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

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image from pxhere.com - provided pxhere are not lying about that. I have some concerns.
with a hot bath and a huge RPG monster all things are possible
Tue 2018-05-29 23:52:02 (single post)
  • 1,432 wds. long

Actually Writing Trivia! DID YOU KNOW? Niki composes some 80% of her blog posts in the bathtub after derby. It's getting to where some nights I can't make myself get started at all unless I'm sitting in hot water. Especially those nights when I have derby practice. And I had quite the derby practice. Hard on the heels of the Mayday Mayhem tournament, I'm heading to Topeka this Saturday as a last minute substitute into the Bombshells roster. And we did a weird new thing with how we field blockers! It was hard on my brain. Then it was hard on my body. Then we did ten minutes of interval sprints and ten minutes of plyometrics. And all that came after my post-tournament massage, which was like an extra workout in which someone else makes your muscles do the hard stuff for you.

So, yes, the bath. The bath and the beer and the recovery dinner. The beer is Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan. The dinner was Dal-style Lentils & Greens with Poached Egg. (The greens were radish sprouts chopped fine. I know, I know. Cooking is a crime against microgreens. I can live with that.)

But back to the writing!

Even considering Mayday Mayhem, everything was late. Later. It took me the better part of four hours yesterday to get the Friday Fictionette polished and ready to read into an MP3. No, I didn't manage to nibble at it over the weekend. I got as far as my freewriting Friday and Saturday, and not even that much on Sunday. So I didn't actually push the release until this morning. Tuesday. Tuesday is apparently the new Friday. I don't like it any more than you do.

But it's up now! The Friday Fictionette for May 25, 2018 is, belatedly, "Payback" (ebook and audiobook for Patrons, teaser excerpt for everybody). It's... well, I don't entirely like it. The protagonist is a whiny, entitled twenty-something in his backstory and an angry, resentful, stalled-out 40-something/60-something in the main story. I don't think he deserves a second chance, honestly, although if pressed I'd admit that no one deserves to have twenty years of their youth siphoned off without their consent. I dunno. This is another one I'm not selling very well. I guess it's not that bad. It's just, I've committed Mainstream Literary Anti-hero under a thin veneer of Life-shattering Fae Interference, and it makes me feel dirty.

Welp, it's what we've got. Have at it.

After the delayed release, I buckled down and made a solid start on the June 1 fictionette. I put up the Monday Muse (late, obvs), wrote the first draft of the author's note, and wrote most of the first draft of the fictionette itself. Which is huge for a Tuesday. My motivation, on top of needing to get the June 1 fictionette out early (Friday's probably going to be all road trip all the time and Saturday's the bout), was having begun a battle with a Suulan. A Suulan is worth 3,500 words which you must produce in four hours. My attack and defense stats mitigate that somewhat, but it's still a lot of work with very little room for futzing around. So there was nothing for it but to keep babbling rough draft until I'd hit my target. Yay! 4thewords for the win!

Between being in full-on Friday Fictionette catch-up mode up 'til this morning and moving into preemptive catch-up mode today, I haven't made it back to the short story revisions and am not likely to get there this week. Alas. And I have three bout weekends in June, so crunch time will continue right through the fourth weekend of the month. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is JUNE HAS A FIFTH FRIDAY, HUZZAH! I look forward to doing absolutely nothing on that day.

there are games and then there are games
Fri 2018-05-25 23:00:29 (single post)

First, the good news. Boulder County Bombers won against Pikes Peak Derby Dames (Colorado Springs), 205 to 145. That means we go on to play Crossroads Roller Derby (Las Cruces, NM) at 3:30 on Saturday the 26th. It will be our second time facing them this year. The first went very well for us; we hope to do as well or better tomorrow.

Next, the not so good news: I didn't finish the Friday Fictionette in time to release it today. (This had a lot to do with sticking around after our game to watch our probable Sunday opponents play, then going out for dinner and games with one of the blockers from my "pod." About that latter, more in a moment.) Probably won't tomorrow, either. All I can do is nibble at it as often as I can over the tourmament weekend so I can have it up Monday at the latest.

Now for something completely different:

So right around the corner from the tournament venue is The Summit, an all-ages arcade. There's bowling, laser tag, and a bunch of the sort of arcade game that you pay for by swiping a card and that you can win tickets at for prizes in the little store. There is also a restaurant, the Crossroads Tavern & Grille.

John and I went there for dinner yesterday. This was right after some of the team went to the venue to preview the floor we'd be skating on. There were enough of us there, plus our coach, that it turned into a sort of capsule-sized practice session, with agility drills and wall work and so on. So by the time we were done, I was unexpectedly hot, tired, sweaty, and hungry.

Right at the top of the restaurant's burger menu is a Mac 'n Cheese Burger, kinda pricey at $19.99 but plenty enough food to be worth it. It's two full-sized patties each served open-face and covered in their signature three-cheese mac 'n cheese. The whole is sprinkled with bacon pieces and comes with a side of fries or whatever. That is what I ordered, mostly because both burgers and mac 'n cheese looked tasty and I was too hungry to decide between them.

Probably the first clue that something beyond the usual was going on: It arrived at the table and John asked me if I thought I could finish it. This is not a question he generally asks me, familiar as he is with my post-derby appetite. I was like, *shrug,* there's a refrigerator and microwave in the hotel room if I don't.

Time went by. We ate our meals. I read things on the internet. It was peaceful.

I was on my last couple bites of burger and just beginning to pay attention to the sweet potato fries when the server came back. She looked at my plate, looked at me, and then she told me, "You are the first person I have ever seen finish that burger all by themselves in one sitting." I'm all, huh? What? This? Seriously? Yes, she said. First time. Even the big burly guys who purport to be ready to eat a truck fade out somewhere in the second patty. "I am so proud of you," she said, "and I'm so happy that the first person I saw do that was a girl!"

All I could say was, "You must not get many roller derby skaters eating here."

But here's the kicker--apparently that Mac 'n Cheese Burger entree is a challenge entree. It's not listed as such in the menu--I probably wouldn't have ordered it if it were--but it is the case that if you do indeed eat it all by yourself in one sitting, they give you a $20 game card to spend in their arcade.

So that's what my podmate and I were doing there tonight. We were spending my windfall arcade money. And then I took all the tickets I earned playing those games and bought some fun little trinkets to share with the rest of our pod tomorrow.

It's a surprise, so don't tell!

Click through for excerpt and full cover art credits.
They came in 1 lb baskets. I had 2 to start, and a milk stout.
where i'm at and where i'm going
Sat 2018-04-07 16:46:54 (single post)
  • 1,217 wds. long

No Puzzle Pirates/Spiral Knights blogging today. Had as much as I could do getting the Friday Fictionette for April 6 out on not-quite-time, and then it was half past noon and time to go eat crawfish. More about both in the paragraphs what follow.

I swear, as late as I was all through March, a Saturday morning release for a Friday Fictionette feels practically on time. I finished up production this morning and scheduled them for release at 1:00 PM today. Well, 1:00 for the ebook, 1:01 for the audiobook, and 1:15 for the HTML teaser excerpt. It's called "Contract Negotiations" and it's about the games goddesses play when they're bored and, possibly, in a mood to provoke each other.

So, here's the thing I just discovered about that. I mean, about the Friday Fictionette production process, but really about the process of drafting in 4thewords and copying the results into Scrivener? Turns out, 4TW introduces a bunch of non-breaking space characters and other invisible, unpredictable factors into the text where bog-standard word processor functions like copy/paste and turning italics on or off is concerned. It wasn't obvious until I'd already created the ebooks and was working on the excerpt and noticing "Huh, why's it look like there's double-width spaces sprinkled throughout the text? Please tell me those aren't visible in the ebooks...." THEY WERE. I had to do some really detail-oriented manual replace-and-find-next maneuvers and then recreate all three ebooks. Which was kind of infuriating. But oh well.

About crawfish: There seem to be more crawfish boils in the Denver/Boulder area all the time. Used to be, I knew one place to go, and I went there once a year: NoNo's Cafe in Littleton. Sometimes a bar would announce a very special party, but that was random and not to be counted upon. But this year I'm seeing crawfish events popping up all over my Facebook feed, like the one today at the Dark Horse in south Boulder. Which I went to. And it was fantastic. And apparently this was their third this year HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE NOW and they might do one more maybe. Oh, I'm still going to go to NoNo's; they do them the best and have the most generous serving for your buck, and I'm not just saying that because the owner's practically family. But Dark Horse has become a surprisingly close second.

In case you're wondering, I can't recommend French Quarter Brasserie on Pearl Street for boiled crawfish. The one time I went, they were overcooked and underspiced, like maybe they tried to skip the post-cook seasonings soak time and instead just boiled them a few minutes longer. You can't get away with doing that and charging $14 per pound. By comparison, Dark Horse was $12 per pound, and NoNo's comes to about $11 per pound when you do the math (they do all-you-can-eat 'til they're gone, like a proper Gulf South neighborhood crawfish boil, pouring them out onto newspaper-covered tables for everyone to dig in).

(Don't get me wrong, I am happy with FQB for oysters on the half shell. I'm pleased enough with what they call po-boys despite that what they call po-boys involves remoulade instead of mayonnaise and soft hoagies rather than French bread; for me, the hard crust that crackles to pieces, sprays a five-foot radius with crumbs, and cuts the roof of your mouth is not a selling point. Maybe that makes me a heretic. Whatever. I prefer soft bread. And the amount of fried crawfish they put on my so-called po-boy was delightfully generous. I'm not a po-boys purist, OK? But I have standards when it comes to crawfish, and, much as it pains me to say it, FQB did not meet them.)

So that's where I'm at today as of right now: pleasantly full of crawfish and finally done with the April 6 Friday Fictionette. As for where I'm going, that'll be a reprise of last week's pizza-cocktails-and-Spiral-Knights date with John (at Beaujo's in Longmont and Vapor Distillery in Boulder). Saturdays are good.

does everything from posole to queso blanco
Wed 2018-02-14 22:13:48 (single post)

I was going to blog about cooking yesterday, but I was obliged to sacrifice yesterday on the altar of Overdue Household Administration Tasks. So you get the cooking blog post a day late. Here it is.

A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream about cooking posole. It seemed like such a good idea that I resolved to do it for real. And I did! But also I made a mess of the kitchen. I used dried hominy instead of canned, since that happened to be what I was able to lay hands on soonest. And I thought, well, it'll plump up as it reconstitutes, but it'll soak up a bunch of broth as it does, so it's OK that there's not a lot of head room in the pot, right? WRONG. My poor old 4-quart slow-cooker overflowed all over the kitchen counter.

On the plus side, it was full of posole, which is amazing right after a three-hour roller derby practice. That almost made up for having to clean up a lake of ancho chili broth and pork fat right after a three-hour roller derby practice.

Not for the first time, I was reminded it was probably time to upgrade to a 6-quart slow-cooker. And I was reminded again when I found myself shopping at McGuckin a couple days later. They have a nice selection of slow-cookers in various sizes and brands. But I did not bring home a slow-cooker after all. I brought home a multi-cooker. (We pause now for the audience to go "ooh" and "aah" appreciatively.) I admit it: I am weak and easily tempted and also susceptible to the fear of regrets. As in, "Yes, the multi-cooker has a bunch of functions I probably don't need, and it costs about a hundred dollars more than the crock-pot I'd planned to buy. But if I do just buy the crock pot, will I come to regret not having bought the multi-cooker instead? I mean, define false economy. Besides, it's got pressure-cooker functions. Haven't I always kind of sort of wanted a pressure cooker? NOW'S MY CHANCE."

That very night, I used its WHITE RICE function to make rice. Badly. (I've gotten better since.) The next day I used its SAUTÉE, BROWN, and SLOW COOK functions to make the tea-braised chuck roast recipe at the end of this article.

But what I've used it for most frequently is cheese.

The multi-cooker does not boast of a cheese-making function. It boasts instead of a yogurt-making function, which is apparently for cooking the yogurt-to-be after you've mixed in the live culture. I didn't actually use that function. (Also I don't like yogurt.) But the yogurt-making instructions start off by having you heat your milk using the SLOW COOK function, which is also the first step in making paneer. So.

I never manage to drink a whole bottle of milk before its expiration date. "That's OK," I tell myself, pretty much every time. "I'll just make paneer with whatever's left." And then, pretty much every time, I put it off. And I put it off. And then next thing I know, it's too late. The milk has not only begun to self-curdle, which by itself mightn't be so bad, but it has also started turning surgical-appliance pink, and I'm not touching any pink milk that didn't come labeled STRAWBERRY, thanks.

But since acquiring this multi-cooker, I've made cheese multiple times. No putting it off at all. Partially, that's because I'm still all excited about using a brand-new kitchen appliance. But, more to the point, the multi-cooker makes the process simpler. I mean, not the entire process. The whole routine of getting out the cheesecloth and setting up for draining the curds and pressing them into a mold and draining them some more, that doesn't go away. But the multi-cooker does obviate the anxious half hour of running into the kitchen every five minutes to make sure the milk isn't boiling over. It also heats the milk up more slowly and with less potential for scorching.

I probably could have done this in my old 4-quart crock pot. But the idea just never occurred to me until I read the hype on the box the multi-cooker came in. "Does everything from rice to yogurt!" It is possible that a creamed corn experiment gone wrong had left me irrationally averse to heating milk or cream in a slow-cooker. The yogurt instructions reassured me. (I might actually try the slow cooker creamed corn thing again this summer, come to think of it.)

So I've made paneer in the multi-cooker. I have also fried paneer in the multi-cooker (using the BROWN function) preparatory to a sort of random-greens version of saag. Additionally, I have made queso blanco, which is what happens when I leave the curds draining too long so that the finished cheese is a crumbly mess that's fantastic on tamales. I've even experimented with pouring the whey back into the cooker, changing the function from HIGH temp to LOW, adding a tiny bit more acid, and then waiting to see whether this would produce ricotta/ricottone. IT DID. I got like a whole tablespoon of ricotta.

What the heck does one do with a tablespoon of ricotta? Bake a very tiny lasagna? Fill the world's smallest calzone? Stir it into the next batch of macaroni and cheese? Or something else?

TO BE CONTINUED! ...or not, depending.

working around a broken gold star dispenser
Wed 2018-01-10 23:56:50 (single post)

Announcement: I have begun to mail fruitcake to people! This involved taste-testing it, of course. (Also I hadn't had breakfast yet. My taste-test was rather thorough.) Past taste-tests indicate that rum really isn't the right flavor for fruitcake, at least not in my opinion. It's just too sweet. The right answer is cognac. Brandy will also do. I used cognac to re-booze the cheesecloth wrap a few days ago, and the flavor is much improved.

I was trying to remember what went into the fruitcake so I could list the ingredients on one of the accompanying greeting cards. Raisins, black and green; currants, black; ginger, candied; dates, pitted because there are limits to how much work I'm willing to do. But... was that all? I mean, yes, and slivered almonds, of course, but--no other fruit? Maybe dried cherries, but--no, I remember in the grocery store thinking, "Not both cherries and strawberries." But I certainly have no memory of julienne-slicing several ounces of dried strawberries by hand. If I had done it, I would remember. Trust me. Having done the same to the dates and the candied ginger was extremely memorable.

Well. Guess what I found in the back of the Volt this afternoon. That's right. A sealed pint container of dried strawberries. From December.

It's cool! It's fine. Dried fruit is fairly shelf-stable. But I'm thinking, dang, that's a lot of oatmeal I'm going to be eating those strawberries with.

OK, so, anyway, what I came to blog about the first time: Writing Gamification and Brain Hacks, Part Lots of Many.

Writing is not a job with a lot of external validation. Not at my stage of the game, anyway. There's a lot of time spent churning out words that no one cares about but you. There's a lot of story submissions that result in mostly rejection letters. There may be some self-publishing but very few eyeballs successfully attracted.

Common wisdom says that, for this reason, this is not a job for someone who needs external validation. The only validation that counts has to come from within. You know that what you're doing has worth; that knowledge has to be enough to keep you going. And if it isn't, maybe you aren't really cut out for this writing gig. Many people aren't. It's OK.

Y'all, common wisdom is mean.

I think most of us really do need some form of external validation. We're not robots, for goodness sake. Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" isn't self-congratulatory; it's ironic, and the irony is bitter. We're not rocks, we're not islands, and if our internal validation process doesn't get the benefit of an external reality check from time to time, at least a little, maybe we start to doubt.

And what if your internal validation process is broken? See, I'm not actually very good at telling myself a did a good job and believing it. I'm much better at finding reasons why what I just accomplished doesn't count. Look, I've been spending more hours writing per day, or doing affiliated writing tasks that need doing. My daily word count has gone up. I'm submitting more stories more frequently. Two of my previous publications will debut in podcasts this year! The writing is going great...

And yet that little self-sabotaging voice in my head says, You're just making yourself a lot of busywork so you can feel accomplished.

It says, So how many of those 4,000+ words went toward actual publishable works?

It says, Easy to surpass five hours in a day when that's how far you are behind schedule.

It says, But what are you submitting lately? Not new stories. Not full-length stories. Certainly not good stories. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to check off the Submissions Procedures to-do list item on a technicality.

There is no private workday writing-routine accomplishment so great that that little self-sabotaging voice can't tear it down. It will find a reason why the latest thing I did doesn't count.

So if I'm not getting external validation from acceptance letters and reviews and fans and stuff like that, and I'm not getting internal validation because that self-sabotaging jerk voice is overwhelming any sense of legitimate accomplishment, then where am I supposed to get any validation from at all?

Possibility one: Self-administered gold stars. Respond to the accomplishment by awarding myself some small tangible pleasure. It can be a literal gold star sticker, a small piece of chocolate, a walk in the sun, a few minutes playing a fun game. Main thing is, it's enjoyable. Self-sabotaging jerk-voice can make me question my right to feel accomplished, but it can't stop chocolate tasting good or gold stars being shiny and cheerful. Establishing a pattern of "accomplish something--get a yummy treat" can over time help dislodge the pattern of "accomplish something--realize it was worthless." Or at least give it some healthy competition.

Possibility two: Self-initiated external validation systems. Otherwise known as--you guessed it--gamification.

Take 4thewords as the example, since I'm using it right now this minute. 4thewords doesn't care if the 1300 words you defeat a dust-zombie Villager with were story draft, blog post, freewriting, or even a bunch of incoherent babble. Write 1300 words, defeat the Villager, get rewarded. You'd think that this would further fuel the Jerk-Brain--It would have rewarded you for pasting in 1300 words of lorem ipsum, so it doesn't mean anything--but, weirdly, that doesn't seem to be the case. Possibly because I know that I wouldn't just paste in 1300 words of lorem ipsum and call it writing. Possibly because the incoherent babble has a purpose.

And definitely because it's like that piece of chocolate: It still tastes good. It still feels good to see the pop-up that says "You WON a battle against Villager. You received 4 dust and 136 XP."

That last bit is the brain hack. It's magic. It should not work. I'm the one pulling the marionette's strings. I'm the one starting the robot on its preprogrammed sequence. And yet when the sequence completes and the robot says "Good job!" I react emotionally like my old Null-kitty getting belly rubs. Because even though I'm the one awarding it to myself, chocolate still tastes like good.

Basically, I've installed an artificial connector between "write a bunch of words" and "feel good about having written a bunch of words" to replace the built-in connection that got broken somewhere along the way. It's actually "feel good about the game quest that writing a bunch of words enabled you to complete," but it doesn't matter. It is still a direct line between writing and feeling good, and that line is vital to keeping me motivated to write.

Now, there's a whole 'nother speech Jerk-Brain likes to give me about what a pathetic specimen I am for needing all these brain-hacks and artificially induced belly rubs and chocolate when Real Writers Don't Need Tricks to Get Themselves to Write... but that speech, at least, I've learned to shrug off. "That may be so," I tell Jerk-Brain, "but I'm still writing."

so about those new year's resolutions
Mon 2018-01-01 23:07:23 (single post)

Happy 2018 everybody! I hope the first day of the new year has treated you splendidly. If it hasn't, well, what's one day out of three hundred and sixty-five? Not even one percent. Tomorrow can always be better.

I have done my darnedest to stuff everything I want into a single day. Writing, playing, exercising, cooking, time with my husband doing all of the above. All that was missing was fibercrafts and derby, and those will happen tomorrow.

I even got in a visit to the Boulder Bookstore. When I checked out the other day, they gave me a coupon for 25% off everything in the store on January 1. "Is this because you've got annual inventory coming up, and you'd like as little stock as possible to inventory?" I asked. Both staff members on check-out duty nodded emphatically. So John and I went in today and did our part to make their annual inventory easier.

I got new packages of non-specific winter holiday greeting cards. (All the winter solstice cards had sold out long ago.) John got a couple of books. One of them was all about bread. So tonight, a few hours after our lovely homemade dinner of saag paneer over rice with fresh naan (I win at dinner), John opened up his new book and started experimenting. As we speak, he is eating quesadillas made from his very first attempts at making tortillas.

So I said I'd come up with some New Year's resolutions today, something more specific than what I babbled out Friday. I'm not sure I have, actually. I've just kind of made today into a sort of microcosm of what I want my writing life in 2018 to look like. Which is to say: drafting new story, revising existing story, submitting finished story. I want every working day to have all three of those things in it.

Additionally, I want to:

  • Keep the Friday Fictionette project on schedule
  • Finish new stories and submit them to paying markets
  • Make meaningful progress on novel revision

And of course I would love to actually make some sales and get published more. But I'm leaving that out of my resolution-like statements here because it's not entirely under my control. I can't make editors say "Yes, we love it, take our money and let us publish it please!" But all the work that comes before the editor's yes or no--that is, writing, revising, and submitting pieces of fiction to paying markets--that is under my control. So that's what I'm resolving to do in 2018: More of that.

As for right now this minute I want to write enough words to defeat enough Winter Frizis to collect enough Winter Snowflakes to complete the Snowflake Collector Quest before the Winter Wonderland 2018 event ends midday January 3! Well, that's less "this minute" and more "tonight and tomorrow." Still.

Yay, one more Winter Frizi down and two more Winter Snowflakes in my inventory! Woot!

Cover art incorporates public domain vector images from Pixabay and Public Domain Pictures.net
this fictionette is entering a world of longer days and shorter nights
Fri 2017-12-22 23:43:20 (single post)

As hoped for and expected, the Friday Fictionette for December 22, 2017 did not suffer for the two days I took off from writing for Yuletide preparations, observance, and clean-up. It is out and ready for your perusal, should that sound like a good time to you. It's called, "The Croquet Lawn, and What They Found There." Here's your usual bouquet of links: ebook ($1/month patrons), audiobook ($3/month patrons), and teaser excerpt (available to all). It is about portals and why you might not want to go through them. Also entomophobia, nicknames for golden retrievers, and needing to buy a new Christmas tree.

It's the Christmas edition of Friday Fictionettes. Well, sort of. I mean, there's a Christmas tree in it. Only there isn't, but that's the whole point, really. Nothing that should have been in that closet is there, and a whole lot of something that oughtn't to be is. Portal fantasy, y'all.

All the above-mentioned Yuletide preparations went to plan. All the food got cooked, sampled, and declared delicious. I now have a lot of leftover pie, which takes care of the majority of my meals for the next three days. Egg nog got drunk on rum. People got drunk on rum. People came over! Some people stayed until very late at night! It was swell.

I even managed to convince my Pandora station to behave and play me songs like "The Holly King" and "Dark Mother." (Also a bunch of random Celtic tunes, a selection of Arthuriana set to harp and guitar, and a whole lot of Loreena McKennitt. Which near misses beat the heck out of random Pete Seeger. "I hear you like folk music so I brought you some folk music." That's nice, Pandora. Good try.) But I didn't end up listening to it much once I stopped cooking, because by then I was either socializing or playing Rock Band.

I played a lot of Rock Band. Rock Band got me through those final few hours after the last guests left (around... 3:30 AM? Maybe?) and John went to sleep (ditto) and staying awake became a real struggle. On the downside, my left wrist is extra sore from curving awkwardly around the controller to get to the overdrive trigger. (Also from mildly spraining it doing dishes the next day.) On the plus side, I've gotten a lot better at sight-reading for pro keys.

Then the sun came up and I went down. I woke briefly as John was leaving for work. He gave me the news that scrimmage had been canceled due to icy roads and stupidly cold temperatures. So it turned out I had only two things to do with my Thursday: 1. Clean up after the party. 2. Continue improving my Rock Band 3 scores. I did those things. In quantity.

And then today happened and I got back to work. For the results of which, I refer you to the first two paragraphs of this blog post.

In addition to my regular Friday writing tasks, I had my very first solo Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) groceries delivery. I've just started volunteering with them. My roller derby league turned me on to them; they were on the list of community organizations which members were encouraged to go pitch in with toward the end of the year. I joined them as a last-minute volunteer sous chef for their "lunch bunch" event back at the beginning of December, and subsequently decided I'd like to work with them more. So I went to the orientation last week, shadowed one of their veteran volunteers Monday morning, and had my first solo shift this afternoon.

It went OK! I arrived at the donor grocery, loaded up the BFR bike trailer with some 150 pounds of donated produce, and rode that sucker the couple miles up to the recipient community. The delivery was a success. I did not bump the trailer into any cars, curbs, or people. The bike did not fall over in what was left of the ice and snow. No food fell off the trailer. One volunteer fell over once trying to get off the bike, having forgotten that the bike's crossbar was too high for her usual dismount maneuver, but she picked herself up again and carried on.

BFR are pretty well known around here, and their trailers are distinctive. Several people recognized the trailer while I was sorting the food, loading it up, or riding it to its destination, and they thanked me. I didn't know what to say. I thanked them back and wished them a good evening. It was awkward and sweet and it kind of made me glow.

I like the gig so far. I'm going to do it again next week.

"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
Tue 2017-12-12 23:48:05 (single post)
  • 739 wds. long

Because Aubergine of Metafilter might need a little help eating all that cake.

I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--

(be right back.)

*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*

*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*

*Running footsteps getting louder until--*

OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)

And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.

I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"

And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.

Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!

OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.

I had more to say, but it can wait until tomorrow. I think I'm going to just go bask in the celebration on Metafilter and the PTV Facebook right now.

so you make new happy memories to override the old ones that hurt
Thu 2017-12-07 22:51:36 (single post)

"Blackbird" came home yesterday with rejection note in hand. I sent it back out on its way again today. That's what you do. It's going to be hard to place, I know--not only is it a story with a writer protagonist, but it's a story whose writer protagonist has supernatural writing block, seriously, how pathetic is that?--but someone's gonna love this little story. So it's back out there fighting the good fight as we speak.

Meanwhile, it is that time of year again. Winter solstice is in two weeks. I picked up the fruitcake ingredients today, and I'm planning to have the Yule Log All-Nighter this time around. I haven't done it since we moved into the new place, so this'll be the first one in three years as well as the first one at the current address. I guess I'd better make sure I have batteries for all the Rock Band instruments and review how to set it up for All Play mode.

My relationship with fruitcake turned weird last year. Every year, I bake a fruitcake, and about half of it gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family, or shared around locally, while I eat most of the other half for breakfast every day until it's gone. Which generally takes 'til mid-January. But last year not everyone on my mailing list got a piece. I was too slow. I had fallen behind in other tasks, so getting fruitcake to the post office was just one more thing. And then I got injured, which seriously reduced my spoon supply. And then, probably because I also wasn't re-boozing the cheesecloth often enough, or generously enough, or something, the last quarter of the cake began to mold. Like, bread mold, that kind of mold. I have never had fruitcake mold on me before. Talk about embarrassing.

So I never got a slice out to my mother-in-law. And she was the best mother-in-law in the world, and then, without any warning, right about the time I was discovering the mold on the fruitcake, she died. And now I have this guilt-cloud hovering over the very idea of fruitcake because these were my reactions to the news:

  1. Shit, was she worried? Did she think I had forgotten her? I'll never know! And I'll never be able to tell her "I'm sorry, I just got behind on things and fell out of touch, but I still love you," and that sucks, and
  2. Shit, my husband and my sister-in-law are grieving the loss of their mother, and I'm sitting here feeling guilty about failing to send her fruitcake? Seriously? Way to make it all about you, Niki.

So there's feeling guilty, and then there's feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and underneath all that guilt is the just plain shock and sadness of very suddenly losing someone who was, in a very real sense, my second mom. And what with all of that, fruitcake now occupies a kind of painful place in my brain.

But I am going to make this year's fruitcake, dammit. Only I'll keep the cheesecloth well-boozed this time, and I'll get through the mailing list promptly. And everything will be fine and not painful at all, and fruitcake will go back to being a thing of comfort and joy (and booze).

And even though it's more of a Samhain thing than a Solstice thing, I'll set aside a piece for Mom Sorsha on Solstice night.

Love you. Miss you. Never gonna forget you.

i also like anchovies don't judge
Fri 2017-11-10 00:15:56 (single post)

Congratulate me. I have logged my first 1700 words for NaNoWriMo 2017. I'm a week late getting started, but it's early days yet. And every day that I post a word count is a victory. So huzzah for victory!

I've been avoiding writing the first words. The first words are scary! Brainstorming and worldbuilding is fun and low-stakes; none of the worldbuilding babble I've typed over the past year counts. But writing actual draft, now, that's real words, that's the actual story, am I ready to write the actual story? Do I know enough? What if I get it wrong?

Which is exactly the sort of meebling that NaNoWriMo is supposed to help curtail. So.

I haven't managed the blog backfill yet, but I'm in process. I wrote the post for Tuesday, October 31 (which ends on a depressing note, I'm afraid) and got halfway through the post for Wednesday, November 1 (which is more fun, though I admit it indulges in a bit of whining). I'm... no longer sure what happened on Thursday, November 2? I think not a lot happened after all, when I think back on it. There was breakfast--Dad made me breakfast every day, I think what with Mom in the assisted living community he misses having someone to cook for--and then I think we visited Mom, and then I had a nap, and then later I visited my brother. The nap might be the problem here. I have this feeling like, more must have happened, but I guess maybe not, it was pretty much all domestic stuff and napping. OK.

Speaking of napping, and needing to nap more often than I'd like, HEY YOU KNOW WHAT I FOUND OUT?! I got my blood lab results back Tuesday, and it turns out I'm vitamin D deficient! By a lot! You know what some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are? Fatigue and feelings of depression. GEE THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. At least it's actionable! I have added a D3 supplement to my daily routine, renewed my habit of a daily walk in the sunshine, and, to my daily banana, I have added a daily glass of fortified milk and a daily can of some sort of canned fish. (I'm cycling between salmon, tuna, sardines, and smoked oysters.) If this goes on--I mean, the adding new things to the "try to eat daily" list--I fear my meals will become as regimented as September's in The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. I quite like canned fish, though.

(Maybe I don't have to have it every day.)

To be clear, I still need to have a chat with an Actual Medical Professional about this and also about the fact that my lipid panel results got flagged this year for the first time. But in the meantime, the fish/fortified milk/sunshine/D3 supplements thing isn't gonna hurt me. It might actually help. But it's way too soon to tell.

I didn't nap today, in any case. I got a lot done today. Got up early, put in about six hours of writing throughout the day (six! usually I barely manage three!), picked up the car from the mechanic, took myself out for a late lunch of kimchi jjigae, went to scrimmage, started my day off with a leisurely breakfast of sardines on toast with onions and peppers, and ended my day with a tasty bowl of Dal-Style Lentils and Stuff (the Stuff being eggplant, spinach, kimchi juice, and a poached egg--hey, egg yolks are also a source of vitamin D!) and also a nice long soak in the tub. I mean, that's one packed day. Packed with writing and derby and TASTY MEALS.

It was a good day, is what I'm saying.

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