“The Internet is 55% porn, and 45% writers.”
Chuck Wendig

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Food goes in here.
the more skating but also more eating take-out diet
Thu 2020-05-14 18:18:22 (single post)

My roller derby league is challenging its members to skate an ULTRAMARATHON IN MAY. There are sponsors, there will be prizes, there is certainly competition. And I can tell you right now, I am not likely to complete even Tier 1. I'll keep track of my miles, but I have pretty much zero ambition about it.

But now I'm curious. I have been doing a fair amount of street skating recently (if somewhat less over the past couple weeks since it's been raining off and on). How much of it am I doing? At the rate I'm doing it, how long will take me to accumulate 26.2 miles of skating?

What if all the skating I was doing was to pick up take-out meals?

(Could I stop using GrubHub entirely? There are so many reasons.)

Could I SKATE A TAKE-OUT MARATHON?

Last week Tuesday, the day that I and my computer received a visit from that onsite tech who was a total tool, I got it in my head to skate to My Ramen & Izakaya. I began placing the order online on the backup laptop while the tech finished up with my Dell Inspiron and prepared to leave. I hadn't quite finished placing the order when the computer stalled out in its attempt to load Windows. While the tech yelled at Dispatch over the phone, I stared longingly at the computer screen. Then I put on my gear and rolled around the house gathering facemask, bluetooth headphones, and wallet. The instant the tech left, I hit SUBMIT on my take-out order and rolled the heck out of there. I figured, by now, between the tech visit gone wrong and the exercise I was currently getting, I would deserve my tantanmen ramen and Japanese pancakes. And yes, I did deserve those tasty treats, even if I probably shouldn't have eaten them all in one sitting. I went to bed painfully full but very happy. Or, at least, considering the loss of the use of my good laptop, more happy than I would have been otherwise.

Distance skated: 1.58 miles.

That worked out so well, I thought I'd do it again yesterday. Only this time I was in the mood for Buddha Thai. John was game--I could put him down for medium-spicy tofu pad thai any old evening. Me, I got the drunken noodles with seafood combo. I skated there mostly along the streets, taking advantage of bike lanes and multi-use sidewalks. At the restaurant, I took off my wrist guards and donned the disposable gloves that the restaurant had made available on a table outside the door. I put the entrees into my old Rock Boat soft-side thermal tote and poured the Thai iced tea into my old Einstein Bros. to-go mug with lid. Then there was a minimal amount of cross-stepping across a corner of lawn after skating over to the nearest trash receptacle to dispose of the gloves and the plastic cup and straw. Then, back home to stuff myself silly!

Distance skated: 1.20 miles.

At this rate, I will probably not skate a take-out marathon in May. But if I do this instead of ordering delivery more often, I will certainly be getting good exercise to go along with my tasty food!

All that rolling around and squatting down to pick up stuff was a surprisingly effective core-strength workout.
a very small portion of north Boulder is now roughly twelve gallons cleaner, and I am tired
Wed 2020-04-22 19:43:30 (single post)

It's Earth Day, so my skate-starved derby friends and I rolled around our individual neighborhoods (separately) picking up trash and taking selfies promoting our league. Here's a picture of me picking up trash in my skates and BCB tank top. I kind of suck at selfies, but my camera has a timer function, so it all worked out OK. Speaking of which, the amount of times I got the shot all set up and then pressed the power-off button instead of the take-a-picture button doesn't bear calculating.

I felt all self-conscious about it--about the picking up of a more or less symbolic amount of trash as well as about attempting to selfie myself doing so--it felt like I was obviously just showing off--but after two bicyclists on 30th Street went by calling out, "Thank you for doing that!" I felt a little better about the whole exercise.

People wave to each other a lot more when they're wearing face-masks because the usual smile-and-nod routine is harder to see. Every time someone waved at me, I waved back and yelled "Happy Earth Day!" But given my mask it might have sounded like "Happy birthday," which would only be accurate in case of pure coincidence or if I were talking to myself and it was tomorrow.

(Forty-four, in case you're wondering. And I'm proud of every single one of 'em.)

As I did some years ago, I ordered myself a new fountain pen for a birthday treat. One of these. I've never owned a retractable fountain pen before, and these are very pretty. I have no idea when it'll arrive, though. Goulet's building is temporarily shuttered for the COVID-19 pandemic. My pen won't ship until there's someone there to process the order and ship it. That's all right. By the time it arrives, it'll be a delightful surprise.

The rest of the news, in brief: Today was another good writing day. It's been a week full of 'em. Also I am up to 6 granny squares for the afghan: two large, four small, all incredibly gaudy. Dinner tonight was courtesy of My Ramen & Izakaya, who are still operating through the pandemic for takeout and delivery. (Delivery was courtesy GrubHub.) I ordered before I left for my Earth Day trash skate, and when I got home, there was my food waiting on the chair outside my door. And it was so, so good.

And now I am full and tired. Good night!

a day in the life under the new normal
Mon 2020-03-23 18:42:44 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

When it's been more than a month since my last blog post, writing a new one seems daunting. I feel irrationally obligated to include Every Single Thing That's Happened Since Then, and because that's obviously not feasible nor even possible, the tendency is to just not. And then another day goes by, a day full of More Things to Blog, and the endless spiral descends further.

So today I'm just going to say Hi! and more or less report on the doings of the day.

Today I woke up in the office, which has become my bedroom since coming home from the Berthoud Inn on March 16. That weekend, I'd gone out to a couple bars (in Berthoud), and John had hosted his annual gaming miniconvention (which was why I was holed up in Berthoud), so we've been sorta quasi-isolating ourselves from each other since then to keep what social exposure we'd had as much to ourselves as possible. We joke that the boundary between his space and my space runs right down the center of the kitchen table, where we sit on opposite sides in the evenings to play Spiral Knights. But of course we both use the kitchen. We even cook together sometimes; we made pad thai together Saturday night, for example. So there's only so much we can do. But we're doing it.

First thing I did upon waking up was call to cancel today's appointment at Cafe of Life and tomorrow's at North Boulder Physical Therapy. I guess I'd been kidding myself until recently, or just not thinking about it, but I thought about it over the weekend and realized that these, too, were non-essential as far as medical appointments go. I have my homework, I have my exercises, I can keep myself from losing ground on what both professionals constantly remind me are marathons rather than sprints. It's fine. We'll reconnect after the curve flattens out somewhat.

So then I made myself tea and got to work. Work looked a lot like work on any weekday. Morning Pages followed by breakfast, tooth-brushing, pill-taking, and catching up on news of the day. Freewriting to a prompt. Work on this week's Friday Fictionette offering (have I mentioned my release schedule is back to normal? Yeah! I done caught up). Work on the next very belated Fictionette Artifact for my exceedingly patient $5/month subscribers (obviously still catching up on that). Break for lunch and some admin duties. Then a solid session of Submission Procedures, because it's Monday. Logged the rejection letters my poetry and fiction got over the past week. Resubmitted my latest flash fiction piece. Did a final proofread on my story in the Community of Magic Pens anthology (which I will talk about a whole bunch tomorrow, so stay tuned).

It is a bit unsettling how very little my work and social routine have changed under pandemic lock-down. Under normal circumstances, I can quite easily go days without seeing anyone but my husband and my roller derby teammates. I'm seeing more of John since he's working from home every day rather than some days; I'm seeing my derby friends online for virtual workouts rather than in person for practice. That's pretty much all that's different; otherwise, it's life as usual for this hermit. And, well, wow. I already identified as an introvert, but I guess I didn't realize how much of an introvert I was until I realized how little this sort of social isolation bothers me--and how much social isolation I was already performing by choice before it became the medically necessary and socially responsible thing to do. I feel like maybe I should be a little bothered by that. But I'm not, not really.

Both John and myself continue symptom-free. But of course I get paranoid every time I blow my nose first thing in the morning or have a small wet coughing fit shortly after a meal. Which I've done, and had, every morning and after every meal for years. Is it still hypochondria when the microbes really are out to get you?

I'm powering through the main storyline quests on 4thewords.com, the system that turns writing goals into RPG-style battles. I'm currently in the Gansu Watering Hole chapter. Before I began writing this blog post, I fired up a battle against the Red Witch: 4,000 words in 1,000 minutes. Woo! With my attack and defense stats, it's actually 3,254 words in 1,200 minutes. I have until tomorrow at 1:30 PM to make the required word count. Sounds entirely plausible; by then I should have done tomorrow's freewriting and Fictionette work. Not to mention I'll have finished this blog post.

The sun's out, it's vaguely warm, and the sidewalks have dried off since the most recent blizzard, so I went skating. I did about two miles going "around the block", which is to say, all the way to the dead end of my street, then onto the path that follows the southbound highway, turn the corner to follow the westbound highway, then hit the creek path that cuts through the neighborhood and puts me back onto my street. There was also an early detour to a neighborhood park for footwork/individual skate skill practice on the cement basketball court.

Lunch was leftover peanut stew with bacon and okra, a variation on the recipe discussed here. I'd gone to the grocery Friday--that and Boulder Food Rescue combined are the one weekly out-of-the-house errand I'm still running; food delivery to those in need is more important now than ever, and while I'm at the donor grocery, I might as well get my own groceries too--and acquired ingredients for the peanut stew, the aforementioned pad thai, and an attempt at Dragon & Phoenix. In the absence of occasional meals at restaurants, I'm cooking my favorite restaurant meals at home. I got the okra, oyster sauce, stir-fry noodles, and various happy-making snacks for me at the Asian Seafood Market on my way home; they are still open too, and they are wonderful. Neither they nor Sprouts had fresh garlic, but I've got a small supply in addition to a bunch of minced roasted garlic in a jar in the fridge. We'll get by.

And now I'm back in the office writing this blog post. John's at the kitchen table finishing up his own day's work. We'll meet up soon for another dive into the Clockworks (I just made myself Mercurial Mail and I can't wait to level it up!). And that, more or less, is the status report for Monday, March 23, 2020.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, and treat yourself well.

not that 2020 is done paying off its debt you understand
Tue 2020-01-28 23:54:16 (single post)

Hey, look, it's tomorrow, and I'm dang well writing a blog post. And I'm going to start it off with more maddeningly vague news of a celebratory nature: Today's email included two rejections (one a form and one personal) AND ONE ACCEPTANCE. That's three acceptances in a single month and I'm starting to wonder when the other shoe will drop.

Maybe it already has dropped. I mean, just for example, if you're a Rush fan--and I'm a huge one--January got off to a rocky start, to say the least. (I don't feel I can blog about Neil Peart's passing yet. Maybe not ever. It's too big and sad, and others have said anything I could have said about it much more eloquently.) And if you're a sports fan, you just got some pretty terrible news this weekend about Kobe Bryant. The year 2020 is being totally tactless about how it hands out its good and bad news, just utterly failing to read the room. "Hey, so, don't be mad, but I killed off one of your lifelong heroes. Sorry, kid. Everyone dies eventually. But, hey! I'm making sure you get a ton of stuff published! So... we still cool?"

2020: The year of Really Good Stuff and Really Bad Stuff. Just like every other year in human history, I guess. I hope others affected by the Really Bad Stuff have some Good Stuff of their own to balance things out and make the Bad Stuff easier to bear. Because 2020 owes all of us a goddamn debt, right? Let's make it pay through the nose.

So, OK. This post was supposed to focus on the Good Stuff, so let's do that.

My two big fiction sales in 2019 were reprints, and I was glad of them, but they did leave me wondering if I'd ever write any publishable prose ever again. The flurry of poetry successes isn't to be sneezed at, true! But short stories are where my heart lives, and I began to doubt whether that love was requited. Then came the sales to Daily Science Fiction and Cast of Wonders, which made me do the Happy Dance Incessant! And yet those were pieces written in 2014 and 2018, respectively. What if I just... never wrote anything good again? What if I was doomed to sub and resub the same stable of stories, either placing them or trunking them ("trunking" is filing a story away as unpublishable and not submitting it anywhere anymore), maybe reprinting a few, but never successfully finishing new publishable works again?

(I believe that cognitive behavioral therapy calls this "catastrophizing." I'm kinda prone to it, if you hadn't noticed.)

So, hey, turns out that's not the case. The story that just now today got accepted for publication was written in its entirety during the first week of January. Hm. Well. "First week" is overstating things. I'd say 90% of the drafting and all of the editing was done on deadline day, because me and responsible adult time management are hardly ever in the same room and also not on speaking terms. I stayed home from roller derby practice to finish it, which meant I finished it Under Pain of Regret--I'd have desperately regretted skipping practice and not had a story submission to show for it. But I did finish it, I did submit it, I felt good about it, and I went to bed hardly regretting the lack of skating in the previous 24 hours at all.

And now that story's been accepted, which not only makes me feel that much less guilty about skipping practice that night, but also helps to reassure me that, there, Niki, you see, you can still write new stuff and get it published! Look at you, writing and selling new stuff like a real goddamn writer and everything!

I'm also pretty pleased because one of the hardest things to do is take a story that was specifically written to a particular market's theme and then try to sell it somewhere else. I'm still kind of annoyed with myself for failing to revise that old bringing-potato-salad-to-the-cult-meeting story in time to submit it to Galactic Stew, and that theme was just "spec fic in which food is important." This theme was much more specific. You just know that the editors at all the other markets are going to be like, "Ye Gods, not another story about Kangaroos from Alpha Centauri! Rejections must be going out for the Marsupials in Space anthology. *facepalm*" (Note: My story was not about Kangaroos from Alpha Centauri. If you like the idea of a Marsupials in Space anthology, feel free to Kickstart it yourself, because I don't think it actually exists. Yet.) For this reason the Clarkesworld guidelines list "stories written for someone else's theme anthology or issue" among their hard sells. So I'm rather relieved not to have to worry about a new home for my very specifically themed story at this time.

OK, so, well, that was a heck of a lot of blog post to write about something I'm not even sharing useful details about yet. Hi. This is my brain. I hope you've enjoyed your visit. MORE LATER. Good night!

all right, 2020, you can stay
Tue 2020-01-21 23:43:43 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have a couple new pending publications to announce for the New Year!

...Wow, that sounded a lot like the way last blog post started out. Of course, last blog post was almost a month ago. Twenty days, anyway. More or less. What'd I wrap up that post with, something about how "tomorrow" I was going to share a recipe? Sheesh. Hold that thought, though.

Here's the thing. When 2019 ended, three of my outstanding submissions were in HELD PENDING FURTHER CONSIDERATION status. Which is always a hopeful thing, but more often than not ends in REJECTION, PERSONAL. I have learned to get my hopes up only so far when I receive a HOLD notice.

And then on January 11, two of those HOLDS converted into ACCEPTANCES.

I can tell you in detail about one of them: Daily Science Fiction, well-respected purveyor of exactly what it sounds like, will publish my drabble, "The Rarest of Prey", in the coming months. The estimate I was given was two to three months, but thanks to intel from acquaintances I know this may in practice mean anywhere between 10 and 90 days. So you might as well just make a visit to DSF part of your complete breakfast. Read stories, love stories, rank and comment on stories, and maybe even support the stories so that the stories continue to appear in the green and white boxes. You won't be sorry!

The other story soon to be published will in fact be a reprint, and if you follow my Friday Fictionette project, you may already have read it; it's a past month's Fictionette Freebie. It is soon to be reprinted by one of my dream markets and I am over the moon. I should be able to reveal more details soon; I just returned the contract with my signature today.

I keep visiting each story's submission status on each publisher's interface and hitting REFRESH just to reassure myself that it's really real, it absolutely happened, two of my dream markets actually sent me acceptance letters this month. Payment's small beans because the one is only 100 words long and the other's a reprint, but it's a huge deal on my Wanna-be Writer Bucket List. Thus, I am happy dance for the forseeable future.

OK. So. I promised a recipe. Turns out I did already post the mirliton casserole recipe a whiles back, so you can click that link, or you can read on for...

Multi-cooker Recovery Dal: a tale in three functions

...for when you've just got home from roller derby practice (or tryouts!) and you're hungry but also too tired and brain-fried to cook anything complicated. Multi-cookers are GREAT for this. You may be familiar with The Instapot; I have a Lux Fagor Multicooker, which is less revered the internet over but does basically the same thing. Like so:

  1. SAUTE function: 5 minutes. Couple tablespoons canola oil (or a tbl canola and a tbl mustard if you can get it); half an onion, chopped; couple cloves garlic, smashed and minced. If you have a bunch of root vegetables from last fall you're trying to use up, chop 'em up and throw them in. It'll make it more filling. I like parsnips. When onions are soft, add black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, turmeric, whole cumin. Those last three are key. Don't stint. Toss in any additional fancy peppers and salts that make you happy. If you haven't got any mustard oil, toss in some ground mustard at this time, too. (Mustard oil must be labeled EXTERNAL USE ONLY/NOT FOR CONSUMPTION in the US because of reasons. I got mine at India's Grocery around the corner here in Boulder. If it's a massage oil product, double-check that it's 100% mustard oil and not full of random other ingredients. I'm all, erucic acid, sure thing, but shea butter? Hard pass. Anyway...) Stir the spices around in the sauteeing veg until your kitchen smells wonderful (about a minute).
  2. PRESSURE/HIGH function: 15 minutes. I add 3/4 cup red lentils and 4 cups water, give it all a good stir, and then seal the lid tight and start the pressure cook function. (I watch it like a hawk for the first few minutes to make sure steam isn't escaping out the sides; I think the lid's gasket is already starting to wear out. Boo.) When the 15 minutes is up and the pot beeps at you, turn the knob from PRESSURE to STEAM, i.e. perform a pressure quick-release. We are all far too hungry to wait on the natural release method, and besides, them beans are cooked. You can serve 'em up now and devour 'em. Or, if you can bear to wait just a few minutes longer, you can do what I do, which is to poach an egg in that glorious mess, like so...
  3. SIMMER: 5 to 7 minutes. Depends on how hard you like your egg poached. Just crack that sucker in there, hopefully without any bits of shell accompanying it, put the lid back on, and start the simmer function for the desired time.

When next the timer beeps, all that remains is to ladle yourself up a bowl and just try not to burn your mouth in your impatience. Which is thoroughly understandable. It's been half an hour since you got home and you need your protein!

Bonus: Enjoy in the bathtub with a soda and/or adult beverage of choice. LOOK, I DON'T JUDGE.

A bunch of yay and also driving
Thu 2019-08-22 22:09:55 (single post)
  • 29 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 46 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hello. I have just driven through a lot of Kansas. This weekend is the War of Wheels tournament in Salina, and I'm here to cheer on the Boulder County Bombers Screaming Mimis as they compete. It's going to be a lot of fun and very exciting and I am looking forward to it but what I'm really looking forward to right now is a good night's sleep because, woo, driving through a lot of Kansas.

Currently I'm at the Ambassador Hotel and Convention Center, and it's... weird. Which I supposed I should have expected. I know better than to take the cheapest hotel Google finds me. I mean, I've seen what happens when teammates do that. They come up to you at the afterparty asking wistfully, "Does your hotel have towels? Clean ones?" But in this case, the very cheap price was tacked onto a convention center. They host conventions! How bad can they be? Also, free breakfast.

And, well, they're not sketch. They're just weird. OK, from the outside they look sketch. To start with, the signage is difficult to make out--I went up and down the block a few times before I spotted it; Google unhelpfully told me "turn left (after the Subway restaurants)" and, well, that describes the driveways of about four hotels as well as an ice cream shop (Braum's) and something that looks like a rebranded Steak & Shake (Spangles!). All I could see was a big red A on black sign presiding over a seriously depopulated parking lot in front of an extinct Irish pub. But inside, it's this huge, cavernous space, four or five levels of balconies jutting out over what's unmistakably a hotel and convention center lobby, with lots of brass banisters and foliage-topped half-walls partitioning out the wide carpeted areas containing tables and chairs and, incongruously, random toy dispensers. You know, you put in a quarter and you get out a little plastic egg with a trinket inside? Yeah. And those toy dispensers make more light than the actual interior lighting of the space, which is super dim. I mean, I described it as "cavernous" advisedly. It's like a town carved into the walls of a great big cave. Also it kind of reminds me of the Christie Lodge in Avon, that one time I stayed there, only, like I said, not as well lit, and instead of pho there's BBQ.

And the place is simply deserted, undoubtedly because there are no conventions going on at the moment (unless you count the "Welcome Baptist Church!" signs visible through the windows near the locked and unlit convention center entrance; maybe it's a convention every Sunday morning) and also because the roller derby tournament hosts reserved their special rate block with the Quality Inn on the other side of the highway. I've run into a total of... three other guests, I think. Hardly anyone seems to be staying here right now. This underground cliff-dwelling is a ghost town. Or, at least, so it seems tonight. Maybe I'll get a better sense of the hotel's current population when I go over for the complimentary breakfast in the morning.

My room is pretty basic. It has the usual assortment of hotel furniture. There is a bathtub, which puts it ahead of some hotel rooms I've stayed in. Honestly, I can't complain.

But back to the actually writing, about which, this blog.

This week has been rough in terms of productivity. I managed about half of a late-starting Monday before getting pleasantly distracted by John's playing Dicey Dungeons. (That's an excellent fun time, by the way. Totally worth whatever Steam is charging for it. I may end up buying it myself.) Then neither of us managed much sleep (and not for lack of trying), so my Tuesday turned into pretty much nothing but recovering from that sleepless night in time to be functional at derby practice. I missed my daily submissions procedures and everything.

Then Wednesday I opened up my mail and found responses to five different submissions.

That's a lot. I've just gotten used to the idea that, with my one-sub-each-workday challenge, I may well have a rejection to log more days than not. OK. Fine. But five? Five submission responses? Accumulated only over 48 hours? That's... well, that's something that only happens when you have a lot of manuscripts out on submission at once. Which isn't something I've ever had before this year.

Here's the thing. Only two of those five responses were rejections.

One of the remaining three was from the Denver Horror Collective, which just reprinted "First Breath", to square away payment details with me. The contract said X amount within Y days of publication, and, hot damn, that's exactly what happened. That's always nice. Well, I say "always," but it's not like I get to deal with the post-acceptance part of the submission process often enough for "always" to mean a lot. This was only my second sale of 2019.

The other two? Were my fourth and fifth sales of 2019. Which is to say: ACCEPTANCE LETTERS. Yay!

I may have yelped and run out into the living room shouting, "It's a two-acceptance day! Eeeeee!" And then I may have tackle-hugged my husband. If so, he took it in stride.

One of those acceptance letters was for an old poem ("Your Disembodied Friends Would Like to Remind You") that I pulled out of the archives for a serious overhaul in order to submit it to a brand new horror quarterly. The other was for a previously published story ("Lambing Season") I'd submitted for reprint to an established podcast. Both should go live later this year. As usual, that's about all I can say until things develop further. In the meantime, please enjoy imagining me doing the happy dance. Any kind of happy dance. What kind of happy dance would you do? That one will be fine.

(If you are wondering, "Fourth and fifth? What happened to the third publication?" the answer is, "Didn't I mention that I sold a poem a couple weeks ago? I sold a poem called 'At Night, the Dead' a couple weeks ago. It'll be out later this year." Again, more details later.)

So my week may have slid into a rough patch, but Wednesday's inbox goodies really perked it right up! ...just in time for it to get all chaotic again what with the solo road trip and the roller derby tournament.

Yay!

Cover art incorporates and modifies dollhouse image by Tomasz Mikołajczyk (Pixabay)
in praise of those arsonists who light fires under my butt
Tue 2019-07-02 23:58:50 (single post)
  • 921 words (if poetry, lines) long

So my roller derby league does this thing where on Mondays they post a member profile to their public Facebook page, and this week the member being profiled is me. And that feels weird. Like, one, Anxiety Brain is sure that this makes me look like the biggest ego on the planet, despite how patently ridiculous that conviction is. I mean, it's not like I thought that about anybody else; why should anyone think that about me? ("But it's true!" says Anxiety Brain. "Doubly so now that you're boosting the signal on that post. You must want everyone to think you're a total narcissist." You know what? Anxiety Brain can take a hike.) And secondly, Perfectionist Brain is all, "Why'd you give them your Patreon link? Now everyone is going to look and see just how woefully behind schedule you are!"

Well. I'm a lot less behind schedule than I was. The Friday Fictionette for June 21 went up yesterday: "Thinking Outside the Dollhouse." It's kind of what happens when you cross Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" with Cat Steven's "Wild World" and then you miniaturize the result. (Patron-locked post: ebook here, audiobook here.) And today I got a metric shit-ton done on the Friday Fictionette for June 28; I hope to produce that one tomorrow night, then have the rest of the week to get July 5 done on time. Which means the only thing I'm really, really behind on are the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons, who have been immensely understanding.

That aside, I am getting a lot done on the writing front. My week-daily submission streak continues with only one missed day since April 18. That missed day did not send me into a spiral of avoidance and despair; I got right back on the horse the next day and haven't fallen off since. So I guess we can cautiously pronounce that new work habit solidly implanted. This month I'm working on a new streak to carry simultaneously: at least 25 minutes of commercial fiction revision every weekday. It's not like that wasn't already in my list of Habitica Dailies for Monday through Friday, but it's officially no longer in my mental category of "eh, nice to have, but if I can't, that's cool--I'll just use my Stealth skill to avoid damage." Two days in: so far, so good!

Credit where credit is due: The support structure for both these endeavors comes from Guild Challenges hosted by the Habitica Guild "Ink Slingers". I won't bother linking it because you have to be logged in to see it, and if you're logged in, you can just search for that Guild by name. But, briefly, "Ink Slingers" is a Guild headed up by the fabulous, hard-working, and much-decorated writer Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition to writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy, she teaches writing classes and hosts monthly online writer dates via her Patreon. She's logged a number of years on the board of SFWA and has taken the reins as President as of yesterday. She's part of the team behind the podcast Writing Excuses. She's also an award-winning puppeteer. Somehow she still finds time to be active in various online writing communities, one of which is the aforementioned Habitica Guild.

Guilds serve as small communities within Habitica. And because those communities tend to share overall goals (like, say, "be a writer"), Guilds can create and host Challenges for their members. The Ink Slingers Guild hosts a lot of challenges, some created by MRK herself and others by enthusiastic community members. My recent successes at improving my work week can be attributed almost entirely to two Ink Slingers Guild Challenges in particular: the Rejection to Acceptance 2019 Challenge, in which participants strive to receive 100 manuscript rejections in a year, and, just now, the July Wednesday Writers Challenge, in which participants set a big goal for the month and then break it down into smaller weekly goals that will help them achieve the big goal.

The Rejection Challenge you already know about, because I've been yammering about it here for the last three months. But this is the first month I joined the Wednesday Writers' Club, despite having seen guild members reporting in and cheering each other on ever since I joined the Guild. So I set myself a goal for July of adding two stories to my stable of submission-ready manuscripts; and the weekly goal of sitting down to a 25-minute minimum story revision session every Monday through Friday. Tomorrow being Wednesday, I get to report on my progress so far, which, assuming I'm as diligent tomorrow as I have been today and yesterday, should be all smiles and thumbs up.

I've encountered people who will haughtily assert that real writers don't need tricks or brain hacks or special challenges or communities in order to write. They just write! Because they can't not! And anyone who relies on the aforementioned list of crutches shouldn't dare arrogate to themselves the lofty titles Writer or Author. Well, I can say without hesitation or exception that every encounter with such a person has been an encounter I regretted having. Such people should own the claims they are making and absent themselves from any sort of community forthwith, is what I think, because who needs that kind of attitude? Look, brain hacks can be necessary. Community can be life-saving. And I am here to tell you that a friendly peer challenge can be a game-changer.

Hence today this post expressing gratitude for one those communities whose challenges have changed my game. Thanks, y'all!

i distract you with poetry and sanctioned violence
Fri 2019-06-21 22:23:54 (single post)
  • 45 words (if poetry, lines) long

So have I posted the Friday Fictionettes that were due last week and today? No. No, I have not. They will not be appearing tonight. Fridays suck, this week has sucked, I suck. It's true. But hey! Let me distract you with the Summer Solstice 2019 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer! I think if you read the table of contents you will see a familiar name.

If you're local to the Boulder, Colorado area, I could also distract you with roller derby. We're playing the teams from Fort Collins and from Cincinnati tomorrow in a round robin tournament of full sanctioned games. $15 gets you in all day. Come check it out, it'll be a fun time! Also we owe our Cincinnati visitors just as much love as they showed us when we visited them last year. That means we need a great big noisy crowd. Don't you want to be part of a great big noisy crowd? I think you do.

If you're there, make sure to say hi--I'll be the one with the long braid, the upside-down fleur-de-lis on my leggings, and the tall hand-knit green and purple stockings that make everyone say, "Aren't you hot in those things?" (Friend, I'm hot in everything. It's a gift.) Also the great big 504 on my back and arm-bands, which might be the more significant giveaway.

My intentions at this point are to do my Saturday AINC reading tonight and be in bed by midnight. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day, what with skating in two games in the evening, helping to set up the track in the morning, and trying my darnedest to get some writing in--including on the overdue Fictionettes--in between. So I'll sign off here and get to it.

See you tomorrow or just as soon as possible thereafter!

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by Pun Kaset on Pixabay
the struggle is real (more real on some days than others)
Mon 2019-06-10 23:59:09 (single post)
  • 1,011 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK so I didn't Do All The Things on Friday. And that was disappointing. Having found a strategy that worked for three days running, it was discouraging to just fail on the fourth day. And it was a day when, supposedly, I had all the time in the world... but not, as it turns out, all the energy.

Fridays are when I bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift, and of late the bike ride's been long and the food donation on the trailer has been plentiful. By the time I get home, I'm generally on the verge of falling over. This is why the very reasonable plan I'd drawn up that morning while fresh out of bed and sipping my first mug of tea became absolutely untenable by lunchtime. So it became a matter of prioritization. I submitted a story, because I am not breaking that streak, and I produced the Friday Fictionette due on that day, because I'm going to release those on schedule from here on out no matter what. Having gotten those things done, I just forgave myself the rest of my to-do list.

(Speaking of which, the Friday Fictionette for June 7 is "Lord Alchemist's Harvest," in which magpies are both a blessing and a curse. Patrons at the $1 level can download the ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi, and/or html); Patrons at the $3 level and above also have access to the audiobook. Non-Patrons are invited to follow the feed in order to be alerted when the monthly Fictionette Freebie is released and when the Monday Muse posts go up. The Monday Muse is where I share the writing prompt associated with that week's Fictionette so y'all can play along at home, should you feel moved to do so.)

I'm still evaluating whether Doing All The Things On A Friday is simply an advanced goal toward which I am making baby steps by at least accomplishing the do-or-die goals described above, or whether I need to just give in and accept that Fridays need a shorter to-do list.

Whatever the answer, I need to give myself space to figure that out rather than constantly excoriating myself for not doing enough. It's like what I and the other trainers were saying to our brand new Phase 2 skaters tonight, "You're learning new things, and you'll make mistakes. That hasn't changed. But now, since you're entering the full contact stage of your derby training, you're going to make those mistakes while deliberately crashing into each other. It may be awkward. It will definitely be painful. Please resolve to forgive each other for that, and also to forgive yourself."

Good advice! But it's always easier to give advice than to take it, though. I'm going to have to give myself space to screw up at that, too. At taking my own advice, I mean. To forgive myself for screwing up, is the advice I'm talking about.

Real quick before I sign off, here's the running submissions and rejections totals.

Submissions: in May, 23; in June, 7; in 2019, 43.
Rejections: in May: 13, in June: 5, in 2019, 22.

78 more rejections to make 100 in 2019! Also I Did All The Things today. So there.

rejections += 1 (yay) and so do submissions
Fri 2019-04-26 23:57:37 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,285 words (if poetry, lines) long

I got a rejection letter today! That makes four of the one hundred I want to acquire in 2019, and the first in response to the avalanche of daily manuscript submissions I began sending out mid-April. It's working, it's working!

Meanwhile, Hi. I'm in a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado. Tomorrow I skate with the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" in the Melee in the Mountains tournament. Our first game, against the Chicago Outfit, will be at noon. And I am super tired and ready for bed.

It doesn't help that I just walked down to the Park 'n Ride to retrieve my car from where I left it charging at the free public charging station, only to discover when I got there that I'd left my car keys in the hotel room. So I decided the car can just stay there until tomorrow morning. I'm not unhappy that I went for the extra walk, though. Walks are nice.

But now I'm really tired. Therefore the rest of today's writing update will be super fast and super brief.

Ahem.

  • Still way behind on the Friday Fictionettes, but I got a decent nibble in just now on the one for April 19.
  • I kept up my daily submitting streak. Over lunch, I sent "First Breath," with its Colorado ski-town setting, to a Denver-centric anthology that might reprint it.
  • Over meatloaf at the Eagle Diner, I managed a brief talk-to-myself session on the current short story revision.
  • Also at the diner, I did some similarly brief freewriting, resulting in what looks like a solid "zero draft" for a brand new short story.

To be painfully honest, I have to admit to overestimating my submission streak the other day. At the time, Habitica reported a 9-day streak on that particular daily task, but it's very generous in preserving my streak so long as I use my Rogue powers of stealth to avoid damage from uncompleted dailies. Looking at the Submission Grinder, I see that today's submission brings me up to seven days of daily manuscript submissions, one each weekday from April 18-26 inclusive. Also I did one April 16. So it's not like the ongoing achievement loses any impressiveness after the correction. I'm still pretty damn pleased.

So. Today I did a Boulder Food Rescue shift, packed for a weekend trip, and drove three hours from Boulder to Eagle, and I still managed to do all my weekday writing things. That's pretty darn cool. Here's hoping I can do the same Monday despite Saturday's tournament, Sunday's drive home, and Monday's much-needed recovery activities.

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