Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (2/5)
Today's offering is "A is for A is for..." It's either flash fiction or prose poetry, depending on how you count these things. This final version is dated October 1995, so I suppose I must have written it during college. I wrote it specifically for submission to a themed issue of a Pagan magazine -- the theme was "Songs of the Cyberpagans" or something like that; one of the submission requirements was to send manuscripts on 3.5" floppy disks rather than in hard copy. I never heard another word about it until some five years later when a friend spotted it in a back-issue. Either the editor had mislaid my contact information, or I'd failed to include it on the disk which got separated from the cover letter. The foreword that accompanied the piece made me sound very mysterious.
I'm not sure today whether I think the piece is successful or simply pretentious. I think I still like it, though.
Meanwhile, today has been a Wednesday. Wednesdays are difficult. Wednesday mornings, I have an hour-long show to record for the Audio Information Network of Colorado. And then it takes me about half an hour just to pull up the reading material first, employment ads from the newspapers of three broad regions of the state, each in its own tab, each collection of tabs sorted through to avoid reading any ads that are missing readable contact information, etc. etc. etc. By the time that's done, I've lost both time and momentum for writing. It probably doesn't help that I tend to play Puzzle Pirates while I'm reading, and I tend to keep playing after the reading is done.
Wednesdays this month are further limited because I've got roller derby practice from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Anything I want to get done, I typically have to get it done before 5:45.
But today was even more of a Wednesday than usual. Everything took longer. The AINC reading took longer mainly because I kept stopping the recording to chat with some old friends on Puzzle Pirates (they're probably reading this now... hi there!). You can hardly blame me; I hadn't "seen" one of them in months and the other of them in years. It was good to catch up. Then, roller derby took more out of my day because I needed to bus-and-bike in. The car is in the shop, getting its engine replaced. Yes. John and I had been talking for the past couple years about how we really would rather replace the engine than replace the car, but not yet, not yet -- well, when the engine idles rough and occasionally stalls out at stop lights, and it turns out that at least three separate parts of the engine are to blame for it... well, it's kind of a hint. So the car's getting its clock odometer rolled back from 235,000 miles to 85,000, and I got my derby schedule pushed out by about an hour in either direction.
And now that I'm home, I'm not only the usual amount of exhausted from practice and sleep, I'm also hurting a bit. Yeah. Just this morning I was telling my Puzzle Pirates friends that I was glad to have picked up no new injuries in a while -- remember that, y'all? -- and, well, I guess the universe heard that too and said, "Oh, I knew I was forgetting something." See, when you practice giving and taking hits, you really need to keep your forearms clamped to your sides. This is not just to prevent yourself getting a penalty for illegal use of elbows or forearms. This is also for your protection. I let my guard slip, and for my sins I got a sharp shoulder jab in the ribs during a game of Queen of the Rink. I'm pretty sure it's just a bruise, but what a bruise it's gonna be! It's all achy when I laugh or move wrong or breathe too sharply.
You know what? This has been a whiny damn post. Here, let me apply the appropriate category label...
Anyway, I never got to the novel rewrite, and I only managed another 300 words on the project for Friday. I feel like I'm micromanaging the characters, trying to puppet them around so that their dialogue will contain this checklist of elements contrived during the first draft. It's probably time to step back, give myself time to just let the scene unfold in my head, and find out exactly how these characters interact when left to their own devices.
Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (1/5)
- 1,400 wds. long
- 62,769 wds. long
- 314 wds. long
Today's contribution to the April 23 festivities is my short story "Passengers". You can read it here. (Just as a reminder, you can always click the title of a manuscript in the upper left area of the blog entry to see all blog entries related to it. Then you click "Read more here", if such a link exists, to read an excerpt or the full text, whatever I've made available.)
"Passengers" is another one that counts as juvenilia, if anything does. It's probably older even than "Rhododendron". Possibly. In any case, it, too, was also written during high school, though I can't recall precisely which year -- my notes say 1994, but my notes weren't written in the same century as the story itself, so, grain-of-salt time. In any case, it had to have been the year when Betsy Petersen taught my English class, because I remember someone who shared her class with me critiquing it.
It's like a deathless digital audio recording in my memory, triggered every time I reread (or think about) the line, "...and ties a special knot in her bracelet just for him." My classmate's grinning and saying, "That's when she's got him. She just pops him into her little jar!"
Or something like that. I have a tyrannical memory for conversation -- it forgives-and-forgets nothing -- but it is not infallibly word-for-word.
The line that stays with my husband and me, of course, is, "Everybody likes peppermints." We have been known to quote it at each other on the least plausible provocation.
The other event that dates the creation of the story is its sideways inspiration: my first solo cross-country bus ride. And even that I'm not 100% certain about, timing-wise. Again, though my notes say August of 1993, my notes came a lot later than the actual journey. I know this much: it had to have been after June, 1992, my third attendence at the ADVANCE summer program (a.k.a. "nerd camp"). That was the year I met a boy named John Little and roomed with a girl named Cat Bakewell. Those two would become my closest, dearest, and most lasting friends. (One of them even became my husband!) Well, either later that summer or in the summer that followed, it occurred to me I could take a Greyhound bus to Cat's home in Nacogdoches, TX (not to be confused with Nachitoches, LA) if she and her parents were OK with the visit. It took a lot of wheedling on my part to get Mom to grant the all-important permission (and pay for the bus ticket), but in the end teenage persistence prevailed.
Mom wasn't very happy about it. She was convinced that you meet all sorts of crazy people on bus rides. It would be years before I recognized this as class-and-race prejudice, but right away I sure recognized it as bullshit. If there were any crazy people on the bus, I determined, I would damn well be one of them. I chose my traveling wardrobe accordingly.
Put that together with the friendship bracelet I occupied myself with creating during much of the eleven-hour ride, and also with my seatmate who was not at all crazy but rather delightfully unconventional, and you've got the fictional character who opens the story.
But we can't just go living in the past here. There's writing to be done in the here and now. Today saw about a thousand new words on the rewrite of Like a Bad Penny, and a solid, carefully chosen 300 words or so on the very short story I hope to offer up for your reading pleasure on Friday.
And there you go.
Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (0/5)
Today's my birthday! I am now thirty-six whole years old. Hooray! (That's a multiple of twelve, so, hello again Year of the Dragon!)
Today is also William Shakespeare's birthday. (And death-day. But never mind that.) As a writer, I think it particularly cool to share a birthday with the Bard. (I don't particularly object to sharing his death-day, either. We all gotta die someday, so it might as well be on April 23 as any other day of the possible 366. Just so long as the year in question resides in the far, far future.)
April 23 now also has the distinction of being the date of a brand-new modern holiday of special interest to writers on the internet. It's called International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch Day!
(Why of course it's on Wikipedia. Why are you surprised? It's also on Making Light.)
Anyway, the day celebrates writers who post some of their works on the internet for others to read for free. It also pokes gentle fun at someone who, six years ago, apparently got a sharp mental wedgie over the notion of writers posting some of their works on the internet for others to read for free. I can't do the incident justice by paraphrasing it, so I'll just link you to Jo Walton's original declaration of the holiday, which in turn links to the getting of the mental wedgie. ("Mental wedgie" -- like "panties in a wad" only without yet another toxic association of Something Shameful with Something Stereotypically Feminine. I suppose I could say he got his "briefs in a bunch," but I am unprepared to speculate on Dude's boxers/briefs alignment. Gender-free phrases are more useful anyway.)
I'm as delighted as you might expect to have yet another awesome thing to celebrate alongside my birthday. But, what with having a happy birthday and all, I'm unprepared to do my pixel-stained technopeasant wretched bit just now. Happily, today is also a Monday, which puts me in a good position to say "Check back every day the rest of this week!" My plan is to put a piece up each day, Tuesday through Friday. I've got some already-been-published stuff bordering on "juvenilia" to share, kinda like I did with "Last Week's Rhododendron," but I hope to write something entirely new in time for Friday's post.
So with that optimistic declaration, I'm off to continue being totally and enjoyably useless for the evening. Until tomorrow!
Spit That Out RIGHT NOW.
Includes: A stunning review of Blood and Other Cravings with the best one-liner describing my story that I've seen so far. Getting to that in a few paragraphs. Hold on.
So, roller derby. It eats your life right up. It's a sport that involves a lot of practice, a lot of camaraderie that develops into full-blown sisterhood in no time at all, and a side-helping of obsession. Also major and minor injuries that remind you all day long where you got 'em (at derby) and what those injuries won't let you do (derby).
(Note: No major injuries yet. But you can add to the previous entry's list a sore, sometime-swollen knee that's being infuriatingly slow to recover its last tiny bit of functionality since taking a bad fall a week ago Monday. Not from a tomahawk stop this time. It happened during a practice scrimmage. I was blocking. I think I got sandwiched. Anyway, I blame that knee for my inability to perform a decent two-knee fall lately.)
End of February, I tested up from Phase 1 to Phase 2 practice with the Boulder County Bombers. This past Friday night, I went through WFTDA minimum skills assessments (results: I'm this close, but no candy cigarette just yet. Next month for sure!). The weeks in between, I went to practice three times a
dayweek, finally bought derby-quality skates (though I'll always love my first pair), practiced a little on my own just to get used to the new skates, studied for the written WFTDA rules test, and, because that isn't enough, also helped distribute fliers for BCB's March 2012 New Recruit Night, which I then helped host.
And I haven't been writing at all. Or nearly not, anyway.
One of the BCB skaters, upon hearing me gripe about this today, said, "Do you know, since this league began nine months ago, I haven't managed to write a single word?"
This made me somewhat scared, no lie. This despite knowing how very much this particular skater does for the league compared to me. I mean, I'm only a member of one committee.
On the other hand, Ellen Datlow forwarded a link to this gorgeous review of Blood and Other Cravings tonight. It's not just a review. It's a complete short story in and of itself. Along the way it imbues the anthology with an almost magic realism sensibility:
Datlow has adroitly blended the traditional with the extrapolative in her selection of stories, suggesting that just as vampires and other blood-suckers may perhaps best be interpreted as metaphors for desperation, so otherwise ordinary-seeming human lives may equally become metaphors.
See what I mean? Or maybe not? Maybe it's just my own weird filters that connect this idea -- that of vampire-as-metaphor causing the reader to thereafter see the metaphor capability of ordinary lives -- with the idea that in magic realism the presence of an element of the fantastic transforms the mundane into another kind of fantastic.
I'm also wildly appreciative of the one-liner Collings uses to describe "First Breath":
A creature of mist whose desperate craving for a physical body does not take into account that most terrifying of human emotions... love.
I'm too new at this Getting Published thing to go splitting the world into "readers that get me" and "readers that don't get me." Besides, I suspect such divisions smack of Golden World Syndrome. To the extent that I have readers, my readers have the experience of my stories that they do have; I don't get to say which is right or wrong. It's their experience. But I think it's safe to say this reviewer falls strongly in the "gets me" category -- or, more accurately, what he gets from the story matches well with what I intended to put in. And then he gets a shade more out of it than I think I realized I'd put in, pleasantly surprising me with what he found. And then he manages to convey all that in a single sentence.
I hope the other authors whose stories he references here are as well pleased.
(Oh, I could quibble about how that sentence implies that the creature is unique and deviant in her craving, rather than being quite normal for her species in having a particular need at a particular time in her life. But that would be silly of me. Besides, I'm too won over by the way the sentence ends.)
So this is very self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing of me, fixating on the one sentence in the review that pertains to Me! Me! Me! ... but then this is my blog. I get to do that.
But seriously, go read the whole review. It is a tiny work of art with the scintillating facets of a jewel. And now "jellybean" is my favorite replacement for "vanilla" now when describing a thing that is boring in its ordinariness (a practice unfair both to the so-called "ordinary" and the much maligned yet highly magical vanilla bean). For instance, "There was a lot more to AnomalyCon 2012 than jellybeans. A lot more."
So. Derby's been eating my writing, but this timely and lovely review puts me in a mind to tickle Derby's tummy until Derby damn well regurgitates. (And then I will put Derby on a healthy diet of "not everything in sight, OK? Like, not my fountain pens or my printer ink. You can eat some of my Spiral Knights time and all my TV-watching time and maybe some of my knitting-and-spinning time. But not my copy of WordPerfect 5.1! And not my novel revision! I need that!")
But most likely this will happen on Tuesday. Monday is booked. With... other things. One of which is roller derby.
What's Mine Is Yours
So, of course, when I want to blog things like the foregoing, I feel compelled to double-check things.
Says me: You're OK with me putting this on my blog?
Says he: It's OK. Honestly. I don't care.
Says me: I just wanna make sure. You own half the copyright, after all.
Says he: The better half.
So there you have it.
Overheard. In My Own Damn Car.
What the hell -- half of it came out of my own mouth.
Says he: New plan. We're just not stopping for any more red lights.
Says me: But if you don't stop for the red lights, eventually you have to stop for the blue and red and white flashy lights.
Says he: ...you mean, the America lights?
Says me: No, no, no, the--
Says he: But you said they were red white and blue!
Says me: But so many things are. Including the lights on top of a police car.
Says he: So, the opposite of a Liberty Wagon.
Says me: We don't have a Liberty Wagon. We have--
Says he: (And that's what's wrong with this country.)
Says me: We have a Liberty Bell. But you're not allowed to ring it.
Says he: And no wonder. Last time someone did that, it got cracked!
Says me: ...and that's why we can't have nice things.
...There are many reasons I married this man. For one thing, I need him in order to have a comedy act.
I Show Up on Other Blogs. Also, Roller Derby.
So, remember when I said something about author Diane Dooley soliciting authors to interview on her blog? (This was in the context of Bram Stoker Award Recommended Reading List WHAT?! Oh, and, by the way, the Stoker nominations are out, and Blood and Other Cravings is a nominee in the anthology category; Kaaron Warren's "All You Can Do Is Breathe," which kicks off the anthology, is nominated for a short fiction Stoker. This is very very cool.)
O HAI THERE RUNAWAY PARENTHESEES! U R IN MY SENTENCE STEALIN MY TRAIN-O-THOUGHT.
In any case, I volunteered to be interviewed, and so Diane Dooley interviewed me. You can read it here. It appears as part of her series of posts celebrating Women in Horror Recognition Month, which you should read, every bit of it, because it is awesome. Pro-tip: Follow ALL the links!
So there's that. Also, today, I wrote sort of a love letter to my roller skates. It will show up real soon now in the blog section of the Boulder County Bombers' new and improved website, when said website goes from being just a glimmer in the Website Committee's collective eye and becomes reality. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can visit the Boulder County Bombers on Facebook. And here's a direct link to the photo that esteemed ref "Shutter Up" took of us during endurance practice on Saturday the 25th. I'm in the middle row, towards the left, black T-shirt with white printing, red belt, and a black helmet that looks weirdly gold/copper in the camera flash.
Speaking of roller derby: I'm skating with the Boulder County Bombers. I'm officially a member and everything. I'd been skating Sundays with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and they are exceedingly awesome! I was going to join them and everything! But they practice in Commerce City. This requires a route from Boulder involving Highway 36, I-270, Highway 2, and I-70. On a Sunday afternoon, that's about 30 to 45 minutes. I hate to think what it would be like for Tuesday and Thursday evening practices. And the bus ride is two hours. Each way. Once I became aware of the existence of a league that practiced in the same county I live in, it was a no-brainer. Weeknight practices still involve rush hour traffic, but rush hour traffic to Longmont is oodles less soul-crushing. And the bus ride is under an hour, if you don't mind a 10 to 15-minute bike ride to/from the bus stop. Which I don't, at least not when the wind isn't 80 freakin' miles an hour (this is me glaring meaningfully at last week), especially since that bike ride takes me past a burger joint, two coffee shops with wi-fi, and several sit-down restaurants which I can enjoy if I take an early bus.
But then I don't often have to bus, because A) John now works in Boulder, so he can leave me the car most days, and B) three or four other BCB skaters live within a half-mile of me and like to carpool. Life is good.
It's no secret -- in fact, it's probably the sport's best-known feature -- that roller derby is bad-ass. Skaters take pride in their injuries, 'cause we get 'em being PHEARLESS!!!! Here's my running injury report thus far. See if you can spot the common thread.
Tue. Feb. 14 @ BCB Phase 1 practice: Fell on my face during tomahawk-stop/toe-stop running drill. Injury: Split lip. Symptom: a fantastic bruise like an off-center soul patch for about a week.
(Interestingly, if someone does a horrified double-take and gasps, "What happened to you?!" saying "Roller derby! It was awesome!" puts them immediately at their ease. I've gotten very good at saying that. Possibly too good. Not everyone wants to hear the entire Tale Of The Faceplant in second-by-second detail, despite what an entertaining story it does make. But better to risk TMI than being all self-consciously mumbly and accidentally communicating the wrong thing thereby. It is all too easy for well-meaning acquaintances to mistake "Meh, fell down, no big deal, let's talk about something more interesting" for a situation requiring immediate attention and possibly phone numbers of Places That Can Help.)
Sun. Feb. 19 @ RMRG tryouts: Fell on my butt while practicing turnarounds (step one in a tomahawk stop) before try-outs began. Pretty much sat down hard on a wheel. Injury: Bruised tailbone. Symptom: I'm still occasionally yelping if I sit down on the ground and then shift wrong. Sit-ups suck.
(But I did pass try-outs! Evaluation only, since I had decided by then to join BCB, but still, very cool.)
Tue. Feb. 23 @ BCB Phase 1 assessments: Fell sort of backwards and sideways while trying to hold the toe-stop stance after completing a tomahawk stop. The evaluators wanted to see us hold for 3 seconds. On that particular try, I failed miserably. Injury: Jammed three fingers on my left hand. Symptom: Stiff, sore, swollen fingers. The segments of the middle and ring finger especially look like the first stages of making a balloon animal. On the middle finger there's some really artful blue blushing, too. Last night I could barely tie on my tennis shoes, had to use my teeth to get my mouthguard case open, and I almost needed to ask a fellow skater to help me button my jeans. I wimped out entirely on making the bed. I just couldn't grip anything. Today I'm doing much better, but I still can't lift a tea-cup with the left hand. Interestingly, my ability to play Spiral Knights, or indeed type, has not been affected.
(I passed assessment and will begin attending Phase 2 practices starting tomorrow. My evaluator told me I'll need to work on smoother turnarounds. I was not surprised.)
So that's the news, and I'm off to bed. Tomorrow: March 1! Day one of NaNoEdMo! Will I be logging hours? I don't know! Will I be editing a novel? Damn straight!
Well, that was easy. Apparently I just had the entire Manuscript class set not to pull certain data from the database unless I was in my staging directory. In other words, at some point in the past I clearly didn't want to deal with things, so I applied brute force.
The criteria for having an excerpt page and for showing notes about a given manuscript are now more intelligent. If I'm in staging, I get to see 'em. If I'm not, they only show up if the database entry includes a TRUE value for the brand-spankin-new "shownotes" field. Woot.
The upshot is, if you click on the title of the story in the little blue box here, you'll get the usual list of blog entries to do with that story. But you should also see a small description of the story and a link to read more. Click that link, and you'll get to read maybe the full story, or maybe an excerpt, maybe some just notes about writing it and where it got published.
In the case of "Last Week's Rhododendron," it'll be all of the above (or everything but the publication credit, until I fill in the publication credit. Which I'll do later on tonight. My brain hurts now). Enjoy!
Me, Now, I Forget Things All the Time
So my plan this morning was to make "Last Week's Rhododendron" available for y'all to read, along with a bunch of other high school and college era publications. My plan was to say, "Hay you guyz! Lookit! First story I ever published, right here! LOLLERSKATES." It was going to be a very simple change to the website. Very. Simple.
Except I appear to be lost in a maze of twisty PHP includes, all alike. Or not alike, and there's the problem.
I was so clever when I built this website. I was going to do it right. I was going to learn object-oriented PHP properly... and here we'll pause for the Java developers in the audience to get all that snickering out of their system; yes, yes, I know, putting "object-oriented PHP" and "properly" in the same sentence is hilarious, yes, please do enjoy the joke... but anyway that's what I was going to do. Objects for handling blog entries, objects for handling manuscript data, objects for handling the both of them as different species of data entities. Objects for determining whether the viewer was me, and thus eligible to manipulate data, or not me, and thus eligible only for viewing. And all these class declarations filed away in their own include files, and each include file having a copy in staging and a copy that was live.
Then I didn't touch the code for some years. And I forgot how everything worked.
So what I've got is a page for displaying manuscript excerpts that works beautifully in the staging directory, but comes up almost entirely blank on the public version. I know why I did that in the first place -- I didn't want to expose the notes I'd written on each of my stories. Originally I wrote them for my own eyes only. I need to go through and make sure they're ready for prime time before I let y'all see 'em. So today I figured I was going to make an exception to that code specifically for "Rhododendron." BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER HOW THE CODE WORKS.
So I'll just be over here today, grumbling while my eyes glaze over trying to track Ariadne's thread through the labyrinth of code that Past Me created specifically to confuse Present Me.
Past Me was such a jerk. I'm this close to hoping she gets eaten by a minotaur.
The Internet Never Forgets
Just a quick note regarding "Right Door, Wrong Time" -- I still haven't found a place to reprint it yet, drat me. (Really. It's embarrassing how long ago I said, "I should send it to Brain Harvest." Have I done so? Well, have I? *ahem* Not as such...) However! Thanks to the magic of the Wayback Machine, you can still read it online! Twilight Tales may be gone, but the snapshot lives on, here:
"Right Door, Wrong Time" by Nicole J. LeBoeuf, appearing for the first time in print at TwilightTales.com in July of 2006.
This note brought to you by the question "Where can people read your stuff online?" and the realization that I am struggling to come up with three titles that meet the criteria. In addition to slushing the reprint of "Door," I suppose I should put some of my older stories up on this site like I've been promising to for years...
Question: Can I call my college-era and high-school-era writing "juvenilia" yet? Or is that only something I get to do once I'm a lot more published and a good deal older?