“Ladies. Has it ever occurred to you that fairy tales aren't easy on the feet?”
Kelly Link

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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

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

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

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

I can pin today's wastage on two things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover art photo by ME!
oh hey i get it now ha ha ha *sob*
Wed 2017-05-24 00:58:16 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Or, Why Nicolejleboeuf.com Went Dark Over the Weekend.

Chapter 1: We Are Careful

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

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

So far, so good.

Chapter 2: We Register For Worldcon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 3: Time Waits For No One

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

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

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

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

Chapter 4: IP Help Desks Wait Forever

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

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

The moral of the story is...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course I'm pleased!

Cover art attributions: School bus photo by Die4kids (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons; wine glasses photo by Agnali (CC0/Public Domain) via Pixabay.com
this fictionette is out of breath and freshly full of bruises
Wed 2017-05-10 01:30:09 (single post)
  • 1,078 wds. long

I had hoped to have last week's Friday Fictionette done early, gloriously finished and filed under "Scheduled Release" by the time I boarded my plane out of Denver. When this did not happen, I thought I might be able to finish it piecemeal over Thursday and Friday, despite all the activity and exhaustion inherent in attending a roller derby tournament. This also did not happen.

Thus, I present to you, four days late and entirely out of breath, "Preventable Dudes" (ebook, audiobook) the Friday Fictionette for May 5, 2017. (I think the ebooks all say May 4. I will fix it tomorrow.)

Sunday was another two-days-in-one day. We got up, checked out of the hotel, caught a taxi to the events venue, and played our final game at 12:30 p.m. PDT. That was Sunday Mark 1. Sunday Mark 2 began immediately after our game, when we rushed over to the airport and proceeded to exist in transit until about 1:30 a.m. MDT. Whee?

Monday did not exist. Sshh. I'm not listening.

So. About that tournament! We did not, in fact, win any of our games. But if the win-or-lose aspect of the game is all a body cares about, that body ain't nobody who knows derby. There was a lot going on, a lot to learn from, and a lot to be proud of in how we played. Those were tough teams we were up against, and we got our full allotment of derby out of every jam.

If you missed the livestream, or even if you didn't, you can watch the archived footage here. (Links go to YouTube. Note that the audio doesn't start up for a few seconds. Be patient.)

I am putting those links there as much for my own convenience as for anything--if I am very diligent, I'll find time to review the footage myself between now and our next team practice.

The full archives, covering the entire tournament with its multiple sets of tournament brackets (women's A teams and B teams, men's league, and junior derby) as well as the expo and MVP bouts (congratulations to our own CatastroPhoebe for being awarded the MVP spot for our team, and for delivering her signature big hits in the Women's MVP bout versus Team USA!), are housed here; click on the playlist icon in the upper left of the 2017 video frame in order to pick out the game you're interested in viewing.

We'll be doing it all over again, only more locally, in less than a month, when Besterns 2017 gets underway. We've got a lot of work to do. Our first game will be a rematch against Jet City, who were the #1 seed in our D2 playoffs bracket last year and the only team we lost to during that weekend. So it's kind of a big deal.

greetings from the wrong side of I-5
Thu 2017-05-04 23:50:52 (single post)

Somehow we fit two whole days into today. There was the first day, the one spent almost entirely on airplanes and in airports. Then there was the second day, the one spent A. in a hotel in Eugene on the unfashionable side of I-5, and B. in the Lane Events Center watching one of our future opponents play the tournament host league in a private, non-tournament, sanctioned bout, and C. in taxi cabs on our way to A. or B.

Then, on top of all that, we managed to stuff an evening's date in, like a scrumptious dessert after a fantastic but carbs-heavy dinner that honestly didn't leave us any room for dessert, so we knew we were going to be painfully overfull afterward, but that dessert looked so good and you gotta live a little, right? Which is to say, after the ECRG v. Pirate City bout, we walked about a mile downtown to have pizza at Sizzle Pie and ice cream at Red Wagon Creamery. After that, one more taxi ride got us back to the hotel in time to say goodnight to that handful of teammates who will be staying down the hall from us.

Anyway, I'm a little tired.

See you tomorrow when this stream goes live!

the intertubes are for watching roller derby
Thu 2017-05-04 00:24:03 (single post)

I am in the throes of last-minute travel preparation, but I'm pausing all that RIGHT NOW to inform y'all of how you can watch the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" skate at The Big O this weekend without leaving the comfort of your home nor yet, depending on how you do livestreaming, your bed:

That URL is http://ecrg.com/bigo/live/, which is basically a frame for https://wftda.tv/big-o/.

Notice that there will be three livestreams, each corresponding to one of the three tracks upon which derby will be happening. Our games will be as follows:

  • Fri. May 5 @ 12:30 pm PST, Track 2, vs. 2x4 (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Sat. May 6 @ 4:00 pm PST, Track 3, vs. Pirate City (Auckland, New Zealand)
  • Sun. May 7 @ 12:30 pm PST, Track 2, vs. Sydney (Sydney, Australia)

The full schedule for all three days is here.

Which isn't to say we wouldn't totally appreciate y'all coming to event in person! Big hugs for YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE

OK, I gotta get back to it. Will probably find time to blog from Eugene tomorrow, so, we'll chat then.

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.

Cover art incorporates
one catch-up day equals several days moving forward into the kind of future that requires sunglasses
Tue 2017-04-25 17:58:50 (single post)
  • 1,129 wds. long

It's catch-up day! The Friday Fictionette for April 21 is out at last, rejoicing in the title "In Your Lifetime" (Patron only links to ebook and audiobook; links for everybody to excerpt on Wattpad). It's a coming-of-age story--well, it's a coming-of-age scene, anyway--in which the legendary monsters are just the regular schmucks of the world, and the humans are the legendary monsters. One human, anyway. Nobody likes that guy. He's a jerk.

Meanwhile, the Fictionette Artifacts for January will hit the mail tomorrow. Finally. I have at last got to a point where I can just chip at that backlog bit by bit every day until we're all caught up, just in time to send out the Fictionette Artifacts for April. I'm using a delightfully parchment-like gray stationery for January, which was a great idea right up until I realized that the correction tape on my brand-new typewriter ribbon is white. Thankfully it's not quite as tacky-looking as I feared. (The surprise inside is not paid product placement, I swear. I'm just that excited to have fresh supplies of brand-new typewriter ribbon.)

I've logged all the submission acknowledgments and responses that were pending for pretty much a whole month. This puts me at the uncomfortable status of Slush Zero--I got nothing out on market at this time. But that's OK! Because today was a successful catch-up day, the rest of the week can be oriented more toward going forward. For instance: My writing group came through with some great feedback on "Caroline's Wake" that I think pinpointed where I was inadvertently diluting the characters' stakes, and I know how to fix it. Well, I've identified a fix I'm definitely implementing, anyway. On rereading it I may find other places to fine-tune things based on Sunday's discussion. I am utterly jazzed to get this done and send the story out all hopeful to its next date with fate!

I continue to experience angst over why this timesheet-and-checkbox thing isn't actually working. But today I have Taken Action. A small action. Small corrections are sometimes the best correction, in life as in roller derby. ANYWAY, I changed out the timesheet template to make it more generic, with a First Session given over to the gotta-dos and a Second Session for fiction and submissions. And I've got this idea that if I create tomorrow's template tonight, filling it out with tomorrow's task list before I go to bed, I'll be more likely to wake up on time ready and eager to Do All The Things. The key is in having those Things clearly identified. If I wake up feeling like the day is full of a Vague Yet Menacing Too-Muchness of Things, I'm liable to panic and flee back into the safety of REM sleep. And we can't be having with that, because...

That's it! No more trying to get stuff done after derby, not even "just a little bit." Come 6:00 PM, the work day is over. I want to come home from practice with nothing to do but relax, play, and put myself to bed in good order. Suiting thought to deed, or deed to thought, whichever order one says that in--I lined today up such that even my blogging would happen before practice tonight. And lo, it was done, it is being done, and it is good. It will be good. It'll be so good tonight around 10:00 PM. We are talking beer and post-derby dinner and self-indulgent soak in the tub and probably a couple hours of Puzzle Pirates. Yes, all at once. What do you think wireless keyboards and mice are for?

sponsor a skater for earth day
Sat 2017-04-22 00:25:59 (single post)

My roller derby league is having an Earth Day event where we skate a large portion of the distance from Boulder to Denver, picking up trash as we go. We put the Fun in Community Service Fun! And you can sponsor us as we do it, supporting roller derby in Boulder County thereby. Here is the link to the event and to the funding page. If you go to the event page right now, you will see that most of the individual skaters have specific sponsors. A few still don't. If you feel so moved, help us fill in the blanks! (I think we will all report back how many miles we wound up skating, and then sponsors donate an amount of dollars per mile. $1-$5 is the suggested range.)

Meanwhile, our Bombshells will be traveling to Colorado Springs to take on the Pikes Peak Derby Dames--here's that event page. Since I'll be skating in the Earth Day event, I probably won't make it down there myself, so please go down there for me and cheer 'em on!

The Friday Fictionette will be late again FOR NO GOOD REASON. I expect it'll see the light of day over the weekend. Hang in there.

we pause for health and wellness (also sleep)
Sat 2017-04-15 01:26:47 (single post)

So the Friday Fictionette for April 14 will be out on April 15 instead, which is practically on time considering the last few months. And yes, I know what I said about how promising a due date means I'll miss that due date, but this time it's a sure thing. I've got the text finalized and the audiobook recorded; all I need to do is the production stuff. Create the cover art, export to pdf and ebook, that stuff. Easy stuff. Heck, I'd have it done tonight (this morning) except it's past 1:00 AM and I still have a bunch of other things I have to get done. Like, basic wellness and self-care. Brushing my teeth and doing push-ups and taking my blood pressure and spending my daily 20 minutes on the Posture Right. Like you do.

The other reason I'm pretty confident in a delay of less than 24 hours is, unlike last weekend, which was Bout Weekend, this weekend features an almost entirely unscheduled Saturday. I say "almost" because tonight I discovered that the reason I couldn't get the Volt to charge was there's a bent pin in the port, and so I'll need to take the car back to Green Eyed Motors for service. I do not expect this to be a terrible chore; the folks there are great, and they share a building with a very pleasant coffee shop. I expect I'll get some work done on both the fictionette and the weekend YPP blockade round-up while I'm there.

Speaking of bout weekend, everything went well! I wound up skating in both bout with energy to spare, so I guess I've finally gotten my endurance back up to pre-injury levels. As far as I know, no one got hurt, just the usual sore muscles and bruises that you expect from a derby engagement. (Very pretty bruises!)The visiting team were all just fantastic people, both on and off the track. A bunch of them came out to the afterparty despite some of them having an early plane to catch. I spent most the evening chatting with one of their MVP jammers. And BCB won both bouts (A team game, B teams game)! Which was not a sure thing at all, so we're all very proud of ourselves.

Next games on our schedule: Our Bombshells go to Colorado Springs on April 22 to play against the Pikes Peak Derby Dames, and our All Stars go to Eugene, Oregon the first weekend in May to participate in The Big O. Rosters have not yet been set for any of those four games. Will let y'all know whether/when I'm skating.

ARGH it's late. 'Til tomorrow.

Two mirlitons which I have set aside to sprout, because of course I want to grow them. Will probably have to pot them indoors as not enough summer will remain by the time they are ready.
brief interlude with mirlitons
Wed 2017-04-12 23:40:58 (single post)
  • 1,083 wds. long

Hi! I have a recipe for you today. Or, rather, I have a food experience which you may, if you wish, convert into a recipe of your very own. Basically, it starts with mirlitons.

I have gone mirliton-crazy as only a homesick New Orleanian can go. My grandmother used to bring a shrimp-and-mirliton casserole to family holiday gatherings; unil this year, that was the only mirliton I'd ever consumed. Recently I'd noticed that Asian Food Market has a produce slot that, despite containing bags of snow peas, was labeled "chayote" (that's what they call mirlitons round here). I started keeping my eyes on that slot. Never having handled an actual mirliton before, I wasn't 100% sure what I was looking for. Pictures on the internet helped, but I still wound up having exchanges like this one with the proprietor:

"Chayote?"
"No, bitter melon."
"Oh.

Earlier this year, hallelujah! there they were. I grabbed an armful and brought them to check-out.

"You going to make soup?"
"No, casserole."
"It's very good in soup with chicken. You should try it."

One day I will. So far, I have mostly just casseroled it up. I have made shrimp-mirliton casserole, vegan mirliton casserole, and vegan-and-gluten-free mirliton casserole (using gluten-free panko instead of breadcrumbs or saltines). I have briefly looked at a recipe for mirliton pickles and decided I wasn't quite ready to process 18 mirlitons in a single afternoon.

Today I had mirliton cheeseburger mac.

  1. Brown 1 lb. ground beef with a chopped-up half onion. Ground beef courtesy Boulder Beef, who are not only local but part of my roller derby family. I also bought a beef tongue from them a few weeks ago--another cooking first for me--and made this fantastic tomato stew with it. This was good timing, because the very next day I was mildly sick, and the beef tongue stew turned out to be the platonic ideal of sick day comfort food.

  2. Add two small chopped-up mirlitons. Before the chopping-up there are other preliminaries. Boil for about an hour in crab boil seasonings, let cool, cut in half lengthwise, scrape out the seed, peel the halves. Then chop. Try not to chop off the tip of your thumb, by the way. Pro-tip. Which I am stating for no reason whatsoever. Don't look at my thumbnail. Move along.

  3. Add parsley. Everything is better with parsley. I had some in the fridge doing nothing with its life. I chopped it up and stirred it in. If you are the opposite of me, you probably hate parsley and think everything is better with cilantro. In that case, add cilantro. You do you, is what I'm saying.

  4. Rethink everything. I had some idea this would be a casserole, because mirliton = casserole. But chopped-up mirliton doesn't just turn into mushy casserole matrix by itself. It needs a food processor (which I don't have) or at least a manual ricer (which I do). I'd already tossed it into the beef and onion mixture, so the ricer wasn't happening. The mirliton was chunks. Small chunks, but solid. I could eat the mixture with a spoon, but that seemed lacking in ambition.

  5. Decide: Am not up to dealing with pie crust. Which is a shame, because this would make an excellent shepherd's pie. Only there's no potato in the house either.

  6. Put it in mac & cheese. Basically, do like that "Pasta with Sausage" recipe that Debra Doyle described as "what Hamburger Helper wants to be after it grows up and goes to a good college." Start with Annie's Mac & Cheese (I used the shells and Wisconsin cheddar variety). Pour about a half cup heavy cream over about two cups of the beef-onion-mirliton mixture. Stir in Annie's cheese powder. Shred in some maple smoked cheddar that happened to be in the fridge. Add spices: Black pepper, garlic salt, Cajun Land table seasoning, alder smoked salt, fresh grated nutmeg. Definitely do the cognac thing. Simmer to thicken a bit. Stir in cooked pasta shells. Crumble up and stir in the last of that homemade chevre-style cheese we made after going to the Art of Cheese workshop.

  7. Eat too much. Leave no leftovers. Take no prisoners. Fight off food coma.

I've still got another cup and a half of the beef-onion-mirliton mixture. WANNA DO IT AGAIN. Maybe Friday. This is not a meal for eating before roller derby practice, at least not until I can find the self-restraint necessary to eat a reasonable rather than gluttonous portion.

PS. The remaining bits of April 7 Friday Fictionette are up now: audiobook and excerpts (here and at Patreon and at Wattpad). The [ebooks] have been reuploaded because I couldn't refrain from making a couple more edits during the audiobook reading. So there you go.

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