“When I am dead
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read.'”
Hilaire Belloc

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

The Making Of A Monster
Fri 2006-02-24 16:49:29 (single post)
  • 57,772 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 115.00 hrs. revised

...is darn difficult.

Remember all that crap about the banality of evil? Human villains that aren't actually evil, per se, but aren't acting out of any sort of good intent for anyone but themselves? Useful stuff. Damn useful stuff. But still... I'm having trouble.

Rewriting the conversation between Brian Windlow and his mother. *shudder*

The previous version, which I thought was pretty good at the time, is a ham-handed mess. On the one hand, Brian's half of the convo isn't so bad. He reacts the way you'd probably expect, given the crap she's throwing at him. But the crap she's throwing at him isn't consistent with the philosophy that "No one wakes up in the morning, cracks their knuckles, rubs their hands together, and says, 'What eeeeevil shall I perpetrate today? Mwa-ha-ha-haaaaa!'" Well, it isn't.

So. Reevaluating how the evil got perpetrated now. Reevaluating, y'know, motives. Why is she such an unmitigated bitch to this poor boy? Is she convinced that everything he does is with her disadvantage in mind? Does she therefore view everything he does with suspicion, as a possible plot against her? Does she resent that he lived while her favorite son died? (Yes, yes, and yes.) And how the hell did she get this way? Most people don't start out with such a default distrust of their fellow humans. How bad, exactly, was that divorce, and why did her relationship with Brian get so saddled with it?

(And exactly how much remembered abuse is she actually guilty of, that Brian is now ambiguously traumatized by?)

I keep suspecting I've bitten off more than I can chew. There's a sort of highwire tension line between these two characters, and if I teeter off it even a little bit I plunge this portion of the novel into irredeemable hokeyness. Which is bad. Which is also a terribly strained metaphor, but, y'know. It's a blog. I'm allowed.

Anyway, that's about where I am at the moment. Now I'd better clear out of here--I can tell you with certainty that the New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company on Vets in Metairie (er. there are two. I'm at the one by the end of the parade route, near Oaklawn) has very decent wi-fi (unlike Puccino's, where I couldn't even connect, not once, and where there are signs telling students on no uncertain terms that they may not study there), but on a parade night they're pretty darn busy, and I bet they'll appreciate my freeing up a table.

Closure Is A Good Thing
Thu 2006-02-23 20:38:47 (single post)
  • 3,000 words (if poetry, lines) long

Got some email today. It appears that the She's Such A Geek anthology will not be including anything written by me.


But a rejection letter is always better than no letter at all. I'd been a little concerned when no response had shown up by the 15th, which I think had been the date they'd set as the latest followup time.

I'm not entirely sure that this essay really has any other market, since I sort of wrote it to order. But I don't throw anything away. So the slush piles of the publishing world may yet see this thing once more. 'Til then... ta!

We Don't Need Another Sequel
Wed 2006-02-22 12:30:00 (single post)
  • 57,642 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 114.25 hrs. revised
  • 1,512 words (if poetry, lines) long

No one needs this. I mean, really. No one actually needs me starting on the sequel to The Drowning Boy at this point. But that's what my brain was doing last night as I tried to get me to sleep. And since the coach car of an Amtrak train isn't nearly as easy to get to sleep in at night after two cups of coffee and one of tea as it is in the late morning after being up since six, my brain had a lot of time to write Chapter One.

Well, and of course it's to do with Brian Windlow's children. Why else would there be a sequel?

But... and this is the part where I beat myself about the head and shoulders with a broomstick... but my brain also decided last night that Brian isn't dead.

The hell? I said. After the penultimate chapter in Drowning Boy, you tell me he's not dead? What is this, a bad gothic romance?

Well, says my brain, it's not like we saw the body. And yes, if you want to know, this is a gothic romance. After a fashion, anyway. Whether it's bad remains to be seen.

But... but... not dead? Sharks, man! There were all sharks in the water!

It's hard to imagine a brain smiling smugly and quietly to itself while twiddling its thumbs, but at this point, mine managed it.

So I woke up this morning and I wrote the first 1500 or so words, which begin this way:

Three weeks into the swim season, my son came home with news that just about stopped my heart.

When I could breathe again, I said, "They don't like it, huh?" and congratulated myself on keeping my cool.

"And it's not like I do it that much," he said, nodding. He was eight years old and already a super-serious kid. "The chlorine hurts my nose. But it makes them so mad when I do it. They say I'm cheating."

"Well, you are, honey." Was I calm? I was calm like a Valium bouquet. I was calm like a three-toed sloth. "I mean, when they say 'underwater contest,' they're competing to see who can hold their breath the longest. If you're not holding your breath, that's cheating, right?" See how calm I was.

I do know that, before very long, Amy's surprisingly amphibious son will get to meet his mermaid half-sister. That's been in my head since the point at which I realized that if Amy and Brian didn't get to "do it," not even once, then it wouldn't be fair to anyone. But I don't know much of anything else that's going to happen. I don't even know why I've given it the title I have, other than it being a likely folk tale to draw from. I don't think I want to follow it to the letter, though. That would be too sad. I don't want any proud young gunners shooting this kid.

So this'll go on the shelf until I figure that out. Meanwhile, I've got a couple of novels to revise. I mean, it's not like I don't have enough to do here. Look, two more hours on Drowning Boy still hasn't got me to the end of Chapter Two, and revising that phone call with Mrs. Windlow is going to be unmitigated hell. So what do I need with starting brand new novels at this time, huh? I ask you.

Maybe It Wasn't Ready For Prime Time After All
Tue 2006-02-21 22:00:00 (single post)
  • 57,284 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 112.00 hrs. revised

So I've finally cracked open The Drowning Boy, determined how many chapters fits in 10,000 words (four, if you want to know), and applied two hours of unflinching scrutiny to the prose therein.

I have come to this conclusion:

Sending the first three chapters as they stand now to Wizards of the Coast? What was I thinking?

[shakes head, facepalms, loads fountain pen with fresh ink]

Angelo's proudly serves Kronos Gyros.
Cities show up, cities pass by.
Somewhere East of Osceola, Iowa
Tue 2006-02-21 13:30:14 (single post)
  • 51,704 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 17.75 hrs. revised

Woke up this morning on a train. The earbuds from my husband's broken iPod were piping music into my ears. Breakfast was out of a lunch sack rather than my kitchen. My writing studio was a table at the back of the snack/lounge car. Otherwise, the routine was about the same: Wake up at 6:00 AM when the computer starts playing the Blue Man Group: Audio CD; snooze through until the playlist switches into Exchange: More Than Words; dawdle over breakfast; acquire caffeine; and finally, once I get around to it, write.

This morning we finish up in the approximate location mentioned in this blog entry's title. We have our first transformation scene. Hurrah! Diane has discovered the magical properties of Babba's talisman by way of getting turned into a unicorn. Yay! Mystical wondrous magic girl scene!

That means it's time for Purple Prose Avoidance 101.

Not, you understand, that I'm qualified to give a lesson in Purple Prose Avoidance. But since the hope is that the second draft will be less maudlin than the first, I can at least list some of the worst offenders that got nixed this time around. And here they are, in no particular order:

  • Single-sentence paragraphs.
  • Single-sentence paragraphs that aren't complete sentences.
  • Single-sentence paragraphs that start with "And then."
  • Overuse of words such as "forth," "very," and "wonder."
  • Overuse of parallel structures.
  • Overuse of, well, words.
No, I'm not going to give examples. I'm not even going to try to explain what made these things despicable symptoms of first draft purple prose. You're just going to have to take my word for it that rereading this section of the story was, to be perfectly blunt, embarrassing.


All better now? Maybe. Some better now, for sure. Meanwhile, it's now 3:30 PM CST and I'm at a deli in Chicago around the corner from Union Station. Angelo's, at the corner of Jefferson and Adams. They gots the wi-fi. My train out of Chicago leaves at 8:00, so I may be here awhile.

Once More Marches Forth My Army Of Words
Fri 2006-02-17 11:00:00 (single post)
  • 2,764 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 51,685 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 16.75 hrs. revised

At upper left (upper left in the current style sheet, anyway; I reserve the right to change it at any time, so there) you will find two manuscripts. One is a novel. One is a short story. You will probably not need to be told which is which, even if you haven't been reading along all this time. The word counts will be dead giveaways.

About the novel: There are things which Diane probably shouldn't know as early as Chapter Two. Today's session was mostly spent figuring out which things those were, and what other things to replace them with. Some of said figuring out took place over a plate of bacon and eggs, because I felt like it.

("Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed as to its use later.")

About the short story: I and a veritable bouquet of postage stamps in various denominations have sent it out into the word again. My next assignment, in case the story should come back unbought, is to make up a list of four other editorial desks/slush piles it should visit, and be prepared to ship it off to the next one right away. And, should this exercise result in nothing more victorious than five rejection letters from five professional markets, I need to decide on a second tier list, because that's how this game is played.

("Send it out 'til hell won't have it.")

May every week end as productively as this one.

Primarily Concerned With Weather
Thu 2006-02-16 21:00:00 (single post)
  • 51,507 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 16.00 hrs. revised

Should anyone ask, "With what was today's novel-editing session concerned?" well, now you know.

Additionally, it was concerned with better placing Diane's fight with her father (Chapter Two) in the context of a well-developed plot arc. The scene ought to be an example of Life With The Lenner Family; it's far too early for stakes-raising earth-shattering revelations. First drafts, even those not of the NaNoWriMo variety, are often front-loaded with every great idea the writer has for the story. It takes a second draft to properly space them out.

(Oh, and, by the way, don't you just love the way I'm proclaiming Universal Truths About Writing in spite of my largely unpublished status? I'm so humble. No, no, really--just pretend I've said "I'm discovering that..." at the beginning of each of those kinds of sentences and we'll get along fine.)

But anyway, fight ends, Diane storms off from the dinner table, and heads out onto the balcony where she can see the stars "speckling a cloudless indigo sky" and yet complain that "it was cold and snowy out here." Snow falling. Out of a cloudless sky. Yeah... Plot doctor over here, stat!

Boulder snow is lots of fun. And by "fun," I mean entertaining. At least in hindsight. I mean, sometimes you get a decorative overnight blizzard that's done by the dawn, leaving mounds of dry sparkly flakes all over the trees and lawns but easily plowed off the streets. And then sometimes it starts up in the midafternoon and doesn't stop for three days, and the snow plows never quite catch up.

We had the latter sort of snow starting Tuesday night. We were fooled at first by the light dusting over the neighborhood that evening as my husband's birthday guests were leaving (yes, he's a Valentine's baby, cho~ kawaii), and the illusion of getting off easy was only enhanced the next morning by a stingy sky that had to practically be petitioned for each tiny snowflake. But it picked up Wednesday afternoon, and when one of our friends drove over around eight or so in his '74 vehicle with rear wheel drive, it was fish-tailin' fun for everyone. A Thursday night on the town revealed abandoned bicycles heaped with snow at every U-rack on Pearl Street, and though it stopped actively precipitating by the weekend, damn it was cold on Saturday.

Which is just to say that Boulder weather will accomodate all sorts of plot necessity, but the author has to meet it with at least some minimum of effort. So this morning I did a lot of combing over Chapter One and Two for places to wedge in weather references: that cattle smell coming in as Diane skipped out of class (what we at Chez LeBoeuf-Little like to call "A mean wind from Greeley"), the first flakes falling as she encounters Babba, a full-grown blizzard as she runs home, and a clear sky after dinner due to the storm having blown away to the south.

Of such glamorless minutia is a convincing novel made. At least, I hope it'll be a convincing novel. More convincing than the idea of snow actively falling from the freakin' stars, anyway.

I Am So Relieved.
Wed 2006-02-15 08:57:54 (single post)
  • 51,373 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 14.00 hrs. revised

According to this quiz over here, my protagonist is not a Mary Sue.

You have no idea what a load off my mind that is.

(Further fun reading on the subject can be found at Making Light.)

Weekends Include No Sunrises
Sun 2006-02-12 19:18:43 (single post)
  • 51,113 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 13.00 hrs. revised

Because I slack off on weekends. You know, like the rest of that portion of the human race that lives in this country. And given that I'm going out clubbin' tonight, it's quite likely that 6:00 AM and I will not be seeing each other tomorrow, either.

And I can go out clubbing. I did my homework. I met my deadline. Whoo-chaaaaa.

(Dear [any friends who have emailed me lately and are waiting for a reply]: Thank you for your patience. Now that I am All Done, a response will be forthcoming. Tomorrow, most likely.)

My husband and I had this conversation about work for hire assignments. On the one hand, they come with deadlines. Deadlines are good; they make writing actually happen. If the writing doesn't actually happen at a rate of 1,000 words per day over 15 days, it happens in dribs and drabs until one painful 8,000 word all-nighter at the eleventh hour. But it gets done.

(For the record, this project--which will be on sale here sometime soon--was somewhere in between the two scheduling styles mentioned above.)

On the other hand, they interfere with my Raisin Due Otter, which is to say, writing fiction. I haven't finished a new short story in, like, ages. And that's despite requests. And I really, really, really ought to be getting my VP application together, and revising a couple battle-scarred short stories so they can return to the front ranks of the slush wars, and, y'know, stuff. But no, I have instead been working on non-fiction/journalism stuff to which I don't even get to keep the copyright.

On the third hand (yes, I'm a mutant today), two of these projects right at the beginning of the year means that my business account has seen a profit. Writing paid for my cell phone coverage. That's cool, right?

In any case, I have marked myself as Unavailable To New Projects Of This Nature until March 3rd, the date on which--train schedules permitting--I return from a trip home. (For Mardi Gras. Quite possibly the most important, historical Mardi Gras since they brought in the megafloats and moved out of the Quarter. Maybe even since the first one. I don't think y'all need me to tell y'all why.) Until then, I am not only on Mardi Gras vacation; I'm on a writing vacation.

'Cause that's another good thing about WFH stuff. Yesterday, I was revising The Golden Bridle as a break from working on the WFH project. I was working on a novel for fun. Wow. Nothing like blowing a little perspective into my life, huh? So, yeah. Fiction is fun, and now I get like three weeks to do nothing but fiction. Whoot!

And then, when I get back to Denver, I'll probably pick up another "not so fun but it pays the bills" project. If not of the same type, then of another. Because all those good reasons above really do outweigh the bad, and really, with 24 hours in a day, exactly how much fiction not getting done can I really blame on two hours spent filling in the blanks on an editor-provided outline? I mean, really. Most people work eight hours a day five days a week. Surely I can work a bit more than two or three.

'Cause I'll tell you one thing. SkillJam.com ain't paying the bills or giving me much job fulfillment, and that's the truth.

Bonus! Sunrise.
Fri 2006-02-10 06:20:00 (single post)
  • 51,101 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 12.50 hrs. revised

I'm all clever. I have turned my laptop into an alarm clock. In fact, it is a writing alarm clock (an actually writing alarm clock) because in addition to "Time to wake up!", it says, "Time to write! Show up at the page, you lazy bum!"

Premise The First: Once I associate a given handful of environmental elements with writing--a lit candle, the Blue Man Group: Audio CD--those elements will cause me to get into a writing mood.

My computer does this every morning at 6:00 AM so long as I have left the computer in "Standby" mode.

Premise The Second: If I write at the same time every day, the practice will form a habit. Also, designating that hour as writing time protects a place for writing in my day.

So here's how this works: First, create a playlist in Windows Media Player. Next, create a scheduled task in Windows. The Scheduled Tasks Wizard will prompt you for program to run (Windows Media Player) and a time (Daily, 6:00 AM). When you finish with the Wizard, check the box that says something like "take me to this task's advanced properties" and tweak it. Under the "Task" tab, append the name of your playlist to the end of the command in the "Run" field. (Mine looks like this: C:\PROGRA~1\WINDOW~2\wmplayer.exe /prefetch:1 "c:\documents and settings\niki\my documents\my music\Instrumentals To Write By.wpl".) Check "Enabled" and uncheck "Run only if logged on." Under the "Settings" tab, check "wake computer to run this task." There you go. Put the computer on Standby last thing before bed, make sure the volume is up, and rest easy. If you're using a desktop, you might even be able to leave the computer on Hibernate, and it'll magically wake up anyway. Something to do with the BIOS. Most laptops don't have this capability, unfortunately.

(Note that in Windows XP, scheduled tasks only run if you provide a username and password. If you don't want a password on your login, then create a new profile, give it a password, and run the scheduled tasks under its aegis. If you don't want to do that, I mean if you really want only one profile on the computer which logs itself on automatically, here's what you do. Create a password for that proile. Then, Start->Run->"control userpasswords2". Uncheck "Users must enter a name and password to use this computer." Select your profile from the list. Hit "OK". You will be prompted to enter your new password. From this point on, your computer will log on automatically even though there's a password on the profile.)

This is how I got an hour done on the novel even before leaving the house for my 8:00 AM volunteer reading session. Ta-da!

Premise the Third: If I do some writing first thing in the morning, I won't resent all the rest of the things I have to do with my day. You know, for taking up time I could of used writing. 'Cause, see, I already wrote some for the day.

You have no idea how good that felt. Best damn sunrise I'd seen all winter.

Note to self: Really, let's make a habit of this.