inasmuch as it concerns The Beast That Rolls:
Mild-mannered writer by day, on certain evenings she becomes Fleur de Beast #504, skating with the Boulder County Bombers. (They told me that the position of "superhero" was unavailable. This was the next best thing.)
in which a tedious writing exercise becomes inconveniently interesting
- 1,136 wds. long
The long blog silence is testimony to the truth of the adage "After derby is too late." Not a universal adage, admittedly, but a fairly reliable one in my little universe. So today I'm blogging before derby. Just before. Instantaneously before. I'm in fact sitting at the folding table in the Officials' Corner at our practice location, and I have until they arrive and need to actually use this table to get this blog post done. Go me!
(I think I will be able to manage posting it after derby. There is no wifi at our practice location unless I beg use of someone's smartphone uplink. And smartphones notoriously fail to get signal in our practice location.)
I found a little time earlier this week to play around with interactive fiction. In Melissa Ford's book Writing Interactive Fiction, I had just got to the Designing Agency section--it's pretty early on in the book, I'm not moving through it particularly quickly--and worked through the Beanstalk exercise. The exercise has, to my thinking, two purposes: It gives you more practice using Twine to give the reader/protagonist choices, and it focuses your attention on whether those choices are meaningful. If they aren't, the interactive fiction isn't.
The exercise was to write a sort of Jack and the Beanstalk... sequel? Alternate plot? Basically, the giant is threatening to come down the beanstalk and STEAL YOUR SISTER. Oh noes! The first scene must end with two options, and each of two ensuing scenes must end with two options, which means there will be four possible endings.
I was not enthusiastic about this.
(Oh, crap, it's 6:30 already. I have to go put my skates on. I will finish this after derby! I will!)
(And now it is 10:00 PM. I'm a little more bruised and a lot more tired than I was when I left off. Now... where did I leave off? Oh. Right.)
I was not enthusiastic about this. I had absolutely no desire to rewrite Jack and the Beanstalk, much less in four permutations. But that was my assignment, so, darn it, I was doing it.
Forty-five minutes and 1,500 words later, I had done it and it wasn't so bad. Having no love for damsel in distress storylines, I had worked every branch toward the revelation that Jack's little sister had become a soldier competent to lead an army. The reader's choices would determine where she and Jack stood as siblings. In one, they were teammates working together to defeat the giant. In another, they were enemies, traitor and betrayed, and Jack wound up exiled for his sins.
It was all very silly, but it still managed to capture my interest by the end of it. That night, on my way to sleep, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to expand the story into something actually worth reading. I could foreshadow the little sister's development into a warrior princess, for instance. I could tell how she'd practiced swordfighting and climbed every tree in sight so she could grow up as fierce and strong and brave as her adored big brother. I could note the foolishness of Jack treating the giant like a personal problem when in fact his little farm was part of a great big nation which the giant might rightfully be seen as invading. And what about the harp? Did she resent Jack for having stolen her during his earlier foray? Did she miss living up in the clouds? Was she the medium by which the giant delivered his threat?
And so on, and so forth. And what's ridiculous about it is, it's probably not going to be commercially viable no matter how well I revise and expand it. The entire premise is from an exercise in a well-known (I think?) book on the subject, which other aspiring interactive fiction authors have no doubt already worked through themselves, and there aren't that many markets for interactive fiction at this time. So I really shouldn't let myself obsess over it, at least not until I've got a bunch of other projects out of my hair. Like, say, the short-short I want to expand into an interactive piece that actually is commercially viable. Hey, brain, maybe we should obsess on that story, and not on this one, what do you say?
Darn it, Muse! You are so inconvenient!
Lastly, some quick fictionette news: The freebie for August 2017 has been released. It's "Tina, Destroyer of Worlds," and you can now read/download it as an ebook, an audiobook, or as a webpage via Patreon regardless of your patron status. Also I finally put the Fictionette Artifacts for April in the mail. I hope not to take so long with the ones for May. If I take a whole month to do each one, I'll always be three months behind, and that would be depressing.
no crashy-burny for THIS fictionette; also, how the sausage gets made
The bad news is, yes I got sick again. Or discovered I'm still sick, and that Thursday was just a day off from being sick because the universe is merciful or because it likes a good joke or maybe just because I took a 12-hour Sudafed at exactly the right time, I don't know. Today was gross sniffly coughing sneezing bleaaarrrrrgh.
The good news is, I got all my work done anyway. So there. Take that, sick! You ain't the boss of me!
Seriously, though, 100% not kidding, today was probably a more powerful rebuttal to Jerk Brain than it would have been had I felt perfectly fine. It's evidence that my ability to Be A Writer™ is not dependent on the stars being aligned just right. It is something that, in all but the most exceptionally terrible cases, is always within reach. That's really empowering.
- Sent "First Breath" off on a new quest for reprint publication
- Published this week's Friday Fictionette
- Set up a Scrivener project for converting an old draft into a new piece of flash fiction
And also freewriting, Morning Pages, this blog entry, Fictionette Artifact catch-up, yadda yadda yadda. ALL THE THINGS.
The Friday Fictionette for July 21 is "Falling Toward the Light" (for Patrons: full-length ebook, audiobook), which is mostly about the hazards of having a rift in the space-time continuum open up while excavating for new building construction in downtown Loveland. It's also partly, possibly, between the lines, about the effects of the above on economics and politics at the hyperlocal level.
When keeping up with Friday Fictionettes was threatening to take over my entire writing life, I was beginning to question their viability as a continuing side project. I was sick of having nothing writing-wise to blog about except them. But now that I'm more or less caught up and reliably on time with the weekly releases (excluding, of course, the Fictionette Artifacts--I am almost ready to mail the ones from March), and now that I'm regularly working on writing and selling short fiction again, I'm going to designate Fridays and only Fridays for blogging about Friday Fictionettes. To everyone's relief, mine especially.
And now that they've been reliably on time for a few weeks, I feel like I can speak to the weekly routine of making them happen. So! Here is my Process, in case you are wondering.
Saturday: Tomorrow's Saturday! Yay. It is the Saturday preceding the July Week 4 release. So I'll take a look at what I wrote during my freewriting sessions during the fourth week of June and choose one of those pieces to develop into the Friday Fictionette for July 28. I'll copy it from the Daily Writing scriv to the Friday Fictionettes scriv, then set up its folder with all the relevant templates. That's pretty much it. It's the weekend, and I just valiantly published the previous release, so I get to take it easy.
Sunday: NOTHING. I started giving myself this day off from even the most minimal writing tasks after I was forced to recognize I wasn't doing them. Something about starting the day with a three- or even six-hour roller derby practice. I've still been optimistic enough to set up writing dates with friends on Sunday afternoons, though.
Monday: Back to work. Once in a while, I'm fortunate enough to have produced a pretty good first draft during the original freewriting session. Most of the time, I'm not, and the output will be this rambling exploratory babble. So I'll spend Monday's fictionette-prep session just creating a very wordy outline. It's mostly about structure: Start here, then this happens, then that, then the other, then finally end with this.
Tuesday through Thursday: Write the dang thing. Using the outline as a sort of fill-in-the-blank, using the weave-and-dodge strategy to keep from getting stuck, trying not to waste any of my daily 25-minute fictionette-prep session on staring into space or doing too much internet research. This is the hard part but it's getting easier.
Friday: Publish the sucker. Come up with a title and an author's note if I haven't already. Ditto cover art. Sometimes I have all the foresight and I create the cover from my own photography or drawings, but usually I do a last minute search for public domain or creative commons attribution/share-alike commercial-OK licensed imagery. Export the Fictionette as PDF and epub, convert epub to mobi, record the audiobook and convert to mp3, and post to Patreon. If by this time it is not stupidly late o'clock, do the excerpts for Patreon, Wattpad, and my blog too; otherwise, do those over the weekend. (I try not to have to leave them for the weekend.) It sounds like a lot, but everything after creating the cover art is pretty mechanical by now. It only takes forever if I didn't finish the actual writing by Thursday.
And that is how the sausage gets made. The end.
See you tomorrow for the weekend YPP report! Or, if that's not relevant to your interests, skip it and I'll see you Monday.
that's it, no more crashy-burny for you (you don't even LIKE crashy-burny, what the hell is wrong with you)
- 2,996 wds. long
- 100 wds. long
- 3,339 wds. long
So it turned out to be just 24-hour sinus drama. Went to bed sniffly and feeling crappy, woke up before seven o'clock still sniffly but with boundless energy and well-being. It's confusing as hell, but I'll take it.
I submitted three things to paying markets today, y'all. Three! That's five submissions this week! And one of the things I subimtted today was a brand new drabble (100-word short story) that I just wrote this afternoon. And I finished up the promised manuscript critiques, and I did all the required daily things, and I continue to catch up on the Fictionette Artifact backlog, and I cleaned the toilets. (They really needed it.)
And now I am back from scrimmage. It was a lovely scrimmage. We hit each other really hard, damn near ended in a tie score, and then we had a party with beer and cake. (Also, one of my teammates wore assless booty shorts. It was a themed scrimmage, so this makes sense. Trust me.)
Days like today scare me. Rather, what scares me is the prospect of the day after a day like today. Past recent experience says I'm due to crash and burn tomorrow. I always crash and burn the day after phenomenally productive and fulfilling days. That's what jerk brain says, anyway. I tell it, "Hey, jerk brain, you have selection bias like woah, you're ignoring all the non-crashy-burny days, there is no good reason that I should crash and burn--I mean, unless I get sick again or something, and it would be just like you, wouldn't it, to make me get sick again tomorrow just to prove your crappy naysaying point?"
I spend a lot of time talking to jerk brain. But you should hear the mouth it has. Someone has to stand up to it.
So the thing about drabbles is, I planned to put together a raft of eight or ten brand new ones and submit them to SpeckLit. That went rather well for me in the past. Only I haven't visitied them in ages. I visited them again after writing that one drabble today and trying to remember what kinds of things authors put in their author's notes there. Turns out, they closed their doors last September. Dang it.
But there is, as it happens, no shortage of online markets looking for very very short fiction. Not all of them will pay SFWA professional rates, but at one hundred words the difference between pro pay and token pay is more in the percentage than in the pocketbook. And I just wanted to submit something that was new. You know? Rather than just collect another handful of rejections for the stories I've been shipping around for the past few years?
So I found a place (which does pay pro rates, by the way), and I sent it, by the Gods.
This is me, feeling like Real Writer™ again. It is not my default feeling. I have to work at it. Tomorrow I will work at it some more. It'll be great. (You hear me, jerk brain? It'll be great!)
back to your regularly scheduled reality
All right! I'm back. I'm back for reals. I took tonight off from practice so I could have time both to have a good, solid, full work day and take care of random errands and crap waiting for me after a weekend away. SUCCESS. For the most part, anyway. I was able to check off the new "Did everything on my timesheet" Habit item, so that's a thing--in addition to my daily gottas, I finally got to the manuscript critique I promised a month ago. Yayyyyy.
Will have to be on my toes tomorrow to keep up the good work and hit yoga-and-practice in the afternoon, but I think I can do it. Chez LeBoeuf-Little has begun getting up at 7 AM which has led to remarkably productive mornings. It has not yet led to me reliably getting to bed before midnight, but it's all a work in progress anyway.
About that bout? We won our game. It was not easy! We spent pretty much the whole first half figuring out how we were going to have a shot at winning the second. I think we did an exemplary job of adapting to unfamiliar terrain (literally and figuratively), and to an unfamiliar opponent, in time to pull off the win. The host league, the Salina Sirens, are utter sweethearts on and off the track. I didn't want to leave the afterparty.
There are pictures, if you want to check 'em out. From the bout, I mean. Not the afterparty. Well, there may be some from the afterparty but I don't have those at hand.
Got back in town Sunday afternoon and pretty much collapsed--and I'm not even the one who did the driving. Took it relatively easy Monday. So it was time to get back to work today.
Look! It's not quite midnight yet! Yayyyyy.
middle ground is where you make it
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!
minor optimism at tired o'clock
So I did spend a little time the other day looking at the notes from last year's novel brainstorming session. Got kind of excited about it all over again, like, yes, this is going to be a novel worth writing, and spending time with these characters will be keen, but I didn't have any sudden breakthroughs. I mean, it would have been very nice to reread the notes and suddenly go, "Oh! That's how the novel ends. I see it all now! Must write the first draft NOW!" But no.
I also haven't managed to get back to it since that night. Which isn't very good for maintaining that excitement level. Mainly I've just been plugging away as best as my schedule and energy levels will allow. Mostly not having any crash-and-waste-the-day days, but still haven't reached the sort of daily productivity level I'm looking for.
Meanwhile, the goddamn insomnia is back. Not getting sleep isn't helping, body, please do a thing that is helping, pretty please.
On a different note, there is something very satisfying about getting together with fifteen or so of your best roller derby buddies to reposition the floor tiles and lay down a fresh track. Then, when you get there for Tuesday practice, you get to look at it and skate on it and think, "We did that. Go us!" Very tiring work, especially when the day previous you skated in two very competitive bouts, but very satisfying nevertheless.
OK, I'm off to try to make myself very tired.
which doesn't make the date less significant
About the same today: Got the daily stuff in--did my freewriting, finished drafting this week's Fictionette release, and typed a page against the Fictionette artifact backlog. Then I had to leave for errands in Longmont en route to the usual Thursday scrimmage. But maybe, maybe, if I am very good, and if I do it in an idle sort of low-energy way that is compatible with the post-derby portion of the evening, I might manage to spend a half hour or so on the novel I started brainstorming last year. I might not actually write any of it--I might spend that half hour simply reading all my notes from last November and maybe adding to them--but it is nevertheless an exciting prospect.
To make that more possible, I'm doing the blog post now rather than later. Hi!
Greens in the fridge notwithstanding, I am enjoying a bowl of pho at Pho Huong Viet. They have become my pre-bout ritual, only I missed out on Saturday what with that whole "oops, I left my shoes at the Fairgrounds and now the building's locked and it turns out the people at the restaurant would really rather I didn't skate on their nice wood floor" thing. I mean, they did let me order spring rolls to go, but it just wasn't the same. So I'm making up for it today.
I made up for a different oversight by calling Dad. My parents have the same wedding anniversary date that me and John do, so generally it's easy to remember to call. But this year, what with our frantic roller derby schedule, we barely remembered our own anniversary. So I called today.
It was weird, though. I had this awful feeling that wishing Dad a happy anniversary would not actually be kind. Like it was more likely to add insult to injury. I mean, if Dad was widowed, there'd be no question; the anniversary of the start of a fantastic marriage is no less something to be celebrated just because death did you part. But it feels wrong somehow when Mom is still around in body but entirely gone in her mind. The marriage continues but one of its participants has changed beyond recognition (and does not herself recognize most of the people closest to her in her life). Are we celebrating? Are we in any position to celebrate? Was the 20th, in fact, a happy day, or was it just an occasion for the calendar to stick a knife in Dad's ribs and twist it?
Dementia sucks and makes everything awkward.
But I called, and I said happy anniversary, and Dad kind of laughed and returned the good wishes, and we took the rest of the phone call as just another opportunity to catch up on the last few weeks. I told him about the most recent bouts; he took the news about his daughter getting a black eye in stride ("So you scored points, and you got a badge of honor. Nothing wrong with that!"). He told me about how his day's been going. Things were OK.
He put Mom on the phone. Mom said hello and that she hoped everything was going well for me, and then, this having used up her scant verbal reserves, she handed back the phone.
"Well, that didn't go so well," Dad said.
"I dunno," said I, "she put words together to form sentences. That's a thing."
So. I guess the moral of the story is, however awkward the conversation, it's never actually wrong to call. Well, rarely, anyway.
but i'm supposed to blog so i guess here is a post
Hullo the blog. Not much to report. Continuing to plug along at my daily tasks and inch through the overdue ones. Also there are household things and the everpresent specter of roller derby, so each day winds up having less time in it than I think. Still haven't managed to get to the exciting things like "and work on that novel you started brainstorming last year!" or "get a new short story ready for submission!" But that will come. Meanwhile, I am showing up every day and putting in a solid session, and I am no longer actively falling behind in anything.
The linden tree out back started blooming about a day after I complained that it hadn't. So that's nice. The fragrance was particularly delightful late last night.
I am sporting my very first derby-related black eye! It's awesome. One of the staff at Murphy's last night, where we often go for post-practice dinner and drinks, asked me if I gave as good as I got. I had to admit that I had, yes, by definition, seeing has how I had given it to myself in the first place. Remember about the inadvisability of playing offense with your face? Yeah, well, same goes for jamming. Also I need to get better at my hockey stops so I have other options when approaching a pack at speed other than "success!" and "panic, fall over, go boom."
In other news, it's CSA season and my fridge is full of greens. I keep thinking, "I've been good, I've worked hard, I should treat myself to five spice wok chicken at Jin Chan," and then I don't go, because my fridge is full of greens. I have been coming up with all the ways to eat them. There's sauteeed mizuna to keep my leftover kung pao chicken from getting lonely, there's finely shredded kale mixed in with shredded potatoes and scrambled eggs for a sort of hash brown/omelet/egg-fu-yung/potato-pancake hybrid breakfast (don't forget the apple sauce), there's stewed chard in a pot of approximate dal, there's anything leafy at all in my sausage-mac-and-cheese (featuring more cheddar brats from my teammate's farm), there's sprouts on my fake-bacon-and-cheese sandwich, and then there's straight-up salad.
WHAT MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY I AM EATING ALL THE THINGS WITH MAGNESIUM IN THEM.
(The foot does seem to be cramping less during practice... but that could just be the results of, y'know, practice.)
So. Like I said, not much to report. Just stuff. More stuff tomorrow if we're lucky.
walking around on a Monday afternoon (now with more writing)
I would like to get to the point where I am no longer patting myself on my back just for getting the day's work done. I feel like "puts in the hours writing" is a bare minimum to call myself a writer, much as "has four wheels and an engine" is the bare minimum for calling something a car. But years of painful experience tells me that it's not a given, so: Today was a good day. I put in the hours writing. This week is off to a good start.
I can tell you this about procrastination: It's not fun. Knowing that I've got a writing task to get to, and yet doing anything other than starting on that task, is a weird sort of self-administered torture that makes absolutely no sense at all. So there was a sense of relief today when, rather than doing the avoidance dance for hours on end, I just said to myself, Enough of this crap, clocked in on my timesheet, and got to work on the next task.
By contrast, my four-hour Puzzle Pirates session at the Rayback on Saturday was blissful because I had done my Friday work and had no reason to feel guilty. I had earned my self-indulgence.
It's really, really silly how much it's in my own power to reduce my own stress and increase my own happiness, and how nevertheless I so often don't take the steps to do it.
Speaking of steps (she segued masterfully), I did a lot of walking today. Mondays I take the Volt on my various errands and charge it, which means a lot of walking between whatever charging station I use and whatever errands I have. Today's errands were: 1. While charging the car at the Village on the Peaks station, my weekly Cafe of Life appointment, lunch at Leenie's Cafe (oyster remoulade omelet, grits, biscuit, and coffee while accomplishing some of the aforementioned writing tasks), and groceries; 2. while using the plug that a small business owner in Gunbarrel very kindly makes available to the public via plugshare.com, New Recruit Night at Finkel & Garf. (There will be another on Wedensday at Left Hand Brewing, so if you missed it tonight and you're interested in learning more about roller derby in Boulder County, put that on your calendar.) My knee appears to be all better, or if not all better then as close as makes no nevermind; it got tight and sore from all the walking more quickly than the other knee did, but no more than that. I think I'm in good shape for tomorrow's practice.
I passed linden trees in Longmont that were already in bloom and smelling gorgeously sweet. Not sure why the ones at home aren't blooming yet, but it can't be long now. The two or three weeks of high summer when that scent is constantly wafting in our bedroom window are glorious.
this fictionette will not get a delay of game penalty
- 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.)