“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”
G. K. Chesterton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

i console myself with roller derby equipment
Thu 2014-11-13 23:23:39 (single post)
  • 3,198 words (if poetry, lines) long

It is so very cold along the Front Range this week. It tempted us to light a fire in the fireplace yesterday, which was lovely and cozy and bright and romantic and all--but now the whole house smells like woodsmoke. Also we turned the heater up a notch last night and forgot to readjust it before bed. I woke up overheated, dehydrated, and with a sore throat. I also woke up late, and didn't really get moving until later. This may have something to do with my only reaching 3K and change rather than the hoped for 5K on the Iron Wheels "rediscovery draft."

After my 1,000 words, I gave in to nap temptation and allowed myself to fall asleep reading the 2013 draft. I have to say, the story in the 2013 draft--at least in the first half--isn't all that bad. It's missing huge gaps, but the overall arc is strong. Why can't it just magic itself into shape without my having to do all this work? That's what I want to know.

But enough complaining. My new skate boots arrived yesterday! They are heat-moldable Bonts. So tomorrow I will put them in the oven (at the recommended temperature) and then stick my feet in them and lace them up (after the recommended cooling-off period), and hopefully the results of doing this once or twice will be skate boots that fit skin-tight, like rock climbing boots do. And then I can have them mounted onto my Avenger plates, and then I can skate without worrying that my equipment is about to fall apart. How cool is that?! It is so cool.

in which the avoided thing becomes the exciting thing
Wed 2014-11-12 23:37:03 (single post)
  • 2,179 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I started writing it today. And it's not a revision, it's just rank rough draft, exactly as awful and wrong as I expected. But I kept on writing it, because sometimes the process toward completion involves multiple rough drafts rather than a series of neatly and incrementally improved drafts. And because "discovery writing" leads to discovery, darn it.

So away with expectations of a more structured draft and a more disciplined outline! Let's have experimentation! New points of view! Different framing devices! Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks! If 51K in 2013 wasn't enough to figure this story out, maybe another 50K in 2014 will help.

Not that today's progress represents the rate that will get me to 50K by November 30, mind you. But to go from zero per day for eleven days to 2179 on day twelve is, I think, significant.

Something that helped a hell of a lot was a chance conversation on Saturday with someone who's been on the local roller derby scene for years. He was regaling us with tales from the bad old days of High Melodrama In Colorado Derby. "I probably shouldn't be telling you this," he said, so I'm not going to relate any of it here myself. But what made my ears really prick up was when he said that his dream is to see junior roller derby in the high schools along side football and basketball and soccer & etc. He had a concrete idea of how to do it, too, which he shared with us. And I said, "This may sound weird, but please go on and don't spare the details--I need this for my novel."

Sadly, I don't remember the details. But whatever they were, they totally inspired me.

See, my original idea was that my fictional high school, much like many real life schools in today's political climate of ill-advised austerity, loses its physical education component entirely due to budget cuts. Katie's dad, Mr. Greenbriar, who's the president of school board or the principal or something like that (why I thought I was ready to revise this novel when it's still full of "something like that" holes, I do not know), is trying desperately to keep the kids active on no budget whatsoever. One of the things he does is partner with a nearby league's junior derby program.

My thought now is that it's actually a county-wide recreational junior derby league that he's collaborated with a nearby adult league in creating. Its membership pulls from area schools, resulting in two or three teams that play each other in exhibition bouts at the different schools over the course of the school year.

So in the first scene of the novel, in which Old Mack (the puck) brings Etienne (the changeling) to a junior roller derby bout, the featured bout is an import. It's more of an exhibition bout. Like, "Here's an option we'd like our kids to have. What do you think?" Mr. Greenbriar is desperate to get local parental buy-in so that the rec league he has in mind can actually happen. So when Katie--who's been commuting out to practices with one of these out-of-town leagues for several months now, so she gets to play with them in the expo bout--when Katie gets impatient with her teammates' level of play and just hauls out and hits the opposing jammer as though this were a full-fledged adult WFTDA bout, Mr. Greenbriar benches her. He doesn't want her scaring off the community. (He's also not happy that she got an insubordination penalty on top of the hitting penalty. He wants her to take the rest of the bout to think about what she's done.)

That's another thing. In the first draft, Katie was just penalty heavy in general because she didn't give enough of a damn to be careful, to play clean, or to work with her teammates. But I didn't realize at the time that JRDA rules differ from WFTDA rules--and why the hell was that? Shame on me. Boulder County Bombers has a junior league--I could have picked the brains of any one of our dedicated junior derby instructors! In any case, the missing piece for me was knowing that, for juniors at level 1, all hitting is illegal. And at level 2, though intentional contact becomes legal, it's limited to "leaning into" opposing skaters. Accelerating into the hit or block remains illegal. There's even an added hand gesture for signaling the penalty.

So I could just see Mr. Greenbriar arguing the school board around with, "It's not violent! No more so than basketball. Skaters try to keep other skaters from getting past each other, but they don't hit each other. It's not like what the adult leagues do at all!" And he's just about got them convinced when Katie lays the opposing jammer flat.

Did I mention that Mr. Greenbriar's political goals are going to get more stage time in this draft? It's true. Just as soon as I figure out what those goals are.

Anyway, the climactic Roller Derby Bout Against a Faerie Team With Our Protagonists' Happiness and Freedom at Stake--that's going to echo this first expo bout very closely. For the regular humans who don't know the first thing about Faerie, it's the bout that they've been working toward all school year long: an away team wants to come and play our league! Excellent! They just don't know how very far away is. And, again, Katie's going to pull a totally illegal (for juniors) hit on their jammer. With consequences.

So this has been a lot of enthusiastic brain-dumping about Iron Wheels. I guess that's what happens when I finally sit down and start the rewrite. I get excited about where it'll go this time. Excited is good! Excited keeps the writer coming back to the page day after day.

Tomorrow I'll be looking for the 5K mark. 5K and change, ideally. Wish me luck!

go away snow you have made your point
Tue 2014-11-11 23:41:21 (single post)
  • 0 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's still snowing. It was snowing yesterday and it's still snowing today. WTF, sky? You have the worst dandruff. It's all freezing cold and it clogs up my windshield. It also clogs up my brain. I watch it out the window and all I want to do is curl up in bed and go back to sleep.

I didn't even want to go out in it at all but apparently I made today MMLocal Pick-Up Day for myself, so off I went. Their Boulder base for share pick-ups this time around is the Avery Tap-House, so at least I got to order a beer while I was there. And also devour the most amazing pork belly small plate.

And now there are 24 jars of various delicious and wholesome things in my house. Two of those jars are only half-full now, because you can count on me to yield to temptation where food is concerned, pretty much every time. The holiday beets and the bread-and-butter zuke pickles were just there, taunting me; they were all, "Oh, too bad you're full from dinner, because we are yummy..." and I was like, "Too right you are! Get in my mouth." So.

Meanwhile I continue to have trouble setting words to page on Iron Wheels. Rewrites and me, right? Gahhh. This is why the word count is now set to 0, rather than 51K and change. Because zero is how many words I have logged on this rewrite.

See, I have four characters in that first scene whose interests/motivations/goals/story-arcs need to be moved or at least hinted at, and I do have good ideas about how to do that, but they are ideas that will be expressed mid-scene. Meanwhile the first words of the scene escape me. I just know that the moment I start writing it, it will all be wrong. Argh.

So my freewriting these last few days has comprised attempts at approaching the story by way of worldbuilding and backstory. Which probably doesn't help, but it lets me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.

Coming tomorrow: Me effin' well sitting down and doing it. Damn it. Even if the snow does persist in coming down. Which it will.

From bad paint job to beautiful refurbishment in... oh, let's not think about how long it take. I have seven more to do.
winter arrives on a monday morning
Mon 2014-11-10 23:30:28 (single post)

Remember last week? Remember "Get the peppers out of the field before the cold snap?" Turns out, that was just practice for the real thing. Today was "Harvest ALL of the greens before the snow falls and temperatures drop to single digits Fahrenheit."

So one crew was in the field, harvesting tot soi and bok choi, lettuce and kale, chard and escarole and frisee, and the other crew washed each incoming basket of greens and packed them away in boxes for storage in the cooler. I was in the latter crew. It meant standing outside with my hands constantly in cold water. I was in short sleeves at first, because the morning was quite warm. By lunchtime I was wearing a borrowed hoodie, I couldn't feel my toes, and I could barely work my fingers. And the water was actually warmer than the air outside. So was the walk-in cooler, when I went in to raid the "seconds" basket for some take-home greens to turn into gumbo z'herbes.

But it was a morning well spent. And I felt pretty good, freezing weather aside. I didn't expect to. I honestly thought I'd have to stay home sick today. Saturday night, I began developing cold symptoms; Sunday, I was blowing my nose constantly. But either it was a 24-hour cold or the pseudoephedrine I started taking successfully masked all symptoms, because I felt fine today. Better than fine: I got up at 6:30 AM without a grumble and ready to do EVERYTHING.

The "Let's Get Everything Done!" mood settled in late last night. It's a great feeling! It makes everything seem possible! Nevermind that it's just the drugs talking--take advantage of it while you've got it, that's what I say. So instead of spending the evening curled up in bed around the achy, tired parts of me that a three-hour roller derby practice had worked out, I applied three coats of polycrylic to the front side of the closet door I was working on, and I wrote. Then this morning I swept all the sawdust off the balcony before the snow could turn it to muck.

Just look at that picture. Check it out. In the backdrop, three bi-folds painted in the "curdled cream" color we're trying to get away from. On the left, the paint-stripped and mostly-sanded half of the bi-fold, still displaying the dark stain from sometime before the door got painted. On the right, the finished product, stained in Minwax "Gunstock" red-brown, coated with water-based polycrylic, and ready to install.

Conclusion: There is life after paint-stripping!

So maybe my good mood wasn't entirely attributable to pseudoephedrine and caffeine. Maybe it was the warm sense of accomplishment. Yeah, let's go with that.

good week, bad week, this is the week you get
Fri 2014-11-07 23:26:30 (single post)

Yesterday was one of those mornings where I needed that first cup of tea just to be functional enough to do my morning pages. And that's unusual. Usually it's the morning pages themselves that get me functional: that slow, constant, low-level effort over three pages of handwriting tends to sort of sneak me into awake mode, so that even if I begin with squinting, sleepy eyes and a groggy brain, I get to the end of them fully woken up and possibly even excited about the day ahead. But yesterday, not so much. Yesterday, all I was capable of at first was just drinking that first steeping of milk oolong and staring at the comments of an old blog post that I'd fallen asleep reading the night before. Also waiting for the headache to go away. It's winter, our building has baseboard radiant heating, I wake up dry and dehydrated and with a headache. And really, really homesick for the humidity and mild winters of New Orleans.

Today was better, but not by a lot. I thought it was going to be a lot better! I got up on time, did my pages, put a coat of stain down on a stripped and sanded half of a bi-fold door, and went off to have a delicious lunch with good company. But the afternoon got away from me, the early energy seemed to just seep away, my body suprised me with digestive issues after lunch (I don't even know), and, what's worse, the second half of the bi-fold door that I'd been sanding in fits and starts on the balcony got rained on. (It is now in the bathroom, having been towel-dried, and is awaiting the soothing warmth of the heater. Which will undoubtedly give me a headache in the morning.)

And I didn't post this week's Friday Fictionette. I have missed my first Friday. Oh, I'll get it up there tomorrow, no fear. But it hurts to break what has been up until now a flawless record.

This week, y'all. I don't even know what kind of a week it's been, it's been that kind of week.

I'm slowly realizing that I have days where I'm slow to start and maybe never really get moving, and days where I'm energetic and Do All The Things. Sometimes low-energy days come disguised as high-energy days by front-loading all their energy, but they're still low-energy days. And this is probably biochemical, at least in part. And while I can develop strategies for coping with low-energy days (do your morning pages! create a definite list of things to do! give yourself the gift of staying home tonight!), I can't reasonably expect myself to magically turn low-energy days into energetic days. And it makes no sense to punish myself for it, you know? It only hurts me and annoys the pig.

...You know. The pig that was hanging out in some other metaphor and got dragged into this one for no reason whatsoever. I'd be annoyed too, if I was that pig.

I apologize. This kind of whiny introspection isn't what you come to this blog for, is it? Well, I don't know--maybe it is what you come here for. I mean, if you come here. Maybe you don't read this blog at all. (Hey, who are you people, anyway?)

Quick! I distract you with someone being awesome! Mur Lafferty is doing NaNoWriMo, and if you support her on Patreon, you'll get a message from her every day, and an exclusive daily podcast--just for the month of November--that only Patrons get to listen to! Go! Support Mur on Patreon! There will be more interesting things here when you get back. Like, say, next week.

go team go
Wed 2014-11-05 23:19:15 (single post)
  • 51,730 words (if poetry, lines) long

Every day, every work day, presents another face-off between the warring factions of Stuff To Do and Not Enough Time. Yesterday, the latter won, and it was a depressing wipe-out. Today, a decisive victory went to the former. Which is to say: Today I got to prove to myself that, yes, all the different things I have to do can coexist in a single day.

Well, that may be a little optimistic. To be precise: home improvement projects (paint-stripping and sanding closet doors--we're down to the sanding now, folks) coexisted with a well-rounded writing day (morning pages, freewriting, fictionette prep, novel work, Examiner blogging, this-here blogging). And on a Wednesday, too, which is when I record an hour-long reading of employment ads for the Audio Information Network of Colorado. Also there was a not insignificant period of time spent on Puzzle Pirates, mostly during the AINC reading and the paint-stripping.

Notably, my day did not include roller derby practice, and I bowed out of my usual Wednesday night trivia outing. The only "out" I went was to the craft store to reward myself for getting the doors from the paint-stripping stage to the sanding stage. (Aida cloth and DMC embroidery floss. I'm going to finally cross-stitch that "Hurricane Chart, Cajun Style.") Well, and to the restaurant next door for chicken korma and an hour's writing. So. Many things can coexist in a single day, but not, alas, everything. I suppose that's why we gave ourselves seven different days in a week.

About that novel work: I have decided, between yesterday's "we'll see" and today, that I'm constitutionally unable to just sit back and not participate in NaNoWriMo. I don't think I could look myself in the mirror on December 1 if I didn't give November by best novel-writing shot. Besides, I started off this year with the idea that every work day should include some short fiction and some novel work. I might as well try to get back to that.

However, I'm still at a total of zero words. My editor brain knows I'm trying to write a second draft of Iron Wheels rather than a first draft of something new. It won't let me just start typing away. It's got a point; I don't want to repeat the aimless, unstructured journey of the 2013 draft. Since I couldn't bring myself to just blart out rough draft, I instead blarted out thoughts on characters and plot. I especially had some thoughts about Katie's dad and his school board politics, and how these sort of disappeared from the 2013 draft. I'd like to give Mr. Greenbriar a significant role in this draft, maybe bring him face to face with the Faerie Queen and have them argue over who gets Katie. (Spoiler: It's Katie who gets Katie. That's what "growing up" means.)

Maybe tomorrow I'll manage to lay down some "real" words... depending, of course, on which team wins the battle over Thursday. I suspect it's going to be a very close contest.

oh look it's schroedinger's november
Tue 2014-11-04 22:47:23 (single post)
  • 5,300 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 51,730 words (if poetry, lines) long

The savvy reader will have noticed that it's November now. November: The month officially designated National Novel Writing Month. The month when Niki Writes a Novel.

But this year, for the first time in ten years, I'm not in charge. I'm not planning write-ins or parties, I'm not sending mass emails, I'm not the municipal liaison.

Do I sound really, really happy about that? That's because I am. Instead of putting together an all-night write-in to host on Halloween night, I got to spend all that day in a sports bar watching Day 1 of the 2014 WFTDA Championships, and all that night sleeping. Instead of hosting write-ins for the kick-off weekend, I was helping to host an out-of-town guest, playing Puzzle Pirates, and attending roller derby practices. NaNoWriMo was going on somewhere in Boulder, and it wasn't my responsibility. After a decade of things being otherwise, that's intensely liberating.

Which prompts the next question: Am I going to participate at all?

Theoretically, yes. I've spent some time this year trying to revise the structural outline of Iron Wheels, so this would be a good time for me to start re-drafting the novel.

But practically... I'm not sure. I barely got any writing done today at all, and tomorrow will be taken up from start to finish with ongoing efforts to repaint the bathroom and refurbish the living room closet doors. And I have other writing tasks of higher priority, like the requested rewrite of "Caroline's Wake" and the latest Friday Fictionette (still haven't recorded an audio for October, by the way). There isn't enough time in the day to do everything.

And yet, emotionally, it would be a shame to break a twelve-year streak of participating in, and winning, the annual 50K-in-30-days challenge.

So. The answer is "I'm not sure. Let's find out, shall we?" And so we shall.

the eventual fate of all pepper plants
Mon 2014-11-03 23:39:50 (single post)

We gathered at the east end of McCauley Family Farm, in the field known as "The Heart," and we considered the peppers in light of the coming frost.

The peppers grew on knee-high bushes that filled almost ten rows in The Heart. They made the bushes look decorated with strings of orange festival lights. Several rows of bushes were covered against cooler weather, a strategy that had unfortunately created the perfect warm and food-filled haven for mice. Under several plants, a litter of orange shreds and scattered seeds showed where the rodents had done the most damage. Still, more than enough crop remained to be threatened by the sharper drop in temperature predicted for the night. The peppers had to be picked post-haste (pickling optional).

The solution? Pick the whole darn bush.

So that's what we did from 8:30 until round about noon. We worked our way down the rows, pulling up bushes, shaking off mud, and piling the plants up with their roots all pointing the same way for ease of gathering them up later and putting them in the truck. (I think the plan was to bring the whole yield, bush and pepper and clinging bindweed vines and all, to the processing plant that McCauley Family Farm recently acquired in Boulder. I'm not sure. The fate of the pepper plants was still under discussion when I left.)

The work was relatively easy and certainly uncomplicated. But it was hard enough on the hands to require gloves, and, like most field work, hard on the back and thighs due to repetitive stooping and pulling. I came home feeling used up, triumphantly and virtuously exhausted.

In almost four hours of work, I think we pulled half of the pepper plants that needed pulling. Maybe two thirds. There were a lot of peppers.

By the way, after working with peppers, even with gloves on, it's best not to scratch anything tender on the way home. Obviously don't rub your eyes. Of course you wouldn't pick your nose. But don't even stick a finger in your ear, OK? Basically, don't touch your face.

As is the custom after most volunteer shifts, they sent me home with an armful of food, which contributed to the following Dinner #1:

  • 2 potatoes (smallish, yellow)
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 celery root
  • 1 sunchoke (or Jerusalem artichoke, or sunroot tuber)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 or 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • Some quantity of chives and green onions, chopped

Cut root vegetables into large chunks. Leave skin on wherever possible. Boil them until they are mashably tender: about 25 minutes. Drain. Put them in a steel pot with butter, cream, and the allium greens. Mash thoroughly. Eat every bite. Lick the bowl.

I said "Dinner #1" because today was a roller derby day (Phase 1: I was one of the two trainers, while John was one of the ten students). Dinner #1 comes before practice, so I don't go to practice hungry; Dinner #2 is for after practice when I turn into a ravenous beast.

Dinner #2 was red beans and rice with sausage. Farm veg went into that dish, too. In fact, the entire Holy Trinity of vegetables that went in there--celery, onions, and sweet green peppers--came from the farm. I think the garlic did too. The sausage came from a different farm, one owned and worked by a fellow skater. The parsley came from my patio garden as its last hurrah.

Yay farm meals!

This bracket has got Game 3 and Game 4 reversed, but otherwise, that is exactly how today went.
all the ways derby eats workdays all up (your Fictionette Freebie is safe)
Fri 2014-10-31 22:17:05 (single post)
  • 783 words (if poetry, lines) long

Today was the first day of the WFTDA Championships. I spent pretty much the whole day at Harpo's Sports Grill, whose owner, being kind and generous and also intrigued by this "roller derby" thing, agreed to stream today's games over their TVs.

Apparently I don't exactly work while I'm watching derby. Who knew?

About all I managed to do today was release "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" as this month's Fictionette Freebie. Go, enjoy, read. Or, well, maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word, since this one is the creepy quasi-depressing one. But of the four I posted in October, it feels the most complete, the most like a real story. So that's what you get.

I'm going to try to get the October "podcast" out over the weekend. It may be touch-and-go. We have a dear friend in from out of town staying with us, and that will make anything that looks like "work" difficult to get done. Right now we're all hanging out in the living room (where I hurriedly packed away the paint-stripping, door-staining station and cleaned things up) and we probably won't sleep 'til very late. I'm strangely OK with this.

A friend remarked that this picture looked like the set of a haunted house or a zombie movie. I made a sad face at him.
haunted houses, for temporary use in
Wed 2014-10-29 22:45:25 (single post)
  • 5,300 words (if poetry, lines) long

So this is my life right now. There is an area of the living room that's been taken over by painting, staining, and finishing projects for about a month now, and that ain't going to stop for a little while to come. I do not entirely regret this! This is where we stained and finished our brand new bedroom closet sliding doors and our brand new bedroom-to-shower-access bi-fold door. Those are happy results.

But now it's time to do the living room closet bi-folds.

There are four bi-folds in the living room. They started out as two-footers, but whoever installed them had to plane each panel down about half an inch in order to make them fit the oddly sized space. I forget what it came out to be. Ninety-three inches maybe? It was not the full eight feet. Anyway, this is why "Just buy new plain pine bi-folds and stain them" isn't the solution. Also, a new plain pine bi-fold is something like $80. And while time is money, we'd still have to stain them and finish them. So, no.

Instead, we're stripping the "curdled cream" paint off of them. And sanding through the layer of stain that's waiting under the paint. And, theoretically, staining and finishing them with the same color we used for our bedroom closet doors and shower room access door.

Paint stripping is a process. I'm not sure I have it down yet. What you see here is the first of the four bi-folds. After two days of work.

Great excuse to go to McGuckin Hardware and get all the things. Like, a whole 'nother gallon of that Zip-Strip stuff. Cheap natural bristle brushes. A proper scraping tool. Professional grade steel wool. Adhesive-backed sandpaper for that 3M sanding block. All! The! Things!

One day we will have lovely refinished closet doors in our living room. One day we will also have our living room back. And I will actually be able to put in a five-hour writing day, and maybe even think about the requested revision on "Caroline's Wake." (I have been assured there is no deadline. But it would be nice to turn it in while the current senior editor, the one who requested the revision, is still there to receive it.) One day we will actually be able to list this condo unit for sale, and move into something more house-like and roomy and well laid out and on the ground floor. One day.

Alas, that day is not today. It's not tomorrow, either.

I'm beginning to wonder if it will even be this year.