“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

middle ground is where you make it
Fri 2017-07-14 00:03:29 (single post)

Me, yesterday, re: Habitica:

There is probably a middle ground between gaming the system and sabotaging one's own chances of success, but I haven't found it yet.

Maybe I found it today. I went looking, anyway.

To be more explicit: There is a small list of writing tasks I'd like to do each day that I keep! Not! Quite! Getting to! and it's bothering me. Things like: Spending a solid writing session on writing a new short story, or revising an existing one so that it is ready to submit. Working on the novel, for serious. Sending stories back out to new markets (ones they have not been to, of course. I'M STILL EMBARRASSED ABOUT THAT) and logging responses to previous submissions. These things are not represented in my Habitica "dailies," so I can log a "perfect day"--a day in which I check off all the Dailies--without ever getting to that list of much-neglected writing tasks. I suppose it's overstating things to describe this as me "gaming the system," but I'm certainly not making the system work for me here.

Problem is, the act of adding new Dailies to the list does not suddenly cause me to succeed at a task I've failed at week after week. It just makes failing at it feel worse. No more perfect days and it's my fault the party gets thwacked by the quest boss.

An intermediate stage is needed here.

So, Habitica's "dailies" are those task which you hold yourself too every day. If you check them all off, you accomplish a perfect day! But for each Daily you don't check off, you take damage. If you're in a quest, your party also takes damage. That's Dailies.

There's also "habits." Habits are those tasks you'd like, to, well, get in the habit of doing more often. You click them any time you do them, however many times a day is appropriate. Like: "Get up from the desk and stretch" or "Eat a home-prepared meal." You get rewarded with gold and experience points for clicking them, but you don't get punished for not clicking on them. (There's also negative habits which you're trying to break yourself of, and you take damage every time you click them. Example: "Did you pick your nose? Be honest!" But that's outside the scope of this discussion.)

Habit items are perfect for giving yourself incentive to do a thing without putting yourself under a lot of pressure.

So I have added a Habit item for "All items on today's timesheet." (This is a spreadsheet where I track my working hours by task, and it lists all the tasks, including those things I keep not! Quite! Getting to!). It has a positive clicker I can click if I do all the things. It also has a negative clicker, but I'm going to give myself a two-week adjustment period before I start clicking it.

And then, what the hell, I added five more Habit items: "1 hour of writing," "2 hours of writing," "3 hours of writing," and so on up to five. I used to have a "5 hours of writing" Daily, but I pretty much never managed to check that one off. So rather than keep punishing myself with it, I disabled it. Temporarily. Having now brought it back as a series of low-pressure Habit incentives, I might train myself up to a point where it's reasonable enable it as a Daily again.

So that was very technical and will probably make more sense if you go and check out Habitica. You may find it useful. Not everyone does, but it pushes all my buttons very effectively.

Anyway, I did not get to click "All items on today's timesheet" today. But you know what I did do? For the first time ever? I completed a Friday Fictionette early. That's right. July 14th's offering is already up on Patreon for scheduled release. Which means I can begin my road trip to Salina, Kansas (it's bout week again!) on a clean conscience. And I might just get to peck at the novel a bit in the car. I'll certainly get to start next week's Fictionette early. If I can keep this up, I might actually begin building a future fictionette buffer. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Anyway, now I have blogged. Which leaves me only two Dailies left between me and a perfect day (for Habitica values of perfect). Off I go to do them!

Cover art features original photography by the author, who had to move some furniture to get that alarm clock unplugged. You're welcome.
this fictionette will not get a delay of game penalty
Sat 2017-06-17 00:05:16 (single post)
  • 988 wds. long

Mwahahahahaha--BEHOLD! The Friday Fictionette for June 16, released on June 16. BWAHAHAHAHA! Ha-ha. *ahem* It has been a good week. And so I present to you "CAN'T STOP WON'T STOP" (ebook, audiobook) which is another of those tiresome self-indulgent magic realism numbers wherein the author subverts a physical law in order to say something meaningful and symbolic about the human condition. JUST KIDDING. It's a weird little flash piece about a day when all the off-switches for everything electronic stops working. (Which is kind of the same thing, depending on how you feel about weird little magic realism numbers.)

Thanks to the weave and dodge strategy, I wound up this morning looking at about 1500 words of disjointed pieces of story, all auditioning to be part of the fictionette. It was surprisingly simple to remove the bits that didn't fit and smooth the remaining pieces together into a single work. So. Note to self: this works.

(There is still no Mongo. There is still no cheese.)

And I have a lovely weekend ahead of me, with an unscheduled Saturday (omg!) and a holiday Sunday off from derby. I know, I know, Tuesday's blog post I was all MOAR SKATING PLS. Well, after four hours on Tuesday, a couple hours on Wednesday, and Thursday's double scrimmage which managed somehow to tweak my left knee, I'm oddly OK with taking this Sunday off. Don't nobody panic--it's not comparable with January's grade 2 MCL tear. If it's comparable at all, the comparison is with that injury after four or five weeks of recovery, OK? I'm walking fine. I'm not in significant pain. I'm just stiff and sore and a smidge swollen, that's all. It's responding nicely to a regimen of ice and ibuprofen and some of range-of-mobility exercises from my past PT repertoire. But I'm sure it will appreciate a little extra time off skates before diving back into travel team practice in preparation for that big Bombshells vs. Crossroads bout on the 24th.

(Sunday plans involve dinner-anna-movie and quiet acknowledgment that, gosh, John and I will have been married for 19 years come Tuesday. How about that.)

after two weeks this is the blog post you get
Wed 2017-06-14 01:05:01 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Hello the blog! It's been a while. Er. Sorry? But I'm back, at least for now.

There were a lot of factors that, multiplied together, produced a couple of pretty pathetic weeks around here. The big one was roller derby. Are you suprised? Nobody is surprised. Well, I'm a little surprised. I mean, yes, two back-to-back tournament weekends, sure, but what about the weekdays in between them? Where the hell did they go?

I've also been caught up in the tedious and terribly familiar down-the-drain roundabout that happens when I get behind on my work. You know this song, right? The first verse is where you know you're late and you hate yourself for being late and if you had any worth as a person and a writer you wouldn't be late. In the second verse, all the bad feelings built up in the first verse form a Humongous Wall of Avoidance between you and catching up on all the late stuff, and by the end of that verse you're later still. During the bridge you lament all the other writing tasks you're not getting to because you have to give the late stuff priority. The third verse is just the second verse over again, louder, and it repeats until fade-out (studio version) or until the audience gets sick of it and goes home without requesting an encore (live version).

I am not going to say anything as decisive as "But I'm all done with that now!" Whenever I do that, then the next day I tend to crumple under the weight of expectation. But I will say, without making any predictions that might emotionally or mentally jeopardize my tomorrow, that I had a damn good today.

Friday Fictionettes: To make Mt. Overdue easier to climb, I decreed that release dates in June 2017 would be the 2nd through 5th Fridays (there is a fifth Friday). Then I proceeded to miss the June 9/2nd Friday deadline. It's all good, though; I've posted it this morning. Then I went on to knock a typewritten page off the top of the overdue Fictionette Artifact stack and also to log the first session towards this Friday's release. So everything is either A) caught up, or B) hopeful.

Short Stories: "Caroline's Wake" came home yesterday with a form rejection. I processed that today in the usual type-a manner then sent the story out to the next market on my wish list that was open to submissions.

Daily Freewriting: I did it. So there.

Household crap: Paid bills. Dealt with dishes both clean and dirty. Cleaned up the produce drawer in the fridge according to good sanitation and food rotation protocols. Ate a big ol' pot of lentils with mixed greens because they are full of magnesium and protein and iron and stuff and also I have a lot of them--CSA is back in session! And I rode my bike to pick up this week's share because the weather was beautiful and exercise is good.

Roller derby: Travel team practice. In consideration of their hard work at the tournament this past weekend, most of the All Stars (A-team) took the night off. So tonight was primarily the Bombshells (B-team) preparing for our June 24th bout. I got something like two and a half solid hours working closely with the other blockers in my "pod" and we all practiced both playing offense on an opposing wall and resisting offense played on our wall.

I've also started coming in an hour early for extra individual skills work. It started out with just Papa Whiskey fine-tuning my plow-stops and blocking form last week, then another skater joined us this week, and a third skater expressed interest in joining us next week. I've taken to calling it "pre-practice study group."

So. That comes to four hours on Tuesdays. But I feel awesome. I'm on skates, I'm part of a team, I'm rostered for the upcoming bout, and I have a home on a pod within that roster. Skating is life. Life is good.

Not gonna lie, I was disappointed not to get rostered with the All Stars for these two tournaments. But, surprisingly, the not-getting-rostered blues wasn't the big deal. I mean, yeah, I had to process my disappointment, sure, take some time to myself to grieve the version of tomorrow I wasn't gonna get. But then I had to put that aside and prepare for the tomorrow I was getting, the one where I got to assist the coaching staff and cheer on my team and participate in all the team stuff surrounding the games.

No, I'll tell you what the big deal was. THE big deal was not skating at the tournaments and not skating at weekend practice, either, because I was at the tournaments I wasn't skating in. It's not just that roller derby skaters need to skate, and not putting on skates for a week at a time hearts their hearts. It's that, on the one hand, you're not "good enough" to be on the main roster, but on the other hand, you're also not getting a chance to improve, because you had to miss practice to be an alternate in the tournament you're not on the main roster for! Arrrrgh.

Now, us two alternates, we did end up getting rostered once. It was for the Saturday morning game at Mayday Mayhem, which two of the regular skaters got called away from because of work. A couple blockers had to jam, so a couple more blockers were needed to take their place in their lines. I think I wound up playing in two, maybe three jams. I don't know. Not the point. Point was, I got to be a skating member of the team for one game. I participated in the team's on-skates warm-up, which made up a little for not having a Sunday practice that weekend. I got to put on skates! For the first time that whole weekend! It felt so damn good.

So that's why a four-hour Tuesday practice is awesome, and why I'm contemplating attending the optional Wednesday practice too. Because skating is life, and skating better makes life better.

And also there won't be practice on Father's Day, so I'm making up for lost time in both directions.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.

Oh, good grief, is it nearly 1 AM already? *sigh* Why only 24 hours in a day? Why haven't they patched that bug yet?

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from Pixabay.com.
this fictionette is on time, unreasonably optimistic, and also obsessed with neckwear (and i am 41)
Sat 2017-04-29 00:44:07 (single post)
  • 1,122 wds. long

Real quick: The Friday Fictionette for April 28 is out; it's called "The Ties that Bind (ebook, audiobook)." The title is a pun. It could as well have been "The (Neck)ties that Bind." Geddit? Geddit? HA ha ha ha ha... Ok then.

Work on next week's offering starts bright and early tomorrow because I'll have to get it done by Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon I board a plane for Eugene, Oregon, and on Friday I skate. So next week I'll have to do a much better job of incorporating the New! More productive! Routine! than I did this week.

This week... hrm. Well, Tuesday was awesome, as you know. Wednesday was less awesome because it required several errands around which I was less able to assemble my working day than I had expected. Also Wednesday night John and I went out for a belated celebration of my birthday. This involved fantastically delicious Japanese food and spirits at Izakaya Amu. Also a trip to the bookstore. Also ice cream. AND MORE.

And then I don't know what happened to Thursday. THURSDAY DIDN'T EXIST. Well, I thought it would be safe to just read one chapter of Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit, a finalist for this year's Hugo award for best novel. The first few chapters were a lot to digest. I had to read them slowly, sometimes out loud, to make sure I was keeping up with all the eye-popping paradigm shifting concepts being thrown at me by an author who clearly trusted his readers to Keep Up. So I figured it would be easy to stop at one chapter Thursday morning. Except--surprise!--I had reached the tipping point beyond which the book became IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT DOWN. So. That's where Thursday went.

And then, Gods help me, I started rereading it this morning. (It's a book that seriously rewards a reread. There's so much just on the first five pages where you'll go "Ohhhh, now I see what you did there...")

Can you believe I still haven't even gotten around to the short story revision and re-submission? That I was so excited about?!

Well. Next week is a new week. A short week, what with the Big O Tournament, like I said, but, a new week nevertheless. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

The Friday Fictionette for March 10 is ''Containment Breach'' and I hope it will be the last late Fictionette for a while. But you have heard that before.
service to resume following lengthy explanations
Tue 2017-03-14 23:52:52 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long

OK, so, here's the deal. I am one day into Operation Make Writing Daily Again, and I expect Day Two will actually be Thursday, not tomorrow. Which is not exactly daily, but it's a start.

Mild though it was, the knee sprain really jacked up my weekly round. It inserted a bunch of extra appointments into my life and subtracted a lot of energy. When it healed enough that I could return to roller derby at full strength, even more energy went down the drain because "full strength" is a misnomer. I mean, yeah, I get to do all the derby things, I'm not sitting out of any practice activities anymore and I'm fully participating in scrimmage, I'm going to be in a bout on March 25 and another on April 8--but the energy I'm used to having at my disposal simply isn't there yet.

There's a lot of factors. The injury happened very early in the season, so I missed out on the portion of our season-long schedule that was specifically devoted to building skates back up to competition levels of intensity. Then of course six weeks out of the game means a lot of strength and endurance still needs to be rebuilt. And then there's just the bare fact that roller derby is a contact sport, and it requires a high tolerance for blunt force trauma, both when you take it and then in the following days when you heal up from it. I seem to have temporarily misplaced the knack of bouncing back from a rough, bruising scrimmage and getting up in time for work the next morning.

Then there's the embarrassing fact that I took a rather big bruise near the tailbone about a week and a half ago (don't fall over backwards, kids, I do not recommend it). Now there's this knobbly lump of painful tissue where I'm used to having built-in seat cushions. Worse still, I keep falling on it or bouncing it off of other skaters (or having other skaters bounce off of it, depending on who initiated contact) at every. Single. practice. So that might be something that's sapping my ability to rebound.

(It was fairly OK tonight! I only fell on it once and I didn't even yell. I maybe said "Ow" when I tried to stop a jammer with that part of my butt, but I didn't start bellowing in short pain-management bursts like I did at last week's scrimmage.)

OK, so, excuses excuses wah. But here's the nasty follow-on effect: Because of this energy deficit and the attendant sleep-cycle irregularities, I am now behind in all the things. Seriously, it's been two months since I managed to release a Fictionette on the Friday it's due, I've still got both January's and February's Fictionette Artifacts to type up and mail, as of this morning I was just barely keeping up with the bills and other financial accounting simply from inability to find time to sit down to the task, and I still need to gather and organize materials for taxes, federal and state, the filing of.

So that's why I can't just say, "Today I begin Writing Responsibly for a Full Workday Every Day!" Because I still have to catch up on all the things.

Here's how it goes:

  • Yesterday I published the patron-only editions of the Friday Fictionette for March 10 (ebook, audiobook).

  • Today I published the free excerpts of same (on Patreon, on Wattpad) as part of a solid morning shift including freewriting, work towards March 17's fictionette, and one typewritten page of an overdue Fictionette Artifact. I did not get an afternoon shift of writing; it seemed more important to Do The Books - tally bank accounts, file away credit card receipts and statements, empty my inbox down to the bottom and pay all the bills piled up therein, especially as all this is prerequisite for dealing with taxes (most of the tax forms were buried in the inbox). But that I got a solid morning shift in, with solid strides towards catching up on overdue stuff, is worth celebrating.

  • Tomorrow I may not get to the writing at all, because I will be putting my tax organizer together and also getting ready to check into a bed & breakfast in Longmont.

OK, that last one's unusual. Here's the deal. A whole bunch of people will arrive by plane starting tomorrow. Some will stay here in our house, some will stay nearby. All of them will be playing games at all lodging locations all weekend long. It's sort of a small, private reenactment of Gen Con between a close-knit group of long-distance-friends. I love them all, but in order to preserve my sleep, my schedule, and my sanity, I will need to vacate the premises. My original plan was to visit my parents for the weekend. But after the hit my athletic abilities took due to injury recovery, and given the big games coming up so soon, I couldn't bring myself to miss practice.

So instead I'll be staying at the Thompson House Inn for four nights. It's a bit of a splurge, but not as much as I feared--the rate they gave me is cheaper, despite the breakfasts being no doubt better, than most name-brand hotels we've used for derby travel over the past few years, even considering that those involved an event-discounted group rate. It'll be quiet, since it sounds like they're pretty empty this weekend (certainly a factor in the discounted rate they offered me). It'll be right in downtown Longmont, so no worse a commute to practice than usual. I have the option of popping home and being social for a bit. Also I think afternoon tea on Friday or Saturday will be a lovely reward for getting my writing done.

I'm very excited about this! I've wanted to stay at, or at least investigate staying, at the Thompson House Inn since the first time that me and John and a good friend of ours dressed up to have tea there some ten years ago or more. Now I get to do it. I hadn't even thought about the possibility, honestly. But yesterday I parked the Volt to charge its battery at the St. Vrain Community Hub, and the B&B was right across the street. What the hell, I thought. Might as well walk on over and ask after rates and availability. They're probably booked and too expensive, but it's worth a try.

I told the proprietor I was a writer, and that getting up early for breakfast each morning would ensure I got right to work. She said, "Great! We'll make sure to put you in a room with a desk."

So. Awesome. But before 3:30 tomorrow I need to do laundry, pack, organize my tax documents, do the Wednesday volunteer reading, and attempt some pre-guest housework. This is why I anticipate Day Two of the New Daily Writing Initiative won't be until Thursday.

And now you know.

“Spiders Web in hedge” by Micolo J is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Click through to fictionette excerpt to find link to original photo.
good news to report from the actually writing front
Mon 2017-02-27 23:58:34 (single post)

It was a good weekend.

For one thing, I got the Friday Fictionette out only one day late. (That seems to be about as good as it gets, these past months.) "The Witch's Stories" (ebook, audiobook) is sort of a roundabout way of saying wherever you go, there you are, while reiterating that you still can go wherever. Really wherever. I drafted some of it at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, whose hospitality (and tea) is unparalleled.

(I began drafting this post at Conor O'Neill's, which ditto, only for "tea" substitute "beer and hearty pub grub". On a slow Monday night, it's nice to tuck myself into the table on the stage behind the stage-right big screen TV, and no one knows you're there. MAH WRITING NOOK, I HAS IT. Bonus if I get one of the EV charging spots behind the Boulder Country Commissioners office, which is available to all EV drivers outside of regular business hours.)

For another (writing) thing, I met with my brand new writing group. Which is, in a way, a freshly revived writing group, as it's currently all made up of people I met at NaNoWriMo write-ins, back in the day. We had dinner, shared works in progress, and enjoyed some designated writing time, all in the space of two hours. A+ would meet again. And will, if all goes well--we set a date for March.

I have sorely missed being in a face-to-face writing group. Oh, there's Codex, of course, but the face-to-face thing is important. I've missed having real-time conversations about writing. I've missed exchanging manuscript critiques with a group who have similar writing interests, similar writing goals, and similar writing skills to mine. I've missed having a writer's social life.

Heck, I've missed having a social life outside of roller derby. My derby peeps are awesome, but they are a large and vibrant league who not only skate together but also hang out together, host and attend events together, and fill up each other's Facebook timelines. And of course my husband coaches in the league, so derby concerns easily creep into family life as well. (The post-scrimmage discussions with Papa Whiskey can go right up to two in the morning.) So it's very easy for roller derby to consume all my available hours and social capital if I don't make deliberate efforts toward other endeavors.

One of my unstated New Year's Resolutions was to make a deliberate effort toward the writing part of my social life--to reach out to writing friends and see if we can't come together to talk shop or more. So I finally got around to emailing one of my old NaNoWriMo friends (sorry it took so long, Julie!) and, meanwhile, a couple other old NaNoWriMo friends who happen to have become derby friends in the meantime moseyed over and said "Hey, remember that writing thing...?"

I am feeling so energized about it. Also there is now pressure to dive back into my short story revision queue, or to start drafting the novel-in-planning, so that I'll have something I can share with the group. (I have already shared out copies of "Stand By for Your Assignment", but I need to work on another thing while I wait for feedback on that. Also I need to write up my thoughts on the stuff they shared with me. WHICH WAS SO GOOD, Y'ALL, why isn't MORE of those stories finished so I can read them SOONEST?!)

Meanwhile, there was today. Today I got a heroic amount of stuff done, which included hotel reservations and messages left with certain offices and dishes done, and which culminated with crashing my Homeowners' Association's board meeting since it was conveniently scheduled for a Monday. (The board was very inviting and receptive to my suggestions, but I may have just bought myself a new role on a soon-to-be-instigated committee to investigate the installation of a community EV charging station.) Also my daily writting gotta-dos. I was so good, y'all! So I rewarded myself with dinner anna beer an' YPP at Conor O'Neill's (hence the partial drafting of this post there--but only partially, because the EV charging station I was parked at had a posted limit of 4 hours).

In the course of the evening I was reminded that I also have a social life centered around Puzzle Pirates; my crew and flag on the Cerulean Ocean are very active, and they're always glad to see me when I log on. Which they notice I don't do nearly as frequently as I might. I believe the exact words were, "We're just happy to to see ye when ye can make it." Awwww. I suppose I should make it more often, then.

The fruits of my non-writing labors
Cover art features original photography by author, who can't bear to throw away those tokens despite the video arcade that issued them closing down more than a decade ago.
when writing time turns into time invested toward making the future work better
Tue 2017-02-14 23:52:15 (single post)
  • 1,035 wds. long

Ahoy the actually writing blog! This will be a blog post that is actually about writing. Ok, and about other stuff too, but--writing! Yayyyy.

Friday Fictionettes: So the one for February 10 finally went up late Monday night, and I'm really, really hoping it's going to be the last late edition for a while. It's called "The Gold Drug" (ebook, audiobook), and it's about dragons and dragon-slaying knights and also how you should Just Say No. Cue the voices of Macgruff the Crime Dog, Nancy Reagan, and that voice-over that, while the camera zooms in on an egg frying in oil, intones, "Any questions?" But the wyrmlets never do listen until it's too late. It's enough to break a mama dragon's heart.

I didn't get much writing done today, but what little I did was a solid session on the February 17 release. It will be about... well, take Warehouse 13 but make it a pawn shop. There you go.

Here's the thing: It has been impossible to even hope for a full five-hour writing workday since I sprained my knee. Like I said, I'm still going to all my roller derby practices and Cafe of Life appointments; I'm also now going to twice weekly phsyical therapy appointments too. And the occasional orthopedist/sports medicine follow-up (my four-week check-in is tomorrow). And then there's roller derby events like the triple-header this past weekend and the New Recruit Nights this week. And unexpected naps because I still seem to have only a portion of the energy I count on having in a day. (It's getting better, though!) The only entirely unscheduled day is sometimes Friday, which falls apart under the pressure of "Ooh, an unscheduled day! Do ALL the writing OR ELSE YOU SUCK." (I'm sure I've mentioned before what a jerk my brain is, right? Well.)

So instead I'm just focusing on whatever needs to get done with the most urgency, and taking it from there. Today, that meant a short but solid session toward not being late with the fictionette this Friday.

I honestly thought I'd get more done. I had the time. I even had a sudden surge of energy! Which went toward... improving my living space and fixing things which were broken. Which, honestly, isn't time spent; it's time invested. It's so much easier to get work done when things are less cluttered, more pleasant to look at, and fully functioning. Even when the improvement is to something I don't necessarily interact with every day, but have merely been frustrated with now and again, knowing that it's been improved makes my brain a more pleasant place to be. So I went into the "distraction" with my eyes open. Sure, I thought, I might not get the writing done that I meant to, but I'm going to feel happier and healthier going forward.

Here's a short, non-exhausted list of things that got fixed or uncluttered or otherwise improved:

  • Restored my laptop's ability to send sound to the TV via HDMI, such that I can once again VJ Steven Universe marathons. Or whatever I want. This required rolling back the Intel HD Graphics 5500 driver on my laptop. The "Windows 10 Anniversary Edition" version that installed itself on Jan. 25 can take a flying leap from the nearest high-dive into a sewer, by the way.

  • Unpacked all my vinyl LPs and 45s (and accompanying concert program books, because apparently these go together) onto a freshly cleared shelf below the CDs. Recycled the now-empty boxes.

  • Unpacked the Ion USB turntable onto the top shelf above my desk so it can easily be plugged into my laptop. Stowed the box in the storage closet, along with a few other random objects I've been meaning to shlep down there for a while.

  • Digitized one of my 45s just to celebrate. (The Tubes, "She's a Beauty," 1983, in case you're wondering.)

  • Rearranged my CDs into four columns on a single double-tall shelf space. Placed a cardboard sheet under each column so I can slide an individual stack forward for ease of access. I am a genius.

  • Hung up five things that have been waiting to go back on the walls since we moved into this place back in April 2015. This represents a solid baby step toward emptying the box of wall-hangings that's been sitting in our bedroom since that time.

Now my office and the living room are both less cluttered, and I have the ability to play records in the office. Also it's easier to get to all my CDs now. Also there are pretty things on the walls! So. A sacrifice of potential writing time, but well worth it, I think.

Also, I'm still not on skates yet, but today at roller derby practice I did every single off-skates thing along with my team. Pre-practice warm-ups. Strength training hell. Post-practice yoga. Because it's exciting to be that physically capable again, and because I need to get those muscles back ASAP thank you. This is part of fixing what's broke and creating a happier, healthier future!

My roller derby team is totally my Valentine, y'all. <3 <3 <3

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from PublicDomainPictures.net
but there really should have been room in my schedule for this sort of thing in general
Tue 2017-01-24 00:53:40 (single post)
  • 955 wds. long

OK so hi again after two weeks of radio silence. Let's skip the part where I whine about being embarrassed and ashamed and not knowing where to put my face. Let's just take that as read. Instead, let's skip ahead to the moral of the story, just put that right in the lede for a change: Do the shit you gotta do today because you never know when you'll be unable to do the shit tomorrow.

It's not entirely fair, as morals go--sometimes you can't do the shit because you have to do other shit, right? Like, catching up on a very belated task. Or catching up on your sleep so you can function. So maybe it's not a moral. Maybe it's more of a strategy, OK, a strategy that doesn't judge you and doesn't say anything about your worth and worthiness and virtue, sure, but a strategy, nevertheless, that takes into consideration how the world works. And I should know by now how the world works.

So. For instance. Let's say I take an entire Tuesday off work--just decided writing will not get done that day--because I have a chance to spend some much-needed, now-or-never time with a dear friend. Well, the smart thing to do would have been to do the writing on Monday because of that. Right? I knew that Tuesday was coming. I'd planned on that Tuesday for the better part of the previous week. I had ample warning time is what I'm saying.

(And it was a fantastic Tuesday. Me and one of my very bestest derby friends went derby shopping, and we had a long talkative lunch over excellent pizza, and we wound the afternoon up with an hour or two of a Steven Universe marathon. I am not complaining about Tuesday. Tuesday was the good part of last week. Please, let us have more Tuesdays like that soonest.)

Then there's the stuff that gives no warning other than this is how the world works, haven't you been paying attention? Like, after my awesome Tuesday-with-friend, I went to what should have been an awesome Tuesday evening travel team practice featuring a renowned guest skater teaching us All The Things. Looking forward to it all day, right? Could not have planned on wiping out during warm-ups and spraining my Gods-damned MCL. I mean, yes, I am cognizant of the phrase "able-bodied" having a "temporary" attached because we are frail mortal beings and time is passing, and also we play a contact sport; this concept actually came up during our long conversation over pizza, OK, but proving the concept was nevertheless not specifically on my schedule.

So I'm not skating right now. I won't be skating for, at a guess, some four weeks from the date of the injury. I definitely won't be skating in our February triple-header. (Which isn't to say I won't be there in some capacity, nor that you shouldn't come out and watch it. You should totally come out and watch it. Depending on what support role I do play at the event, I might be able to be your derby buddy. If not, we will find you a derby buddy.)

This has not exactly freed up extra time in my week. I'm still attending derby practice. I don't have to be skating to absorb skills coaching and strategy, and some of the off-skates conditioning I can participate in. I can be a non-skating official at scrimmage. On top of that, I now have physical therapy twice a week, physical therapy homework, a follow-up orthopedic appointment, and a new twice-weekly upper-body workout to keep from falling too much behind my team in metabolics conditioning.

And that's before we get into how very exhausted I am all the time. It's like my body is shorting my usual energy allotment in order to channel more energy toward healing. That's probably exactly what it's doing. And although I can walk and drive and otherwise get around enough to do regular day-to-day stuff, it takes so much more out of me than I realize until I'm back home and drooping with fatigue.

I know. I'm whining a lot for someone whose injury is pretty damn minor. I mean, nothing's torn (that we can tell so far), no one has even recommended an MRI, surgery definitely isn't on the menu. I'm staying exceptionally active, independent, and productive (aside from the writing). "When are you going to start acting injured?" John asked me a few days ago. I said, "I am acting injured. I'm not skating, am I?" as I proceeded to take out the recyclables.

But that's the thing. It is a minor injury. I would not have thought it would impact my energy levels this much. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I'm surprised, and I feel flat-out betrayed by my body. And all I did was an effin' plow-stop! It should not have wrecked me!

Anyway.

I finally got the January 13 Friday Fictionette out today. About time. It's called "The Sandpit Oracle" (ebook, audiobook), and, like other fictionettes featuring an oracle, it is told in the second person. I am not apologizing for this.

I hope to get the one for January 20 (a bar-story retelling of Monday and Tuesday) done in the next couple days so I can scramble back onto a proper schedule in time to release the one for January 27 (I have no idea what it'll be about, that's how far behind I am) on January 27, for a wonder.

Also I have people I still need to mail fruitcake too. Good thing brandy is such a good preservative.

new construction and reconstruction, neither being hardly done yet
Tue 2016-12-27 23:54:35 (single post)

I would like to be able to report a full day of working on all my writing tasks, including the novel-still-in-planning, but alas, today was almost entirely taken up by household chores and administrative duties. And, as usual, nothing constructive (except for this blog post) is getting done post-derby. Doesn't matter that "derby" right now means construction labor rather than skating; it's still physical work that turns my brain to mush.

The floor is coming along nicely, though. It's very exciting. A few small sections of the final floor are done, maybe an eighth of the total surface. I got to walk on it. I got to help haul pieces of plywood flooring into the work area so they would be in reach of the work crew nailing them down. I also got to pound nails into joists, which was immensely satisfying (except when the nails bent, the bastids). Spent time washing slabs of sport-court, too--well, I wasn't actually wielding the power washer, but I was part of the assembly line. I was schlepping slabs of sport-court to and from the wash stall, turning slabs of sport-court around, and picking bits of shredded plastic ground cover canvas out of the bottom of the sport-court tiles. In any case, we closed down the washing station when we emptied off the current pallet of sport court; and we washed the pallet, too. I am so excited for our new floor, you have no idea. (Unless you're one of my league-mates reading this now. In which case you have every idea.)

We're hoping to skate on it next week, but not expecting to be able to. It depends entirely upon the work crews we can muster between now and then. Tonight's work crew seemed huge. Hopefully that will continue.

Tomorrow doesn't bode well for writing, either. I get to take the Volt all over town on errands. The first of those is getting the car registered and license-plated. Also I'm to put gas in and charge the battery. And then there's chiro and groceries and who knows what else I'll remember I have to do. Then maybe I'll go skating at the Wagon Wheel, if the Wednesday night session is on. I miss skating. No floor means no practice means no skating. If I do not go to the Wagon Wheel, I'll probably just go outside, since the weather's supposed to stay sunny and clear and moderately above freezing. MUST SKATE.

Maybe I'll get in a little time on the novel while the car charges, who knows.

As for last night...

Woah-kay, emotionally charged blogging starts here. After last night's post, you knew it was coming. Stop reading now, or continue with a full understanding of what you're in for.

Anyway. Last night, after I published that blog post, I got bowled over by Manhattan-sized APPREHENSION and DREAD. I couldn't quite parse it. I didn't even want to look at it head-on, let alone try to understand it. I told myself, hey, what are you afraid of? Pretty much none of your immediate family are online beyond that necessary to forward urban myths and tasteless jokes to everyone else in the family. The only people reading this blog tend to be either school friends or writing friends or derby friends. Or some combination of the above. Or John's sister, or his mother, both of whom are A-plus phenomenal people. What I'm saying is, this blog's audience is made up of at least 99.8% people sympathetic to its author. It is safe to tell stories here about Why Niki Grew Up Dreading Family Gatherings.

But the APPREHENSION and DREAD weren't susceptible to this logic. And they were very specifically the APPREHENSION and DREAD that accompany GUILT. Put them in words, they go like this: "I done wrong. I gonna get punished. I been bad."

When I finally figured it out, I nearly laughed out loud, it was so damn classic. it was because I'd actually used the "a" word--abuse--to describe a long-running family interaction, and I'd done it in a publicly viewable space. I had outed a family dynamic as abusive. What a betrayal! What disloyalty! What an absolutely stereotypic taboo to defy. That's the common rule most abused children learn: this stays in the family. You don't tell people. You don't shatter the illusion that we are a healthy, happy family. That's the rule, and I have finally, unambiguously, broken it. Of course I was a mess of GUILT and APPREHENSION and DREAD.

(To be clear, in many ways, we were a healthy, happy family. But in many ways, we were not. I don't identify with the phrase "abused child," partially because it seems too absolute, too much one thing without allowance for anything else, and partially because--though I know this shouldn't be a factor--so many people had it so much worse, I don't want to dilute the term. Still and all, I absolutely identify some of how I was treated as emotional abuse. I can even understand where some of it came from! I can just about work out the rationale. It doesn't excuse the abuse, but it contextualizes it. It helps me square the circle of "loving, supporting family" with "abuse and abuse enablers." People are complex. They are capable of heartbreaking kindness and jaw-dropping cruelty. They are capable of carrying both off simultaneously.)

Weirdly, when I woke up this morning, most of that roil of emotion was gone. I felt pretty good, actually. Abusive Asshole Uncle has not been in my head at all today. If anything, the memories involving him are hanging out in the middle distance, easy to spot if I look for them, easy to ignore if I don't. That's restful.

I'm very likely not done blogging about it. Not only is it dramatically, demonstrably freeing to be able to concretely describe it all in words, and words that people other than me can see (when I break a taboo, I mean to break it hard), but also it's probably kind of important for me as a writer. Authors draw on their experiences when they write; I need to be clear what my experiences are. I need to be able to own my experiences and put them into words. I need to be able to put them into my words, look at them through my own lens, rather than continuing to tell myself the same stories the rest of the family told me and told themselves. I gotta know my own story if I'm gonna write new stories.

So don't be surprised if more stories about Abusive Asshole Uncle And His Team of Enablers show up here in the coming days. 'Cause they will. Where possible I'll try to put it after the writing-related stuff, make it easy for y'all to skip if you'd rather. But it's not always gonna be easily separable, because writing. Hope you'll understand. Anyway, you've been warned.

Cover art incorporates public domain images from Pixabay.com.
Cover art incorporates tarot image via Wikipedia.org (public domain, U.S.)
my brain is a jerk: christmas reminiscing
Mon 2016-12-26 23:45:23 (single post)
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All right. Hi! New week. So: Friday Fictionettes for the past two Fridays were "Kill or Cure," which is about a symptomatic tree, and "The Miraculous Hide," which is sort of about Good King Wenceslas before he got to be all saint-like. I got 'em out both on time, more or less, but I never got around to announcing them here, so. There you go.

And now we are approaching the fifth Friday in a month, which means--woo-hoo!--I get a week off. Except I don't, because I still have to put together the Fictionette Artifacts for November and then do all the end-of-month stuff for December. And even if that were done, goodness knows I've got all the legacy catch-up work to do: backfilling the Wattpad excerpts, recording audiobook editions for the archives that don't have them yet, producing epub and mobi editions ditto. But it's cool. I don't have to do that and put together the next brand-new story-like object all at the same time, so things are vastly more doable than they could be.

So yesterday was Christmas. John and I did nothing special for it. We're more Winter Solstice types than Christmas types, which is to say, Pagan not Christian. Also our families are all multiple states away. So we did with Christmas the same thing we did with Thanksgiving: a whole lotta glorious nothing. We played on our computers and we cooked for each other.

Which right there puts it miles and miles beyond last Christmas in terms of enjoyability, i.e. I did not get into a shouting match with my bigoted, bullying, emotionally abusive uncle, and spend the rest of the evening sobbing myself sick. Yay?

Except I kept thinking about it. All my brain's idle cycles pointed right at it. I spent a self-indulgently huge number of hours just playing Puzzle Pirates all day long, which should have been uncomplicatedly fun, only it wasn't, because while my eyes and hands were busy with the mini-games, my brain kept re-running that shouting match and rewriting it and re-running the rewritten version and then revising that.

To be clear: My brain was not fixated on just one argument with my uncle. That shouting match catalyzed an epiphany about a lifetime of bullying at the hands of that uncle.

Wait. Wait up. Go fix yourself some coffee or something. Apparently I'm going to unload here.

Ready? Cool. Here we go.

Here's the thing. I think the reason he got so enraged when I called him on his hateful bullshit that Christmas afternoon is that no one else ever did. Everyone else in the family may grumble about him, but to his face they smile and reward him and tell him he's funny. Meanwhile, all my life, every Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter that he ruined for me, everyone told me I lacked a sense of humor. That's why I didn't find his bullying of me funny. And they told me it was my fault, the bullying; he wouldn't do it if I didn't give him such entertaining reactions. No one told him that there was anything wrong with a grown-ass man getting his jollies by verbally tormenting a little girl until she fucking lost it, and then laughing at her while her parents punished her for her unacceptable behavior. Everything he said, every word that came out of his mouth, was by definition golden, because it was coming out of his mouth.

Of course he hasn't changed a bit--why should he? He gets perfectly fine results as things stand; why should he do anything differently? And why wouldn't he be flabbergasted to the point of near-speechlessness that someone finally told him he was being a shit-head? If anyone ever tried to say it to him before, they sure as hell didn't make it stick.

I'm surprised it took me this long to come to that realization. I suppose I had some idea that, now that I was an adult myself, and not a powerless child, interactions would be better. And, well, to some extent, they are better. At age forty (well, thirty-nine at the time, but still) I'm not getting sent to my room or told to sit on the floor in the hallway and stare at the wall and think about what I've done. There is a different protocol for dealing with other adults than there is for dealing with children. And, being an adult, I'm a lot more capable now of putting my thoughts into words even while I'm furious, and of resisting my uncle's attempts to put me back in my place, the place he was comfortable with me inhabiting, the place that's entirely under his power, the place where I have to dance for his entertainment while the rest of the family laughs at his wit and my immaturity.

All of which added up to me being able to sit there and say, "That's some hateful, dehumanizing, transmisogynist bullshit you're spouting, not gonna pretend otherwise, I mean, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also you should grow the hell up, and, by the way, transwomen aren't existing at you just to spite you, and if you're tired of watching news stories about Caitlyn Jenner you can damn well pull up your big-boy paints, grab your big-boy TV remote, and change the fucking channel." And the worst he could do to me in response was sputter a bit and finally proclaim, "Don't get so fucking offended," like it was the last word on the matter (but it wasn't, because I could damn well spit back at him, "Then don't say such fucking offensive things, asshole," and walk out the room).

That's the worst he can do. But I can do so much worse to myself every day for the following year. I can relive that entire argument on a near-daily basis. I can also relive all the times he bullied me as a child, and I cried, and he laughed at me while I cried, and my parents told me I was defective for not enjoying it and/or morally weak for letting it get to me. That last shouting match doesn't exist on its own--it reconfigured my understanding of our interactions over my entire life.

I don't want to talk to him ever again. I don't want to see him ever again. But at the same time, I want to stand up in front of him and tell him, hey, you remember how you treated me while I was growing up? That wasn't even bullying. Bullying is between people of at least nominally equal standing. When a grown-ass man does it to a little girl, someone he has power over, and when he does it every time he sees her, from the time she's five to the time she's fifteen, that's straight up child abuse.

Wow. OK. So, that got real heavy real fast. Long story short: It's not that I fixate on 15 Minutes of Awful. It's that those 15 Minutes of Awful sort of recontextualized about 15 to 20 Years of Constant, Unremitting Awful. And that I'm liable to fixate on.

My fucking brain. My brain is a fucking jerk.

There's this fantastic Steven Universe episode, "Mindful Education," that kinda-sorta addresses the whole "I can't stop thinking about it, and it hurts, and I'm sick of hurting" thing. Rewatching it was soothing balm, but in a few hours the balm wears off. That's because the strategy of looking at the pain, understanding why it hurts, and being OK with the fact that it hurts, only goes so far. It's fantastic for surviving the painful thoughts, but it doesn't make them stop. And I can't spend another year going "Yes, I see that thought. Yes, it hurts. It's OK. I'm OK" on infinite repeat. I need to get my brain to stop running that damn program.

So here's what I did: I decided to actively fill my brain's idle cycles up with Other Narratives. I pulled up a blog I enjoy reading (one of several Steven Universe livebloggers, speaking of Steven Universe) and positioned it so I could read it while playing Puzzle Pirates. Then I pulled up some Mark Reads Discworld audio and listened to that while playing Puzzle Pirates.

The idea is, the longer I just sit there trying to play a particular video game while my brain keeps pushing the rewind-and-replay button on Worst Experiences Ever, the stronger grows the mental association between the two. It begins to feed itself: Playing the video game starts to cause the painful mental replay. But if I can associate the game strongly enough with something else, then playing the game will make me think of that something else--like, for instance, a gaggle of wizards arguing on a desert island, or the character development arcs of the Crystal Gems.

It's terrifying how easily programmable my brain is. The good news is, I can program it too. I just have to take, and keep taking, conscious action counter to the unwanted programming, until the unwanted programming has been thoroughly replaced my the preferred programming. That's all.

And in the meantime, well, I'm here.

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