“And Grown-Ups, when they are very good, when they are very lucky, and very brave, and their wishes are sharp as scissors, when they are in the fullness of their strength, use their hearts to start their story over again.”
Catherynne M. Valente

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

some old fictionettes may be ready for their close-ups
Wed 2017-10-18 22:52:04 (single post)

Oh, hooray. Today went much better. Stuck to my routine for the morning, did the various things over a long lunch break, and got back to work in time to have a decent afternoon shift of revising short fiction before it was time to go play. (My flaggies and I on the Cerulean Ocean did a Kraken Hunt. I brought home my very first Kraken Egg! Go me.)

(If you are not familiar with Puzzle Pirates, that probably won't make much sense. Just smile and nod.)

Anyway. Short fiction! I'm getting busy with it. I've become aware recently of a bunch of podcasts newly open to submissions of short-short fiction, and they're cool with reprints.

For instance, there's Toasted Cake, that most elegant and yummy podcast by Tina Connolly. She ran a story or two every week from December 2011 to May 2016 or thereabouts. (One of them was mine, by the by. I have multiple reasons to think fondly of Toasted Cake.) Then, after 150 episodes, she had to stop for a while. But now she's back! She's accepting submissions during this month right here, October 2017, and in the meantime she's running a weekly episode now through the end of the school year.

So I'm working on a batch of three stories to send. For a moment, I thought, "What do I have? What do I possibly have? I don't think I have anything much at all..." Then I thought, Hmm, 650-1000 words. Reprints OK. Doesn't that sound like something I've been doing every week since August 2014?

So it's happening. I knew it would someday. Turns out "someday" is today. I've begun dipping into the Friday Fictionette archives for possible submissions material. The first candidate is "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," the Friday Fictionette for October 10, 2014--and, incidentally, that month's Fictionette Freebie, so if it should end up being podcast or otherwise published in the wide, wide world, you'll be able to compare and contrast the original with the new version even if you're not a Patron.

Because I did spend a good part of this afternoon revising it. Fictionettes aren't rough draft when they go up on Patreon, but they are rough. I think I'm happy with it now. It lost some 50-75 words along the way, and it gained maybe 25 words that were much better for the purpose. I think the result is tighter and more sparkly.

Now to get two more short pieces ready to go. Hopefully I'll be able to get right on that tomorrow.

successful coping strategies are a work in progress
Wed 2017-10-18 00:46:02 (single post)

So every once in a while I question my routine. I ask myself: those things I do every morning, my "daily gottas," are they worth it? They're my whole so-called morning shift, two hours of the day's writing in fact, and other than the bit designated Submission Procedures, they do not contribute tangibly to my career. If I honestly consider how very many days I never actually get to the so-called afternoon shift, the period of time designated for the actual career writing, must I not conclude that I'm wasting all my time and energy on what amounts to warm-up routines and busywork?

I may be asking myself this because, in the back of my head, at the ripe old age of 41, I still have those toxic voices, the ones I mistook for mentors, damping down my enthusiasm:

Me: "I get to write full time now! Bliss! I get to make my own schedule! Freedom! It will look like this..."

Them: "My dear, after you've done all those 'writing practice' sessions and 'morning pages' and the rest of all that new-agey hoo-hah, when will you have time to, I don't know, actually write?"

It's tempting, on a day like this--a day when not a whole heck of a lot gets done--to feel like I'm proving those voices right.

Except I'm not, and I will tell you why. I'm going to take the long way around, but hold tight; we'll get there.

Lindsey, as in Real Name Brand Lindsey ("None of that generic crap"), has a blog post, which you will find if you go ahead and click that link right there, about depression. It is an amazing post, actually, just a really frank and honest and detailed description of experiencing severe depression. And there's a bit of it I resonate with hard.

(To be clear, this is not because I have been diagnosed with depression myself. It may be that if I took myself to see someone with the appropriate knowledge, I would be diagnosed with depression, or anxiety, or even chronic fatigue, or something else I don't even know to anticipate. I may have just about gotten to the point where I'm ready to acknowledge I should make such a visit and find out, so I can get some help devising coping strategies. But my point is, whatever I've got, it's relatively mild. I don't say that out of some valiant but misguided attempt to minimize my own struggles because others have it worse. My struggle is real, and others have it worse. These are not mutually exclusive statements. Anyway...)

I don't have the suicidal ideation she describes. I don't have that fog, that disconnect from other humans or joy and beauty. What I do have, that she and her commenters mention, is a bucket of self-loathing that drops on my head at the least provocation, this weasel-brain voice constantly telling me that I am the worst and here's why.

A huge portion of the "evidence" for the weasel-brain's argument is, as Lindsey puts it, a sporadic inability to do.

There was a time, a season, maybe half of a year, when things were very bad. Day after day, I couldn't seem to get out of bed. Anything productive I could have done with the day (i.e. writing) seemed impossible, dreadful, horrible, threatening, inconceivable. If there was something I'd promised someone else I'd do, I'd eventually drag myself upright sometime in the afternoon to do that. I'd get myself to appointments. I could be motivated by external consequences, but the internal motivation wasn't there. There was plenty angst over knowing what I should do, and plenty self-loathing when I got to the end of another day without doing it, but I couldn't seem to find the impetus to actually do.

It's hard for me to place exactly when this was happening, or how that era ended and I returned to some semblance of a productive life. My memories are vague, very much as though I were half-asleep and experiencing that time as a sort of painful, shameful fever dream. The way my memory works in general, I triangulate: X must have happened at Y time because Z was also going on. In this case, I can't identify Y because there was no Z. Hell, there was barely any X. The whole alphabet was more or less impossible.

I know this much: It was after I quit my full-time web developer job, because there's no way I could have gone through that and held down a full-time job. It might have begun while I was part time staff for that non-profit I was volunteering for at the time, such that it began eating up my days off. I know we still had the cats, because they'd curl up in bed with me through it all, and that the cats were both still healthy, because Null's intravenous fluid administrations weren't something that dragged me out of bed.

It was well before I started skating roller derby. Which isn't to say I haven't had isolated days where I only got out of bed in time to go to roller derby practice. But they've been one-offs, infrequent enough that I can tell myself that "I must have needed a day of hibernation. Well, I've rested now, and tomorrow I will work." But roller derby helps. Regular exercise is known to mitigate symptoms of depression, right? Roller derby may have been one of the factors that helped bring that era to an end. It may be a factor in preventing a new onslaught. But I can't say for sure.

Today, instead of having days upon days of inability to get out of bed, I have days--in isolation or in batches--where I experience the inability to get started. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that today was one of those days.

I've adopted a strategy to help keep those days at bay, and to help limit the damage when they hit.

The strategy is to have a routine.

I have a clearly defined process involving several discrete steps, each small enough that, when avoidance/depression/anxiety hits and my brain slides right off the idea of getting writing done and into yet another hour of hitting refresh on some piece of the internet, I can say, "That's cool, I hear you. Life is hard and work is scary. That's OK. All I want you to do is this one little thing."

Just make some tea. Just water the plants. Just open up your notebook. Just get out your favorite fountain pen--isn't that nice to hold? Just jot down the time and date in the upper left corner of the page. Just write down what's on your mind. Good. Now another sentence. Now another. Now another page. Now another.

If you said "That sounds like Morning Pages!" then you win a prize.

The daily gottas are my routine. Each task follows the previous in mechanical succession, so that the automatic process of one step after another can provide its own momentum when I can't seem to provide any of my own. And that, for your information, O toxic voices from 2004, is the worth of morning pages and freewriting exercises and all that new-agey hoo-hah. It damn well is actually writing. It gets me actually writing. So you can go take a long walk off something short and made of wood that dumps you somewhere wet and full of sharks.

(And the Friday Fictionette project? That's the external-consequence-motivated activity. External consequences remain more motivating, for all practical purposes, than internal ones. But then I have this blog here for converting the internal consequences to external ones by saying HEY YOU GUYS THIS IS WHAT I PLAN TO DO and then I don't want to have to come back and say I DIDN'T DO IT I'M SORRY. So that's OK.)

So the reason I have trouble getting to commercial fiction in the afternoons is, I don't have a reliable ritual for getting back to work yet. The morning shift routine starts pretty much the moment I wake up, but the afternoon shift is... whenever I get off lunchtime chores and errands? Feeling like I haven't really had a break yet? Which makes me want to take just a little time to read blogs and play games... The train never leaves the station and avoidance corners me in the terminal.

And the reason nothing got done today at all was, the morning routine got interrupted. I had to take the Saturn in for diagnosis and maintenance. I was going to just initiate morning shift at the tea house down the street, and could have done, but somehow... didn't. Once the train gets derailed, unfortunately, avoidance/depression/anxiety/etc. sees its chance and pounces, and it's hard to get out of its clutches.

It's the failure state of all writing rituals--what happens if you lose your Special Pen, or you can't be at your Magic Desk, or you are otherwise denied the ritual? My goal is to keep tweaking the rituals until they a reliably undeniable. Until they don't depend on where I am, what time it is, or what I was just now doing. Until the ritual is, in its entirety, "Time to get to work."

Until then, I'm working on having compassion for myself, and I'm repeating the mantra, "I must have needed a day off. Well, I've rested now. Tomorrow I will work."

On the plus side, I did discover what a harmonic damper is, and why it may need replacing just shy of 200K miles on the odometer.

So that's OK.

Yes, it is a stout.
just a minite ago it was last week where did the time go
Mon 2017-10-16 23:14:39 (single post)

I saw this great tweet this morning about how A NEW EVIL ARISES but it is MONDAY so EVIL HAS A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF BED. It was funnier in the original, but the paraphrase will do. This goes double for the first Monday back from a week of productive and mildly adventurous out-of-town introverting.

The challenge is always to continue in ordinary life the good work practices I found room to practice during my getaway. There is less room in ordinary life for good work practices. Ordinary life has household bills and cleaning and other chores and also a 4:45 appointment and my shift on the monthly roller derby training calendar at 6:30. But I am happy to say I rose to the challenge. If I did not get to revisions on "White Noise" before having to leave the house at 4:20 PM, that's probably because I took the time to mildly polish up "The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know" before sending it out to a pro-paying literary magazine. Can't complain.

The remainder of my mountain adventures were quiet but rewarding, and they were as follows:

Saturday morning I set my alarm so I could be at Taquería No Se Hagan Bolas right at menudo o'clock. Word is they make the best menudo for miles around, but you have to be there early, because once they run out, it's gone. So I got there shortly after they opened and, yea, I acquired menudo.

There's this one Yelp reviewer who docked them a star (thus giving them only 4 out of a possible 5) precisely because they run out of menudo by noon "while customers continue to request it all afternoon. How about making a 2nd pot?" I wondered whether this reviewer also docks stars off great donut shops because they, too, run out of product by noon. My friend, this meal is not something you just whip up another pot of if you're running low. To give y'all an idea--and this will sound delicious to fans of bone stock, and gross to everyone else--after my leftovers had cooled in the fridge (maybe 10 ounces left of the initial huge portion; a good menudo is too rich for me to finish in one sitting), they were no longer liquid but rather gelatinous, indicating thorough integration of the collagen from the bones used to make the stock. That takes hours to achieve--this article suggests overnight.

Anyway, it was delicious and I got to eat it two mornings in a row and I am docking that reviewer a star for unreasonable expectations.

Saturday afternoon I took a trip into Edwards to visit the Bookworm on the Riverwalk. After that, I went back across the river to spend some quality beer-and-Puzzle-Pirates time at Crazy Mountain Brewery. Pictured above is my favorite of the beers I tried there--and I tried the whole flight, even the IPAs and ESBs I knew I wouldn't care for. The winner is a stout. I know it doesn't look like one. They warn you it doesn't look like one. But, hell, if you can have black IPAs (when the P stands for "pale"), why not a golden stout? It was delicious.

Sunday morning I checked out of the resort. My original plan was to hang around to watch the Saints game at Bob's Place. Then I thought, I'm going to have an ice chest with things inside that should stay cold, I should just get that stuff home and put it in the fridge. Also I expect the traffic heading east on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon is worse after 2:30 than it is before 10:00. So instead I set my alarm a little earlier and got out of town by 9:00, got home by 11:30, unpacked the car, refrigerated the ice chest's contents, and headed over to the 28th Street Tavern.

This turned out to be the right choice. The bar wasn't too crowded, I had a great view of the game and a place to plug in my laptop, and John, whom I hadn't seen all week and whom I missed dearly, was able to join me midway through the third quarter about the time that things got really entertaining.

The Saints won. I'm not really sure what else to say. It was a very weird game.

So that was the rest of my Avon weekend and the beginning of my reintegration into ordinary life. Hi.

Cover art includes public domain photo from PIXNIO.com.
YPP Weekend Blockades, October 13-14: this fictionette will sail the Haunted Seas (yes, we're crossing the streams again)
Sat 2017-10-14 13:09:09 (single post)
  • 1,324 wds. long

First off, I have the week's Friday Fictionette to announce. It's a day late. (Sorry. Feeble excuses are made in the Author's Note.) It's "Word Made Flesh" (ebook, audiobook), and, with apologies to Dr. Seuss, it's about how you unthunk a Glunk, more or less.

Next, this weekend's blockades. Are pitiful. Seriously: Two on Meridian, and that's it.

Perhaps everyone is out on the Haunted Seas? Three Graveyard expeditions is how you earn your October 2017 Seal o' Piracy, after all. Pomfret on the Cerulean Ocean has announced daily outings to help you earn yours. A small posse in Meridian Parley are discussing combining their efforts toward a similar goal.

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, October 14 ***

1:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (1)
Attacker: Puzzleholics Anonymous

3:52 p.m. - Fintan Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Puzzleholics Anonymous

i come by this all-worn-out business honestly
Fri 2017-10-13 00:03:32 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long
  • 649 wds. long

Wooooo I am exhausted. It's late and I'm squinty-tired and bruised. So this will be short. Here's the teal deer version: I DID ALL THE THINGS AND DERBY TOO. And also solid playtime on my computer over beer and pizza after derby. I made a very good day happen and I am pleased.

The longer version, which is not very long:

  • I sent "It's For You" back out into the slush. Go, little story, go! Wow your readers! Go!
  • I reacquainted myself with the novel in progress and had a new worldbuilding factor occur to me while I did so.
  • I revised and fleshed out what had been a rather weak backstory for the short-short "White Noise." 700-word short-shorts don't typically need a lot of backstory on the page, but having it worked out satisfactorily made approaching the rewrite a lot easier. I drew up a new outline incorporating what I now know, and I hope the actual rewrite will go smoothly.
  • This in addition to the getting the cluster of daily gottas done by 1:00 PM.
  • This, as I said, in addition to roller derby scrimmage with 10th Mountain.
  • Also the currywurst was as delicious as advertised.

And now, that blogged, I go collapse. G'night!

fresh seafood in a landlocked town (but then you already know about the sushi)
Wed 2017-10-11 22:51:43 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Well, here's a thing I never thought I'd do in a Colorado ski town. I just went to the butcher shop next to the bakery (you know, on the City Market side of town?) and ordered a pound and a half of live lobster for Friday. BECAUSE THEY SAID I COULD. Also the price per pound is exactly the same as the discount price for that expensive wine at Northside I restrained myself from splurging on, so it all comes around.

I'm torn between making bisque and just boiling the critter along with some sweet potato and squash. And maybe some Cajun seasonings 'cause HOT DAMN.

I also bought a pound of currywurst for the next time I make dal (or an omelet, or, hell, the next time I heat up the frying pan). Currywurst is exactly what it sounds like: bratwurst seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala & etc. (Not so much on the tumeric, I am told.) Also bought a fresh tomato because, incongruously, the butcher shop had a display of local farm-fresh tomatoes on their counter, and I've just about used up the Diaz Farm tomato I brought from home. So my sandwiches are also set.

This after I went to the grocery to replace the lip balm I suspect popped out of my pocket on the trails yesterday (a fair exchange for the time my camera fell down among the sagebrush in the "picnic area" and I only noticed at the last minute) and also the La Croix I drank all up because I am an addict. And while I was there, I could not resist a couple of limited edition Oreo flavors (Hi Kerri! I was thinking of you and those PBJ Oreos!)--the cookie butter flavor, which is perfection, and the apple pie flavor, which has a disappointing tendency toward Jolly Rancher. The graham-flavored cookies are a nice touch in both.

No, I was not brave enough to try the "mystery flavor." I want to know I will enjoy my Oreos. "Mystery flavor" could give me no such assurances.

In other news, I sent "Caroline's Wake" back out into the slush. TIL HELL WON'T HAVE IT, UNCLE JIM!

(this is what we call burying the lede)

I get vertigo just looking at this picture. I kind of can't believe I sat for it.
the writer should get adequate exercise daily; one small mountain should be sufficient
Wed 2017-10-11 00:58:35 (single post)

First off, I'd like to correct any misunderstandings from yesterday's blog post. I was not, and am not, particularly displeased with the way yesterday turned out. In some ways, it turned out better than today. I did find time to spin, for instance. (I did not get to the spinning wheel today.) I did type up an entire Fictionette Artifact all in one go. (I only managed one page today.) And I visited a roller derby league to join them for practice, which is completely optional while I am on vacation. (I did not put on skates today. But I did exercise. A lot. Read on.)

Yesterday wasn't bad by any means or definition. It was disappointing from only a single point of view, that which asks, "Did I spend time revising short stories and brainstorming the novel, as is my Goal For My Week in Avon?" If the answer is "No, because I did other awesome things with my first day in Avon," then, realistically, the disappointment quotient is limited.

I still haven't gotten to short-and-long-fiction today, either, but after this post I plan to put in a couple minutes on each. Just open up the respective Scrivener files and reread a bit, give my subconscious mind a chance to play in those spaces during dreamtime tonight. It won't be much, but it's something.

Remember: If you can't do a lot, do a little.

Meanwhile, this feeling keeps encroaching on my contentedness, this sort of guilt/shame/regret feeling, this sense that I have to justify being up here in the mountains this week. Like, OK, I typically spend the week holing up in my room to write, venturing forth only to acquire library books or to visit a favorite restaurant (or, occasionally, try out a new one). Perhaps I might take my writing session to the library or a coffee shop, but--aren't those all things I could have done back in Boulder? What extravagance, to drive all the way up here and spend the week in a fancy vacation resort just to do things I could have done at home! Guilt. Unease. Shame!

I have to beat that feeling down with a stick. Whack! "It's about the solitude, dummy!" Wham! "I can't realistically hermit back home, you know!" Thwack! "It's about escaping responsibilities, the sort I can't just pretend don't exist when I'm at home!" Bap! Bop! Boffo! "They surround me when I am at home! I'm available to them when I am at home!" Whap! "I'm on serious me-time this week and you don't get to ruin it!"

Kablammie! Boom! Thud!

Nevertheless, when, via a casual search for charging stations on PlugShare.com, I discovered the existence of the Walking Mountains Science Center, I thought it would be a pity not to check it out this week. So I made time for it today.

I got there around 4:00, an hour before closing. I wanted to get there earlier, but I mistook the turnoff for being just the medical center parking lot and wound up driving pretty much the whole of Buck Creek Road from Nottingham to Metcalf, passing all the big beautiful residences with intimidatingly gated private drives as I went. (EV report: I left the garage with a 30-mile range estimated on the battery. At the highest point of my drive that got down to 19. After coming all the way downhill again to the Northside Kitchen parking lot to grab some internet and check my directions, the car was estimating a 30-mile range again. Mountain driving. I'm telling you.)

(The Walking Mountains Science Center does, by the way, have EV charging stations. They seemed to be working as advertised, contrary to Johnny V's recent comments on PlugShare.com. At least, both were in use by staff vehicles, and I'm sure the center's staff wouldn't let them get into a state of disrepair if they mean to use them for their vehicles. I can't tell you for sure; I didn't get to use them myself. But that's cool. I have discovered two additional parking spots in my hotel's garage with access to a wall plug on the support column between them. I am all but assured a convenient source of charge now regardless of what the driver of the black sporty not-electric-at-all car does.)

Anyway, with only an hour until the center closed and only some two hours and a bit until sunset, I thought it would be best to save the indoor science exhibits for another time and instead hit the nature trails.

The nature trails were fantastic, full of fabulous playspaces and outdoor "classrooms" that must really excite the kids around here. The kid inside me was sure delighted. But the real adventure began when I headed up the steep and alarmingly slippery switchbacks that took me up to the very top of the mountain, at an elevation of 8,050 feet according to the little trail map they gave me in the center. (HikingProject.com says the switchbacks belonged to the Saddle Ridge trail while the trail running the top of the ridge was the Overlook Trail.) The views from up there were stunning. The trail deposited me at the feet of three burly towers whose support cables and, I think, power lines were chittering in the wind. To the north, the ridge-top trail followed a couple saddlebacks to another peak, which I investigated, and beyond that a steep downhill trek into the valley, which I didn't. South of the towers was what the map called a "picnic area," leading me to expect some tables and benches strategically positioned to overlook the town of Avon. In fact, it bottomed out in a wide plateau covered in sagebrush and other flora: taller bushes with coin-shaped leaves gone red, shorter bushes with thorns and the serrated oval leaves of the rose family. The only furniture was a long-abandoned camp chair folded up in the grass, its canvas rotting away. (I stood it upright and took a picture.)

The headland ended at a steep drop-off above I-70. I found a great big boulder to sit on, and I baited my acrophobia by dangling my legs over the drop and forcing myself to identify the buildings below--Sheraton Mountain Vista, Four Seasons, Lodge at Avon, Comfort Inn, post office, Walgreens, Vin 48 and Blue Plate, the rec center--like sort of telling rosary beads or creating my own non-Dune-related litany against fear. Baiting acrophobia from a more-or-less safe spot can be kind of a thrill. I imagine it's the sort of thrill bungee jumpers and sky divers get, only way down the intensity scale and a lot quieter.

So that was about an hour and a half of intense walking and climbing. I felt that was an admirable amount of exercise for the day, for me. It is important for writers to get adequate exercise daily, to compensate for the sedentary nature of our work. Chuck Wendig says, on Day 13 of 30 Days in the Word Mines, that you should "[g]et up and move from time to time. Again: usher that sluggy blood around your floppy, galumphing human frame." I would say I unslugged my blood and unflopped my frame quite well today.

(Don't worry, Papa Whiskey; I still did my half hour core workout tonight!)

Certainly I felt it was enough exercise to justify dinner at the Northside Kitchen when I got back down the hill. I had only been to the Northside once before, a year or two ago, for a late breakfast, so I was expecting the same high-quality greasy spoon experience I had back then. Turns out, though, they fancify at night. They put out tableclothes and candles. They distribute wine lists with the sorts of wine on them that are $19 a glass at a discount. Their menu includes giant sea scallop, halibut, filet mignon. I said "what the hell" and indulged in their current special, a 3-course meal for $29.95 ($5 upcharge if you choose lobster ravioli for your entree, which I did). I also had iced tea. (I did not have the discounted $19-per-glass wine, but I was tempted.) Everything I had was wonderful. Only, everything the next table over ordered looked wonderful, too, and they ordered all different things than what I ordered. I wanted to come back and do it again with what they ordered. But, really, one $50 meal per week is plenty and possibly too much.

To be fair, I have been doing a lot of eating in house, at least two meals in for every one meal out. That is pretty darn good for being on vacation! I'm staying in the non-deluxe half of the resort's lock-off, which means I don't have a stove-top. The resort does, however, provide electric hot plates of the two-burner type, one large and one small, on request. I asked for one. They brought it right up.

Then I tried to cook with it.

It was going to be a potato-squash-greens-egg hash, like the sort I make at home all the time. No grater was available, but whatever, I am capable of slicing root vegetables and gourds thin. Problem was, after the veg was in the pan on HIGH for about five minutes, no sizzling nor indeed any cooking at all was in evidence. I took the pan away and place my hand palm-down on the cooking surface. It was... warm? Like a hot bath, or the sides of my mug after the tea has cooled down just enough to drink.

I made potato-squash-egg casserole in the microwave/convection oven instead and called down for a replacement.

Today I tried out the replacement. It represented a fifty percent improvement in that one of the cooking surfaces was functional! The small one, but still. It was enough that I was able to cook dal with baby kale and a poached egg for lunch today, albeit somewhat slowly.

Would you like to cook dal with baby kale and a poached egg? I just bet you would. You will no doubt have your own favorite recipes, but just in case you want to compare notes, here's my process. (You will note it differs somewhat from the classic/traditional process. To that I say, Oh well.)

  1. Sautee about half an onion, chopped how you like, with two or three cloves garlic, minced, in cooking oil. I prefer about one tbl canola oil and one tbl mustard oil, but you do you.

  2. While the alliums sautee, add whatever greens you have on hand. Thanks to my CSA membership, that's most often kale or chard for me. Destem the kale, even if it's baby kale. Destem baby beet greens, too. I mean, unless you like tough little strings in what ought to be a very tender meal. This is a good time, by the way, to add like a half tsp of salt; it helps the veg wilt and release its juices, and besides I find the whole dish benefits from a generous application of salt. Black pepper, too.

  3. When the greens are wilted and the onions soft and yellowish, add about a tsp each tumeric and whole cumin seed, maybe make it 2 tsp cumin seed. Also a tsp or so hot chili flakes, to taste. Let spices heat up about a minute. The fragrance will get quite strong.

  4. Add like half a cup of dry red lentils. Maybe three-fourths a cup. Stir 'em around. I don't know why I do this. Maybe because I used to cook Rice-a-Roni and the box instructions had you heat up the dry rice and 'roni in the sautee before adding the water? Maybe I have acquired a useless habit? Anyway, when you're ready, add the water. About twice as much as your lentils plus a few tbl more. Maybe this is an altitude thing, or a low humidity thing, but I find I have to use more water than I did in Seattle or New Orleans. More water seems to boil off in Colorado.

  5. Let it come to a boil, then simmer, covered, for some 20 minutes or so, whatever it takes until the beans aren't chewy anymore. It took more like half an hour on the fifty-percent-functional hot plate.

  6. Once the beans are tender, crack an egg into the middle of that hot mess. Push the beans up around the sides of the egg. Tuck that egg into bed. Replace the cover, allow to simmer for 5 minutes more or until the egg is whatever level of cooked you like.

  7. Ladle it into your bowl, let it cool as long as you can bear to wait, then hopefully don't burn your mouth when you scarf it all down.

Now my whole hotel room smells wonderful.

some things still hold true, even with extra altitude
Mon 2017-10-09 23:38:04 (single post)

Tonight is my second night in Avon, Colorado. I arrived yesterday around 5:30 or 6:00 PM or so. Hi.

The drive was pleasant, if more tiring than I expected (though I should have expected it; I'd been up since 7:00 AM and had attended a full 3-hour roller derby practice from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM already). Traffic was light, the weather was good, and I enjoyed watching the Chevy Volt recharge itself as I came downhill after the Eisenhower Tunnel and later after Vail Pass.

I got a great view of the aspens going golden all down I-70. Well, having gone golden. In some cases, having gone bare, or sometimes only mostly bare and retaining a yellow-gold match-head up top. The maples were bright red and the ash trees were purple and the pine trees were, of course, still green. Also other trees I didn't know to name were contributing to the overall kaleidoscope. Basically, Colorado's classic leaf-turning season isn't so far past its peak that you'd feel you missed out. Get up here and check it out quick, is what I'm saying.

I felt a strong upwelling of relief just coming around the traffic circles and turning right on West Beaver Creek, just seeing the familiar lodging and retail locations that have been there every year--the Christie Lodge, Vin 48, and the Blue Plate on the left, the bank and the Walgreens and the Lodge at Avon on the right. I've been coming here once a year for more than a decade now, and the place is heavily associated with a much-needed break from stress and extraneous responsibility. I don't think I realized the extent of that association, though, not until I got off the highway, caught sight of the building housing the Blue Plate and Vin 48, and just sighed. I don't even like the Blue Plate much, to tell you the truth. It always struck me as unjustifiably pricey. Haven eaten there once last year has not shaken me of that impression. And I've never been inside Vin 48 to know if it's worth the price or not. It doesn't matter. What matters is, seeing that wedge-shaped building on East Beaver Creek means I'm here now.

So. The following is a non-exhaustive list of things I have done since getting here:

  • Fully charged the Chevy Volt off a 120 volt wall socket overnight for the first time. It was my first opportunity to do so; we don't at this time have access to a wall socket in our parking spot at home.

  • Ate at Nozawa Sushi for the first time. Wondered why I'd never done it before. They have a daily half-off discount on their sushi rolls and dinner entrees for the entire off-season, "from when the mountain closes until the first of December" as the server told me. I told her she'd see me again.

  • (Realized this discount had really only brought their specialty rolls down to a reasonable price. Thing being overpriced at restaurants around here is a theme.)

  • Went grocery shopping to prepare for Monday's snowpocalypse.

  • Went to bed early and slept very late. "I should get up," I told myself; "I have all sorts of Writing Goals to accomplish today." But then I told myself, "You have nowhere to be today. You can start your working day late. It's cool."

  • Was very considerate and moved the Volt out of the only parking spot with access to a wall socket, seeing as how the battery was now fully charged. (I won't deny this considerate gesture was more than partially motivated by wanting to have the adapter cord safely locked inside the car once more. Because someone's going to randomly steal a J1227-to-120-volt adapter cord and, I dunno, resell it on eBay I guess? But I get paranoid about that.)

  • Got a reply to my message to 10th Mountain Roller Dolls saying of course I was welcome to drop in with them, and in fact there was a practice tonight, 15 minutes away from me, at 6:15. Thought ruefully back upon my rationale for sleeping late. Accepted my fate.

  • Realized it wasn't all that snowpocalypse after all. Decided to go walk some errands.

  • Went to the post office. The post office was closed. Today is a national holiday.

  • Went to the library. The library was closed. Today is a national holiday and I am, apparently, slow on the uptake. But the walk was nice. The sun was back out again. After the brief flirtation with winter this morning, the region had returned to the comforts of fall.

  • Typed up one whole Fictionette Artifact, the whole thing, all in one go while dinner was cooking. I hope people passing by in the hotel hallway heard the typewriter and were amused. I'd be amused if I randomly heard a typewriter in use.

  • Discovered the best way to boil water for tea in the microwave. It involves having a microwave with a BOIL/SIMMER setting. I put the teapot full of water into the microwave for five minutes on that setting; it comes to a boil around minute three and holds temp at a simmer until I come back and hit CANCEL. The tea steeps up strong. I am pleased.

  • Spun, on my spinning wheel, a good handful more yardage of laceweight ply from the half-fleece of black lamb I've been working on forever. Or, in fact, not working on, which has been the whole problem. I worked on it tonight, I did.

  • Went to the 10th Mountain practice. Rediscovered that living and practicing at a bit over a mile above sea level is of dubious preparative value when you drop in on a practice at 7,861 feet. It's amazing how much of a difference that extra 2,400 feet or so make. And everything this team does at practice, they do with endurance in mind. Thank you for kicking my butt tonight, 10th Mountain!

  • Mildly cussed out whoever had parked that sporty black not-even-a-little-bit-electric car in the only parking spot with access to a wall plug while I was at practice. Dude, you're not even using it! You're wasting it! Grumble grumble grumble

Things I didn't do since arriving in Avon, Colorado: Anything at all beyond the same bare minimum I managed all last week. Sigh. Well, I mean, yes, the Fictionette Artifact in addition to the usual daily cluster of morning pages/freewriting/this week's fictionette. But no short story revision. No novel brainstorming. Damn. Certainly no work after derby practice (this blog post excepted). Damn damn.

Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I really don't have anywhere to be in the evening. Still... just to be safe... better not sleep late.

YPP Weekend Blockades, October 7-8: Can't stop the signal
Sat 2017-10-07 12:37:10 (single post)

Happy Saturday, pirates everywhere! This weekend in blockades features the rabid attack of anything that moves by flag Dragon Lords on the Meridian Ocean. Can't complain! Can't have a blockade without somebody willing to attack someone else! And this valuable service would seem to be provided on the Emerald Ocean by flag Cluster Service. Meanwhile on Cerulean, Kismet is organizing an expedition to retake Prolix Purlieu from the forces of evil, or at least from the forces of Admiral Finius, Most Sharply Dressed Brigand King Upon the High Seas.

In other news, pirate radio returns to YPP! DJ Jakeipoo of the Cerulean and Obsidian Oceans has announced an initial livestream address, http://us.ishout.net:2199/start/yppradio_resident/ (I haven't been able to get it to work, but you might) and would like any aspiring DJs interested in the project to contact him on the Obsidian Ocean.

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, October 7 ***

12:00 p.m. - Corona Reef, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Infamous
Attacker: Dragon Lords

12:00 p.m. - Harmattan Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Dragon Lords

12:00 p.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Dragon Lords

12:00 p.m. - Labyrinth Moors, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Infamous
Attacker: Dragon Lords

12:00 p.m. - Ansel Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Dragon Lords

12:00 p.m. - Fintan Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Infamous
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (2)

12:00 p.m. - Swampfen Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Infamous
Attacker: Dragon Lords

12:00 p.m. - Terra Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Infamous
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (3)

12:00 p.m. - Spectre Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Dragon Lords

3:29 p.m. - Paihia Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Dead In The Water
Attacker: Spoon Republic

3:31 p.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Cluster Service

3:32 p.m. - Albatross Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Olympian Armada
Attacker: Cluster Service

3:34 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Cluster Service

4:24 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Cluster Service

*** Sunday, October 8 ***

12:00 p.m. - Stormy Fell, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (2)

12:00 p.m. - Hadrian Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (2)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, October 7 ***

12:00 p.m. - Prolix Purlieu, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Kismet

Cover art incorporates photo
time for this fictionette to run away
Sat 2017-10-07 00:15:18 (single post)
  • 1,055 wds. long

Good evening. This week's Friday Fictionette is "Seven Chickadees" (ebook, audiobook), in which we discover the unexpected dangers of being able to talk to birds. Also the banal irritations. Chickadees, y'all. Can they talk.

After all my blather yesterday about novel brainstorming and getting the short stories in order, I'm afraid nothing of that got done. This entire week has been all about hitting the bare minimum every day. But I guess it's an accomplishment to have hit the bare minimum. I mean, look! A blog post! A fictionette posted on time! Did my twice-weekly core workout twice this week! Go me. Next week, I think, is soon enough to fold the short story revisions and novel prep into the working day, what with it being my annual week on writing-and-introvert retreat in Avon.

I'm getting excited about that. I'm already thinking about what to pack, what to stuff in the ice chest, what favorite food-and-drink places to visit. I'm going to bring my spinning wheel and use it. I'm going to do something delicious with all this squash. I'm going to bring the typewriter and watercolors and get caught up on Fictionette Artifacts. All the plans! I'm even getting excited over the two-hour drive from Boulder. Like, what shall I listen too? And--ooh, I get to use the Chevy Volt's "mountain driving" mode for the first time! Gotta make sure its battery is all charged up. I get excited over the silliest things.

Anyway, that's where my next blog post will be coming from. See you there.

email