“Thank you, God. My character is all built up now. You can stop.”
Debra Doyle

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day 6: Recreational and involuntary poll watching
Tue 2018-11-06 17:42:11 (single post)
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This blog post comes to you LIVE from Denver Union Station, where the author is waiting to board her train, and a significant portion of the population of the city and county of Denver is waiting patiently to vote. Wait time is currently reported as being an hour. The line snakes all the way across the lobby, out the east door, and right around the building. A poll worker continues to advise those in line that the polling place at Tivoli, only half a mile away, has no line whatsoever, but most of everyone remains doggedly in their place. They are going to vote, dammit, and at least here they are certain of their place in line.

I sent a report to Pizza To The Polls, but feel free to report this line again. Take care of these people as they do their civic duty!

Overheard in that line, in a sing-song tone: "Long lines just mean that a lot of people are excited about the democratic process--jazz hands!" My silent reaction: Yes, but it also means we aren't doing enough to smooth that democratic process. Polling capacity is not keeping up with population, and that's just one of the many ways this country commits voter suppression every damn election.

But enough of that--I suspect I'm more or less preaching to the choir.

(Yes, I voted. John and I spent a few quality hours with our mail-in ballots a few weeks ago, and he dropped them off at the County Clerk and Recorder building on his way to work the very next day. Catch us not voting? Not gonna happen.)

So I'll be boarding that train in about an hour, hour-anna-half, something like that. Then I'll be doing the usual trip--Denver to Chicago on the California Zephyr, Chicago to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans. Most of today has been taken up with getting read to get out of here, but before John picked me up for lunch and a ride to the Boulder bus station, I did make some strides toward catching up on the Fictionette Artifacts. That's the $5 pledge tier reward at my Patreon, which in addition to access to the first-through-fourth-Friday ebook and audiobook/podcast also gets a typewritten and hand-illustrated copy once a month of one of that month's stories. Sounds cool, right? Also this is a limited edition reward, and two of the three are already taken. Except I'm very behind in producing those. So I scrambled to get the next handful of 'em typed up so I can illustrate and mail them during my trip.

The rest of everything else is the subject of today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report, like so:

Morning Pages: Got right to 'em, right on time. Early, in fact. Had my alarm set for 8:00, woke up at 7:30, tried to go back to sleep but instead worked myself into a panic about how little time remained between then and go-time, so I got up. Again used my Pages as a medium for converting a cloud of anxiety into a concrete task list. Hooray!

Freewriting: To be done on the train this evening.

Fictionette Progress: To be done on the train this evening.

Short story editing: To be done on the train this evening.

"Seriously? Are you just putting everything off until you board the train?" NO! I am not. Just the stuff that doesn't require internet access. Here's a thing I have got done:

Submission Procedures: Some administrative communications, followed by--Huzzah!--an actual submission. Found a place I hadn't sent "Caroline's Wake" yet, and I went ahead and sent it. No self-rejection! Til hell won't have it!

Blogging: As of now, done. Yer welcome.

Honestly, I'll probably get started on the freewriting sooner than train time, because I've still got 550ish words left to write to defeat this 4thewords monster. Yeah, the 3,000-word sucker from last night. This blog post was NOT LONG ENOUGH. Thus I leave you and pay a visit to InspiroBot, where the writing prompts live. See you tomorrow!

Days 3-5: In which we arrive, share some good news, and make plans to depart once more
Mon 2018-11-05 23:57:27 (single post)
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So remember when I said that my first pro sale, "First Breath," would be on the Tales To Terrify podcast this year sometime only I had no idea when? Well, it's up now! It went up on October 12 in Episode 350, and you can listen to it here.

I had the weirdest reluctance to listen to it. Well, maybe not so weird. Maybe it's related to the way I have to leave the room if someone is reading something of mine; if I stay there, I'll be on pins and needles, trying to read reactions into every shift or sigh--"They yawned. Are they bored? They keep recrossing their legs, are they uncomfortable? Do they think I'm a freak because I thought up stuff like that and put it in a story?" I guess I had similar discomfort with the idea of hearing someone else read my story out loud. In my gut I was sure that, hearing it, I'd finally see what an awful, stupid, shameful thing I'd written and put out into the world--

Stop that, I told myself; you know perfectly well that a prestigious editor already thought this was worth putting in an anthology. And this is a Hugo-nominated podcast; its editor clearly has good taste--and he chose to run your story. Your story has not suddenly become awful. Press play.

I listened to the episode on my drive out of Avon Sunday morning. My story comes first, narrated by Michelle Kane, and she does a good job. I mean, I have quibbles, as I expect I would no matter who read it because it's my baby and they're not me; but they're only quibbles, and not worth going into. Most importantly, I was gently crying by the end, so, go her, and go me.

Thing about that story is, I keep forgetting it's a horror story, and, moreover, a vampire story, or at least it has a sort of vampirism at its heart. I didn't write it with vampires or the horror genre in mind. But it's clear the vampire aspect was a factor in the choice of story to pair it with: Victoria Glad's "Each Man Kills," originally published in Weird Tales in 1951. Now, there's a vampire story, one springing from under the cape of Dracula himself.

Anyway. I hope you get a chance to wander over and take a listen.

Time now for the NaNoWriMo Rebel report, covering today and the weekend we just left behind us. The short story is, I'm still at 100% on my self-challenge. Here are the details.

Morning Pages: (Weekdays only.) Did them today, but lollygagged on my way there. It was like I couldn't bear to admit it was Monday. Used them mostly to make sense of my vague sense of dread about all the things I had to get done today: it's my first full day back in Boulder, but also my last full day in Boulder before I leave again, so we're back in travel prep stress mode. It helped to write down the specific things I had to do, make a concrete list of them, and make a plan to hit each one. It made the scary big cloud of dread into an achievable agenda.

Freewriting: I'm happy to report that I did this faithfully each day of the weekend as well as today. But I'll admit that on Saturday and Sunday I put it off until almost the end of the night. Saturday I actually played Puzzle Pirates again--my crew on the Cerulean Ocean was defending an island, and I wanted to help. After four rounds, I pulled myself away and got to work. I had to put off all my writing work until evening today, too, but for a better reason--I had to prioritize some travel prep errands first.

Over the weekend I began using the 50 Creative Writing Prompts at NowNovel.com. This is a series of exercises for focused writing practice. They feel a little like classroom assignments. They remind me of working my way through Ursula K. LeGuin's Steering the Craft, which was also full of classroom-like exercises for focused writing practice. I did exercise 1 on Saturday and exercise 2 on Sunday.

Today's writing prompt came from Chuck Wendig's series of flash fiction challenges; I've been working my way backwards through his archive, doing one a week. Here's the one I did today.

Fictionette Development: Pretty much part of the same writing session as freewriting over the past three days. Each session was kind of small, in keeping with the philosophy of "at least do a little." By the end of Sunday I had finished the Monday Muse post and set it for scheduled release--I love it when I can do that, it means I am perfectly on schedule--and today I babbled to myself on the page about what the piece due Friday will look like.

Commercial Fiction Production/Revision: (Weekdays only.) More babbling. Made a list of questions that would have to be answered as I expanded the original flash piece into a full-length story. May have encountered some answers along the way. Will have to sleep on it.

Submission Procedures: (Weekdays only.) So, about Friday. You know how I said it was late and I wasn't going to do anything more than just think about where to send "Survival, After" next? Well, turns out, I figured out where to send it next--and discovered that they'd be closing to submissions Saturday afternoon. So I sent them the story then and there. Go me!

Today was just for record-keeping. Logged that "First Breath" was now published at Tales To Terrify; logged that the place I sent "Survival, After" had sent an acknowledgement of the submission. Pretty much left it at that.

Blogging: (Weekdays only.) And there you go.

Tomorrow's work day will be prioritized according to what must be done before I get on the train, which is to say, while I can still access the internet. So Tuesday's blog post should show up sometime in the afternoon rather than stupid-o-clock at night. At least I won't have to stress about getting in my daily 444 on 4thewords.com; since I have continued writing this post well after midnight (its date stamp notwithstanding), I've extended my streak through Tuesday the 6th already. That's a relief. However, I'm currently battling a 24-hour 3,000-word monster, and I'm not finishing that sucker tonight. Guess I'll have to blog it to death from Denver Union Station tomorrow afternoon.

'Til then!

Click through to ebook download for cover art attribution and a link to the book it comes out of, hosted at the Internet Archive.
NaNoWriMo Day 1: Introducing the Rebel Report
Thu 2018-11-01 23:51:17 (single post)
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It's November 1! Everyone around these here bloggish parts knows what that means, right? Pardon me while I commit derivative doggerel:


Remember, remember, the first of November:
Character, story and plot;
It's now Wrimo season, so now there's no reason
to put off that novel you've got.

Only, I am not noveling this year. That's OK. I don't always. But I do always observe NaNoWriMo in some way. (This is what they call being a NaNoWriMo "rebel.") When the whole internet explodes in word sprints, word wars, writing prompts, and mutual encouragement, it's a great time to set myself some writing challenge or other, and that's what I'm doing this year.

My challenge to myself is this: 30 days of accomplishing every writing task on my daily list.

It's the same list I've been trying to accomplish for, well, years, I guess. Every day, let there be a session each of freewriting and Friday Fictionette progress. Every weekday, let there also be progress on some commercial fiction project (usually a short story) and the usual manuscript submission procedures, and let there also be a blog post. Like this one. Hi! And let every weekday begin with Morning Pages, because that's how I give my brain a daily tune-up.

Only, now that it's NaNoWriMo, let there also be no excuses. No missed tasks! No more "drat, I didn't get it done before derby" or "blast, I only have 15 minutes." As I keep telling myself, if I can't do a lot, I'll do a little; it's better than doing nothing at all.

This blog began as a way of tracking my progress through what was probably my second NaNoWriMo ever. After NaNoWriMo was over that year, I used it to track my writing progress in general. I blogged to report that, yes, I had showed up on the page today, too. Sort of an accountability thing. Regardless of whether anyone was reading. It was like Natalie Goldberg's trick of calling a friend's answering machine and leaving a message saying "I'll be at the cafe at 5:00 PM tomorrow to get some writing done. Join me if you like, but don't tell me whether you're coming. See you there, or not!" Having left that message, well, now she had to show up, didn't she? Same thing here: Someone could be reading, so I'd better uphold the commitment.

But of course I've drifted away from that focus over the years. I also blog about non-writing things, like roller derby and addictive clicky games. Or I'll go for weeks without blogging, even though I've been writing, because I just keep running all out of evens by Blog O'Clock. Alas.

This month I intend to blog every weekday, because it's one of my writing tasks, and doing all my writing tasks every day is what I'm challenging myself to do this November. And I'm going to focus on reporting to y'all (accountability!) my successes and failures at this challenge.

Accordingly:

Morning Pages: As soon as I was functional this morning. This wasn't immediate; I had an awful headache starting at about 4 AM--a rare thing these days, thank goodness--that made it hard to get moving after the alarm clock went off. Some days, just getting up and putting pen to paper is a righteous accomplishment.

Freewriting: Kept it short, because I had a lot of other things to do. About 10 minutes and 600 words. Writing prompt courtesy of the Writer Igniter.

Friday Fictionette Project: Finally pushed the one due last week out the door. Made it the Fictionette Freebie for October: "Living Undercover," in which we wonder if the sacrifices have all been worth it. Then started babbling out a draft for tomorrow's release. I've been suffering from a chronic Perfectionism Infection where these are concerned; it makes me take longer drafting the suckers, but at the same time, because the pressure of Must Get This Right heightens the avoidance factor, it makes it harder for me to force myself to sit down and do them. I'm going to try to--this sounds awful, but I hope you know what I mean--care less about quality. These are meant to offer readers a glimpse into my writing process while holding me to the challenge of producing a flash-length story-like object on a recurring deadline. They are not meant to be perfect. I have to remember that.

Submission Procedures: I never did report, did I, that my story came home from its "second date" knowing that there would not be a third? Alas. The Editors-in-Chief decided to pass on it. I still need to log that R in my database and figure out where to send that sucker next. I haven't done this yet, I wanted to get this blog post out while it was still November 1, and it's quite late tonight. So, under the rubric of "Do a little if you can't do a lot," I'm just going to log the rejection and leave resubbing the story for another day.

Commercial Fiction: By the same token, I haven't left myself a lot of time for this; I'll pick a story that needs revising, read it over, and jot a couple notes down.

Blogging: Why, so I have!

That's the Day 1 report--see you tomorrow. Happy NaNoWriMo, one and all!

actually the only kind of dating i've ever done
Mon 2018-10-08 23:33:54 (single post)
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Manuscript submissions can be thought of as something like internet dating. Manuscripts go out and meet editors. Both hope that something will click. Most often nothing does. Maybe the editor says "Not for us at this time," or maybe the author looks at the contract and says, "That's way too rights-grabby for me." And then there will be no second date. But sometimes that first date results in a match made in heaven.

Sometimes the author is like those guys Teresa Nielsen Hayden recalls less than fondly in her epic blog post Slushkiller.

An eon or two ago, when I was a girl and occasionally went on dates, I observed that there was a species of young man who’d be perfectly pleasant right up to the point where I declined to go to bed with him. Then he’d turn nasty and angry—all bridges burnt, not even minimally polite. It was clear that the sole thing that mattered was whether I’d put out.

Please, for the love of little fuzzy kittens, don't be that kind of author. It is much better to be the author who considers the whole thing as, at worst, an opportunity for a pleasant night out. I won't lie; this is made easier when the rejection letter says nice things about the manuscript. I'm only human. I respond well to encouragement. But even an impersonal, businesslike form rejection can be an encouraging thing. It means I succeeded at doing the business part of writing. I sent the thing out, and even though it came home again, I like to think it left a good impression. I like to hope I'm making friends and even fans among the editors and/or slush readers, that maybe they look forward to reading my stuff regardless of whether they can buy it. And maybe the next thing I send them will be more their type.

You can't build that kind of relationship if you're the sort of lout who throws unprofessional tantrums when someone tells you no.

I'm aware at this point that my metaphor has shifted a bit. At first it was the manuscript that was going out on dates, then it was the author, then the author was the dating service which sent the manuscript out on dates in hopes of finding The One. Only it's not ever just "The One," because there's reprint rights. The One For Now? As in, serial monogamy? Because, even though each market will want a period of exclusivity, when that period is over you are (that is, the manuscript is) free to play the field. But then the dating pool will be limited to those markets who don't mind not being The First. Annnnnd I'm going to stop right there before we wind up comparing "No reprints, original work only" to toxic attitudes toward women with sexual histories, which comparison is unfair, no good, and wrong no matter which party you're talking about.

Metaphors are, by nature, limited. Life is like a box of chocolates and ogres are like onions, but not in every way.

What I'm actually trying to say here with this tortured metaphor is, one of my manuscripts has been asked out on a second date. Yes! My little story got bumped up the editing chain! That means it's not actually worthless and unpublishable! At least, not at first glance. Not so's the first reader could tell. So I'll be over here on pins and needles until the Editor-in-Chief makes the final call.

Meanwhile, I have great hopes that this will be the week I finally get caught up on all things Friday Fictionettes. The offering for October 5th is this close to being ready for release. Wouldn't it be nice if I could release it tomorrow? Only I've got a dentist appointment, a handyworker coming over to give us an estimate on a couple small projects, and either roller derby practice or a roller derby work party. So the name of the game is low expectations. I mean, we see how well I did with unreasonable expectations, yeah? Not Well At All. So all I will promise is that I'll get some work done on the thing tomorrow, at some point, and we'll see where it goes from there.

Cover art incorporates and modifies “Haunted Tent City” (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Caitlin O’Neil-McKeown)
what i did after i came home from my summer not-so-vacation
Sat 2018-09-01 01:46:48 (single post)

It's been almost a week since I've said hi. Hi, blog! Stuff has been happening.

I came home from Omaha on Monday! I got sick! Now I'm getting better! I had a massage and a day off from practice on Tuesday, then I had classic sinusy crap on Wednesday, and then by Thursday I was feeling better enough to go to scrimmage.

That may not have been smart. I got more worn out and beat up than at either of our Continental Cup games! It being my first time back on the track in the Mile High area after spending a weekend playing derby at an elevation of only 1,090 feet might be a factor. Being sick, yeah, that was a factor too. Also relevant: we only had five skaters per bench. We played four-on-four so that everyone could get a chance to sit one jam in five, and everyone was in the jammer rotation. (You know what's fun? And by "fun" I mean "hell"? TWO-MINUTE JAMS. It is not always good news when the other jammer gets a penalty. Sometimes it just means now NOBODY has lead jammer status, and life for the next minute and a half will suuuuuuuuuck.) Then, at halftime, someone on one team had to leave. One of our skaters who had NSO'd the first half geared up to replace them. For reasons that were never entirely explained, the replacement skater was assigned to the other bench, so the second period of play featured a team of four versus a team of six. GUESS WHICH TEAM I WAS ON. Deathmarch scrim FTW! Did I mention that everybody jammed? And now nobody gets to sit out any? Woo. We got extra-long line-up time between jams, probably 45 seconds or a minute instead of the usual 30 seconds; it was just enough time for me to get just enough wind back to be able to swallow a small sip of water and then rush back out to the track.

In other derby news, archival footage is up from our games in Omaha! Here's Friday's game; here's Saturday. Archives are always free to watch. Have fun!

In still more derby news, my season would appear not to be over! I will be skating with the Bombshells in the B-team tournament bracket at the Thin Air Throwdown, which we are co-hosting at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on September 14-16. Tickets are available, and I recommend you get right on that, because in addition to the B-team tournament, there will be a round-robin exhibition of three of the highest ranked teams in the world. How often do you get to see Rose versus VRDL without leaving the state, let alone the county? So. MAKE PLANS.

Also I wrote! And finished stuff! And submitted stuff too! It's been a good week.

On Wedensday, I finally put up the Friday Fictionette for August 24. It's called "Change'll Do You Good." What kind of change? Any kind you like. Change of scenery. Change of career. Change in your social circle. Shape-changing, too, let's not forget that one. Anyway, it's about 1300 words long and available to subscribers in ebook and audio formats on Patreon.

Then I had to hurry up (as much as I could while subsisting on pseudoephedrine, Mucinex, and tea) and revise some older fictionettes for reprint submission for a deadline of TODAY. (I mean "today" as in August 31. I am aware it is has not been August 31 for a couple hours now. Shh.) I put them into the email about two hours ago and am feeling very proud of myself now. I'm actually quite pleased with how they turned out. Should they come home from today's excursions with rejections, I think they're worth the "til Hell won't have 'em" treatment. (When I finished my week at Viable Paradise in 2006, I swore the VP Graduate's Oath, which is to write, to finish what I write, to submit what I write, to paying markets, until Hell won't have 'em.) There aren't that many places that I know of that A. take reprints B. at flash length, and C. don't mind if their only previous appearance was on Patreon or by other self-publishing means, but I intend to find them all.

What with the traveling and the sick and the playing catch-up and the other, more implacable deadlines, I have not yet released the Fictionette Freebie for August. I intend to do that this weekend. I haven't selected one yet, but it probably won't be "Change'll Do You Good." Because it's only been out a few days, that's why. It would feel silly to have published it only Wednesday and then suddenly revisit it to change its "Who Can See This Post" option. Might as well have just pushed it up full public in the first place.

Look, I don't claim to make logical sense here. I'm not sure I even claim to make sense, period. But this is the sense of it I've got and I'm sticking with it until further notice.

Also scheduled for this weekend: More anti-moth activities. Yay? I finished putting the portion of the office I'd last cleaned back together last week Wednesday--which involved, you might remember, vacuuming every single book and vinegar-rinsing every single item that wasn't made out of paper--just in time to leave for Omaha. My next step will be the brick-and-board bookshelf in the bedroom, which I am now 98% sure houses its own infestation. We've been keeping doors closed so the moths don't migrate, and the bedroom's almost the only place I've seen moths all week. ALMOST. One crossed my path in the office the other day and I just about wept. I'm hoping it stumbled in after taking a tour of the house during a time when the bedroom door was left open. BUT WE'LL SEE.

Wow, that was a long post. Maybe my posts wouldn't be so stupidly long if I blogged more than once a week. More research on the subject is needed.

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Pixabay.
but what is achievable is itself worthwhile, and worth celebrating
Mon 2018-08-13 20:53:09 (single post)

This week is off to a great start. I'm kind of being sarcastic here, but also not. Not sarcastic because I have been so productive! Even over the weekend! But also sarcastic because MOTHS. Awful, awful moths. Awful, awful levels of intense household cleaning required. So. Great start, week of August 13. Good job.

I should mention that last week's Friday Fictionette was released perfectly on time--and really on time, too, not just in the virtual sense but the technical one, before midnight on actual-factual Friday the 10th. It's called "Protocol for Visiting Witches," available both in ebook formats and as an audiobook. It's about right and wrong ways to do urban exploring. It's also about stories, and about who gets to be the protagonist. It will make you hungry for brownies. It might make you hungry for bad chowder and charred hamburgers, which would be OK but slightly baffling.

So that was good. Also good was doing my daily freewriting and fictionette prep work both days of the weekend, and also this morning. Productive! And I've got more stuff planned for the evening. I have a handful of rejection letters to log. I have a manuscript to send out again to a new place. I have several flash stories to revise for submission. This week is going to be great.

Except for the moths. Great.

Understand I am not talking about the kind of moths that sit on the wall with their painted wings splayed for all to admire. I'm talking about that bane of every fibercrafter's existence, the clothes moth. I had an infestation shortly before we moved two years ago, resulting in the loss of a heartbreaking amount of my stash, and now I've got another and it sucks. This time, thankfully, they don't seem to be getting into my fiber or yarn. Welllll, not this year. Last year they obliged me to thow out a couple bags of mohair a friend had given me, which was sad, but the infestation seemed to leave the house with the fleece. I did a bunch of medium-intensity cleaning in the area, just to be safe, and then winter came on, and the moths stopped appearing.

They're back this summer. They're all over the house. I squish them when I see them, and then I race into the office to peer at my black lamb fleece and my alpaca and the rest. Everything looks fine, so I breathe a sigh of relief. I assume the moths are being attracted to something else. Maybe the gunk in the sink. Maybe they're not clothes moths at all. I don't know.

Then I tidy the sheets on the futon in the office Saturday afternoon and I find honest-to-Gods larvae.

That's it! High-intensity cleaning commences. This will be my bible. With it, and through heroic, methodic, thorough effort, I will erase the scourge from my life!

It's not like I can drop everything and flash-sterilize the whole house in a day. Realistically, I can only manage high-intensity cleaning at the rate of one small bite each day. And each day, though I do my best, I know I'm missing something. So each day I repeat my mantra: Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. I said this to myself lots of times yesterday as I wiped down a bookshelf's every surface with diluted vinegar, as I vacuumed the crevices and cracks with every attachment on the Dust Devil, as I cleaned the dust from every book before putting it back on the shelf. As I laundered the sheets for the futon in hot water and dried them on high heat. As I cleaned the futon frame. As I vacuumed the futon itself and tumble-dried the pillows on hot. Perfection is not attainable, but improvement is. And isn't it nice to have that fraction of the house clean?

Today's small bite continued cleaning efforts counterclockwise around the office walls. I emptied the brick-and-board bookshelf of all books and took it apart into its component pieces and got ready to wipe and crevice-vacuum and clean every book and--

I found the infestation.

Each of the bricks has a piece of felt glued to whatever side contacts the boards. That felt was moth-eaten. That felt housed masses of moth eggs. That felt was Ground Zero.

Today's cleaning got serious. The bricks went outside. My clothes, full of dust from moving the boards and bricks, went in the washer immediately to prevent my carrying viable moth eggs elsewhere through the house. The carpet where the bricks had been got vacuumed multiple times, once per hose attachment and then, after blotting with the vinegar-water solution, once again. Everything came off the top of the file cabinet because I wanted to increase the radius of my "small bite." The boards got wiped down with the vinegar solution. Where felt was stuck to the boards, felt was scraped off with a chisel--to hell with the wood finish. As much felt as possible got scraped off the bricks and the bricks went into the oven. New felt went into the oven too, at a temperature of 170 degrees (our oven's "keep warm" setting), to pre-treat it before gluing strips of it onto the thoroughly treated bricks (which got vinegared after they came out the oven, just in case.)

The books are still stacked up waiting to be cleaned. The bookshelf components are still waiting to be put back together. Once you glue new strips of felt down, it takes time for them to dry. If I put the boards on too soon, the felt will get stuck to them. So the office is currently a mess.

But this particular infestation is gone.

I'm not done, mind you. I won't be done even once I put the bookshelf back together. For one thing, there is probably another infestation in the bedroom; the brick-and-board bookshelf in there is simply the other half of what's in the office, all of which was next to that very first infestation at our old address. It would make sense for moths to be colonizing and feeding off the felt on those bricks, too--and it would explain why moths keep showing up in the master bedroom and bath. And even if that weren't the case, good anti-moth hygiene says you do preventative cleaning across the whole house radiating out from the infestation site. So the days to come will also have their small bites of high-intensity cleaning.

It's going to feel very good to have it all done and behind me.

Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. And improvement is very, very satisfying.

The Friday Fictionette for July 27, 2018 is belatedly available. Cover art incorporates original photography by the author.
the good news is we don't have to go deeper
Mon 2018-07-30 23:07:41 (single post)

Today we're gonna talk about procrastination. Or, rather, avoidance; procrastination is merely a common visible symptom of avoidance, Avoidance that, in my case, leads to further avoidance. Contagious avoidance that infects previously unaffected tasks. Recursive avoidance. Self-referential avoidance. Meta avoidance.

(If you just said "Avoidance inception! We must go deeper!" then you need to go sit in the corner with a dictionary and think about what you've done. The popular Leonardo DiCaprio movie about dreams within dreams within dreams notwithstanding, all "inception" means is "the starting point." Also, when it comes to avoidance, no we must not go deeper. We do not ever want to go deeper. We'd kind of like to surface, please. Soonest. Thank you.)

The avoidance is made up of more avoidance. Hypothetical solutions to the avoidance get bitten by the avoidance bug. Take the task I'm avoiding apart into its component steps, and those steps into baby steps, and there's avoidance attached at every level, all the way down.

Avoidance, my friends, is fractal.

Here is how that works in my brain:

  1. There is a task I am avoiding.
  2. In an attempt to make myself stop avoiding it, I put it first on the day's to-do list. That means I have to do it in order to get to the rest of the day's work.
  3. Stupid monkey brain says, "So if you keep avoiding task number one, then you never have to do tasks two through fourteen, several of which you are also avoiding."
  4. NOTHING GETS DONE. I SUCK.

Ah, but I see that dynamic coming a mile away, and I want nothing to do with it. I flip things around! Back to front and upside down! But as it turns out, avoidance is not only recursive and contagious but also transitive and commutative:

  1. There is a task I am avoiding.
  2. In an attempt to salvage the rest of the day, I decide to do all the tasks I'm not avoiding first. That means at least something will get done. And maybe the uplift of "I did a thing!" will help me approach the much-avoided task at last.
  3. Stupid monkey brain says, "So if you don't do all the other tasks, you won't ever have to do the much-avoided task. You just won't ever get to it. The problem simply won't arise."
  4. Bonus: All the other tasks get tainted with the miasma of avoidance clinging to the much-avoided task. Now I have more much-avoided tasks.
  5. NOTHING GETS DONE. I SUCK.

If life were like a sudoku puzzle, the conclusion would be really depressing. See, there's this strategy for solving extremely difficult sudoku called "forcing chains." It can be summarized like so: Find a candidate in a cell and examine the consequences of it being the answer for that cell. Now examine the consequences of it not being the answer for that cell. If in both cases the same result obtains elsewhere in the puzzle, then you can confidently include that result in your solution. For instance, if a 5 in J9 forces E1 not to be a 6, and J9 not being a 5 also forces E1 not to be a 6, then you know that, whatever else may be the case, E1 simply can't be 6.

Likewise, in both the case where I put the much-avoided task first, and the case where I don't put the much-avoided task first, the same result obtains: NOTHING GETS DONE AND I SUCK. Therefore I should just resign myself to nothing getting done. And sucking.

Thank goodness life is not a sudoku puzzle.

PS. I finally uploaded the Friday Fictionette for July 27. It's "Highlights for Creator Gods." Ebook and HTML here, audiobook here. And if I am very good and it doesn't slip my mind, the freebie for July gets announced tomorrow.

PPS. I submitted another story today. I DON'T SUCK.

this must be friday i never was any good at fridays
Fri 2018-07-27 23:51:59 (single post)
  • 3,453 wds. long

This may not be news, considering how many times I've said "The Friday Fictionette for this week will be late again" (and yes, I am saying it again) but I kind of suck at Fridays.

I'm still not sure whether I suck at Fridays in an avoidable way or not.

Here's generally what happens: I wake up on a Friday morning with all of my work to do. I have time to do a very small sliver of it before heading out to bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift. This involves about an hour at the donor grocery store sorting through the produce they have for me, culling the compost and packaging the good stuff for travel. Then, because it's summer and the nearby school I usually deliver the produce to is not in session, there's a round trip bike ride of about 7.2 miles. The half of the journey with 200+ pounds of food on the trailer is mostly downhill, thank goodness, but I have to go up those hills on my return journey, which is nothing to sneeze at even unladen.

After returning BFR's bike and trailer to the rack where they live, I typically walk across the parking lot for a buffet lunch during which I will inhale about three times my weight in various curries and tandoori chicken and naan. Then, if I'm feeling particularly virtuous, I return to the donor grocery store as a customer. Then I drive home, cursing the traffic on 28th Street and, because of the deadly combination of hard exercise and too much food, trying desperately not to fall asleep at the wheel.

Once I get home, I fall down flat in bed and don't move for hours.

Eventually I get up again, still feeling sort of sick and feverish, and make a half-hearted, low-energy stab at the day's work. A very small fraction of what's waiting for me gets done. I go back to bed, this time for keeps, feeling ashamed and dispirited.

Today was pretty much like that. I had some misguided idea that shifting the whole BFR-lunch-groceries-collapse routine earlier in the day would lead to my getting out of bed and back to work sooner. Alas, no. It just meant I napped longer. I don't know what my problem is--is my endurance so minimal? (My roller derby performance would suggest that not, but then I also tend to collapse after roller derby, too. It's just less noticeable since, most of the time, that collapse coincides with bedtime.) Am I just not protecting myself enough from the sun? Must I stop rewarding myself for all my hard work with hearty, nutritious, tasty food in vast quantities? Should I just resign myself to my limitations and either A. switch to a BFR shift that isn't on Friday, or B. stop pretending I actually have Friday available as a work day? I just don't know.

But on the plus side, the fraction of the work I got done included submitting my short story to its intended market. So yay!

(Annoyingly, this involved cleaning up garbage characters from the final manuscript which 4thewords seems to insert wherever italics or certain paragraph breaks show up, and which Scrivener for Windows is ill-equipped to find and replace. I had to compile to RTF and perform some find and replace routines in Libre Office before I could convert the whole thing to plain text. Otherwise there'd be a bunch of random question marks scattered through the submission, which would certainly not help its chances at winning the editor over. There has got to be a better way. I refuse to believe that including 4TW in my workflow must inevitably result in processing the manuscript through no less than four editors and a handful of by-hand tweaks before the dang thing's ready to submit anywhere.)

So, yeah. Same old same old. Saturday is the new Friday, and I'm really good at whining. Seems like I ought to offer y'all some cheese to go with that whine, but all I bought during today's grocery run were sliced muenster and cheddar, and I am saving them for our sandwiches so you can't have any so there.

things return to normal, for fairly decent values of normal
Tue 2018-07-24 12:47:39 (single post)
  • 3,541 wds. long

Yesterday I got to everything but the blogging, so today I'm starting with the blogging. This my occasional strategy for making sure I do all of the writing things--start with whatever didn't happen yesterday, to make sure it happens today. I am very clever that way. *pats self on head*

Among the things I did do yesterday was a solid editing pass on "Survival, After." It came back from Shimmer with rejection in hand; I'm getting it ready for its next outing. Mainly I just need it to be about 350 words shorter, so I'm going over the manuscript with a Scalpel of -10% (two-handed weapon, imbued with curse: Perfectionist). But yesterday's pass also uncovered a lot of typos, cut-and-paste artifacts, and gerunds that ought to have been changed to simple present tense when the sentence got restructured. And vice versa. All of which were there on the story's last outing. So Much Embarrassment. This is the sort of thing that happens when it's a rush job to squeak it in under deadline. Go forth and do not likewise.

Anyway, I hope to finish this edit today so I can resubmit the story.

I'm back in Boulder now, back to the normal weekly schedule of writing and roller derby. There's still a touch of travel journaling for me to wrap up. Here it goes:


Thursday, July 19, 2018: I get out of town. My timing sucks.

Travel anxiety got me out of bed early, which meant plenty of time for a shower, laundry, packing, and last-minute printouts. I'd gotten as far as the shower and was starting on the laundry when Dad got up from the computer and shared the bad news: One of his oldest friends--the one whose garden had produced the tomatoes we had in yesterday's sauce piquante and also the cucumbers and squash we used in the kimchi, had just died that morning. He'd been less than two weeks out from receiving an artificial heart, but his all-natural original just wasn't able to wait that long despite all the day-to-day medical support he was receiving. Dad had volunteered to email mutual friends, seeing as how his friend's widow was obviously not in a space where she could handle that right now. I'm not sure really how able Dad was to handle it, but he muddled through.

So that was deeply sad. And it seemed like adding insult to injury that it happened the same morning I was leaving town, so that I was abandoning Dad right when he'd suffered an unexpected additional blow. But we made space in that morning's itinerary for extra hugs and a few stories about Dad's friend.

I headed out about two hours in advance of my train, leaving myself time to top up the rental car's fuel tank, return the rental car, and walk from the Hertz office to the train station. I could have had them shuttle me over, but if I had, I couldn't have stopped at Cochon Butcher for a sandwich and beer to go. Now, the smart plan would have been to ask Hertz to hold my luggage, walked down to Cochon for to-go, walk back to Hertz, then let them shuttle me down. Because after Cochon there were about six very long blocks to walk, and six blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot. Because I was not as smart as I could be, I arrived at the train station a lot sweatier and dehydrated than I might have. But my beer was refreshing and the sandwich was worth waiting for.

There was wifi on the City of New Orleans. I made a good-faith effort to get the Friday Fictionette done while I was still able to upload it; nevertheless, it would not go up until Saturday evening. It was "Mardel's Salamander" (ebook, audiobook), an irreverent romp through a fantasy future in which computer programming is magic and magic has consequences. I also got my Saturday morning AINC reading done later that night. Audacity's noise reduction filter worked astonishingly well; you could hardly tell from the finished MP3s that I was on a train. Given how well I could hear my next-door neighbor's phone call, though, I was probably not my next-door neighbor's favorite neighbor. I tried to keep my volume down, but you never know.

I could not possibly have been my next-door neighbor's least favorite neighbor. That prize had to go to the room across the aisle from me in which two pre-teen boys were roundly enjoying their mobile sleepover. They boarded the train at, I think, Jackson, Mississippi, and the shrieking, squealing, shouting, and roughhousing began almost immediately. Their parental units were just down the hall and sometimes poked heads in to adjudicate some point of sibling rivalry (not sure they actually were brothers, but you see what I mean), but never, so far as I could tell, to tell them KEEP YOUR VOICES DOWN AND STOP USING THE HALLWAY AND SLEEPER DOOR AS YOUR PERSONAL PLAYGROUND. Thankfully they fell asleep early and didn't rise until late. And I actually slept pretty well that night.


Friday, July 20, 2018: A little work, a little play, and once again we're on our way.

We got into Chicago Union Station more or less on time. I made my way to the sleeper lounge and staked out a spot at the workstation counter downstairs. Here I could sit at an actual desk with my computer and work or play comfortably. Also I did not have to listen to the ubiquitous televisions because here they were silent; if you wanted to listen, you connected your smart phone to a particular "Hearing Hotspot" wifi network and downloaded an app. That was useful intel. The official Amtrak Wifi network wouldn't let me connect to game servers, but the Hearing Hotspot did. So after I uploaded that day's blog post I got to play Spiral Knights until it was time to board my train.

The rest of the ride was much like the previous leg of the journey, only minus the disruptive pre-teen boy sleepover element. And no wifi, of course. I continued work on the fictionette, cleaned out my email spam folder, solved jigsaw sudoku, and read ebooks. I also even got a small amount of physical conditioning to make up for spending the whole day on my butt and Saturday's crossfit (which I would because tired). See, there are these vertical bars in the bathrooms for you to hold onto when the ride gets bumpy, and it's possible to use them for a sort of assisted squat/pull-up exercise, and then do a set of ten each time one is obliged to visit the facilities.

So things were productive and peaceful. And on Saturday morning I woke up in Colorado.

The end.


Food talley for the remainder of the trip:

  • 2018-07-19, 12:00 - Pork belly sandwich with mint and cucumber on white bread (Cochon Butcher)
  • A bunch of Amtrak meals that were adequate or even tasty but not particularly worth reporting
after a small interruption we continue with our tale
Wed 2018-07-18 22:54:28 (single post)
  • 3,843 wds. long

Had a late night last night and didn't have the oomph left over to continue the travel journal. Late night tonight, too, but enough is enough. Skip two days, you wind up skipping three, then a whole week, then nothing gets blogged at all. So! Picking up where I left off the other night...


Friday, July 13, 2018: The train arrives in New Orleans

Well, not until 3:30 PM. Slept well, felt a lot better, got a significant amount of work done on the short story before the train arrived. Spotted wildlife from the train: wild turkeys just outside a town in Mississippi (can't recall exactly where) and a ton of egrets at Port Manchac. (Sometimes you get pelicans. Sometimes you get cormorants. Today it was mostly egrets.) Had a perfectly terrible excuse for a muffuletta for lunch. I'd forgive the substitution of the hoagie roll--I allow a lot in an out-of-town muffuletta, just so long as they get the innards right--but the microwave did horrible things to that hoagie roll, and the result was just sad.

No, wait, I misremember, the awful not-muffuletta was last night over dinner, because we were with that nice couple who got off the train in Memphis. But then I have no memory of what I had for breakfast or lunch on the train Friday. Clearly these were not memorable meals.

Had a phone conversation with Dad during which he tried very hard to get me to accept his offer of ferrying me around downtown once I got in. I don't think Dad's ever gotten comfortable with the idea of me being downtown by myself, not even after all these years. He also wanted to know why I thought I needed a rental car when he has no plans and is happy to drive me around. Which was very sweet of him and all, but, I don't know, y'all, I did not expect to still be defending bids for independence to my father at my age.

So the train arrived. I'd planned on having my luggage held at the station while I skated up to the Sugar Mill for my ROTB packet, then retrieving it and taking the streetcar to my lodgings for the night. When I found out how much that would cost me, I rearranged my plans. I would instead take the streetcar to my lodgings immediately, then skate all the way back to the Sugar Mill, then skate all the way back to the airBnB. Fine. I like skating. Let's do this.

The streetcar system is more confusing than it ought to be. The line I boarded was the 49, but you couldn't tell it from the car. The car said 03. It also said Uptown/Loyola, which, correct me if I'm wrong, has absolutely nothing to do with where it actually went, which was St. Claude and Elysian Fields. I dunno. I think I have a decent handle on navigating New Orleans, but I've never taken the streetcar with intent before. (Taking it mainly for the experience of WHEE I'M ON THE STREETCAR doesn't count.) There may be some subtleties I'm missing.

It's OK, you don't have to @ me about it. I'll figure it out as and when needed.

So that worked. Got to the house. Let myself in. Sat down in the blissful air conditioning (four blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot). Eventually got into my leggings and cut-offs. Packed my bookbag to be more lightweight for skate travel, leaving in only the things I imagined I'd want that evening.

Went out on the porch to put on my skates AND WAS IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDED BY KITTENS.

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

They were black and tabby and muted calico and tortie and gray. There were at least seven of them. They were half-grown and half-feral. Their favorite game seemed to be Who Can Get The Closest To The Human Without Getting Pet. They arranged themselves around the chair I was in, some where I could see them and some not. When I finally tore my eyes away and toe-stepped down the stoop to start my evening's journey, they scattered, then rearranged themselves proprietorially on the porch where I had been.

It was a long trip. It took me about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. Followed a pedicab most of the way down Decatur and North Peters. "You make a nice safe lane," I told the bicyclist. He suggested I hold onto the back and let him tow me; I declined, citing a need to see potentially hazardous bits of street before I rolled over them. It was a kind offer, though.

Stopped on the way at the terribly convenient Hertz on Convention Center Boulevard to reserve a rental for Sunday AM pick-up (and, incidentally, put to bed any future arguments about whether I needed a rental car; it was already rented, too bad).

After I'd done my required pre-ROTB business at the Sugar Mill, I headed the couple blocks down Andrew Higgins Boulevard toward Tchoupitoulas and Cochon Butcher. And there I not only worked some more on my short story, but I also had the muffuletta to make up for Amtrak's utter disgrace of an alleged muffuletta.

Got back to the airBnB eventually and met the neighbor lady who feeds the kittens. Sat on the porch and talked awhile. Finally went inside, geared down, changed into regular street clothes, walked to the nearby grocery for skater fuel--protein/energy bars, coconut water, fruit, that sort of thing. Came back. Started laundry. FINISHED THE SHORT STORY AND SUBMITTED IT. Promptly keeled over. The end.


Friday, July 14, 2018: Rollerbull o'clock

Woke up at 5:30 with plans to leave the house at 6:00 so as to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30. That is frickin' early. What's more depressing is how hot out it already was when I started skating back toward the Sugar Mill. When a block later I encountered another rollerbull waiting for an Uber, I gratefully accepted her invitation to share the ride.

6:30 was indeed early--too early, really, to be there, despite that this was what the welcome packet told us to do. Not much to do, and no one to talk to if you don't know anyone and are sort of awkward at getting to know people. Was saved by some skaters from Big Easy Rollergirls who recognized me and also a crew from Steel City who'd been chatting with me on Twitter the afternoon before. So now I had some people to "bull around" with, and it was fantastic.

Dad was out there waiting to get a sweaty hug from his derby daughter and watch the fun and take pictures. (He was already beside himself with amusement/shock that several of the bulls were going topless except for pasties. I imagine he will wind up telling this detail to his hunting buddies, bar pals, and other friends and family about three billion times over the remainder of the year.)

So we received the blessing of San Fermín and were released to chase down the runners and swat their butts with our toy bats. Yay. I mean, honestly, I'm there for the skating, not so much for the butt-swatting. I am not thrilled by 1. dudes who say things along the lines of "ooh, yeah baby, hit me harder" (ew) 2. mostly dudes but some women too who holler after you that you "hit like a girl" or "got nothing" or other stupid challenges to my imagined machismo (this is not where my machismo lives, sorry, thanks for playing, try me again when I'm parallel parking or considering spicy food) 3. runners of all genders who insist that their friend "needs a beating" (bull does not take request, bull hits request-er instead). Or, in the case of the dude accosting me after the run while I was trying to talk to my Dad, dudes who come and put their hands/arms around my shoulders or on my back or other places without my consent and I have to extricate myself firmly but, alas, without breaking their gropey-ass appendages because violence is frowned upon by event organizers.

Basically I'm in it for the excuse to skate multiple laps around the course and then skate-dance to whatever the band is playing at the afterparty.

Eventually I peeled off, texted my goodbyes to the Steel City gals, and made my way into the Quarter. Greeted runners doing the same with "Great run this morning! Did y'all have fun too?" Stood for a selfie request with a couple tourists who said they'd had a blast.

Discovered that it's harder than I'd imagined to find a bar open before 11:00 AM on a Saturday. Found my way to Johnny White's for a beer and a photo uploading session. A party of runners descended on the place while I was thus occupied and took over the jukebox. When I finally got up to leave, I said hi and great run and all that, and one of them said, "We had a running bet whether you were deaf and maybe blind, that you were able to just keep working on your computer with us there." OK, I guess.

Now it was past 11:00 and all sorts of lunch options opened up. Too many options. I was too tired for decisions. So I fell back on my usual, which is the French Market Restaurant--you know, that place on Decatur Street with the green-and-white awnings and the constant tantalizing smell of boiled seafood wafting out the door. What I really wanted was boiled blue crab--I'd been assured they were in season--but they didn't have them. So I had a pasta dish instead. It was amazing. It involved spaghetti in a generous crawfish cream sauce topped by a central tower consisting of two slabs of fried eggplant and one damn fine crab cake. So that was fantastic.

I just want to point out that I have never yet been told anywhere in the New Orleans area, "You can't come in here with those skates on." Every single place I've been, restaurant or bar or hotel or Hertz rental office, they've been all, "Roll on in! Just be careful, OK?" The French Market Restaurant is no exception, but its restrooms are up a flight of stairs. Not a problem. Derby teaches the proper use of toe stops. So I'm toe-stopping my way up the stairs, and someone on her way down is all, "You are so talented," and I'm all, "Not talent, just good training." I mean, it beats the exchange several years ago on a post-ROTB bar crawl when the whole way up the stairs at Saints & Sinners someone kept repeating "Girl, you are gonna fall and break your leg." Like, why? Why would you say that? Having said it, why would you say it again?

Made it to the house. Tired. Full stomach. Clothes can't come off fast enough. Brief shower. Crawled into bed. Out like a light and stayed that way for about five hours.

Ventured out on the street again after dark--in shoes this time, thank you--looking for dinner and maybe if I was lucky a little wifi. The problem with Frenchmen Street is, mostly what you'll find are rockin' clubs with awesome shows and a one or two drink minimum and huge crowds. Would have been great if that was what I was in the mood for. If I'm in the mood, it's a treat just walking down the street and hearing the music coming out every door. But I just didn't have the energy for it.

Found my way instead into a courtyard and up some stairs and onto a rooftop patio with a pop-up called Rogue Cafe. They made me some tasty nachos. Thus for food. Then I remembered Envie at Barracks and Decatur, and settled in for coffee and an omelet and a bit of internet errand-running. This included making myself a Blue Bikes account. I'd noticed the rental hub on Frenchman Street at Washington Square and liked the idea of biking rather than skating to the Hertz office the next morning.

Stayed up a little late to get my Sunday morning AINC reading done--I'd already missed the Saturday shows, so I didn't want to miss Sunday too. Set my alarm for 6:15 and went to bed.


Food Tally for Friday and Saturday

It occurs to me I should be keeping track of what-got-et-when. I mean, we're now in the ACTUALLY IN NEW ORLEANS part of the travel journal. Food is going to be important. Thus:

The pasta takes the prize in that list with the muffuletta coming in a close second.

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