“The people who need what you have to say are waiting for you and they don’t care that you think it's boring, unoriginal or lacking in value.”
Havi Brooks

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

i know i know just let me farm another 800 stone bricks ok
Wed 2018-10-10 22:30:25 (single post)

OK, so. Confession time. I'm addicted to smartphone app games, and I don't even have a smartphone.

What I have is a laptop running the Android simulator Bluestacks. I installed it several years ago when John showed me the game he was playing at the time, Two Dots, and I got hooked hard. Then I found out there wasn't a version for regular computers. This struck me as a great injustice. Surely every game on the smartphone had a regular computer version too, didn't it? Why not?

So, Bluestacks. It's come along way since then, through two full version numbers and into much better compatibility with more or less anything I try to run on it. And, to my chagrin, it's commercialized itself a lot more thoroughly. It's always had a for-fee mode, where you pay to get rid of the advertisements. It used to randomly play app trailers at me; no longer. Now it mostly contents itself with manifesting an icon of their Featured App of the Day in among my installed apps list.

But it's still got enough going on to get me into trouble.

It's got a metagame. It's got--whatever it's calling itself these days, what is it? Pika Land? Bluestacks World? In Bluestacks World, it runs periodic events where you enter a prize drawing by playing this or that app for ten minutes. Generally this is easy to ignore. I'm interested in none of the games, and I'm interested in almost none of the prizes. (It's a beautiful desk chair, ergonomic as hell, but entirely incompatible with my office environment.) So. Great! I'm safe! Except one day, the featured app was Two Dots. And, hey, great, I already play Two Dots, why not?

Why not, indeed. See, that's how they get you. It goes like this: The event that was running the time, "Deities of Egypt", asked you to play Featured App of the Day for ten minutes in order to open a divine scroll, summon the God or Goddess within, and, incidentally, get entered into the day's prize drawing. Well, now I've opened the Day 1 scroll. I've summoned Bast. Hooray! Guess I might as well participate in each of the following days, right? Just to see? Shame to give it up when I've gotten off to such a great start, right?

I am a filthy, rotten completist. Also a perfectionist and mildly obsessive. I did the Day 2 thing. And Day 3. And so forth. And I meant--I really meant!--to just leave the featured app running unattended for ten minutes while I did other things. Like, y'know, write. Except, a couple of those games, I clicked on. Just to see. And I found them oddly compelling. And I wound up playing them a whole lot. Dammit.

Guns of Glory had me addicted for two or three weeks before I got free. It's a resource-management kingdom-builder thing. It's also multi-player. I swore I wouldn't get involved in the multiplayer side of things. I'd restrict myself to upgrading my military tents and farms and stuff and not join an alliance. Not! Except then I saw an exchange on global chat (which appears impossible to disable) that went something like this:

"Alguien quiere unirse con nuestra alianza? Hay muchas ventajas en hacerlo."
"ENGLISH PLEASE"

And I was all like, "Screw your 'English please!' This is an international game! Deal with it! Just for that, I am going to join their alliance!"

And so I did. And I went into the game's settings and changed my language to Spanish, and forced myself despite my embarrassment to converse in Spanish with the other alliance members. I felt very virtuous about this. I wasn't just wasting time on a clicky game--I was taking advantage of a great opportunity to practice my second language in a real-life situation! Yay! Brava, chica. Meanwhile, a whole new part of the game I'd written off as off-limits, because I'd planned not to do the multiplayer thing, was now accessible, and it was fun and rewarding.

It was also more demanding. Everyone else probably looked in on their estates every time their smartphone gave them a notification about whatever. I felt obliged to log in more often throughout the day so as to be a good alliance member.

And then, one day, another alliance declared war on our alliance. I logged on and my castle was on fire. My troops were all in the hospital--in shifts, because hospitals have a limited capacity depending on how far you've upgraded them--and healing them was using up all the food and wood I'd had earmarked for structural upgrades. No sooner had I recovered and built up more reserves than another attack came in. Basically, they were using us as a resource farm. It made the game a lot less fun and rewarding.

And then, one day, I logged in and discovered that my alliance's leader had stepped down from his position and made me the new leader in his place. And nobody had heard from him since.

I gave him the leadership crown right back, apologized for the confusion to whoever happened to be reading alliance chat at that time, and then I logged off. And uninstalled the app. With prejudice.

So that was my brief foray into kingdom-building resource-management multiplayer clicky-games. Well and good. No harm done, right? Except, before the death throes of my brief love affair with Guns of Glory had ceased, I had yielded to temptation in the matter of Merge Dragons.

Here we go.

Merge Dragons does pretty much what it says in the name. You merge three dragons of the same type, you get one dragon of the next level up. (Or you merge five to get two. This is important.) You get dragons by merging eggs. You get eggs by, among other methods, completing levels, during which you merge all sorts of things into other things. Meanwhile, your dragons flit about the landscape, harvesting stuff from the objects you've merged and occasionally spitting fire at what emerges. There's a vague story involving a quest to heal the much-beleagured land of Dragonia of the blight laid upon it by the evil zomblins (zombie goblins, don't think too hard about), but it's not really the point. The point is, DRAGONS. And GETTING ALL THE THINGS. And DISCOVERING ALL THE MERGE CHAINS. And completing all the random goals, like "merge 5 seeds of the prism flower," which involves fending your dragons off from your slow accumulation of necromancer grass tufts so that they don't prematurely harvest them into seeds which will turn themselves into prism sprouts before you can accumulate the five you need to merge, and also you have to do that sixteen times to achieve the goal. This is how I find myself attempting to basically tire all my dragons out, like fractious toddlers, by distracting them with rocks they can harvest for stone bricks.

Oh, and there are events. Events! In which you have three days to work your way through a very, very large level, healing as much of its land as possible and maximizing its resources to earn points to get special trophy dragons and prize objects to take back to your Dragon Camp. I may have left Bluestacks running for the entire 72-hour period so that my dragons could harvest everything while I was at scrimmage or asleep. Whatever. I'm not proud of this.

Thankfully, there is only so much you can play at a time without spending money. Each new level costs a certain amount of "chalices" to play; you generate one chalice every hour; you can only hold seven chalices at a time. When you don't have enough chalices, all you can do is hang out in Dragon Camp, where each dragon eventually runs out of actions and has to go to sleep for a bit.

But, still, it's amazing how much time one can waste clicking around even a moderately advanced Dragon Camp, even when all one's dragons are asleep. There are processes that continue in their absence. Seeds blow in on the breeze. Rain clouds spawn. Bushes spit out mushroom caps. There are two entirely separate merge chains for mushrooms, do you realize? It seems unnecessary. Oh, and if you progress through all the levels of mushrooms (of either type), or bushes, or prism flowers, or whatever, you might unearth A WONDER OF THE DRAGON WORLD. Exciting! I merged some high-level bushes and unearthed RUINS OF THE SKY PALACE. (Oh, hey, did I just generate a fourth chalice? Great! Time to play the next level!)

So that's the story. I am trapped in Dragonia. There is no exit in sight. Do not send help. Stay away, far away. For the love of little yellow dandelions and all that is good in the world, not to mention your productivity in general, also your loved ones' expectations that they continue to see your face from time to time, save yourselves.

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.

my trip to new orleans: things done and seen thus far, by nicole j. leboeuf, age 42 & 1/4 - part 1 of i think maybe 5
Mon 2018-07-16 21:01:34 (single post)

So I'm doing the travelogue blogging thing, but the traveling began five days ago, so I'm already in catch-up mode. LIKE I ALWAYS AM. I figure, if I blog about two days on every one day, I'll get caught up by the time I leave New Orleans. Sound good? Good. So:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Arrived at Denver Union Station around 3:30 PM. Thanks to a Rockies game going on that afternoon, it was crowded.

In recent years it has been converted from a big sad empty echoing space with bad acoustics into something part shopping mall, part hotel lobby. It is a big fancy gathering space furnished with communal study tables with charging hubs, communal dining/drinking tables like picnic benches, lots of comfy seating with low coffee tables, and a raised area in the middle with I kid you not a couple shuffleboard tables. Along the three interior walls are a bar, a deli, a coffee shop, a surprisingly well stocked Tattered Cover bookstore outlet, several restaurants (including the fantastic Stoic & Genuine with their amazing seafood and happy hour oysters), and a few more retailish things. Also the Crawford Hotel, which I once briefly considered staying at for New Year's Eve only to decide I had better things to do with nine hundred dollars.

So when I say it was crowded, I don't mean like the way your airport terminal might be crowded ahead of an overbooked flight. I mean it was like a shopping mall food court on Christmas Eve, only with alcohol.

Got my daily freewriting done, just in case there'd be no wifi on the train for me to log my 444 to 4thewords. When that was done, I probably should have worked on my other writing tasks. I'd been in OH SHIT I GET ON A TRAIN ON WEDNESDAY mode all week, ruthlessly prioritizing those tasks which enabled my departure, and I'd barely gotten any writing done despite having a Fictionette to release on Friday and also that short story I wanted very badly to submit to Shimmer before they closed their doors for the very last time. But, again, I'd been in OH SHIT mode all week and I needed to relax. So I played a little Spiral Knights instead.

Train arrived an hour and a half late. No big deal. My scheduled layover in Chicago would be long enough to soak it.

There was no wifi hotspot set up; too many dead zones on the California Zephyr to be worth it. No big deal. Internet not necessary for the work I had brought to do.

Went to dinner. My tablemates immediately attempted to interrogate me in the name of making conversation ("Where are you from? Where are you going? Are you all by yourself? Which car/room are you in?") and successfully fended it off ("I'm declining personal questions this evening"). This conversation would repeat itself several times over the next two days.

(I only exaggerate a little bit about the creepy stalkerish ARE YOU ALONE AND IF SO WHERE CAN I BEST CORNER YOU questions. Point is, I am a woman traveling alone. If you need a refresher on why it's a bad idea to grill me for my itinerary, please see Matt Braunger's bit about being a lightning rod for awkwardness and really listen to him excoriate himself for asking a woman he just met "Where do you live?"

Went back to my room, thinking I'd get a little work done on that week's Friday Fictionette and also on the story I wanted to submit to Shimmer. The headache and painfully stiff neck I'd been fighting all day said NOPE.

Attempted to sleep. Body and brain decided to be assholes and also said NOPE.

It was a long night.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Got up at 6:15 AM Central Time, which was entirely unnecessary. Headache somewhat receded. Neck somewhat looser. Did the morning things and went to breakfast. This included coffee, which helped matters.

After breakfast, made a good faith start on my working day. But as the day went on, it became clear that a night with very little sleep was going to mean a day with a very slow rate of production. I just about managed Morning Pages and a draft of the week's Friday Fictionette, and not much more than that. I think most of the intervening time was eaten up by napping, and reading, and napping while reading. I was not in good shape.

We got to Chicago about three and a half hours late. Still not late enough to jeopardize my connection, thankfully, but late enough to really eat into layover downtime. I uploaded my work so far to 4thewords for the sake of keeping up my streak, answered email, and caught up on the news. Then it was time to board the train.

My neighbor in the transition sleeper car on the City of New Orleans was a woman who hadn't been on a long-distance train before; she asked me all sorts of questions about how stuff worked, so we wound up talking a lot over dinner, together and with the couple across the table. And not just about the train experience, but also about New Orleans. Restaurant recommendations, sightseeing, stuff like that. (This was a conversation where I did not begrudge the incidental personal detail questions. Because the whole point was sharing personal experiences with someone who was looking for recommendations and advice, that's why.) I mentioned the festivities surrounding San Fermín en Nueva Orleans, which led to a lot of questions about roller derby.

Again, went to bed after dinner without significant work done. Please ignore any promises I may have made to the contrary in my blog post of July 12.

To Be Continued

hey guess where i'm calling from
Thu 2018-07-12 20:19:10 (single post)

So I'm on a train. Hi. There's a wifi hotspot in the sleeper car that my laptop has succeeded at connecting to, so, I'm on the internet while on a train. It's kind of mind-blowing.

I'm on my way to New Orleans for San Fermín weekend. I'm gonna be a rollerbull Saturday morning, and then Sunday I'm going to be skating in the traditional Hangover Mash-up on, it turns out, Team Matador. In the white jerseys. You can come watch! There will also be some random skating around the French Quarter on Saturday. It's going to be a lot of fun.

But getting ready to get on that train meant that the entire week got kicked into in High-Stress Pre-Travel Triage Mode, right up until I got to Denver Union Station. So today was really the first time this week I got any serious writing done.

And I've got a Patreon offering due tomorrow, and I have a short story that needs to be submitted by midnight on the 14th. AND I'M NOT SURE WHICH MIDNIGHT. I mean, the midnight at the end of the 14th, or the midnight that kicks off the 14th? Eek?

So. Er.

Hooray for the mobile writing retreat that is a TRAIN!

(Now if only I'd managed to sleep last night and hadn't been battling a headache all day today and could have gotten more work done. But nevermind all that...)

Cover art incorporates and modifies image generated by InspiroBot.me
this fictionette's learning to treat itself gently
Sat 2018-07-07 01:19:30 (single post)

The Friday Fictionette for July 6 is up! It's called "Ten Uses for a Dozen Red Roses," and it does what it says in the title. Subscribers can use these links here (ebook, audiobook) to view the Patron-locked posts and download the epub, pdf, mobi, and/or mp3. Full text in HTML is included in the ebook post in case you prefer not to download a thing right now or maybe you're reading this on your smartphone's browser or something like that.

Non-subscribers, sorry, but like I said Monday, I am not doing teaser excerpts for every single release anymore. But feel free to browse the Fictionette Freebies archive! It is extensive!

Fridays are difficult. I bike a Boulder Food Rescue shift on Fridays, and during the summer it's quite a long bike-ride indeed. This means I have a tendency to collapse as soon as I get home from it, and to stay collapsed for several hours. And then to move very, very slowly once I get up again. Bodies get cranky and it's stupid.

The effect was especially pronounced today because I've been up since 5:30 AM--John needed me to drive him to his airport rideshare pick-up point. He's off to Go Play NW, and I hear he is already having a fabulous time. After giving him that ride, I could have gone back to sleep, I guess, but the prospect of getting an early start on my writing day appealed. So I did. I did Morning Pages followed by about an hour's work on today's fictionette. And considering how long it took me to get back to the fictionette after my BFR shift, it's a darn good thing I did.

Anyway so but that's why the Friday Fictionette is only on time in the sense of "before I go to bed Friday night." It technically went up on the 7th. Not by a lot, but still.

My jammed finger is somewhat improved today. It's visibly swollen, but not as much as I feared, and the pain has retreated to specific triggers rather than an existential throb. (One of those triggers is the D on the Qwerty keyboard, or E if you Dvorak--I do--but the trigger only happens if I hit the key at a particular angle, like when it comes right after a Qwerty V/Dvorak K.) I did not do it any favors during my bike ride. I had occasion to brake hard and discovered that, wow, I do that pretty much entirely with my middle finger! Ow ow ow. Learned my lesson there. Iced it on the way back and was very careful to use only healthy fingers to pull on the left brake lever for the rest of the ride.

I have crossfit tomorrow. Then, if I manage to convince myself to leave the house Sunday, maybe a skating party at the Wagon Wheel. I can't find a public online announcement about the event, but here's the gist gleaned from the flyers we saw posted at the rink:

It's Sunday, July 8, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The local speed skating group would like to send one of their young participants to an international competition, so some portion of the $6 admission fee will go toward that good cause. With your admission you get free pizza for lunch and free skate rental (quads free, $3 extra for inlines).

It's a good cause, and a great chance to reciprocate all the love that this group has shown my roller derby league over the years and during our current efforts to rebuild since the fire. So. I'm going. I've convinced myself. If you're in the neigborhood, please join me!

lather rinse whine repeat
Thu 2018-04-05 00:33:42 (single post)
  • 727 wds. long

I have been slowly working my way through the revision of "Survival, After." It was under 750 words when I first wrote it; it had to be, given the constraints of the contest I wrote it for. Now it just has to be whatever length it needs to be in order to succeed at what it wants to do. Turns out it needs to be longer than it was; no surprises there. New scenes need to be created. Existing scenes need to be fleshed out more, their implications teased out. New rough draft needs to be written. And that's not fair! This teeny tiny short-short story was supposed to only need a quick once-over before it was ready to submit somewhere! I don't want to write new rough draft! New rough draft will itself need to be rewritten! Where does it end?

Fiction is frickin' fractal.

Today I wound up working on something different. Yesterday, during the submissions procedures portion of my work day, I discovered that a market I want to submit to is in the middle of a submission call for themed fiction under 1,000 words. And this market is not only reprint friendly--reprint encouraging, in fact--but it's also Patreon reprint friendly. I think "The Soup Witch's Funeral" might fit the theme pretty well, but I'll have to trim it down to two-thirds of its length first. I got a start on doing that today. Looks like when I get through this first pass it'll have gone from 1550 to maybe 1250, and I think I can do a second pass to tighten it up the rest of the way tomorrow. Then I'll be able to submit it.

And then I'll go back to writing brand new rough draft for the "Survival, After" rewrite. And rewriting the new material. And whining about it.

whether it's an excuse or an explanation depends on the night
Tue 2018-04-03 23:52:51 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

OMG lookit me I'm writing after derby. Help.

I go back and forth on whether I can usefully get stuff done after derby. When I started this post during the last half hour before practice, I was thinking, this whole "can't work after derby, sorry" thing is just an excuse. But at that time I hadn't had derby yet. It's easy to plan to be virtuous when I haven't had three hours of skating hard, hitting and getting hit, attempting to perform strategy while metaphorical bricks are being thrown at me, and then doing a whole bunch of off-skates conditioning hell. Now that I have done those things, I'm feeling less gung-ho about writing, or in fact doing anything other than collapsing into bed. But I had a Perfect Day on Habitica yesterday--a day where I completed and checked off all my Dailies--and I'm damn well going to make today a Perfect Day, too. So I'm doing writing stuff after derby. Gods help me.

In addition to finishing this blog post, I also committed to doing my submissions procedures. Submission procedures isn't just one of my Habitica Dailies, and thus required for a Perfect Day, it's also hours I count toward my Camp NaNoWriMo goal! Any work done on drafting, revising, or submitting short stories counts. (I'd already done today's short story revision work, which was also a Daily I needed to check off. I only worked on it for about a half hour, but that counts.) But the thought of attempting to put together a submission late at night on a post-derby brain is kind of scary. I mean, post-derby brain is capable of all sorts of ridiculous mistakes. Post-derby brain has trouble telling black from white and counting to five, y'all. How am I going to rely on it to scrupulously follow submission guidelines, remember which editors I'm emailing, and attach the right file?

Theoretically, this can be easy and even mindless. Take that same manuscript file that went out last time, attach it to an email going to the new place (or upload it via their submission form, whatever), and off you go. Theoretically. But that's before you consider that some markets require blind submissions, so you have to scrub your identifying information off the page headers. And some editors prefer real italics and some prefer you use underlines in place of italics. Some editors really, really hate the Courier font, so you probably better change that to Times New Roman or Verdana or whatever it is they like. (Or maybe you hate Courier, but the market you're considering is all MONOSPACE OR DIE. Everyone's a potential casualty in the font wars.) So it's in the author's best interest to read the submission guidelines carefully and make whatever adjustments they require.

But before I get into all that, I have to know which story I'm sending out and where I'm sending it to. And that's really hard for post-derby brain to figure out, especially when pre-derby brain kind of had no idea either.

Thank goodness for the Submissions Grinder. It's a free-to-use submissions-tracking system built on top of a truly enormous market database. The whole thing is a labor of love and community service by Diabolical Plots and David Steffen, and I don't know what I would do without it. Poor post-derby brain Niki can just log in, click "Manage Pieces," and scroll down the list, and say to her self, "Oh, 'Caroline's Wake' isn't currently out in slush, is it? It should be. It's one of my best stories. I should submit it somewhere." Then I can click on the corresponding "Run Search" link to pull up a market search form already filled out with the stats for this particular story, and easily get a list of markets which accept submissions of that length, in that genre, and which I have not submitted this story to before. (That last is important. I got that last bit wrong once recently and it was so embarrassing. The rejection letter was very kind. They said they remembered the story and how much they admired it the first time they read it, but they would really like to see something else by me, pretty please.)

Anyway, that's what I did when I got home from derby. And while I didn't actually find a place to submit that story, I found a place I could submit it just as soon as they reopened to general submissions. In the meantime, they are reading for a very particular theme and format, for which one of my other stories might be a perfect fit, only first I need to trim it down to about two thirds its current length.

Which I will attempt to do tomorrow because, having fulfilled my duty vis-ŕ-vis blogging and submissions procedures, collapsing in bed is imminent. Me and my sore, beat-up, worn-out body wish you a good night.

Cover art incorporates 'a t-res-fossil' by 3weg.nl (CC BY 4.0)
Cover art incorporates and modifies 'Mirepoix' by Matthew Yglesias (CC BY-SA 2.0)
avoidance and its protective coloring in the revision habitat
Tue 2018-03-20 17:30:25 (single post)

So on the 16th I released the Friday Fictionette for March 9th, then yesterday the one for March 16th. Here's a little bit about 'em.

Friday, March 9, 2018: "Tomorrow Belongs to the Dragons" (excerpt, ebook, audio). Dragon skeletons are a dime a dozen, but this one's lodged in a cliff face in Hannah's beachfront neighborhood. So it's special and familiar, all at once. That it makes her irritating friend Mary inexplicably nervous, Hannah considers a bonus.

Friday, March 16, 2018: "The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" (excerpt, ebook, audio). Sammy escapes an unexciting future in the family tailoring business by getting himself apprenticed to the soup witch. But the cauldron tells him things he'd really rather not hear.

All of which means I'm at lateness: zero once again, and I hope to stay there, because lateness: zero means I get to do interesting things like continue getting my Weekend Warrior flash fiction ready for commercial submission. Because--shock!--my writing career encompasses more than my Patreon experiment! You know that. I know you know that. Sometimes I need to remind myself, though. It's too easy to feel like doing my daily Fictionette work means I'm done for the day, when in fact I am not.

Except Fictionettes are, more or less, easy; revising fiction for commercial submission is hard. Flash fiction is no exception! Each of these five short-shorts I want to get out the door, they took me a weekend to think up, maybe 2 hours to write, that's it. But when it comes to doing just that "quick revision pass" I think is all each needs, it takes hours and hours and days. I'm not sure how much of that effect comes from me avoiding the difficult crap, and how much comes from the crap genuinely being hard. I suppose you can't separate the one from the other.

There's also a tendency to get bogged down for half an hour in trying to find the perfect first sentence for the next paragraph. Again, there's two factors at work here. There's panic over this being the final draft and therefore it must be perfect therefore not-perfect words cannot stand! And then there's the tendency to allow myself to get bogged down in tetchy details because it keeps me from having to face the bigger picture of the whole damn revision. Unfortunately for me and my avoidance issues, reorienting on the bigger picture is precisely what I need to do in order to drag myself out of the bog of tetchy details. When in doubt about different versions of a sentence, refer back to the purpose this sentence serves in the overall story! Argh.

Avoidance issues and difficulties notwithstanding, I hope by the end of this week to both A. get the March 23rd Friday Fictionette out on time, and B. submit one of my Weekend Warrior flash stories to a paying market. If I also get the Fictionette Artifacts for February in the mail this week, that will be a bonus. And next week is a week with a fifth Friday which means A. getting ahead of schedule, and B. taking a Friday off! Things are looking up and moving forward, is what I'm saying.

(meanwhile my new spiral knights character has all 4-star gear and is starting to venture into tier 3, huzzah, but she really really needs to upgrade her fyrotech alchemizer pretty please soonest--might have to dust off my old 5-star character and go grind for crowns and energy down to the core)

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