connector pins can get oxidized, and all we have to do is wiggle the sticks, take them out and put them back in again maybe, and things will be fine. An hour later, my backed-up data had been copied onto the newly formatted machine, and I was on my way home. And either because it was a physical problem which means my extended warranty covers the labor, or because Ryan and CompRen are just that nice, I wasn't charged a cent.

Well, I got home. And I started up the computer. I did some preliminary customizing--downloading and installing Firefox, connecting to the home network and its workgroup, swapping the keyboard input default over to Dvorak. Then I started a blog entry.

Then I was staring into the Blue Screen Of Death. Of Physical Memory Dump, anyway.


I have not yet tried wiggling the RAM sticks, but I have tried rebooting. It went very soon into the deadly spiral of aborted startup attempts. I stopped it before it could start deleting sectors again. As far as I'm concerned, it's still dead.

But! My time today was fruitful in other ways. I got to watch Ryan take my hard drive and my RAM out of my laptop, which meant I learned for the first time just how easy it is to do. I mean, you just unscrew these panels and out they come! Which means any schmoe can do it! Even me! And they sell these $40 devices which turn your laptop hard drive into a USB jump drive in, like, seconds. So I think I can at least go buy one of those (or a suitable cable, $10-ish, for daisy-chaining the drive onto another computer) so I can move my data onto one of the home desktops. Then I could have access to my saved emails and address book and all (not to mention the latest changes to Becoming Sara Peltier), by tomorrow afternoon, even though Ryan won't be back in the shop to look at my flailing laptop beastie until Tuesday.

So life isn't so bad after all.

Meanwhile, I logged another half-hour on The Drowning Boy during my second stint at Cafe Bravo's, the one during which data was being copied back onto my laptop. I managed a few more paragraphs on chapter 11. I feel like I'm sneaking up this story, sort of sidling up to it by describing this or that character's feelings, bodily posture, snippets of dialogue. Sometimes that's the only way to find out what the story's doing.

Shifting Gears
Sat 2005-12-17 00:05:54 (single post)
  • 52,650 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 56.50 hrs. revised
  • 52,880 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 96.75 hrs. revised

Heck with it.

The Averatec laptop is in the shop. Its Windows XP install proved too far gone to repair. An attempt to load a new XP installation over the top (which, if successful, would have allowed me to boot up and actually get to my files) failed to the tune of "Cannot install. C:\ is corrupted." So here I wait, twiddling my thumbs, hoping that the files I was able to see on the disk during a CD boot to DOS operation are indeed recoverable.

And the novel? Apparently I hadn't backed it up once since beginning to work on it this month. Didn't back up a copy of the new chapter outline last week after the IHOP session. Didn't upload to the web server a copy of the novel after working on it in Indiana. I'm a ditz. A total ditz.

So I could continue working on it now, just leave a blank line with a ### in it to mark where the temporarily (knock on wood) unavailable version of the manuscript had progressed, but...

Heck with it.

There is no way that Becoming Sara Peltier would be ready for submission in the next week even if my laptop hadn't taken a nose dive. No, that's OK--Delacorte's Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel is just going to go another year without my manuscript among its contestants.

Meanwhile, word on the street is that I'll hear one way or another about The Drowning Boy by the end of the month. And that novel was backed up along with everything else shortly after November ended. Copied to ZIP drive, burned to CD, the works. So. Today I dove back into it. When we last left Brian, he had finally met the mermaids. Things were very tense. I'd been uncertain how to get the tension to shift so that the story could continue--I sort of had him all curled up in a floating ball of used-to-be-human misery amidst personal demons and suchlike. But tonight, hanging out at the downtown Borders while my husband browsed the aisles, I finally had a spark that just might lead to the end of chapter 11. So that's all better.

So there's the novelling side of things. Back over on the technical difficulties side, I wanna give a shout out to Ken. He used to be a tech for Computer Renaissance back when I bought this Averatec and had the data recovered off the fatally flawed Toshiba Satellite. Now he's working down the street from me at PC Express. He took time out of a morning full of 'xtreme custom computer building to totally hold my hand through the Windows XP repair attempts. He knew I'd have to take it away to Comp Ren because of them holding my 3-year extended warranty--heck, he encouraged me to take it over there--but he took the time to help me out and provide moral support anyway. Damn cool guy, that Ken. You should totally haul your boxes over to PC Express for upgrades and give him some business.

(And super-duper thanks to Willow for pointing me in Ken's direction!)

On Low-Tech Tale-Spinning
Tue 2005-12-13 09:23:14 (single post)
  • 52,650 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 56.50 hrs. revised
  • 50,059 words (if poetry, lines) long

So, life quite suddenly sucks. My computer has died.

Well, that's putting it a little overly strong. Life doesn't exactly suck, per se. I mean, John and I are in Bloomington, Indiana; we're staying with Cate; we're comfy and well-fed and in loving company. True, the Saints did not win last night, but you can't expect too much from your weekend. Life is actually pretty good.

But somewhere between hibernating my laptop yesterday morning and attempting to wake it back up again yesterday afternoon, Something Went Horribly Wrong. After I halted its unsuccesful Resume From Hibernate prrocess, it entered a cycle of disk checks during which it deleted many purportedly corrupted sectors, and then after gnawing on itself in this fashion for several minutes it utterly failed to recognize a bootable drive. I get the Averatec splash screen and then nothing but a blinking cursor.


So today I pulled out my spiral notebook, wrote down the previous novel-editing session's final sentence from memory, and then tried mightly to keep going. Boy, what a comedown. I've used computers for so long that my handwriting is illegible, and my longhand writing mentality is all, like, "This is just freewriting and Morning Pages and stuff, why should I care about quality?"

Clearly I need to compose manuscript copy in longhand more often. It's no good to rely so completely on electricity and microprocessors.

So today I mostly spent trying to convince myself to write as though it mattered. Then I got a little into Sasha's seemingly unplanned meeting with her classmate crush in the Wilcox Plaza bookstore. And when I get back to Boulder I need to dig up my Windows XP Home Edition install disk, which I am assured exists and ought to be in my possession. I am skeptical of this, having no memory of bringing one home at the time of my laptop's purchase....

As for other things: In my opinion, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe was very, very, very, very good. Faithful fans of the Narnia books, whether their interest is in the fantasy story or in the Christian allegory, all ought to be well pleased. I am, however, a little troubled by an acquaintance's concern over the "appropriateness" of Lucy's friendship with the faun Tumnus. "I mean, he's, like, ten years older than her and he goes around shirtless! Is it right that they're going around holding hands all the time?" Is this an issue that ought even to occur? For heaven's sake, it's like watching Finding Neverland and begin convinced, despite James Barrie's protestations otherwise (which, by the way, the audience is supposed to believe), that the adult author is sexually involved with his children playmates. My goodness, we live in a corrupt age.

Other than that--other than having my mind now forever tainted by the previously unheard-of concept of little Lucy being preyed on by her best friend in Narnia--I have no complaints. Well, I was unimpressed by Liam Neeson's voicing of Aslan. But maybe that's unfair. Probably for me to be satisfied you'd have to get freakin' God in on that role. Well, God or James Earl Jones. Either one will do.

And in yet other news, the NaNoWriMo article in dirt has come out. Whee! Go read it right now!

On Vacation
Sat 2005-12-10 09:49:36 (single post)
  • 52,314 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 56.00 hrs. revised

Once again, I have overestimated my relative productivity while travelling.

Number of socks returned to functionality from the darning sack: One. The blue Encore DK Colorspun cable knits only had one hole to darn. I did that at the IHOP Wednesday evening while waiting for my computer to deal with the wi-fi situation. The dusty-rose Encore DK Colorspun lace socks both had holes, one of which I darned Thursday morning in the C Terminal of the Denver International Airport; the other is still waiting. (Encore DK is not a sock yarn. Guess which of my socks are frequent visitors to the darning sack? Go on. Guess.) I also knitted two inches last night on the mate to the double-knit gray Kroy sock with the white diamonds on top, but did not finish it. Damn. It's all cold here and I want to wear double-knit socks.

Number of hours spent working on the novel: Zero point Five. Result: One conversation in flashback rewritten. The hour count doesn't include all the staring at the work so far, all the cups of tea, and all the "just one more" games of Alchemy played after a few more minutes of staring.

Not a heck of a lot of progress in either court, I'm afraid.

But! Number of yarn-cutter pendants confiscated by DIA security: Zero. Not even a comment from the guard or a beep out of the metal-detector arch. So that's OK.

And. Number of Narnia-related movies to be watched by the end of today: One. I'll probably have a few words to say about that later. But only if I also get a bit more work done on the novel. Stay tuned.

OK, how about a Montblanc Kafka?
Wed 2005-12-07 23:22:22 (single post)
  • 52,074 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 55.50 hrs. revised

Why not. It looks nice, after all. I think we'll say that Uncle Matt bought it here.

Chapter outline is mostly done. Between that and my markups on the previous draft, I'm really ready for a type-in. I spent part of tonight dashing back into the three and a half rewritten chapters and seeding them with foreshadowy things and subplot arc beginnings. Hopefully things will sew up as nicely as I go.

Tomorrow morning John and I leave for Bloomington, Indiana, to see Cate. Yay, Cate! I am going to spend much of the plane ride darning socks. To that end, I am testing the waters of airport security by bringing my little wooden container of darning needles and my Christmas present from Sarah, a yarn-cutting pendant. It's awesome. It's not only a useful craft implement; it's totally goth. Well, aside from the cute little Clover logo.

The blade is totally protected so that this thing is dangerous only to yarn, but maybe the good folks at the metal detector arches will mistake it for a ninja throwing star and freak out. We'll have to see. Hopefully, by the time we land in Indianapolis, I'll have put three more of my handknit wool socks back into service. And that'll be a good thing, because it's freakin' cold in that part of the country. Even more so than here.

Distractions on the way towards a chapter outline.
Mon 2005-12-05 22:15:15 (single post)
  • 51,946 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 54.00 hrs. revised

Four chapters into the outline. Only four. Why only four? Well, those four chapters are already written (I mean, revised; the rest of the book is all NaNo-draft). So, writing them into the outline was a matter of observation, not planning. And observation led to certain distractions, word-and-line-level edits, and the taking of notes. Such as:

  • The symbolism of the pen and journal being like a sword and shield. Example: They are Sasha's defense/comfort when visiting Anubia. Example: Magically charged and returned to her, they are like quest items given to the hero of a fantasy story.
  • The real reason no one at school tries to mess with Anubia: they all know something Sasha only just found out. They know that Anubia has killed. This is also part of why no one at school likes her much. Not that her being a lesbian and a witch help much, not in this small Alabama town.
  • I need to decide on an actual fountain pen for Sasha. If Uncle "Traveling" Matt brought it back from Vienna, you can bet there's an appropriately fancy and expensive Viennese fountain pen model in real life. (Yes, Uncle Matt's nickname is from Fraggle Rock. Whyever not?)
  • If you mention the Salem Witch Trials at the beginning of a book about witchcraft, the witch trial motif had better show up later in the book. Even if only in flashback. Maybe to do with how the town treated Anubia after the murder/self-defense episode. (Note to self: How the heck did she not get lynched?)
  • Anubia and Uncle Matt share some marked conversational characteristics. The bombast, for starters. The pompous know-it-all attitude. Only when he does it, it's charming. When she does it, it's obnoxious. From Sasha's point of view, anyway.
So what with one thing and another, the rest of the chapter outline will have to wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a couple recommendations. If you are sitting down to edit your first novel, it helps to fortify yourself with a calm-smelling candle and a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and black rum. Well, it helps me, anyway.

Weekend Recap
Mon 2005-12-05 09:48:33 (single post)

So "tomorrow" rolled around without an update. Sorry about that. Thus, today's installation takes the form of not a writing progress report but a recap checklist. It goes something like this:

  • TGIO Party: Well attended. We didn't get the 20-25 headcount estimate I gave to Conor's, but then Conor's didn't reserve us enough space for 20-25 people, so it worked out perfectly. You can see a slide-show of the profiles of all the people that attended, and one or two who didn't, here. At least two people who showed up were making their first appearance all month at a regional gathering; it was super-cool to see them come out of the woodwork and meet everybody. In other news, the couch monster ate my winner certificate, but what the hell, I can always print out and hand-laminate another.
  • Becoming Sara: The real rewrite effort will begin today. I'm afraid I was in TGIO-mode all weekend long, and the most I did was to reread all my handwritten revision notes just to remind myself what I ought to be thinking. But I'll start the rewrite, for real, tonight. Promise!
  • Fruitcake: Baked Thursday and is now marinating in brandy. This year the tropical theme is heightened by the presence of dried mangos, chosen mainly to keep the candied papaya spears company. I considered dried canteloupes, but they were just too sweet. Also debuting this year: dried strawberries.
  • Aeon Flux: Saw that Friday. It was about as good as you could possibly expect for a PG-13 Paramount production. I mean, I'm sure that Peter Chung has an NC-17 indie film version of it running around in his head, and it is beautiful. But this wasn't that movie. Thus, you don't end up going "WTF just happened?" like you do at the end of an Aeon Flux cartoon. And the kinky Trevor/Aeon foreplay is much toned down and, horrors, explained. But. I expected as much. For what it was, the movie was just about as good as it could be and captured just about as much of the spirit of the original as a Paramount production could be expected to. It made me absurdly happy. Plus! The eye thing! That was there! I did not expect that.
  • NaNoPubYe: Another website for discussion under the category "NaNo Uh-Oh." A forum-based community organized under the idea of taking the fruit of your NaNoWriMo effort and turning it into something publishable. The goal: Professional submission to commercial publishing markets (I refuse to say "traditional publishing" considering where that term came from) in twelve months. The plan is a fairly reasonable one. I shall probably submit my 2004 draft, The Golden Bridle, to the process. Not Right Off The Page, of course; as mentioned before, that one won't be publishable until the book that precedes it is written and submitted for publication.
I think that's all the recapping I had in mind. More later, after tonight's hard-core "now I really mean it" revision session.