“When I write stories I am like someone who is in her own country, walking along streets that she has known since she was a child, between walls and trees that are hers.”
Natalie Goldberg

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

a case of the unexpecteds, but it will NOT triumph
Tue 2014-09-02 17:48:46 (single post)
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

This week I'm back to work on "A Wish for Captain Hook." I finished scribbling my way through the previous draft's print-out today. Once I stopped feeling deathly embarrassed over the constant unironic use of an ethnic slur throughout the draft--or, at least, once I managed to put the deathly embarrassment on a mental shelf so I wasn't constantly stubbing my mental toes on it on my way to and from other mental tasks--I figured out what overarching single thing was really wrong with it.

Shaping. It's got none. It's got architectural plot-wise structure, but its emotional shaping is uneven in places and simply off in others. Characters' reactions to each others' actions aren't what they need to be. As a result, tension isn't smoothly built toward a climax, but rather lumped here and bled out there. I'm going to need to do some big-picture thinking and eagle-eye viewing in order to figure out how to fix it. I foresee timeline sketches pinned to my office wall with multicolored Sharpie scribbles.

(Speaking of deathly embarrassment: I had the little boy Jimbo pretending to be a Neverland Indian brave on the war path, woo-woo-wooing his way up and down Houma Boulevard. Oh the irony. All die. On the bright side, I'm now thinking more concretely in terms of the regional and cultural contexts for this story, such as the United Houma Nation and also the long-standing New Orleans tradition of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes. Admittedly, what I know about either, you could fit in a brand new matchbox after lighting a toddler's birthday candles, so this isn't going to be easy.)

I drew up a very specific hour-by-hour schedule for everything today, as per my newest resolution for Getting Stuff Done. It called for two hours of work on "Hook," from 1:30 to 3:30. It also called for more work on my Friday Fictionettes project, mostly to do with setting up my Wattpad profile, during a planned lunchtime outing that was to start at 11:00 AM. (Just because I launched it yesterday doesn't mean there isn't work yet to be done.)

And then... stuff happened.

I ended up being obliged to be At Home to surprise work crews: One to disinter our utility outlets from the new wall where they had been mostly drywalled over, and one to reassemble (or, as it turned out, replace) our floorboard heater cover. Then I realized I'd neglected to make time for paying the bills and doing the household accounts, which absolutely had to be done today. Yet more time had to be made for filling out and signing the e-document format Seller's Disclosure Form. The contractor who might help us replace, update, and/or fix our unit's persistent door problems had to be called. Messages needed to be left on answering machines. And so forth.

This is why I'd resisted hour-by-hour schedules in the first place. Stuff happens.

The solution I'm trying out today is this: Deal with the unexpecteds as they arise. When they are done, pick up with the schedule at whatever hour it is and whatever task I should be doing at that hour. Whatever tasks got erased by that case of the unexpecteds, get back to them during a previously unscheduled hour or whenever all scheduled tasks are done. The theory is that this will help me avoid feeling like the unexpecteds Ruined My Whole Day. Sure, it ate up my morning chunk of schedule, but there's no reason I can't faithfully complete my afternoon tasks. Empowerment!

So, yeah. The unexpecteds did eat up my morning, gnawing thence into my afternoon. Out of the 2 hours I'd planned for short story work, I only got about 45 minutes. And I never hit the Friday Fictionette work at all. But seeing as how the rest of my tasks today got done more or less precisely in their allotted timeslots, I'll have plenty of time to return to those other tasks that got eaten up.

Plenty time! Just as soon as we deal with that e-document. Bleargh.

Live on Patreon, it's Friday Fictionettes! Also: A new monster of derby.
Mon 2014-09-01 23:55:51 (single post)
  • 1,242 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's September 1, and I've launched my Patreon page. Go ahead, click it, see what you think. Basically, it's a short-short story subscription service, except they're not so much fully formed short stories but rather highly polished excerpts from my daily freewriting sessions. I'm calling these story-like objects "fictionettes." Pledging a dollar or more per month gets you access to the fictionettes I post every first through fourth Friday in PDF format, and at the end of the month I make one of those fictionettes free for all to read. At higher pledge levels, I will read my fictionettes to you, podcast-style, or even mail them to you in handmade collectible editions (limited supplies available).

The first fictionette, "Breaking and Entering," is up on my creations stream. You can also read it right here on the actually writing blog, or on my brand new WattPad account. I'll have an audio version of it up soon so potential patrons can get an idea of whether they like my reading style before they subscribe. I also intend to create a simple cover image sometime this week.

Both Patreon and Wattpad are new interfaces for me, and they're both boggling me in different ways. I can't seem to convince Wattpad that "Breaking and Entering" is its own piece, complete in and of itself, and not a chapter in a larger piece called "Breaking and Entering." And Patreon's creation-posting, creation-editing, and creation-navigating interfaces have so many issues I could write a whole post about them.

But I will not. Instead, I will hang in there and see if things get easier to deal with as I go forward, or if I'll at least figure out smart ways to cope with and around the seeming inadequacies.

Why am I doing this? Several reasons.

  • The possibility of making more money by writing stories than I'm making by blogging at Examiner has a certain appeal. (Hint: It wouldn't take much.)
  • A new weekly deadline means I'm going to be finishing more story-like objects more often, which can't be a bad thing.
  • I'm teaching myself to relax and let go of this whole "Every piece of writing must be saved and its first rights preserved against the day it will become a real publishable story!" Seriously, at the rate of a new freewriting vignette produced almost every day, there will be more of them taking up space in my Daily Ideas .scrivx than I'll ever develop into commercially viable stories. They aren't exactly precious.
  • I like the sound of the word "prolific." I like the thought of applying it to myself.

Call it the crossroads of self-publishing and self-improvement. We'll see how it goes.

In roller derby news, my Bombshells lost to 10th Mountain, and the score was 201 to 207. It was a mirror image of last season's bout against the Mountaineers, with a heroic come-back in the second half and an epic final jam that included two penalties to the 10th Mountain jammer and an amazing effort by our jammer, Sauce, to put huge amounts of points on the board. (Sauce is my hero, y'all. Not even kidding a little bit.) Every pass was a screamingly exciting fight for both teams' very lives, as the Mountaineers blockers clung to their lead and the Bombshells blockers pulled out every trick they knew to get their jammer through the pack.

In the end, I think, if you can't make it through the season undefeated, I think a single loss by a squeaky 6-point margin isn't so terrible. And doesn't every team need a nemesis?

I'm going to call the afterparty a tie. Both teams represented on the dance floor well into the wee hours, and not as separate monochrome bunches, either. We mixed it up real good.

Er. Also. The Bombshells MVPs that 10th Mountain chose for the night were Skinny DipHer as jammer... and myself as blocker. *flabbergasted* Everyone was all, "That's two games in a row, Fleur!" and I'm all, "I know! I don't get it!" I'm not being coy or cute here, I seriously don't get it. But I'm thankful. I hope I managed to show it. I know I hugged a lot of people in 10th Mountain uniforms.

John declared the distinction well deserved and proceeded to explain to me, in great detail and with much enthusiasm, why he thought so. (Have I mentioned how much I love this man?) He also had a lot to say about bout our bout and the "back to school" themed mix-up that preceded it. He and our friend Stras had carpooled to the bout, and when I got home from the afterparty by about 1:00 AM they were in the middle of watching an archived bout on WFTDA.tv (last year's Division 1 game between Windy City and RMRG). They were analyzing the footage, play by play. They paused their viewing to talk derby with me until something like 2:30, and then after Stras went home John and I kept talking until 3:00. By the time I finally fell asleep, my brain was like a computer running a screensaver, and the screensaver featured an endless procession of jammers and blockers whizzing counterclockwise around a derby track.

I've created a derby monster here. John's always been excited to watch derby with me, but this weekend seems to have launched his enthusiasm through the roof. I repeat: He went home from our bout and immediately queued up more derby to watch on his computer. Then we watched more archived bout footage together today (two of this year's D2 bouts featuring Sin City), during which he pressed pause oodles of times to discuss nuances of plays and penalties. There was rewinding and rewatching in slo-mo. There was pausing to look up official rules. There was massive geeking out over derby, y'all.

John said, "I now know why I could never be an official, as much as I want to get involved. I can't be unbiased. I'm too invested in rooting for the Boulder County Bombers."

I thought about this. "Well, with your strategic observations and your tendency to pick plays apart, maybe you could be an assistant coach."

Gods bless him, he didn't say no. In fact, he's seriously considering it. We broached the idea to other league members at the annual league birthday get-together yesterday, to skaters and coaches alike, and everyone thought he'd be a fantastic addition to the team. Gods know we have a need for more coaches, assistant or otherwise, having recently lost a handful of them to the various changing demands of their lives.

He's said he'll come with me to scrimmage on Thursday, and maybe practice on Wednesday too depending on what's on the agenda. We'll see how it goes.

no place like it
Fri 2014-08-29 23:23:41 (single post)

Talk about misplaced optimism. Productivity-wise, today was a bust. But in the larger scheme of things, today was pretty fantastic--you know why? 'Cause I am sitting at my own desk to type these words. In my own house. With my toes all warm and cozy in the brand-new carpet. With nary a bare wall stud or roof joist in sight.

Home home home home home! Yayyyy.

The cleaning crew were remarkably thorough. First they put all our furniture back where we wanted it, then they cleaned every surface to remove the light coating of plaster dust that had gotten just about everywhere. And when I say "every surface," I mean chairs, bookshelves, tables, kitchen appliances, every single bottle in our liquor collection, every box of tea. (Those of you who have seen my accumulation of tea may proceed to be thoroughly impressed.) They were here until at least 11:00.

Then at 3:30 we had a visit from the real estate agent who's going to help us sell this place and replace it with something more house-like, market and budget permitting. He gave us a list of things to do to get the place ready, which we hope to accomplish over the next three weeks or so. I am trying not to be daunted. Most of it's uncomplicated, if time-consuming: paint the last walls that need painting, clean a lot of tile grout, clean or restain a lot of wood cabinets, get the closet doors replaced, get that stupid pocket door fixed and/or replaced (the fool thing's latch has stuck and it won't open), clean up the balcony, get some stuff back out of storage so the house has some personality (but not too much, or potential buyers will find it less easy to project their own personalities on the space--real estate is weird).

Me, I just want books back in the house. All the books are in storage. Every single one. I WANT MY BOOKS. At least a few of them. Preferably ones I haven't reread for at least six months now.

John and I may have talked the real estate agent into coming to tomorrow's bout. We may have talked his ear off about roller derby for about half an hour or more. I may have queued up the archived stream of our All Stars bouting during Division 2 playoffs on WFTDA.tv, just to give him a visual aid to understanding the sport. I may have. Or I may not have. You can't make me admit to anything.

Anyway, I think I spent most of my free time today just recharging. Living in a hotel starts off like a luxury, like a vacation, but if it goes on too long, it's draining. It's a place that, in the end, isn't my place. Privacy isn't entirely guaranteed. Most of my stuff isn't there. The pillows are all wrong. And not knowing from day to day how long I'd be there, that became exhausting. I don't think I was aware of how exhausting it was until today, when I said goodbye to the cleaning crew and then promptly collapsed into the bed. (Our own bed. With our own sheets and pillows. In our own room.)

So this first day home has been more about resting than working. I guess, in the end, that's OK.

sometimes you just come up flat
Thu 2014-08-28 23:38:50 (single post)

And then there are days that no amount of specificity can help. They start out already so full of things that the schedule consists of an hour here and an hour eked out there, and then they change. Appointments get postponed. Cars get flats.

True. The rear left wheel split its outer sidewall in response to no observable incident whatsoever, and John and I got an opportunity to relearn how to install a spare tire. We were helped by the late '90s legacy of Saturn manufacturers who included numbered and illustrated instructions on the spare wheel access panel. We were not at all helped by the Conoco corner store counter clerk who opined, "Well, if you've got a husband with you, you don't need to change any tires, right?"

I'm reminded of a mid-90s Seattle encounter, wherein some guy, some stranger, encountered me on the sidewalk where I was adjusting the brake pads of my bicycle, and asked me, "Don't you have a man to do that for you?" I seriously don't understand why people say things like this. I guess they think they're being funny. They can't possibly think they're helping in any way.

Anyway, one spare wheel installation and inflation later, I'm spending my next hour at Big O getting the tire replaced, which operation finished just in time for me to rendezvous with my carpool to roller derby practice. Why, yes I've had practice three nights in a row. It's bout week. And if tonight's scrimmage is any indication, it's going to be very physical and hard-fought.

No derby tomorrow--just resting up before the big event. But tomorrow is a big day where the house is concerned--we finally get to move back in. The new carpet went in yesterday, and tomorrow morning is final clean-up, walk-through, and furniture relocation. That's going to eat up my morning some good, but, despite that and the afternoon appointment that's also scheduled, I'm optimistic about getting some writing in. At least, more than I got in today. And I'll get to do it at my own desk, in my own office. Finally.

Until then!

everything's in the details, god, the devil, everything
Wed 2014-08-27 23:50:04 (single post)

Excellent. I now have five drabbles ready to go. Tomorrow's goal is to write two or three more. Specklit allows a maximum of ten to be submitted at a time. I'll be happy just to submit another portfolio of eight.

So I've been meaning to blog about my new genius innovation in Successfully Getting Work Done. It's amazing. It's upped my game by like 150% and I have never felt so productive. Here it is. You ready? Check this out:

Daily scheduling.

I know, right? Seems kind of obvious. But until last week, I'd been actively resisting the idea of scheduling my day with any assertive specificity.

To be fair, I'd thought I was already being specific enough. I'd have the goal of five hours of writing on a work day, and I'd have my spreadsheet for keeping track of those hours divided into categories like "fiction" and "content writing" and so forth. While scribbling my way through my morning pages, I'd often worked out which specific tasks I need to work on in a given day: "For Boulder Writing Examiner, that review of Rogers's Word Work that I've been meaning to do," or, "For short fiction today I need to do a final revision on those two drabbles in progress and come up with their 'About the story' snippets."

But I hadn't been holding myself to doing these tasks at specific times during the day looming before me. I didn't trust myself to do it. I didn't trust my day to let me do it. And I didn't trust myself, if, having planned to begin my work at 10:00, I were to find my day delayed by an hour due to unexpected household administrivia muscling into my morning, not to just give up on the whole day and go back to sleep. One of my glitches is, once I get attached to "the shape of the day" as planned, I'm terribly dependent on the day going as planned. If circumstances beyond my control change those plans, I go into a low-level panic. A glitch, like I said, but I didn't want to set myself up for that kind of stressy neurotic crisis.

So instead I'd just had this vague idea of "These things need to get done, and I have all day to get them done in." Which reduced the pressure. I wasn't relying on starting at 10 quite as much. Which meant that if my working day got pushed back to 11, instead of tossing out the whole day as "Nothing's going to get done on time, there won't be enough time, why bother?" I just sort of shrugged and thought, "One hour late. No big deal. There's lots of hours left in the day."

Except that "one hour late, no big deal" can often stretch to "four hours late, no big deal," and so on, until it hits algebraic impossibility. Which is to say, the point at which I realize that 24:00 minus Y < X, where Y is the time of day and X is the amount of hours remaining in my daily five.

So I gave in and tried hammering out a schedule during my morning pages. It would be a very specific schedule, with each task assigned to a particular hour of the day. I'd plan when my lunch break would be, too. I was determined to give myself a lunch break. And I'd take into account when I'd have to stop to get ready for derby practice, if it was a derby practice day.

As a result, two important things happened in my favor:

  1. The algebra got worked out right up front rather than on the back end when it was too late.
  2. I had my lunch break to look forward to!

The effect of front-loading the time calculations was this: That "predicted shape of day" attachment of mine got proactive. Instead of "OMG things changed on me now nothing's going to go right," my mindset was more like, "If you want things to go as planned, you have to put down that sudoku--yes, even if you're not done with it yet--and get to work now." And so I did.

And the effect of having my lunch break to look forward to was this: I didn't feel crushed by the weight of the day ahead of me. Before, I'd cringe thinking about the long hours, all achingly draggy five of them, of drudgery that wouldn't end until it was time to go to my evening obligations (usually roller derby practice), and the realization that I'd never get any significant length of obligation-free time all day just sat on top of me like a lump of despair. But defining my schedule every morning allowed me to divvy up the work day into two or three chunks separated by playtime and meals (and, yes, roller derby), and that in turn made me excited about every stage of the day, the work as well as the play (as well as the skating).

It's hard to explain, harder still to justify. My brain is like a toddler who wants everything just so and is prepared to scream itself blue if someone tells it "no." But specific hour-by-hour planning of my day ahead enables me to appease that toddler in healthy ways. And as it turns out, simply knowing how long everything will take me and having a starting plan for where to slot each task makes me much more able to absorb the unexpected and juke around obstacles productively.

I can still have off days. Today was one of them. But even my off days are better than they used to be. They're near misses instead of total abject failures. I can still be proud of what I accomplish on a near-miss day. (Look! Two more drabbles ready to go! And a book review!)

It's no big shock that specificity works for me. I am the checklist queen. I am notorious for overthinking things. But it sometimes surprises me how well it works, and how many more aspects of my daily life could stand to be improved by it.

100 words of avoidance, and more
Tue 2014-08-26 23:39:36 (single post)
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

More, because this blog post will not be 100 words. 100 words, because I am committing avoidance by working on drabbles.

I defend myself thusly: Specklit will make their next decision in early September, which means I really should submit my next raft of drabbles by the end of this week if I want my work to be considered for Quarter 3. And I have some good ones waiting. I'd like to have more than just five, however. You can submit up to 10 at a time. So I'm taking this week to prioritize a portfolio of new drabbles. "Hook" can wait, because it is not currently under deadline.

All perfectly logical. But not, alas, perfectly respectable logic. I am terribly aware that I left off with "Hook" at a difficult place. See also. How very convenient that I have found something more pressing to do.

Well. I have three completed drabbles and two more awaiting a bit of revision. This particular manner of avoidance can only last so long.

(Yes, and then you'll notice other deadlines you might apply yourself to. There are always a few.)

Hush, you.

Anyway. If this blog post strikes anyone as slightly florid, I must confess to being a little drunk right now. Or, rather, "tipsy." Being a lightweight used to moderation, I suspect what I consider nonfunctional is what others might call pleasantly buzzed. But it's inarguable that I'm not much good for anything other than sitting in a hot bath post-derby (getting clean could not wait, I don't just smell of B.O., I smell of sick person B.O., and that's just beyond disgusting) while typing badly on a wireless keyboard--wireless because I do have some sense of self-preservation, badly because the first thing to go when I get drunk is my ability to pair high wpms with high accuracy. O hai there, backspace key. You are my new bff. Also, O hai there drunken run-on sentence.

Anyway, I've been back to the house for a futile attempt to reach my spare Dell laptop charger, which apparently I stowed on top of a desktop computer, under several blanktets, at the top of a closet which is simultaneously blocked by all four components of our queen-sized bed leaning against each other against the closet, under a sheet of plastic that has been taped to the wall to prevent these components getting stained by the ongoing plaster-and-paint job in our two-bedroom condo unit (a.k.a. "The House," as "The Observatory" is no longer appropriate--a new roof plus new ceiling components mean, thankfully, you can no longer see the sky from our living room).

No, we do not get to move back into The House tomorrow. There have been Delays. We hope for Friday.

Right. So, the charger wasn't accessible. Thankfully I had one more spare at the hotel. It's disconcerting when small electronics simply crap out on you.

While I was at the house, I also picked up my collection of spare corks. This meant I could at last break into, without having to finish all in a single night, the bottle I just bought of Gravity Brewing's "Tsar Bomber," their imperial stout. On draft, it is remarkably tasty, rich and smooth and chocolaty with very little bitterness. But when they bottled this imperial stout, they aged it in bourbon barrels. For, if I remember the tapmeister's description correctly, two years.

If I remember incorrectly, it doesn't matter because O my Gods this stuff is tasty. "John, you have got to try a sip," I cajoled.

"No, I shouldn't. My throat is sore."

"But, but, just try it."

"I'll smell it, how's that?" He smelled it. "Wow. That smells good."

John doesn't like beer, but he likes distilled spirits. That I suggested he try it might suggest to you one of two things: A. That I'm one of those jerks who's all, "Oh, but you just haven't tried the right beer." Or, B. that this beer is like drinking a very chocolaty bourbon, straight, Please do guess B. You probably know me for disliking cilantro, reggae, and rap, and therefore running into people who think I just haven't heard the right reggae, the right rap, or tasted the right dish full of cilantro. Right? Why would I run that sort of proselytizing campaign against my best friend and husband? I ask you.

Choose B. This beer is like drinking a rich, chocolate-flavored bourbon. The smoothest of chocolate-flavored bourbons. No wonder I got drunk.

Also, combine a stupidly high percent ABV with the circumstance of sitting in hot water. Also, did I mention lightweight? And oh so moderate. I maybe had twelve ounces of the stuff. But food was admittedly about ten hours ago, and the intermittent hours included strenuous roller derby practice, pseudoephedrine HCl 120 mg at the appropriate 12-hour doses, and the dregs of a 24-hour cold. Also my ears are popping. Gah.

If you are quite done with me, I shall wobble myself off to bed now. With maybe just a nip more of the Tsar Bomber. And a big plate of leftover Spice China. Whatever of it is left in the fridge, I don't care, it's food.

joining the ranks of toasted fictioneers: pretty good for a sick day
Mon 2014-08-25 23:21:17 (single post)
  • 443 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today is my podcast debut! A few months ago, Tina Connolly bought my flash piece "Other Theories of Relativity" for her podcast Toasted Cake. This week, the podcast episode featuring that story is live. Because it was very short, she paired it with something else that is very short: "Mon pays c'est l'hiver," by Amal El-Mohtar. The two stories go together very well, I think; the main character of one is reevaluating what it means to be family, and the main character of the other is reevaluating what it means to return home. Tina reads both stories very beautifully. No surprises there; Tina always reads beautifully. I've been listening to episodes of her podcast on my drive to roller derby practice, and I've thoroughly enjoyed both her selection and her narration. (Her reading of Paul Hamilton's "Corkscrew" got under my skin and will stay there for a very long time.)

That was the bright spot in my day. The not-so-bright spot was waking up to confirmation that I had indeed caught the crud my husband brought back from Gen Con. I suppose I wasn't so bad off that I couldn't have been a functional member of the Monday farm crew, but, firstly, it's hard to deal with a runny nose when your hands are full of dirt, and secondly, if I've got a cold, should I really be handling other people's produce? "I'm staying home and keeping my germs to myself," I texted to Steph, the volunteer coordinator. "Much appreciated," she responded. "Feel better soon!"

And so I did. John came home in the afternoon with a new box of 12-hour pseudoephedrine. Shortly after that I felt functional enough to go out into the wild and return with take-out from Spice China. Better living through chemistry! Not everything my husband brings home is bad. (He also brought home all the booze remaining from his traditional Gen Con scotch and whiskey tasting. I just sipped my way through a shot of the Balvenie Single-Malt 14-Year Caribbean Cask.)

"Are you still going to roller derby practice tomorrow? Do you think that's wise?" he asked me.

"I have to. It's bout week."

"Then you should wear a face mask. I'll paint a fleur-de-lis on it for you!"

All right. I'll wear a mask. And I'll bring my hand-sanitizer, and reapply frequently. I need my practice, but I don't need to get my Bombshells sick. As things stand, I'm fortunate to have come down with this cold early enough in the week that it should be done and gone by bout day. I don't need to pass it on to someone else such that they'll be still feeling the effects into the weekend.

Tomorrow, in addition to roller derby practice and the usual Tuesday writing schedule, there will be--if all goes well and no unexpected delays are encountered--the project completion walk-through at our home. And if that happens, we'll get to check out of the hotel Wednesday morning and move back home. Keep your fingers crossed.

an invitation to recall neil gaiman's views on political correctness
Fri 2014-08-22 16:45:01 (single post)
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

For the following post, and, well, pretty much forever, please of your kindness consider the phrase "Political correctness gone mad!" a non-starter with me. Thank you. Now, on with your regularly scheduled actually writing blog.

So today on the TV at the bar during lunch there was the preseason football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Washington team. It was being rerun from Monday. Apparently it drew the second-highest rating ever for an NFL preseason game. So sayeth NBC Sports. What NBC Sports is not sayeth-ing, at least not unless you count the post's tag, is the actual name of the Washington team. They didn't say the name of the Cleveland team, either, so I'm not sure whether it was a conscientious decision, like that of The Washington Post editorial board, or just a coincidence.

Anyway, John looked up and proclaimed it the Potatoskins Game. Which is awesome. Potatoes come with both brown skins and red skins. Also gold. Also purple. Green, too, if they're not ripe, but we don't see those in the supermarket.

"I want there to be a sports team called The Purpleskins," I told John. "Its mascot would be an all-organic fingerling potato. There would also be a sly rebuke therein to all those But-I'm-Not-A-Bigots who declare themselves so colorblind that they couldn't give a damn if you're 'black, white, or purple.'"

You know who doesn't stint at saying the racist slur that is the Washington team's name all the hell over the place? J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.

You know who actually submitted a story to Shimmer with that slur all the hell over the text? Me.

*dies of shame*

The problem is, I've got a story in which a main character is obsessed with both the original text and the Disney movie of Peter Pan. In both forms of that story, you've got racist stereotypes of Native Americans like woah. It doesn't exactly help that the fictitious sometime-allies, sometime-enemies of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys aren't meant at all to represent the people who lived on the North American continent before European invasion; in fact, that maybe makes it worse. It's one thing to reduce real people to stereotypes; it's yet another to erase real people in favor of the stereotypes.

All this is hardly arguable in this day and age, unless you're Washington's NFL team owner Dan Snyder, who will argue it into the ground because listening to people isn't his strong point. But. But but but that said, what the hell am I going to do with a story in which a six-year-old boy plays Let's Pretend in the imaginative playground of Neverland as Barrie wrote it?

How the heck do I remain non-complicit in the ongoing slur-flinging and stereotype-propagating without turning my other main character, the boy's thirteen-and-a-half year-old sister, into a caricature of a social justice spokesperson?

Argh.

No, I'm not asking for answers. I'll come up with something. Probably it'll occasion another iteration of the older sister and younger brother arguing over whether Neverland is real. Maybe it'll involve the older sister telling him, "Hey! What did we say about using the R word, Jimbo?" I'll figure it out.

For now, I'm just griping, and thereby exorcising my mortification that I submitted a story in Year of Our Common Era Two Thousand and godsdamned Seven that used "the R word" absolutely uncritically from page 5 through page 14.

*dies all over again*

Don't worry. I'll get over it. And the story will be better later for my abject embarrassment now. But abject embarrassment is... well, it's embarrassing, that's what it is.

also we research our avoidance processes meticulously
Thu 2014-08-21 22:36:32 (single post)
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Holy cow, hotel business centers are super techy these days. You open up the "printerOn" webpage for your particular hotel--if your hotel does have one--you upload your document, you give it your email address and a fresh 5-digit security code you made up on the fly, and then you saunter down to the business center, enter your security code, and you tell it to print on their fancy laser printer. It was a none-too-fast fancy laser printer, but it got the job done. I now have a printed copy of "A Wish for Captain Hook" for me to deface at my leisure.

Now, our household printer is here in the room with us. I was all set to use it. But because the printer got here less with plans for using it and more for just getting it the hell out of the house and out of the way of the restoration project, it has not sufficient paper with it for the job at hand. Our supply of paper, you see, was already stowed at the top of a closet and out of harm's way.

So that's where half the time I spent on the story went today: Printing the draft. (Like I said, slow printer.) Also getting the draft ready to print in the first plase--for reasons I no longer recall, it was a text document with its italics indicated by underscore characters before and after the text to be italicized.

I spent the other half of the time researching.

No, look, it all started with good intentions. I was scribbling away on the freshly printed draft, honest! But I was scribbling things like, "This was true in 1984, but was it true in 2005?" and "When did different libraries reopen after Katrina?" and "Maybe by then you could get an Orleans Parish library card as a Jefferson Parish resident? Again, 2005 v. 1984" and "Double-check: Nov 24 was Thanksgiving that year?"

Next thing I knew, I was looking up not only the days of the week that the story takes place on (yes, November 24 was indeed a fourth Thursday in 2005, thus Thanksgiving) but also sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and phases of the moon. So now I know for sure that the last scene really can take place on a night with no moon, and when the sun comes up after the characters' long vigil, I will know precisely what time that means.

So, yes, the metaphorical cat has been metaphorically vacuumed within an inch of its remaining fur. This is just one of the many valuable services we writers provide. For an additional charge, we will also metaphorically wax your metaphorical cat. The cat will not appreciate it, metaphorically speaking, but haven't you always wanted your metaphorical cat to really shine?

avoidance activity gets scheduled a month in advance these days
Wed 2014-08-20 23:41:02 (single post)
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

It is ever so much more fun and easy and exciting to work on my Friday Fictionettes material for the September launch of my Patreon page than it is to dig up a story from 2007 and force myself to read it, let alone prepare to make it into something I can be proud of. I have spent so much time experimenting with Scrivener to epub, Scrivener to pdf, compile settings, font settings, cover photos, maybe no cover photos, I don't know. And then there's polishing up the raw material I chose to make a Fictionette out of, because, sorry, you're not seeing it in its raw state. I need to maintain some boundaries here. Anyway, Friday Fictionettes prep is so much less threatening than Serious Short Story revision.

Which is, of course, the danger of the Friday Fictionettes project. It doubles as avoidance activity.

Anyway, finally buckled down and investigated the contents of the directories marked "Pirates", "Pirates.v01", and "Pirates.v02". First surprise: I don't have any versions of this story older than February 28, 2007. I guess I remembered wrong: the story got workshopped before it got submitted to Shimmer on March 1. Which is a relief, because the second surprise is this: the story is rough, y'all. Very, very rough. There are places where whole words and concepts failed to make it onto the page. There are paragraphs that use the word "just" or "really" five times in four sentences. The thirteen-year-old first-person narrator rambles worse in places than the protagonist of Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven. Well. That last may be an exaggeration. My main character, it must be said, never falls over into the land of caps-lock and multiple exclamation points. Still, before the workshop, this story must have been truly painful to read.

The good news is, I'd already edited out the bit that signaled my inability to think of a good ending. I do remember the workshop calling me out on it, I just hadn't remembered that I'd in fact fixed it. And the story is structured according to the basic fairy tale style rule of threes. The Action Block happens once, happens a second time with minor variations, then happens a third time with great differences that lead the story to its climax. So it's not like I don't know where things have to go--I just have to make those things a lot less lumpy.

So there's hope! Now, I'm overdue for my post-derby falling-over-comatose-into-bed ritual. Time I pushed the laptop away before it gets crushed beneath the collapse of my exhausted frame. 'Til tomorrow...

email