“When writing doesn't work, the writer is assumed to be the guilty party.”
Teresa Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Too Euphoric? Just Add BLIZZARD
Fri 2010-03-19 13:56:59 (single post)
  • 2,832 words (if poetry, lines) long

No, that would not be the Dairy Queen ice cream treat. That would be the sort of all-day blizzard that dumps a foot of snow on Boulder and turns any day into a "why bother?" sort of day.

I was feeling fairly chipper, otherwise. More than chipper, in fact. Yesterday, I finally sat down with my much-marked-up copy of "First Breath" and completed work on a thorough revision. The result was 150 words longer, one character shorter, a bit more focused in, and hopefully less confusing at the end. The other result was me tripping along in a euphoric haze of "See? See? I'm a writer! I did writerly things, like writing!"

That evening I relaxed with a long-overdue reread of Margaret Mahy's The Tricksters. Its teenage protagonist is a secret writer, and the story she's writing becomes the vessel for a ghost to embody itself. And... huh. I only realized the overlap between that and "First Breath" just now. Ghost-like creatures needing an external vessel to embody themselves in, I mean. Neat. But last night, what kept catching my attention was the way Mahy's treatment of the magic inherent in the creative act of writing made me even more happy with having seriously written that morning.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that when you write a first draft, you're not stuck with it. You can go back and change it, make it better, make the story grow closer to being the reason you wrote it in the first place. I know this; you know this. Anyone who thinks half a moment knows this. But for me sometimes it takes actually engaging in a serious rewrite to know it, know in the bones and blood and gut and in the happy place. It's the difference between knowing you're capable of something, and then actually doing that something and reveling viscerally in your own capability. (This would be why writing is like rock climbing.)

So: Rawr! I rock! But there's nothing like a morning-after full of so much snow and wind that we can't even take out the trash to remind me not to get carried away in my euphoria. "Yes, very good. You rocked yesterday. But it's today now. Write the next thing."


Planting leeks by automation.
Three varieties of leek, 33 trays total, freshly planted and watered.
Mondays at the Farm
Mon 2010-03-15 13:19:51 (single post)

A friend of mine wanted to know what it is precisely that I do at Abbondanza. The quick answer is, "Not nearly enough," and probably would be even if I volunteered there every day instead of one morning a week and didn't feel guilty giving the farmers an extra job to do, namely, assigning me tasks and making sure I don't screw them up along with the farm's chances at a successful harvest. But it's not a useful answer. Therefore, I blog.

Writing five days a week gives me a two-day weekend, which I take on Sunday and Monday. Sunday because social stuff tends to get planned then. Mondays because of the farm. I'm a wimp, and after the bus/bike commute and the actual work done, I tend to have no brain. Sometimes I in fact have no consciousness--but that's more of a middle-of-summer thing. During March, the workload is a little less physical and leaves me a little less wiped.

The pace is just as hectic, maybe even more so. March means scrambling to get ready to plant.

My first Monday in 2010 was two weeks ago. There were some miscellaneous clean-up chores needed doing around the greenhouse, where planting would happen, and in the barn, where squash and onions stored from the fall needed sorting and rotating. There were beans to be sorted--there are always beans to be sorted, which means picking out ones that are moldy, cracked, or simply not the right variety. Then we worked on soil.

Soil is important. You can't just dig up dirt from the ground, shove it in planting trays, and call it good. And you can't buy all the potting mix for a season on a shoestring budget. Farming means shoestring budget, unless you're Monsanto I guess, in which case, eff off. (Hey, when you google "Monsanto," one of the first suggestions is "Monsanto evil." That tells you a little something about their public image, I think.) So before you can plant seeds in little trays, you have to make your soil mix. At Abbondanza, this appears to involve homemade compost, a cow manure mix, vermiculite to keep it breathing, and another bag of fertilizer that had fish on the label. The remaining hours of my March 1 were spent sifting the compost through a big screen that had been propped up at about a 45-degree angle. Compost was shoveled through it, and what didn't go through was stomped on to break up the clumps and then shoveled through it again. What didn't go through then got put aside for use as tree mulch or similar.

That was just while I was there. A lot more mixing and sifting would happen before the finished soil mix would be ready for use.

The following week (last week) was spent cleaning trays. Again, if you're on a shoestring budget, you reuse as much as you can. I would reckon that, during my few hours on site, we cleaned about 400 trays, some being 200-cell planting trays and others flat trays to give the cell trays something to sit on without breaking. These trays were set out on screen tables, hosed down, brushed off, hosed some more, turned over, brushed some more, and hosed some more. Then stacked in stacks of 10, sorted by cell size (deep or shallow), and put away. It was a cold morning, so our fingers all ached after the first batch. But then the sun really started coming up, and it felt nice to be working in the wet. I am grateful they had extra rain gear and rubber overalls I could borrow.

This week, actual planting happened. Which will explain the bizarre contraption in the photo included here.

Back up a step. First, we had to fill those cleaned planting-cell trays with soil mix, which isn't as straightforward as it sounds. You don't want the soil compacted too badly, and after all that sifting and mixing the soil is fine enough to get compacted if you just give it a heavy look. Best practice goes something like this:

  1. Lay out trays on the ground. Well, on a board. On some tarp.
  2. Gently shovel soil over the trays. Use a forward-back motion to distribute it more evenly.
  3. Use shovel tip to spread excess over cells that haven't been filled.
  4. Use a 2-by-4 to scrape excess off.
  5. Lift tray up an inch or two and drop it sharply. This causes the soil to settle.
  6. Top off gently with more soil. Scrape excess away.
The next step is to compress the soil in these trays just enough to leave a quarter inch of head room. To do this, we used stacks of old trays, body weight, and eyes for perfectionism.

Finally the trays were ready for seeding. The machine pictured here, the one that looks like a sewing machine with multiple personalities and a can-do attitude, does that. It was made in 1982, did you know that? And they still make the parts. It's like a 1970s-era Cessna or something. Abbondanza recently bought more needles for it. The needles are hollow, like blunt hypodermics. They come in different sizes depending on what size seeds you're using. The row of needles dip into a tray of seeds, grabbing one each (or two if things aren't adjusted perfectly) by the power of suction. Then the needle arm rotates to drop the seeds down a row of funnels. The funnels channel the seeds onto the cells of the planting tray below. Then you move the tray forward so that the funnels are lined up over the next row of cells in time for the whole process to repeat. Supposedly you can get a part that causes the machine to advance the tray automatically, but this not being present the tray was advanced by dint of a careful and patient farmer.

After a tray is seeded, more soil is sifted on top and tamped down. Then it's tagged and laid out for watering. What you see here are three varieties of leeks being put to bed.

And that, friends, is the sort of stuff I do on one of my days off from writing.

But but but tell me what you REALLY think...
Thu 2010-03-11 17:44:55 (single post)
  • 2,680 words (if poetry, lines) long

Thing about nervousness in the face of a story critique is, I don't ever get over it. All I do is get used to suffering it. So last week I told myself, "So what, you're nervous? So what else is new? Send the thing." Then I found out that while the nervousness never gets better, it damn well can get worse. There's "I wrote a story and other people are reading it" nervous, and then there's "I wrote a story that's sort of transgressive and psychosexual and may reflect badly on the state of my sanity" nervous.

An additional large part of my nervousness came from not really knowing what I'd written. I spent two hours last Saturday doing a type-in revision of the story, after which I simply spell-checked it and sent it out. After which my only clear memories of the story were all the things that were potentially bad. Predictably, this was followed by a bout of "Oh my Gods what have I done?" panic.

According to my critique group, I wrote a damn fine story that steers just shy enough of purple prose ("it's more lavender, really") to have some stunningly poetic moments and breaks a lot of conventional rules and gets away with almost all of them.

OK then. *pauses to blush and grin uncontrollably*

The "almost" is where the difficulty of revising it will come from, because I think what I'm trying to do there is worthwhile but needs to be done in a gentler way. In any case, the negative parts of the peer review were all the right kinds of negatives. My story has grown-up problems. Now I gotta be a grown-up and fix them, the sooner to send the story out into the wide world.

Today, however, I am being a lump. I work 5 days a week, and I am deciding this week to trade my Thursday for my Sunday. I drove John to the airport today, after sharing breakfast and several bouldering problems with him. Though it's hard to find anything to complain about in a day that started with rock climbing and green chile, I am now unexpectedly tired. And being all alone on Sunday means a good block of time to write then. So tonight I'm doing nothing much productive.

I've been rereading old blog entries since last night. And laughing at them. I don't know if I'm just a vain nut or what, but damn I've written some funny things in these pages.

(I'm sort of snorting soft drinks through my nose over these two.)

And I'm contemplating the new crafting puzzle at Puzzle Pirates. Weaving. I'm still not entirely sure whether I like it. The physics of it are satisfying, but the animations are a little slow. In any case, I may be doing that for a while tonight. Also, my Sage Ocean pirate Nensieuisge ("Nancy Whiskey") bought an Emerald Class Sloop and really needs to take it a-pilly. So that's what I've got on for the night.

Then tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday, there will be work.

From Typewriter To WordPerfect
Sat 2010-03-06 12:34:56 (single post)
  • 2,680 words (if poetry, lines) long

For two days running now I've rolled out of bed and up to the desk for two hours' solid fiction work. And I've learned at least two things about this process, thing which were true both this morning and yesterday and thus are likely to remain true going forward:

  1. It is the best way to start a day EVAR.
  2. By the time I'm done, I reek.
So. Hurray for early morning writing and hot water and soap!

Yesterday was spent at the typewriter finishing the new story, or the new from-the-head draft of old story, depending on how you want to think about it. Today was spent typing the first revision into WordPerfect 5.1. It changed a lot from the one draft to the next. The first part changed tense and, I hope, became more nuanced; the second part incorporated the worldbuilding that went on in my head while I was busy procrastinating. (While it's true that thinking about writing is not writing, it's also true that none of the time thinking about writing is wasted so long as one does, eventually, write.)

Then I sent it off to my critique group. Hitting the SEND button on that email magically unleashed all the feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing that until now I'd been successfully repressing. "Oh, Gods, talk about purple prose." "Everyone's going to go 'WHAAAAT?' when they get to this part." "Self-indulgent much?" "The use of that word there is a point-of-view problem." "I can't believe I let anyone see this dreck." You know how it goes.

But since the draft is done and it has been emailed out, I get to indulge these feelings. They're negative, sure, but they wash through and over and away. Meanwhile, just relaxing and letting my guard down against those feelings, which I couldn't do before if I wanted to ever finish writing the story, is a relief. Why? Well. There's a character in a book I love who discovers that her magical talent is to suppress magic in her immediate environs; when she arrives in a place with no magic at all, it's like this huge weight lifts off her shoulders. She hadn't realized how draining this involuntary function was until it was able to just stop. It's kind of like that. Negative feelings suck, but constantly patrolling the mental walls against them is exhausting. Until Wednesday, when it's time to listen to what everyone thinks of the story, I get to rest those defense mechanisms.

Which is about all the insight I've got to share this morning. So. Bonus links!

Why my blog
has no comments function

Summary: Because it's hard work. I know my limits, sometimes.

Old Story Now In Print. New Story Now On Typewriter.
Tue 2010-03-02 20:15:33 (single post)
  • 1,070 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 54,629 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 566 words (if poetry, lines) long

Big news: "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" is now live for you to read in Ideomancer volume 9, issue 1. Read it here. And since it won't take you all that much time to read, go read the rest of the free, online magazine while you're at it. The other stories are breathtaking, the poetry likewise, and the reviews illuminating.

And consider donating, since that's how the staff of Ideomancer keep the magazine going and the contributors paid year after year.

Meanwhile, I'm working on a new story, which is news and really oughtn't to be. That is, I ought to be doing it often enough--writing new stories--that it's not newsworthy. But I finally realized, considering the woefully slow progress I've been making on finishing the NaNoWriMo 2009 draft of Melissa's Ghost (I'm afraid John's getting the proof copy for an anniversary present; it wasn't done in time for his birthday), that putting off everything else until I'm done with that job is a recipe for unhappiness.

Recipe for happiness:

  • One story idea that won't let you go.
  • A portable Smith-Corona that's gathering dust.
  • Five minutes reviewing the typewriter's instruction manual.
  • About two and a half hours.
Which got me through the first half of the story. Now I'm having a hard time sitting down to the second half because I'm constantly thinking of ways to fix the first half. Which I'm not allowed to do until I've typed the second half.

It's not actually a new story, but it's such a revision over the first time it showed up that it might as well be. What's it about? Well, in one sense, it's about succubi and how they reproduce. In another, it's about lives of ennui, lives of substance, and profound transformation. It's probably only going to be about 1500 words by the end of the day.

The end of the day will not be later than this weekend. I have promised it to the twice-monthly critique group. No, not the original typewritten draft. It'll get retyped into WordPerfect and revised first. Then emailed.

See, I'm not entirely a luddite here. (I mean, look! Blog post! On the internet!) It's just that sometimes, to recover from a stall, I have to switch from my daily laptop to something a little more "me plus words minus everything else". Sometimes I need to dust off the Ancient Decrepit DOS 6.2 Compaq, hide away from the wifi and from all my fancy editing tools. And sometimes I need to escape the bureaucracy of file names and directory trees and run away to where the paper shows up before the words rather than after, to where each letter has weight and the price of going too fast is a key-jam or the whiteout ribbon.

And sometimes I just need that immediate reward of a bell going "ding!" every time I invent a new ten-word sequence or so. "Go you! Now come up with another ten. Good job! Again!"

Seriously. You should try it. It's refreshing.

Incidents Following An Interception
Mon 2010-02-08 16:31:26 (single post)

Of course the bar went wild. If my cell phone weren't A) set to vibrate and B) in my hand, I would have missed Steve's text message: "HOLY SHIT!" I tried to write back: "I KNOW, RIGHT? That's it! That's the game!" At which point my phone told me that it had encountered difficulties sending my text message, sorry, it had been saved in my outbox please try again later. So I did.

Sorry 4 delay... Tracey Porter broke my network.
I had sort of lost track of the game at this point. Everytime I looked, some Colts play was going wrong, as though everyone on the team, except the quarterback, had accepted that it was over. But I was getting text messages left and right, so I kept ABCing my way through responses that may or may not have gone through.

Then the 4th-and-goal attempt got stuffed and it began to rain indoors.

I actually looked for some sort of sprinkler system that McGuire's might have triggered to go off in celebration. The reality was much less high tech. All of the high tech in the bar had been channeled into showing the game on four TVs and a home-rigged cardboard projection screen. ("I love it when I win," said Zack, bartender and entertainment system MacGuyver. "That's my favorite game in all the world.") Thus the wi-fi wasn't working and even the electrical outlet under the bar was dead, which is why my computer was safely in my bookbag underneath my seat when people began buying bottles of beer to baptize the crowd. Purchase, shake, pop the top, spray. Friends and strangers hugged, screamed, clasped hands in the alcoholic drizzle. Two women near me were crouched to the ground, though whether in emotional overload or because they'd dropped something I wasn't sure.

Some guy jumped up on the bar and began strutting from one end to the other. I handed him my spare Krewe of Carrollton beads to throw and got myself together to head out into the street.

For a moment, all I could think to say was, "I love everybody in the world right now!" I shouted that, and things like it, a lot last night.

Car horns sounded without cease: jubilation, not irritation. As they passed me, or I passed them, windows rolled down, shouts of "WHO DAT?!" were exchanged in call-and-response, hands extended to slap palms with anyone close enough. After awhile, I stopped wincing and started just holding out my hand at the sound of a car fast approaching behind me.

In the Quarter, gently and sloppily drunk adults tripped over families towing toddlers and apologized loudly and politely. Children in pint-sized number jerseys made the most of their rare chance to yell at the top of their lungs at passing strangers without getting rebuked for rudeness. "Who dat?!" they yelled, and adults yelled right back, "Who dat?!" And the kids were delighted. They were part of something tonight. This wasn't going on over their heads or in the next room. They were part of it.

Bourbon Street was as crowded as any festival night, possibly more so. At the intersections, it teemed like a salmon run but without direction. Any attempt to navigated foundered. You entered the current not to get somewhere, but just to be there, pressed up in full-body contact against three or four other people at any given moment, sharing joy like body heat and not caring that your feet were barely touching the ground.

From the river to South Claiborne, there was no traffic. Well, not what you'd call traffic. What there was, was a non-stop tailgate party, traffic signals having lost their meaning, horns continuing to sound in rhythm with the ubiquitous "WHO DAT?!" chanting, sunroofs and windows sprouting upper bodies, styrofoam pointing fingers, second-line umbrellas, hands, voices. Past South Claiborne, lakeward Canal Street flowed smoothly but riverward Canal Street remained bumper to bumper, and if anyone was annoyed by this, you didn't notice them. You noticed the convertible with the top down where five or six riders stood up on the seats and danced to the music pounding out their car stereos. Some riders were standing on roofs and hoods--not that the cars were going fast enough to make this a danger.

"How ya do?" I called, passing fans walking north along the street car tracks. "Wait," I amended, even as the automatic Fine, I do fine, I'm doing great, came back. "Dumb question, is that even a question? Don't I know the answer already? WHO DAT!"

Music ranged from brand-new hip-hop gonna-be-standards written in honor of the Superbowl opportunity, to reworked classics like the "Superbowl Mambo," to old favorites that Louis Armstrong used to sing. Which could also stand to be reworked.

Oh when the Saints
Came marching in
Oh when the Saints came marching in
I was proud to be in that number
When my Saints came marching in

Traffic at South Broad and Canal was somewhat more normal. People stopped at red lights and weren't backed up more than half a block. Kids in a pickup truck parked at a drugstore called out "Who dat sayin' gonna beat dem Saints?" at passersby, who shouted back the only possible answer. "Who dat? Who dat?"

Across the parish line, things fell silent. The party never lasts as late in Metairie. But before locking up and heading home to bed, business owners had left their acknowledgments. The cycling light board at Old Metairie Bank said,

thank you
But this suburb had gone to bed, and I was about to do the same.
Starting From Scratch
Wed 2010-01-20 20:24:52 (single post)
  • 54,103 words (if poetry, lines) long

Not as drastic as it sounds. The novel wouldn't let me in to edit it, so I've started a brand new Word Perfect document and have begun a re-type.

Unpacking that. Um. So, you know how I said I barely knew where exactly the holes were, let alone what shape they were? And how I was rereading and taking notes as to how to rework scenes such that the holes would kind of fill themselves? Sounds like a good plan, right?

Except I get kind of attached to the draft I'm looking at. For one thing, the current yWriter project is sort of like Baby's First Draft. I kind of want to print it out and wrap it in flannel and stow it in the cedar chest. Second of all, once I've written a draft, the draft is the story. It's incredibly hard to visualize it any other way. Oh, in my head it's been revised and it's all sparkly, but when I get down to actually editing the old draft, it does its best impression of The Platonic Ideal Of This Story and won't let me in.

I'm terribly susceptible to first impressions.

So I'm blending my re-type with my read-through, which you never never never do when your goal is a submittable draft. Good things my goal is merely a complete first draft I'm not embarrassed to let my husband read.

Also, this past week of no blogging doesn't indicate a week of no writing. It indicates a week of "Dang, look at all the spectacular crap I did today! Now I'm tired."

(Hee. That's what Maangchi said at the end of her How To Make Kimchi video. "Kimchi is done! I'm tired." It's so true.)

Seeds of Apathy
Mon 2010-01-11 21:11:02 (single post)

It's amazing how "Just another half hour" turns into a day with absolutely no nutritional value.

Seriously. I know exactly where today went wrong. I can put my finger right on it. It was the bit where John left for work and I said, "I've set my alarm for 9. I'll get up then." And I went back to sleep. Somehow the alarm at 9 turned into another at 9:45 and another at 10:30, and lunch spent with a book* turned into going back to bed with the book and pretty much being worthless until I was done rereading the book and it was time to feed the cats.

I'm not sure if it's a symptom of pathological apathy or of a latent tendency toward the nocturnal. Probably somewhere in between. I know that if I sleep late I'm likely never to get anything of use done, and that I have my most productive days when I get up early and get right to work.

With enough willpower I can repair a late-start day, but it's not pleasant. Since I treated yesterday like the weekend day that it was, enjoying a Rock Band lunch with John and a Dominion dinner date with friends and an afternoon in between full of naps-with-book, I felt obliged to repair today. And it wasn't pleasant, because it involved turning down a friend's invite to hang out and chat and possibly play video games. But I did get today's quota of articles written, and while I didn't quite work on the novel, I thought about the novel.

Tomorrow will be better.

*Book: Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Predates Twilight and presents a more grown-up view than Meyer's book does of Life With Vampire. Doesn't jettison main character's mundane life as unimportant, for instance. Does spend a little too much time in the main character's head, though, to the point of interrupting dialogue every two sentences with a page or two of internal monologue; but still, Rae Seddon is no Bella Swan.

Day 1 of the Rest of My Life, Take 967
Sat 2010-01-09 22:01:14 (single post)
  • 51,283 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm sure I've used that as a blog title before. But, so? Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. You get do-overs.

Today was good. Only, writing two articles for Demand Studios takes at least forty-five minutes longer than it should. Right now, there are writers complaining in the DS forum about how few titles they're allowed to have in their queue at a time because they would like to write more than their current average of 60 articles in a week. I don't know how they do it. Seriously. It took me 3.25 hours just to write two. I guess if I worked 8 hours a day on nothing but DS articles, that's how I'd do 60 articles a week. But I don't want to. I've also got some 3rd-party blogging to do (oh hai Metaverse Tribune, I'm in ur Second Life bein kloo-less!). And, oh yeah, a novel draft to finish and short stories to revise and put in the mail.

In the end, today only about 1 hour of my 5 went to the novel. I spent it mostly making notes.

In the second half of November, I started jumping around the novel's chronology, mainly because I wanted to write the end of the book before the month was out. 50,000 words wasn't going to be a problem. The problem was how many words it took to get Melissa out of elementary school. NaNoWriMo philosophy holds that you should make 49,999 and 50,000 be "The" and "End" because you can't count on the momentum to keep itself rolling into December. Except skipping around the book in order to make that happen doesn't leave me all that much better off. I am missing a lot of material from Melissa's college years and beyond, and I don't even know what shape it's supposed to be.

So I've been rereading and taking notes as I go. Essentially, I've been performing Holly Lisle's One Pass Manuscript Revision method on an unfinished first draft. I'm hoping that by the time I get to the holes I'll have got enough of a sense of the big picture to know what goes into the holes. Hell, if I even recognize that I'm looking at a hole, I'll be in better shape than I think I am.

It's working so far. I got a glimpse of the rough shape of Melissa's crisis scene with the Ghost Prince. I think I might even be able to write it tomorrow. But I probably shouldn't, not until I've worked my way through the rough draft to that point. I am probably still missing necessary data. I can afford to put it off; I put in the first few sketchy brush strokes, so to speak, when I had that flash of "ah-ha!" and began typing into yWriter's notes field in the appropriate scene file. I can come back to it. I'll probably come back to it several times, filling in a brush stroke here and a brush stroke there until the whole avalanche comes down.

And now that I've thoroughly mixed my metaphors, I shall run off to the Sage Ocean before someone makes me clean up after myself. Whee!

Defining "Part Time Self-Employment." Also, Happy New Year.
Fri 2010-01-08 11:40:18 (single post)

The original mission statement with this blog was, "I will blog every day, and only after I've written that day." And of course I began to fail at that standard pretty much the moment I put it into place. But it's never too late to get back on board with a good idea. It's my reusable New Year's Resolution: This year I'll write more, with more self-discipline and better time-management! This will be the year I Act Like A Writer!

The problem with New Year's Resolutions, though, is the high expectations involved. It isn't enough to say, "Tomorrow I'll write more than I did today." Oh no. We have to put it in terms of a whole year. So the moment we drop down out of the stratospheric levels of Perfect, well, that's the year down the tubes. It doesn't help that we ante up an amount of self-esteem proportional to the impossibility of the perfection we seek.

Some people, recognizing this, turn the idea of New Year's Resolutions into a joke. They set deliberately impossible goals, or deliberately trivial ones, and they laugh about them. Laughing is good for you. Jokes are healthy. But I don't want to turn the idea of self-improvement itself into a joke. I seriously want to take all that magical, psychological power bound up in our communal awe for the event of the annual odometer ticking over, and push it into my personal engines. Vroom!

So. A do-able New Year's Resolution with a reasonable attitude toward success and failure.

Here's another tank of gas for that: John and I just purchased health insurance. He got a new job, and, since it's an hourly contract position, he didn't get a new company-paid health insurance policy with it. Well, they offered him one, but the options offered cost about the same but provided less coverage than what we were contemplating purchasing on our own. (His new employers did, however, offer him a dental policy worth the premium. I will never understand this system.)

What does health insurance have to do with my writing goals for the year? Well, it has to do with how we signed up. Since we had the option, we made me the primary insured. I'm the one with more time on my hands, after all, or, if not, if I actually am spending all the time writing I should and the rest of my work week being a housewife, at least I'm the one with a more flexible work schedule. I can bike down to the State Farm office on Mapleton just about any day, weather permitting, and sign stuff. Or make phone calls. Or whatever. Not that it this hasn't been the case since I quit my day job in April 2004, but I since I haven't been the insured employee, I haven't typically been authorized to handle the bureaucratic details. Insurance companies want the signature of the guy in the number one slot. They don't want to talk to the dependent or beneficiary.

(Speaking of companies that won't talk to the beneficiary, let us another day discuss companies who, when receiving an application from a married couple with a hyphenated last name, "helpfully" "correct" the husband's last name by removing the hyphened-on half, and then require the husband to call them and then fill out a change-of-name form rather than just saying "Sorry, we goofed" when the wife calls to point out the error. Shall we? It would be a blast.)

When you're the primary insured on the application, the application wants to know all about you. Including your employment status. I always fill out "Self-employed" not just because that's what writers are, even if they aren't making a lot of sales, but because it's an act of magic. Or psychology, take your pick. I am not unemployed and dabbling at a hobby. My writing is my job. I mean to treat it like a job, and I expect others to respect that it is my job, and I'm not going to wait until I've sold a novel to say so. "Self-employed." Emphatically.

And then when they ask "Part time or full?" a little sliver of conscience grimaces and admits I don't spend 40 hours a week on my writing like I think I should. "Part-time." Sheepishly.

Entering "self-employed" and "part-time" caused a new section of form to unfold on the web page (yay, Javascript!), "Determination of Self-Employed Business Group of One," asking me to check yes to four more questions. Among them: have I been doing it for at least a year? Do I have taxable gross income from my self-employment from which I have derived a substantial part of my income, defined as sufficient to pay the annual insurance premium, at least one year in three? And do I work a minimum of 24 hours a week?

This is Magic 101. Mundane action, or "sweat," is a necessary component of any spell. It's very important to say "Writing is my job! I am self-employed!" It is also very important to then write like it's my job. The Goddess is very prompt at reminding me of this, and very versatile in how She delivers the message. This day, She was sending the message via Assurant Health and Time Insurance Company.

Well. I wasn't exactly going to sit there with a calculator and go, "I think last week I only worked 15 hours, and the last time I had gross income sufficient to pay this policy was three years ago." I said yes, and yes, and yes, and yes, and I signed on the dotted line.

And that's where the New Year's Resolution juice comes from. There's nothing quite like being unsure whether I've told the truth to inspire me to make it the truth.

So. My resolution, in precise: Write 5 hours each day, 5 days a week. This should consist of at least two articles for Demand Studios, any assigned blogging, and constant work on completing and submitting fiction submissions.

And blogging here when I'm done.

...And also flossing my teeth every morning, and achieving World Peace by December. [laugh track] No, no, but seriously, folks...

Happy Two Thousand And Ten!