“Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.”
Clive James

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates public domain clip art with original photography by the author, whose kitchen, alas, consists mainly of fly attractants.
Sunflowers: Compare and Contrast
another dude at a bus stop, another lesson in HOW NOT TO APPROACH WOMEN
Thu 2016-07-21 23:32:11 (single post)

OK, so, last week's Fictionette is live! Yayyyyy. It is called "The Revolution of the Flies." It bears a certain similarity to Rush's "The Trees," which was not at first intentional but which I came to embrace by the end.

Below the Friday Fictionette cover, you may also notice pictures of pretty sunflowers! The very spindly one and its buddies (not pictured here) sprouted from seeds I pulled out of a bag of wild bird food. The big burly one that isn't blooming yet is out near a bus stop I use to get to Longmont for my Cafe of Life appointments. I wanted to put them side-by-side for comparison. Hopefully I'll get to see the big burly one bloom. It's going to be amazing.

There's a story that goes along with that sunflower photo. That story is called "Men Act Entitled To My Attention And/Or Gratitude On Public Transportation, Chapter 3,852." (You may recall the previous chapter in this series? OK good.)

So I took that photo today while I was waiting for the pedestrian light to change in my favor. It's a long light, so I had plenty of time for sightseeing. What I want you to know is, I was standing there with my bike for quite some time before I crossed the street and settled down at the bus stop.

At the bus stop there was a man, also with bike. He was listening to music over some speakers he had tucked away somewhere about his person. I was happy to leave him to it. I wasn't feeling social. My plans did not include social interaction. I was going to knit until the bus came, and then I was going get on the bus, open up my laptop, and write until we got to my stop in Longmont.

However, Dude is feeling social. And what he says to me is, "You took a picture of that weed, huh?"

Men? People presenting as male who happen to read this blog? I want you to know, if you don't already know, how that is likely to come across to a woman traveling by herself on public transportation. He may well have meant to communicate that he had taken an friendly interest in me and would welcome a conversation. Well and good, but I didn't want him taking an interest in me, I didn't want any conversation, and what I heard was, "I've been watching you for the last five minutes or more. Just so's you know."

Now, even if his first overture had not been so creepy, I still would not have welcomed conversation. I wanted to be left alone. But I really didn't want anything to do with this guy now. "That's my business, not yours," is what I said.

Rude? Maybe. But here's the thing: No one is obliged to give you their time or attention just because you talked to them. Anyone may refuse the invitation to interact. And if you're a guy approaching a gal before getting on the same bus as her, you gotta realize--she cannot physically get away from you without upsetting her travel plans. She has no escape other than the one you grant her by accepting rejection gracefully.

Turn it around; imagine if you were obliged to engage in conversation with every single person who, at no cost to themselves, decided to aim words at you. Sounds exhausting, doesn't it? At this point I invite you to Google the term "emotional labor." Or better yet, "men act entitled to women's emotional labor."

Men like to act as if commanding womenís attention is their birthright, their natural due, and they are rarely contradicted. Itís a radical act to refuse them that attention.

In any case, I've learned that "rude" is a lot more effective at getting guys to leave me alone on public transit than is contriving to make my "no" sound acceptably polite. Or, Gods forfend, than a lack of "no" at all. You know. The polite but non-inviting response? "Yes. I was." (silence) In my experience, guys who are invested in gaining women's attention will read an invitation into any attention, no matter how negative. I mean, they're after attention. If you give them any, they win. And those kinds of guys tend to define "rude" as "a woman saying no to me in a way I can't pretend to ignore."

Since my very desire to be left alone reads as "rude" to Some Dudes, I have learned to stop worrying about politeness in these situations.

Anyway, he didn't get violent, thank goodness. I have been lucky; I have not yet encountered men who get violent when women tell them no. I damn well know women who have. And I know of some women who have, and who aren't around to tell you the story anymore except by being a statistic. "Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them." This is not exaggeration. This is our world. I have been exceptionally lucky.

No, he just got petulant. "I'm just trying to be nice and have a conversation," he said. "Some people are nice in this world."

That sound you just heard? That was me running all out of fucks to give.

"I was just trying to be nice," said with that resentful tone of voice, is always a lie. No one who says that is trying to be nice. They're trying to oblige the unwilling recipient of their so-called attempt at niceness to render them tribute in the form of affirmation, gratitude, and attention. They're trying to get rewarded for Making a Grand Gesture of Niceness. What they're not doing is concerning themselves with whether their "niceness" is needed or wanted, or even experienced as pleasant.

This is much like the pissy retort, "I was just trying to help!" in response to the helpee informing the "helper" that their attempts to help aren't helping. Doesn't matter if the helpee is polite enough for tea with the Queen; the very fact that they aren't rendering the "helper" sufficient gratitude is enough to condemn them in the "helper's" eyes. "Helper" in scare-quotes, again, because such people aren't concerned with whether their target is actually helped.

Anyway, he got one more dig in when we boarded the bus, about how he didn't want to deal with "aggressive people." Funny how we can define "aggressive" in such different ways. I consider it "aggressive" to refuse to respect someone else's wish not to engage. But whatever. He didn't say boo to me the rest of the trip, and I for one appreciate it. (There's the gratitude you were looking for, Dude.)

So those of you reading this who want to do better, here's your takeaway for the evening.

  • Don't be creepy. Telling me you've been monitoring my behavior is creepy.
  • Having a conversation, like having sex, requires consent from both parties. Respect my "no."
  • When there's no physical "out" available, respecting my "no" becomes even more important.
  • "Nice," like "help," is in the eye of the recipient.
  • You aren't entitled to anyone else's time, attention, or gratitude, unless you're paying them for it. And sometimes not even then.

So that's my story. Guaranteed there will be others as I continue being a woman in public.

lateness adds to lateness but this train comes equipped with brakes
Tue 2016-07-19 22:59:51 (single post)

Hey! So. All the things are late. What I'm mostly trying to do is keep the late things from making the not-yet-late things late. Thus, today I put in my ''pom'' on this week's Friday Fictionette, then at least two on last week's. It's possible that they'll both go up at the same time. Mainly what I don't want is for any of this to bleed over into July's Week Five, because I cherish my Week Fives. I'd rather use Week Five to get a head start on August. I'd actually rather take Week Five off, but it never really works out that way.

Speaking of "poms," I've swapped Pomodoro timers. Since moving to the Windows 10 machine, I have this whole Windows Store full of free "universal" apps to choose from, all of which work natively on my computer and don't drag every other function down to a speed resembling molasses in January. This is, alas, a thing that both the Android emulators I've made use of, Bluestacks and Windroye, do. Firefox is of course affected, because Firefox is the biggest resource hog I can't seem to quit using, but Libre Office and Scrivener are also prone to waving the "(Not Responding)" flag when Bluestacks is in session.

Why this matters is, Productivity Challenge Timer (formerly Pomodoro Challenge Timer) is not available in the Windows Store, and Pomodoro Tool is. Now, Pomodoro Tool says it won't run in the background, but I am actually not seeing that; it keeps counting down happily while I type away in Scrivener, so that's good.

Also, it's just so much more cheerful than Productivity Challenge Timer. So much more encouraging! When sessions end, it says "Time to get some fresh air! :)" With a smiley at the end, just like that. When breaks end, it says, "A new session to do lots of things. :)" See? Encouraging! So much less hostile than that snide "Does putting off work make you feel good?" or whatever. And it doesn't repeatedly blast whistles at me if I don't come back and click the button immediately. Yes, I was initially happy about the Coach Makes You Work factor, but there's no way to tell the coach that OK, seriously, I'm done for the day. In contrast, Pomodoro Tool has a Stop button. Pomodoro Tool has a Pause button, even. And Pomodoro Tool does not have an exceedingly male-centric cast of generic characters, subtly reinforcing the commonly held idea that the default of "human" is man. So, really, the only thing Productivity Challenge Time has that's of interest is day-by-day data tracking, which I'm honestly no more than idly curious about. I'm already tracking my day-by-day in my timesheet spreadsheets, so. All in all, I'm happy to make the switch.

I still need to log a little work on the short story tonight, so I'm going to end this here, maybe get to the tale of the Saturn's Ride Home on another day. Maybe not. I mean, the short version is, "More stuff turned out to be broken, but we got home and got it fixed. The end." Is the long version worth telling? Eh. We'll see. If it looks like fun at the time.

being the tragic comedy and comic tragedy of the death and resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2
Tue 2016-07-12 23:29:25 (single post)

Oh, my goodness, it's been a normal day at last. A normal day, with normal workday expectations, with the normal workday rituals, and with the normal battle between me and the short story currently under revision. (There are things I want said in the first scene, and there seems to be no good way to say them.) A normal Tuesday also with its normally scheduled roller derby beat-down because what doesn't kill us makes us strong. A normal day. Bliss.

So. Now that things have returned to normal, I will very briefly (Ha!) recount for you the tale of woe known as The Death and Resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2.

Here's the thing about a 20-year-old car: We knew quite well it needed replacing. We'd been talking about it all year. The problem is, we hadn't managed to find time to go car shopping, or even to think about what we might want in a new car. "After Boise," we kept saying to each other, referring to the last roller derby bout in a series of bouts each placed uncomfortably soon after the previous. "We'll have a little room to breathe after Boise."

We also knew quite well that, the car being 20 years old, it should get a check-up before we entrusted it with our trip to Salt Lake City. So on Thursday morning, June 23, I took it to the shop. The shop recommended some work be done. We did that work. The car was then proclaimed fit for the drive.

I am telling you this so that you will know that we did our due diligence.

On June 24, six hours into the eight-hour drive, 90 miles short of our destination, our transmission went out. Just died. By flooring the gas pedal, we managed to limp into the Pilot Travel Center in Evanston, Wyoming, exit 6 on I-80 west, at about 25 miles per hour and with our hazard lights blinking. We pulled into a parking space in a cloud of steam and a waterfall of bubbling-over coolant fluid. Things looked grim.

Thanks to the magic of Triple A Plus and the miracle of having made it just close enough, we were towed at no charge the whole rest of the way to our hotel. So at least we were there, more or less on time, and ready to participate in the Wasatch Roller Derby Great Salt Skate as planned. We'd be relying on our teammates' good graces and the remaining empty spaces in their cars to ferry us between the hotel and the venue, but our ability to skate or coach (depending on who you're talking about) at the event remained unimpaired.

The next day, the mechanic around the corner from the hotel (recommended to us glowingly by the Triple A agent) gave us the bad news. Why did the transmission go out? Because all the transmission fluid had leaked away. Why was there a leak in the transmission? Because the transmission was one of the few things remaining in that car that was actually still 20 years and 285,000 miles old. (The chassis is one of the few other things. The engine is not.) There was no sign of impact. It wasn't an accident. It was simple wear and tear--and nothing we could have expected our usual mechanic to have discovered, because it hadn't developed that leak until midway through our drive. It was just rotten luck and terrible, terrible timing. And our transmission, due no doubt to having been driven without fluid, fried its little self to a crisp. The only way that Saturn was riding again was with a new transmission--which the mechanic wasn't 100% certain he could source, it being for a car that not only was 20 years old but also whose manufacturer was no longer around to make parts for a Saturn SW2.

I got this news during half time of our first bout of the weekend. Imagine me geared up, phone at ear, rolling back and forth behind the short bank of spectator bleachers. Pacing. On roller skates. "Fleur? Is your head in the game?" Yes. Well. It will be.

John, that is to say Papa Whiskey, was in full-on coach mode, having just given the half-time pep talk when I got off the phone and told him what I'd learned. He put his arm around me and he said, "Whatever happens, we will figure this out, and we will handle it together." It was just what I needed to hear, and, weirdly, just the way I needed to hear it. A reminder that I wasn't alone. And that we weren't there alone. It wasn't just the Niki-and-John team, which is a pretty valiant team in its own right. The two of us had the rest of the BCB All Stars team with us, and we were part of that team, and just knowing that, I think, made both of us feel more capable. Indomitable. Up to whatever challenge life threw at us. Strong, Smart, Together. You hate for crisis to hit, but if it must, let it hit while you've got your roller derby team surrounding you.

We pause while the author composes herself. *ahem.*

So we had several decisions to make, some more urgent than others. The big one was, if the mechanic can source a replacement transmission, do we have them put it in? Into--I repeat--a 20-year-old car? The urgent decision was, how are we getting back to Boulder so that people can go to work on Monday? The answers transpiring on Saturday the 25th were "Maybe? Depending on the price?" and "Probably Niki will stay in SLC with her friend, and the rest of the carpool will find room in other carpools. We hope? And then maybe Niki will wish she had just gone home if it turns out the mechanic can't source a new transmission and/or we decide to abandon the vehicle? But at least she'll get a nice visit with her friend out of it?"

Then on Sunday morning we remembered that rental cars existed. The original carpool could go home Sunday afternoon/evening as planned, just in a 2016 Dodge rather than in a 1997 Saturn. Don't think we didn't notice the difference in the ride. (We were, in the course of things, reminded how expensive one-way out-of-state rentals can be, especially if you pick the car up at an airport but do not return it to an airport. What price peace of mind, right?) And I'd return to SLC alone if need be. So. We finished out the tournament, checked out of the hotel, and drove back to Boulder without incident.

That's Part 1 of the story.

Now, before I get to Part 2, I need to tell you this: I've retold this story several times, and very, very often, well-meaning friends will hear the bit about the transmission being fried and reflexively burst out, "No! A new transmission? No way. And it would cost how much? No. Not worth it. Get a new car. Stupid to put that kind of money into such an old car." And then they hear Part 2, and realize that they pretty much just called us, their friends, stupid. So it goes. Friends do that. They say unfortunate things to each other, they forgive each other, they move on. But, see, I really want to say this:

Everyone's got a right to make the best decision for themselves regarding the use of their particular resources, and, well, respect that, yeah?

Also, unfortunately, I kinda have Daddy Issues in this department. My Dad has many good qualities, don't get me wrong, but no parent is perfect, and, well, he authored a few of my most notable neuroses. Right now what I'm thinking of is the approach he took to Teaching Good Judgment. It goes like this: Any time young Niki had a decision to make, it was a test. Will Niki excercise good judgment? It was an easy test to evaluate. Either young Niki made exactly the decision her Dad would have made, in which case she had exercised good judgment, or she would make ANY OTHER DECISION which was by definition WRONG and STUPID and proof that she did not have good judgment and could not be trusted with responsibilities or privileges.

(Friends who know me well may also see the seeds of my own tendency to just assume that any plan I come up with is Obviously THE Most Logical Way to Do Things. I'm working on it. Sorry, friends.)

So you can see where I struggled with the decision. I knew very well what The Right Decision was. The Right Decision was to abandon the car and redirect the money that would have gone into the new transmission into the down payment on a new car. To do anything else would be WRONG and STUPID and proof that Niki Cannot Be Trusted With Money Or A Car.

The problem was... abandoning the car would leave John and I with no car. We can get by with no car, but not comfortably, and not for long. (For instance: During the week we had no car, there was a day I could not secure a ride to roller derby practice, so I biked it. It's possible! It also takes 45 minutes to an hour each way, there is no street lighting for almost the entire way, and a bike ride of that length requires an expenditure of physical energy that I'd rather save for roller derby practice.) And, remember, we had made no start on new-car-shopping yet, and new-car-decisions need to be made by people who can walk away from the table, not by people who are under the We Have No Car We Need A Car We Must Buy A Car NOW pressure. So we were really deciding between two different "wastes of money"--prolonging the life of the existing car so we could have time to make the right decision for ourselves on a new car later in the year (and enjoy having two cars for a little while), or pressuring ourselves into making a quite possibly poor decision on a replacement car NEXT WEEK.

(That's the logical stuff. There was emotional stuff at play, too, like I'm not ready to let it goooooooo! I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. But it was the logical stuff that won the day.)

The mechanic in Salt Lake called Monday and quoted us a price on a remanufactured transmission with a 100,000-mile/3-year warranty attached. We discussed it, determined that we could afford it, and--after much more discussion, because this was the hard part--decided that it was worth it to us. We told the mechanic to go ahead. Then I reserved train fare for the following weekend.

(I dithered over whether I should ever admit to Dad that this is, in fact, happened. We'd been talking about the car situation on and off for some time; besides, it was roller derby adjacent, and I tell him all my best roller derby stories. In the end, I did tell him the whole Salt Lake City saga. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. And, as it turned out, he did not say anything about poor judgment. I guess he really has adapted to the idea that his little girl is a grown-up now. Like I said, my Dad has many good qualities.)

Intermission over. We now proceed to Part 2. Part 2 is me returning to SLC to recover the car.

That, by the way, is my first attempt to Storify something. It doesn't tell the whole story, but it gives a good outline. You can see, by the way, why it took me so long to find time to blog about it. I'm not even sure I really had time tonight. But we all make the decisions that seem the best for us with the resources that we do have, and I'm blogging it tonight anyway.

So from the Storify you've got the basics: Sunday, July 3rd, at 5:00 AM, I biked down to Boulder Downtown Station to get on the 6:00 AM bus to Denver Union Station, arriving at 7:00 AM or so. I boarded the Amtrak train to Salt Lake City at 7:45 and began that 15-hour journey at 8:05. Amtrak, you see, was much cheaper than another car rental, since I have a goodly stash of Amtrak Guest Reward points stashed away for just such occasions. Well, mainly I have them stashed away to spend on single-zone one-way sleeper accommodations, but they are also useful for this sort of situation. Amtrak was much cheaper in terms of stress, too; I'd already have to make one 8-hour drive alone, so why make two if I could help it?

It was a super relaxing ride. It was gorgeous. The whole drive up to Salt Lake the first time--well, as far as John and I were driving--I kept exclaiming about the geology, the erosion-sculpted rocks, the colors of the strata, the way the mesas looked like giant children's play-dough sculptures plopped atop a table draped in a flowing tablecloth with crumbs spilling down the folds. "Fleur, you missed your calling," my teammate joked. Don't we all have multiple alternate lives we could have lived, and maybe are living now in some alternate universe somewhere? Anyway, I got to really feast my eyes on it this time through. I also was able to get some writing done, and some reading too. And playing, of course. Computer full of little clicky games, why not?

AND I GOT TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP. If you've been reading along, you know how important that was.

July 4 was a small respite from all the comings and goings. Not only did I get to skate around downtown Salt Lake City for a bit and then relax in my hotel room like someone with nothing better to do (bliss! having nothing better to do!), but there was time also for a long, unhurried evening having dinner with my very dear friend and her family. Even if I didn't already have Sound Logical Reasons for going to all this expense and effort to get our car back, even if those Reasons weren't in and of themselves perfectly sufficient, there was knowing also that if I went back to Salt Lake City, I'd get to see my friend again, and with any luck for more than that very hurried hour in the hotel lobby that was all we got during the first trip. It was worth that whole second trip, Monday the 4th was.

OK, wow, I've been at this blog post for two hours. Two hours after roller derby practice. And this post has exceeded 2,000 words, sez Scrivener. So, um... more later? There will be more later. The Storify has the short version, but I'm not really good at non-verbose. You may have noticed.

Cover art features original photography by the author. Dragonfly content was unexpected.
YPP Weekend Blockades, July 9-10: Wrapped up with a Friday Fictionette in one pretty Christmas (in July) package
Sat 2016-07-09 12:20:46 (single post)
  • 963 wds. long

Efficiency strikes again, and not lateness at all! In fact, the Friday Fictionette for July 8 went up on time from a charging station in Denver International Airport. It's just that I'm only blogging about it today. And I only just uploaded the excerpt today. And I only just now released the Fictionette Freebie for June today--that certainly counts as late. I'll cop to that.

Anyway, the Friday Fictionette for July 8, 2016, is "Singing in the Shower," which starts out being exceedingly wasteful of water and winds up being somewhat wasteful of roommates. But isn't that a pretty picture of a dragonfly on a rock in Wonderland Creek? (For the subscribers: ebook here, in PDF and epub formats; audiobook over there in good ol' MP3.)

The Fictionette Freebie for the month of June 2016 is "Happy Birthday, Dear Bob." At 1509 words, it's the longest fictionette I've turned out in a while, so considered as cents per word it's a pretty good deal. In any case, it's a cost-free way to see if my idea of "grimly humorous quasi-horror" is compatible with your idea of "a good read." (Again, PDF and epub here, MP3 audiobook there.)

And the YPP weekend blockade schedule for the weekend of July 9-10 is right here in front of your nose, and you should scroll down (or click here) for all the details. There aren't all that many of them. If more get posted at the last minute, I'll try to give you an update.

Also, the Seal o' Piracy requirements for July 2016 is to complete 12 parlor game sessions.

And the Christmas in July Grand Frig Pilly for 2016 was super fun, though I didn't get to be in it for quite as long as I'd like. I won a prize! It was a wooden coffin. You may think that underwhelming, but remember, you can only get them in Black Boxes at a probability of 1.2%. Actually, less than that; 1.2% is your chance of getting a piece of vampiric furniture, and there are four pieces of vampiric furniture possible. Also they have twelve different positioning options, which is kind of cool. Nensieuisge put it in her back yard with the lid off. So hooray and thank you, Pegasiswolf!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, July 9 ***

11:56 a.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Coming In Hot
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

11:56 a.m. - Gallows Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Burn Them Down
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

12:11 p.m. - Duat Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Black Veil (3)
Attacker: The Good Cheese Company

5:24 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Black Veil (2)
Attacker: Black Flag

Cover art features original photography by the author; this is not the first time one of her hands has modeled for fictionette cover art.
this fictionette is having a secret magical affair
Sat 2016-07-02 01:40:57 (single post)
  • 1,070 wds. long

Hi, y'all. It's stupid-o-clock in the morning and I have to be out of here by 9:30 am, so here we go: The Friday Fictionette for July 1 is "Partners in Crime," which is sort of like Romeo and Juliet except it's more like Romeo and Horatio and it's not a love story. Well, you can read a love story into it if you like. I'm agnostic as to whether there's romance involved. I haven't written about it. Doesn't mean it's not there. But by goshawks and grackles, there's damn well magic involved.

Those of you who are Patrons at the $1/month level and up will notice a difference this time around: The ebook post is now available for download in PDF and .epub formats. I know that many people prefer not to read ebooks as PDFs, and they've got darn good reasons for it. So here you go. I need to go back and clean up the fonts, because Scrivener goes a little overboard with its CSS when you export as-is, and before I can add a .mobi version to the mix I need to figure out why my attempts to convert result in Kindle Previewer losing chunks of text at its soft page breaks, but this is what you get for now.

I think it's pretty snazzy. It has, however, kept me up later than anticipated. (Why? Why won't you stop adding like three blank pages after the cover art? I swear I have removed all the page-break-after crap, where are you getting this from? Is this a calibre thing? Do I need to look at it in Nook for Windows?)

I'll release the Fictionette Freebie for June sometime over the weekend, most likely late Sunday. I'm putting off everything until late Sunday, because on Sunday I will be spending 15 hours on a train passing through gorgeous scenery and I will finally have time to do stuff like that. This would also be why I still haven't blogged about Salt Lake City, Part 1: BCB vs. The World, and the Tragedy of the Saturn's Last Stand

Don't worry, the Saturn gets brought back to life in the sequel. At least, so I was told, over the phone, by a very nice mechanic in Salt Lake City. We will find out for sure during Salt Lake City, Part 2: Independence Day Resurrection. Hence taking the train on Sunday.

In the meantime, I have got to get to sleep. (Can I sleep now? Please? Pretty please? But why not? Too bad, I am going to sleep anyway. Pththbbbp.)

Click through to read excerpt and to see complete cover art attributions.
this fictionette had to wait awhile for its ride
Fri 2016-06-24 23:37:29 (single post)

Y'all, I am exhausted. I have had a day. I have had several days packed into a single day. A tow truck was involved. It was that kind of a day.

Thanks to the tow truck, we did get to our hotel in Salt Lake City. That's where I'm at, and I'm about to turn in for the night--but first I wanted to announce that the Friday Fictionette for June 24 is "What They Found in the Attic." Given the nature of attics, it could be anything. Excerpt is up at the link; links to full text in PDF and MP3 for subscription-only access are available from the excerpt. Click!

I was going to tell y'all about today, only, like I said, exhausted. Thus details must wait for another blog post. Good night, all.

and sleep but not too much at all is really all i want
Thu 2016-06-23 23:49:21 (single post)

I think I have managed to do all the things.

The car has received needed maintenance. My back has received needed maintenance. I have completed all of this week's fictionette that couldn't be done on the drive or in the hotel, which means finishing the text, recording the audio, and rough-assembling the cover art. That just leaves the mechanical assembly of the PDF, and the publishing of the ebook and audio posts to Patreon. I have even managed a good hour on "Stand By"--I will call it a "good" hour, despite that the hour didn't quite see me finished typing in edits to the first scene.

I've packed my clothes and my bout uniform. I've washed my wheels and bearings. I've reassembled the kneepads that I washed yesterday. I made a start on the AINC reading. All the plants that need to be have been moved to the front patio so a friend can come over and water them midway through the week. Several containers, watering plants, for use of, have been filled and staged.

I've picked up healthy snacks for nibbling in the car. We'll pick up a little more on the way. I've emptied the ice maker tray into another container in the freezer so that the ice maker tray will fill up again, so we can have more ice in the ice chest when we leave. I've mapped our route so I can print out key elements--from our home to our teammate's address for carpool pick-up, from Boulder to Salt Lake, all permutations of hotel to/from friend's house to/from bout venue. (Sorry, still no smart phone for me. I navigated by homemade TripTiks. Remember when TripTiks were customized flip books you picked up from your local AAA office? Now apparently TripTik is a web application.)

What's left? Finishing and uploading my AINC reading. Finishing and uploading this blog post. Reassembling my skate wheels and bearings once everything's dry.

Oh, and sleep. Can't forget that.

you only get one back but also only 24 hours in a day
Wed 2016-06-22 23:56:25 (single post)

The linden tree out front opened its blossoms today sometime between 9:00 AM and noon. I'm guessing, anyway. It only makes sense. I didn't notice smelling it on my way out to the car this morning, but when I got back around lunch time the scent hit me like a ton of bricks dropped out of Paradise.

(Something else smelling paradisiacal, or at least not terrible, is my derby gear. I washed it today, every piece of it. In the washing machine on the delicates/handwash and small load settings, then a little tea tree oil in the rinse, and finally out in the sun to dry, at least until the afternoon's rain storm. I'm still not over the miracle of owning our own washer and dryer. If we'd been still on the Remington Post coin-ops, I'd have had to hand-wash the suckers in the bathtub.)

I had the car so I could get to Longmont where my chiropractic appointment was. Actually, I'd arranged with John to have the car, by dint of dropping him off at work (hence the morning out, the writing session at a cafe near his office, and the return home for noon), so I could make that appointment and Bombshells practice--but I was talked out of going to practice by pretty much everyone I mentioned my foot pains to. "We need you in top form this weekend," pretty much everyone said. "Don't injure your foot!" (That should be capitalized. Pretty Much Everyone is a recurring character in my lightly fictionalized biography.) So I restricted myself and my foot to just the chiro appointment.

I have never gone to chiro before. I mean, discounting the time I went with a "free initial evaluation" coupon to some place in north Boulder that no longer exists, which is just as well. "How are you," I greeted the practitioner, like you do. "Oh, I'm just blessed!" he replied. And I realized the waiting room music was Gospel Lite. Later, after the practitioner noticed me wearing a pentacle, he sort of speed-talked through his speech about "our God-given spine" like he wanted to get it over with as quickly as I did. Anyway, that was years ago, and I've been under no impression that it represented the entire chiropractic field.

But I was never entirely certain I believed in chiro, kind of like I'm not sure I believe in acupuncture. In the case of acupuncture, I don't have to believe or not believe; I intensely dislike being stuck with needles (not many derby skaters have exactly zero piercings and tattoos, but here I am), and my one attempt at putting up with it involved pain and tears and will not be repeated. ("What do you mean you can't stand needles? You play derby! You obviously have a high pain tolerance," says Pretty Much Everyone. I can only reply that blunt force trauma is very different from piercing trauma. I have a high tolerance for the former; for the latter, I have exactly as much tolerance as it takes to receive a flu shot at the pharmacy or a gumfull of anesthetic at the dentist's office without giving in to the urge to flee, screaming, for the nearest bunker, or library, or better still a bunker furnished with a library and also squishy plush animal toys for hugging very fiercely.)

(...Where was I? Right.)

In the case of chiro, well, something needs to be done about my back, and our roller derby league gets a generous discount from a Longmont office that sponsors us. So. I went.

I went. I got interviewed and evaluated. I got x-rayed (turns out cancer survivors must, by law, because cancer and its treatments don't necessarily play nice with long-term health of the skeletal system). I got massaged. A lot. (Her: "Tell me if we go past 'hurts so good' to you wanting to hit me." Me: "Not even close." As long as there are no needles...) My foot even got massaged. I mean the foot with the twinges that are why I'm resting from derby tonight. Then once I was judged loosened up enough for it, I got adjusted. It was surprisingly gentle. The drop tables they use are genius and make things much more comfortable than just getting squished at the track-side table that sometimes appears at roller derby bouts. Also, unlike with the track-side tables, there's an understanding that the patient will be back for repeated treatments over time, so there's no pressure to try to fix everything today.

(Nevertheless, it is remarkably creepy to get a neck adjustment. I know, intellectually, that they're not in the habit of killing their patients, but it's hard to shake the instinctual certainty that I'm about to get my neck snapped. I guess that's why they do that tap-tap-tapping on the other side of your neck and say, "Focus here," so your attention is elsewhere long enough that you're not tensed up with dread about the time they make your neck go crickle-crackle so suddenly.)

I'm to go back in tomorrow for a full body massage to get me loose and limber before the weekend's bouts. Which is fantastic and surprisingly affordable but also this was not in my previous plans for the day before we drive out of town. My plans were a full day of writing, a whole bunch of recorded reading (for AINC and for the weekly Audiofictionette), all my weekend packing, grocery shopping for road trip snacks, and a thorough cleaning of my skate wheels and bearings. All that before going downtown to meet some friends for trivia at Conor O'Neill's. Only John suggested it would be best to bring the car in for a check-up before doing eight hours in upper-80s/low-90s weather, so OK, I'm bringing him to work again and then bringing the car to the shop. And now I also need to be in Longmont at eleven, which means that instead of getting many of those other tasks done at home while waiting for the car, I'll be walking from the shop to the nearest BOLT stop and busing up to Longmont. And back. (Maybe I can get some writing done on the bus?) And it turns out--surprise!--that getting work done on my back makes me exhausted for the rest of the day.

Which sounds like I'm complaining about getting a massage. I'm not! I'm quite looking forward to the actual massage bit. Really, what I'm complaining about is that damn stupid arrow of time and its tendency to keep flying into the future so relentlessly. Isn't that what all the complaints come down to in the end?

All in all, I'm glad I took the time to wash the derby gear today, because I sure wouldn't have time tomorrow. Oh well. Here's to a better back and better sleep going forward, anyway.

stick a fork in it and call it entertainment
Tue 2016-06-21 23:02:19 (single post)

There's a point with any piece of writing when you have to just declare it done and send it out into the world. There are a number of ways to recognize when you've come to that point. For instance, author and writing instructor Jim Macdonald reminds us that your story is done "at the point where you're putting in a comma in the morning and taking it out again in the afternoon." But there are other symptoms that may present. The telling symptom in the case of "Stand By for Your Assignment" is... Well, it doesn't package well into a single sentence. Tell you what, I'll start a new paragraph and try to describe it there.

Today it occurred to me that it's been a couple weeks since I hit the story last--weeks in which I really didn't get a lot done, what with lack of sleep and too much upper back tension and also brain weasels. But for whatever reason, I didn't recall where precisely I'd left off with the edits. I had a vague memory of hitting the last page, though, so I figured I'd more or less finished the previous iteration and might begin a new one.

That's the main symptom I'm recognizing here. "Iterations." The idea that being done with revisions means starting revisions over again. It's not a key symptom in and of itself; stories can often benefit from multiple passes. But there needs to be a purpose to the new pass. I'm afraid that right now my purpose was to look for, or, if necessary, manufacture evidence that the story needs more revision.

Now, I think the story really did need more revision. When I printed out and read through, I encountered a bunch of lumpy bits, awkward passages, top-heavy paragraphs, and missed opportunities. These things do need fixing.

But after this pass, after the next few afternoons spent implementing the edits suggested by the marginalia I scrawled today, I think we're going to have to call it done and submit the sucker. It still won't be perfect, but it never is. Perfection isn't a feasible destination; it's just the direction in which you aim yourself. And hopefully each story I write will wind up farther along that vector before I decide it's as done as it's gonna be and I send it out to meet the nice editors.

On the bright side, I did get a revision session in today. After several weeks of not touching the story at all, that's huge. That's a victory, and I'm going to celebrate it. I may celebrate it by going to bed early, mind you, that may be all the celebration I'm up for tonight after a hard roller derby practice in 90-degree weather, OK, but I will celebrate.

anniversary number what the heck my how time flies
Mon 2016-06-20 23:52:29 (single post)

Today was the summer solstice and also our wedding anniversary, John's and mine. The two do not always coincide, what with the solstice's wandering each year between the 20th and the 22nd, but it fell on the 20th back in 1998 when we chose to hold our handfasting on that spoke in the wheel of the year, and it fell on the 20th this year too.

It also happens to be my parents' anniversary. My mom, bless her, no longer remembers the words for a lot of things, and she's lost an appalling amount of names and faces and memories, but she remembers the significance of June 20th. "We've been married 47 years," she said to me on the phone yesterday. "That's fantastic," I said. "We've been married 18. It's not as impressive as 47, but we think it's a good start."

Some years we reserve a table somewhere fancy or fun, like the Melting Pot in Louisville or, when it was still around, John's Restaurant (no relation) on Pearl Street. This year we opted to stay in. He hit the grocery on the way home, I biked to the farm for our CSA pick-up, and together we made home style mac 'n cheese, a big salad, and some garlic bread.

I will share with you the garlic bread recipe, because it's the first time I got it right. Previous times, I melted butter, stirred in minced garlic, then spread it on bread which I cooked under the broiler. It was good, but it was weirdly one-note. The butter flavor was "thin," if that makes sense. Even sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on top only did so much. But today I went looking around online, found this recipe, and realized that the key was using garlic powder rather than minced garlic. Garlic powder mixes the flavor through the butter much better. It also seems to thicken the spread somewhat.

  1. Hack the end of last week's Artisan Sourdough Bread into thick slices.
  2. Melt 1/4 C butter in the microwave.
  3. Add to the butter 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbl minced fresh parsley, about 1/4 C shredded or grated parmesan. (Recipe calls for salt and pepper. I forgot to add it.) Stir, stir, stir.
  4. Spread butter mixture on each slice of bread.
  5. Stack bread and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator until dinner time.
  6. While the macaroni water is trying to boil, preheat oven to 350 F. When oven goes ding, put bread in for about 8 or 10 minutes. Then turn oven up to broil and let it go another couple minutes until edges are as crispy as you like. (Do not overdo this unless you like your crust to be as hard as a rock.)

John proclaimed the crunchy crispy garlic bread to be the perfect textural contrast to the soft mac 'n cheese, and his sweet tea to be the perfect taste contrast to the tart pomegranate-chocolate vinaigrette on the salad. (It's our last bottle of Ravenous Chocolate. I have no idea if the company is still around. They used to come sell their salad dressings at the Boulder Farmer's Market.)

After dinner, we settled into the couch for the reading of Chapter 19 of Ancillary Sword. Just that one chapter, mind you, however much we want to devour the rest of the book in a sitting. We hope to finish up before we leave town Friday morning; then we will only need to bring one book with us (Ancillary Mercy, of course) rather than two. ("Are there really only three books?" John asked mournfully the day we read Chapter 17. "Well, so far, yes. And a handful of short stories." He thought that was Sad.)

Eighteen years. Nowhere near done yet. But definitely a good start. Let's keep it up.

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