“and if i should die
god forbid that i
pass away with ideas left in limbo
in creative purgatory”
Brian Vander Ark

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 20-21: Did you know a magpie can recognize its reflection in a mirror?
Sat 2018-01-20 12:21:42 (single post)

We've reached the final date on Cronus's Obsidian Blockade Plan with the much-anticipated opening of Magpie Island. Admiral Finius will defend it against all comers, declared currently as Consider it Sunk and Lion's Bane. (Links go to flags' blockade intent and island plans posts in the forum. The post by Lion's Bane includes interesting trivia about magpies.)

Worth a mention: On the Opal Ocean, Das As Team are moving in on two flags with absentee owners; no defender is listed for either Tumult-Insel or McGuffins Insel. So those islands are theirs for the taking unless another player flag should declare their participation. It's a valiant attempt to introduce some activity to a too-quiet ocean. In the meantime, they are defending Doyle-Insel against a small attack by the forces of Admiral Finius. (Fish-face's fleet is getting a real multi-ocean workout today!)

In other news, Demeter announces the twice-annual competition for ownership of Ice Ocean's Fort Royal. The upcoming decision date will be February 15th; if you are interested in competing, your crew must register by January 31. Of those crews that correctly register, the crew with the highest fame at decision time will receive the transfer of Fort Royal.

That's a wrap! Good luck, have fun, puzzle hard, shoot many cannonballs, etc.

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, January 20 ***

10:30 a.m. - Doyle-Insel, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Das As Team
Attacker: Flotte ihrer schuppig-charmanten Hoheit (1)

12:00 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Pew Pew

12:00 p.m. - Tumult Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Pew Pew

12:01 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)
Attacker: Consider it Sunk
Attacker: Lion's Bane

12:22 p.m. - Tumult-Insel, Opal Ocean
Attacker: Das As Team

12:23 p.m. - McGuffins Insel, Opal Ocean
Attacker: Das As Team

4:00 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Lit
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (6)

6:01 p.m. - Ashkelon Arch, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (3)
Attacker: Pew Pew

*** Sunday, January 21 ***

12:01 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Amateur Hour
Attacker: The Jade Empire (10)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 20 ***

12:00 p.m. - Ostreum Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: Because I Can

Cover art incorporates public domain image created by NASA
this fictionette had to make it up as it went along (and takes its waking slow)
Fri 2018-01-19 23:59:59 (single post)

On time this week, by a hair. "The Education of Baby Rocket" (excerpt for all, ebook and audiobook for Patrons) is now available for your perusal. It's about fear, mostly, but also homesickness, and what exactly we mean by "home" in the first place.

I lost a 4thewords battle for the first time today. Let it be known: Not a single loss until Day 67! Lesson learned: I can do 800 words in half an hour easy if I'm drafting but not when I'm revising. Second lesson learned: No naps with a battle deadline less than two hours out, Mr. Rabbit. That's how Mr. Tortoise beat you, remember? Alternately, don't start a two-hour battle if you think you'll need a nap before you're done.

Speaking of lessons, sometimes I think a writing life primarily consists of learning not so much a long series of lessons over time but rather a small handful of lessons over and over again. This is probably true of life in general, come to think of it. But it's certainly true of writing.

Here's the lesson I had to relearn this week: I don't know what I'm writing until I've written it.

It's less that I forget it and have to relearn it, and more that I keep discovering situations where it's relevant. Still makes me feel stupid, though. Like, "Ohhhh! The swimming pool is wet! Because all water is wet. Dammit, I knew that."

This week, the application was, Because I don't know what I'm writing until I've written it, not knowing what to write isn't a reason not to write. Also, and very importantly, "I don't know what to write" is a perfectly cromulent first sentence to write on a brand new fresh blank page. It helps lube the word-making engine, and I can always erase it later.

It came up while I was working on the Author's Note for "The Education of Baby Rocket." Well. That's rather overstating things. It came up while I was staring at the blank new document upon which I had tasked myself with writing the Author's Note. Staring at a blank page is not conducive to getting the Friday Fictionette released on time, but that's what I was doing: Staring at a blank page and thinking, "I don't know what to write."

Fun fact: Thoughts circle around and chase their own tails, but words written down are done. No amount of thinking "I don't know what to write" was going to get me anywhere. But typing "I don't know what to write" allowed me to move on to another thought, another sentence. It sort of forced me to really observe and acknowledge what I was thinking, you know? Like Morning Pages do. "I don't know what I'm going to write for this, so I'm going to just babble until I figure it out. I'll start by telling myself the story of how the writing prompt turned into the first draft, although that's not enough for an Author's Note by itself because really there's only so many weeks in a row the Author's Note can be 'here's the prompt, and here's how I got from prompt to story idea to first draft to finished story'...."

And off I went for, oh, several paragraphs. Three or four at least. Then something went click. I knew what I was going to write because by then I had already written it. Now I just needed to tidy it up and then delete the bits of babble that wouldn't be part of it. Don't get me wrong; that babble was essential. As in the Buddhist metaphor, it was the little boat that got me across the wide river that had separated blank page from finished draft. But it had done its job. It was no longer needed. I could leave it behind me on the shore and walk away.

As the poet said, "I learn by going where I have to go." As another poet said, "We make it up as we go along." I don't really have much to add to that except to testify that it's true.

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay
i'll take the 1800-word entree and a side order of sticking my tongue out at jerk-brain
Wed 2018-01-17 23:55:30 (single post)
  • 1,534 wds. long

Two things tonight. Well, maybe three. Three things tonight.

Thing the first: I am having a hell of a time coming up with things to blog about this week. That I have three things tonight is kind of amazing. I think maybe I if I had been better sticking to my writing schedule this week, I would have more things. That is, indeed, the whole point of the actually writing blog. Anyway, that's the first thing.

Thing the second: I was late with last week's Friday Fictionette because I suck and also it was bout weekend. Time management continues to be a struggle, and that struggle is a work in progress, so when Saturday is going to look like "bout venue set-up, emergency last-minute painting of numbers on jersey, skate in two mini-bouts back-to-back, afterparty until 1:30 AM," the whole week leading up to it is probably going to look like AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH! Then throw in a friend's last-minute birthday party (I mean, I had to! I wuv my teammate! <3 <3 <3 Also, a bar that was also a classic arcade was involved, making the whole thing mandatory) and suddenly Sunday is the new Friday.

But the Friday Fictionette did go up Sunday. It's live. It's called "There's an App for That" (excerpt, ebook, audiobook) and it's about a smartphone app that takes matters into its own hands, for want of a better term, during a zombie apocalypse. The story includes a bonus game of "spot the irritating, condescending and ultimately ineffectual project manager" which you can play along at home. (I won't tell you who that character is based on, because A. that would be mean, and B. it's been long enough that I honestly don't remember his name, except that it wasn't the name the character got. The character is named after one of my better and more fondly remembered project managers, actually. It's rather unfair that his name was the first that jumped into my head.)

OK so finally, Thing the third: I found yet another thing to do with 4thewords that it probably wasn't meant for! But it is a writing thing! And using it to win battles with stupid stupid aracnu that barely give out spider legs, let alone rope made me more determined to do it all in one night rather than parcel it out over several!

Which is to say: Composing critique feedback for colleagues' stories!

There's kind of a lot of that needing to happen with, well, all the contests I'm participating in, actually, but today I'm particularly concerned with the one where everyone writes flash fiction over the weekend and then gives each other feedback during the week. The word limit is only 750 per entry, but there's enough contestants that, even once you split them into four divisions, each contestant still needs to read and critique and vote on almost 20K words. Which is a thoroughly worthwhile task, but long. It got me through nearly two aracnu who didn't give me so much as a single piece of rope, I probably should be battling Rudakai instead but they are expensive and also WHERE ARE THEY. Which isn't to say I actually turned in almost 1800 words of critique--I edited things down!--but I darn well typed 'em.

On the purely personal scale of "This is really writing and these are real words" to "OK, now you're just cheating," composing peer critique in 4TW feels less like cheating than does, babbling for 750 words or so about not knowing what I want to blog about, but, oddly, more like cheating than does composing a dream journal entry.

And that's weird. Peer critique is, objectively speaking, much closer to Professional Writing Practice than dream journaling is. But I guess dream journal entries feel more like first drafts of brand new stories, whereas peer critique feels like thinking aloud on the page, and that's where the cheating/not cheating divide is in my head.

It only goes to show I should continue striving to totally ignore the jerk-brain voice that says "You're not really writing, don't you dare give yourself credit for writing, that there doesn't count as writing." Far from having a reliable yardstick for such things, jerk-brain uses a yardstick that is actually missing a few significant inches and gets used primarily to smack knuckles. So if I say I'm not cheating, it can darn well take its yardstick for a hike somewhere else.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 13-14: Skates, ships, what's the diff?
Sat 2018-01-13 14:19:26 (single post)

It's Saturday! I'm late with everything, I'm pressed for time because [see below], but I am still going to bring you the weekend blockade schedule because that's how much I love you. Here are some highlights scavenged from the Puzzle Pirates Forums; for the full schedule, keep on scrollin' like a bad parody of an REO Speedwagon song.

On the Obsidian Ocean, there's only one island that can be blockaded at this time--and yes, it is being blockaded. Blame Brenda won ownership last weekend, and today they are defending it against Amateur Hour.

On Cerulean, Queen Auraluna will lead the Forces of the Resistance, i.e. Defiantly Deviant, in an attempt to wrest control of Napi Peak from the ghastly forces of Barnabas the Pale.

And over in here in Longmont, Colorado, the Boulder County Bombers are hosting an event blockade... er, roller derby mix-up tournament, I should say, although same thing really once you get past the cosmetic differences... ANYWAY, the four houses of Hogwarts will be skating against each other for ALL THE GLORY. Your humble chronicler will be skating under the Ravenclaw banner. If you're in the area, we'd love to have you in the audience. Doors open at 5:00 PM (Mountain Time) at the Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall. Admission is $15 for adults and free for ages 17 and under.

PS. Jazz raised $819 for St. Jude, y'all. Eight hundred nineteen dollars. Hearts and flowers and rainbows!

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, January 13 ***

12:31 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Blame Brenda
Attacker: Amateur Hour

2:04 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Bandera Roja

*** Sunday, January 14 ***

11:09 a.m. - Terra Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Dragon Lords

11:32 a.m. - Harmattan Island, Meridian Ocean
Event: 1 round, nonsinking
Hosted by: Dragon Lords

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 13 ***

6:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (2)
Attacker: Defiantly Deviant

*** Sunday, January 14 ***

10:00 a.m. - Remora Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (1)
Attacker: Because I Can

and then jerk-brain tried to drink up all my rocket-fuel but i said
Thu 2018-01-11 23:56:32 (single post)

There's another side of the Jerk-Brain vs. Gamification battle I didn't talk about yesterday because, frankly, that post had already gone on long enough. That was a post all about what happens after the writing that determines whether I get to actually feel accomplished. (It was also, briefly, a post about fruitcake, because I am a multidimensional being.) This post here is about what happens before the writing that determines whether I wind up writing at all.

It's the question of motivation.

The motivation aspect is a lot simpler than the External Validation Brain-Hack Machine. It's what gets talked about more. Almost every new member of 4thewords mentions it in their introduction post on the forum: "This is giving me so much motivation to write!" Motivation works in opposition to avoidance, the way thrust opposes drag when you're flying a plane. Motivation pushes you toward writing; avoidance pushes you away. It's never a matter of not having motivation; if you want to write, you've got motivation. It's a matter of which force is stronger at any given time.

To be clear, when I say "avoidance" I don't simply mean procrastination. I mean anything that acts to push the writer away from the act of writing. The looming difficulty of finding time and energy after a hard day of work, the inevitable drama of stealing back time and privacy from a demanding and unsympathetic family, the feeling that time spent writing is time stolen from more important pursuits. And yes, the temptation of just one more game of Two Dots. If motivation says "I want to write," avoidance says, "but I can't/won't/shouldn't right now."

Jerk-Brain is very good at strengthening avoidance and whittling down motivation. It says that whatever you're contemplating writing isn't important enough to be a high priority. It says you're selfish for demanding that people leave you alone to do it. It says that freewriting and other forms of writing practice are just busywork, that drafting new stories is your excuse for of abandoning other projects as soon as they get difficult, that the story you want to revise is pretty much awful and unfixable and no one's going to want to read it so why waste your time.

Jerk-Brain tells poisonous lies with lips all stained from drinking up all my rocket fuel to keep me from achieving anything like escape velocity.

Enter gamification. When natural sources of motivation fail, gamification is pouring a gallon of 100% Synthetic Motiviation in the gas tank. In the case of 4thewords, that motivation is generally something like "I still need 300 more words to beat this monster and only 5 minutes to do it in!"

Well, usually it's something less high-pressure, like "I'm on a quest to make a bunch of stone blocks, so I need to defeat a bunch of Grult since they drop raw stone. Then I need to find rope somewhere. I could buy it, but that's hardly satisfying. Guess I've got to go back to Mama Tree and fight a bunch of illi." But today after my fictionette work I got distracted watching Team Colorado's bout against Team Kansas and only remembered belatedly that I was still in a battle with the aforementioned Grult.

So I was all like, "Shit! I'd better get to it! Five minutes! Go!"

And it was like I was running at full-speed and then flying (thrust and lift beat gravity and drag!) while way back behind me on the ground Jerk-Brain was all "But, but, but, I was talking to you, I was saying--" and I wasn't listening anymore because I HAD ALL THE WORDS TO WRITE HURRY HURRY HURRY--

And that's how the bulk of tonight's blog post got done.

working around a broken gold star dispenser
Wed 2018-01-10 23:56:50 (single post)

Announcement: I have begun to mail fruitcake to people! This involved taste-testing it, of course. (Also I hadn't had breakfast yet. My taste-test was rather thorough.) Past taste-tests indicate that rum really isn't the right flavor for fruitcake, at least not in my opinion. It's just too sweet. The right answer is cognac. Brandy will also do. I used cognac to re-booze the cheesecloth wrap a few days ago, and the flavor is much improved.

I was trying to remember what went into the fruitcake so I could list the ingredients on one of the accompanying greeting cards. Raisins, black and green; currants, black; ginger, candied; dates, pitted because there are limits to how much work I'm willing to do. But... was that all? I mean, yes, and slivered almonds, of course, but--no other fruit? Maybe dried cherries, but--no, I remember in the grocery store thinking, "Not both cherries and strawberries." But I certainly have no memory of julienne-slicing several ounces of dried strawberries by hand. If I had done it, I would remember. Trust me. Having done the same to the dates and the candied ginger was extremely memorable.

Well. Guess what I found in the back of the Volt this afternoon. That's right. A sealed pint container of dried strawberries. From December.

It's cool! It's fine. Dried fruit is fairly shelf-stable. But I'm thinking, dang, that's a lot of oatmeal I'm going to be eating those strawberries with.

OK, so, anyway, what I came to blog about the first time: Writing Gamification and Brain Hacks, Part Lots of Many.

Writing is not a job with a lot of external validation. Not at my stage of the game, anyway. There's a lot of time spent churning out words that no one cares about but you. There's a lot of story submissions that result in mostly rejection letters. There may be some self-publishing but very few eyeballs successfully attracted.

Common wisdom says that, for this reason, this is not a job for someone who needs external validation. The only validation that counts has to come from within. You know that what you're doing has worth; that knowledge has to be enough to keep you going. And if it isn't, maybe you aren't really cut out for this writing gig. Many people aren't. It's OK.

Y'all, common wisdom is mean.

I think most of us really do need some form of external validation. We're not robots, for goodness sake. Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" isn't self-congratulatory; it's ironic, and the irony is bitter. We're not rocks, we're not islands, and if our internal validation process doesn't get the benefit of an external reality check from time to time, at least a little, maybe we start to doubt.

And what if your internal validation process is broken? See, I'm not actually very good at telling myself a did a good job and believing it. I'm much better at finding reasons why what I just accomplished doesn't count. Look, I've been spending more hours writing per day, or doing affiliated writing tasks that need doing. My daily word count has gone up. I'm submitting more stories more frequently. Two of my previous publications will debut in podcasts this year! The writing is going great...

And yet that little self-sabotaging voice in my head says, You're just making yourself a lot of busywork so you can feel accomplished.

It says, So how many of those 4,000+ words went toward actual publishable works?

It says, Easy to surpass five hours in a day when that's how far you are behind schedule.

It says, But what are you submitting lately? Not new stories. Not full-length stories. Certainly not good stories. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to check off the Submissions Procedures to-do list item on a technicality.

There is no private workday writing-routine accomplishment so great that that little self-sabotaging voice can't tear it down. It will find a reason why the latest thing I did doesn't count.

So if I'm not getting external validation from acceptance letters and reviews and fans and stuff like that, and I'm not getting internal validation because that self-sabotaging jerk voice is overwhelming any sense of legitimate accomplishment, then where am I supposed to get any validation from at all?

Possibility one: Self-administered gold stars. Respond to the accomplishment by awarding myself some small tangible pleasure. It can be a literal gold star sticker, a small piece of chocolate, a walk in the sun, a few minutes playing a fun game. Main thing is, it's enjoyable. Self-sabotaging jerk-voice can make me question my right to feel accomplished, but it can't stop chocolate tasting good or gold stars being shiny and cheerful. Establishing a pattern of "accomplish something--get a yummy treat" can over time help dislodge the pattern of "accomplish something--realize it was worthless." Or at least give it some healthy competition.

Possibility two: Self-initiated external validation systems. Otherwise known as--you guessed it--gamification.

Take 4thewords as the example, since I'm using it right now this minute. 4thewords doesn't care if the 1300 words you defeat a dust-zombie Villager with were story draft, blog post, freewriting, or even a bunch of incoherent babble. Write 1300 words, defeat the Villager, get rewarded. You'd think that this would further fuel the Jerk-Brain--It would have rewarded you for pasting in 1300 words of lorem ipsum, so it doesn't mean anything--but, weirdly, that doesn't seem to be the case. Possibly because I know that I wouldn't just paste in 1300 words of lorem ipsum and call it writing. Possibly because the incoherent babble has a purpose.

And definitely because it's like that piece of chocolate: It still tastes good. It still feels good to see the pop-up that says "You WON a battle against Villager. You received 4 dust and 136 XP."

That last bit is the brain hack. It's magic. It should not work. I'm the one pulling the marionette's strings. I'm the one starting the robot on its preprogrammed sequence. And yet when the sequence completes and the robot says "Good job!" I react emotionally like my old Null-kitty getting belly rubs. Because even though I'm the one awarding it to myself, chocolate still tastes like good.

Basically, I've installed an artificial connector between "write a bunch of words" and "feel good about having written a bunch of words" to replace the built-in connection that got broken somewhere along the way. It's actually "feel good about the game quest that writing a bunch of words enabled you to complete," but it doesn't matter. It is still a direct line between writing and feeling good, and that line is vital to keeping me motivated to write.

Now, there's a whole 'nother speech Jerk-Brain likes to give me about what a pathetic specimen I am for needing all these brain-hacks and artificially induced belly rubs and chocolate when Real Writers Don't Need Tricks to Get Themselves to Write... but that speech, at least, I've learned to shrug off. "That may be so," I tell Jerk-Brain, "but I'm still writing."

adventures are what happens when you're busy making other plans that you subsequently get distracted from
Tue 2018-01-09 23:45:01 (single post)

Broke my New Year's streak of flawless workdays yesterday. Had to happen sometime. Had things on the schedule after which I felt tired and headachy and sick and good for nothing. So I wound up just doing my freewriting last night and not much else. (Of course I did my freewriting. I am not breaking my 4thewords streak if I can help it.)

The morning was taken up with a visit from an EnergySmart assessor who came to help us determine how energy-efficient our home was. Turns out, not very! Some of it we'll be able to improve, some we will not, at least not without cooperation from the Condominium Association Board. It will all be in a nicely itemized list with explanations and instructions when the assessment report comes in next week.

I mention this mostly in order to explain why I got none of my work done in the morning, and why I was counting on a productive afternoon. Which I didn't get. Well. Not in the way I had expected, anyway.

I spent the afternoon in Longmont. I had an afternoon appointment at Cafe of Life, so I drove on up with the Volt around lunchtime to give it time to charge at Village at the Peaks. This is fairly routine for a Cafe day. What generally happens is, after I start the car charging, I walk over to wherever I'm going to have lunch, then after lunch I have a long writing session at Ozo Coffee. Then, depending on whether the car's done charging, I either walk or drive to my Cafe appointment. There's usually also groceries at Whole Foods and beer and soda at Wyatt's, sandwiched into the afternoon agenda wherever it most makes sense.

Only yesterday, after lunch at China Buffet, I didn't walk back over to Ozo. I got distracted. Or, more accurately put, I got curious. I wanted to see how far I'd have to walk east along the ditch between the Hobby Lobby and the Sam's Club before I found another place to cross over. Why? There doesn't gotta be a reason. I just wanted to see.

Turns out, the closest spot to cross over is the little spur of Sunset Way over between Valley Subaru and Sunset Acadamy. It was a middling long walk over grass lots, gravel, sand, and ditch-side boulders. I saw intriguing graffiti on the dam where the ditch leaves the mall area. I saw ducks where the water escaped the most recent freeze. A V of geese flew low enough overhead that I heard their wings creaking rhythmically. Across the ditch, behind The Suites apartments, I saw people out exercising their dogs. The dogs crossed the ditch wherever they wanted to; they clearly didn't mind getting their feet wet. I did, so I didn't.

I saw myself when I was a young teenager, getting on my bike and hitting the path for a long ride just to see where I'd be when I stopped. (That was almost thirty years ago, which seems impossible.) I don't do enough of that these days. I mean, I do some. There was that one time I headed out barefoot to get a paper and, when the box I visited turned up empty, I just kept walking all the way down to Bluff Street. (Reading a book as I went.) And I'll go rambling through Mountain View Memorial Park once in a while, since it's right there and all. But I don't make a habit of it the way I did when I was thirteen or so. Mostly I just Go For Walks, which involves set routes, known locations, and a predictable amount of time. It's not the same.

It felt so nice to channeling my inner pre-teen and go on a walking adventure that I kept walking. I made one big loop via Sunset to Nelson to Ken Pratt, checking out all the retail storefronts I can never quite identify from Diagonal Highway. I tried to go to the City Cafe whose sign I'd seen before but never investigated; turns out that, since November, the sign is all that's left of City Cafe. The sign, and a bunch of chairs stacked on tables. I wound up instead at the Bavarian Bakery (Google tells me it's actually called Michael's, but the sign out front says Bavarian Bakery) doing a late Morning Pages session over coffee and piece of baklava.

Walking adventures are fun and all, but they are tiring. My back was getting very angry at me over the size of my bookbag and the length of time I'd required it be carried. My feet were starting to hurt. I had a headache. And I still had to make groceries and go to my Cafe of Life appointment. Which I did. (Not complaining; I ran into an old friend while I was resting at a table in the Whole Foods. Rather, she ran across me and got my attention. I'm so glad she did. HEY SELKIE IF YOU'RE READING THIS DO PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH I'VE MISSED YOU CALL OR TEXT SOMETIME.)

So, anyway, when I got home, I was tired. I didn't do hardly nothing.

Today was much better. I slept in to chase away the last of the sore-tired-headachy blues, but other than that everything went to schedule.

And for today's freewriting session, I let yesterday's walking adventure inspire me. I wrote the germ of a short story involving two warring factions of Faerie, separated by that same ditch that I'd walked along yesterday, having negotiated a truce requiring each to stay to their side. Each faction developed its own culture based on the nature of their microterritory. The graffiti on the dam, which said (it really did!) MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL WHO WILL BE THE QUEEN OF THEM ALL, was, when I got through with it, a souvenir from the last annual ball that the Northside Fae had held. They elect something like a Prom Queen every year. They lead a hectic and frivolous life, throwing parties, playing tricks, and vowing not to be like the ants that lived in the grass lot they'd made their home. The Southside Fae, a more serious bunch, have adopted The Suites. They keep watch over pets and children at play; if they like you exceptionally well they might come help out around your apartment, too. And then there's a Thing that lives in the ditch that will steal fairy children away if they got to close. Human children, too. But for some reason it absolutely dotes upon on dogs, especially Labradors and golden retrievers. It will need to be dealt with. And of course the heroes of the story would be two children, one from each side of the boundary, finding common ground in the need to defeat the Thing. Working title: Creekside Story.

Anyway, it just goes to show, experience is never wasted. It just sometimes isn't the experience you'd planned on having, is all.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 6-7: All of Obsidian At Loggerheads, Blockade at 12:00
Sat 2018-01-06 11:20:38 (single post)

Welp, today's the big day: Loggerhead Island on the Obsidian Ocean, a.k.a. "Dark Seas," will be blockaded at noon Pirate Time so as to determine its first player-flag owner. It's being held by Admiral Finius for the purposes of giving everyone someone to fight. A whoooooole bunch of flags have tossed their hats in the ring, or war chests on the shore, or something. A couple have posted blockade intents, which I herein link for your education and amusement:

Amateur Hour - "Well, I accidentally clicked the blockade button to find out what it did, and it turns out we dropped a war chest? Oops?" Cool story, mate, I LOL'd, but I'm guessing, given y'all have an intent video and a detailed island plan, that this in fact a premeditated action. There will be trivia, random PoE bonus, and prizes. "Just be warned, we probably don't have a clue what we're doing. This is Amateur Hour after all." Heh. (Thread includes bonus detailed discussion of abovementioned island plan beginning with some feedback from a veteran colonizer.)

Blame Brenda - "I'm going to keep this simple because you are all smart people and know how islands work." What follows is an admittedly vague list of island plans which "will drastically change depending on how this affects the ocean's population." Realism for the win! BB too will be paying random bonuses and giving random prizes.

And speaking of Obsidian, check out the "War" tab on the Notice Board. It's got bounties!

Today is also the day when Jazz embarks on a 24-hour Sailing for St. Jude voyage! He's already at sea--tune in, jump on the Discord, say hi! Jazz has updated the thread again, adding details, stunning new graphics, an hourly schedule of events, and a selection of prizes on offer. Jazz attempted to get some Ocean Master buy-in for the prizes; when they declined, several pirates stepped in and made it a reality. The grand prize will be... the black and gold sloop "Record Breaker" which Jazz will be sailing on swabbie transport for 24 hours straight. "This prize includes a portrait with Jazz himself, all expenses paid." Visit the thread for links to the twitch livestream, the donation drive page, and... well, I don't see a link to the Discord channel, but the 7 PM event is "Coach Me! (Discord)" so I assume there is one.

Moving on to other oceans: The blockade schedules on Meridian and Emerald both feature simultaneous drops by one flag on islands held by a particular other flag. The simu-drop by Pew Pew on islands held by Lit (Emerald Ocean) is a thing of particular beauty. Or ambition. Or something. Cerulean's got just one event blockade, 7 rounds, underway as we speak. Even Opal's got something going on.

Jade's the only ocean with no blockades. You may have noticed it's been all but abandoned for... well, months. Years, maybe. I stubbornly keep my Serenidad active there, but most times I've logged on I've been the only pirate logged on. In light of this dearth of population and therefore economy, Pirate Protemius has proposed that the developers support those few who still play on Jade by waiving the requirements for Fine Rum, Grog, and Swill on pillages/voyages. This would not affect blockades, which would still require rum etc. (Caveat lector: I am not an expert or experienced translator and I make mistakes; please view the thread for the original post in Spanish.) Ocean Master Clotho has responded, saying that she has passed this proposal on to the developers. We'll see if anything comes of it. If so, I expect I know where my new favorite source of doubloons will be.

Lastly, Prometheus would like to remind pirates everywhere that before they try to login to the forums they should ensure they actually are on the forums.

We are aware of a link going around that redirects players to a web page that is an exact copy of the forum log-in page. In filling out this form, rather than logging into the forums, one is in fact unwittingly handing over their account name and password to a scammer. We have taken steps to identify and lock out those accounts that have been already been compromised to prevent any further damage to them. If you are the owner of one of these accounts please do e-mail our support department using the e-mail support form (http://www.puzzlepirates.com/support) immediately to confirm ownership of your account.

Always verify the URL of the website you're about to type your password into. Before clicking a link, verify in your browser's status bar where it's actually going. And be skeptical of unusual or unfamiliar browser activity, like unexpected popups prompting you for "authorization." If you see such a popup while traversing the forum, do not fill in the form. Instead, submit a petition in-game to the on-duty Ocean Master. "Petitioning an Ocean Master is always the best first step for this or any other forum problem."

Be sure to review http://yppedia.puzzlepirates.com/Account_security for more information on keeping your account secure.

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, January 6 ***

11:00 a.m. - Edgars Wahl, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Das As Team
Attacker: Flotte ihrer schuppig-charmanten Hoheit (2)

12:00 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)
Attacker: Amateur Hour
Attacker: Blame Brenda
Attacker: Illusion
Attacker: Consider it Sunk
Attacker: Friendly Fire
Attacker: Focus

12:00 p.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (4)
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Gallows Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - Ilha da Aguia, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - The Lowland Hundred, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - Doyle Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:12 p.m. - Basset Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Sudden Revenge
Attacker: Poe In My Purse

7:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

7:00 p.m. - Windward Vale, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

7:00 p.m. - Havoc Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

7:00 p.m. - Surtsey Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

*** Sunday, January 7 ***

10:00 a.m. - Amity Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 6 ***

10:25 a.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Event: 7 rounds, nonsinking
Hosted by: Tyranny

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay.
this fictionette still counts as a win i don't care
Fri 2018-01-05 23:56:28 (single post)

The first Friday Fictionette of 2018 is out on time! It is not out early, and the Wattpad excerpt will have to wait, but the bits that matter are not out late. So there.

The title is "The Ones Who Don't Walk Away Fast Enough" (public excerpt, Patron-only ebook, audiobook). It's ... a thought experiment about a thought experiment, I guess. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT INCEPTION. Which is kind of obnoxiously hypocritical of me because, typically, thought experiments make me grumpy. Why should I inflict one on you? Sure, I got suddenly interested in questions arising from Le Guin's worldbuilding but that's no excuse. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT BAD. HULK SMASH.

Except, writing this fictionette required me to carefully re-read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" for, I hope, obvious reasons, and, in rereading it, I got less grumpy about it. It's not really a thought experiment at all, is it? It's more of an examination of the limits of thought experiments. But then I've already mouthed off about that in the Author's Note section and spent a stupid amount of time rewriting it for accuracy and brevity, so I'm not going into it further here, thank you very much.

Mind you, I futzed up the cover art. I kept forgetting the title was "The Ones Who..." not "Those Who..." and IT MATTERS, DAMMIT so I will be fixing the cover art tomorrow. This is the level of attention to detail you get for your dollar! Expect no less! Take no substitutes!

(Why tomorrow? Because you don't get that level of attention to detail from me when I'm up past my bedtime.)

So I haven't given up on eventually getting ahead of the Friday Fictionettes schedule. I just haven't gotten there yet. I think the multithreading thing, drafting next week's offering on the same days as revising the one for this week, slowed both processes down. And so the January 5th release came out at just before January 6 O'Clock after all. The various interruptions to my schedule today (and the sudden exhausted nap that became necessary 'round mid-afternoon) had something to do with that, too. But had I not let that misguided attempt at DO ALL THE THINGS bog me down this week, I might have been better able to absorb the interruptions (and the unexpected nap attack). Ah, well, better luck next week.

Except the first Weekend Warrior prompts dropped tonight. Which means I'll be writing a brand new short-short (750 words max) this weekend. So maybe this weekend will only include doing a little and not a lot toward the goal of getting ahead of the fictionette schedule. But, on the bright side, I've got six fresh writing prompts to choose between for this weekend's freewriting. I feel rich! Now if only I can find time on Saturday and Sunday to do that freewriting. (Not to mention the subsequent revising and polishing and uploading.)

pathological multitasking strikes again or maybe bowls a strike i don't know yet jury's still out
Thu 2018-01-04 23:08:56 (single post)

I had no idea what to blog about today, but I had some 650 words left on a battle with a Tylu (they're tough!) and only half an hour to finish up in, so I just started babbling to myself about my day so far in hopes of stumbling across an appropriate blog subject.

Welp, it worked. Here's the topic du jour: MULTITASKING! Does it help or hurt? And does it matter? IT IS WHAT I DO.

There's a topic that shows up sometimes when writers get together online to talk about writing. (It may show up when they get together face-to-face, too. I don't know. I am very rarely in face-to-face conversations with other writers. It's kind of sad and I'm working on it.) That topic is, "One project at a time, or several?" And it seems to me that, more often than not, the consensus is, "One. Dear Gods, one. I can't even imagine switching back and forth in the same week, let alone in a day. I'd lose the thread."

Maybe it's confirmation bias on my part to think that this is the answer in an overwhelming majority of cases. And goodness knows the universe of writerly conversations I have witnessed is not by any means a statistically meaningful representative sample. But after babbling descriptively about today's activities, and then letting that babble sift into my hindbrain during tonight's scrimmage (writing doesn't get a place in the forebrain when the immediate concern is "jammer in lane two, jammer in lane three, jammer in OH GOD I HAVE OFFENSE HELP ouch")... I got to thinking.

I got to thinking that "one project at a time" isn't remotely what I do.

So here's a condensed version of some of that babble. We'll skip the boring bits where I whine about what a late start I got and why that might have been, and go straight to an itemized list of actions taken on January 4, 2018:

  • Dream journaling (15 minutes)
  • Freewriting (15 minutes)
  • Story rewrite toward converting a once-submitted, never-published drabble into a 1,000-word flash piece (50 minutes, 800 words)
  • Submission procedures: logging some new response correspondence in the database
  • Fictionette Artifact production (only 25 minutes/one typewritten page because holy shit I've only got 30 minutes left to defeat this Tylu)
  • Pre-blog babble (17 minutes, and yes, I did prevail in battle)

And now I am working on this blog post, and afterward I plan to...

  • Finish revising the Jan 5 Fictionette
  • Get started taking notes toward revising the NaNoWriMo novel

That is by no means "one project at a time." It is emphatically several. I went from "somehow I never manage to get any fiction revision into my workday" to GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR AND REVISE ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. This on top of my latest trick, which is multithreading fictionette production so that I am revising this week's offering while drafting next week's in the same day. (That, at least, I've decided is maybe not such a good deal, if only because it crowds out time I could have used to revise stories for commercial submission.)

Is it a problem? Is it just my process? Is my process an acceptable process or am I getting in my own way? I don't know. The question may be moot at this time; everything I'm revising today has a deadline coming up. But going forward, maybe I need to figure this out.

No doubt, hopping from task to task is my natural inclination. I start to chafe if I spend too many hours on a single thing. I start to feel trapped and a little desperate, like dear Gods in alphabetical order, will this thing never be done? But I don't entirely trust that I'm simply gravitating toward a process that works best for me. I experience it rather as a failure to persevere and stick through a thing and see it through. I wonder if my tendency to keep a bunch of balls in the air is an indication less that I'm good at juggling and more that I tend to shy away from a task the moment it becomes hard work.

But, then again, can I really trust my evaluation of the situation? I'm notorious for being terribly down on myself, not to mention depressive and anxious. I have no reliable yardstick for diagnosing this mess.

It may be that my best bet is to wait and see what the results are. I mean, who cares if I'm running toward or away, so long as I successfully get all the crap done on time?

I can at least speak to the obstacle my colleagues have mentioned, that of failing to keep the threads of multiple projects untangled. That, at least, has not appeared to be a problem. I'm not distracted by one project while working on another, nor do I find myself mentally lingering in the wrong fictional world. But! (Yes, here comes more anxious wibbling.) But is that really because I'm just preternaturally good at multitasking, or because I don't let myself sink as deeply into any one fictional world as art would require? Am I in fact producing shallower work?

If so, I can't entirely drop the multitasking, not if I'm going to keep up the Friday Fictionette project. And I'm not going to just do the Friday Fictionette project. Even if by some miracle I had enough subscribers that it paid as much as I could ever hope to earn as a freelance writer, it's not enough for me artistically. I have longer stories to tell. So I will, for the time being, be working on at least two projects in a day. And doing my freewriting and dream journaling and morning pages, because those are good for my skill set, my idea flow, and my mental health. So...

Maybe the question really is moot. I'm clearly not going to stop cramming multiple writing projects into a single workday any time soon. The question is, how many projects? Two? Three? It depends? And what's the best way to juggle them? How can I best organize my day around the current projects so that my writing life continues sustainable and meaningfully productive? And still leaves room for me to be a competitive roller derby skater and a responsible adult householder?

See, this is why I keep spreadsheets.

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