“If you want to read the mystic story written in your future, you'd better start to write it now.”
Gaia Consort

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

story production engines firing on all four cylinders
Wed 2014-09-17 23:13:42 (single post)
  • 3,380 words (if poetry, lines) long

I finished the exploratory draft of the new story today. It's still got no title, but that's OK. That'll come during revision. More troubling is that it clocks in at 3,380 words. That's more than double the cut-off called for in the submission guidelines. It's even more than double what the draft was at yesterday, when I figured I was about halfway through.

Such an occasion calls for introspection, or at least evaluation. Which is to say: Can this really be cut down to 1,400 words?

The part of my brain arguing for YES points out that there is, as I observed yesterday, a lot of cruft to be culled. Several things get said over and over again and also redundantly, and many things get said that need not be said at all. For instance: It is less important to remark on Rosalind's Sunday exception to her morning routine of reading the entire newspaper, back to front, than it is to mention that she no longer bothers reading the obituaries. It is less important (for the sake of the story, anyway) to voice Elaine's disapproval of the labels "homeless" or "transient," given her permanent residence under a particular tree in the park, than it is to capture the voice of her tree asking her to be its new dryad.

The theory that YES-brain espouses is this: Now that I've met all the characters in this story and gotten to know their backgrounds, I'm well equipped to trim their surrounding exposition down to those few phrases that best crystallize who they are and what's at stake for them.

NO-brain is more pessimistic, as you might expect. There's too much going on here, says NO-brain. This story needs at least 2,500 words for the reader to have any clue what's going on. Don't sell your characters short!

On the other hand, NO-brain is also bringing some optimism to the table. It points out that as easily as this story idea arose from my freewriting sessions, just as easily might another that's more apt for the submissions call. YES-brain concedes the point, but counters that, this being the case, there's no harm in making the revision attempt here. I've made such good progress while still nearly two weeks to deadline remain, that there will be time to pan for more gold in my Daily Idea .scrivx should this story remain stubbornly above the maximum word count. And then I'll have two brand new stories to shop around!

What strikes me here is how very natural it was to go from "The deadline's imminent and I've absolutely nothing to send!" to "Well, what came out of my timed writing sessions lately?" That didn't used to happen as readily. But now that I've begun the Friday Fictionettes offerings, it's happening every week at the very least. Every Friday, I'm looking at the past week's scribblings and deciding which of them I'll polish up, stick some cover art on, and upload to my creation stream during the corresponding week of the following month. It only makes sense that this mental process would fire up in response to the need for new story material in additional contexts.

This was one of my sneaky self-improvement goals with Friday Fictionettes. The headliner goals were, firstly, to get more of my stuff out where y'all could read it, and more frequently; and, secondly, to potentially earn a little spare change doing so. But behind the scenes I was also hoping to see some improvement in my larger Story Production Process. I wanted to get in some regular practice making that transition from "just a wisp of an idea that I'm noodling on" to "fully fledged and publishable story." I wanted to see that process go more smoothly and happen more often.

With the current story, I'm seeing evidence that this is happening. And I'm delighted.

creating monsters: on the page and on the track
Tue 2014-09-16 23:12:56 (single post)
  • 1,557 words (if poetry, lines) long

The submission guidelines call for a maximum word length of 1400. I wrote 1557 words of rough draft today and I'm only halfway through. Not even halfway through. I'm a little worried, I won't lie. But I know that today's words were, well, wordy. It's exploratory draft that I'm writing, figuring out who my characters are by talking to myself about them. Most of these words will remain off-stage, as it were, in the final draft. So I'm not a lot worried about it. Just a little.

There's a central theme that's surfacing: the idea of deciding what means the most to you, what's worth fighting for even when it's easiest to move on and let go. What metaphorical hill you choose to metaphorically die on, and then following through with that decision. I like it when central themes arise. They give me a goal to steer by. But they also scare me half to death. Like, this story has literary aspirations. Do I really need this kind of pressure?

In other news: The handywork on the doors is done. What remains is all stuff John and I can do ourselves: take them down, stain them, install door pulls. And then of course there's the painting, cleaning, re-staining, and other improvements we needed to do, like, yesterday. Maybe some of it will get done tomorrow. I don't have derby tomorrow evening, so there's a whole bunch of time and energy free to put toward other causes.

I did have derby tonight. A mixed roster of All Stars and Bombshells (our league's A and B teams) went down to Denver to scrimmage against the Denver Roller Dolls' brand new C team, the Standbys. The idea was to help them practice and prepare for their bout this weekend, but they weren't the only ones who got a good workout, let me tell you. I'm so tired, I'm just empty. I used it all up, y'all. That was a damn good scrimmage.

It was also John's debut as a bench coach. Everyone seemed really glad to have him. Our team coach was especially glad because John's stepping up to the task freed her up to just be the team coach (the coach who faces the track and tells the skaters in play what to do) rather than try to be that and a bench coach (the coach who tells the skaters on the bench who's going to go out on the track next) at the same time. Which is a hell of a lot for a single coach to take on. I know this, because just doing the bench coach job had John as mentally exhausted as I was physically.

He described it to a friend thusly: "Yes, it was fun. It's the kind of fun you have when you almost crash into a ten-car pile-up, and you're all, YAY! I didn't crash!"

He was not so exhausted, mind you, that he didn't come home and immediately fire up an archived bout on WFTDA.tv to watch.

My friends, we have created a monster. And I'm so in love with this monster I can't even begin to tell you.

rewriting my relationship with deadlines starts now
Mon 2014-09-15 23:08:39 (single post)
  • 0 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Until about 2 PM today I was under the impression that the deadline on submissions to An Alphabet of Embers, edited by the most excellent Rose Lemberg, was September 15. That is, today. Which misconception gave me two specific thoughts:

First, that it was a darn good thing I'd begun holding myself to a freewriting session every day, and not just every workday. I added it to my HabitRPG dailies and everything. So Saturday, grumbling but dutiful, I did it. For a writing prompt, I recalled a moment earlier in the day when a feather had floated past the window and I'd thought, "What if that was only the first?" Like, what if, just behind that feather, at any moment, there would come a huge cloud of feathers, like ten down pillows' worth, just billowing along from east to west. Why would that be? What would cause a sudden explosion of feathers, and what effect would it have on the neighborhood? So that's what I wrote about for 25 minutes.

As I drifted off to sleep Saturday night, the results of that timed session came back to me and started to sound a lot like a possible story.

Second, I thought that it was also a good thing I'd taken today off from the farm. There was a good chance I'd wake up this morning in Colorado Springs, having spent Sunday afternoon in the Pikes Peak Derby Dames' Cutthroat Derby Tournament, a four-team, three-bout mix-up. Even if we did drive home Sunday night, I anticipated being absolutely wiped and needing to recover. (And yes, indeed, I did.) Which also meant I'd have all today to write this brand-new story and send it along.

But then I checked the call for submissions and saw that the deadline was indeed September 30. And that gave me a couple of thoughts:

First: "Hooray! That means I don't have to work on it today." Monday isn't typically a writing day, see. (Although it is now a freewriting day. Which I did without grumbling.)

Second: "Looks like I'll be postponing 'Hook' until this thing is done, then. Yay! I mean... Darn."

So now I get a chance to work on this whole "relationship with deadlines" thing. Remember that bookmark? The one that says, "It got better from here"? This week I got to make good on that.

a little light comedy with your fictionette
Fri 2014-09-12 23:14:13 (single post)
  • 852 words (if poetry, lines) long

Another Friday, another fictionette. Read it in its entirety or, if you're not quite ready to chuck a buck at it, read an excerpt on Wattpad or right here.

Despite the aforementioned difficulties, I think I'm getting better at this. Which is to say, getting all the fictionette things revised, posted, and settled still took longer than it should have (I seriously need to simplify the system), but it was my content writing gigs and not my freewriting or my short story revision that paid the price for it. Priorities! I might possibly have a few.

And for a story-like object that had me in fits all week, it didn't turn out all that bad.

Favorite place this week to revise stories: Over a huge steaming bowl of pho at the neighborhood restaurant. I'm told there are better pho restaurants in Boulder, but this is the one I can walk to, and I think it's yummy. The artwork on the walls is kind of creepy, though.

Least favorite place this week to revise stories: On the BV bus, heading from Boulder to Denver, and realizing that the person sitting next to me is actively and unabashedly reading my work in progress over my shoulder. That is in blatant contradiction of public transportation etiquette, y'all. Don't do that shit.

Not counting for the purpose of Amtrak departures and arrivals, I hadn't been down to LoDo in ages. The occasion for this trip was having heard that the Sklar Brothers would be performing at Comedy Works in Larimer Square this weekend, and thinking, "Why not?" So I went. And they were pretty darn funny, so I was glad I did. The opening acts weren't too bad, either. Stand-up comedy can be a bit of a minefield for me, as exemplified by Jackie Kashian's pin-pointedly accurate summary of the jokes that male comedians tell about their wives. When I'm listening to the comedy channel on the radio, and I hear a comedian start in on his wife, or how it was censorship when a venue wouldn't let him use his favorite ethnic/gender/ableist slur, or how violence against women can be perfectly justified, amiright guys, that's my cue to change the channel for a while, because they ain't going nowhere good from there.

I'm happy to report that tonight's show didn't go there. It occasionally went to places from which you could see it, and once or twice it brought out a copy of the map and pointed to key landmarks, but it didn't actually go there, you know? So I left reasonably happy.

Before I left, I randomly ran into a derby skater in the crowd. Well, I assumed she was a skater. She could have been a fan. Anyway, she had on a High City Derby Divas hoodie, so I said hello. I introduced myself by skate name and league and I asked her whether she'd be at the Pikes Peak Derby Dames mix-up on Sunday. I may have been a bit too enthusiastic. I didn't actually say "OMG YOU'RE DERBY I'M DERBY TOO IT'S A SMALL DAMN DERBY WORLD ISN'T IT DERBYYYYYY!!!!!" but mmmmaybe I came across that way? The interaction went all unexpectedly awkward. At least I had enough self-restraint to keep it short.

For a few hours before and a few hours after the show, I worked on the aforementioned Friday Fictionette stuff over at Leela's European Cafe. They're on 15th between Champa and Stout, they're open 24 hours, they have wifi and comfy seating and a nice variety of music, and they serve really tasty hot chocolate. Also beer and cocktails. Heck with coworking--I want to spend my working day at Leela's. Well, sometimes, anyway. Their late night crowd is really interesting.

In conclusion: I should go down to Denver more. There's enjoyable stuff down there.

but fridays are supposed to be not quite ready for prime time
Wed 2014-09-10 22:33:03 (single post)

It's only my second week into this project, but I'm already running into difficulties with Friday Fictionettes. They aren't insurmountable, nor are they unforeseen, but they sure are noticeable. And prompt!

The obvious one is the temptation to spend my entire working day on them. And, well, that might be reasonable if I had oodles of patrons pledging me gob-tons of money. For gob-tons of money I would happily treat Friday Fictionettes like my entire day job. As things stand, however, they are merely one of a number of regular writing tasks on my daily agenda.

To keep them in their place, I've been allotting them only one half-hour per day. Friday's the exception. Friday, all bets are off. (Friday I'm in love! Wait.) Since they gotta go up on Friday, they get to take up all the Friday they need to get publishable. But every other day of the week, they get one pom, one 25-minute session on the timer plus another five to wrap things up.

The other difficulty is related to the first. It's why I find it so tempting to spend all day on them. I'm not spending hours and hours fiddling with the craptastic cover art. No, it's the text itself that's giving me trouble. This week especially I am convinced that the piece I chose for Friday's offering simply sucks.

Yes, I know. I'm doing a fantastic job of selling my product here. "If you pledge me a buck per month, you get to read some really sucky writing!" OK, OK, it's not that bad. But I'm not as fond of this one. When I wrote it back in August, spinning off of four random words from one of Gabriela Pereira's CTC29 prompts, it started off vague, ran off in a non-promising direction, then, by the end of the timed writing session, found itself in the opposite direction from which it was going. And in the process of cleaning it up this week I've discovered a third development that wasn't there last month, and that is not compatible with either of the first two story ideas. So I'm spending my daily half hour in serious revisions.

And the whole point is that these fictionettes are supposed to be raw. Not so raw as to be terrible, not Draft Zero raw--they should definitely be presentable--but they're supposed to be a glimpse at the writer's daily process. They're supposed to resemble the practice from which they sprung. That's why, when I select the fictionette for next month's Week 2, I limit my choices to those timed writing sessions produced within this month's Week 2. If I don't like any of them, tough. Friday Fictionettes are about what happened when I showed up on the page.

That this fictionette isn't quite ready for prime time is supposed to be a feature, is what I'm saying.

Still, every morning that I look at it, it keeps failing the test of "Would I be embarrassed if people read this?" So I keep revising it. What's the worst that can happen? I might wind up with something that's actually good. Something I'll regret not submitting to a professional market. But that's OK. That's the other whole point of this exercise: Story ideas aren't so precious that I can't give a few away. Another one will be coming along tomorrow, after all.

At least this one's craptastic cover art is already finished.

a week with a newly published micro mini story can't be all bad
Tue 2014-09-09 22:44:50 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I am pleased to announce that another of my drabbles has now been published at SpeckLit. It went live right on schedule, on Sunday the 7th. Click the happy link and go read it! I promise it won't take up much of your time.

Today's writing productivity has been under attack mostly by home improvement productivity. We really can't put off the remaining painting projects much longer. So today we have upgraded the living room closet wall from crappy cream to brilliant white. We had a narrow escape; we were very nearly fooled into repainting it crappy cream, because that's the color of paint in the half-full can that the restoration technicians left us. I failed to inform them of our Ultimate Plan, so when they had occasion to repaint the north wall of the master bedroom, they very carefully matched the crappy cream color they found therein. Alas. Anyway, that paint can is now in the general pile to be taken to the Hazardous Waste Management Facility where it will probably end up on the Free Stuff Shelf, just in case some other Boulder resident wants to paint a room or two crappy cream.

We have also furthered our scheme to have Doors That Work. Ever since we got fed up years ago with sliding doors that kept jumping off the slider rails and crushing our toes, the bedroom closet has had No Doors At All. With the help of a local and highly recommended handyworker, plus an abundance of trips to Home Depot and McGuckin Hardware, we're replacing them. It is to be hoped that the new doors will not jump off the slider rails and crush my toes, because they are heavy.

We're also after replacing the infuriating pocket door with a 24" bifold, which will involve removal of the door frame molding and creative use of wooden shims. It all sounds very complicated to me, but I am sure I will be perfectly content as long as we end up with a functional folding door where there used to be a door that slid into the wall only to jump its rail and get stuck where no one could reach it to get it unstuck, or that slid closed only to get its latch jammed tight so that no one could open it again.

So the bed is full of hardware, the floor is full of paint tarp, and my day up to now has not at all been full of writing. With any luck we'll manage to balance things out better tomorrow.

In the meantime, it's a week with a newly published micro mini story. The author cannot bring herself to complain.

These are not even close to being the largest of the beets we dug up today. Some of the chioggias were almost basketball-sized.
we got the beets
Mon 2014-09-08 23:57:19 (single post)

It had been three weeks since I'd been to the farm, thanks to being sick two weeks ago and being given the day off last week. And I probably won't make it in next week due to a late Sunday night in Colorado Springs. Circumstances today seemed intent on making up for all of that absence, though, because today was the start of the Big Beet Harvest of '14. Four beds full, with one still in the ground when I left. Three different varieties: Red Ace, Touchstone Gold, and Chioggia with the candy stripes inside. Pulling 'em and clipping off their greens and washing 'em and sorting 'em by size. Baskets and baskets of beeeeeeeets.

Also beets for lunch, and a jar of farm-pickled tarragon beets for everyone to taste, and a bag of beets for me to take home and enjoy.

Personal notes for next time: When clipping the greens off, don't struggle so hard with the snips. That way lies frustration and also very sore hands. Ow. We had vague plans to do some painting around the house today, but working a paintbrush seemed a little daunting after working the beet set. So that's been put off for tomorrow.

And that's all that I've got to report today.

I admit I have little skill at cover art thus far. I hope to improve.
one down, all of THE FUTURE to go
Fri 2014-09-05 23:52:00 (single post)
  • 1,135 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hey look! The first Friday since launching Friday Fictionettes has come, and I have indeed published a Fictionette to my Patreon creation stream. Huzzah! It's called "Those Who Would Dance for the Gods." You can read an excerpt in all three of the places (Patreon, Wattpad, and right here).

Reading it in its entirety is at this time exclusively the privilege of Patrons pledging at the level of $1/month or higher. It will probably remain so for some time, as I want to reserve September's end-of-month freebie slot for the fourth Friday offering. But please do not let that stress you out. If you'd rather put off pledging until you have a better idea of whether I can actually stick to this weekly deadline thing, that is totally cool and understandable. (You read this blog. You know about my relationship with deadlines.) Also, you won't miss a thing. "...Dance for the Gods" will remain in the content stream for as long as there is a content stream. Creations do not, to my knowledge, get archived and hidden away once they get too old or something. The work required to dig them up may increase as more and more fictionettes stack on top of them, but I'm reasonably certain everything will still be down there.

So that's the shameless plug portion of today's blog post. The rest of the blog post will be given over to shameful confessions. Well, not shameful per se, but kind of embarrassing.

To wit: My goodness, it's easy to spend a lot of time tweaking this stuff.

Seriously, I spent more than three and a half hours on revising the Fictionette one last time, coming up with some Author's Notes, creating minimally presentable cover art, compiling the PDF from scrivener and then combining it with the cover art and then doing that all over again about three times to correct mistakes noticed just a titch belatedly, taking all the same material and creating the Wattpad upload, then creating the manuscript record whereby you can read the excerpt here at the blog, figuring out why the Author's Note at Wattpad suddenly wound up locked, going back and fixing one more thing pretty much everywhere, deciding I should probably be pledging support to other people's Patreon campaigns, doing that, and then thinking, "Gee, Ursula Vernon's 'thank you' page sure is snazzy and fun to read. Maybe I should take a few minutes to improve my own." Which I did.

I suppose it's only... cyclical? Yesterday I spent too much time working on a Boulder Writing Examiner post to get any progress on the Friday Fictionette offering. Today I spent too much time on Friday Fictionettes to do my freewriting or short story revision. I guess that means next time I should spend so much time on all things fiction that no content writing gets done. And so the torch is passed!

Except that Friday Fictionettes eating up freewriting time is disturbingly cannibalistic. It's eating its young, y'all. I mean, without freewriting, Friday Fictionettes do not arise.

I guess that's OK so long as freewriting can happen over the weekend, just like it did when I was participating in the Conquer the Craft in 29 Days challenge. Actually, in light of CTC29, I thinking of taking freewriting into a 7-day schedule anyway. That would help keep my writing muscles limber rather than letting them go stiff from three days of non-use. It would also give me more material to choose from when it's time to select the next Friday Fictionette.

Meanwhile, in the name of staying a month ahead of this game, I was supposed to have chosen October's first Friday Fictionette by now. Oh dear.

(Nobody panic. I got this.)

and a bookstore, for yr info, IS an essential business
Thu 2014-09-04 23:52:18 (single post)

Today's fascinating post-Katrina research question of the day: Would the Barnes and Noble in Metairie (at Vets and Causeway) have been open in November 2005?

Answer: It would not.

Citation: "Small Businesses Play Big Role in Post-Katrina New Orleans Recovery," Andrea L. Dono, September 28, 2009.

Among the various business owners who understand their role in reviving New Orleans' neighborhoods are Judith Lafitte and Tom Lowenburg, owners of Octavia Books. They found a way to return to their shop, housed in a century-old former streetcar stable, and open six weeks after the hurricane so they could send a signal of hope to the city and offer a place where people could gather. Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, opened six months later.

The article in turn cites an excerpt from The Mom & Pop Store: How the Unsung Heroes of the American Economy Are Surviving and Thriving, by Robert Spector, that tells the story of the founding of Octavia Books and its post-Katrina re-opening. This quote from the book, here, made me happy in a teary kind of way:

"We put together some makeshift signs around the neighborhood saying that we were now open, and I sent an e-mail to those on my customer list," said Tom. "People from all across the country were reading it. I got responses from people telling me their stories. The idea that a paradise for them would be here when they got back made a huge difference in their outlook. I got more response from that e-mail than from any I ever sent out. It was the warmest, most supportive, heartbreaking, thrilling response you could possibly imagine."

Unfortunately, my characters aren't going to make their way Uptown to visit Octavia Books, at least not during the events of my story. I, on the other hand, hope to pay them a visit before the year is over.

Now. What about today's fascinating scheduling lesson of the day? Well, it's this: If I allot myself only one hour for my content writing gig, but I end up taking more than two hours at it instead, some other scheduled writing task is going to have to pay the price. So much for my plans to get tomorrow's edition of the Friday Fictionettes ready to go today. Which takes a bit of the triumph out of clicking the "Five hours of writing" daily on HabitRPG, let me tell you.

Well. I'm not going to let my deadlines slide this early in game. I'll make sure to get it done first thing tomorrow. While I wait for my car in the shop again, because even after a coolant system inspection and flush, we're still having overheating and low fluid issues again today. Joy.

it's a very nice rabbit hole, its bookshelves are well-stocked
Wed 2014-09-03 23:46:17 (single post)
  • 4,400 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today has been a surprisingly exhausting day for not having actual physical roller derby in it. There was a lot of not knowing the shape of my day because I was waiting for the next phone call to tell me what shape it would be. Just for starters, I brought the car to the shop at eight in the morning, so I was waiting to hear back from the mechanics all day. I had errands to run that I couldn't run until I had the car back. And because of various circumstances, the location and time of roller derby practice was TBD right up until less than an hour before I'd have had to leave for it. (The combination of these factors were a large part of me not going to practice at all, but that's neither here nor there.)

Turns out, I don't function very well when part of my brain is On Call. My brain translates On Call into On Hold. The tendency is to fly a holding pattern, unable to exert real effort while uncertain of what my immediate future holds.

So I'm quite pleased with myself for actually getting some work done on the short story.

Granted, it was mostly down the rabbit hole of research. But I was finally persistent enough to get the answers I needed to the questions I'd scribbled on the first couple pages.

Example 1: My main character laments that there are no suitable books in the house to distract her little brother from Peter Pan, because the roof leaked during the storm right onto their bookshelves. And they couldn't just go to the library because the libraries weren't open yet. True or false?

As it turns out, false. While the Jefferson Parish Library system was deeply crippled, and some branches were entirely destroyed along with all of their books, there was library service in Jefferson Parish as early as October 3. At least, that's what I understand to be the case from what library director Lon R. Dickerson writes in "Building Even Better Libraries, Post-Katrina" (American Libraries, Nov. 2005, Vol. 36, Issue 10):

With a service population of 455,466 residents, Jefferson Parish Library was already the largest library in Louisiana. Before Katrina hit, we had an operating budget of $15 million. By default, we're now the only large library in metropolitan New Orleans that can serve people as they return to Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes.

JPL has dropped its nonresident fees and is issuing "Katrina library cards" to anyone in the area. Staff and library users alike say that having libraries open is part of their need for normalcy. We expected the rush of people on October 3 who wanted to use our computers, but we also had long lines of people waiting to check out books. We expect to have at least 10 branches open by November. Schools are more dependent on us than ever before, and our library is essential lo the rebuilding of this community's economy. A stronger and more vibrant library will help us attract new businesses and residents.

Now, the last time this story was workshopped, the critique hive mind basically side-stepped the question of veracity. They informed me that most readers wouldn't need an explanation for the dearth of books in the narrator's house. "A lot of people just don't read much. Certainly not as much as us writers do," they said. "You're spendig a lot of energy trying to explain a situation that most creaders won't even question in the first place."

It made sense at the time--at least, once I got past my initial "Huh? Houses without books? That is un-possible!" reaction. But today I'm not so sure. Seems to me, the readership of the types of market I'd try to get this submitted to, they're readers. Right? I mean, someone who reads commercial science fiction and fantasy short fiction... is a reader. I think it's not unreasonable to expect that the target audience of, say, F&SF or Shimmer, is someone who sees unoccupied walls as an opportunity for more bookshelves, then stacks those shelves double-deep with paperbacks. (Also, a not insignificant portion of that reading population comprises writers.)

In the end, though, that's not what matters. What matters is, the family in my story used to have a lot of books before Katrina hit. Now, they do not. This is notable enough for the main character to mention it, even though she herself is not the huge reader that her brother and mother are (or so I've decided for this draft). Revision should result is these facts being plausible character notes and part of a larger important story theme.

(Of course it's an important theme. The main character's little brother is literally getting lost in a book. Of course books are important.)

Example 2: The main character notes that her father used to take the kids fishing in Lake Pontchartrain, despite there being nothing much to catch. True or false?

Again, false. In this case, I was going off my memory of being a kid in the late '70s and early '80s watching Dad catch nothing but the odd croaker--which he'd throw back--and then getting his bait stolen by a needle-noser. That's not a particularly reliable memory to go from. It lacks perspective. It's not accurate to infer the fishing viability of the entire lake from vague memories of Dad casting a line next to the Bonnabel pumping station.

Also, those forays were some 20 years before my story takes place. The lake had benefited from a concerted clean-up effort in the years since my single digits. Heck, in 2000 some parts of the lake were actually declared safe for swimming. That still blows my mind.

Anyway, not only was there plenty of successful fishing in Lake Pontchartrain just before Katrina hit, but it turns out that the environmental impact of Hurricane Katrina on Lake Pontchartrain was surprisingly benign, and in some respects actually beneficial. No reason to think the narrator wouldn't have seen any fish caught on those family expeditions.

In summary: Research is fun! And it is useful. It might even keep the author from looking shamefully uninformed about her own hometown. Yay research!