“[L]ife is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

what does not kill me yadda yadda yadda
Wed 2019-04-03 23:57:20 (single post)

This is not an actually writing blog post. It's more of a not actually writing post. Or at least writing very little. I'm getting to my daily freewriting, at least, but what's the point of that if I'm not converting the resulting story ideas into, y'know, stories? The point appears to be to point at it and say, "At least I got my damn freewriting done."

Why is so little writing actually happening?

Well, yesterday the problem was a failure to get up on time, followed by intense panic over how little time remained in the day before roller derby practice.

Today, as it turns out, the problem was getting up on time and then utterly crashing in the early afternoon because apparently I'd used up my daily ration of oomph.

Some weeks you just can't win for losing.

It is possible that today's early afternoon crash owes less to an embarrassing innate inability to last through a full day, and more to a reasonable inability to do a full day in a week that contains nearly double the usual number of roller derby practices. In which case there's hope. Though initially exhausting, this double-practice schedule should be making me stronger in the long run, thus more able to stay upright all day long. Theoretically. If not, I can at least look forward to returning to my regular practice schedule after Tax Day.

Speaking of which, I've got my annual appointment with the tax accountant tomorrow. And, as usual, I still have to gather all my documents and line up all my sums. Every year I tell myself I'll do it early, I'll open up the tax organizer the moment the accountant mails it to me and get right to work filling everything out, and every year I completely fail to live up to those good intentions. So tomorrow's going to feature the traditional mad scramble to get everything together before noon. Yay.

Maybe I'll manage to do some writing after my appointment. Maybe. If I can manage to avoid the early afternoon crash.

"Thank you for tuning in to another episode of This Week In Whining. If you have enjoyed tonight's installment, stay tuned, 'cause the week ain't over yet..."

your daily dose of me stating the obvious
Tue 2019-04-02 23:58:42 (single post)
  • 1,285 wds. long

I am contemplating a short story rewrite.

I originally wrote the story in response to a specific prompt in the submission guidelines of a themed quarterly publication. I submitted it; they rejected it; we move on. I rewrote it before submitting it elsewhere so that it wouldn't look so obviously like a story written to some other publication's prompt and theme, but, looking at it now, I'm forced to admit, the thing's still pretty darn skeletal. And incoherent. And obviously written to a prompt.

(I feel like a lot of things I write these days are skeletal. It's like I suddenly don't have the stamina needed for writing the actual story, so instead I write a really verbose story outline and call it a story. I'm a little worried about this.)

So I need to revise the story again. But I hardly know where to start. I've been staring at the draft and jotting down questions to myself in the margins: "Does this scene really serve the story? How?" "What's this story really about?" and "How does the homing device/angels/aliens thing interact with the lives-you-wished-you'd-lived theme?"

I have not jotted down any answers yet. I've taken fountain pen and spiral notebook and babbled out a series of possible directions in which I might choose to take the story. I have yet failed to choose any of them. I kind of suck at making decisions sometimes.

So... yeah. Short story rewrites are hard. In other news, water is wet and ice is cold. Good night.

Day Whatever: anyway I'm back
Tue 2018-12-11 23:53:41 (single post)

So hey, I'm back. Why so long? Well. Remember how I said I got sick? And remember how I said, "at least I'm on the mend"? Yeah, no. Possibly I was fooled by that brief feeling of well-being that comes with a really effective dose of pseudoephedrine. In actuality, I wasn't just sick but SICK. Like, the kind of sick that consists of maybe two, three days of pitched battle between the viral infection and the immune system... and two to three weeks of healing the damage this did to the respiratory system and sinuses. I'm now in my third week of having returned to a normal level of physical activity and I still come home from roller derby practice with my throat raw from all the unreasonable requirements I'm putting on it. You know, that air goes out and air comes in at a moderately accelerated rate? Yeah.

And before you ask, yes I got my flu shot. Back in October. I believe in herd immunity! For all I know, this actually was the reduced-severity version of the flu one might get after a vaccine. Or maybe it was just a really, really nasty cold. I don't know. It was awful, is what it was, and I pretty much ditched any pretense at attempting to continue my NaNo Rebel Self-Challenge.

And you know what happens when, after two weeks of effort fomenting new work-a-day habits, you suddenly just stop? It's like those two weeks never happened. Supposedly I'm all better now, but I'm having the hardest damn time getting more than minimal work in every day. I suck.

But this is a new week and I am blogging again so some good things are possible! Also my excuse for not getting much work done today is this: I COOKED A LOT. Am cooking. I am cooking a lot, and also, depending on your point of view, adventurously.

It started like this: While I was in New Orleans, Dad's lady-friend brought us some head cheese, or "brawn" as they call it on the east side of the big puddle, from a favorite butcher on the road from Baton Rouge somewhere. (I didn't get the details.) And, wow, hot damn, had I forgotten how much I liked head cheese. I was introduced to it as a youngster, and already my tastes were proving to be preternaturally Cajun, in the sense of the Justin Wilson "They'll eat anything" punchline. I adored it. I adored it this time around, too. We devoured cold slices on crackers. It was amazing.

So a few days later I arrived back in Boulder, too sick to think about anything other than how awful being sick was. Took a while for my appetite to return. Once it did, I spent a few days just cycling through my habitual sickbed comfort foods. But once I was done with that, wow was I craving cold slices of head cheese on crackers. But I didn't know where to find it. It's a bit outside the usual run of deli meats, and presumably less popular in the Rocky Mountain Region than in the Cajun South.

So after some hesitant inquiries at the Pearl Street Whole Foods, where the question was met with blank stares and "what's that?" I did some research online and came up with a short list of places in Boulder County to rule out before making the trek down to some definite sources in Denver.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped in at the first on my list, Blackbelly Market. They were the closest to home. Also their website mentions utilizing the whole animal, a hopeful sign if one is looking for an offal product. And, as it turns out, they do make head cheese! Just not right now. But they invited me to call after the new year and ask them to set some aside for me. Mission accomplished!

Still, now I was curious about the second location on my list: "Longmont Packing #1," a butcher shop fairly convenient to an appointment I had that evening. I resolved to visit. Turns out, it's the carnicería right next door to Guacamole's (where I satisfied a craving for menudo that sad Saturday morning when I discovered that the Sancho's location in the north Boulder DMV mall had closed). Head cheese not being a particularly Latino offal meat product, I didn't think I'd find any there. (Note: Apparently I'm wrong about it that; Wikipedia says it's very popular in Latin America.) But I might as well go in and see what else I might find, right?

But here's the thing. It's stupid. I'm embarrassed about this. But when it comes to those places that primarily serve the area's Latino community, I'm, well, shy. I get self-conscious. I know I look like someone who couldn't possibly know her way around the aisles, someone who might ask stupid questions or say stupid things, someone who will almost certainly necessitate an English-speaking staff member at every transaction. And, OK, yes I'm semi-fluent in Spanish, but--and this is the really stupid thing--I'm generally too embarrassed to even try. I get anxious about screwing up in laughable or even offensive ways, or just coming across as a self-congratulatory show-off.

Look, I told you it was stupid. Nevertheless, there it is.

So I went in! Yay! And then spent a couple minutes wandering the aisles just psyching myself up to interact with anyone. I stared with great concentration at the various canned chilis as though seriously considering the comparative merits of various brand names. I might have kept this foolishness up for quite some time had I not worked my way over to the produce aisle and discovered that they had mirlitons! OK, chayotes. Same thing. Right there and then, visions of The Holiday Casserole of My People gave me the drive to get over myself already and head over to the meat counter in search of shrimp and actually ask, in Spanish, about the available varieties. Did they have the really tiny ones? No? Just the ones on display here? OK. No, no thank you. But one lengua de res, por favor. Because I saw those on display just a few feet to the left of los camarones, and it got me remembering fondly a beef tongue stew I wanted to try making again.

Anyway, I'm kind of proud of myself now. Not for successfully posing as bilingual for whole five minutes--it is not a particularly unique skill and I'm only so-so at it--but, I mean, for shoving my self-consciousness and anxiety to the side and managing to function in spite of them.

Long story short, that is how I came to have a soupy version of this Basque-style beef tongue stew waiting for me in the slow cooker after roller derby practice. And it was amazing. As amazing as Cajun head cheese on crackers? Unclear. I'll have to get back to you after side-by-side comparison.

And what of the mirlitons? That will be a story for tomorrow.

Cover art incorporates and modifies photo by Pat Loika (CC BY 2.0)
Day 15-17: and then this happened
Sat 2018-11-17 12:46:43 (single post)
  • 1,077 wds. long

So hey guess what happened on my ride home from Chicago? I GOT SICK. Fully symptomatic by the time I woke up in Denver.

Guess what didn't happen Thursday? WRITING. Friday was also impacted.

Alas.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to write when I'm sick. Sometimes, the sense of accomplishment makes me feel better: "Heck yeah! I am awesome! You can't keep me down, you stupid cold!" But sometimes I'm feeling bad enough to begin with that expecting anything productive out of me borders on cruel. Thursday was more in the latter camp, especially once the fever-chills set in. About all I was capable of doing was curling up under the blankets and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in.

So here's the report:

Thursday the 15th: Nada, zip, zilch. Sniffle. Whimper. Moan.

Friday the 16th: Got off to a decent start. Had to be upright and functional because the Eco Handyman crew was coming over to remedy our under-insulated bedroom and to hook up our overhead range fan to the vent like it should be. I can't say I worked straight through the nine-to-five period when they were there, but I got my Morning Pages scribbled, my freewriting written, and my Friday Fictionette finished. Later that evening I was able to release the fictionette (although recording the audiobook edition was painful)... and that's about where I fizzled out. So no short story revision or submission procedures yesterday. Nor, as you are aware, was there blogging.

The Friday Fictionette for November 16, 2018 is "What Dreams May Come." Content note for suicide bombing, violence against a child. (This is the first Friday Fictionette I've appended a content note to. It is probably not the first that I should have appended one to. For my past lapses in that department, I apologize.) It's about how the moral calculus vis-a-vis "ends justifying means" changes if it turns out one might actually survive to suffer the consequences. Also in there: me taking my loathing for the "it was all a dream" trope as a challenge to use that trope in a way I don't wind up hating. I think I succeeded. But I still prefer the inverse trope, where what appears to be a dream turns out to be all to real.

Patrons may download "What Dreams May Come" as an ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi) and, starting at the $3/month tier, the audiobook too. Read by me. With a very sore throat and stuffed nose. You're welcome.

Saturday the 17th: That's today! I think I should be able to manage a short freewriting session and a little nibble at the Friday Fictionette for November 23. I managed more than that yesterday. And here I am blogging, even though it's not a weekday. Yeah, I think I can just about manage a Saturday's work requirements. Say that I do, that puts me at 14.5 days out of 17 so far. Not terrible. But I would really prefer not to miss any more days. Can I not be sick anymore? Pretty please?

I'm on the mend, at least. Well, that might be putting it too optimistically. My body appears to be reacting better to the usual over-the-counter medications and household remedies. My appetite has returned, even if my willingness to do anything about it remains at an all-time low. I am not entirely miserable while conscious. That's an improvement!

Day 8: but i'm really tired, do i have to
Thu 2018-11-08 22:50:00 (single post)

This will be brief. If it weren't NaNoWriMo and I hadn't challenged myself with doing all my writing tasks every day, no excuses, this blog post would not be. My excuse would be a damn good one. It would be, "Have you seen the day I had?" But it is NaNoWriMo, and I have set myself a challenge, and even good excuses violate the rule of NO EXCUSES, so. Despite how nonstop my day has been since arriving in New Orleans--pretty much straight from the train station to the French Quarter, at which point the skates went on and stayed on until about ten o'clock tonight--I am blogging. You're welcome.

Let's head straight into the day's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report so I can get this done and go to sleep.

Morning Pages: Funny how I got to them late yesterday because I slept badly and didn't want to get up, and today I got to them late because I slept so well I didn't want to get up. Either I don't get enough sleep so I want more, or I get plenty sleep and it feels so good I don't want it to stop. But I got 'em done. Set up in the lounge car at a cafe table again and pretty much camped out there until the train left the Hammond, LA station. I no longer have any memory of what I wrote, but it obviously did the job, because the rest of my writing time on the train was enjoyable and productive. Yay!

Freewriting: My prompt was the phrase "Don't miss the train," to be considered both literally and figuratively. Additionally, describe how you hope an upcoming event will go, but from the point of view of a future you, years later, telling the story of that event to your (or someone else's) grandkids.

Friday Fictionette: Hot damn. Got it done. The last three days have been nothing but babble draft and babble notes, but today I got the story and the author's note done.

Short Story: Have I mentioned the day I've had? Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to reread my notes. Then I'm going to jot down another couple notes. Then I'm going to sleep. "If you can't do a lot, do a little--but do something." So I shall.

(Yesterday's session on the train was a bunch of notes about structure. Trying to figure out if I can keep it mainly to the single scene from the original flash, but use bits of that scene as jumping off points for flashbacks. Looks like yes, maybe.)

Submission Procedures: This is another one filed under "I'm tired, how little can I get away with?" It's going to be administrative email rounds again. What does that mean, you ask? Well, tonight it means, check email for responses to outstanding submissions, and continue correspondence with editor concerning latest publication. That's about all I've got the wherewithal for. If I tried to send a submission tonight I'd probably flub it something dire. I'm that done in.

(This is pretty much all I did at the train station last night. We were late into the station, I didn't have a lot of time, and rush jobs are as susceptible as overtired jobs to dire flubbing.)

Blogging: Well, I've done that.

So I continue at 100%, even if it feels like I'm getting by on technicalities.

Tomorrow: Day 1 of WFTDA champs! Will get some of my work done before heading to the venue in time to watch probably Game 2. Will hopefully get the rest of my work done after I get back home. Look for a late night blog post again.

Over.

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

email