“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live.... I'd type a little faster.”
Isaac Asimov

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the thistle's revenge, and other stories
Mon 2014-06-09 23:28:22 (single post)

As of June 1, my volunteer shift at McCauley's starts at 7:00 AM. There are all sorts of theoretical good things about that. Getting a goodly chunk of outdoor work done before the morning really heats up, that's one of them. Getting more work in before we break for lunch, that's good too.

Getting me out of bed an hour earlier is probably good? Maybe? In the long run?

Only that's not what happened today. What happened today is, my alarm went off at 6:00. I hit snooze, with the intention of getting up when it went off again at 6:15. Next thing I knew, I was looking at the clock and it said 6:30.

So much for doing Morning Pages before my farm shift.

Anyway, I rolled in about fifteen minutes late, which is about on par for me. It turned out to be no big deal (which is about on par for them). The staff still needed to have a meeting to figure out what their plan of action was. So they handed me a pair of snips and turned me loose on five flats of 200 tulsi basil seedlings each: "Just cut off the flowers and put those aside. We'll dry them for tea." When they weren't quite out of their meeting by the time I was done with that, they traded me a forked digging tool for the snips and sent me over to weed the berm, or, more accurately, the flagstone steps going up the berm. (In this case "berm" means "the slope of the hill that encloses the south side of the pond.")

Eventually the meeting broke up and they went over to the east garden for more weeding. Very particular weeding: I was only to pull up the thistle. They had planned on using hula-hoes to weed pretty much everything, but the ground was too wet for that after yesterday's thunderstorm. A hula-hoe is called that because its business end is a rectangular loop of sharp metal ribbon. It's supposed to slice cleanly through the top couple inches of soil, severing all the tiny weeds from their roots without unduly disturbing the crop bed. But when the soil is wet and clumpy, the crop bed will get disturbed. So we pulled thistles today, perfecting the art of loosening the soil enough to let the single thick root slide right out but not so much as to damage the herbs and flowers.

After I'd tossed enough thistles into the furrow to dry down and die, I worked on perfecting my own art of sitting down in the furrow without sitting on prickles.

I've been volunteering with one particular farmer, Rich, for years now. I started working for him at Abbondanza when their home farm was on Oxford Road. Then, when they had to leave that land, I followed Rich to McCauley's, where he had moved some of his operations. The upshot of this is, there's a lot of basic farm procedure that I know pretty well now. I no longer worry, the way I used to worry, that my very presence there added to everyone's workload--that the hassle of training me on every task outweighed the help of me doing the task. A lot of tasks, I don't need training on anymore. Where I do need training, the training can be brief, given in terms of the concepts I'm already in good command of.

This means that if I arrive in the middle of a staff meeting, they can put me right to work--often on a somewhat overdue side project that it's hard to make time for, day to day--with a minimum of pause for instructions. Hence the tobacco thinning a couple weeks ago, or the harvesting of tulsi basil flowers this morning. And after lunch it was easy for me to jump right back into the thistle-pulling without waiting for others to come along and tell me where to do it. I wasn't entirely sure, but I figured I couldn't go too wrong if I just looked for thistles to pull.

I'm kind of proud and pleased about that, having learned over the years to be useful without fuss. And I'm kind of touched and honored that they trust me with it. I realized today that, because they trust me, I've come to trust myself, too. I don't worry anymore that I'll run the whole crop with some newbie mistake while I'm thinning or transplanting or weeding.

These are good folks to volunteer for. They're patient, laid-back, and calm. I know that they must be under considerable stress, given the constrictions of time and money and materials and weather, but they've never handed that stress on to me. And their easy trust helped relax me out of my high maintenance, insecure beginnings, making it possible for me to acquire confidence along with experience.

So that's just something I've started to realize recently, and I wanted to voice my appreciation.

random observations on a random friday
Fri 2014-06-06 23:31:10 (single post)

Observation #1: I rely a little too heavily on external pressures for maintaining day-to-day habits. Those external pressures work great--until they aren't there. When my husband gets up to take his 8:30 a.m. meeting-over-the-phone, I get up and do my morning pages. If my husband is not feeling well and takes a day off from work, when he turns off the alarm and goes back to sleep, so, apparently, do I.

Observation #1, addendum (a): I can do my morning pages in as little as 20 minutes, if hastily made lunch plans with a friend require it.

Observation #2: It is quite possible to achieve a 5-hour writing day and still not manage to touch the short story that so painfully requires work if one gets super-perfectionist with one's content writing. "But I need to put together a slideshow! Examiner is offering a slideshow incentive! And it can't just be screenshots from the game--that's boring--I need to mark it up with borders and circles and areas of artificial brightness and side-by-side compare/contrasts, and, oooh, an imaginative collage illustrating that humorous bit at the end!"

Observation #2, addendum (a): If the homebrew RSS is bootched, the Examiner articles stop re-broadcasting to Facebook and Twitter, which rather makes the "incentive for slideshows that receive X-amount of social media visits" moot.

Observation #2, addendum (b): It's kind of cheating to count time spent troubleshooting the bootched RSS toward the day's writing hours, isn't it?

Observation #3: Playing Puzzle Pirates while reading shows for AINC can be done! But how efficient it is depends on what kind of activities the pirate indulges in. If it's a long solo pillage from Marlowe to Nunataq, and the reading is in Spanish, well, 30 minutes of reading can take something like two hours.

Observation #3, addendum (a): It's past 11:00 PM? When did that happen? Crap-buckets! And I have to be up early tomorrow--

inchworms get where they're going eventually
Thu 2014-06-05 23:03:06 (single post)
  • 4,325 words (if poetry, lines) long

One of the earliest pieces of advice a new writer often gets is, "Finish it first. Then edit." There's a good reason for that. It's a corrective for the writer who can't seem to finish anything. If you keep revising Chapter 1 and never get to Chapter 3, or if you've never actually reached THE END on anything longer than a 500-word flash story, then that advice is probably what you need to hear. Alternately: "Don't worry about getting it right, just get it written."

I have benefited from that advice. When I was just starting out with short stories, and then later when I was getting over my twenty-year delusion that "I just don't have novel-length ideas," it was exactly the right advice for me.

Today it was absolutely worthless.

Well. Not exactly. But today I finally admitted it wasn't the right strategy for where I'm at in "Caroline's Wake." I've been trying to use that strategy to get to the end of the current draft, but it's only getting me to the next potential answer to the question "Why is it crappy and can I make it stop?" This is not a bad place to get to! But I can't keep going forward from there. Instead, I have to stop and apply the newly discovered answer to the place where it goes. Then I have to micro-revise everything forward from the place where it went to the place where I left off. And then I can go forward, at least until I stumble upon the next anti-crappiness antidote I need to apply to some other bit I thought I was done with.

That probably didn't make sense. Trying again.

Here is how I would much rather create the current draft: "Thing [A] happens, which leads to thing [B], then embarrassingly terrible dialog [C] that no one will ever read if I can help it, and then other thing [D] happening, also more awful words spoken by two-dimensional characters [X] and [Y], and then the big thing happens." If I could do it that way, why then I would reach THE END. Also drafting and revision would be easily separable tasks, discrete items on a checklist I can check off. I like checking items off checklists.

But here instead is what's happening: "Thing [A] happens, which leads to thing [B], then embarrassingly terrible dia-- Hey! This dialog wouldn't be nearly as embarrassingly terrible if it could take into account that thing [A] happened in a slightly different way from how I've got it. Awesome! OK. So. Thing [A] happens in a slightly different way, which leads to thing [B] happening in a somewhat improved way, and the there's some less embarrassingly terrible dialog [C] that might someday be worth putting in front of an audience, and then other thing [D] happens but wait a moment, if I can also incorporate improvement [xyz] into thing [B]..."

That probably didn't make sense either, but I'm going to leave it there. In any case, I know what I mean. And what I mean is, it's a slow damn way to work--too bad right now it seems to be the only way to work.

Two inches forward, one inch back.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

On the plus side, what with all that lathering and rinsing, I can at least look forward to a clean draft. Get it? Ha-ha? Ha.

maybe it's trying to tell me something
Wed 2014-06-04 23:41:28 (single post)
  • 4,064 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have no critters to report on today. Oh, well, there was a bee in the house--clearly, the bees are still getting in; they have not been replaced with bats in the style of traditional cumulative narratives, e.g. "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Alas, for bats are way cooler to encounter up close, and, rabies notwithstanding, far less scary. They don't have stingers. Barbed stingers that keep actively pumping venom into you after being detached from the dying bee. And randomly finding dead bees around the house? Not much better! I suffer from a low-grade constant background-noise-level fear that I will step barefoot on a bee that got into the house and died. I seriously got stung that way once. This was back when we lived in Oregon, more than a decade ago. The memory remains fresh.

That said, it's probably the bat (and attendant rabies concerns) that will get our homeowners' association management to take seriously my complaints that the roof isn't critter-tight. Bats are a Big Deal, while bees are seen as just a fact of life--despite the fact that more people die or require emergency care from bee stings in a year (thanks to allergies which John and I fortunately do not have) than have been known to contract rabies in the past twenty.

I have this to report: The story persists in not being easy. Remember how I said I was just going to have to slap some awful dialog on the page and see where it takes me? It is horrible dialog. It's cringingly bad. It makes me not want to look at it ever again. It makes me question myself: if I'm having such a hard time having a character believably say certain things and want to do other certain things, is it possible that maybe the plot I've come up with is just stupid? Generally I get good results when I trust my dreams and turn them into stories, but maybe I'm being too faithful in this case?

There's nothing for it but to keep splatting words on the page. As an act of faith, if need be. And to resist the temptation to go haring off after the latest story idea that showed up, accompanied by electricity! and excitement! and NRE!, in my daily freewriting exercises.

I always knew it was hard, this writing gig. But why does it have to be painful?


bats in the belfry
Tue 2014-06-03 22:16:16 (single post)

I slept poorly last night, and I'm going to blame it on the bat.

Not, mind you, on the mug of strong tea I had at 9:30 because "It's too early for me to be this sleepy." Not on a session of Puzzle Pirates that went until 1:30 AM because I couldn't resist just one more battle on my way back to port from the site of the looted shipwreck. Neither of these would have been a problem once I finally turned off the lights, lay down, and actually tried to sleep. (Trying to sleep is a thing. It involves actively directing my mind in useful, sleep-promoting places, rather than lying there resentful about the way it races here and there.)

But when a bat gets into your bedroom, well, that'll do it every time.

We still have gigantic holes in our ceiling from shortly after September's storm. Bureaucratic movements towards interior repairs have been detected, but it wouldn't do to get too excited yet. Meantime, it's becoming clear that the roof is not as critter-tight as one might hope. Several days in a row the other week, we were getting bees in the house, despite the windows being closed. They'd show up on the living room window, either crawling around on the inside of the screens or lying dead in the panel track. Our suspicion was, they were getting into the roof and then exiting the roof space via the hole in our living room ceiling. This was no great feat of deduction. It was like seeing rain and suspecting it came from the sky.

That the bat came in from the roof was even more obvious. We could hear it vocalizing from the bedroom ceiling.

Have you ever heard a bat vocalize at close range? It's not a sound you're likely to forget in a hurry. One afternoon a few years ago, we came across a bat clinging to the rim of a step in the apartment stairwell. It obviously wasn't feeling at its most chipper, given that it just hung there stoically as we carefully stepped over it to get to our door. I donned some gloves and gently coaxed that poor, tired, confused thing into our largest plastic leftovers container--the big rectangular one I use for soup--and then I coaxed it back out onto a support strut in the open air parking structure, where it could safely rest until it decided to fly away. It wasn't until it was safely installed in its new location that it took a close look at me (I was taking a very close look at it) and decided it didn't like what it saw. It uttered a series of high-pitched, loud, piercing shrieks that caused me to recoil like a snake just struck at me.

That was when I realized that what I took for "these weird birds that chirp in the middle of the night during the summer" were in fact not birds at all. I've been told that this vocalization is social in nature, rather than having anything to do with their echolocation hat-trick.

Anyway, that sound started going off at 2:30 AM and I sat straight up in bed. "Sounds like a bat in distress," I said, and went to the window. From that vantage point it was clear that the sound was coming from above me, not from outside. "It's a bat in our ceiling." And lo, the elbow bend of a bat's wing briefly jutted into view.

We tried to coax it out--naively, I thought I could get it into that soup container again and take it outside--but it was having none of it. It scrambled back into the tight space between insulation and ceiling until we had no hope of seeing it, much less reaching it.

There didn't seem to be anything we could do. We tried to go back to bed. But that bat kept making noise. It chirped a little more, and then it just--scrabbled. Now, knowing that the scrabbling noise coming from the ceiling is a bat moving around is kind of comforting. It's a lot better than wondering if it's a cockroach, for instance. (Not really a Colorado problem. More of a Louisiana problem.) But it is impossible to get to sleep if part of your brain is constantly listening for it.

But I almost managed it. Right up until the bat was flying circles around our bedroom.

Bats are really, really quiet. It's the most uncanny thing. When a songbird gets into the house, it makes a hell of a lot of noise, not only with its voice but with the very motion of its wings on the air. Feathers are noisy. Furry leather, not so much. It was so contrary to my expectations as to give me the weird impression that I was watching something flying in the far distance, despite knowing it was in the same room with me. Which of course made it all the more startling when the bat's desperate attempts to find a way out brought it suddenly close to my face.

There was no question of trying to get it into a plastic container. This wasn't a tired daylight bat. This was a healthy nighttime bat. It wasn't going to stop for anything. So I opened all the window screens, knelt on the living room floor, and waited. It was kind of awesome in a close encounters kind of way--I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face!--but it was also kind of sad in a trapped bird kind of way. Unlike a bird, it knew exactly where the windows were. But, like a bird, it didn't seem to realize that Here Be Out. It swooped right up to the open windows again and again only to swoop away once more. Every once in a while it alighted on a piece of wall or ceiling to rest for a second. Then it was off again, flying in clueless circles.

Finally it disappeared, not through a window but up into the hole in the living room ceiling. It found the space where the insulation had been removed from the roof awning that jutted out some four feet beyond the window, and it vanished back there completely. I heard a little more scrabbling, and then nothing. It was probably 3:30 AM by then.

I have no idea whether it escaped out whatever hole the bees have been getting into, or if it's still up there. I suppose I'll find out if it starts flying around the house again tonight.

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll sleep right through it. Like I said, bats are super quiet when they're not shrieking at the top of their lungs. And I am going to be super tired, guaranteed.

no kittens were harmed in the fabrication of this story
Mon 2014-06-02 22:18:16 (single post)

"So I didn't go work at the farm today," I told my friend. "I'm going easy on my right ankle. Rolled the dang thing during practice yesterday."

"Oh, that sucks."

We were at First Monday Spin-in at Shuttles Spindles and Skeins, which is one of Boulder's two main yarn and fiber shops. I had formed great intentions this weekend to actually get some spinning done. But what with the ankle quasi-injury, I didn't want to pedal a spinning wheel. So I brought my current sock project to knit on.

I removed the ice so my friend could see how puffy and swollen it was. She agreed that, yes, it was definitely visible, especially when compared to my uninjured left ankle.

"Yeah, and what sucks worse? It was not the result of epic roller derby violence. It did not even involve skates. It was just... me, getting tired and klutzy toward the end of a set of sideways tire-jumps. As part of our off-skates fitness/endurance work-out. I just landed, and the ankle rolled over, and so did I."

"Well," my friend mused, "no one has to know. You could tell them you were saving a drowning puppy or a burning kitten."

"Right. I twisted my ankle jumping through tractor tires to save a burning kitten. Which our coach set on fire. To motivate us. Because that's how bad-ass roller derby really is."

...not that anyone would buy it. I mean, there is no chance that WFTDA insurance would cover that kind of exercise. Also, I'm pretty sure our coach's membership in the anti-kitten-burning coalition is up-to-date. Still, it sounds a lot more exciting and heroic than "I landed funny and fell down because I get clumsy when I'm tired," doesn't it? Watch. I'll demonstrate:

"What happened to you?"


*awed silence*

There you go.

the nerdiest nerd that ever nerded
Fri 2014-05-30 23:16:36 (single post)

Is me. This is why: I'm at the Lindsey Stirling concert. She come back on stage after the exceedingly cute montage of baby Lindsey video. She begins the next song. It turns out to be her Legend of Zelda medley. And I totally tear up. Not even kidding. My throat closes, my eyes prickle, and by the end of the song tears are running freely down my face and I'm burying my face in my husband's shoulder to make them stop. I'm not just a nerd, but a soppy nerd.

Also? Stirling was a whole one year old when the original NES game (in its fancy gold cartridge! and its genius new "save game" feature!) was released in the United States. How is it fair that someone who was only just getting born by the time I was ten years old gets to pull my nostalgia strings that hard? (Yes, I am being irrational. Please feel free to envision me shaking my fist at the damn kids who won't get off my lawn. I do not have a lawn, but I will rent one just so I can enact this drama.)


I was initially surprised to hear she'd be playing the 1st Bank Center. It's kinda big. I still think of her as primarily YouTube famous. I admit this puts me squarely behind the times; nevertheless, last time I saw her perform--last year--it was at the Ogden. Tiny place on Colfax. Something like that. So I thought, "Oh, good for her. She must be getting more popular."

O, hi there, understatement. I hear the 1st Bank Center actually had to rearrange the set-up when they saw how rapidly tickets were selling. They originally had the stage closer to the center of the oval, and had to push it back to open up more floor and seating, or so I'm told. And it still sold out. So I hear.

Unless I am forgetting something, this was my first time going to that venue for something other than roller derby. It's where I saw the WFTDA National Championship that got me hooked on the sport in 2011. In 2013, the Denver Roller Dolls hosted the Colorado Cup there (and my league's A-team stormed through undefeated to take home the trophy). But I'm not sure I've been there for an actual concert before.

Which means that Lindsey Stirling and I sort of have something in common. This was her first time playing there. Not only that, but--this is what she told us, several times during the show--her first time playing an arena-style venue ever. For the most part, it wasn't apparent. The lights and effects felt, I dunno, sufficiently bombastic to fill an arena. Although I did wonder about the strobes at the top of the stage; they were almost painful for where we were sitting, straight back and just right of dead center. It occurred to me they might have been angled for a much smaller venue, one where they'd be aimed safely over the heads of everyone in the house. Other than that, and possibly the lack of live-capture video screens, I would not have guessed. And who needs live-capture video? Most of the time she was silhouetted against the multiple screens she did have, which were showing bright abstract patterns and spacescapes and ice caves. I had no trouble watching her killer dance moves, despite the stage taking up about the same amount of space in my subjective view field as would my laptop screen.

So now I feel like I not only saw a wonderful concert, but I also got to be a small part of history. I was there for a landmark in the ongoing adventures of a musician I admire. Neat!

Now everyone go out and buy yourselves a copy of Shatter Me, OK? Also, this is unbelievably cool and you should watch it. Lindsey Stirling and an a capella ensemble doing pop music coverage. With backup cello. I know, right? You're welcome!

It's kind of ridiculous how happy this sign makes me.
moving to the south side
Thu 2014-05-29 14:38:30 (single post)

As I have mentioned, I am a vehement introvert with a distressing inability to tune irritations out. Thus the photo included here is probably the happiest thing I have seen all day.

Which is actually saying quite a lot. Today, John and I are spending our work day at Impact Hub: Boulder, and we've seen a lot to be happy about. We'd been meaning to drop in for some time now, as part of our long-term quest to try all the different co-working environments in the Boulder area. Today turned out to be that day.

Things I am enjoying about the space include: Unlimited free access to tea, coffee and espresso. Loose-leaf tea infusers. A faucet dispensing near-boiling water. Plenty of electrical outlets within reach of any desk, table, or countertop. No standing on chairs required. Lots of natural light despite being below ground level. A handful of "phone booths" where one can take phone calls or Skype sessions. (John's in there attending a tele-meeting for work as I write this.) And just about everything on the South Side, including the fact that it exists. The sign in the included photo says,

This space is for individuals who want to work in a quiet environment.

We encourage conversations and collaborative work to be held on our North Side to respect those who are working quietly in this space.

Much as I love the community at Fuse, I am always conscious there of the absence of any space designated "quiet," any etiquette resembling "respect those who are working quietly." There is a sense that, by virtue of my choosing to work there, I am signaling my willingness to be saturated in community interactions all day long. Part of it is pragmatic: there is currently too little open working space at the Riverside to be divided into a collaboration zone and a quiet zone. But part of it is simply the clear preference of the community for a working space that's always in Mode: Social OK, Go Go Go!

It's not that there are signs at Fuse saying "Now entering EXTROVERT ZONE! You have been warned!" The problem is, there's no particular etiquette governing the shared working space at all. There is no deliberate attempt to set the tone. Thus the tone winds up being set by the loudest voices. The people who are the most accommodating find themselves obliged to accommodate those who fail to accommodate others. And if one person asks another person to modify their behavior in any way, the asker may well be seen as having violated the community standard for not holding each other to community standards... which standard is clearly expressed by the deliberate lack of explicit community standards.

That's what's so refreshing about Impact Hub (and Boulder Digital Arts, come to think of it). There is a social expectation concerning noise versus quiet, and where each goes, and that expectation is spelled out in no uncertain terms. A community member asking another for quiet--"Oh, hey, maybe we should take this conversation around to the North Side"--isn't being some thin-skinned special snowflake trying to impose their expectations on others; they're just reminding each other of the rules of engagement that we've all agreed to.

Well, that's the theory, anyway.

I know that my yardstick for evaluating a co-working space is somewhat skewed from that of others. I'm not primarily here for networking, collaboration, or community events. I'm here mainly so I can spend my work day in an office environment that's quiet but not entirely isolated. I came to drink tea and to write. And while it's nice to be able to raise my head, look around, and connect with others, I want to do that on my own terms. I want to decide when to engage and, more criticically, when to disengage. It's a relief to find a co-working environment that appears likely to enable that.

I'll probably purchase a "Connect" membership for June. That's $25/month in order to get half-off the per-day drop-in rate. Meanwhile, we'll keep dropping in at Fuse now and again as well, mostly on those days when we can afford to be pleasantly distracted from our work. Figuring out which days those are requires my becoming more consciously aware of where I am on my personal "Extrovert-Introvert-Total Misanthrope" scale on a day-to-day basis. Which seems like something I generally need to do anyway, so, OK.

the universality of tape
Wed 2014-05-28 23:02:54 (single post)

Tape! The adhesive kind, not the analog recording medium. It was all over my weekend. That is, if "weekend" means "Saturday through Tuesday," which it does because I say so. I had an unusual amount of significant correspondence with adhesive tape this weekend.

Yes, these are the things I think about when I think, "What shall I blog about tonight?" What shall I blog about tonight? Oh, I know--how about that moment last night when I was all, "Hey, this is funny, I'm doing the same thing now I was doing Saturday and Sunday, only on a much smaller scale. Tape has, briefly, taken over my life."

Look, it goes with having the writer-brain. Writer-brain is constantly going, "Ooh, lookit! Lookit this, too! Lookit that!" Only it doesn't just notice stuff that legitimately has a story in it. It notices everything. Which is not entirely a problem, understand; it's much less of a problem than being in the habit of rejecting potential ideas and then wondering why you can't think of anything to write about. But sometimes there really isn't a story there. You just have to say, "That's nice, writer-brain. Yes, that is a very interesting connection. What a good job you did noticing it." Then you pat it on the head, *pat pat pat,* and you hand it a cookie, and you hope the next time it goes "Ooh, lookit!" it'll be something you can actually write about.

Anyway, Saturday we hosted a roller derby bout. And our home bout venue, the Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, is not a roller derby venue until we make it one. It doesn't have a track marked out. It doesn't even have a safe skating surface. So every time we host a bout, we bring our skating surface with us (it's these blue tiles that fit together like a sort of ornery Lego). Then we clean it, and then we mark the track on it. This involves "At least 385' of rope, rope light or boundary-making material" and enough tape to stick it to the floor in two concentric ovals, more or less. (More is here. Less, you already got.) The best tape is wide, brightly colored, stretchy, and resists getting shredded when you skate over it. It smells like spray paint when you tug it off the roll. And it needs to come up off the floor easily, hopefully all in one piece rather than splintering, because you're going to have to rip it all up when the bout is over so you can reassemble it in your practice location the next day.

So that's what I did for about two hours each of Saturday and Sunday, as part of a hefty team of fellow skaters and officials from our league. It's a lot of work, but it goes quickly with many hands on the job. And the reward is, you get to skate on it when you're done.

Now, Tuesday night involved painting. We came back to finish the job we started last week in the Nexus, by painting the crown molding gold. And that involved more tape. Blue masking tape, to be precise. It was not as difficult as last week's masking job with its fiddly tight spaces (we already did the door jambs years ago, thank goodness), but it still had its challenges. For the bottom edge of the molding, we used a special roll of whose actual blue tape was fairly narrow but that had about three feet of plastic film attached. That stuff is fantastic for peace of mind while you're painting, but I find it a little nerve-wracking to place because I have to do the whole job with one unbroken piece. I get worried that I'll drop the roll, or that the tape will drift off the desired line and I won't be able to correct it without, I dunno, wrinkling it or something. We did the top edge with a wider blue tape that was just blue tape, so I could use my preferred method of ripping off pieces four to six inches long and placing them in a long overlap. So that was OK, but where I was placing them was on popcorn ceiling. Awkward.

Annnnd just to make it a trifecta, yesterday I had to rip open an envelope I'd already sealed to flip over the "return bottom portion with your payment" so that the address would actually show through the window. Roller derby tape, blue masking tape, and now scotch tape. Whee.

Anyway, it was while I was placing the blue tape with film attached that writer-brain sat up and went, "Hey! So, this is kind of like what you did Saturday and Sunday! Only smaller. Isn't that neat?"

Yes, writer-brain. That's very neat. Have a cookie.

"No, but, there's totally a story in that. The main character, they're sort of like a janitor, see? Only instead of a janitor's huge ring of keys, they have every kind of adhesive tape imaginable hanging off their tool belt and stored in the closet. And sometimes they have to use the tape in weird and unorthodox ways. To save the day, see?"

That's... very imaginative. Why don't you go outside and play?

(Although I just might throw tomorrow's freewriting session at it and see what happens.)

it is kind of the opposite of easy
Tue 2014-05-27 22:42:35 (single post)
  • 3,071 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm finally beginning to peck away at the third scene of "Caroline's Wake." It is an entirely different order of difficult than the previous scene was. I believe that in a previous blog post I might have optimistically suggested that it would be easy? Ha! Ha-ha-ha. Ha-ha-ha-HA. It is not easy. It is not even within shouting distance of easy.

The problem is pacing and revelation. Also character development that feels natural but happens over a frightingly short space of text. This is the scene where We Find Out Important Things. The problem is, these Important Things are not things that the character revealing them is likely to reveal ever. So I have to make it believable that he'd blurt this shit out and expect the POV character to find it acceptable.

I do not consider "Well, he's really, really drunk" to be sufficient reason for him to spill the beans. They are very important beans. They are beans of devastation. They are the sort of beans you don't ever, ever cook for company.

On the other hand, one only has to page back through some Captain Awkward posts (with particular attention to this one) to realize that, out in the wide and very real world, there are men who will say absolutely ridiculous things, things that are multiple levels of wrong and bad and ew, and somehow expect these things to evoke appreciation and attraction or at the very least acceptance from the women they're trying to seduce. I can't count the number of times a man (or a woman!) has told me an appallingly sexist joke, and has then been flabbergasted and offended that, far from finding the joke funny, I experienced it as a rhetorically vicious attack upon my own self and person. Or men who unconsciously assume that the women they're trying to seduce have no wants or needs that fail to intersect conveniently with their (the men's) own desires. So I guess "He's really drunk, and he's also That Guy" can be enough of a reason, if executed correctly.

Except, if I didn't know better, there's plenty Captain Awkward examples I wouldn't find believable either.


So this will be the week I pick at it here, and pick at it there, and freewrite on it, and make lists about it, and experiment with pacing, and just up and splat some truly awful dialog onto the page. And then chip away at the "marble" thus created until what's left is a believable and emotionally satisfying scene that climaxes the story.

Hello, this week. You are daunting. Nevertheless, you and I must come to terms. So let's get on with it.