“Write what you feel and not what you think someone else feels.”
Stephen Sondheim

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

there's such a thing as overdoing it
Wed 2021-03-10 12:57:17 (single post)
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,540 words (if poetry, lines) long

Ha. So remember that "long and deeply satisfying skating session" last week? Well, it turns out that when I kick my own butt skating for three hours straight, including over less than hospitable terrain (the sidewalks! OMG, the sidewalks on the east side of 28th Street! Whyyyyy?), and then the very next day I take part in an exceedingly ambitious 40-minute HIIT workshop that's heavy on the same muscles I wore out skating the day before, the result is several days of being pretty much good for nothing but whining.

I have been a little more cautious in my daily workout since.

I mean, I'm still trying to have a daily workout. That has been my goal for March. A year of no roller derby has meant fewer hours of physical activity per week, and lower-quality exercise when I do exercise because I'm not a particularly strict self-coach. My endurance has suffered, and so has my strength, both in terms of both ability and muscle mass/definition. I am a pathetic noodle during the league's Thursday night Zoom workouts. I've put on weight, and though weight is a number that never meant much to me before, it says something when that number's the highest it's ever been in my adult life. (I've never paid much attention to BMI either, except to note that it, like one's credit score, is a metric that is notorious for being misused, with malice aforethought, to make people's lives measurably worse. But realizing that my current BMI might qualify me for the COVID vaccine a little earlier than I had hitherto expected is just weird.) And my blood pressure, which metric does mean quite a lot to me, has been up a titch. So! Daily exercise is my current goal.

Yesterday's exercise was going to be skating, but I left it for too late, and now it's going to be snowing through the weekend. Yuck. So yesterday's exercise was an extremely modest amount of squats, sit-ups, crunches, knee-lifts, and leg-lifts. Like, fifteen minutes, all told. Not an impressive session. Enough to say there was a non-zero amount of exercise in the day, which is the main thing. Today will be similar. Then tomorrow, being a Thursday, will kick my butt again, but because I won't come to Thursday's workout with a pre-kicked butt, I should be functional the next day.

Which is all very much the long way of saying "No, I haven't gotten back to the revision of 'Lambing Season' yet, sorry." I'm going to put that sucker to the side for now, though, because I would very much like to have a horror original to send to Nightmare Magazine when it opens to all demographics for the week of the 14th. And I know just the story. I think I can get it revised in time, but I need to start today.

(Oh, look! They'll take poetry that week, too!)

Meanwhile, I promised you a recipe. Or a method. Or a something involving chicken, mushrooms, asparagus, and cream. Here, then, is that something.

Step One: Read this. Then put it away. We're not so much following a recipe as improvising on an idea. This recipe is the idea. Also preheat the oven to 350.

Step Two: The big cast-iron pan. Bacon in little chunks. Medium heat until greasy.

Step Three: Chicken breasts, liberally coated on both sides in LOTS of fresh ground pepper (seriously, this makes the dish) and a little salt, on top of the bacon. While they sear, sliced onions and mushrooms on top of that. Eventually, when that first side has cooked enough, flip the chicken, let the other side cook a bit. Then slice it into slices. Introduce those slices more thoroughly to the onions and mushrooms and also the heat.

Step Four: Now what? You want to boil some pasta, but your chicken onion mushroom mess is taking up the burner you want to use! Guess you'd better just shove that whole cast iron pan into the oven along with the crawfish bread. (The crawfish bread was why we preheated the oven in the first place.) Problem solved! Now boil up that pasta.

Step Five: While the pasta's cooking, check on the pan in the oven. Add some cream to the liquid being released from the mushrooms. It'll look a bit like cream of mushroom soup. That's fine. Let it boil down. When convenient, return the pan to the stovetop and the heat to medium-high. Add more cream if you want. It's sort of a balancing act between "is it thick enough" (no? cook it longer) and "is it creamy enough" (no? add cream). The flow chart also includes "can you wait any longer?" (no? eat it).

We are not worrying about the chicken. The chicken isn't getting overcooked or dry in this mess. The chicken is getting braised.

Step Six: So the sauce is the right consistency, the pasta is waiting to be introduced to it, you're ready to eat. BUT WAIT! There's asparagus! Toss it into the sauce and leave it on the heat only as much longer as it takes to get the asparagus cooked to your taste. Then: remove from heat, sprinkle with parmesan, and toss it all about so the parmesan gets melty.

And now it's done. Serve it over that pasta. Eat it all. Lick the bowl. And save a little bread to mop up the pan. The sauce is really tasty.

a refreshing lack of direness and some surprise chicken
Wed 2021-03-03 23:03:03 (single post)
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long

Dear Diary: Today is a Red Letter Day! I have got up on time and done all my writing (excepting this Very Important Missive) by four of the clock in the Afternoon. As you might Imagine, this has left me simply oodles of daylight and evening for all sorts of Pleasant Pastimes...

*Ahem.* No, seriously, it's been great. I had a long and deeply satisfying skating session outside, taking advantage of this single perfect day between snowstorms when enough of the previous storm's accumulations of ice have melted away to allow for rolling, but the next storm hasn't yet started. Then I came home and logged into Story Hour to hear Meg Elison and Gabriela Santiago read their glorious and heartwrenching tales. (I was very good and did not get any tears on my cross-stitching.) And now I am pleasantly ensconced in the bath with a beer, writing this blog post and letting my poor abused adductor muscles relax.

You may recall my announcing an upcoming appearance on Story Hour. That is scheduled for May 5. I suggest you make this Zoom or Facebook livestream part of your weekly routine, so that by the time that date rolls around it'll simply be habit and you'll be able to catch it easily. Story Hour airs each Wednesday at 7:00 PM Pacific Time and runs for an hour, with two authors reading for half an hour each. I know that's pretty darn late for y'all in the Eastern time zone; if you can't catch it live--or even if you can!--you'll be able to watch the archived video on Facebook whenever you like.

Today was also weird and surprising in that we got some windfall groceries. Some chicken breasts, mushrooms, asparagus, and heavy cream that no one at this address asked for are in the fridge now, and there's a packet of sliced almonds and some shallots in the pantry. John ordered his usual game night snack food supplies from Safeway, and they brought him the wrong order. Unfortunately, this means John doesn't get chocolate and potato chips during tonight's Apex Legends session. On the other hand, I'm now plotting a creamy pasta dish for after tomorrow evening's BCB workout. Of course I will share the details with you. Probably in tomorrow night's blog post.

(I'll probably save the shallots to do the caramelized shallot, anchovy, and tomato paste sauce/spread again. That stuff was excellent. I finished off the leftovers by spreading it on the toast I made an open-face green onion omelet with.)

"But what about the story?" I hear you cry. "The one that was tying you up into guilt-ridden knots and revision angst?" Yes, well, never fear, I did not shirk my duty. Avoidance came calling, but I said "Not today, avoidance!" and got right to it. I read the manuscript through carefully and left myself nearly a thousand words of margin notes. That sounds kind of daunting, but I'm honestly not sure I'm going to act on the majority of those notes. It is an extremely imperfect story in many ways, and in many ways it will remain imperfect. I don't want to set myself the task of making an entirely new story out of it except at dire need.

And the need may not be so dire. The themes of dehumanization are more evenly balanced than I remembered; it's the (presumed white) townspeople who have the first episode of inhuman aggression. (That would be the scene where the stranger rolls through town and is careless at a 4-way stop.) And I think that once I fix the beginning, and of course those bits directly affected by the change in the beginning, certain resonances will emerge to shift the balance away from the "white neighbors friendly, brown shepherds scary" dynamic, and more towards "Oh, shit, another group of people I came to trust that I suddenly can't trust. Maybe I can't trust myself, either."

All right, I'm not happy about Bob making the racist joke about worshipping cows in India. If I leave it in, it's gonna need some pushback. I think I know how to do that, but I'll have to see how the fix looks on the page.

Anyway. Not saying I'm perfectly satisfied that the limited changes I'm now planning will fix everything. But I am willing to start out with just those changes, and then to see where things stand.

So that's the state of the rerprint revisions. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I hope to give you more good news (and possibly a recipe) tomorrow.

virtual external systems of structure and accountability
Thu 2021-02-11 23:14:35 (single post)

My social life is entirely on Zoom. Increasingly, my working life, too. It's not a bad thing, honestly.

I just got finished about an hour ago with the Boulder County Bombers Thursday night Zoom workout. Sometimes skaters will bring their own workout to share, other times they'll find an official video from this or that trainer. Either way, we get to see each other and sweat together and turn our bodies into wet noodles of exhaustion with only each other as witnesses. Tonight, we ventured way back to 2009, the very early days of the modern roller derby era for Roller Derby Workout with The Heart Attacks (link goes to YouTube trailer, which contains an outdated link; try this Etsy page instead).

It was... very dated. A lot more Jazzercize than punk. Not a tattoo to be seen, nor much variation in body type or skin color. The patter assumes only she/her pronouns in the audience, and yet the camera angles demonstrate a dedication to the hetero male gaze. Like, yep, that sure is a close-up of a woman's buttocks in very short shorts, isn't it? And not really in a "Check out how strong and toned your bum can be!" way, either. (Maybe it was actually meant for the queer female gaze on the sly? Maybe that was how they got queerness past the censors, so to speak.)

But at the same time, it was a damn good workout. It was a roller derby workout, targeting all the roller derby muscle groups. Lots of core, abs, hams, quads, glutes. Lots of squats, leg-lifts, and derby stance. Lots of "I don't think I could have held a one-legged squat this long during the height of my derby career, let alone one year into the pandemic!" moments. I may just order a copy of that DVD for my own library so I can memorize the exercises for the next time I get to lead a Phase 1 class.

So that was tonight's workout. Now I am recovering in a hot bath with a beer and a bowl of chole, the spicy garbanzo dish included in this fantastic cooking presentation. And I'm writing this blog post, because writing in the bath is what I do, some evenings.

Usually I'm writing at the desk in the second bedroom, which we've kitted out into an office. And more and more lately I'm writing during Zoom co-writing sessions.

It turns out, I really need structure in my day in order to have any kind of time management. Best is if I can replicate the routine of Going To Work. For a little while, years ago, I had a membership to a co-working space in downtown Boulder so that I had to Go To The Office. But it turned out I had little to no tolerance for other people in my workspace. I couldn't tune out conversations and other people's music, not even if I used headphones. So I went back to slouching across the house over to the home office instead. And I can make that work, but it's difficult to force myself to adhere to a schedule when it seems like it hardly matters if I don't.

Then, not long ago--maybe a little before the pandemic? I think?--I discovered Cat Rambo's Patreon; and from there, their Discord community; and from there, their Zoom co-writing sessions. These are great. Everyone says hi, shares a little about what they're working on, then mutes their microphones and works for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, everyone says how they're coming along, and then they go right back to it. In all, it's three 30-minute sessions dedicated to whatever on your agenda needs it, helped along by a little mutual accountability and leavened with a touch of socializing.

That. That there. That is my Office. On an ideal day, I will wake up in time to do my morning pages, then have breakfast and do all the morning routines, then log onto the morning co-writing session for 9:30 AM Mountain Time. It ends around 11:15 or so. I take a lunch break, do some household chores, maybe do a little cross-stitching by the sunny south-facing window or play video games. There's another co-writing session at 2:00 PM Mountain Time, and by the time that ends, the majority of my work for the day is done! It's magical.

And then, on Sunday afternoons, SFWA hosts a co-writing session too! This is something that started with their online Nebula Conference last year and just continued. Each week a different author or editor hosts. It follows a similar pattern to Rambo's sessions, but the break-time check-in and socializing between their two 45-minute work periods happens in Zoom break-out rooms, in groups of five or six people. Sunday afternoon SFWA writing dates were how four out of five of my Weekend Warrior stories got written. (The one where I missed the writing date was just harder, that's all.)

So that is my current time management plan. I've found an external system of structure and accountability, and it's great. It's not going to be everyone's deal--everyone's process is different, and no one's wrong so long as the writing gets writ--but if it sounds like something that might help you, then you can...

  • Join Cat Rambo's Patreon at any tier
  • Register for the virtual 2020 Nebula Conference and enjoy all its year-round programming

And those are my current thoughts on time management.

i get interviewed, then i get sappy
Wed 2021-02-10 22:34:08 (single post)
  • 14 words (if poetry, lines) long

In these weeks since Departure Mirror Quarterly Issue 2 went live, they've been publishing a series of Author Spotlight features on their website, focusing on the contributors to that issue. Mine just went up today!

In it, among other things, I reveal a little of how "Reasonable Accommodations" came to be written. I tell probably the briefest version ever of my How I Fell In Love With Roller Derby story. I also give a shout-out to the two teachers who gave me an early education in how freelance writing and publishing works. I didn't name them in the Author Spotlight, probably because I was trying to be brief, but those two wonderful humans are Betsy Petersen and Chet Day. I gave them a shout-out also, nearly ten years ago, in the blog-up to the announcement of my very first pro sale. I really do owe them so much.

I had the pleasure of running into Ms. Petersen on campus, during Alumni Weekend, on the occasion of my high school class's 25-year reunion. (And here I'll pause to acknowledge how very, very lucky the class of 1994 was. If we had been the class of 1995, we couldn't have had our reunion--or worse, we'd have probably gone ahead with it anyway, and become another superspreader statistic.) We watched the high school play together, a performance of Mamma Mia! starring some of her current students, and I got to tell her during the intermission about my recent publications and successes. I felt like such a kid, so needy to show my teacher how I'd done good with what she taught me! I get like that a little around my first roller derby trainers too. Look how good I can skate backwards, y'all! Look how bravely I can do a turn-around toe-stop these days! And without falling down and smashing my face anymore!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my Author Spotlight interview at Departure Mirror Quarterly. And if you haven't read Issue 2 yet, go download yourself a free ebook copy! Lots of great stuff in there.

It occurs to me that I entirely forgot to promote my blog in that interview. I did mention the Friday Fictionettes Project, and I'm going to mention it here too because finally all the December releases are out. (Jan 1 is out, too, and Jan 8 will probably go up Friday.) So it's time for a Friday Fictionette Round-up:

  • December 4, 2020: "Hostage" (ebook, audio) In which extraterrestrial ex-boyfriends are the worst.
  • December 11, 2020: "Always Make Sure to Put Your Toys Away" (ebook, audio) In which things don't always stay put in the place you left them.
  • December 18, 2020: "Culture Clash" (ebook, audio) In which human social taboos are incomprehensible and also toxic to visitors.
  • December 25, 2020: "Good Intentions" (ebook, audio) In which it is, once again, a thoroughly bad idea to try to change history. This is the Fictionette Freebie for December 2020!

My big idea to catch up to schedule is to try to release two fictionettes a week. This has not happened. I am still about four weeks behind. I can get one release completed over three or four days, but then I find it weirdly hard to get any writing done Friday through Sunday. I'll be getting my Sundays back, though, having written this past weekend my fifth and final contest entry story for Weekend Warrior (see previous). Maybe that'll help. Maybe I'll be smart and use the time I had been using for Weekend Warrior stories, for Friday Fictionette production. Maybe!

Tomorrow (assuming I get to blogging tomorrow) - I have thoughts on structure and time management! They aren't brilliant! Also I cooked a thing! Aren't you just in all the suspense? Stay tuned.

Food goes in here.
the more skating but also more eating take-out diet
Thu 2020-05-14 18:18:22 (single post)

My roller derby league is challenging its members to skate an ULTRAMARATHON IN MAY. There are sponsors, there will be prizes, there is certainly competition. And I can tell you right now, I am not likely to complete even Tier 1. I'll keep track of my miles, but I have pretty much zero ambition about it.

But now I'm curious. I have been doing a fair amount of street skating recently (if somewhat less over the past couple weeks since it's been raining off and on). How much of it am I doing? At the rate I'm doing it, how long will take me to accumulate 26.2 miles of skating?

What if all the skating I was doing was to pick up take-out meals?

(Could I stop using GrubHub entirely? There are so many reasons.)

Could I SKATE A TAKE-OUT MARATHON?

Last week Tuesday, the day that I and my computer received a visit from that onsite tech who was a total tool, I got it in my head to skate to My Ramen & Izakaya. I began placing the order online on the backup laptop while the tech finished up with my Dell Inspiron and prepared to leave. I hadn't quite finished placing the order when the computer stalled out in its attempt to load Windows. While the tech yelled at Dispatch over the phone, I stared longingly at the computer screen. Then I put on my gear and rolled around the house gathering facemask, bluetooth headphones, and wallet. The instant the tech left, I hit SUBMIT on my take-out order and rolled the heck out of there. I figured, by now, between the tech visit gone wrong and the exercise I was currently getting, I would deserve my tantanmen ramen and Japanese pancakes. And yes, I did deserve those tasty treats, even if I probably shouldn't have eaten them all in one sitting. I went to bed painfully full but very happy. Or, at least, considering the loss of the use of my good laptop, more happy than I would have been otherwise.

Distance skated: 1.58 miles.

That worked out so well, I thought I'd do it again yesterday. Only this time I was in the mood for Buddha Thai. John was game--I could put him down for medium-spicy tofu pad thai any old evening. Me, I got the drunken noodles with seafood combo. I skated there mostly along the streets, taking advantage of bike lanes and multi-use sidewalks. At the restaurant, I took off my wrist guards and donned the disposable gloves that the restaurant had made available on a table outside the door. I put the entrees into my old Rock Boat soft-side thermal tote and poured the Thai iced tea into my old Einstein Bros. to-go mug with lid. Then there was a minimal amount of cross-stepping across a corner of lawn after skating over to the nearest trash receptacle to dispose of the gloves and the plastic cup and straw. Then, back home to stuff myself silly!

Distance skated: 1.20 miles.

At this rate, I will probably not skate a take-out marathon in May. But if I do this instead of ordering delivery more often, I will certainly be getting good exercise to go along with my tasty food!

All that rolling around and squatting down to pick up stuff was a surprisingly effective core-strength workout.
a very small portion of north Boulder is now roughly twelve gallons cleaner, and I am tired
Wed 2020-04-22 19:43:30 (single post)

It's Earth Day, so my skate-starved derby friends and I rolled around our individual neighborhoods (separately) picking up trash and taking selfies promoting our league. Here's a picture of me picking up trash in my skates and BCB tank top. I kind of suck at selfies, but my camera has a timer function, so it all worked out OK. Speaking of which, the amount of times I got the shot all set up and then pressed the power-off button instead of the take-a-picture button doesn't bear calculating.

I felt all self-conscious about it--about the picking up of a more or less symbolic amount of trash as well as about attempting to selfie myself doing so--it felt like I was obviously just showing off--but after two bicyclists on 30th Street went by calling out, "Thank you for doing that!" I felt a little better about the whole exercise.

People wave to each other a lot more when they're wearing face-masks because the usual smile-and-nod routine is harder to see. Every time someone waved at me, I waved back and yelled "Happy Earth Day!" But given my mask it might have sounded like "Happy birthday," which would only be accurate in case of pure coincidence or if I were talking to myself and it was tomorrow.

(Forty-four, in case you're wondering. And I'm proud of every single one of 'em.)

As I did some years ago, I ordered myself a new fountain pen for a birthday treat. One of these. I've never owned a retractable fountain pen before, and these are very pretty. I have no idea when it'll arrive, though. Goulet's building is temporarily shuttered for the COVID-19 pandemic. My pen won't ship until there's someone there to process the order and ship it. That's all right. By the time it arrives, it'll be a delightful surprise.

The rest of the news, in brief: Today was another good writing day. It's been a week full of 'em. Also I am up to 6 granny squares for the afghan: two large, four small, all incredibly gaudy. Dinner tonight was courtesy of My Ramen & Izakaya, who are still operating through the pandemic for takeout and delivery. (Delivery was courtesy GrubHub.) I ordered before I left for my Earth Day trash skate, and when I got home, there was my food waiting on the chair outside my door. And it was so, so good.

And now I am full and tired. Good night!

a day in the life under the new normal
Mon 2020-03-23 18:42:44 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

When it's been more than a month since my last blog post, writing a new one seems daunting. I feel irrationally obligated to include Every Single Thing That's Happened Since Then, and because that's obviously not feasible nor even possible, the tendency is to just not. And then another day goes by, a day full of More Things to Blog, and the endless spiral descends further.

So today I'm just going to say Hi! and more or less report on the doings of the day.

Today I woke up in the office, which has become my bedroom since coming home from the Berthoud Inn on March 16. That weekend, I'd gone out to a couple bars (in Berthoud), and John had hosted his annual gaming miniconvention (which was why I was holed up in Berthoud), so we've been sorta quasi-isolating ourselves from each other since then to keep what social exposure we'd had as much to ourselves as possible. We joke that the boundary between his space and my space runs right down the center of the kitchen table, where we sit on opposite sides in the evenings to play Spiral Knights. But of course we both use the kitchen. We even cook together sometimes; we made pad thai together Saturday night, for example. So there's only so much we can do. But we're doing it.

First thing I did upon waking up was call to cancel today's appointment at Cafe of Life and tomorrow's at North Boulder Physical Therapy. I guess I'd been kidding myself until recently, or just not thinking about it, but I thought about it over the weekend and realized that these, too, were non-essential as far as medical appointments go. I have my homework, I have my exercises, I can keep myself from losing ground on what both professionals constantly remind me are marathons rather than sprints. It's fine. We'll reconnect after the curve flattens out somewhat.

So then I made myself tea and got to work. Work looked a lot like work on any weekday. Morning Pages followed by breakfast, tooth-brushing, pill-taking, and catching up on news of the day. Freewriting to a prompt. Work on this week's Friday Fictionette offering (have I mentioned my release schedule is back to normal? Yeah! I done caught up). Work on the next very belated Fictionette Artifact for my exceedingly patient $5/month subscribers (obviously still catching up on that). Break for lunch and some admin duties. Then a solid session of Submission Procedures, because it's Monday. Logged the rejection letters my poetry and fiction got over the past week. Resubmitted my latest flash fiction piece. Did a final proofread on my story in the Community of Magic Pens anthology (which I will talk about a whole bunch tomorrow, so stay tuned).

It is a bit unsettling how very little my work and social routine have changed under pandemic lock-down. Under normal circumstances, I can quite easily go days without seeing anyone but my husband and my roller derby teammates. I'm seeing more of John since he's working from home every day rather than some days; I'm seeing my derby friends online for virtual workouts rather than in person for practice. That's pretty much all that's different; otherwise, it's life as usual for this hermit. And, well, wow. I already identified as an introvert, but I guess I didn't realize how much of an introvert I was until I realized how little this sort of social isolation bothers me--and how much social isolation I was already performing by choice before it became the medically necessary and socially responsible thing to do. I feel like maybe I should be a little bothered by that. But I'm not, not really.

Both John and myself continue symptom-free. But of course I get paranoid every time I blow my nose first thing in the morning or have a small wet coughing fit shortly after a meal. Which I've done, and had, every morning and after every meal for years. Is it still hypochondria when the microbes really are out to get you?

I'm powering through the main storyline quests on 4thewords.com, the system that turns writing goals into RPG-style battles. I'm currently in the Gansu Watering Hole chapter. Before I began writing this blog post, I fired up a battle against the Red Witch: 4,000 words in 1,000 minutes. Woo! With my attack and defense stats, it's actually 3,254 words in 1,200 minutes. I have until tomorrow at 1:30 PM to make the required word count. Sounds entirely plausible; by then I should have done tomorrow's freewriting and Fictionette work. Not to mention I'll have finished this blog post.

The sun's out, it's vaguely warm, and the sidewalks have dried off since the most recent blizzard, so I went skating. I did about two miles going "around the block", which is to say, all the way to the dead end of my street, then onto the path that follows the southbound highway, turn the corner to follow the westbound highway, then hit the creek path that cuts through the neighborhood and puts me back onto my street. There was also an early detour to a neighborhood park for footwork/individual skate skill practice on the cement basketball court.

Lunch was leftover peanut stew with bacon and okra, a variation on the recipe discussed here. I'd gone to the grocery Friday--that and Boulder Food Rescue combined are the one weekly out-of-the-house errand I'm still running; food delivery to those in need is more important now than ever, and while I'm at the donor grocery, I might as well get my own groceries too--and acquired ingredients for the peanut stew, the aforementioned pad thai, and an attempt at Dragon & Phoenix. In the absence of occasional meals at restaurants, I'm cooking my favorite restaurant meals at home. I got the okra, oyster sauce, stir-fry noodles, and various happy-making snacks for me at the Asian Seafood Market on my way home; they are still open too, and they are wonderful. Neither they nor Sprouts had fresh garlic, but I've got a small supply in addition to a bunch of minced roasted garlic in a jar in the fridge. We'll get by.

And now I'm back in the office writing this blog post. John's at the kitchen table finishing up his own day's work. We'll meet up soon for another dive into the Clockworks (I just made myself Mercurial Mail and I can't wait to level it up!). And that, more or less, is the status report for Monday, March 23, 2020.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, and treat yourself well.

not that 2020 is done paying off its debt you understand
Tue 2020-01-28 23:54:16 (single post)

Hey, look, it's tomorrow, and I'm dang well writing a blog post. And I'm going to start it off with more maddeningly vague news of a celebratory nature: Today's email included two rejections (one a form and one personal) AND ONE ACCEPTANCE. That's three acceptances in a single month and I'm starting to wonder when the other shoe will drop.

Maybe it already has dropped. I mean, just for example, if you're a Rush fan--and I'm a huge one--January got off to a rocky start, to say the least. (I don't feel I can blog about Neil Peart's passing yet. Maybe not ever. It's too big and sad, and others have said anything I could have said about it much more eloquently.) And if you're a sports fan, you just got some pretty terrible news this weekend about Kobe Bryant. The year 2020 is being totally tactless about how it hands out its good and bad news, just utterly failing to read the room. "Hey, so, don't be mad, but I killed off one of your lifelong heroes. Sorry, kid. Everyone dies eventually. But, hey! I'm making sure you get a ton of stuff published! So... we still cool?"

2020: The year of Really Good Stuff and Really Bad Stuff. Just like every other year in human history, I guess. I hope others affected by the Really Bad Stuff have some Good Stuff of their own to balance things out and make the Bad Stuff easier to bear. Because 2020 owes all of us a goddamn debt, right? Let's make it pay through the nose.

So, OK. This post was supposed to focus on the Good Stuff, so let's do that.

My two big fiction sales in 2019 were reprints, and I was glad of them, but they did leave me wondering if I'd ever write any publishable prose ever again. The flurry of poetry successes isn't to be sneezed at, true! But short stories are where my heart lives, and I began to doubt whether that love was requited. Then came the sales to Daily Science Fiction and Cast of Wonders, which made me do the Happy Dance Incessant! And yet those were pieces written in 2014 and 2018, respectively. What if I just... never wrote anything good again? What if I was doomed to sub and resub the same stable of stories, either placing them or trunking them ("trunking" is filing a story away as unpublishable and not submitting it anywhere anymore), maybe reprinting a few, but never successfully finishing new publishable works again?

(I believe that cognitive behavioral therapy calls this "catastrophizing." I'm kinda prone to it, if you hadn't noticed.)

So, hey, turns out that's not the case. The story that just now today got accepted for publication was written in its entirety during the first week of January. Hm. Well. "First week" is overstating things. I'd say 90% of the drafting and all of the editing was done on deadline day, because me and responsible adult time management are hardly ever in the same room and also not on speaking terms. I stayed home from roller derby practice to finish it, which meant I finished it Under Pain of Regret--I'd have desperately regretted skipping practice and not had a story submission to show for it. But I did finish it, I did submit it, I felt good about it, and I went to bed hardly regretting the lack of skating in the previous 24 hours at all.

And now that story's been accepted, which not only makes me feel that much less guilty about skipping practice that night, but also helps to reassure me that, there, Niki, you see, you can still write new stuff and get it published! Look at you, writing and selling new stuff like a real goddamn writer and everything!

I'm also pretty pleased because one of the hardest things to do is take a story that was specifically written to a particular market's theme and then try to sell it somewhere else. I'm still kind of annoyed with myself for failing to revise that old bringing-potato-salad-to-the-cult-meeting story in time to submit it to Galactic Stew, and that theme was just "spec fic in which food is important." This theme was much more specific. You just know that the editors at all the other markets are going to be like, "Ye Gods, not another story about Kangaroos from Alpha Centauri! Rejections must be going out for the Marsupials in Space anthology. *facepalm*" (Note: My story was not about Kangaroos from Alpha Centauri. If you like the idea of a Marsupials in Space anthology, feel free to Kickstart it yourself, because I don't think it actually exists. Yet.) For this reason the Clarkesworld guidelines list "stories written for someone else's theme anthology or issue" among their hard sells. So I'm rather relieved not to have to worry about a new home for my very specifically themed story at this time.

OK, so, well, that was a heck of a lot of blog post to write about something I'm not even sharing useful details about yet. Hi. This is my brain. I hope you've enjoyed your visit. MORE LATER. Good night!

all right, 2020, you can stay
Tue 2020-01-21 23:43:43 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have a couple new pending publications to announce for the New Year!

...Wow, that sounded a lot like the way last blog post started out. Of course, last blog post was almost a month ago. Twenty days, anyway. More or less. What'd I wrap up that post with, something about how "tomorrow" I was going to share a recipe? Sheesh. Hold that thought, though.

Here's the thing. When 2019 ended, three of my outstanding submissions were in HELD PENDING FURTHER CONSIDERATION status. Which is always a hopeful thing, but more often than not ends in REJECTION, PERSONAL. I have learned to get my hopes up only so far when I receive a HOLD notice.

And then on January 11, two of those HOLDS converted into ACCEPTANCES.

I can tell you in detail about one of them: Daily Science Fiction, well-respected purveyor of exactly what it sounds like, will publish my drabble, "The Rarest of Prey", in the coming months. The estimate I was given was two to three months, but thanks to intel from acquaintances I know this may in practice mean anywhere between 10 and 90 days. So you might as well just make a visit to DSF part of your complete breakfast. Read stories, love stories, rank and comment on stories, and maybe even support the stories so that the stories continue to appear in the green and white boxes. You won't be sorry!

The other story soon to be published will in fact be a reprint, and if you follow my Friday Fictionette project, you may already have read it; it's a past month's Fictionette Freebie. It is soon to be reprinted by one of my dream markets and I am over the moon. I should be able to reveal more details soon; I just returned the contract with my signature today.

I keep visiting each story's submission status on each publisher's interface and hitting REFRESH just to reassure myself that it's really real, it absolutely happened, two of my dream markets actually sent me acceptance letters this month. Payment's small beans because the one is only 100 words long and the other's a reprint, but it's a huge deal on my Wanna-be Writer Bucket List. Thus, I am happy dance for the forseeable future.

OK. So. I promised a recipe. Turns out I did already post the mirliton casserole recipe a whiles back, so you can click that link, or you can read on for...

Multi-cooker Recovery Dal: a tale in three functions

...for when you've just got home from roller derby practice (or tryouts!) and you're hungry but also too tired and brain-fried to cook anything complicated. Multi-cookers are GREAT for this. You may be familiar with The Instapot; I have a Lux Fagor Multicooker, which is less revered the internet over but does basically the same thing. Like so:

  1. SAUTE function: 5 minutes. Couple tablespoons canola oil (or a tbl canola and a tbl mustard if you can get it); half an onion, chopped; couple cloves garlic, smashed and minced. If you have a bunch of root vegetables from last fall you're trying to use up, chop 'em up and throw them in. It'll make it more filling. I like parsnips. When onions are soft, add black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, turmeric, whole cumin. Those last three are key. Don't stint. Toss in any additional fancy peppers and salts that make you happy. If you haven't got any mustard oil, toss in some ground mustard at this time, too. (Mustard oil must be labeled EXTERNAL USE ONLY/NOT FOR CONSUMPTION in the US because of reasons. I got mine at India's Grocery around the corner here in Boulder. If it's a massage oil product, double-check that it's 100% mustard oil and not full of random other ingredients. I'm all, erucic acid, sure thing, but shea butter? Hard pass. Anyway...) Stir the spices around in the sauteeing veg until your kitchen smells wonderful (about a minute).
  2. PRESSURE/HIGH function: 15 minutes. I add 3/4 cup red lentils and 4 cups water, give it all a good stir, and then seal the lid tight and start the pressure cook function. (I watch it like a hawk for the first few minutes to make sure steam isn't escaping out the sides; I think the lid's gasket is already starting to wear out. Boo.) When the 15 minutes is up and the pot beeps at you, turn the knob from PRESSURE to STEAM, i.e. perform a pressure quick-release. We are all far too hungry to wait on the natural release method, and besides, them beans are cooked. You can serve 'em up now and devour 'em. Or, if you can bear to wait just a few minutes longer, you can do what I do, which is to poach an egg in that glorious mess, like so...
  3. SIMMER: 5 to 7 minutes. Depends on how hard you like your egg poached. Just crack that sucker in there, hopefully without any bits of shell accompanying it, put the lid back on, and start the simmer function for the desired time.

When next the timer beeps, all that remains is to ladle yourself up a bowl and just try not to burn your mouth in your impatience. Which is thoroughly understandable. It's been half an hour since you got home and you need your protein!

Bonus: Enjoy in the bathtub with a soda and/or adult beverage of choice. LOOK, I DON'T JUDGE.

A bunch of yay and also driving
Thu 2019-08-22 22:09:55 (single post)
  • 29 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 46 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hello. I have just driven through a lot of Kansas. This weekend is the War of Wheels tournament in Salina, and I'm here to cheer on the Boulder County Bombers Screaming Mimis as they compete. It's going to be a lot of fun and very exciting and I am looking forward to it but what I'm really looking forward to right now is a good night's sleep because, woo, driving through a lot of Kansas.

Currently I'm at the Ambassador Hotel and Convention Center, and it's... weird. Which I supposed I should have expected. I know better than to take the cheapest hotel Google finds me. I mean, I've seen what happens when teammates do that. They come up to you at the afterparty asking wistfully, "Does your hotel have towels? Clean ones?" But in this case, the very cheap price was tacked onto a convention center. They host conventions! How bad can they be? Also, free breakfast.

And, well, they're not sketch. They're just weird. OK, from the outside they look sketch. To start with, the signage is difficult to make out--I went up and down the block a few times before I spotted it; Google unhelpfully told me "turn left (after the Subway restaurants)" and, well, that describes the driveways of about four hotels as well as an ice cream shop (Braum's) and something that looks like a rebranded Steak & Shake (Spangles!). All I could see was a big red A on black sign presiding over a seriously depopulated parking lot in front of an extinct Irish pub. But inside, it's this huge, cavernous space, four or five levels of balconies jutting out over what's unmistakably a hotel and convention center lobby, with lots of brass banisters and foliage-topped half-walls partitioning out the wide carpeted areas containing tables and chairs and, incongruously, random toy dispensers. You know, you put in a quarter and you get out a little plastic egg with a trinket inside? Yeah. And those toy dispensers make more light than the actual interior lighting of the space, which is super dim. I mean, I described it as "cavernous" advisedly. It's like a town carved into the walls of a great big cave. Also it kind of reminds me of the Christie Lodge in Avon, that one time I stayed there, only, like I said, not as well lit, and instead of pho there's BBQ.

And the place is simply deserted, undoubtedly because there are no conventions going on at the moment (unless you count the "Welcome Baptist Church!" signs visible through the windows near the locked and unlit convention center entrance; maybe it's a convention every Sunday morning) and also because the roller derby tournament hosts reserved their special rate block with the Quality Inn on the other side of the highway. I've run into a total of... three other guests, I think. Hardly anyone seems to be staying here right now. This underground cliff-dwelling is a ghost town. Or, at least, so it seems tonight. Maybe I'll get a better sense of the hotel's current population when I go over for the complimentary breakfast in the morning.

My room is pretty basic. It has the usual assortment of hotel furniture. There is a bathtub, which puts it ahead of some hotel rooms I've stayed in. Honestly, I can't complain.

But back to the actually writing, about which, this blog.

This week has been rough in terms of productivity. I managed about half of a late-starting Monday before getting pleasantly distracted by John's playing Dicey Dungeons. (That's an excellent fun time, by the way. Totally worth whatever Steam is charging for it. I may end up buying it myself.) Then neither of us managed much sleep (and not for lack of trying), so my Tuesday turned into pretty much nothing but recovering from that sleepless night in time to be functional at derby practice. I missed my daily submissions procedures and everything.

Then Wednesday I opened up my mail and found responses to five different submissions.

That's a lot. I've just gotten used to the idea that, with my one-sub-each-workday challenge, I may well have a rejection to log more days than not. OK. Fine. But five? Five submission responses? Accumulated only over 48 hours? That's... well, that's something that only happens when you have a lot of manuscripts out on submission at once. Which isn't something I've ever had before this year.

Here's the thing. Only two of those five responses were rejections.

One of the remaining three was from the Denver Horror Collective, which just reprinted "First Breath", to square away payment details with me. The contract said X amount within Y days of publication, and, hot damn, that's exactly what happened. That's always nice. Well, I say "always," but it's not like I get to deal with the post-acceptance part of the submission process often enough for "always" to mean a lot. This was only my second sale of 2019.

The other two? Were my fourth and fifth sales of 2019. Which is to say: ACCEPTANCE LETTERS. Yay!

I may have yelped and run out into the living room shouting, "It's a two-acceptance day! Eeeeee!" And then I may have tackle-hugged my husband. If so, he took it in stride.

One of those acceptance letters was for an old poem ("Your Disembodied Friends Would Like to Remind You") that I pulled out of the archives for a serious overhaul in order to submit it to a brand new horror quarterly. The other was for a previously published story ("Lambing Season") I'd submitted for reprint to an established podcast. Both should go live later this year. As usual, that's about all I can say until things develop further. In the meantime, please enjoy imagining me doing the happy dance. Any kind of happy dance. What kind of happy dance would you do? That one will be fine.

(If you are wondering, "Fourth and fifth? What happened to the third publication?" the answer is, "Didn't I mention that I sold a poem a couple weeks ago? I sold a poem called 'At Night, the Dead' a couple weeks ago. It'll be out later this year." Again, more details later.)

So my week may have slid into a rough patch, but Wednesday's inbox goodies really perked it right up! ...just in time for it to get all chaotic again what with the solo road trip and the roller derby tournament.

Yay!

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