“As a writer one of your jobs is to bring news of the world to the world.”
Grace Paley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

a long road to nowhere but with some interesting stops along the way
Tue 2020-05-12 23:45:53 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

Item the first: I want to make sure I've linked y'all to the correct version of the Dreams and Nightmares website, which is here: https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/. That's kind of important, since the place I linked you before is out of date; I hadn't realized that where it said the May issue had just been released, it was referring to May 2011. Whoops. Sometimes I am not a very careful reader.

It's early days yet. The issue featuring my poem "The Ascent of Inanna" won't be out until September. But why not get a head-start on bookmarking the webpage and maybe subscribing? (I will point out again that for $90, the same price as a three years' subscription outside the US, you can get yourself subscribed for life.) Meanwhile, the editor is posting a new poem every day on the magazine's blog (the page you'll land on when you click the link above), so you might as well make a habit of checking back every day, maybe over your lunch break. Doesn't lunch go down better with poetry? I certainly think it does.

Item the second: The Laptop Saga appears to have arrived at a satisfying conclusion, if by a long and twisty route. No, Thursday's replacement replacement motherboard did not resolve matters. But it got the ball rolling in the right direction.

Also, the onsite technician who visited on Thursday? He was a lot more pleasant than Tuesday's guy.

Tuesday's guy--I won’t sugarcoat this--he was a tool. Rather a jerk, is what I'm saying. He was the kind of guy who shows up during a pandemic under Colorado's "Safer at Home" phase of restrictions with no mask and no gloves (which I was cautiously OK with) and a snide attitude about how "everyone's getting paranoid these days" (which made me less OK about the no mask or gloves thing). The kind of guy who asks you what's going on with your computer, and when you try to answer, he talks over you. The kind of guy who says "I've been doing this thirty years, trust me, I know what I'm talking about" multiple times in a conversation. The kind of guy who, when the planned hardware replacement results in unplanned problems (the aforementioned failure to load Windows), calls up Dell Dispatch and straight-up abuses the dispatch tech. "Do you even know what you're doing? Look, I've been doing this 30 years, I am telling you, this motherboard is glitchy! It needs to be replaced!" The kind of guy who then, after hanging up the phone, starts explaining to you, his captive audience, why it was justified for him to yell at the dispatch tech like that, that dispatch tech doesn't know what he's doing, dealing with people like that dispatch tech is so hard. Also, the onsite tech was white and the dispatch tech was not, but that couldn't possibly have factored into the situation, could it? (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

So Tuesday's onsite tech made everything extremely uncomfortable. But a different technician showed up Thursday to install the replacement motherboard, and the difference was like night and day.

Thursday's tech was not a tool. Thursday's tech was entirely pleasant. Thursday's tech I would quite happily go out for beers with, or coffee, once we're allowed to go out to bars and cafes again, and talk tech and play board games.

To start with, he had no snide attitude about the pandemic; on the contrary, he arrived in facemask and gloves, and he opted to do the repair out on the front patio, "to minimize contact." So I, too, donned a facemask and helped him get set up on the folding table and chair out there. I pried open the screen on the office window so we could pass the laptop's charger cable through. Then I hung out at my desk in the office so we could easily communicate through the window while practicing responsible social distancing.

When he asked me questions about the computer, he listened when I answered. When I had questions, he took them seriously.

When he found the screws that the previous tech had stripped, he replaced them. (Seriously. Tuesday's awful toolish, jerkish tech stripped the screws. I suppose that, when he said, for the tenth or twentieth time, "I've been doing this 30 years," I should have asked, "Doing what?")

And then, after Thursday's entirely pleasant and professionally cautious tech put my computer together again, and it booted up successfully, he said, "I've got a couple other appointments in the area; when I'm done with those, I'll give you a call to see how it's doing and whether you need me to come back." That's how awesome Thursday's tech was.

And indeed, when we spoke again, the computer was not doing so great. Again, on the second or maybe third reboot, right after I installed all the drivers Dell's SupportAssist app told me to install, it choked. Black screen, Dell logo, infinitely revolving wheel of dots forever. Alas.

So the tech set me up another dispatch, one where they ship me a box for me to ship the computer back to the Repair Depot, and that was that.

Only, over the weekend, I got to thinking--am I really helpless here? Does my laptop have to be a paperweight? Must I limp along on the backup ASUS, afraid of running two programs at the same time for fear of bringing the whole machine to a grinding halt? So I booted up the Dell, tapped F8 until the advanced startup options menu appeared, and I invoked Windows Startup Repair.

And it worked. Dang thing rolled back the driver installs and booted up like a charm.

After that, I installed the recommended drivers one by one until I hit the one that caused Windows to fail to load. Turned out to be one of the optional drivers. Easy enough to just refrain from reinstalling it. Meanwhile, replacing the motherboard did seem to have resolved my webcam flicker issue. Sound out the speakers was worse than ever, but after some hours spent juggling Realtek drivers I apparently hit a winning combination; the stutter-lag-static is more or less gone now. I was able join in yesterday’s co-writing session over Zoom and my writing group’s critique session today over Discord without any problems.

The only real issue of note is that the power button will only power the computer on; any attempts to perform a hard shut-down by depressing the power button fail. Which is weird, but hardly worth shipping my computer away for a week. If the computer stops responding and I need a hard shut-down option, I know how to detach the battery.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the computer's fine now.

The box for shipping the computer to Dell arrived yesterday. I emailed the Repair Center to let them know I won't be using it. And they're cool with that.

The Fictionette Freebie for April 2020. Cover image incorporates and modifies photo sourced from Pixabay.
surfacing in between crises to bring you all sorts of flash fiction (not all of it is mine)
Tue 2020-05-05 23:21:31 (single post)
  • 950 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,189 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,260 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,240 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm still catching up on last week, and this week isn't helping. The bunnies are settling in nicely, and the water-from-the-ceiling crisis is resolved with the exception of needing to replace the vent fan--an irritation, but hardly an emergency. However, the laptop warranty repair situation is blowing up again.

The Onsite Technician came to visit today and replaced the motherboard and speakers, and for a few lovely minutes everything worked. We played and recorded sound, and there was no static. We tested the webcam, and there was no flicker. Hooray! So I signed the paperwork that said "All is resolved," the tech walked out the door... and I noticed the laptop's latest reboot cycle hadn't finished. I ran out to grab the tech before he could disappear, and he took a look. The reboot still never finished. Also it wouldn't respond to holding down the power button; the only way to turn it off was to unplug it and detach the battery.

So Thursday I get another visit from another tech with another new motherboard and maybe a hard drive too. And I'm using the backup Asus laptop because I can't even boot up the Dell in Safe Mode, with or without networking. The tech managed it once, but damn if I can figure out how. Good thing I backed every little thing up that changed since the last time I backed every little thing up, because I don't think I'm getting into that computer again without another Windows reinstall.

Nevertheless, I have been working diligently in between all these interruptions, and have at last arrived at the point where I can bring you the April 2020 Friday Fictionette Roundup!

Friday, April 3, 2020: "Real Friends" (ebook, audiobook) In which the protagonist discovers her origin story and determines to get real--and to take her best friend Samantha with her.

Friday, April 10, 2020: "Marla in Two Rooms" (ebook, audiobook) In which Marla endeavors to be a model citizen, unlike her parents and big sister.

Friday, April 17, 2020: "Human Capital" (ebook, audiobook) In which euphemisms aren't.

Friday, April 24, 2020: "She Danced for the Queen" (ebook, audiobook) In which the curse on the Beast and his castle turns out to be transferable. Now the Fictionette Freebie for April 2020!

The Friday Fictionette Project is short-short stories by subscription, a new one every first through fourth Friday (or, as we see from last weeks, a near facsimile thereof), which you can access as an ebook (HTML, PDF, epub, Kindle mobi) for $1/month and as an audiobook (mp3) for $3/month. Powered by Patreon. At the end of each month, one of that month's releases gets to fly and be freeeeeeee! to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

All right! So. That done, my next task is to make sure not to be late with the Friday Fictionette scheduled for May 8, or at least endeavor to be less late. Thankfully, there is a fifth Friday at the end of this month, which I hope to use to get a week ahead of schedule so that weeks bearing multiple crises (or, hey, weeks with a roller derby bout at the end, assuming we get to have roller derby bouts again someday!) don't throw the whole schedule off.

Also I am participating in the latest Escape Artists flash fiction contest, which means I have a lot of very short stories to read and vote on. You, too, can participate as a reader and a voter, even without entering a story! Just point your browser at the Escape Artists Forum, register yourself an account, then go find the "Flash Fiction Contest VI - Escape Pod" in The Arcade. (As a new forum user, pay especial attention to the thread "Can't see the story groups? Post here!")

It is an anonymous contest, so I can neither confirm nor deny any guesses as to which story might be my story. I guess you'll just have to read them all!

One book, two bunnies.
bunny population increases by two and book population by one
Mon 2020-05-04 17:21:52 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Guess what today is? It's BOOK RELEASE day! Community of Magic Pens is out, and I have copies of my very own. See? I mean, yes, of course, I already had the ebook edition downloaded, and that was lovely, but there's nothing quite like the reality of a physical paperback, holding it in my hand, flipping to page 209 to see my story in print! Right there! On paper! That has that new book smell and everything!

It is a gorgeous object, this book. It's just perfect for reading. And it would look very nice on your bookshelf. You should totally go order yourself a copy. (Maybe two or three. They make excellent gifts.)

Now, you might notice that there's a bunny posing alongside that book in the photo. Two bunnies, actually, but Holland will insist on hiding behind Gemma and making himself hard to see. He's still a little wary of me since I had to give them both medicine over the weekend. Gemma, on the other hand, will come right up to the crate bars just in case I've got a treat for her. All is forgiven, so long as I bring her a treat.

These two came home with us last week from the Colorado House Rabbit Society. We are "overnighting" them. I put scare-quotes around the word because it's not going to be just a few nights, or even a few weeks. We don't know how long it's going to be. In light of the current RHDV2 outbreak in the southwest US, COHRS is taking active measures to protect their herd of 130 rabbits waiting for adoption. They are dispersing them among their volunteers, so that should any of their bunnies tragically contract the disease, only one other bunny, rather than 129, will be at risk of catching it from them.

So we have furry house-guests until a vaccine becomes available (which it might never--one exists, but getting hold of it involves a lot of money and bureaucracy and at least one confirmed case in a domestic rabbit in the state), or until the risk of infection has passed (no sooner than three months after the last confirmed case in the area, I guess? The virus can survive a long time without a host), or until Gemma and Holland get adopted permanently (which can't happen during the COVID-19 pandemic), or... well, I don't know. We have furry house-guests for the foreseeable future. That's all we know for sure.

On the one hand, there's a certain amount of work involved. You know how it is with pets. Care and feeding and cleaning and love and attention and so forth. On the other hand, there's a lot of joy involved too. Also laughter. Bunnies are hilarious. I just watched Holland pick up his jingle toy, fling it across the crate, then go pick it up and fling it back, repeatedly, for about five minutes. His other favorite game is "Get the stupid oversized apes to chase me." He will play that game around and around the sofa for as long as the stupid oversized apes are willing to play along. Gemma is quieter but more trusting. She's getting very good at practicing "pick up!" with me. Then I'll set her down in my lap, and she will consent to sit there for a few minutes and even tolerate my combing her a little. This, when she hasn't even been here a week yet! It is magical.

It's amazing how much they relieve the solitude of shelter-in-place. I know John is smiling and laughing a lot more since they came home. And while I still seem to thrive more than not in this pandemic-induced isolation, I'm finding it unexpectedly delightful to have additional beings in my face-to-face physical space to interact with.

Between the bunnies coming home last week, the water falling from the ceiling, the domino effect of no sleep one night leading to no work the next day leading to no sleep as I try to catch on the work the next night, and of course some new issues to troubleshoot on my computer because of course there had to be (its replaced hardware is working fine, but now the speakers and microphone have developed a lot of snap-crackle-pop static and the webcam flickers badly)... last week was more or less a loss. I'm still trying to finish the Friday Fictionette for May 1. I made good progress on it this morning, though, so I feel confident saying it'll go up on Patreon either tonight or tomorrow. After that, I'll release the April 2020 Fictionette Freebie and tell you all about it.

Until then! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go give the bunnies their afternoon salad. And also another treat.

poetry is a help in times of water falling from the ceiling
Thu 2020-04-30 00:24:13 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

About that poetry sale from the other weekend: I've got the go-ahead to share the details with you! My poem, "The Ascent of Inanna," will be part of the September 2020 issue of Dreams and Nightmares Magazine. Founded in 1986, it's one of the longest-running print publishers of speculative poetry, and I am so pleased to get to be a part of it.

The thing about this poem is, it started as a piece of flash fiction, which I wrote for Codex's annual Weekend Warrior contest. I'm sure I've mentioned it before; this was my third time participating. Each entry must be written new for the contest in the space of a single weekend and can be no longer than 500 words. For Week 2, somehow I lit on the idea that after Inanna hung around three days dead in the Underworld, it must have been just the absolute pits to have to climb back up to Heaven and be Queen again.

So that's what I wrote. But I couldn't figure out how to end it properly. There wasn't enough story in the moment of Inanna's contemplation of her re-ascent to the Great Above. But attempting to pack her entire return into 500 words, right up to the bit where she finds her husband celebrating rather mourning and tells the demons they can have him in her stead, was a little much. I knew that no matter how well or poorly the story did in the contest, it would need a significant revision.

I wound up revising it into a poem. And the editor of Dreams & Nightmares offered to buy it. And you will get to read it in September. Information on subscribing to the magazine can be found here. (I'm intrigued to see that lifetime subscriptions are an option at roughly the cost of a three-year subscription. That's super tempting.)

The acceptance email came on Sunday the 18th, and payment, as the guidelines said it would be, came shortly after that acceptance, on Saturday the 25th. And on Thursday the 23rd, my laptop came home from the repair depot full of brand new hardware that worked blissfully well. It was a good week! And apparently I needed it, because the next week--this week--was gonna start out pretty crappy: In the wee hours of Monday the 27th, I was awakened by the sound of a waterfall where a waterfall had no business being.

About a gallon of water, all told, just poured out of vent fan unit. (This was due, I found out later, to a toilet in the unit above me overflowing. Also, this is not the first time something like this has happened. My upstairs neighbor has let me know she's doing what she can to make sure it's the last.) But it started slowly enough that, before the deluge hit full force, I had time to hop out onto the back porch, select the bucket that was full of pruned bits of tomato plant rather than potting soil, and then--this is key--stand there wavering groggily over what to do with those tomato prunings. I think I stood there for about twenty seconds, just paralyzed over having nowhere to put 'em. This is what happens when I get woken up suddenly at 3:45 AM. My brain does not work. Finally I came to my senses, dumped the compost-to-be onto the patio deck, and raced back inside to position the bucket where it would do the most good. Maddeningly, the water was coming down precisely onto the edge of the toilet seat, not a stable place for the bucket. I wound up using a stool to support it.

Then I went to call the condo association's emergency maintenance line. The emergency maintenance line unexpectedly went to voice mail. I left a rather pathetic message, which was returned around 7:30 AM by the property manager, telling me that they'd get the property restoration people on the case right away, and also that I should have called the emergency maintenance line. "Option four," they tell me. "You press four, that gets you the after-hours emergency people." I told him I did press four, and that's how I got the answering machine. Why did that happen, did they think? "Oh. I don't know why that happened." *facepalm*

So now we are living with two heavy duty fans and a dehydration unit in our bathroom, making the whole bedroom/bathroom area hot and noisy. But the noise is surprisingly easy to sleep through, and the weather outside is nice enough to leave the bedroom window open all night, and the heat in the bathroom has made my sourdough yeast starter experiment encouragingly vigorous. So things aren't all that bad.

Besides, I just sold a poem! I can't get too far down in the dumps before I remember that and smile.

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!

Almost 5 down, lots more to go
but i guess temptation was strong and i was weak
Tue 2020-04-21 22:01:18 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

So the thing about the novel is, it's a NaNoWriMo novel. As such, it's got certain features that are making it a challenge to edit.

Way back in the day, when I was more active on the NaNoWriMo forums, there was a particular category of "advice" that popped up at the beginning of the month. "When you're reaching for 50,000 words, every word counts," certain contributors would say, "so make sure you spell out every contraction and every acronym! Write 'do not' instead of don't, 'Personal Identification Number,' instead of PIN. Be conscientious about this and you'll hit 50K in no time!"

This would invariably make me *facepalm*. I mean, fine, if you think of NaNoWriMo as a game, there's nothing wrong with wordcount-padding strategies to help you win it. But if you think of NaNoWriMo as the motivation to finally write the first draft of an eventually publishable novel, why in heaven's name would you send your character to use an Automated Teller Machine on campus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Why would you strew your first draft with litter when you'll only have to clean it up at the revision stage? I mean, yes, first drafts aren't perfect, sure, and sometimes you do babble out any old thing as a placeholder for those names or details you'd rather not break your current flow to research. But that's a different animal than deliberately inserting crap that A. you know is crap, and B. serves no purpose other than to pad your word count!

Look, I compose my drafts on 4thewords. Every day is NaNoWriMo when you've got monsters to battle. The interface counts words as they are typed, rather than words I commit to saving, and yes, I will take all sorts of advantage of that. I will happily babble and keyboard-smash my wordy way into a story idea. But that babble is actually serving a purpose. I think out loud on the page; that's the only way I find out what I'm thinking. If the babble weren't genuinely part of my process, if it weren't serving my art and my career, then I might as well win my monster battles by copy-pasting Wikipedia entries for all the good it would do me.

So. Those are my holier-than-thou thoughts about NaNoWriMo. So you can imagine my chagrin when I discovered that I, too, was playing the game of Wordy For Word Count's Sake back in 2006. And, y'know, I'm pretty sure I knew that's what I was doing at the time. Maybe I wasn't omitting contractions or spelling out acronyms, but I was definitely--just for instance--having my protagonist list the songs on favorite albums, or having her say in quoted dialogue something that she'd already told the reader via first-person narration. I was absolutely padding my wordcount with crap that I knew was crap and that served no purpose in the draft or to my process, except inasmuch as my process was "win NaNoWriMo."

And now it's my job to clean it up.

Thanks, past me. Thanks awfully much.

In other news, the granny square afghan continues apace. Here, pictured above, are the squares I've begun or finished, laid out according to the pattern's directions for assembly. I think there's a metaphor in there for assembling a second draft novel out of first draft scenes, but I don't really feel like going into it. Dealing with the novel itself is hard enough as it is; I don't need to deal with it on the meta level as well.

Finished the lap blanket; just getting started on the granny square afghan
quarantine crafting, cooking, and poetry publishing
Mon 2020-04-20 22:34:34 (single post)

Hello from a fairly satisfying Monday! The sun is shining, the paving is dry, and I just went for a big long street-and-trail skate. Looped around 28th to Elmer's Two Mile to Goose Greek to Foothills to Wonderland Creek and home again. It took nearly the entirety of the album Best of Blondie.

I'm coming off a pretty damn good weekend for poetry. One came home with the kind of personal rejection that makes an author walk on air and smile foolishly for the rest of the day. The editor responded, at paragraph length (and not a short paragraph, either), with an in-depth interpretation of the poem, teasing out meaning I had not consciously put in there (but wished I had, because damn, that's some clever stuff!). We are talking exegesis here. Another poem came home, from a different market, with an offer to buy. (I said yes, of course.) No contract yet, so details later, yadda yadda yadda. I shall reveal more when I can.

So. One amazingly thoughtful personal rejection and one acceptance. That's a damn good weekend.

There has, meanwhile, been more quarantine cooking and quarantine crafting. John's missing his California Pizza Kitchen fix; he found a copycat recipe for their Kung Pao Spaghetti, and we gave it a shot last night. (Sans chicken, of course.) It got all the thumbs up from this household. The recipe calls for a whole pound of spaghetti, so we figured there would be leftovers. There were no leftovers. There would have been if we had possessed any self-restraint whatsoever, but we did not, and so we ate it all.

Next time we will make half the recipe, just out of self-defense.

The effect was not unlike that of Pinch of Yum's Rainbow Pad Thai. The sauce is very similar. Veggie broth, soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, vinegar. The main difference was that it was thickened with cornstarch in the bowl rather than with egg in the pan. I'm thinking next time I might try the egg method; I find that the flavor and texture of cornstarch is just a little too front-and-center. But obviously I had no real complaints. NO LEFTOVERS.

Meanwhile, I dug up and finally finished this lap blanket, pictured above. I started work on it some three years ago or more. I'd just made one for a Boulder County Bombers silent auction following the Gingerbread Lady's Ribbon Afghan pattern, and I thought it would be nice to have one of my own. This time I'd substitute a half-double stitch for that one chain stitch that separated the blocks of double-crochet from the blocks of single, see if that resulted in a smoother effect. It did, and I liked it, but somehow I just never got around to finishing it. Well, it is now finished. Finished and warm and soft and cozy.

That done, I investigated another couple bags of acrylic yarn someone gave me--this is a thing that happens when one crafts out in public; other people offer one yarn when they want to winnow down their stash. I have yet to learn to say no, mainly because I keep thinking, "I'll make it into another patchwork afghan!" Well, time to get busy on that. That bag of brightly colored balls of yarn you see in the photo next to the lap blanket is getting turned into a bunch of granny squares, more or less following the Crayola Colors Afghan pattern in Women's Day Granny Squares #8, which was on my shelf for some ungodly reason and seemed like a good place to start.

Crocheting granny squares is not a bad way to spend time waiting for a Puzzle Pirates voyage to get under way. Did I mention I'm playing Puzzle Pirates again? Yep. Logged on this afternoon after my work was done. Promptly won a bunch of Easter Egg furniture in an Ocean-wide competition that happened to be going on at the time. When it comes to Rigging and Navigating, I've still got it.

Anyone to whom that actually made sense, drop me a line. We should pilly.

talk about foreshadowing
Thu 2020-04-09 22:39:40 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

About that novel: The easy part is almost over.

I have imported into the new Scrivener project seven chapters comprising in total 13 scenes and 26,455 words. Since the entire novel is just over the NaNoWriMo finishing line of 50,000 words long, that means I've imported half of the existing novel in about a week. Taking it slow, remember. Reading each scene through and jotting down notes along the way.

The problem is, my notes are already saying things like, "You don't know either, do you?" and "Ah, still need to figure this out, I see."

In one of the scenes I imported today, a teenager, Tess, says to the protagonist, Gwen, "Have you found Mrs. Nimbel's quill pen yet? It's important!" and Gwen says that no, sorry, she hasn't even had a chance to look for it, what with trying to save the bookstore from a really nasty and unfounded reputation in the neighborhood, trying to stay alive long enough to do that, and, oh yeah, trying not to miss the deadline on her next book. "Can you tell me why it's so important?"

This is where the reader (who is me) says Yes, please tell us! What is up with the damn quill?! And Tess... does not tell us. She says, "You mean you don't know? You expect me to believe you practically grew up in this bookstore, and now you own the place, and you don't know? You don't know anything, do you?" Whereupon she runs off in a passion and loses herself among the bookstore shelves.

Which is where I say to the author (who was me), "You don't know either, do you? You never figured it out at all. Oh crap. That means I'm going to have to figure it out. Great."

So, yeah. I'm only halfway through the easy part in terms of word count, but I'm very much almost to the hard part in terms of content. I'm very much almost to the part where I have to come up with the answers I failed to come up with fourteen years ago. And then I'll have the harder part still to do, which is to make it all hang together as an actual novel I might consider sending out to agents someday.

See, I remember thinking up the quill. I remember being so damn proud of it. I'd gotten to one of those middle-of-November crisis points where I had no idea what to write next, so I pulled one of my usual tricks: I reread my material so far looking for a throwaway detail that I could make into a plot point. I found a description of Mrs. Nimbel's desk with its permanent inkwell, and how Gwen remembered watching her dip a quill pen in that ink to write special notes and letters and even sign credit card slips. Ah-ha, said I, that quill pen will be the engine that drives the next third of the novel! It's gone missing, and Gwen has to find it in order to save the bookstore! I'll figure out the details later.

I guess later is now.

Amusingly, when Tess comes back out from among the shelves with a book to buy and an apology for her tantrum (which Gwen, not being a total jerk, meets with an apology of her own), she and Gwen exchange email addresses so they can talk about it later. You know what that means, right? Come on. What happens in pretty much any story full of intrigue when a secondary character has vital information but, instead of revealing it right away, tells the protagonist that they will have to tell them later?

Well, no. There will be no underage deaths in this book. But Tess is probably going to have to be the next kid to go missing, isn't she?

If I didn't write that in the first draft, I'm damn well writing it into the second.

my personal version of original sin or something like that
Wed 2020-04-08 21:49:27 (single post)

As I've been delightedly chirping about, my work days lately have been fantastic. Partially because of Cat Rambo's co-writing sessions, partially because of all the appointment cancellations and stay-at-home routines of the pandemic, and partially because changing to a different hypertension medication at the beginning of the year means that, after four years of not, I'm getting enough sleep at night... I'm doing all my work, every day. I'm hitting every item on my checklist at more or less the planned time. With results including: I've got a good amount of manuscripts out on submission at any given time, I'm finishing my Friday Fictionette releases a day early, and now I'm rewriting a novel!

It's wonderful. I'm getting an amazing amount of things done every day, and come five or six o'clock, I'm more or less off the clock. My responsibilities are met. I can relax.

But just try telling my scarred little brain that.

Stress is a habit. Guilt is a habit. The conviction that, if I'm playing or reading or cooking a meal or going to sleep early, it's because I'm procrastinating the day's writing and that makes me a bad, lazy, undisciplined wanna-be of a writer, that shit carves a rut in the brain. So that conviction lingers, even when it no longer reflects reality.

Which leads to scenes like this:

It's eight p.m. and I've completed my checklist of writing tasks. I've logged four and a half hours of solid work. I've even taken care of some financial chores during my lunch break. I'm done. Now I get to play! I boot up Spiral Knights, I log in... and then I sit there looking at the mission screen, feeling a nagging sense that I shouldn't be here. I should be doing something virtuous right now. Something productive. It's simply not valid for me to spend the next couple hours smashing jelly cubes and gremlins in the Clockworks.

So maybe I play anyway. And the whole time I'm playing, that sense continues to nag. And it makes the game not fun.

So maybe I don't play. And I sit there at my desk, staring at my computer, wondering what else I should do with my time. No ideas occur.

And that's how the rest of the evening passes: half-heartedly poking at this or that pastime but never really settling in to enjoy myself, and then suddenly it's bedtime. I earned an evening of fun, but I failed to cash it in before my credits expired.

This is not insurmountable. I'm not really complaining. Like all bad habits, this tendency to never feel sufficiently off the hook to enjoy myself just needs to be replaced with good habits, which I will practice until they become, well, habitual. It'll take a certain amount of mindfulness, but I'll get there. It's no big deal.

It's just weird, that's all. I thought it was worth mentioning.

one hundred words closer to upgrading my SFWA membership
Wed 2020-04-08 00:31:07 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have happy news today! One of the three stories that sold back in January has now been published--it is online where you can read it and everything! "The Rarest of Prey," what I've been referring to as "that tacky little unicorn drabble," is now live for your reading pleasure at Daily Science Fiction.

Meanwhile, I continue plugging away at all the daily and weekly writing tasks...

This morning's freewriting session resulted in a couple potential poems, one about the pandemic, the other about prejudice, and both depressing as heck. (Sometimes poetry is like that.)

This week's Friday Fictionette is slowly but steadily taking shape. That's particularly reassuring to see, since this one started out more nebulous than most.

Another page of a very overdue Fictionette Artifact got typed up. The very last of the the ribbons I ordered back in January 2017 is on its last legs, so I placed an order for more yesterday with Ribbons Unlimited--and they've already been shipped! Should be here Thursday. They are not just speedy, but solicitous, too. In response to a note I included with my order, the proprieter called me up on the phone to reassure me that, despite a change of verbal description, the part number I had ordered was indeed compatible with my particular typewriter (a Tower "Quiet-Tabulator" from the 1950s that an acquaintance in Oregon sold me for $50 back in, oh, 1998 or so).

The early novel revision efforts are inching along. I wrote The Bookwyrm's Hoard using a very early version of yWriter. Possibly version 2? I installed version 6 and it didn't want to open the novel directly; instead, I had to use one of its Import Earlier Version commands. 2006 was that long ago in software years. In any case, I've created a Scrivener project and have begun importing the draft, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. (I'm up to Chapter 3.) As each scene gets imported, I read it and make notes broadly identifying areas I need to fix or pay special attention to. (There are a lot of problems need fixing. Some of them are very embarrassing. No, I'm not going to list examples.) I'm trying not to judge but rather to observe and acquire data. I'm also getting surprised a lot. I remembered the basics of the plot, such as it was, but there are loads of details I'd forgotten, and some of them are actually a delight.

And of course there was dinner. (Bonus food content!) Native Foods said "Hey, it's Takeout Tuesday! Double points if you order today!" so I was like, OK, fine, let's try your fancy Plant-Based Roast. I scheduled an order for 5 PM delivery. It arrived right on time. My hunger also arrived right on time. Only problem was, the fancy Plant-Based Roast arrives frozen solid and requires an hour and a half in the oven. Whoops. Good thing I had also ordered a 4-pack of their burger patties. Those cook up in about 5 minutes on the stove.

The roast, when it was finally done, was delicious. Also it will feed me for days. (Just me. It's not really John's thing, although the burger patties might be.) A+, would recommend. Just understand that, once it arrives at your door, you aren't going to get to eat it for at least two hours, and schedule your delivery accordingly.

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