“I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Check it out! All done! Well, almost.
Before and after, conveniently juxtaposed in real time
some things get done. some things don't.
Fri 2014-05-02 23:23:38 (single post)
  • 747 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hey, check it out! The entryway is done! So... maybe from this photo it's hard to tell how nice that gold crown molding looks, but trust me, it's glorious. Better yet, it's no longer that "rotten peaches and curdled cream" theme that the unit had when we moved in. See the second photo for comparison, showing where the dining area (done) meets the living room closet wall (not done).

Again, realize we bought the place in August of the year 2000. It feels so good to be finally picking up this project again. It feels really nice to walk into the house and see those newly painted walls that at last look the way we've wanted them to look all these years.

Except--argh!--the entryway isn't quite done yet. You can't see it from here, but the doorjamb is still cream, splashed with white from the new paint job. We'll paint that on Tuesday. Then we'll decide when to tackle the next piece of house waiting for its makeover. And what that next piece of house should be. Probably that central "hallway" where the doors to the bathroom and the two bedrooms let out just off the living room.

Meanwhile, in writing news... More argh. I'll just say that, when the next scene of a short story looks impossible to write, suddenly Examiner articles look really attractive. One of these things I know I can do. And its completion state is easy to define.

"Look," I tell myself, "you don't have to get the scene right in one go. All you have to do is set a timer for 25 minutes and babble to yourself about what needs to be in that scene. Freewriting mode, right? Freewriting is fun!"

To which myself tends to reply, "Sure. Yep. Totally. Except--right after this quick blog article about some writing events this weekend, OK? Sooner I publish that, more useful it is, right? Because it's timely, see?"

It's so very easy to convince myself that I have good reasons for avoiding the thing I want to avoid.

Argh.

Tomorrow's another day, and next week is another week. That's always comforting to remember, even if--once again--there's only two more "another weeks" to go before the deadline I'm trying to hit is here and gone.

forgiveness sometimes means giving up
Thu 2014-05-01 23:14:38 (single post)

Well, there's a depressing title. Only it's not meant to be. It's more about the forgiveness than about the giving up, after all. And the giving up is only temporary. It goes something like this:

"If I haven't gotten it done by 11:00 PM, I shouldn't beat myself up trying to get it done by 1:00 AM."

See? Forgiveness. Giving up on getting a thing done today isn't really giving up. It's just deferring. And deferring is better than hurting myself with stress and unrealistic expectations.

"Hurting myself" isn't entirely metaphorical, or solely emotional. I've been stressing myself into mouth ulcers again lately. Mouth ulcers make eating difficult, and eating is one of my favorite things, so that nonsense has really gotta stop.

This new epiphany goes triple on Wednesday and Thursday nights. If it's unlikely I'll get productive work done after 11:00 PM normally, it's extra special unlikely after roller derby practice or scrimmage. And I'm feeling particularly beat up after tonight's scrimmage. At some point during the night I took a skate wheel to my right calf. It might actually have been my own skate wheel. Now that sucker's so bruised and tender that the simple act of walking is a challenge. And I took one of those hard side-hits that makes you feel like your ribs are about to fold in on each other like the wings of a butterfly or maybe the legs of a card table. Ow ow ow ow.

(I was jamming. One of the opposing blockers, hearing me whimper and not stop whimpering, said, "Just fall down, Fleur, it's OK, we'll take a knee and call the jam off," and I was all "Nope! (ow) Two minutes (ow) have got to end (ow) sometime..." Then the jam ended and I drifted off to the team bench, still whimpering. Have I mentioned I'm not a jammer? I'm so not a jammer. I jam like the unsophisticated blocker that I am: brute force all the way, and no agility to fall back on when that doesn't work. *sigh*)

So basically I'm good for nothing right now except downing a couple ibuprofen and also the entire order of chicken egg fu yong from Golden Sun. Wheeeeee food coma. And maybe reading the rest of Seanan McGuire's online "Velveteen" stories. (I'm midway through "vs. The Eternal Halloween" at the moment.)

And apparently writing a blog post in which I whine about stuff. Hi.

So I'm just giving myself permission to go easy on myself now, and leave anything yet undone for tomorrow. And I'm thinking about how they came to remain undone, and learning from that, and identifying mistakes in time- and energy-management I shouldn't make tomorrow. So that's a good thing too.

By the way, the house painting continues. The entryway now finally looks like the living room, in that it not only has white walls rather than cream, but gold crown molding rather than pink. I laid down the first coat of gold this afternoon, and John put the second coat on while I was at derby. It looks awesome. Now all it needs is the finishing touch, the sponged-on application of a red-gold glaze. We'll do that tomorrow when we have daylight again. It's a process that requires natural light, and plenty of it, to decide how much sponging-on is enough.

Then we get to decide when we're going to attack the next piece of our house that still needs painting.

Here's a hint: it won't be tomorrow.

having won the first battle, we contemplate the rest of the war
Wed 2014-04-30 21:56:29 (single post)
  • 750 words (if poetry, lines) long

Well, I got the first scene written today. That was the easy part. Look, I have attempted this story so many times, the first scene is now pretty much a final draft based on about four different preliminary drafts. Tomorrow's task is to get the second scene down, and *that* one has more moving parts and less drafts to work from. Argh.

In other news, we painted another wall today. Now, for the first time in about ten years, the entryway matches most of the rest of the house. Or it will once we paint the crown molding gold. That, also, is tomorrow's task.

Tomorrow's tasks will be upon us sooner than one might think, because I'm about to collapse for the night. Because roller derby. Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. Ouch.

second verse, same as the first
Tue 2014-04-29 23:38:42 (single post)
  • 1,050 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

I realized just this past weekend that we're smack in the middle of an open call for submissions to Sword and Sorceress 29. And I have this story here that I've been working on forever, that I wanted to get ready to submit last year to Sword and Sorceress 28 but that I utterly failed to make the deadline with, and, well, I haven't worked on it since. So I've got just over two whole weeks to get that sucker finished.

Why do I do this to myself? It's not even that great of a fit for the S&S series: "We are willing to consider stories set in modern times (urban fantasy), but we won't buy more than one or two of those for the anthology." And my sorceresses are actually more like Goddesses. Exactly like. And yet I really, really want this to be the first slush pile it hits. Argh.

Well, I worked an hour on it today and an hour on "Snowflakes" and I guess at that rate I'll have both of them done by then. Maybe. I hope.

facepalm

Meanwhile, speaking of projects picked up from where they were left off far too long ago, John and I painted a wall tonight. When we bought this condo unit and moved in back in August of 2000, the plan was to paint over the terrible "curdled cream" walls with eggshell white. We were going to do it one wall at a time, as time and energy permitted. Well, energy ran out and we stopped making time, and as a result we have four or five areas that still require painting. Also a few more areas that could use a new coat to cover the years of wear and tear.

Tomorrow we are going to do another wall. And another next week. And another soon afterwards, as time and energy permit.

So there's your writing metaphor for the day. It's never too late to pick up where you left off, and you can still take it one room, one scene, one wall, one paragraph at a time.

Hey, it's a little long for a fortune cookie, but at least it's not strained.

ow ow ow i think i strained something
Mon 2014-04-28 23:34:39 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

I had an argument with my alarm clock this morning that resulted in my arriving at the farm a half hour or so late. Basically, my alarm clock argued that I had previously expressed an intention to get up at 6:00 AM, and would I please do it now? And I argued that no, there couldn't possibly be a reason for me to be up at six, shut up. To which my alarm clock said, Fine, shutting up now, but you're gonna be sorry. And indeed, when John's alarm clock went off at eight, I was very sorry.

By the time I got to the farm, I could see the Monday team hard at work in the "spring garden," the terraced beds on the east side of the property. So I parked the car thereabouts, grabbed my work gloves, and jumped in.

First off, we were mulching a bed of recently transplanted herbs, mostly thyme. Mulch consisted of broken up hay or straw (I can't always tell the difference once it's baled) to be scattered plentifully over the beds, whilst clearing out a little scoop around each tiny herb start. The next-door bed of hyssop served as our model. Not to mention the next-door-the-other-side bed of garlic, tops already shooting up to a foot or more tall.

Secondly, we began preparing a new bed for planting. It was in a state of nature: not yet tilled, beginning to green over with bindweed and other noxious customers. Now, McCauley Family Farm is an organic farm. Herbicides are not on the menu. Weeds are managed by hand or not at all. Today, we managed with pitchforks and patience.

We sank those forks just as deep as they would go--what I lack in upper body strength I make up in body weight and gravity, i.e. jumping up and down on the pitchfork--then levered the forks back and forth to break up the earth and expose the roots of each individual bindweed plant. If the root was stuck, sometimes a bit more fork-wiggling loosened them up enough to slip out whole. Sometimes we just had to break them off a few inches down. Thus we traversed the crop bed, covering one pitchfork's worth of ground at a time.

My instinct was to lift the fork entirely, turning the wodge of earth over. But this wasn't what we wanted. For one thing, we were told, this would expose the beneficial microbes and fungi to too much oxygen all at once, activating them to start eating up all the nutrients before the soon-to-be-planted crops could have a chance. For another and more immediate thing, lifting and turning the earth risks burying the very weeds we were trying to expose. So patience, once again, was the order of the day.

Now of course I'm going to be trying to find a metaphor for writing in all of this. That's what I do. Also, this is a blog about writing. And farm work is especially rife with metaphors for writing. Here's a few I'll be chewing on this week:

  • Mulching: Nurture ideas and works-in-progress by pursuing research and activities related to the idea or work-in-progress. I might do some remedial reading on Ragnarok and ash trees and historic worst winters, for instance. This builds a crop bed culture full of nutrients and moisture, so to speak. But it's important to keep the work-in-progress in sight; it's too easy to let these mulching activities smother it in a thick covering of procrastination.

  • Weeding: Oh, I don't know--something about examining those details implied by the story idea and patiently interrogating them until the full length of their roots is exposed? Something about maybe not scaring them away or destroying them by going after them with too much brute force? (What does that even mean?)

Sometimes my writing metaphors are really strained. What the hell. They might prove useful. Let's wait and see.

everybody gets presents
Wed 2014-04-23 23:10:02 (single post)

I've been saying "I'm 38" pretty much since the turn of the year--not, "I'll be 38 this April," because that sounds like trying to draw attention to when my birthday is and then expecting people to remember it, which I'm not; and not "I'm 38 and three-quarters" because that sounds like something little kids do when they want to sound older than they are and still get credit for being scrupulously accurate, which I'm not; but just, "Meh, I'm 38." Or "I'm about 38." Or even "I'm almost 40," which is kind of like the little-kid-trying-to-sound-older trick, but it's more like what a grown-up with a touch of impostor syndrome and too much baby-face does to try to get taken seriously by the 40-something set.

But today I am actually 38. At 4:15 a.m. Central Standard Time, however that translates to timekeeping in the United States 38 years later, I was exactly 38. Huzzah for completing another lap around the sun!

Since 2007, April 23 has also been celebrated amongst us online writer types as International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. In honor of this, I humbly link you to several early, early online publications of mine--really early, like, "I'm not sure I actually want to try to get this reprinted" early--whose original homes have gone the way of late-90s websites and remain with us today by the grace of the Wayback Machine (in two cases) and of someone who decided to mirror the entirety of the old Geocities website community (in the third).

"Deadline Performance" (the ink blotter, ed. Chris Donner, 1999)
No, that's the right page. It's after Claudia Carver's piece, "Is It Writing Yet?" Which you should also read.

"Twice Told Conspiracy Theories, or 'Look at the cute little kitty!'" (The Raven Chronicles, July 1997)
Errata: Cats generally only have 18 claws, not twenty. I hadn't lived with one yet, so I'd never had occasion to count their toes. Also, the sentence about dandruff lost a clause and a half but I'm not sure what it originally said. My own file is in WP51 format and I haven't enabled this computer's copy of MS Word to translate it yet, or I'd check.

"A Mirror's Lies, A Moment's Rainbows" (The Raven Chronicles, Spring 1995, print edition)

Tonight being my birthday, John and I went out to celebrate at the Melting Pot in Louisville (that's "Lewis-ville, Colorado" not "Louie-ville, Kentucky"). We had a fantastic bottle of wine and a decadent four-course meal, three courses of which involved dipping things into delicious, delicious molten lava. John's favorite lava is chocolate-flavored. I'm partial to cheese lava, myself, although I think my favorite is filet mignon cooked in that spiced and seasoned lava they call "court bouillon."

While we were enjoying this, a mother and very small son duo gently interrupted our meal, conversation, and game of Ticket To Ride (the card game is compact and can be played almost anywhere) in order to give us a copy of Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters. This is a book that sounds right up my alley. From its back-cover blurb to its choice of front-matter (the paragraph from Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales that ends, "Would you like anything to read?"), it sounds like it might, alongside books such as Jo Walton's Among Others and Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, stand as a novel-length praise song to books and the love of books. I look forward to finding out for sure by reading it. Ravenously. Possibly without sleeping.

So I got a birthday present from a complete stranger. Thus was I reminded that April 23 is also World Book Night in the U.S..

April 23 is truly an auspicious day for a writer to be born on! Obviously. I mean, it worked for Shakespeare...

the stories pile up
Tue 2014-04-22 23:46:02 (single post)
  • 3,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today's writing went well. It was a productive day on all counts, so I'm pleased. Nevertheless, today's freewriting session caused me a certain amount of that mild distress that the practice, despite my defense of it, does sometimes cause.

Well, two mild distresses. But the first doesn't count. The first is the same mild distress I get from pretty much doing anything other than jumping right into the long-term project I'm sick of not having finished, Gods, why can't I get it finished, why can't I jump into it now rather than mucking about with Morning Pages and freewriting and brushing my teeth and watering the plants and taking a shower and putting clothes on, time's a-wasting, let's get on with it!

No, that distress doesn't deserve attention. For one thing, it's just another manifestation of the typical background low-level anxiety that attends any task that goes unfinished for any length of time. For another, that gung-ho "times' a wasting, let's get on with it!" urge mysteriously vanishes the moment I get to that point in my day when it's time, indeed, to get on with it.

So I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about this:

Today's freewriting blossomed out of the most recent of Gay Degani's "string of 10" prompts posted at the Flash Fiction Chronicles Facebook page. (Post should be visible even if you don't have a Facebook account to log into.) Do not ask me why, maybe it was the combination of "LEGACY" and "EAR," I don't know, what is my brain, but I found myself noodling up some epic worldbuilding involving an empire whose different dynasties were iconified by specific musical styles which informed the fashions and etiquette and mores of the court and the upper class, and then a sort of love triangle romance/coming of age story in which the three teenagers are involved across class lines, and also the philosophical idea that it's hard to be the person you really are when your society denies you the very words with which to express that, and...

And, oh crud, I appear to have come up with yet another novel. Or three. And when will I have the time to work on it? I still haven't finished rewriting the current short story in progress!

So I marked the document with the "Brainstorming" label and the "To-Do" status. If there ever comes a day when I simply have no idea what to write, I will do a search on the "To-Do" status in the Daily Idea Scrivener project, and I will be swamped in story ideas I've determined I need to revisit later.

Meanwhile, I have my assignment: finish revising "The Impact of Snowflakes" and start submitting that sucker. And while I work on that assignment, faithfully, doggedly, I exercise extreme self-restraint, and I do not go haring off after the latest intriguing story idea that turned up during recent freewriting sessions. Not the one about the musical dynasties, not the one about the Goddess in disguise as a golden carp in the aquarium at the restaurant, not the one about the hotel in the desert whose room 307B is a pivot point between the dimensions that occasionally eats its tenants, none of them.

I know that each one of these story ideas will benefit from the enforced inactivity. When I come back to them, the time they will have spent composting in the back of my head will have enriched their soil with the nutrients they'll need to blossom into the fantastic fully formed stories they want to be.

But in the meantime, it does cause me a mild distress.

when does the work week start again
Mon 2014-04-21 23:08:52 (single post)

It's Monday! That's great. I've been looking forward to Monday. This is the weird but logical outcome of formalizing a weekday writing schedule and then using HabitRPG to incentivize it. Stuff comes up Friday evening that makes me eager to get back to business, but if I want to count it toward my "5 hours of writing on weekdays" daily, I need to do it on an actual weekday. (Another side-effect: Guilt-free weekends!)

Except, it's Monday. That means farm work! I spent the morning prepping and planting 30+ trays of various melon varieties, then hacking with shovels and rakes (and implements of destruction) at a surface that needed leveling.

And it's also this particular Monday, which means leading Phase 1 roller derby practice. We had a great time, too. Everyone's energy and enthusiasm was just through the roof. This group of skaters were intent on ferreting out the secrets of every skill on tonight's agenda, and they were tireless in this pursuit. This meant I had to reverse engineer my own performance in order to come up with answers to pertinent questions. And that meant that I got a lot of practice on plow stops, skating backwards, and improving one's derby stance, just to grab some examples out of a helmet. Which is awesome for my own improvement. My knees are all the best kind of sore right now.

All this together means, in terms of logging Friday's story rejection and resubmitting that same story somewhere else and also working on the ongoing revision of the other story, I'm actually looking forward to Tuesday.

Tuesday's tomorrow! That's great!

deadlifting 25 minutes of words every morning
Fri 2014-04-18 23:49:02 (single post)

Freewriting! With the timer and the prompts and the stuff! Like morning pages, it's one of my daily processes that I sometimes feel the need to defend. Although less so, since the link between freewriting and Actual Finished Publishable Work is a lot more obvious. Still, on days when I have this short story to work on that should have been finished ages ago and no end is anywhere in sight, I sometimes wonder whether it would be more productive to just skip the timed writing and get straight to the grind.

No. It would not. Or, well, maybe it would be more productive, short-term, but I think there's long-term value I'd be missing out on.

Thoughts! I have them. Today they are numbered.

  1. Freewriting is where the stories come from. Story ideas come from everywhere: dreams, prompts, what-ifs, misheard lyrics, misread words, stray thoughts juxtaposed with other stray thoughts. Problem is, they never come complete with story attached. And thinking about it only takes an idea part of the way to its story. The rest of the way has to be traveled on the page.
  2. Freewriting is where stuck becomes unstuck. Whether I'm stuck on turning an idea into a story, or stuck on turning a story draft into a final draft, things often get unstuck if I set a timer and noodle to myself about the bottleneck. The timer is important here. Without it, I'd stop the noodling at the first impression of being out of ideas. But since I have to keep going until the timer dings, I end up pushing myself past "out of ideas" and into the territory known as "Where did that come from? What is my brain? Am I complaining? No."
  3. Freewriting is exercise. Exercise builds endurance. Endurance makes things look possible. I've been rereading Dorothea Brande's 1934 classic Becoming a Writer, which is one of the most compassionate books for writers you can lay your eyeballs upon. It aims not to teach writers the nuts and bolts of the craft, but rather those skills that the writer must assimilate before the nuts and bolts will be of any use to her. One of those skills is the capacity to write for extended periods of time without suffering fatigue of the body1 or the mind. She teaches that skill by basically assigning the student a freewriting session every morning, first thing upon waking, and gradually pushing the time spent in this pursuit until "the actual labor of writing no longer seems arduous or dull."
  4. Freewriting brings home the limitlessness of ideas. My freewriting file is called "Daily Ideas" after the crisis I was facing at the time I started it. I was beginning to feel like I had no other stories in me than the handful I was currently avoiding revising, and those were becoming poisoned by the weight of procrastination and dread I'd invested them with by avoiding them so long. So I began my Daily Ideas file in order to argue myself back into believing that I can come up with endless story ideas. I asked myself for no more than one a day, no matter how brief, stupid, petty or incomplete. It could be two sentences. It could be two pages. But it had to be a new (to me) idea. Adding the 25-minute freewriting component came later... and had the unexpected and sometimes daunting effect of turning those two sentences into a viable rough draft. Oh, no: Another story for me to avoid revising. But set that aside for now. The result was feeling once more rich in raw material, supplied with more story ideas than I could possibly work to completion in my lifetime. And that's OK. It's surplus we're going for here, and daily freewriting achieves it.

So that's my defense of daily freewriting, and why I stole a precious half hour of my day to do it when a story rewrite was begging for completion.

Sadly, the current stuckiness of the rewrite doesn't lend itself well to freewriting. It's not that I don't know what needs to go there; it's that I can't seem to make it not sound stupid. So I keep writing and rewriting and tweaking and erasing and rewriting yet again the end of the scene. Maybe next freewriting session will be a series of rewriting that bit over and over and over again without deleting each attempt. Sounds boring, but something might break through. We'll see.


1"The typewriter has made the author's way more rocky than it was in the old days of quill and pen. However convenient the machine may be, there is no doubt about the muscular strain involved in typewriting; let any author tell you of rising stiff and aching from a long session. Moreover, there is the distraction set up by the little clatter of keys, and there is the strain of seeing the shafts continually dancing against the platen." (back)

he ain't heavy, he just wants new reading material
Thu 2014-04-17 23:13:47 (single post)
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

One of the real treats of my visits back home is getting to hang out with my brother. As kids, we were your classic case of sibling rivalry: nothing in common, irritated by each other's very existence, fighting tooth and nail all the time. As adults, we've become friends.

There's a part of me can't quite believe it. Habits die hard, after all, and my childhood relationship with my brother lasted from roughly age 6, the age I was when he was born, to age 18, when I went away to college. I haven't yet firmed up the habit of our adult friendship, since I'm only home two or three times a year for about a week at a time. And I usually see him for about four or five hours during each visit, tops. Most of that occurs during that one evening during each visit that I set aside to linger late with a beer or two and my laptop at the bar where he works. (It doesn't hurt that he catches my tab while I'm there.) So hanging out with him isn't just enjoyable. It's also a reaffirmation that, yes, we hang out. We're friends now.

Now, certain wags--most of them family members or other people who have known us since our tooth-and-nail days--will say that the reason we're friends now is we're no longer living together. Then these wags will laugh a big knowing laugh, winking and nudging, inviting me to admit that if my brother and I were housemates now we'd be at each other's throats within the week. These wags are, to put it bluntly, wrong.

Well. I shouldn't be too quick to state too firmly what would or wouldn't happen. It is given to no one to know what would have happen, as a certain fictitious Lion taught me many years ago. But I can at least state that I know myself better than many of these wags do. A lot better than one might expect. A lot of times, it seems the people who were adults while I was a child didn't actually begin to know me until I grew up. It's not just that adult-me isn't child-me. It's that many adults don't take a child seriously when she says, "This is who I am." They often assume that the child doesn't know shit, being a child and all, so they dismiss the child's claims to self-knowledge. So the adult ends up knowing very well the imaginary version of the child in their head, but often doesn't know the child at all. They express great admiration for the competent adult the child grows into, but they don't see how the seeds of that adult were there all along.

I'm reminded of this every time my mother asks me, "Hey, do you remember that time when you were little and you said...?" And she'll laugh. And I'll remember that time, and I'll bite my tongue and burn inwardly with old indignation, because I do remember that time. I remember exactly what was going on in my head when I said it. I remember how frustrating it was that Mom saw it as entertainment, a cute kid creating a cute anecdote for her to tell, while I was trying to put together a sincere expression of who I was, what I believed, what I needed emotionally. And now Mom's asking me to join with her in finding the memory a cute anecdote, because grown-up me must surely agree with her that child-me was tiresomely precocious but sometimes hella entertaining, right?

Anyway. That my brother and I are friends now has less to do with absence making the heart grow fonder, and more to do with time making grown-ups of us both. We are both more tolerant of other people's differences--heck, if we weren't, my marriage would never work. We're also both more easy to tolerate, having learned better how to make room for others in our worlds. And we've found things in common. We share stories of concerts we've gone to, drinks we've enjoyed, video games we've played, friends we've made and sometimes lost along the way.

And then there's the way siblings sometimes develop a sort of gently conspiratorial relationship as they grow up. They have better perspective now on the family that raised them, and, having gone through that experience as equals, they can compare notes. They start to get into cahoots with each other about it. They help each other understand the past, and they help each other keep an eye on the present as their parents grow older too. At least, so it was with my Mom and her siblings. So it is with me and my brother.

There are ways in which I can talk with Mom and Dad now that I couldn't then, but there are ways my brother and I can talk in which I'll never be able to talk with Mom and Dad. They will never entirely get out of the habit of seeing me as less mature, less wise in the ways of the world, less likely to have insights that are new to them and yet still true. Less likely, should our opinions differ, for them to see my opinions as valid, or me as having a right to them. To some extent, they will always feel responsible for my current outlook on life, and so every place where my worldview differs is a place where they are in conflict: Look how independent she turned out to be! ...and look how I failed to instill my values.

This isn't a conflict my brother's going to have with me. He was never responsible for me.

If anything, I'm the one who's a little guilty, now and again, of perceiving him through a limiting filter. He was five and a half years younger than me. I made a childhood career of dismissing him, underestimating him, feeling superior to him, and avoiding him. Sometimes I slip up and do to him what Mom does to me: "Hey, do you remember when you were, like, four, and you said...? Wasn't that hysterical?"

And so today I'm constantly in awe of the grown-up he turned into. I really shouldn't be. That grown-up was there all along, the same way I was there all along. It's oak trees and acorns, isn't it?

In any case, the things he remembers about child-me constantly surprise me. When the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie came out in 2005, my brother suggested we go together, because he remembered me reading him the books when he was young. When I played him the video of Lindsey Stirling performing the theme from the Legend of Zelda,he said, "I remember that was the first video game you really got into. You were writing down every single room in every single dungeon, every single square, every place where a monster came out--you were obsessed!" I had forgotten all those graph paper charts until then. The deep satisfaction of mapping my way through the first Legend of Zelda game--the first Nintendo game where you could save your progress, that's why the cartridge was gold--came back to me anew.

So anyway, it's Sunday, April the 6th, and I'm hanging out at the bar. We're having one of those long, rambling, segmented conversations that takes place in between and around his customers and friends. And--I forget how we got here--he says, "That reminds me. Why don't I have a copy of the book with your story in it?"

My brother wanted a copy of my first pro sale. Just... sit with that for a moment.

I can't even begin to adequately express how proud that made me feel. I mean, proud like a child bringing home her class project to show her parents. Look, Mom, Dad, look what I did! My brother--my little brother--wanted to look at what I did. Asked to take a look, unprompted.

It was like being the Grinch on Christmas morning. My heart grew three sizes, just like that. And I didn't even know it had room to grow.

Anyway, my brother texted me today to let me know that the copy of Blood and Other Cravings that I mailed him has arrived safely. I told him to be on the lookout for the print copy of Nameless #3 that I ordered for him, too. "Will do," sez he.

Um. Pardon me. I think there's something in my eye.

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