“It's funny how just the simple act of answering a day's worth of e-mail will keep the crushing inevitability of the entropic heat death of the universe at bay for a good half hour to an hour.”
John Scalzi

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

what does not kill me yadda yadda yadda
Wed 2019-04-03 23:57:20 (single post)

This is not an actually writing blog post. It's more of a not actually writing post. Or at least writing very little. I'm getting to my daily freewriting, at least, but what's the point of that if I'm not converting the resulting story ideas into, y'know, stories? The point appears to be to point at it and say, "At least I got my damn freewriting done."

Why is so little writing actually happening?

Well, yesterday the problem was a failure to get up on time, followed by intense panic over how little time remained in the day before roller derby practice.

Today, as it turns out, the problem was getting up on time and then utterly crashing in the early afternoon because apparently I'd used up my daily ration of oomph.

Some weeks you just can't win for losing.

It is possible that today's early afternoon crash owes less to an embarrassing innate inability to last through a full day, and more to a reasonable inability to do a full day in a week that contains nearly double the usual number of roller derby practices. In which case there's hope. Though initially exhausting, this double-practice schedule should be making me stronger in the long run, thus more able to stay upright all day long. Theoretically. If not, I can at least look forward to returning to my regular practice schedule after Tax Day.

Speaking of which, I've got my annual appointment with the tax accountant tomorrow. And, as usual, I still have to gather all my documents and line up all my sums. Every year I tell myself I'll do it early, I'll open up the tax organizer the moment the accountant mails it to me and get right to work filling everything out, and every year I completely fail to live up to those good intentions. So tomorrow's going to feature the traditional mad scramble to get everything together before noon. Yay.

Maybe I'll manage to do some writing after my appointment. Maybe. If I can manage to avoid the early afternoon crash.

"Thank you for tuning in to another episode of This Week In Whining. If you have enjoyed tonight's installment, stay tuned, 'cause the week ain't over yet..."

your daily dose of me stating the obvious
Tue 2019-04-02 23:58:42 (single post)
  • 1,285 wds. long

I am contemplating a short story rewrite.

I originally wrote the story in response to a specific prompt in the submission guidelines of a themed quarterly publication. I submitted it; they rejected it; we move on. I rewrote it before submitting it elsewhere so that it wouldn't look so obviously like a story written to some other publication's prompt and theme, but, looking at it now, I'm forced to admit, the thing's still pretty darn skeletal. And incoherent. And obviously written to a prompt.

(I feel like a lot of things I write these days are skeletal. It's like I suddenly don't have the stamina needed for writing the actual story, so instead I write a really verbose story outline and call it a story. I'm a little worried about this.)

So I need to revise the story again. But I hardly know where to start. I've been staring at the draft and jotting down questions to myself in the margins: "Does this scene really serve the story? How?" "What's this story really about?" and "How does the homing device/angels/aliens thing interact with the lives-you-wished-you'd-lived theme?"

I have not jotted down any answers yet. I've taken fountain pen and spiral notebook and babbled out a series of possible directions in which I might choose to take the story. I have yet failed to choose any of them. I kind of suck at making decisions sometimes.

So... yeah. Short story rewrites are hard. In other news, water is wet and ice is cold. Good night.

even if the author has nothing much to blog about
Mon 2019-04-01 23:28:36 (single post)

Hello from the drained-brain part of the evening! Which is to say, the post-derby portion of the night. I don't have a lot to report, writing-wise, and I'm sore and exhausted and not doing the words thing too good right now, but what the hell. It's Monday. I'm supposed to blog Monday through Friday. And I have a working website to blog on again. Let's do this.

Here is what I have to report derby-wise: A hell of a lot of roller derby. I've got a double-header to skate in on Saturday the 13th (if you're local to the Denver-Boulder-Longmont area, you should definitely come watch!) and then a sanctioned tournament on the 27th (ditto, only for that one "local" means Eagle). These two events are with two different, if overlapping, BCB teams, so I'm going to more practices than usual to get time skating with both my line-ups. Thus tonight's scrimmage. Thus the sore and exhausted. Happy, though. Getting back to roller derby practice after almost two weeks away is really nice! Getting to do so much of it in a week is exciting! Although I'm sure that by mid-month I'll be happy enough to go back to only three days per week.

Here is what I have to report writing-wise: A post-vacation back-to-normal writing schedule! Mostly starting tomorrow, though, because today got away from me a little. Nevertheless, today's Monday Muse is up (on a Monday! shock!) and happy to share a batch of writing prompts with you.

That's about all I've got tonight. More actually writing stuff tomorrow, along with some What I Did On My Spring Break show-and-tell. Til then!

bam, just like that
Sat 2019-03-30 20:36:09 (single post)

And now everything's working again. No more broken bits. Bam.

I'm not even sure the actual code had anything to do with it. I only changed one "mysql_connect" to "mysqli_connect", and I think I actually changed it back. Which isn't to say I shouldn't move all the code over to the new standard, mind you--deprecated code won't be supported forever--but I seriously don't think that was the problem.

I think the problem had to do with a change in how passwords were handled, and also with my database user account somehow losing privileges on the Writing database (but not on the Journal database? weird). After going into the control panel and changing the password and re-granting the privileges, EVERYTHING WORKED.

Three months this blog was broken because I couldn't even and THAT'S all it took to fix everthing? WELL THEN.

You may expect regular blogging to resume Monday. Probably there will be a recap of my trip to New Orleans, I dunno. I haven't blogged regularly in three months, I'm sure I'll come up with something.

i seem to have a web page again
Sat 2019-03-30 13:50:16 (single post)

This just in: I am successfully drawing info from the database again.

I finally, finally, after three honking months, sat down to reteach myself PHP/MySQL code via the w3schools.com tutorial. Apparently a huge portion of the code I used to create all my websites got deprecated in 2012. Apparently the version of PHP to which my ISP updated itself to in December stopped supporting that deprecated code. Which meant everything went BOOM and also "Access Denied."

So, OK. First thing I do is, I create myself a Hello World page and I set about connecting to the database using the 2019-approved code extension. I can't connect. I get "Access Denied" on my fresh new code too. Wut.

So OK. I go back into my cpanel and just, I dunno, change the database user's gods-damned database password. Cpanel tells me, "Make the password stronger! Let me generate one for you!" I say OK. Fine. Password generated. Password strength approved. Password changed.

And damn if suddenly I don't get a working web page again.

I mean, OK, some things are still not working. You might notice the attracting "SELECT command denied to user blah blah table 'manuscripts' blah blah" at the top of the page. BUT I DON'T CARE IT'S PROGRESS.

So. BRB, digging into the code to find out why that particular database call is failing. Because I can blog now, but I'd also like to be able to update my submissions database, and that's hard to do is table 'manuscripts' is inaccessible.

This has been your incomprehensible and boring technological update on the state of the actual writing blog. Stay tuned for hopefully making all those error messages go away.

reporting from the unexpectedly lengthened road
Mon 2019-03-18 22:00:00 (single post)

The train station in Raton, New Mexico is little more than a tiny waiting room cared for by dedicated WWII veterans who really, really, really want to help you with your luggage. (Honestly, the gentleman offering to take my suitcase looked like he could easily fit in it, at which point I could then bench press the whole ensemble.) However, there is this little gift shop across the street ("The Rat Pack"?) where the staff will happily stow your bags in the back room so you can enjoy beautiful downtown Raton while waiting for your train. I have, accordingly, been enjoying this comfy, friendly cafe and its delicious lunch fare.

Outside, the weather has cycled from sunny to light flurries of snow to sunny again. I hear there will be eight to ten inches of snow tonight, but by then I'll be well on my way to Chicago and my connection with Train 59, the southbound City of New Orleans. And the weather in New Orleans for the next few days is forecast to be perfect skating and biking weather. Also great weather for parade-watching.

What with the actually writing blog still being down (didn't find time this past week to poke at it, unfortunately), I've been turning the Monday Muse into something of a blog substitute. So this week's Monday Muse contains, in addition to the writing prompt associated with March 22nd's Friday Fictionette, the story of why I'm in Raton and not, as originally planned, in Denver Union Station waiting for the arrival of the eastbound California Zephyr. The tl;dr version is "blame climate change."

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

quick, look over there at that convenient distraction
Mon 2019-03-11 22:00:00 (single post)

The actually writing blog is still broken because for three months I haven't been able to find the wherewithal to investigate what spontaneously went wrong with the code I hadn't touched in, like, ever. Probably some PHP or MYSQL upgrade I neglected to prepare for. This will probably involve my relearning how to speak database or something.

IN ANY CASE, please enjoy this week's Monday Muse over at the Friday Fictionette project. I'm still doing the Friday Fictionette project, though of late I've been chronically late about it. For those not in the know, it's one short-story-like object released (theoretically) every first-through-fourth Friday for subscribers/Patrons. On Mondays I try to put up a public post in which I share the writing prompt that gave rise to the upcoming Friday's release and invite readers to try writing a little something on it themselves. That's the Monday Muse, and this is the one for this week. (Posted on a Tuesday, of course, because what even is schedules?)

I hope to fix the blog REAL SOON NOW. Hope.

a recipe for spur-of-the-moment dirty rice, presented in second person POV because that's what it sounds like in my head when i talk to myself
Wed 2019-01-02 22:00:00 (single post)

Defrost and begin browning a pound of sausage. You've still got a few pounds left in the freezer. You always bought it five or ten pounds at a time, and you're glad of that now, because you're not likely to get the opportunity to buy any again, not this sausage. The pig farmer, who was also your teammate, had to sell the farm and move out of state, herself with all her animals. You miss her. Maybe one day you'll see her on the track again, probably as her opponent at some away game in Kansas. One day you'll get to hear it again, her mutter of "Damn it, Fleur--" that means your attempts to play offense on her are working, at least a little.

Chop up a small white onion and add it to the sausage. Then three ribs of celery. You'd like to use all the celery, it's getting old and that takes some doing with celery, but three ribs really is plenty. What's left will keep for next time. Not so the parsley, which you bought three weeks back for those culinary adventures involving mirliton and seafood on the one hand and beef tongue on the other. Chop up and add to the pot as much as looks right, about a quarter cup or so. The rest can go in the compost. Add garlic. Two cloves? Better make it three. Three big cloves. Smash them lightly under the flat of the blade to loosen their skins, then mince them fine. Throw 'em in.

Stir. Break up the sausage. Add spices: black pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes. A shake or two of Cajun Land seasoning, if that isn't redundant. Keep mashing at the sausage with your wooden spoon to crumble it further. Add a cup of long grain white rice and stir it around, getting it nicely coated in the grease.

Defrost a quart of seafood stock, also leftover from that adventurous cooking weekend. You made this stock with veggies, spices, and the shells of almost three pounds of crawfish. When you upend it into the pot, the smell of crawfish is unmistakable and strong. Better turn on the fan over the stove. The stock is still mostly a thick core of ice because you got impatient and because the rice started sticking to the bottom of the pot. So it'll take longer to come to a boil and the rice will take longer to cook. Oh well.

Wonder for a moment whether there's too much broth and not enough rice. Will it wind up more like soup? That will be fine, as long as it's delicious. It smells like it's going to be delicious. Cover and leave to simmer.

Adjust the timer several times. With eight minutes left, the rice is still uncooked. Put it back up to fifteen. Ten minutes later, reset it to ten. Is it done yet? You're hungry!

When the rice looks cooked enough, take the pot off the fire. Ladle up a serving into a bowl. Put the lid back on securely. If it isn't quite there yet, it'll steam the rest of the way. It isn't, but it does, and you have another serving. The rice has absorbed most of the broth, so it's not soupy after all.

Exercise a little self-restraint. After your second bowl, put the rest away in the refrigerator for leftovers.

Contemplate the sink full of dirty dishes and cooking implements. Groan a little. Resolve to do it, but later tonight. It can wait an hour or so. Grab a book and succumb to food coma on the couch. Everything--the dirty dishes, the writing tasks not yet done, the still-broken web code on your blog, all the rest--will still be there waiting for you when you get up again.

a thing i did, a thing i did not
Thu 2018-12-13 23:49:25 (single post)

A thing I did not do today: Bake the fruitcake. I will have to bake it tomorrow afternoon.

Which is to say: there will not be an all-night Winter Solstice open house and vigil at Chez LeBoeuf-Little this year, because reasons, but there will be a fruitcake. And I was going to bake it today. This afternoon! Only by the time I really got going this morning it was too late to start, what with having to leave for scrimmage by 5:30 PM and all.

Then I thought, "OK, fine, I'll do it when I come home from scrimmage." Then I went to scrimmage. Then I came home, thoroughly exhausted and covered in bruises and scrapes, and I said, "You know what? Never mind. I'm heading for the tub and then to bed." (No one should be surprised by this. I honestly don't know why I keep getting surprised by this. Things planned for after derby don't happen, it's a reliable fact, and yet I'm still in denial about it.)

Look, this is a cake that takes three and a half hours to bake, and then a half hour after it comes out the oven I have to be on hand to take it out of its pan. Also the preparing of the tube pan and the mixing of the batter takes a good half hour at least. Really, I should have started the moment I woke up, just to be on the safe side.

But I didn't start the fruitcake first thing when I woke up. Instead...

A thing I did do today: WRITE. Damn straight. Not a lot, not as much as I would like, certainly not as much as I should given that I've got a Fictionette release due tomorrow, but more than I've done in a day since I got sick. With an earlier start to the day, too. Yeah, I'm happy about that. Damn straight.

Also my sore throat is gone. Was it the pork rinds, or was it coincidence? We'll find out next time I yield to temptation and buy pork rinds again. Which I will, because I have no self-control.

PS. I am married to the sweetest human being. I walked in the door and he said, "Dinner's on the counter for you. Nothing big, I just reordered what you got from Golden Sun last time." That is quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has said to me on my arrival home from roller derby activity.

still cookin'
Wed 2018-12-12 23:53:23 (single post)

Here's what became of the mirlitons: They got boiled and peeled in preparation for use. Four of them will be casserole this weekend. Two of them went into tonight's soup.

"Crawfish, Crab and Mirliton Cream Soup" might just as accurately be called "Seafood Mirliton Chowder." If you made a chowder in which you substituted mirlitons for potatoes, it might come out something like this. If anyone out there is still following the Sugar Busters diet that was all the rage back home in the 90s, or for any other reason is trying to eat foods with a lower glycemic index, substituting mirlitons for white potatoes isn't a bad plan. The canonical thing to do is to substitute sweet potatoes or yams, but mirlitons would keep the recipe closer to the original flavor profile.

Which has nothing to do with why I decided to make this soup. I just wanted to find a soup recipe involving mirlitons, or just something other to do with mirlitons than casserole. Casserole is great, but I'd like to extend my repertoire. (Similarly, delicious as the stew I made yesterday was, I'd like it not to be the only thing I know how to do with beef tongue.)

Yesterday I went to the grocery for supporting ingredients for those three recipes I'd decided on. Carrots and parsley and tomatoes for the stew, tiny uncooked peeled shrimp and breadcrumbs for the casserole, and green onions and crawfish and crab meat for the soup. Crawfish, that is, if it were available. I figured if I didn't find crawfish for the soup, I'd settle for shrimp. But there was crawfish. Not the frozen packages of pre-cooked tails I was expecting, though. Instead, there were whole cooked mudbugs right there piled up at the Pearl Street Whole Foods seafood counter. They'd just started getting them in. I took home everything they had ready to sell, which came to about 2.75 pounds. (They had more in the back, but it was still frozen.) I don't think that yielded a the full pound of tail meat the recipe called for, but then it also called for three mirlitons and I only used two. It worked out fine. Soup is not a precise science. Main thing is, there should be a crawfish tail or two in every spoonful. A seafood soup should not be stingy with the seafood.

The shells went into the pressure cooker to make stock according to the instructions accompanying the recipe. Instead of putting in the prescribed eight cups of water, I just filled the cooker insert to its max line. That seemed to work out OK too. The stock had a good strong flavor. I've still got two quarts of the stuff after making the soup, so now I have to figure out what to do with it. I'm sure I'll think of something.

The soup was excellent (of course). And as with the stew, there's leftovers for days. A winner is me!

In writing news, there isn't any. Slept poorly all night and had a terrible time getting up this morning because my throat's getting sore again. WHY. I don't think I'm coming down sick again, but something sure seems to have restarted the post-nasal drip and irritated the tubes. I have a sneaking suspicion it was the pork rinds I brought home from the carnicerķa. Every time I snacked on them, they left the top of my throat raw. But how likely is it that I've developed an allergy to pork rinds at this time of my life? Or even to, I dunno, MSG? It was an in-house product. It didn't list the ingredients. There was a label with generic safe handling instructions, the price of the product, and the name of the shop. That was it.

In any case, I ate them all, so there are no more, so if that's what I'm reacting to I should start feeling better muy pronto. And tomorrow will most certainly be a better day. (I mean, from a writing standpoint. It would have to work very hard to be a better day from a food standpoint.)

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