“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”
William Stafford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

That dang printer.
For the Benefit of Other Canon BJ-10sx Users
Tue 2006-05-23 11:37:00 (single post)

Just a brief announcement here:

If you own a Canon BJ-10sx (that's a 12ish-year-old portable inkjet printer) and you have been frustrated trying to get it to print anything beyond gibberish to your modern laptop over a parallel-to-USB adapter cable...

That is, if you have ever found yourself in a situation akin to the one in which I found myself whilst on a train to San Francisco (I had a three-plug extension cord, the coach seat next to the outlet, and the agog admiration of the coach car steward for essentially bringing my entire office onboard)...

If you're there, and you're just about to throw your ancient printer right out the window...

Don't.

Re-attach the automatic sheet feeder, flip DIP switch #1 back into the ON position, and all will be well.

...On the other hand, the dang thing is now working just fine even without the auto feeder attached. Why it chose to spew gibberish while I desperately needed to print out my story for Nancy's workshop, but is quite innocently printing out perfect test pages now, I don't even pretend to know. Maybe it was just being perverse. Regardless, I will refrain from acts of violence. Yes I will.

The sock! It fits!
Tools of the trade
Confession; and Sock, Take One
Tue 2006-05-23 08:16:30 (single post)
  • 6,708 words (if poetry, lines) long

Behold! Sock. Sock on foot of newly graduated and duly celebrated Tree. It fits! And it is both rainbow and sparkly, as requested by its recipient. I call it "The Margaritaville Parrot". It is made with two different skeins of Sockotta to achieve the rainbow color sequence, red and blue reinforcement thread, and Trendsetter Yarn's "Spruce" added in every fifth row or so in the cuff.

In this picture the sock is only crew length. I've got it off the needles on a bit of string for the sake of letting Tree try it on. I am now extended it to knee length. There will be more pictures when the sock is done.

So, I am a good knitter.

But I am a bad, bad writer-wife.

Back in 2002, I dug up an old science fiction cum horror story called, at the time, "Quiet In The Night" (after a line from Yeats's "The Two Trees", stuck in my head thanks to Loreena McKennitt), and gave it a thorough revision in preparation for the Weird Tales Short Story Contest--winners to be announced at that year's World Horror Convention in Chicago. It was my first year attending, and it only occurred to me to go because Neil Gaiman was a guest of honor that year.

At the time, my husband was living temporarily in Las Vegas for reasons to do with work. I sent him a copy, now entitled "Putting Down Roots", after I submitted the story to the contest. And for months and months, he didn't read it, also for reasons to do with work. He was working from home when he wasn't in the office, and falling asleep at the keyboard was a daily occurrence. He did not have a lot of time to read fiction, not even his wife's fiction, and this was a story he'd already expressed some dislike for.

A brief pause for synchronicity: In Chicago, across from the Airport Radisson, there was a Mediterranean restaurant that served gyros and falafel and the like. They also served fried perch. I had not hitherto associated fried perch with Mediterranean cuisine. I associated it with summer weekends at my Dad's friend's fishing camp on Lac Des Allemands, upon which memories I had based the setting of "Putting Down Roots". There's a scene in there in which perch are caught and fried and eaten. Although I didn't even place in the contest, and Weird Tales decided not to publish the story, I couldn't help but interpret the odd menu item as one of the ways the Universe has of patting me on the back. "Good job, Niki. You wrote it, you finished it, you submitted it. You went to a convention and met people in the industry, too. You, my dear, are on the right path."

And then months went by, and John didn't find time to read the story. Finally I morphed into my Mr. Hyde phase and began badgering, pestering, and guilt-tripping him until he finally agreed to read it and call me back with comments. I am not proud of myself as Mr. Hyde. It isn't the best side of me, and it makes me wonder why this man continues to stay married to me. I can be a real bitch.

Well, in spite of or because of my bitchiness, he read it. And he called me back. And he gave me a lot of good critique. I mean, a lot. Better than I deserved. I took notes all over the back couple of pages of my current writing notebook, and I resolved to do a new rewrite on the strength of my husband's comments.

Flash forward to today. This is the story I want to bring to the Borderlands Press Writer's Boot Camp to workshop. But since I haven't touched it in four years, I want to do the rewrite I promised myself and my husband that I would do.

And I can't find those notes.

I've flipped through every notebook I've filled since WHC02. And they just aren't there--or else I'm too blind to see them.

I'm deeply ashamed. John was exceedingly patient with me in spite of my Mr. Hyde phase; he took the time out of an exceedingly busy working life to read the story; his critique was exceedingly thorough. And I can't find the notes. I wasted all that generosity. All I remember of his comments is a vague sense of the expository bits being long and boring.

So... I guess I'll just be rewriting the story from my own current reread, with only my own 4-year-detached eyes and instincts to go on. And although he's heard this several times already, in person, I'm just going to continue apologizing to my long-suffering husband for having lost the notes.

And when I have time I'm going to read every effin' page of those notebooks until I find those notes. Dammit.

Wrapping Up A Few More Ventures
Fri 2006-05-19 09:07:37 (single post)
  • 1,900 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 6,708 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 5,000 words (if poetry, lines) long

Heyo. Long week of recovering from after-travel. This happens. You'd think there's nothing to do on a train but relax, y'know, sleep and eat and knit and read and sleep some more? But maybe I suppose the train is stressier than it looks: what stop are we at? how long do we stop there? is there wi-fi nearby? how long until Denver? how far behind schedule are we now? is it dinner-time yet? Sort of a low-grade undercurrent of time awareness and schedule anxiety that makes real relaxation an impossibility. Possibly. In any case, on my first day back home I didn't manage to do anything more than lump.

Got a bit more news about stuff. Fantasy Magazine will not be publishing "Heroes To Believe In", for one thing. Sadness. On the other hand, I got good news from Borderlands Press, regarding my submission of "The Impact of Snowflakes"; I will be attending their "boot camp." Interestingly, one of the instructors who'll be there that weekend was in fact on the judges panel at the Flash Fiction contest: F. Paul Wilson. I am, shamefully, unfamiliar with his writing, which is why I didn't think to mention him in my big "Squeeee!" post, but I aim to rectify that matter shortly.

So I have plane tickets to buy, and I need to submit the story I actually want workshopped. I'll be sending them "Putting Down Roots" after digging up my husband's thoughtful comments on it for a brief rewrite. I haven't looked at that story in almost 4 years now; I need to make sure it isn't embarrassing. (Embarrassing from a craft point of view, OK, it's already embarrassing from the "OMG there's sex in it!" point of view, and I just need to get over that.) I also need to bring it down to under 5,000 words for the purposes of the workshop guidelines. If I can't, well, I guess they'll be critiquing "Heroes" instead.

And that's all I know for now. Lots of work to do over the weekend. Look for revisions to the stories mentioned above, further work on The Golden Bridle so that the next two chapters can be ready for review after the first two get crittered, and the completion and presentation of Tree's Graduation Socks. Busy busy busy! No lumping allowed! Busy-busy!

Various Packages In Transmission
Mon 2006-05-15 08:24:36 (single post)
  • 1,900 words (if poetry, lines) long

The story workshopped Saturday has been committed to email as of nine hours ago. As for myself, I am in the Emeryville train station, ready to be committed to rail in about an hour.

Before leaving San Francisco, before finishing and emailing my story, before sitting around half the night in the Hospitality Suite at the Dead Dog Party knitting and watching Adult Swim, I actually got out of the hotel for a bit. I started out by asking the hotel staff, "How do I get to an Amtrak bus stop tomorrow morning?" Oddly enough, the staff member seemed aware only of the Ferry Building stop, and the only way he seemed to know how to get me there was allll the way down Van Ness on a southbound #47 to Market Street, and then alll the way back over on the Market Street cable car, forming a nice big "V" shape over the map of downtown San Francisco in doing so.

"What about Pier 39?" I asked, because Amtrak's pamphlet showed it would pick up passengers there too, and the northbound #47 bus would go right there. Believe me, with my luggage, I didn't want any more transfer points than were strictly necessary.

"Look, all you need to do is get to the Ferry Building, see?" He redrew the "V" shape. "Like that."

"And there's no route to just get me there straight?" I drew a line across the top of the "V" from the circle he'd drawn at the Holiday Inn to the circle he'd drawn at the Ferry Building. The line that capped the "V" went along a street I'd become familiar with, California, as I'd taken the #1 bus along it to the hotel on Thursday morning after checking out of the Green Tortoise Adventure Hostel. It was one of the cross streets that demarcated the block containing the Holiday Inn. "Nothing runs directly along California between here and there?"

"Not that I know of!" he said cheerfully.

I was doubtful. I decided to scout things out for myself. I took the northbound #47 up to Pier 39 / Fisherman's Wharf, found the Amtrak bus stop there, and said to myself, "A-ha!" Then I commenced to putter. I was at Pier 39, after all. There were supposedly all sorts of fun things here. Restaurants, and candy, and an arcade, and a merry-go-round, and seals! Well, actually, sea lions, you can tell the difference because they're smarter and have visible ear flaps and so forth, but--seals!!!! Like fifty or sixty of 'em, laying out on the platforms between the piers and barking at each other and scritching themselves behind the ears with their foot-like flippers and lounging with their furry bellies in the air and--wow! Sea lions. Dude.

Then I figured I'd just walk along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. It was good exercise and pretty too. I located the Amtrak stop there as well, ate an Ahi sandwich and worked on the workshopped story at a restaurant in the Ferry Building, and finally turned inland to get on the Market Street cable car.

And then I found out that there is a public transit route that caps the damn "V" that the hotel staff member drew. I found the damn rout that runs right along California. It's the California cable car, duh, and it runs practically from the Ferry Building right out to Van Ness and then stops.

Rather a convenient line of public transportation for the hotel staff to be completely unaware of, don't you think?

At this point in the narration, the author pauses to regale you with a nightmare. I don't have many nightmares. When I do, they tend to fall into one of a handful of categories. There's the airplane or car trouble dream, in which I can't brake or steer or land worth a damn--I had one of those Sunday morning, finding myself awakening at the controls of a Boeing 757 which I had absolutely no training to handle or certification to pilot and which my husband was steering within mere feet of the water. I had to grab the yoke to force us into a wings-a-tilt position so we'd fit underneath a bridge coming straight up. "Why are you flying so close to the water?" I screeched; "Because I'm more comfortable there," he said. I corrected this as soon as I could, but we were not in VFR conditions and I didn't know what to do other than land and wait for help. I later told the jet pilot who came to take the plane home, "Really, I swear, I just sort of woke up in the cockpit. I don't know how I got there."

So that's the vehicle trouble dream. It used to take place in cars, but now it almost exclusively takes place in airplanes because, well, piloting stresses me out more.

Then there's the nightmare of pursuit in which some monstrous person or thing chases me at a walking speed, knowing I can run but I can't hide. That one has happened only very, very rarely since I got into my 20s.

And the nightmare of being unprepared for school happens fairly frequently. It almost always puts me back in high school, not college. I've heard others say the same. We form more of a stressy connection with the school our parents chose, maybe, than with the school we chose to escape to. Or maybe high school is more grounded in the subconscious, being usually in our home neighborhoods and associated with rites of passage like the sweet sixteen, learning to drive, and so forth.

Well, you probably recognize all those dreams. Especially the school one. And you'll probably recognize this one, too: the nightmare of falling. Only when I have it, it's special. It's quite precise. It very rarely involves a straight freefall; instead, it begins on an inclined plane. And I'm in a vehicle of some sort: a roller coaster, a car, a bus, maybe even a waterslide. And I am going down or up a very steep incline, so very steep and increasingly so that inevitably my vehicle's wheels (or, in the case of the waterslide, my butt cheeks) lose contact with the road (or track or slide) and begins to fall as though the plane had become perpendicular to the ground.

The entire way up Nob Hill while riding the California Street Cable Car, I kept thinking, "Greeeeat. Fresh fodder for my falling-off-an-inclined-plane nightmares. Just what I needed."

Because California Street is pretty damn steep. I'd wager 10%, some of those blocks. And the cable car is two-thirds open to the sides. My entire stay in the Holiday Inn, I'd fallen asleep and woken up staring at a Photoshop-filtered picture of people riding a San Francisco trolly (ding! ding! think Rice-a-Roni!), and I'd marvelled at the way they some of them stood on the running board and held onto the side pole as they rode. Was that allowed? Was the driver aware? Yes the driver is aware, and it is in fact expected, and it is not the norm for someone sitting on the bench in the open bit to clutch the side pole and the back of the bench with white knuckles and shaking arms as the car rides up past Chinatown.

Yes I'm a wimp. What's your point?

On my way back to the Ferry Building with luggage this morning, I sat in the enclosed section in the middle. I still did my share of white-knuckling, especially when a young lady stepped right out onto the running board in preparation for her stop about two blocks above the heart of Chinatown. I suppose people get used to the darndest things.

Hell, I suppose if I can get used to steering an airplane, or to chatting with Big Name Authors at conventions without going all "hrrrr dahhhh thhbbbb uh You Rock, Sir! i er ummm....", or with reading my own fiction aloud in front of a group of strangers (which group includes said Big Name Author(s)), other people can get used to seemingly death-defying feats such as hanging out the side of a cable car going 10 miles an hour down a 10% grade incline. Each to their own.

Squeeeeeeee!
Sat 2006-05-13 23:57:57 (single post)
  • 680 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,689 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK. Everyone who knows my husband needs to give him a hug for me. Like, right now. Because if it wasn't for him and his generosity in emailing me the latest copy of "The Right Door, The Right Time" (title now condensed to the latter phrase) on absolute short notice and in spite, it must be admitted, of my sickness-shortened temper, I wouldn't have been able to enter that story in last night's Flash Fiction contest.

In which I placed third! Squeeeee! Happy dance!

And among the illustrious personages upon the judges panel was WHC 2006 Toastmaster and, of course, celebrated horror writer Peter Straub! Squeeeeeeee!

There were pictures taken of everyone involved, which Tina Jens of Twilight Tales will be emailing to me, so, pictures as soon as I've got 'em. Tina also invited all the winners to send her their stories so they could be published on the Twilight Tales website, so, links when I've got 'em too.

(Interesting. I hadn't been aware, until going to their website, that Twilight Tales was connected to Tim Broderick's Odd Jobs series. It's obviously been awhile since I've checked in--maybe it's not called that anymore--but they seem to have the whole Lost Child storyline hosted there, and they sell a hard copy graphic novel edition of Something To Build Upon.)

I won a great Twilight Tales T-shirt and copy of one of their anthologies, Blood and Donuts. But I am in much covetous admiration of the first place prize--which was well earned by that winner, whose story was amazing and funny and totally effed up. That was a plain white shirt with black sleeves which sad, simply, in red serif print, "I Read Like A Motherfucker"--in homage to that immortal countdown which starts the five minutes ticking for each competitor. ("Three... Two... Rrrrread like a motherfucker!")

I'm writing this while sitting in on the traditional Gross-Out Contest, which I am emphatically not going to participate in. I could absolutely not compete with champions in this tournament. There's a lot of potty humor involved. In great detail. And with much hilarity. After a few minutes, the MC takes away the microphone and asks the audience to show by their thumbs--up or down--whether the contestant should be allowed to continue. I'm almost ready to leave, not because I'm too grossed out or anything--I've no problem hearing descriptions of things as long as I don't have to watch them acted out on TV--but because some of the more enthusiastic contestants get a little close to the mike and sting my ears.

As for the second session of the Editing Workshop, that went well. We only went over out 3-hour time window by about 15 minutes, which was pretty impressive, and the critiques were more in-depth than I would have expected from a read-aloud format. Stephen Jones did indeed join us, but not for the reading and critiquing; instead he gave us a great talk and Q&A on the business of anthology publication. He also gave us his atcual web address, which found myself strangely unable to Google up yesterday. My story went over well, with much love for the POV character and the diary format, and the main thing everyone pointed out that needed improvement was the ending. No surprise; I still haven't figured that on out myself. I got some good suggestions as to how I might resolve that. The title needs changing, too; I need to think about that.

Next, I hope to get a new draft done in time to submit it to Borderlands Press's "Writer's Boot Camp" (deadline May 15, no application fee, workshop takes place August 4-6).

And I'm feeling much better today, thanks!

Uh-oh. Gotta go. They're about to start throwing chickens at the contestants.

Alas, A Rejection
Fri 2006-05-12 19:25:29 (single post)
  • 2,764 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,689 words (if poetry, lines) long

Just got the email back yesterday afternoon from Fictitious Force. They will not be publishing "Turbulence" after all. Deep *sigh*. The email said something that made me smile, though: "Your story made our second round, but we ultimately decided not to publish it." Oooh! My story was not an immediate "we don't think so"! That's kinda cool.

Meanwhile, I just got done attending the first session of Nancy Kilpatrick's Editing Workshop at the World Horror Convention. I passed out copies of "Still Life In June", which I brought up to something like presentable over the last couple days. Tomorrow we're all going to read our stories aloud, as we have a three hour session and Nancy has figured that all the reading will take 67 minutes total. (One minute per page.) A really exciting thing, besides the excitement of having my work put in front of Nancy herself, is that Stephen Jones will be sitting in on tomorrow's session too. That's just too cool.

A lot of things are cool today.

Now I'm going to take a nap, because one of the things that is uncool is my raging sore throat. I'm hoping to feel well enough to enter the Twilight Tales Flash Fiction Contest tonight... which involves reading aloud. Quickly. Yeesh.

The Word Machete! Why Must It Hurt So?
Thu 2006-05-11 00:30:02 (single post)
  • 2,500 words (if poetry, lines) long

Yes! I have entered this contest right here. In order to make the story acceptable for that contest, it not only had to be totally rewritten from its beginnings as a high school writing assignment (it burns! it burns! the awful bad teenage writing burnsss us!), but then the result of rewriting it had to be slashed down from 4,500 words to 2,500. Oh ouch. Oh, owie wowie. I, er, didn't actually need that left arm, did I?

In other news, I am sitting in the lobby of the Green Tortoise Hostel in San Francisco. Tomorrow sometime before 10 I have to get to the hotel that's hosting the World Horror Convention. I am hoping that the transit hurts less than the walk from the Ferry Building to the hostel. "Oh, it's just a couple blocks up to Broadway and then like another block to the left. You can't miss it." If those were two blocks to Broadway, they were looooong blocks. And then it was at least six blocks up Broadway to the hostel. Up as in uphill. Uphill as in San Francisco Bay Area uphill. With luggage. Owwwwww.

So I'm going to sleep now. Tomorrow starts bright and early, and I'm beat.

I Am Taking That All-Important First Step...
Sun 2006-05-07 22:53:59 (single post)
  • 51,743 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 18.75 hrs. revised

...of allowing someone else to read my novel in progress.

No, no, the submission of the first three chapters of The Drowning Boy doesn't count. The first time, it was a submission to a Faceless Editorial Entity that would decide Yea or Nay without much feedback. The second time, it was a submission as application to a workshop; until and unless those folks say Yea, I won't have to worry about other people reading my novel. If they say Nay, once again the Nay will probably come back without feedback.

No, that didn't count. It's not anything at all like submitting the first two chapters of The Golden Bridle to the Critters.org queue.

If you who happen to be reading this happen to be someone whose story I once happened to critique, and who happened to have said to me, "Thanks, and let me know when you've got something in the queue so I can return the favor," then the week you're looking for, provided I can keep my crit ratio up, is June 7. No pressure; I'm just passing along the info. Do or do not. There is no guilt.

Oh. My. Gods. People are actually going to read it and tell me what they thought. Nervous!

Time to go work on something else just to get my mind off it!

Continuation In the "Alive" State
Tue 2006-05-02 21:03:38 (single post)

Hit my deadline. Got paid. The world continues to turn.

Now... back to life as usual.

More later. Right now, running backups. Have you backed up your writing recently? You better! Go on--it'll give you something to do while I figure out how best to dance for everybody's amusement.

Advance Notice Of Not Being Dead
Mon 2006-04-24 20:23:04 (single post)

Hello all. Just entering minute-to-midnight deadline mode again. Deadlines which have paychecks and external pressures attached get priority in my schedule, even if they have nothing to do with novels and short stories. Such is life.

Will try to make time tomorrow for things not work-for-hire related, such as blogging about my birthday weekend (I'm 30! Hello, multiple-of-ten angst! ...OK, I'm over it) on Denver Metblogs (hello, Denver Metblogs! Did you miss me? ...No?), critiquing others' fiction as well as my own (hello, Golden Bridle! I know you've missed me), and creating new stories for publication and not (hello... ah, well, that would be telling).

And, um, paying the bills. Hello, the evil, evil bills. They sit in an evil pile on top the piano and they taunt me.

But nevermind that. Tomorrow is Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day! We need a plan, you 'n me, a cunning plan to go and get us some! I suspect it will involve some strategic queuing up and waiting around on the Pearl Street Mall. In the snow. In the snow. Gods damn it.

Maybe they'll offer us in the Rockies a free mug of hot chocolate instead.

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