inasmuch as it concerns Surfacing:
Excuse me, Miss Would-Be World-Famous Author, but when you get a moment to visit the real world, could you take care of some, y'know, responsible stuff?
after two weeks this is the blog post you get
- 4,600 wds. long
Hello the blog! It's been a while. Er. Sorry? But I'm back, at least for now.
There were a lot of factors that, multiplied together, produced a couple of pretty pathetic weeks around here. The big one was roller derby. Are you suprised? Nobody is surprised. Well, I'm a little surprised. I mean, yes, two back-to-back tournament weekends, sure, but what about the weekdays in between them? Where the hell did they go?
I've also been caught up in the tedious and terribly familiar down-the-drain roundabout that happens when I get behind on my work. You know this song, right? The first verse is where you know you're late and you hate yourself for being late and if you had any worth as a person and a writer you wouldn't be late. In the second verse, all the bad feelings built up in the first verse form a Humongous Wall of Avoidance between you and catching up on all the late stuff, and by the end of that verse you're later still. During the bridge you lament all the other writing tasks you're not getting to because you have to give the late stuff priority. The third verse is just the second verse over again, louder, and it repeats until fade-out (studio version) or until the audience gets sick of it and goes home without requesting an encore (live version).
I am not going to say anything as decisive as "But I'm all done with that now!" Whenever I do that, then the next day I tend to crumple under the weight of expectation. But I will say, without making any predictions that might emotionally or mentally jeopardize my tomorrow, that I had a damn good today.
Friday Fictionettes: To make Mt. Overdue easier to climb, I decreed that release dates in June 2017 would be the 2nd through 5th Fridays (there is a fifth Friday). Then I proceeded to miss the June 9/2nd Friday deadline. It's all good, though; I've posted it this morning. Then I went on to knock a typewritten page off the top of the overdue Fictionette Artifact stack and also to log the first session towards this Friday's release. So everything is either A) caught up, or B) hopeful.
Short Stories: "Caroline's Wake" came home yesterday with a form rejection. I processed that today in the usual type-a manner then sent the story out to the next market on my wish list that was open to submissions.
Daily Freewriting: I did it. So there.
Household crap: Paid bills. Dealt with dishes both clean and dirty. Cleaned up the produce drawer in the fridge according to good sanitation and food rotation protocols. Ate a big ol' pot of lentils with mixed greens because they are full of magnesium and protein and iron and stuff and also I have a lot of them--CSA is back in session! And I rode my bike to pick up this week's share because the weather was beautiful and exercise is good.
Roller derby: Travel team practice. In consideration of their hard work at the tournament this past weekend, most of the All Stars (A-team) took the night off. So tonight was primarily the Bombshells (B-team) preparing for our June 24th bout. I got something like two and a half solid hours working closely with the other blockers in my "pod" and we all practiced both playing offense on an opposing wall and resisting offense played on our wall.
I've also started coming in an hour early for extra individual skills work. It started out with just Papa Whiskey fine-tuning my plow-stops and blocking form last week, then another skater joined us this week, and a third skater expressed interest in joining us next week. I've taken to calling it "pre-practice study group."
So. That comes to four hours on Tuesdays. But I feel awesome. I'm on skates, I'm part of a team, I'm rostered for the upcoming bout, and I have a home on a pod within that roster. Skating is life. Life is good.
Not gonna lie, I was disappointed not to get rostered with the All Stars for these two tournaments. But, surprisingly, the not-getting-rostered blues wasn't the big deal. I mean, yeah, I had to process my disappointment, sure, take some time to myself to grieve the version of tomorrow I wasn't gonna get. But then I had to put that aside and prepare for the tomorrow I was getting, the one where I got to assist the coaching staff and cheer on my team and participate in all the team stuff surrounding the games.
No, I'll tell you what the big deal was. THE big deal was not skating at the tournaments and not skating at weekend practice, either, because I was at the tournaments I wasn't skating in. It's not just that roller derby skaters need to skate, and not putting on skates for a week at a time hearts their hearts. It's that, on the one hand, you're not "good enough" to be on the main roster, but on the other hand, you're also not getting a chance to improve, because you had to miss practice to be an alternate in the tournament you're not on the main roster for! Arrrrgh.
Now, us two alternates, we did end up getting rostered once. It was for the Saturday morning game at Mayday Mayhem, which two of the regular skaters got called away from because of work. A couple blockers had to jam, so a couple more blockers were needed to take their place in their lines. I think I wound up playing in two, maybe three jams. I don't know. Not the point. Point was, I got to be a skating member of the team for one game. I participated in the team's on-skates warm-up, which made up a little for not having a Sunday practice that weekend. I got to put on skates! For the first time that whole weekend! It felt so damn good.
So that's why a four-hour Tuesday practice is awesome, and why I'm contemplating attending the optional Wednesday practice too. Because skating is life, and skating better makes life better.
And also there won't be practice on Father's Day, so I'm making up for lost time in both directions.
Anyway, that's where I'm at.
Oh, good grief, is it nearly 1 AM already? *sigh* Why only 24 hours in a day? Why haven't they patched that bug yet?
excuses but they're kinda good ones i guess
I have a billion things I'm late with, mostly to do with Friday Fictionettes. This weeks'll go out on Saturday (again) and the Artifacts from January and February over the next couple weeks. I hope.
I'd get more done with them tonight, only there are other things that really need to happen before I go to bed, basic physical care things like exercise and hygiene and actually getting enough sleep during the hours normally allotted for sleeping in. That's sort of been the problem all week--insufficient sleep, a messed-up sleep cycle, limited time and energy to do things in and with, mismanagement of what time and energy I've had, etcetera, etcetera, whine whine whine. But if I'm going to get back on track, now is the best time to start. Which means no college-style late-night heroics, right? Right.
So. More tomorrow and in blog posts to come. Which there will be. I hope.
when writing time turns into time invested toward making the future work better
- 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
here is some paint and a brush and also a corner
You know who's been missing from this blog parade of Patreon accounts? My husband, that's who. He's the first person I heard about Patreon from, and his insights have been key in helping me understand how it all works and how, arguably, it should work--but I haven't even bothered to link you to his page on Patreon yet.
That is a serious oversight that must be corrected immediately. Thus: John LeBoeuf-Little is creating games!
This is probably why I overlooked him last week. I was doing Google searches for
short story site:patreon.com and also following links from fellow Codexians' blogs--basically, I was only looking at what other writers are doing with Patreon. In my defense, the internet is vast; if one doesn't narrow one's search terms, one drowns in the results. I narrowed mine to "people doing stuff like what I'm thinking of doing," but I forgot that there are different axes of similarity.
Anyway. What John's doing with his Patreon account combines many elements of what we've seen before: Extra content offered at certain funding milestones, influence over creative direction offered to supporters, physical gifts mailed to a limited number of Patrons at the highest pledge tier. (I note here the reminder that "I'll mail you something" can be more complicated or expensive depending on where "you" is, in John's caution that "If you're international... you'll definitely be getting something very flat and very light.")
What I find interesting here though is the variation one can bring to the per-creation pledge scheme. Thinking back to Clarkesworld, I find in their use of the per-creation rather than per-month structure an echo of the traditional magazine subscription offer, something like "At $12 per year, you pay only $3 per issue instead of the newsstand price of $4.99." It's a different way of thinking about the monetary support. And although a pledge of $3 per issue has the same effect on a Patron's budget as a pledge of $3 per month (Clarkesworld publishes new issues monthly), it creates a slightly different creator-audience relationship--at least in the participants' minds. Which, arguably, is where a relationship is defined.
To put it another way: Think of a charity race. Why do we pledge a certain amount of cents per mile rather than a lump sum? It's not like there's any question of how many miles the runner will run. The race course is predefined. Maybe the cents-per-mile structure gives supporters a sense of vicarious participation, like they're running the race alongside of the runner they're supporting. Maybe it's because thinking of it that way makes it feel as though the charity doesn't get the donation until the runner finishes the race, giving supporters double the reason to cheer at the finish line. The emotional connection to Clarkesworld's monthly issues may be similar: Each new edition is like that moment when the runner crosses the finish line, an event for which each contribution acts as celebration and applause.
But of course the pragmatic effect of the per-creation pledge structure is to make support more like a purchase, in that the Patrons don't pay until they receive an item. That's not a factor in the case of Clarkesworld, which has been coming out every month without fail for over seven years now. But it's definitely a factor when you're a game designer who also has a demanding day job, a big trip to Gen Con coming up, and also a house that's about to get its interior rebuilt. (I may have mentioned. The reconstruction project started this morning. Tonight's blog post comes to you from a hotel in Louisville with relatively reasonable extended stay rates.) When you know your schedule is unpredictable and stressy, it's wise to avoid overcommitting. John has exercised this wisdom both by using the per-creation pledge model and by explicitly stating that new creations will only be made available once per month at the maximum, and more likely much less frequently than that.
By the way, aren't those avocado-skin boats lovely?
Anyway, this wise caution on John's part makes me wonder whether I'm in danger of overcommitting myself. True, I'm not going to Gen Con, and I'm not currently beholden to anyone else's paycheck or timeclock. But I do have roller derby. I'm skating in a home bout on August 30th. And I've recently rejoined the league's committee system as a member of the committee that's responsible for making that bout happen. Also, did I mention the house construction situation? And the way John stressing out stresses me out, and me stressing out stresses him out, and so on around the merry-go-round?
So how can I consider promising Patrons three or four short-shorts a month, or an audio release once a month, or that things will come out of my typewriter and into anyone's physical mailbox?
I think in this case the difference is that I don't have a day job--or, rather, that writing is my day job. Which is rather the reason I'm setting up a Patreon account in the first place. The potential for regular monthly paychecks, however small, reinforces the day job mindset. Also, the creations I plan to share (ooh, she's actually "planning" now!) will arise naturally from actually doing my day job. The bulk of the work required, that of writing the very short story-like thing, is already getting done four or more times a week. All that remains is to convert one of the resulting very short story-like objects each week into, essentially, a blog post. And then I need only convert one of those four monthly posts into a five-minute audio recording. And then it would only take maybe two hours once a month to make a few typewritten copies for mailing. And then...
Well. I could "and then" myself into a real corner.
Again, it's wise not to overcommit. More and more, my thought is to only offer a couple of things at launch (i.e. on September 1), then evaluate the work load and interest level several months down the road to see if there's even potential demand for another monthly task, let alone room in my working month to add one.
Less haste, more speed, as a certain tortoise once told a certain little girl. Therein lies wisdom.
some positive uses for the Anvil of Guilt
My goal for this week is to finish "The Impact of Snowflakes." Not necessarily finish-and-submit, but finish. Finish the new ending, for the love of little orange cheez-its! Stop circling in and just land this sorry lawn-mower of a plane!
And today I made absolutely no progress toward that goal. Today I was running errands both in person and on the telephone, most of them to do with the catastrophe-related restorations on our home that will start Monday the 11th. These errands stole most of my morning time, and, indirectly, by way of exhausting me utterly, most of my afternoon too. Essentially, the less said about weeding the garden, the better.
But I remain optimistic. Tomorrow is a whole new day. So are Thursday and Friday. With their help, I feel sure I'll get where I want to go.
Meanwhile, I am have been giving more thought to this Patreon-enabled short story subscription service I've been brainstorming. I've also been having a look around at what other authors are doing with their Patreon pages. I'd like to share a few of them with you this week.
Kellan Sparver is a colleague of mine whom I met via Codex, an online community of neo-pro genre writers. He's just launched his page recently. What he's doing with it highlights one of Patreon's patronage models, that of pledging a certain amount of money per creation. It works like this: You pledge, say, five dollars per story. Then, when he posts a story--for example, the SF short "Hitchhiker"--you're automatically charged for it at the end of the month. (Note: Patreon allows you to specify a maximum monthly amount--a budget, if you will--to protect you in case of sudden and expected prolificness on the part of the creators you're supporting. Details here, under "For Patrons.")
The pledge form is pre-filled with a suggested amount of $3 per story, but you are welcome to pledge as much or as little as you like, in, I think, whole dollar amounts. (Currently it looks like Sparver's Patrons are pledging an average of $5 per story.) Below that, Sparver defines a couple of "milestone goals" to give Patrons a bit of context. Should the total of all pledges reach $25 per story, he'll be earning an equivalent amount to what he would if he sold each piece to a "token" or "for the love" market. Should he reach $200 per story, that's like selling a 3500-word story for pro rates, as defined by SFWA as 6 cents per word.
Another example of per-creation pledges is the Patreon page of Clarkesworld Magazine. As an alternative to subscribing at a fixed rate, you can pledge your preferred amount per issue. Clarkesworld pledges in return to include extra stories in each issue depending on having reached certain milestone goals. Clarkesworld's page also defines several tiers of individual support that will earn Patrons rewards both tangible and intangible--access to downloadable electronic copies of the magazine, having print copies mailed to you, having your name included in the annual anthology's list of "Clarkesworld Citizens."
For me, the upside to the per-creation model is not tying myself to a production schedule. If something went terribly wrong for me one month, I wouldn't have the added stress of knowing that I was failing to give my supporters the stories they'd paid for. No story means no one gets charged. Simple. (Although John would probably say that's the wrong way to think about this. "Patreon isn't about selling a product," he told me the other day. "It's about giving people a way to support your art, and thanking them for that support.") But the upside is also a downside--it wouldn't hold me to a production schedule. Not that a production schedule is impossible on the per-creation model--again, see Clarkesworld. But I'm not sure I trust myself to stick to a schedule without hanging the Anvil of Guilt over my head.
Anyway, thoughts are still coming and going. These are some of them. There will be more thoughts tomorrow.
who left this mess at the end of my july
Apologies for the radio silence. It's been a month-end sort of week. There's been stuff. Hugo-nominated stuff to read and vote on, a friend moving to Boulder to help unpack, late night celebrations of said friend having arrived in Boulder and of getting successfully unpacked and moved in, needing to pack up our own stuff in advance of some heavy-duty kicking-us-out-of-the-house-for-a-week renovations, and, OK, well, the July Seal o' Piracy to earn on all the production oceans and Ice too because I'm a total nerd.
However, I have been working away like a beaver on the short story. I'm still having a stupid time with the ending, but I'm happy to report that one of the interim scenes got heavily overhauled to make room in it for things that should make the ending more possible to write. So there's that.
Also I have decided where I'm going to send it when it's done. Hint: The deadline is August 15. So this thing is getting done by then, OK?
Meanwhile, the end of July means the beginning of August. I have allowed some good writerly friends to talk me into doing this nonsense over here over the month of August, and now I'm rather looking forward to it. At the very least, I will not lack for Daily Idea writing prompts.
Speaking of the Daily Idea/freewriting portion of my routine, I'm researching the viability of a Project. At this point, it can only be described as subscription-based along some regular time line or other, possibly Patreon-enabled, and hopefully more feasible than my track record on dailiness thus far would indicate.
Well. That was very nearly-information free. There may be more information tomorrow. Stay tuned.
the purpose of tuesday
- 3,071 wds. long
Tonight there was progress towards our goal to Paint All The Unpainted Bits. We completed what conceivably was and will be the most difficult part of the project, ever: The Nexus.
That's what I'm going to call it. It's that squarish piece of the house, three of whose walls are doors into bedrooms or the bathroom, and whose fourth side is partially enclosed by the short end of the living room closet. Where that wall ends is the opening into the living room. In most homes, the passageway that functions as a place to keep all the bedroom doors would be called a "hallway." In this home, it's just not big enough. So I'm going to call it The Nexus.
Because it is a Nexus and not a hallway, there is not a lot of room between the various doors. Masking off the doorjambs was a titchy business. Painting in between the doorjambs was even titchier, especially when we got down to the floor. This is what made it the most difficult, nastiest, least enjoyable part of the house painting project.
I recommend always starting with the worst part of any particular task. I painting the tiny, detail-oriented, brain-melting bits that required the little hand brush first. That way I could finish on the high note of "Yayyyyy! Free of corners! No more fiddly bits! Paint roller! Wheeeeee!" Always try to finish on a high note. If nothing else, it makes it easier to bring oneself to start the next similar project.
As for writing... well. I started with such good intentions! And then somehow my half-hour email break turned into hours of taking care of every piece of household administration and maintenance imaginable.
Around 2:00 I finally broke away for lunch, over which I managed about 40 minutes working on "Caroline's Wake." Those 40 minutes were spent converting the first scene from past tense to present tense, then whittling away at the first two scenes with a meticulousness that, even in the midst of doing it, I recognized as avoidance behavior. Editing existing draft in order to avoid writing more first draft. I suppose I rationalized it as "I'll continue working on this after lunch." But I did not. Other things snapped up my attention and monopolized my sense of obligation.
Moral of the story? There are several:
- Get up earlier so that there's time in a day to absorb set-backs like these.
- Set a timer when email-and-housework break begins. Go back to writing when the timer goes off. If tasks remain, rejoice! Take a second email-and-housework break later. Time it, too.
- Sometimes the purpose of Tuesday is simply to teach lessons by which Wednesday may profit.
Also, that 40-minute revision was by no means wasted time. It was a damn fine revision. I expect when I finally start drafting the third scene (tomorrow! For reals!), it will be all the better for having a more solid first and second scene to emerge from.
how to kick off the week with that glowing, accomplished feeling
You might think a freakish May snow storm would preclude much farm work. This is not the case. We just moved the farm work inside. Seedling thinning continued from last week, only the thinning party (or thinning bee, if you will) took place inside the greenhouse, where it was hot enough to make me regret my extra layers of clothing.
Plants I worked with today: Lettuce, fennel, marjoram, sage, several varieties of tobacco, and, very briefly, more peppers.
My favorite of the above was the fennel. Some people hate all things licorice-flavored; I love them. Fennel, anise, ouzo, absinthe, black jelly beans and Jujyfruits, Good & Plenty, Allsorts, salted, even Twizzlers if you must. Thinning fennel was like kicking back with a freshly opened bag of Haribo licorice wheels. Every third or fourth stalk that I snipped went into my mouth.
Eventually, later on this summer, the fennel will be all grown up and harvested and ready to eat. At that time, my favorite thing is to quarter the stalks, salt them and pepper them, sautee them in butter, and coat them in Parmesan cheese. Goes well with potatoes or a really flavorful rice.
I did not come home and nap. I came home and got stuff done. I did all my household accounting chores as well as a few more tasks that have been languishing. I even popped the bearings out of my outdoor wheels and cleaned them. I should have done that Saturday evening immediately after all that skate-dancing around at the New Brew Fest and, more to the point, walking through wet grass between the dance floor and the Boulder County Bombers promotional booth. Hopefully the three-day wait won't result in noticeable rust spots.
And now, having been virtuously productive all afternoon, I'm just hanging out at home having a relaxing evening. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow, writing-wise, but I'll worry about that when tomorrow gets here.
having won the first battle, we contemplate the rest of the war
- 750 wds. long
Well, I got the first scene written today. That was the easy part. Look, I have attempted this story so many times, the first scene is now pretty much a final draft based on about four different preliminary drafts. Tomorrow's task is to get the second scene down, and *that* one has more moving parts and less drafts to work from. Argh.
In other news, we painted another wall today. Now, for the first time in about ten years, the entryway matches most of the rest of the house. Or it will once we paint the crown molding gold. That, also, is tomorrow's task.
Tomorrow's tasks will be upon us sooner than one might think, because I'm about to collapse for the night. Because roller derby. Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. Ouch.
second verse, same as the first
I realized just this past weekend that we're smack in the middle of an open call for submissions to Sword and Sorceress 29. And I have this story here that I've been working on forever, that I wanted to get ready to submit last year to Sword and Sorceress 28 but that I utterly failed to make the deadline with, and, well, I haven't worked on it since. So I've got just over two whole weeks to get that sucker finished.
Why do I do this to myself? It's not even that great of a fit for the S&S series: "We are willing to consider stories set in modern times (urban fantasy), but we won't buy more than one or two of those for the anthology." And my sorceresses are actually more like Goddesses. Exactly like. And yet I really, really want this to be the first slush pile it hits. Argh.
Well, I worked an hour on it today and an hour on "Snowflakes" and I guess at that rate I'll have both of them done by then. Maybe. I hope.
Meanwhile, speaking of projects picked up from where they were left off far too long ago, John and I painted a wall tonight. When we bought this condo unit and moved in back in August of 2000, the plan was to paint over the terrible "curdled cream" walls with eggshell white. We were going to do it one wall at a time, as time and energy permitted. Well, energy ran out and we stopped making time, and as a result we have four or five areas that still require painting. Also a few more areas that could use a new coat to cover the years of wear and tear.
Tomorrow we are going to do another wall. And another next week. And another soon afterwards, as time and energy permit.
So there's your writing metaphor for the day. It's never too late to pick up where you left off, and you can still take it one room, one scene, one wall, one paragraph at a time.
Hey, it's a little long for a fortune cookie, but at least it's not strained.