“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates pubilc domain photograph via Wikimedia Commons and a totally overused lighting effect in The GIMP.
no crashy-burny for THIS fictionette; also, how the sausage gets made
Fri 2017-07-21 23:47:11 (single post)
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The bad news is, yes I got sick again. Or discovered I'm still sick, and that Thursday was just a day off from being sick because the universe is merciful or because it likes a good joke or maybe just because I took a 12-hour Sudafed at exactly the right time, I don't know. Today was gross sniffly coughing sneezing bleaaarrrrrgh.

The good news is, I got all my work done anyway. So there. Take that, sick! You ain't the boss of me!

Seriously, though, 100% not kidding, today was probably a more powerful rebuttal to Jerk Brain than it would have been had I felt perfectly fine. It's evidence that my ability to Be A Writerô is not dependent on the stars being aligned just right. It is something that, in all but the most exceptionally terrible cases, is always within reach. That's really empowering.

Today I...

  • Sent "First Breath" off on a new quest for reprint publication
  • Published this week's Friday Fictionette
  • Set up a Scrivener project for converting an old draft into a new piece of flash fiction

And also freewriting, Morning Pages, this blog entry, Fictionette Artifact catch-up, yadda yadda yadda. ALL THE THINGS.

The Friday Fictionette for July 21 is "Falling Toward the Light" (for Patrons: full-length ebook, audiobook), which is mostly about the hazards of having a rift in the space-time continuum open up while excavating for new building construction in downtown Loveland. It's also partly, possibly, between the lines, about the effects of the above on economics and politics at the hyperlocal level.

When keeping up with Friday Fictionettes was threatening to take over my entire writing life, I was beginning to question their viability as a continuing side project. I was sick of having nothing writing-wise to blog about except them. But now that I'm more or less caught up and reliably on time with the weekly releases (excluding, of course, the Fictionette Artifacts--I am almost ready to mail the ones from March), and now that I'm regularly working on writing and selling short fiction again, I'm going to designate Fridays and only Fridays for blogging about Friday Fictionettes. To everyone's relief, mine especially.

And now that they've been reliably on time for a few weeks, I feel like I can speak to the weekly routine of making them happen. So! Here is my Process, in case you are wondering.

Saturday: Tomorrow's Saturday! Yay. It is the Saturday preceding the July Week 4 release. So I'll take a look at what I wrote during my freewriting sessions during the fourth week of June and choose one of those pieces to develop into the Friday Fictionette for July 28. I'll copy it from the Daily Writing scriv to the Friday Fictionettes scriv, then set up its folder with all the relevant templates. That's pretty much it. It's the weekend, and I just valiantly published the previous release, so I get to take it easy.

Sunday: NOTHING. I started giving myself this day off from even the most minimal writing tasks after I was forced to recognize I wasn't doing them. Something about starting the day with a three- or even six-hour roller derby practice. I've still been optimistic enough to set up writing dates with friends on Sunday afternoons, though.

Monday: Back to work. Once in a while, I'm fortunate enough to have produced a pretty good first draft during the original freewriting session. Most of the time, I'm not, and the output will be this rambling exploratory babble. So I'll spend Monday's fictionette-prep session just creating a very wordy outline. It's mostly about structure: Start here, then this happens, then that, then the other, then finally end with this.

Tuesday through Thursday: Write the dang thing. Using the outline as a sort of fill-in-the-blank, using the weave-and-dodge strategy to keep from getting stuck, trying not to waste any of my daily 25-minute fictionette-prep session on staring into space or doing too much internet research. This is the hard part but it's getting easier.

Friday: Publish the sucker. Come up with a title and an author's note if I haven't already. Ditto cover art. Sometimes I have all the foresight and I create the cover from my own photography or drawings, but usually I do a last minute search for public domain or creative commons attribution/share-alike commercial-OK licensed imagery. Export the Fictionette as PDF and epub, convert epub to mobi, record the audiobook and convert to mp3, and post to Patreon. If by this time it is not stupidly late o'clock, do the excerpts for Patreon, Wattpad, and my blog too; otherwise, do those over the weekend. (I try not to have to leave them for the weekend.) It sounds like a lot, but everything after creating the cover art is pretty mechanical by now. It only takes forever if I didn't finish the actual writing by Thursday.

And that is how the sausage gets made. The end.

See you tomorrow for the weekend YPP report! Or, if that's not relevant to your interests, skip it and I'll see you Monday.

what is this fresh nonsense cut it out
Wed 2017-07-19 22:32:52 (single post)
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Well, I wasn't to know my sinuses were going to attack me today, was I? *sigh* Had to call in sick today, more or less. Got about a half day's work in, brain moving at half-speed the whole time. Got the daily stuff done--and congratulated myself for that accordingly--but nothing beyond that. And did not make it to yoga+derby. Hopefully my body will stop with the dramatics and let me go to scrimmage tomorrow night.

(I honestly don't know if I'm sick or just suffering some weird sinusitis-like reaction to last night's Fieldburger with cheese. The throat irritation kicked in immediately after I finished eating; the post-nasal drip continued all night long and into today. I have no allergies that I know of, but bodies are weird. More research may be required.)

That aside, "daily stuff" properly includes submission procedures, even if it's been a while since I've treated it as such. Finally got over my embarrassment, logged the duplicate submission rejection, and sent "Caroline's Wake" out again. And again, since the place I sent it yesterday got the rejection right back to me today. (And yes, I triple checked my records; neither that place nor the place I sent it today have seen it before. NOT MAKING THAT MISTAKE AGAIN. I hope.)

So tomorrow with the remaining manuscript critique, popping something else into some magazine's electronic submissions system, and--maybe?--writing something entirely new, just to prove I can.

And scrimmage, I hope. And less with the sniffly, sore throat, post-nasal drip, high-on-Sudafed nonsense. Because that's what it is. NONSENSE. You hear me, body?!

Cover art incorporates Page of Wands (Pamela Colman Smith, following instructions from A.E. Waite) [public domain in the US].
this fictionette is very, very embarrassed
Sat 2017-07-01 00:54:57 (single post)
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Two things.

First, the Friday Fictionette for June 30 is out: "Strange Tidings" (ebook, audiobook) which begins with an observation about the gaps in the official Rider-Waite tarot interpretations and from there goes somewhere odd.

Secondly, I have just received the most embarrassing rejection letter in as long as I can remember. My face is red as we speak. Turns out, the place I just sent "Caroline's Wake," that sounded like the perfect home for it, and whose submission window just happened to open at the time I sent it... I had actually sent it there before. During a previous submission period. When I undoubtedly thought it would be just the perfect home for it.

The editors were really gracious about it. Apparently it was memorable--in a good way--so when it crossed their desks they recognized it immediately. They hope I will send them something new the next time they open for submissions.

I am very, very embarrassed. Since it is not good form to respond to rejection letters, even to say sorry (editors are busy, I am not adding to their caseload just to soothe my own feelings), I am exorcising the embarrassment demons here.

(I am sure that Very Famous and Successful Authors the world over have made just this mistake and been just as embarrassed about it. Someday, when I am a Very Famous and Successful Author, newer authors will read this blog post and say, "Oh, what a relief, even Very Famous and Successful Authors make that mistake too." See? This is a public service.)

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

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

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

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

I can pin today's wastage on two things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover art photo by ME!
oh hey i get it now ha ha ha *sob*
Wed 2017-05-24 00:58:16 (single post)
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Or, Why Nicolejleboeuf.com Went Dark Over the Weekend.

Chapter 1: We Are Careful

The domain was paid through March 18. I got multiple reminders of this. And I did not ignore them! But I had faith in the auto-renewal system. Which is to say: Check the "auto-renew" box, ensure that a valid credit card is on file, and voila, the renewal fee would be paid at the time of expiration and my domain would continue active without interruption.

I double-checked these things. The "auto-renew" box was checked. The credit card on file was the household Mastercard, whose expiry date was still more than a year distant.

So far, so good.

Chapter 2: We Register For Worldcon

You remember my unbridled enthusiasm when the Hugo voter packet became available? Of course you do. But to become a Hugo voter I had to first become a World Con Supporting Member.

On the evening of March 17, I set out to do just that.

For reasons unknown to me, my credit card was declined. To make sure I hadn't typo'd my credit card number or anything, I attempted the payment again. A second time my credit card was declined. I tried a third time, just to make sure it wasn't an email address mismatch. Nope, even using the email address associated with that credit card's billing information, it was declined.

It is probably relevant that Worldcon is in Helsinki this year.

So. What happens when your credit card company detects three failed international purchase attempts? Why, your credit card company, who cares very much about you (but possibly cares more about their own liability in the case of identity theft), cries "Possible fraud!" And, quicker than you can say No, no, I meant to do that, your account gets frozen until such time as you can reassure the credit card company that no, no, you meant to do that.

Did I hurry to reassure them so? Of course not. I just tried a different card instead, and when that payment went through on the first go, "All's well that ends well," I said, and ran off to download all those delicious Hugo finalists.

The credit card in question was the household Mastercard. But you probably guessed that by now.

Chapter 3: Time Waits For No One

Thursday the 18th was the last day my domain was paid through.

Friday the 19th, the auto-renew attempt occurred.

Which, thanks to the misadventures detailed in Chapter 2 of this volume, failed.

And that, skaters and gentlefen, is why NicoleJLeBoeuf.com was unavailable Saturday morning.

Chapter 4: IP Help Desks Wait Forever

And it was unavailable until today because apparently reinstating expired but paid-up web domains (I paid the moment I discovered the error, Saturday morning) isn't a priority with my IP's billing department. Also, when they finally got back to me, they called me by someone else's name and referred to someone else's domain, because that is the kind of personalized customer service you can expect with my IP.

Still, the domain is back, as you can see for yourself, what with you reading this blog post housed thereon. So. All's well that ends well.

The moral of the story is...

Don't wait on the auto-renew. When the first "domain expiring soon!" email comes in, just pay the damned thing.

Alternately: Don't wait until the day before your domain's expiration date to buy your Worldcon registration. At least, not if Worldcon is in a different country than the one you reside in.

Or maybe just don't use the same credit card for both purposes, if you can manage it.

In any case... Hey, here's the Friday Fictionette I released Saturday! It's called "This Time We Play for All the Marbles" (full text in ebook, audiobook formats which Patrons may download). Thanks to the previous one being so very late, I had only a couple days to create this one from scratch to final. And even still I might have managed an on-time release if I hadn't realized too late that I'd brought a novel-length idea to a flash-fiction party. So I had to take another night to mull over how much of the huge amounts of backstory I could fit in, and how much I needed to fit in, and how to sneak in the bits I couldn't quite justify leaving out. I think the final release has turned out acceptable and comprehendible, but you'll have to be the judge of that.

This week is going much better. Having released last week's fictionette only one day late rather than five, I have the luxury of a whole work-week to figure out this week's offering. I was also able today to make inroads on the overdue Fictionette Artifacts (halfway done with February!), and had time to revise "Caroline's Wake" and send it out to the next market on its wishlist. Yes! Finally! I'm working on non-fictionette projects again! Bang the drums and sound the horns, chill the champaign and polish the crystal goblets!

Why, yes I am unreasonably cheerful about this. Y'all, I got to come home from Sunday's roller derby practice and hurl myself across the bed and allow sweet unconsciousness to claim me for hours, and there were no guilt-voices to nag away at me. (Well, there were, but only as a matter of habit. They were entirely unjustified.) And today I have done all the things I could hope to do with a Tuesday, writing and roller derby and household finances and email correspondence and groceries and a home-cooked meal besides.

And my author's domain is active again. Which means I could submit a short story to a prospective market and know that the submission system's automatic "We have received your submission" missive wouldn't bounce, but would land successfully in my inbox for me to file in the appropriate subfolder in Thunderbird. And I could then log the submission in my personal database, also housed here at NicoleJLeBoeuf.com.

In every way I could hope for, I am back in business.

Of course I'm pleased!

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from Pixabay.com.
this fictionette is running late and is missing its keys
Wed 2017-04-12 01:13:46 (single post)

OK. OK! The Friday Fictionette for April 7 is out; it's "The Only Winning Move...," and you can probably finish that quote. Right? Maybe not. War Games was almost 35 years ago. Anyway, that link goes straight to the ebook edition, which is for Patrons at the $1/month tier. The audiobook for the $3/month tier, and the excerpt here and at Patreon and at Wattpad for everybody, that'll go up tomorrow because I suck. Hopefully tomorrow morning, but see again that bit about "I suck." Apparently all I have to do to ensure I won't meet a deadline is tell everyone that I will.

Until tomorrow, anyway.

Click through for excerpt and cover art credits.
this fictionette spoke too soon
Fri 2017-03-31 22:59:39 (single post)

I need to stop writing optimistic things in my blog. Right after saying things like, "I hope to have a good report tomorrow!" or "I think I'm getting back on track!" I always crash and burn. Wednesday through today were not highly productive days. They were "so exhausted I can't think straight" days.

And, OK, maybe Tuesday I was able to push myself to do "just a little bit" after derby, cool. But Wednesday I was so tired after practice that I couldn't even bear to think about the stuff I needed to do, not even "just a little bit." And this is why I go back and forth on the writing-post-derby question.

In any case, I have finally published the fourth Friday Fictionette for March, "A Most Competitive Compensation Plan" (ebook, audiobook), on March's fifth Friday. But with that out and the Fictionette Freebie for March also released ("Containment Breach," ebook, audiobook, html), that means I'm all caught up. I mean, barring all the Artifacts for 2017 so far, of course, but I'll be working on those over the next few days with the intent to mail them out, one by one, as I get 'em done. So, cool. Fresh start for April.

I continue to rack my brains against the fiendish puzzle of energy management as regards roller derby and a full-time writing career. Look, I didn't even skate tonight. I couldn't. I was so damn sore after having pratice three nights in a row that I barely slept at all last night didn't get moving today until well past noon. It's just as well I was mistaken about there being a supplemental practice for my line-up tonight. I had nothing left, not even to skate socially. Or leave the house at all. Besides, with not getting to work until the afternoon, I couldn't spare the hours anyway.

The puzzle will be an even tougher one next week, what with extra practice throughout and the two bouts looming over it all. But I don't have to try to solve that puzzle until... next week. Meanwhile, I have tomorrow to rest and recharge. John and I have some fun plans involving home-cooked food and movie-going and together-time and stuff. I expect after that, next week will look a look a lot more possible.

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

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

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

Right. It is worth something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from Wikipedia.org
My machine...
...and what i been doing with it
so that's a thing too
Sat 2017-03-25 00:59:05 (single post)

Today will continue into tomorrow. I have excuses. They are not good excuses. Nevertheless, I did finally publish last week's Friday Fictionette, so that's a thing. It's called "Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree." It involves an exorcism, an unusual plant, an alarming rate of rapid exits from a high place, and a depressing amount of journalistic cynicism. Sounds like fun, don't it? (Patron-only links: ebook, audiobook.)

Although, come to think of it, I'll have spent as much time on writing tasks today as yesterday even if I don't sneak in a bit of submission procedurals before I go to bed. So that's a thing.

And my preferred procrastination method this time around was a productive procrastination method. I done patched the holes in the fitted bedsheet! I possibly had an unnecessary amount of fun doing so. Look, my sewing machine is back from service, it's suddenly a joy to use, can you blame me for wanting to use it to make little cat's eyes and stars and stuff on the patches?

No, it is not an embroidery machine. It has no computerized settings. It is an old all-metal workhorse of inferior design--so the staff at the sewing-and-vacuum-cleaner place tell me. It sews. You can vary the length of the stitches and the width of the zig-zag. You can hold down a button and it will sew in reverse. It sews, OK? That's about what it does. It's attached to a table. It only sews flat things. I think if you detach it from the table you can then maybe get it inside pants' legs and stuff? Not sure. It is very heavy and detaching it from the table is a pain. But it sews, and it was not very hard to sew little cat's eyes and stars and stuff on the patches.

Anyway, it is back from service, and it no longer makes birds' nests under the fabric, and the old disintegrating belt has been replaced, and on top of everything I just figured out how I was supposed to be using the knee-pedal all along so that I don't have to put a book under my foot to reach it. Sewing is enjoyable again!

So, here's the thing. I brought it to that place on 28th and Glenwood, Blakeman, I think it's called. I had misgivings when John and I first went in (hoping that we could just buy a replacement belt and put it on at home; alas, no) because the dude talking to me--I'm going to call him "asshole dude"--after Asshole Dude told us how to detach the machine from the table and how late they'd be open that we could bring it in, he then looked over my head at John and said, laughing, "I know what you're going to be doing this afternoon!" The insinuation was that, because the Little Woman wanted to sew, the Manly Man would be roped into lugging the heavy machine around. (Honestly, it went right over my head at first, but in the car on the way home, John was all, "So that guy was a sexist dick. Why are sewing machine shops full of assholes? It's like the sewing machines got modern but the attitudes stayed stuck in the 50s.")

(It's kinda true. The first place we took the machine to in Boulder, Wallace Sewing and Vacuum, something like that, I don't think they're around anymore--this was about ten years ago--the technician told me that although my sewing machine says Fleetwood on it, it's what they tend to refer to as a generic Japanese brand. Only he didn't say "Japanese." He used a WWII-era slur instead. *twitch*)

But I went back to Blakeman with the machine, pointedly lugging it in all by myself (having single-handedly uninstalled it from the table myself too, which was incidentally how I put it back after I got it home again), and this time I wound up talking to this other guy who wasn't an asshole. Did not even blink at hearing that probably John would be using the machine more than me, what with his history of making costumes for LARPs and for Gen Con and all. We enthused about role-playing games and costuming and then roller derby came up, like it tends to do, and he said he was from Cheyenne and watched the bouts there, and I said, "Hey cool, that was your team that came down and played my team in February!" I left happy to report that not all sewing machine shop staff are assholes, and vaguely regretting not bringing our season schedule flyer.

Fast forward two weeks to when I picked it up. I paid the lady behind the counter, and I asked her whether I could ask some questions about the machine. She said yes, just a moment, and I'm afraid it was asshole dude she fetched out from the back office to talk to me. And he stood there, leaning up against the table with my sewing machine on it, telling me that it will now sew the best that it could possibly sew, but that this isn't in fact all that great, because it's an old and inferior model whose zig-zag mechanism is outdated and subpar, and how I really ought to buy one of their new machines. And while he stood there lecturing me about my machine's obsolescence, he's absentmindedly fiddling with just about everything on the machine. All the settings that the service technician had just set during the servicing, that I had just paid for, so that it would sew the best that it could possibly sew, he is fiddling with.

He yanked out the thread before I could make a note to myself how to thread the thing (it had been quite some time since I sewed on it). Then I asked him how one adjusts the tension on this model, and before he answered, he spun the tension dial all the way around without looking to see where it was first. It was like his fingers had to interact with it to identify which piece I was asking about or something. Then he says, "You shouldn't have to adjust it at all. It was set correctly as part of the service." And I'm sort of involuntarily facepalming and almost pulling my hair out because YOU JUST WENT AND UNSET IT THOUGH DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE IT WAS BEFORE YOU MESSED WITH IT AND WOULD YOU PLEASE PUT IT BACK. Well, OK, he says, it was "probably" right around here, and he puts it back. Ish. And while he's telling me about how you adjust the knob one way if there's too much thread on top the cloth and the other way if there's too much thread beneath, now he's flipping the foot up and down and popping the foot pressure adjuster thingie in and out and spinning the foot pressure adjuster dial thingie round and round. I don't know that's what they are. I have to ask him, "And what's that thing you're messing with now?" He explains it. Fiddling with it the whole time.

Honestly, I'm starting to feel like a parental figure racing to clean up the last mess that a child has made while the child is blithely going on to make the next mess. I'll be like, "Stop messing with that, how was it set, will you please put it back the way the tech left it, can you pretty please answer my next question with WORDS not TOUCHING" and even while he's dismissing my concern and promising me it'll sew perfectly regardless of whatever he just did to it, he's off and fiddling with something else until finally I just sort of burst out, "Will you please step away from my sewing machine and let me take it home home now?"

At which point he acts all "Oh! I'm sorry! Here you go!" like he only now realizes he was physically blocking my access to the thing. Then he disappears around the back, leaving the lady who charged my card to see me out and hold the door for me while I lug the poor old heavy thing out to the car. She keeps a tactful silence the whole way, no comment on what just occurred. Which could either be because she doesn't want to tell me that she thinks I was unreasonable, or because she can't exactly admit she thinks the whole scene was hilarious, or because she mustn't be heard agreeing with me that Asshole Dude was an asshole. It really could have been anything, whatever she wasn't saying.

And yes, the machine is sewing perfectly now, despite all of Asshole Dude's fiddling. But I really wish Awesome Dude from Cheyenne had been in the shop when I came to pick it up.

"Sewing machine shops! They're full of assholes!" says my husband, provided with this fresh set of evidence. And I'm like, no, there was Awesome Dude from Cheyenne. But I had to admit that, at the critical moment, Awesome Dude was not about. And that's on me. I should have called first to find out if he was in.

There is another sewing machine shop in Boulder, I think, on 30th maybe? I'm kind of afraid to find out what they're like.

springtime intervened
Thu 2017-03-16 23:09:55 (single post)

The weather has been beautiful, warm and clear and gorgeous. And sunny. Sunny and warm, enough that the drive between Longmont and Boulder felt a little like traveling under a giant magnifying glass held by an even more giant kid who's curious to see if you'll actually catch on fire.

So, yeah, didn't get much done this afternoon. Grabbed a bite to eat, went back to my room, collapsed until derby o'clock. This was unfortunate because I also failed to do much useful with the morning. I moved too slowly from one task to the next, and suddenly I was out of time.

Taxes are all done, though. There's that.

Tomorrow will have to be the Serious Writing Day that today was going to be. And that's fine. Tomorrow is conveniently devoid of scheduled activities--other than breakfast, of course. I mean, I'm at a bed and breakfast. Why would I miss breakfast? But after breakfast, there is nothing on the agenda. Just writing. Writing, and maybe a break for cocktails at the martini bar next door. Then more writing.

Bliss!

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