“Writers are fortunate people.”
Susan Cooper

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

too likely to get trapped in a book to get things done today
Sat 2017-05-27 01:59:08 (single post)

So... the rest of the week has not been as pleasing. Seems like, I get one gloriously productive and disciplined day, and that's it for the rest of the week. Like, it took the whole week's worth of oomph to produce a day like Tuesday. Or it takes enough oomph that my resilience is significantly weakened for the rest of the week, and small emotional set-backs (which we will not discuss here), and of course the minor blunt-trauma damage incurred on a regular basis via my chosen hobby of roller derby, have disproportionate effects.

It's not so much that I'm whining, or making excuses, or even doing the "poor poor pitiful me" dance. It's more sort of self-observation. I'm collecting data. I am forming hypotheses and floating strategies. Right now, the next strategy to be tested is that of being especially on my guard, on the morning after a very good day, against the impulse to revert to bad habits, as that impulse will be very, very strong.

Anyway, today went entirely to waste, which means another weekend release of a Friday Fictionette. Which will be difficult, considering it's also a bout weekend. But then it's also, theoretically, a writing group weekend, which means dedicated time to write on Sunday afternoon at the very least. So.

I can pin today's wastage on two things.

One: A hard fall tangled up with another skater last night (no real injuries for either of us, thankfully!) resulted in two deep wheel-shaped bruises across my back which make themselves known pretty much every time I change position. Thankfully, I'm not whimpering involuntarily today like I was last night after cessation of activity allowed stiffness to set in. But there was definitely an incentive to spend as much of the day horizontal as possible. The other skater is probably suffering a bit today, too, and she probably didn't have the option to spend extra time horizontal, what with work and all, so, I salute her.

Two: I got past the tipping point in Ada Palmer's Hugo-finalist novel, Too Like the Lightning, and pretty much couldn't put it down all day.

The tipping point was pretty early. I wasn't expecting that. I've read some online discussion of it that amounted to "I'm struggling here. Can anyone give me a reason to continue? Does it start to pull together? Does it start to look like it has a point?" But I can honestly say I do not know what they were complaining about. This book pretty much had me from five chapters in. I could see early on that all the disparate threads were going to be connected, but I couldn't see how, and I couldn't wait to find out.

I suppose the huge cast of characters, some of whom with multiple names depending on who's addressing or referring to them and in what language, might cause some readers difficulty, as might the persona of the narrator and his stilted language. And one of the initial plot hooks--the mystery side of the plot, I guess you could say--turns on a bit of intrigue that was hard for me to understand as intrigue (the whole "seven-ten list" thing), but I treated that as I do any bit of SFF worldbuilding: I kept reading in the certain faith that I'd come to understand with time and pages turned. And ideed, as time went on and pages were turned, I did.

I've also read angry complaints that the book ends with no resolution whatsoever, the story simply cutting off at the last chapter with a note that it will be continued in the book Seven Surrenders. And... yes? That is a thing you get, with book series? That the story is not over when the first book is over? I think the complaints mostly came from readers who assumed it would be a stand-alone novel, and were disappointed when they found out otherwise. Some readers in that category were also in the first category--readers who found the novel difficult to want to continue reading--and they felt their hard effort betrayed. I knew going in that the book was the first of at least two, and I enjoyed reading it, so my reaction was pretty much "I can't wait to read the next book! Is it out yet?"

(It is. And the third book, The Will to Battle, has a release date of December 5 of this year.)

I think I'm more OK with cliffhangers than not, anyway. Robin McKinley's Pegasus took me completely by surprise when it ended on a cliffhanger, which left me anxious for the fate of the protagonists but not in any way angry. I know people who were furious at McKinley over that cliffhanger, and they've only grown more angry as the years pass without the release of a sequel. They resent every blog post she writes and every non-Pegasus-sequel she releases. They feel betrayed, as though the very existence of the book were a promise which the author was failing to fulfill.

Speaking of authors whose fans accuse them of spending too much time blogging and not enough time writing the things they want to read, I recall a friend recommending me George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series, back when there were only four books released yet, with the explicit caveat that "It's not finished yet, so you may want to wait to start it until it is. I mean, given how long he's taking finishing it, there's always a chance he might die first and then you'd have read the first four books for nothing." For nothing! As though four books of great story are nothing if there isn't a THE END on the last page of the last available volume! This particular example isn't entirely apt, because I have no intention of ever reading that series. By all accounts, is not the sort of thing I like to read. But if it were, I would read it, and I would spend the time waiting for the next book reading other things. And probably rereading the existing books from time to time, if they were a pleasure to read in the first place. (I reread Pegasus about once a year.) And if the next book never came out, that would be sad, but the existing books would remain an overall plus in the world.

Anyway, there is definitely a contingent out there for whom an unfinished story is, or can be depending on the circumstances, a source of intense frustration. I just don't belong to it.

Too Like the Lightning is an intensely ambitious book. That rates highly with me in terms of my Hugo ballot, more so than the question of whether the book succeeds at its ambitious aims. And does it? I'd say... maybe? Sort of? I'm honestly not sure. She's created a far future that models itself off of our past and is in constant conversation with our most revered philosophers; it is at times difficult to follow because of that, and because I'm not by any means a student of those philosophers. But I'm fascinated by the juxtapositions and moved to seek out the books of philosophy that Palmer references. So on that account, it works for me, if only just barely. And certainly the narrator can be an irritating jerk to hang out with, what with his smug asides to the reader ("Do I offend you? Are you surprised? Have you forgotten?") and his dogged insistence on misgendering other characters based on his peculiar and baroque ideas about gendered traits consonant neither with our worst stereotypes, nor those of his contemporaries, nor even with those of the fictional people he imagines reading his tale in his own far future. And of course we know from the start that he's a criminal, whose crimes we must expect will turn out to be much more horrifying than any we can imagine, so we're predisposed not to like him. And yet the problems he faces still make him somewhat relatable--what would we do, in his place? How would we respond? He is capable of acts of love and kindness that should not go unrewarded, and is daily subject to mistreatment which is unjust and ought not to go unpunished. So if one of the author's aims was to create an unreliable narrator who is both guilty of horrific crimes and petty bigotries and is yet more sympathetic than not, I think she's succeeded.

But more important than any of the showy features mentioned above, I think, is the theme which emerges through the course of the book: Is there anything or anyone you value, which you would do anything to save? Really, anything? And what would that mean? This book is not unique in centering around that difficult question, but it approaches it more honestly than many books I've read do. The author seems much less interested in instructing the reader in how to answer that question, and more in exploring how different characters react when the question is put to them. No possible answer is painless, or without sacrifice, and the story arises out of what each character is willing to sacrifice for the preservation of what they hold most dear.

Too Like the Lightning currently holds the top position on my Hugo Award for Best Novel ballot. I haven't finished reading all the finalists, so that may change. But it would take at the very least an equally ambitious book to dislodge it from my personal #1 slot.

It looks something like this.
whatever gets you out of bed in the morning
Wed 2017-05-10 23:53:17 (single post)

I think I'm finally getting back into the everyday swing of things. Got up on time, did my daily writing deeds, dynamited huge chunks out of Mt. Overdue, uploaded the Wednesday volunteer reading recording on time, and went to an optional derby practice because why not.

Then I came home and ate yummy crock-pot shepherd's pie. Look, it was yummy. I had half the potatoes I was supposed to and no carrots, and I cooked it too long so that it came out looking sort of all-over brown in every part and that includes the peas, but it was yummy. Then again, I'm easy to please. It's full of meat and potatoes and mushrooms and onions and tomato paste and beef broth. I'm not likely going to complain. Besides, it was after derby. After derby, you can put a plate of pretty much anything in front of me and, five minutes later, the plate will be sparkling clean and I will say, "Thank you, that hit the spot. By the way, what was it?" So. Don't take my word for it, is what I'm saying.

So it was good day. Still didn't get everything I wanted done, but getting up on time helped me come mighty close. I would love to say that I leapt out of bed like a young Ray Bradbury who's so overcome with eagerness to write that I just! Can't! Stay in bed any longer!!! That's how he describes himself in Zen in the Art of Writing, anyway. I always envied him that. For years I felt like a fraud because I couldn't describe my mornings that way. What saved my self-esteem was becoming cynical enough in my old age to begin to doubt his self-reportage.

Anyway, no, though the prospect of writing (or, rather, getting all the writing done) was what kept me going all day, it was not what got me out of bed in the first place. No. That honor goes to the frickin' weekly extreme jigsaw sudoku.

Heaven help me, I've fallen off the wagon and landed face-first in my old addiction to that website's sudoku competitions. There's a new batch of puzzles every day and a midnight deadline to submit the solution and that, skaters and gentlefen, is all it takes to turn a casual passtime for me into an obsession. MUST INCREASE MY WINNING STREAK TO 350.

But it doesn't just push my gamer-acquisition-achievement button. It also pushes my mechanical obsession button. See, I made myself this .xcf document (like .psd only for the Gimp rather than Photoshop) with a layer group containing all the different jigsaw shapes, a layer group where I put screenshots of all the puzzles for the coming week, a text layer with the exact leading and kerning needed to put the digits right in the screenshot cells--and because it's a text layer, I can select-all, copy, and paste my solution directly into the website's submission form--and, most importantly, there's a huge library of paths which make selecting all the 2s in Box 3, Row G and Column 8 a matter of five keystrokes and a couple mouse-clicks. It is very, very clever and it is terribly satisfying to use and OK, I need to get out more. Granted. But I'll give you a copy if you want.

Last night, just before going to sleep, I was reading solving strategy articles, trying yet again to understand the point of X-Wings. I never quite understood before. I mean, what could they do that double box/line reduction and double pointing pairs couldn't? But this time around it finally clicked (Oh! It has nothing to do with boxes! It's purely about the columns and rows! I get it now) so I Alt-Tabbed over to the puzzle I was working on to test my comprehension. And, wouldn't you know, I spotted one. For the first time ever, I spotted a goddamned X-Wing in the wild while there were still candidates for it to clear.

It was very late at night. I was pleasantly drowsy and tightly swaddled in the blankets. I decided that, having spotted my X-Wing (on the 6s in rows G and H and columns 3 and 8), I'd process its candidate removal in the morning.

So although I'm vaguely embarrassed to admit it, it's dog's honest truth: It was the thought of finally getting to remove sudoku candidates by the X-Wing strategy for the first time that got me bounding out of bed on time.

Ray Bradbury would be ashamed of me. But I don't have to care.

Cover art incorporates
one catch-up day equals several days moving forward into the kind of future that requires sunglasses
Tue 2017-04-25 17:58:50 (single post)
  • 1,129 wds. long

It's catch-up day! The Friday Fictionette for April 21 is out at last, rejoicing in the title "In Your Lifetime" (Patron only links to ebook and audiobook; links for everybody to excerpt on Wattpad). It's a coming-of-age story--well, it's a coming-of-age scene, anyway--in which the legendary monsters are just the regular schmucks of the world, and the humans are the legendary monsters. One human, anyway. Nobody likes that guy. He's a jerk.

Meanwhile, the Fictionette Artifacts for January will hit the mail tomorrow. Finally. I have at last got to a point where I can just chip at that backlog bit by bit every day until we're all caught up, just in time to send out the Fictionette Artifacts for April. I'm using a delightfully parchment-like gray stationery for January, which was a great idea right up until I realized that the correction tape on my brand-new typewriter ribbon is white. Thankfully it's not quite as tacky-looking as I feared. (The surprise inside is not paid product placement, I swear. I'm just that excited to have fresh supplies of brand-new typewriter ribbon.)

I've logged all the submission acknowledgments and responses that were pending for pretty much a whole month. This puts me at the uncomfortable status of Slush Zero--I got nothing out on market at this time. But that's OK! Because today was a successful catch-up day, the rest of the week can be oriented more toward going forward. For instance: My writing group came through with some great feedback on "Caroline's Wake" that I think pinpointed where I was inadvertently diluting the characters' stakes, and I know how to fix it. Well, I've identified a fix I'm definitely implementing, anyway. On rereading it I may find other places to fine-tune things based on Sunday's discussion. I am utterly jazzed to get this done and send the story out all hopeful to its next date with fate!

I continue to experience angst over why this timesheet-and-checkbox thing isn't actually working. But today I have Taken Action. A small action. Small corrections are sometimes the best correction, in life as in roller derby. ANYWAY, I changed out the timesheet template to make it more generic, with a First Session given over to the gotta-dos and a Second Session for fiction and submissions. And I've got this idea that if I create tomorrow's template tonight, filling it out with tomorrow's task list before I go to bed, I'll be more likely to wake up on time ready and eager to Do All The Things. The key is in having those Things clearly identified. If I wake up feeling like the day is full of a Vague Yet Menacing Too-Muchness of Things, I'm liable to panic and flee back into the safety of REM sleep. And we can't be having with that, because...

That's it! No more trying to get stuff done after derby, not even "just a little bit." Come 6:00 PM, the work day is over. I want to come home from practice with nothing to do but relax, play, and put myself to bed in good order. Suiting thought to deed, or deed to thought, whichever order one says that in--I lined today up such that even my blogging would happen before practice tonight. And lo, it was done, it is being done, and it is good. It will be good. It'll be so good tonight around 10:00 PM. We are talking beer and post-derby dinner and self-indulgent soak in the tub and probably a couple hours of Puzzle Pirates. Yes, all at once. What do you think wireless keyboards and mice are for?

what writers can learn from a sack of angry raccoons
Wed 2017-04-19 23:53:49 (single post)

So apparently Chuck Wendig and I have something in common, and that's a birthday in the back end of April. (Also we're both writers, but I would like to stop the comparison there before it becomes too depressing. I mean, what have I published in the last 5 years, right? NOT 20 NOVELS, THAT'S WHAT.) I'm not sure what I'm going to do about my birthday, but Wendig's using the occasion of his to reflect on the lessons of his writing career. Said lessons, he hastens to emphasize, may not necessarily be transferable to other writers--that's the first bullet point right there, Writing Advice is Bullshit and Largely the Product of Survivor Bias:

Even the list below is just meÖ spouting off. Theyíre lessons that apply to me, not to you. Maybe to you, itís gold. Maybe itís a sack of angry raccoons, I dunno. The only writing advice you can count on is: you gotta write, and you gotta finish what youíre writing. Everything else is variable.

I'm down with that. And I'm pretty much down with the whole list, actually. If any angry raccoons are involved, well, maybe they have cause to be angry. They're not saying anything that strikes me as fundamentally untrue or less than useful.

Some of it is really reassuring for me. Take number five, Find Your Damn Process--Then Challenge It:

You have a process. So go find it. Maybe that means writing 2k every day, reliably. Maybe it means writing 15,000 words every other weekend. Maybe it means you write in coffee shops, or in the crawlspace under your house. Maybe it means you eat a handful of bees before you begin. I dunno. Thatís on you to figure it out, and while itís important to figure out what you write and why you write, itís also incredibly necessary to figure out how you write. You may think how you write is the way others have told you it must be, but that doesnít make it true. Also important: when your process isnít working, you need to evolve it. Your process isnít one thing forever just as you arenít one person forever.

I bolded a bit there 'cause it's speaking to me. My current process, the one I was so proud of coming up with, the whole 5 hours a day thing, morning shift, afternoon shift, fill out a time sheet, check the boxes on Habitica, do the daily gotta-git-dones... it's not working. I hate that it's not working because it ought to work and I don't know why it's not working. But it's not. And maybe I have to acknowledge the possibility of some answer other than "Try HARDER tomorrow."

I don't know what the right answer will be, but it probably starts with "change something." Change what? To what? I don't know. But asking the question generally comes before answering the question, I guess. I may not like the period between ask and answer, since it's filled with confusion and despair and flailing around and going WTF I CAN'T EVEN, but I suppose it's inevitable to spend some time there.

Which means this bit is also reassuring. From number 24, You Know A Whole Lot Less Than You Know, And Thatís A Good Thing:

Every day of a writing career is exploring a new planet. All the truths you hold are likely half-truths or even cleverly-costumed lies. Embrace that. Every day I know less than I knew before, and I find that oddly and eerily liberating. It means I donít have all the answers and neither do you.

So it's OK not to have answers. Not having answers is a necessary state of art, and in fact life.

What is also necessary: continuing forward, despite that lack of answers. Despite the lack of success. Despite the lack of hope, even. Quoting number 25, which--given all the times I've gritted my teeth to hear someone say, "Not everyone's cut out to be a writer, so there's no use encouraging the ones who aren't"--sings harmony with my heart of hearts:

Writing as a career takes a certain kind of obsessiveness and stubbornness, I think: the willingness to put a tin pail on your head as you run full-speed into a wall, hoping to knock it down. Again and again. Until the wall falls or you do. Sometimes I think maybe that the thing that separates those who have it from those who donít is simply those who decide, ďFuck it, Iím a writer,Ē and then they do the thing. They choose to have it, to count themselves among that number rather than those who donít. But I have no idea. I donít know what the hell is going on. And neither to do you. What I know is this: writers write, so go write. Finish what you start.

The rest is negotiable.

It may look like I've already quoted the whole darn article right there, but, honestly, there are 25 bullet points in that there list, and Chuck Wendig wrote them all, which means they are (mostly) verbose and profane and hilarious. And also wise and inspiring and reassuring. At least, I thought so, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Besides, I didn't have much news of my own to share. I mean, I got up, I took care of some household necessities, I wrote, I went to see the Doctor Who Season 10 screening at the local theater. Things are OK. They're just not news.

The Volt is back in full repair, by the way. The part that needed replacing--essentially, the charging port--was more specific to the make and model of car than I thought, so I actually had to take it to the Chevy people in Longmont. They spent about three hours chasing down warranty approval and one hour doing the actual repair, so I got very familiar with their waiting room. Too familiar. I kind of had to take a break from the waiting room and go skate around Sandstone Park for awhile. And I have to say they weren't very proactive in giving me updates. Even when they were done, it was like the dude was on his way to another errand and since he just happened to be passing by he thought he'd mention that "We're all done whenever you're ready." Dude. I've been ready all afternoon, where were you? But, hey, all's well that ends well, and I went on to treat myself to Popeye's fried chicken because I was practically at I-25 and 119 anyway.

And now the car is fully functional, the still extant manufacturer's warranty paid for it all, and I was able to charge it all the way up not far from the movie theater tonight, and it's all ready for John to drive it down to New Mexicon for the weekend. The end.

some epiphanies bear repeating
Wed 2017-03-29 00:46:09 (single post)

I never know what to say about days like today. It makes for boring blogging, and it's embarrassing too. I mean, "I went to physical therapy, came home, ate an early lunch/late breakfast, and then keeled over for several hours because I was inexplicably exhausted. That left me only enough time to do the household accounting and pay household bills before it was time to leave for roller derby practice." Who wants to read blog posts like that?

But, y'know, I did manage to do my morning pages before my PT appointment. And after derby, I did manage to spend a few minutes each on daily freewriting and fictionette prep work. I didn't do enough, I only did a little, but I did a little of everything; that's worth something, right?

Right. It is worth something.

Not only does it make me feel less down on myself that I did at least do a little bit (and earned the right to check off "daily writing" in Habitica, yay!), but it also brings me that much closer to publishing the overdue March 24 Friday Fictionette. I suspect that today I succumbed once again to the pathological avoidance tendency that arises out of bringing too much pressure to bear on myself. "I have to get it all done today!" I told myself, so of course I shut down mentally, emotionally, and physically. But since I convinced myself to at least work on it a little tonight--with the result that I finished drafting the story, wrote the last sentence and everything--that makes "ok, then, get it all done tomorrow!" less scary. The remaining "it all" is much reduced.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to do writing after derby. On the one hand, I'm tired. I'm mentally and physically exhausted. So it's often counterproductive to pressure myself to Finish All The Things after practice. Having no resilience left makes those Things that much more scary and daunting and impossible. On the other hand, if I coax myself into "Just fifteen minutes of freewriting? Heck, even five minutes. You can manage five minutes," then after I do it I feel just a little more pleased with myself, just a tad more accomplished, just a bit more like I can actually trust myself with responsibility and promises and all. It's a self-esteem prop, is what it is. I need those sometimes. Without 'em, it's harder to get up and get to work the next day.

Plus, like I said, whatever I manage to do now, I don't have to do tomorrow, 'cause I did it. Win-win.

In other news, this morning's PT appointment was my last. My injury risk is once more no greater than that of any other able-bodied athlete in a contact sport. Granted, my knee was achy and sore from this weekend's exertions, but it will get achy and sore and tired more quickly than the other for some time to come. It'll take some time and work to get it back up to pre-injury strength levels. Until it gets there, I'll keep wearing a knee brace when I play roller derby, and giving it a little extra stretching and attention. But my physical therapist was ready to set me free if I was ready to fly, and I was more than ready to fly.

So I have my Tuesday mornings free again! Free to force myself to get up on time and get to work without the threat of a missed PT appointment hanging over me! Egad. Well. We'll see how that goes. Wish me luck.

Here's hoping I have good things to report tomorrow. In addition to the usual Wednesday obstacles, I got derby again in the evening. I pretty much got derby five days a week until our double header on the 8th because the 8th is frickin' soon and we have a whole bunch of preparation to do. But I expect that, even if I can't do it all, I can at least do a little. #MyNewMantra

i guess that's what i am
Fri 2017-03-24 00:52:47 (single post)

What was I saying, last post? Can't do everything in a single day? Right, well, I've have several "single days" since then, and some of them I haven't managed to do anything in. I think the problem is, no matter how cheerfully I say things like, "It's cool! If I just do nothing but write all day then I'll get caught up!" ...I still exert sufficient pressure on myself to shut me down completely.

And I'm still not sleeping right. What the everlovin' eff, body?

(I'm working on that. Getting up closer to on time every day, avoiding afternoon naps, avoiding caffeine past 5 PM, installing f.lux in hopes of making nighttime computer sessions have less impact on my sleep cycle...)

I caught myself using the phrase "working writer" to describe myself recently. Well, I used the phrase; I caught myself experiencing the impulse to qualify it. Y'know. Disclaim it. Belittle myself. "Well, lately it's more like 'hardly working writer'..." I caught myself in time not to speak from that impulse, though, because speaking from that impulse does me no good. For one thing, if I belittle myself, it invites others to belittle me--not that they would, right, the people I was talking to are supportive people, but if I tell them I'm "hardly working" as a writer, why wouldn't they believe me? For another thing, why wouldn't I believe me? Every time I belittle myself, I add another grain of negativity to the huge, heavy pile I use to constantly put myself down.

But if instead of disclaiming it, I own that term, Working Writer, what happens? Well, maybe I just wake up one Thursday morning and say, "Yes. I'm a working writer. So let's get to work." And I do. I get up 'round seven, yeah, and I go to work at nine. (Or thereabouts. Still working on the sleep cycle thing, like I said.) And then I don't just devote the whole day to a heroic but ultimately doomed heave at the overdue stuff. No. I give that stuff a shove, yes, but not to the exclusion of doing the working writer things. Which is not to say that my Patreon experiment, the Friday Fictionettes, isn't part of my work, it is absolutely part of my day job, but--look, I got into this writing gig in the first place in order to sell fiction to paying publishers. And last week the very last story I had out on submission came back with a rejection letter. Now I have nothing out on submission. I should never have nothing out on submission. So I took a half hour or so away from toiling up Mt. Overdue so that I could...

  • log that rejection in the Submission Grinder and on my personal database.
  • send the rejected story to my writing group for help in fixing it (it's been getting personal rejections with consistent feedback across the board, so it really does need fixing before it goes out again).
  • looked through my unpublished flash-length stories for a suitable candidate to submit to Fireside, who are open to flash fiction just for this week.
  • read some flash fiction that Fireside has published recently to get an idea of which of mine might be a good fit.

In other words, submission procedures. Which I decided a long time ago needed to happen every day. Which is why I made a line for it in my timesheet template. It's in the "morning shift" section, which is where I done put all the daily "gotta-dos." For a reason.

So. With any luck I will have both last week's and this week's Friday Fictionette published tomorrow. But whether I do or don't, I will be making time for submission procedures. Because I am a Working Writer. Dammit.

The Friday Fictionette for March 10 is ''Containment Breach'' and I hope it will be the last late Fictionette for a while. But you have heard that before.
service to resume following lengthy explanations
Tue 2017-03-14 23:52:52 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long

OK, so, here's the deal. I am one day into Operation Make Writing Daily Again, and I expect Day Two will actually be Thursday, not tomorrow. Which is not exactly daily, but it's a start.

Mild though it was, the knee sprain really jacked up my weekly round. It inserted a bunch of extra appointments into my life and subtracted a lot of energy. When it healed enough that I could return to roller derby at full strength, even more energy went down the drain because "full strength" is a misnomer. I mean, yeah, I get to do all the derby things, I'm not sitting out of any practice activities anymore and I'm fully participating in scrimmage, I'm going to be in a bout on March 25 and another on April 8--but the energy I'm used to having at my disposal simply isn't there yet.

There's a lot of factors. The injury happened very early in the season, so I missed out on the portion of our season-long schedule that was specifically devoted to building skates back up to competition levels of intensity. Then of course six weeks out of the game means a lot of strength and endurance still needs to be rebuilt. And then there's just the bare fact that roller derby is a contact sport, and it requires a high tolerance for blunt force trauma, both when you take it and then in the following days when you heal up from it. I seem to have temporarily misplaced the knack of bouncing back from a rough, bruising scrimmage and getting up in time for work the next morning.

Then there's the embarrassing fact that I took a rather big bruise near the tailbone about a week and a half ago (don't fall over backwards, kids, I do not recommend it). Now there's this knobbly lump of painful tissue where I'm used to having built-in seat cushions. Worse still, I keep falling on it or bouncing it off of other skaters (or having other skaters bounce off of it, depending on who initiated contact) at every. Single. practice. So that might be something that's sapping my ability to rebound.

(It was fairly OK tonight! I only fell on it once and I didn't even yell. I maybe said "Ow" when I tried to stop a jammer with that part of my butt, but I didn't start bellowing in short pain-management bursts like I did at last week's scrimmage.)

OK, so, excuses excuses wah. But here's the nasty follow-on effect: Because of this energy deficit and the attendant sleep-cycle irregularities, I am now behind in all the things. Seriously, it's been two months since I managed to release a Fictionette on the Friday it's due, I've still got both January's and February's Fictionette Artifacts to type up and mail, as of this morning I was just barely keeping up with the bills and other financial accounting simply from inability to find time to sit down to the task, and I still need to gather and organize materials for taxes, federal and state, the filing of.

So that's why I can't just say, "Today I begin Writing Responsibly for a Full Workday Every Day!" Because I still have to catch up on all the things.

Here's how it goes:

  • Yesterday I published the patron-only editions of the Friday Fictionette for March 10 (ebook, audiobook).

  • Today I published the free excerpts of same (on Patreon, on Wattpad) as part of a solid morning shift including freewriting, work towards March 17's fictionette, and one typewritten page of an overdue Fictionette Artifact. I did not get an afternoon shift of writing; it seemed more important to Do The Books - tally bank accounts, file away credit card receipts and statements, empty my inbox down to the bottom and pay all the bills piled up therein, especially as all this is prerequisite for dealing with taxes (most of the tax forms were buried in the inbox). But that I got a solid morning shift in, with solid strides towards catching up on overdue stuff, is worth celebrating.

  • Tomorrow I may not get to the writing at all, because I will be putting my tax organizer together and also getting ready to check into a bed & breakfast in Longmont.

OK, that last one's unusual. Here's the deal. A whole bunch of people will arrive by plane starting tomorrow. Some will stay here in our house, some will stay nearby. All of them will be playing games at all lodging locations all weekend long. It's sort of a small, private reenactment of Gen Con between a close-knit group of long-distance-friends. I love them all, but in order to preserve my sleep, my schedule, and my sanity, I will need to vacate the premises. My original plan was to visit my parents for the weekend. But after the hit my athletic abilities took due to injury recovery, and given the big games coming up so soon, I couldn't bring myself to miss practice.

So instead I'll be staying at the Thompson House Inn for four nights. It's a bit of a splurge, but not as much as I feared--the rate they gave me is cheaper, despite the breakfasts being no doubt better, than most name-brand hotels we've used for derby travel over the past few years, even considering that those involved an event-discounted group rate. It'll be quiet, since it sounds like they're pretty empty this weekend (certainly a factor in the discounted rate they offered me). It'll be right in downtown Longmont, so no worse a commute to practice than usual. I have the option of popping home and being social for a bit. Also I think afternoon tea on Friday or Saturday will be a lovely reward for getting my writing done.

I'm very excited about this! I've wanted to stay at, or at least investigate staying, at the Thompson House Inn since the first time that me and John and a good friend of ours dressed up to have tea there some ten years ago or more. Now I get to do it. I hadn't even thought about the possibility, honestly. But yesterday I parked the Volt to charge its battery at the St. Vrain Community Hub, and the B&B was right across the street. What the hell, I thought. Might as well walk on over and ask after rates and availability. They're probably booked and too expensive, but it's worth a try.

I told the proprietor I was a writer, and that getting up early for breakfast each morning would ensure I got right to work. She said, "Great! We'll make sure to put you in a room with a desk."

So. Awesome. But before 3:30 tomorrow I need to do laundry, pack, organize my tax documents, do the Wednesday volunteer reading, and attempt some pre-guest housework. This is why I anticipate Day Two of the New Daily Writing Initiative won't be until Thursday.

And now you know.

but i said i would update again so here you go
Wed 2017-02-15 23:13:43 (single post)

I am tired but I want to post because I'm supposed to blog every weekday and I am trying to get back into my routine and it doesn't work if I don't do the routine so here you go.

Update: Writing - Managed to do both fictionette work and freewriting today, and got back on the morning pages wagon too. If I can do that much every day for a week (and blogging too!), I'll consider it a good start.

I'm a little worried about the fictionette because, while I have the premise and the characters, I don't exactly have the shape of the plot. I don't have an ending. I don't even have a good cliffhanger faux-ending. So I feel like I spent today's session trying to perfect two paragraphs when I ought to have been more or less drafting the whole story. Hopefully I'll have a breakthrough tomorrow morning so that Friday doesn't turn into a panic.

In accordance with established Wednesday tradition, the writing took place at the Longmont Village Inn, a five minute walk from the mall's free public EV charging station. This is a plot point because...

Update: Skating - ...I did some. Yes! I got the good news I'd hoped for at my four-week orthopedics follow-up appointment. The PA actually seemed more excited than I was, and that's saying something. She manipulated my leg and enthused over how stable the ligaments were, she congratulated me on all the physical activity I was able to engage in recently, and she said she saw no reason I shouldn't strap on skates this very day.

So I did. I skated from the car (at the Village at The Peaks mall charging station) to Cafe of Life, which is about three quarters of a mile of sidewalks, street crossings, and parking lots. It felt great. I was cautious, of course, I went slow-to-moderate and I didn't do anything suddenly, but within those careful limits I tried out all the motions, deep carves and toe-stops and sculling and single-foot glides and backwards skating and everything, and nothing hurt. Not a thing.

Well, my glutes hurt from yesterday's exercise. I'll admit to that. But nothing injury-related. Not a peep out of the knee, not until I got home and curled it under me as part of crawling into bed and remembered too late that I still can't do it that way, not yet. But that is not a required motion for roller derby, so it's cool.

Yay! Good news. Now I go thunk. Good night!

The fruits of my non-writing labors
Cover art features original photography by author, who can't bear to throw away those tokens despite the video arcade that issued them closing down more than a decade ago.
when writing time turns into time invested toward making the future work better
Tue 2017-02-14 23:52:15 (single post)
  • 1,035 wds. long

Ahoy the actually writing blog! This will be a blog post that is actually about writing. Ok, and about other stuff too, but--writing! Yayyyy.

Friday Fictionettes: So the one for February 10 finally went up late Monday night, and I'm really, really hoping it's going to be the last late edition for a while. It's called "The Gold Drug" (ebook, audiobook), and it's about dragons and dragon-slaying knights and also how you should Just Say No. Cue the voices of Macgruff the Crime Dog, Nancy Reagan, and that voice-over that, while the camera zooms in on an egg frying in oil, intones, "Any questions?" But the wyrmlets never do listen until it's too late. It's enough to break a mama dragon's heart.

I didn't get much writing done today, but what little I did was a solid session on the February 17 release. It will be about... well, take Warehouse 13 but make it a pawn shop. There you go.

Here's the thing: It has been impossible to even hope for a full five-hour writing workday since I sprained my knee. Like I said, I'm still going to all my roller derby practices and Cafe of Life appointments; I'm also now going to twice weekly phsyical therapy appointments too. And the occasional orthopedist/sports medicine follow-up (my four-week check-in is tomorrow). And then there's roller derby events like the triple-header this past weekend and the New Recruit Nights this week. And unexpected naps because I still seem to have only a portion of the energy I count on having in a day. (It's getting better, though!) The only entirely unscheduled day is sometimes Friday, which falls apart under the pressure of "Ooh, an unscheduled day! Do ALL the writing OR ELSE YOU SUCK." (I'm sure I've mentioned before what a jerk my brain is, right? Well.)

So instead I'm just focusing on whatever needs to get done with the most urgency, and taking it from there. Today, that meant a short but solid session toward not being late with the fictionette this Friday.

I honestly thought I'd get more done. I had the time. I even had a sudden surge of energy! Which went toward... improving my living space and fixing things which were broken. Which, honestly, isn't time spent; it's time invested. It's so much easier to get work done when things are less cluttered, more pleasant to look at, and fully functioning. Even when the improvement is to something I don't necessarily interact with every day, but have merely been frustrated with now and again, knowing that it's been improved makes my brain a more pleasant place to be. So I went into the "distraction" with my eyes open. Sure, I thought, I might not get the writing done that I meant to, but I'm going to feel happier and healthier going forward.

Here's a short, non-exhausted list of things that got fixed or uncluttered or otherwise improved:

  • Restored my laptop's ability to send sound to the TV via HDMI, such that I can once again VJ Steven Universe marathons. Or whatever I want. This required rolling back the Intel HD Graphics 5500 driver on my laptop. The "Windows 10 Anniversary Edition" version that installed itself on Jan. 25 can take a flying leap from the nearest high-dive into a sewer, by the way.

  • Unpacked all my vinyl LPs and 45s (and accompanying concert program books, because apparently these go together) onto a freshly cleared shelf below the CDs. Recycled the now-empty boxes.

  • Unpacked the Ion USB turntable onto the top shelf above my desk so it can easily be plugged into my laptop. Stowed the box in the storage closet, along with a few other random objects I've been meaning to shlep down there for a while.

  • Digitized one of my 45s just to celebrate. (The Tubes, "She's a Beauty," 1983, in case you're wondering.)

  • Rearranged my CDs into four columns on a single double-tall shelf space. Placed a cardboard sheet under each column so I can slide an individual stack forward for ease of access. I am a genius.

  • Hung up five things that have been waiting to go back on the walls since we moved into this place back in April 2015. This represents a solid baby step toward emptying the box of wall-hangings that's been sitting in our bedroom since that time.

Now my office and the living room are both less cluttered, and I have the ability to play records in the office. Also it's easier to get to all my CDs now. Also there are pretty things on the walls! So. A sacrifice of potential writing time, but well worth it, I think.

Also, I'm still not on skates yet, but today at roller derby practice I did every single off-skates thing along with my team. Pre-practice warm-ups. Strength training hell. Post-practice yoga. Because it's exciting to be that physically capable again, and because I need to get those muscles back ASAP thank you. This is part of fixing what's broke and creating a happier, healthier future!

My roller derby team is totally my Valentine, y'all. <3 <3 <3

the car gets energized and i get ennervated because wednesday
Wed 2017-01-04 23:43:05 (single post)

I have a new Wednesday routine! It goes like this:

10:00 - Give up on the morning writing shift. Just get the volunteer reading done and uploaded so I can get out of the house. (True fax: I think I forgot to do the actual uploading, I was that much in a hurry to leave. DAMN IT.)

12:30 - Park the Volt at one of the electric vehicle charging stations at Village At The Peaks (used-to-been Twin Peaks Mall). Start that sucker charging. (Current state of car custody: I get the Volt if I promise to charge it, or if I have a Darn Good Reason. Otherwise, I get the Saturn.

12:40 - Ensconce myself at the Village Inn for a long working lunch. (I still think of China Buffet, because I am weak. But Village Inn has actual good food. Also coffee and wi-fi. And a shorter walk from the charging station. And a free slice of pie on Wednesdays. "Even if all you order is a pot of coffee, you get free pie!" Noted.) Get the daily writing tasks done. It's Wednesday, so I don't expect much, but do at least that much, yeah? OK. I did.

3:30 - Walk on over to Cafe of Life and arrive 10 minutes early for my adjustment and traction.

4:20 - Walk on back to the car, which is by now fully charged or almost so. Lament having to use some of that fresh battery capacity on driving home from Longmont.)

Ta-da. The car is charged, I have time to do a little writing, and I get to my appointment early (rather than late, which had been happening recently, because having a car meant the luxury of dribbling out the door at quarter-til-four rather than racing to the bus stop for 3:15). I like it. Let's do this again sometime. (Free pie!)

Derby doings this evening consisted of sitting on the BRAND NEW FLOOR and scraping old tape off the track. Obviously we pulled up the track boundary tape the night we emptied out the barn for subfloor construction, because there was a rope under there, but the rest of the tape we were in too much of a hurry to bother with. (The tape that used to be ten-foot hashmarks is especially hard to remove. The tape that formed our exercise ladder and jump-around crosses was fresher, less skated-upon, and somewhat easier. None of it was easy, though. Razor blades, chisels, paint scrapers, and rubbing alcohol were involved in the process. Which is not yet done.)

You would think this wouldn't be very tiring work, wouldn't you? Just tedious. We were all sitting down to do it, after all. But

  • my back doesn't like hunching over floor work so long, and
  • it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we were done, and it is possible to get exhausted from being cold.

Mostly I got exhausted waiting for the car to warm up. I was shivering so hard I was out of breath from shivering. I was also irrationally angry--at no one in particular, just generally rageful--that we weren't home already. We got home and I promptly dumped myself in the tub, wasting in hot water all the energy I saved in charging the car. I think. These calculations are not exact.

Meanwhile--

(emotion-wrangling beyond this point - I said I'd warn y'all, so I'm warning y'all)

--apparently all that recent Working Through Childhood Trauma stuff I've been doing lately, here and in my Morning Pages and in my brain when I don't wanna has been chugging away in the background, because I had a dream about it this AM.

In my dream, I was moving into Awful Abusive Asshole Uncle's house. It was empty of everything but furniture. I wasn't inheriting it or anything. It was more like, it was empty, so someone might as well move in, and the rest of the family thought I might as well be the one. Anyway, someone had unpacked a few art canvases that used to be on the walls, abstract multimedia collages as well as portraits. There was a portrait of one of my younger cousins, whom I adore; I wanted to hang it on the wall going up the stair where my memory in the dream told me it used to be, but the nail had been removed and the nail-hole painted over when the house got emptied. I'd have to hammer a nail into that wall myself to do it, but not right now, because I had to go to the bathroom something awful.

I really did, too. I mean, in waking life. I may have mentioned my frustrations with my bladder's suddenly reduced retention at night? At least it didn't start to bother me until time to get up anyway. Nevetheless, I feel like it had dream symbolism too. I would have to hammer my own nail into the wall, but first I would have to process and dispose of some nasty substances. Get it? Get it? OK, well, I do. At least, I'm pretty sure I do. There's probably more to get later. There always is.

Anyway, there was also a portrait of my asshole uncle. And though I recognized that the portrait was gorgeous as a piece of art--just a really fantastic portrait of him standing there on a French Quarter street and everything in vibrant, exaggerated colors and the lines of his face emphasized in a way that showed personality rather than reducing the portrait to a caricature--I could not bring myself to hang it up. I didn't want to look at his face every day.

So I decided I would take one of the empty ottoman/storage chests that was positioned as a footrest in the living room by the big L-shaped couch, and put the painting inside it, face-down, and sprinkle it with salt to neutralize its energy.

That's right. I made up a magic spell in my dream. I haven't made up a magic spell in waking life in years, unless you count the creation of writing-dedicated ritual space I sometimes do with a candle and incense and an Enya CD these days. But I just made one up in my dream.

It's a damn good one, too. Right up there with taking a photo of The Bad Guy and rolling it up and tying it with string and sticking it in the freezer. I may have to do it in waking life. I think I know the item that can stand in for the portrait, too. I just need to find an appropriate storage space.

...So. That's the state of the Niki tonight.

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