“It's funny how just the simple act of answering a day's worth of e-mail will keep the crushing inevitability of the entropic heat death of the universe at bay for a good half hour to an hour.”
John Scalzi

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

in which real derby hits happen and kimchi gets assembled
Thu 2018-07-19 14:16:49 (single post)

Departure day dawns. It has been a morning of laundry and leftovers and last-minute printing out of things. My right hand is dyed orange from having packed up a sampling of Monday's kimchi to take home (insert "caught red-handed" jokes HERE). I've gotten my exercise walking from the Hertz rental office along Andrew Higgins Boulevard/Howard Avenue to the train station, and I've had a fantastic lunch thanks to one more visit to Cochon Butcher.

And now I'm relaxing aboard the train that'll leave New Orleans in about 20 minutes. Guess it's as good a time as any to continue the travel journal.


Sunday, July 15, 2018: When we tire of hitting pedestrians with fat-bats, we hit each other for reals

Woke up, as planned, at stupid o'clock. Got all the stuffs packed and ready. Walked out the door in search of the nearest Blue Bike hub, which I found without any trouble at St. Claude and Elysian Fields. Checked out a bike by means of the computerized interface in back, and off I went.

I hope that I will never not get that surge of delight as I pedal up the street of "WHEEEEEEE I'M BIKING! YAY!" Skates are my wings, but bikes mean freedom. They open up all of the immediate environs the way a car, with its bigness and its need for gas and to follow one-way signs and find parking, does not. On a bike, I feel like I could go anywhere.

Where I went was Daisy Dukes, a 24-hour diner on Chartres just off Canal. I had the fried oyster half-size po-boy with a cup of the gumbo. Also a coffee and an orange juice. They were hopping-busy, but they quickly found me a high-top for one right in the back.

Once I was fed and rested, I re-rented the bike and pedaled over to Hertz for my rental car. It was a black Chevy Sonic and it did what it was supposed to. It got me back to the airBnB to pick up my stuff and then it got me down into to New Orleans East and the Big Easy Rollergirls warehouse in time for the post-ROTB Hangover Mashup.

It was a good game. The score stayed fairly close right up through to halftime, after which the gap began to widen as patterns established in the first half replicated themselves in the second. Far as I could tell, a good time was had by all, and I hope I'm not just saying that because my team, the Matadors, won.

Last time I got to participate in a post-ROTB Mashup, three years ago, I was decidedly a beginner. An advanced beginner, sure, and if you saw me playing with BCB's Bombshells you might even call me an intermediate-level skater; but in a group of people I'd never skated with before, all of them from other leagues and many of them outranking me in years and skill, I was a bit of a mess. I hoped to acquit myself somewhat better this year, and I think I did. I had some good hits and some great stops, I called a lot of plays, I braced when the wall rotated, and, in the second half, I performed some decently effective dedicated offense for my jammers right off the line that I do believe helped widen our score differential.

I love feeling like I know what I'm doing. It's still kind of a new feeling for me.

To be clear, the skill level across both rosters seemed to skew high. Even the gals who said things like, "I'm sorry, I don't really know what I'm doing" right before the whistle, they did just fine. Everything felt friendly; I'm told that some years you get a certain amount of revenge hits between people from rival leagues, but there was none of that going on that I could see.

Dad came to watch, and I was super proud that he got to see how far I've come. He came to my last post-ROTB Mashup three years ago, and his main comment was an amused "You sure took a beating!" This year he sounded a little more taken aback: "There were some vicious hits out there!" I was all like, "I know. I gave some of 'em!"

(HAY HAY BCB YOU GUYZ I DID THE FOREWARD-FACING HIT THING IT WAS AWESOME. I missed a crossstep check though. My timing on that one's still kinda iffy.)

Dad's other comment was, "I don't know how you can do all that in this heat." He had a point--it was very hot in that warehouse. No surprise; it was very hot in New Orleans my whole trip. As I knelt by Dad's lawn chair to talk to him at halftime, sweat rolled down my face and torso in free-flowing rivulets. I went through a can and a half of coconut water, a couple cans of La Croix, and a whole lot of water from the Igloo cooler kindly situated between the two team benches. By the time we were done, we were all ready to throw ourselves in the pool.

The pool was at Pontchartrain Landing, the traditional site of the post-ROTB Mashup afterparty. Pontchartrain Landing is a marina and RV campground with a restaurant and bar. The pool is for residents only, but they have a running agreement with the Mashup hosts to let us use it. So we did.

For lunch, I had a "frozen alligator" daiquiri (mint and kahlua and chocolate chips) and the Salty Pig (pulled pork and fried oysters on top of toasted french bread rounds).

Eventually I got sun-dried enough to change clothes (I hadn't realized I'd need my own towel) and head home--home home, this time, the house in Metairie where I'd grown up. I let myself in and collapsed on the sofa. Dad vee-jayed his favorite live concert DVDs for us. That was about all I had enough energy left to do: be an appreciative audience. Also to eat. Dad had made chicken and andouille gumbo ("it has never come out so good!") and a neighbor brought us a bunch of boiled blue crabs (so, yes, I did get my boiled crabs fix after all).

It was a great start to my half-week at home.


Monday, July 16, 2018: The kimchi is now a tradition

My Mom lives at The Atrium, in the memory care unit. Every Monday and Wednesday, Dad picks her up and takes her for a ride in the truck. It doesn't much matter where. Just being in an automobile is enough to make her giggle. And that's about all she does anymore. She giggles, she taps her forehead slowly against the armrest, she repeats "One, two, three, four, five" (all she can remember or at least access of the rhyme that continues "Once I caught a fish alive") in a gruff and teeth-clenched voice, and she giggles some more. That was about 99.9% of her activity that I witnessed when I went along for the ride today.

I've done my mourning already. This is what is, and I'm resigned to it. But every time I visit, I'm a little shaken by how much farther the dementia has progressed. At least last visit she was able to respond to direct questions and would spontaneously say things to Dad like "I just want to be with you" and "You're so good to me."

It's strange and backwards and sad when the daughter moves into the role of comforting her father. Parents are mythically big and invulnerable and all-powerful. Even when we're all grown up, some of us sometimes still seek out their approval and appreciation. It's always a shock to see them helpless with illness or grief. It was a shock when I was eleven and newly diagnosed with leukemia and the two of them broke down crying in front of me, and it's a shock now to see Dad having to bear this burden of care and grief. Mostly he doesn't let it show. Sometimes, though, cracks appear.

Sometimes all I can do is just give him a big hug. At least I was there to give it.

On a lighter note, while we were out driving Mom around, we stopped at the Korean grocery on Transcontinental at Vets Blvd, and I went in for kimchi ingredients. I am simply not going to get away without making kimchi during a visit home. It's inevitable. It has become tradition. I'm not fighting it anymore. And I admit it's a kind of fun role reversal to be the one directing kitchen traffic and giving Dad food prep instructions.

We did this kimchi recipe (minus the oysters, which we did not have on hand) and also that one (but with yellow squash in addition to the cucumbers). We also had some sliced, seasoned squid that I'd picked up on a whim; it was a salty, spicy treat on fresh sliced tomatoes.

Every time I make kimchi with Dad, I am surprised all over again at how easy it is, and why don't I make some more the moment I get back to Boulder? And then I never do. It probably has to do with how far I have to drive to be sure of finding Asian chives. Like that's even necessary! They have a great flavor, but so do scallions and even leeks. So! No excuses this time.

Oh and hey--lunch was at Mr. Ed's. Not the one on Live Oak I used to bike to for muffulettas back in high school. They have multiple locations these days. This was their fish house and oyster bar on 21st Street, couple blocks over from Andrea's (which I did not have occasion to visit, more's the pity). They still serve that amazing turtle soup, but I didn't order it this time. I was distracted by oysters and other delicious things. That's kind of how most of this trip went, really: "Something blah-blah yadda-yadda OH HEY OYSTERS!"


Food Talley for Sunday and Monday:

  • 2018-07-15, 07:15 - fried oyster half po-boy, gumbo (Daisy Dukes French Quarter)
  • 2018-07-15, 14:00 - Salty Pig: fried oyster and pulled pork on french bread (Pontchartrain Landing)
  • 2018-07-15, 17:30 - chicken and andouille sausage gumbo with boiled blue crab appetizer (home: Dad's gumbo, a neighbor's seafood acquisition)
  • 2018-07-16, 12:15 - oysters rockefeller and bienville, softshell crab almondine with Meunière sauce (Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House)
  • 2018-07-16, 18:00 - fresh sliced tomatoes dressed with Korean seasoned squid (home: tomatoes from Dad's friend's garden, squid from Oriental Market)

What? No. The kimchi has not been eaten yet at this time. We're letting it ferment overnight. And the squash and cucumber are busy mingling with the seasonings in the fridge. Don't worry, we'll be tasting it tomorrow.

after a small interruption we continue with our tale
Wed 2018-07-18 22:54:28 (single post)
  • 3,843 wds. long

Had a late night last night and didn't have the oomph left over to continue the travel journal. Late night tonight, too, but enough is enough. Skip two days, you wind up skipping three, then a whole week, then nothing gets blogged at all. So! Picking up where I left off the other night...


Friday, July 13, 2018: The train arrives in New Orleans

Well, not until 3:30 PM. Slept well, felt a lot better, got a significant amount of work done on the short story before the train arrived. Spotted wildlife from the train: wild turkeys just outside a town in Mississippi (can't recall exactly where) and a ton of egrets at Port Manchac. (Sometimes you get pelicans. Sometimes you get cormorants. Today it was mostly egrets.) Had a perfectly terrible excuse for a muffuletta for lunch. I'd forgive the substitution of the hoagie roll--I allow a lot in an out-of-town muffuletta, just so long as they get the innards right--but the microwave did horrible things to that hoagie roll, and the result was just sad.

No, wait, I misremember, the awful not-muffuletta was last night over dinner, because we were with that nice couple who got off the train in Memphis. But then I have no memory of what I had for breakfast or lunch on the train Friday. Clearly these were not memorable meals.

Had a phone conversation with Dad during which he tried very hard to get me to accept his offer of ferrying me around downtown once I got in. I don't think Dad's ever gotten comfortable with the idea of me being downtown by myself, not even after all these years. He also wanted to know why I thought I needed a rental car when he has no plans and is happy to drive me around. Which was very sweet of him and all, but, I don't know, y'all, I did not expect to still be defending bids for independence to my father at my age.

So the train arrived. I'd planned on having my luggage held at the station while I skated up to the Sugar Mill for my ROTB packet, then retrieving it and taking the streetcar to my lodgings for the night. When I found out how much that would cost me, I rearranged my plans. I would instead take the streetcar to my lodgings immediately, then skate all the way back to the Sugar Mill, then skate all the way back to the airBnB. Fine. I like skating. Let's do this.

The streetcar system is more confusing than it ought to be. The line I boarded was the 49, but you couldn't tell it from the car. The car said 03. It also said Uptown/Loyola, which, correct me if I'm wrong, has absolutely nothing to do with where it actually went, which was St. Claude and Elysian Fields. I dunno. I think I have a decent handle on navigating New Orleans, but I've never taken the streetcar with intent before. (Taking it mainly for the experience of WHEE I'M ON THE STREETCAR doesn't count.) There may be some subtleties I'm missing.

It's OK, you don't have to @ me about it. I'll figure it out as and when needed.

So that worked. Got to the house. Let myself in. Sat down in the blissful air conditioning (four blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot). Eventually got into my leggings and cut-offs. Packed my bookbag to be more lightweight for skate travel, leaving in only the things I imagined I'd want that evening.

Went out on the porch to put on my skates AND WAS IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDED BY KITTENS.

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

They were black and tabby and muted calico and tortie and gray. There were at least seven of them. They were half-grown and half-feral. Their favorite game seemed to be Who Can Get The Closest To The Human Without Getting Pet. They arranged themselves around the chair I was in, some where I could see them and some not. When I finally tore my eyes away and toe-stepped down the stoop to start my evening's journey, they scattered, then rearranged themselves proprietorially on the porch where I had been.

It was a long trip. It took me about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. Followed a pedicab most of the way down Decatur and North Peters. "You make a nice safe lane," I told the bicyclist. He suggested I hold onto the back and let him tow me; I declined, citing a need to see potentially hazardous bits of street before I rolled over them. It was a kind offer, though.

Stopped on the way at the terribly convenient Hertz on Convention Center Boulevard to reserve a rental for Sunday AM pick-up (and, incidentally, put to bed any future arguments about whether I needed a rental car; it was already rented, too bad).

After I'd done my required pre-ROTB business at the Sugar Mill, I headed the couple blocks down Andrew Higgins Boulevard toward Tchoupitoulas and Cochon Butcher. And there I not only worked some more on my short story, but I also had the muffuletta to make up for Amtrak's utter disgrace of an alleged muffuletta.

Got back to the airBnB eventually and met the neighbor lady who feeds the kittens. Sat on the porch and talked awhile. Finally went inside, geared down, changed into regular street clothes, walked to the nearby grocery for skater fuel--protein/energy bars, coconut water, fruit, that sort of thing. Came back. Started laundry. FINISHED THE SHORT STORY AND SUBMITTED IT. Promptly keeled over. The end.


Friday, July 14, 2018: Rollerbull o'clock

Woke up at 5:30 with plans to leave the house at 6:00 so as to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30. That is frickin' early. What's more depressing is how hot out it already was when I started skating back toward the Sugar Mill. When a block later I encountered another rollerbull waiting for an Uber, I gratefully accepted her invitation to share the ride.

6:30 was indeed early--too early, really, to be there, despite that this was what the welcome packet told us to do. Not much to do, and no one to talk to if you don't know anyone and are sort of awkward at getting to know people. Was saved by some skaters from Big Easy Rollergirls who recognized me and also a crew from Steel City who'd been chatting with me on Twitter the afternoon before. So now I had some people to "bull around" with, and it was fantastic.

Dad was out there waiting to get a sweaty hug from his derby daughter and watch the fun and take pictures. (He was already beside himself with amusement/shock that several of the bulls were going topless except for pasties. I imagine he will wind up telling this detail to his hunting buddies, bar pals, and other friends and family about three billion times over the remainder of the year.)

So we received the blessing of San Fermín and were released to chase down the runners and swat their butts with our toy bats. Yay. I mean, honestly, I'm there for the skating, not so much for the butt-swatting. I am not thrilled by 1. dudes who say things along the lines of "ooh, yeah baby, hit me harder" (ew) 2. mostly dudes but some women too who holler after you that you "hit like a girl" or "got nothing" or other stupid challenges to my imagined machismo (this is not where my machismo lives, sorry, thanks for playing, try me again when I'm parallel parking or considering spicy food) 3. runners of all genders who insist that their friend "needs a beating" (bull does not take request, bull hits request-er instead). Or, in the case of the dude accosting me after the run while I was trying to talk to my Dad, dudes who come and put their hands/arms around my shoulders or on my back or other places without my consent and I have to extricate myself firmly but, alas, without breaking their gropey-ass appendages because violence is frowned upon by event organizers.

Basically I'm in it for the excuse to skate multiple laps around the course and then skate-dance to whatever the band is playing at the afterparty.

Eventually I peeled off, texted my goodbyes to the Steel City gals, and made my way into the Quarter. Greeted runners doing the same with "Great run this morning! Did y'all have fun too?" Stood for a selfie request with a couple tourists who said they'd had a blast.

Discovered that it's harder than I'd imagined to find a bar open before 11:00 AM on a Saturday. Found my way to Johnny White's for a beer and a photo uploading session. A party of runners descended on the place while I was thus occupied and took over the jukebox. When I finally got up to leave, I said hi and great run and all that, and one of them said, "We had a running bet whether you were deaf and maybe blind, that you were able to just keep working on your computer with us there." OK, I guess.

Now it was past 11:00 and all sorts of lunch options opened up. Too many options. I was too tired for decisions. So I fell back on my usual, which is the French Market Restaurant--you know, that place on Decatur Street with the green-and-white awnings and the constant tantalizing smell of boiled seafood wafting out the door. What I really wanted was boiled blue crab--I'd been assured they were in season--but they didn't have them. So I had a pasta dish instead. It was amazing. It involved spaghetti in a generous crawfish cream sauce topped by a central tower consisting of two slabs of fried eggplant and one damn fine crab cake. So that was fantastic.

I just want to point out that I have never yet been told anywhere in the New Orleans area, "You can't come in here with those skates on." Every single place I've been, restaurant or bar or hotel or Hertz rental office, they've been all, "Roll on in! Just be careful, OK?" The French Market Restaurant is no exception, but its restrooms are up a flight of stairs. Not a problem. Derby teaches the proper use of toe stops. So I'm toe-stopping my way up the stairs, and someone on her way down is all, "You are so talented," and I'm all, "Not talent, just good training." I mean, it beats the exchange several years ago on a post-ROTB bar crawl when the whole way up the stairs at Saints & Sinners someone kept repeating "Girl, you are gonna fall and break your leg." Like, why? Why would you say that? Having said it, why would you say it again?

Made it to the house. Tired. Full stomach. Clothes can't come off fast enough. Brief shower. Crawled into bed. Out like a light and stayed that way for about five hours.

Ventured out on the street again after dark--in shoes this time, thank you--looking for dinner and maybe if I was lucky a little wifi. The problem with Frenchmen Street is, mostly what you'll find are rockin' clubs with awesome shows and a one or two drink minimum and huge crowds. Would have been great if that was what I was in the mood for. If I'm in the mood, it's a treat just walking down the street and hearing the music coming out every door. But I just didn't have the energy for it.

Found my way instead into a courtyard and up some stairs and onto a rooftop patio with a pop-up called Rogue Cafe. They made me some tasty nachos. Thus for food. Then I remembered Envie at Barracks and Decatur, and settled in for coffee and an omelet and a bit of internet errand-running. This included making myself a Blue Bikes account. I'd noticed the rental hub on Frenchman Street at Washington Square and liked the idea of biking rather than skating to the Hertz office the next morning.

Stayed up a little late to get my Sunday morning AINC reading done--I'd already missed the Saturday shows, so I didn't want to miss Sunday too. Set my alarm for 6:15 and went to bed.


Food Tally for Friday and Saturday

It occurs to me I should be keeping track of what-got-et-when. I mean, we're now in the ACTUALLY IN NEW ORLEANS part of the travel journal. Food is going to be important. Thus:

The pasta takes the prize in that list with the muffuletta coming in a close second.

hey guess where i'm calling from
Thu 2018-07-12 20:19:10 (single post)

So I'm on a train. Hi. There's a wifi hotspot in the sleeper car that my laptop has succeeded at connecting to, so, I'm on the internet while on a train. It's kind of mind-blowing.

I'm on my way to New Orleans for San Fermín weekend. I'm gonna be a rollerbull Saturday morning, and then Sunday I'm going to be skating in the traditional Hangover Mash-up on, it turns out, Team Matador. In the white jerseys. You can come watch! There will also be some random skating around the French Quarter on Saturday. It's going to be a lot of fun.

But getting ready to get on that train meant that the entire week got kicked into in High-Stress Pre-Travel Triage Mode, right up until I got to Denver Union Station. So today was really the first time this week I got any serious writing done.

And I've got a Patreon offering due tomorrow, and I have a short story that needs to be submitted by midnight on the 14th. AND I'M NOT SURE WHICH MIDNIGHT. I mean, the midnight at the end of the 14th, or the midnight that kicks off the 14th? Eek?

So. Er.

Hooray for the mobile writing retreat that is a TRAIN!

(Now if only I'd managed to sleep last night and hadn't been battling a headache all day today and could have gotten more work done. But nevermind all that...)

you fall small, you fall alone, you get up as soon as it's safe or at the very least by 8:00 am
Thu 2018-07-05 23:46:45 (single post)

I'm going to keep this short because I jammed my finger pretty bad during the last jam at scrimmage tonight. I took ibuprofen almost immediately, and I clutched an ice pack the whole way home, and that helped, but nevertheless typing is a little bit of a trial right now.

(It was very stupid. I have been skating roller derby for more than six years now. I know how to fall safely. I have taught other skaters how to fall safely. "Let your wrist guards protect you," we say. "Let the hard part of your wrist guards take the impact," we say. So what do I do tonight? I fall on my face and, instead of letting my wrist guards take the impact, I land on a tripod of finger tips like I'm playing the piano or something. Go forth and do not likewise.)

So anyway.

To continue the topic of dailiness: Not so consistent this week, but then yesterday was a holiday, so I'm letting myself off the hook. Today I managed to hit every one of the writing-related items on my list, so I'm happy.

What worked today that didn't work Tuesday? Getting to work on time. Really. It's amazing how many hours are at your disposal when you hit your first task at ten instead of twelve thirty. There was still a bit of slippage, but there always is. I can absorb it if I start my day on time like a responsible working adult.

Not much of an epiphany, I admit. "There is more room in a day that starts before noon." Pretty darn obvious. But that's about the only observation of interest I have for the blog today. That's how it goes. Some days you're a genius, and some days you smack yourself on the forehead and say "I could have had a V8!"

(And sometimes you make references to pop culture moments that really date you, but you figure if you can link the appropriate video you can at least show the youngsters what the hell you're talking about, and there is a really specific thing you're thinking of, only it turns out neither YouTube nor Google have heard of that stand-up comedy bit where the guy does an impression of what it would look like if David Bryne of the Talking Heads did a V8 commercial. Look, it was right around the time that "Once In A Lifetime" was big on MTV, OK? It happened! I am not making this up! ...So you give up and just link an example of the TV advertisement itself, which is less funny but does the job.)

ok so where were we again
Mon 2018-07-02 23:34:43 (single post)

Blogging after a period of not blogging shares a problem with revising a short story after a period of not revising the short story: It's hard to pick up where I left off. It's hard to remember where I left off. At least with blogging I can say, "To hell with 'where I left off.' Where am I now?"

So. Where am I now? Here's a quick tally.

Friday Fictionettes - All caught up except for, as usual, the Fictionette Artifacts. Of those, I'm still typing up the ones for April. Thank goodness I have very patient $5-tier Patrons. But I'm up to date on the main attraction, which is to say the ebooks and audiobooks for the four Fictionettes released in June. It took me well into Week 5 to finish that fourth one, but it's out now. Here's the June round-up:

  • June 1: "Encore" (ebook, audiobook) - in which a retired magician is pestered for "just one more trick." This is the Fictionette Freebie for June 2018!
  • June 8: "The Fairy Volkswagon" (ebook, audiobook) - in which an auto repair shop takes on a strange commission.
  • June 15: "Language Barrier" (ebook, audiobook) - in which we are reduced to the Universes of our eyes and ears.
  • June 22: "To Whom It May Concern" (ebook, audiobook) - in which we leave the Guild of Couriers the same way we arrived.

You may notice I have not got links to the HTML teaser excerpt. That's because I am no longer doing those. I began doing them so that people could get enough of a taste of the sort of things I write to be able to make an informed choice about subscribing. Except I started this project almost four years ago. I've released one Fictionette Freebie per month ever since August 2014. That's a lot of material. That's certainly enough of a free sample for prospective Patrons to decide whether getting three more of them per month is sufficient entertainment value for their dollar (or three dollars if they want the audiobook). And since I seem to fall over into Lateville on a dime, I might as well make my weekly job no bigger than it has to be.

In addition to unlocking one Friday Fictionette per month at the end of the month, I'll also continue putting the Fictionette Freebies up on my blog, on 4thewords, and on my Wattpad (admittedly, my Wattpad is a bit behind the times). But instead of posting a teaser excerpt to all those places, I'll just include the complete text in the HTML portion of each Friday's Patron-locked ebook release. It'll either be that month's Freebie or it won't.

...eh, looks like I still need to do the blog, HTML-on-Patreon, and Wattpad versions of the June Freebie. IT'S COMING REAL SOON NOW, OK?

And as for those delayed Artifacts, I'll be devoting one 25-minute session of each workday until I'm all caught up again. It's a solid plan. And those 25 minutes go real far now that this Dvorak-head can almost touch-type in Qwerty again! Here in Chez LeBoeuf-Little, we celebrate the manual typewriter.

Short Story Revisions

Last week I finally got back to revisions on "Survival, After," which, because of the aforementioned dry period, meant I had to spend at least one session just rereading what I had and remembering what my next intentions were. Right now, I'm working on a new scene in which the protagonist searches for news of her brother. I don't know what I was thinking in the first place, but I had the protagonist just up and leave town without knowing their family's status, alive or dead or other. That seems... callous? I was probably thinking something like, "I've only 750 words, I think we can assume they're dead, OK?" In the expanded and rewritten version, we don't get to assume stuff like that. We gotta show it.

I can't afford to miss a day now, not if I want to submit it to Shimmer. SHIMMER IS CLOSING ITS DOORS FOREVER AND I AM INCONSOLABLE. Their last issue comes out November 2018, and they are only accepting submissions through July 14. So. I have a really hard deadline here.

Roller Derby

Well, we're practicing again. We've rented time at a skating rink several nights a week for our WFTDA level practices. Our Phases have been going to an outdoor roller hockey rink. Various other leagues have invited us to drop in with them for practices and scrimmages, many of them at discounted drop-in rates. And a neighborhood crossfit gym has donated time for my teammate, who's a regular there, to lead sessions for us.

I just went to her crossfit session tonight. It wasn't so bad! I could do all of the things, if at a reduced weight capacity compared to some of my amazing teammates. But I'm in a little bit of pain now. There were a lot of squats. Air squats, back squats, goblet squats, and of course the squat you do for proper form in throwing the medicine ball against the wall ("wall balls"). My adductors are not happy with me right now. The left is especially grumpy. And that's before we talk about how V-ups hate me (they really, really hate me). But after several weeks of only skating once a week, I needed tonight's workout.

I also really needed the post-workout outing to Ras Kassa's with a couple of teammates. I hadn't been to Ras Kassa's since they moved out of Boulder. Hell, I wasn't acutely aware that they had moved. Far as I knew, they were just gone, and I was sad. Well, no need to be sad anymore! They're right around the corner from the crossfit gym. I can see them becoming a regular post-workout ritual. And it was so good to spend extra time with my teammates! After the barn burned, a dearth of practice locations meant seeing my teammates a lot less frequently than I'm used to. That's pretty much 99% of my social life! I'm a confirmed introvert, so my needs in terms of social life are simple and few, but what few they are are needs. Our practice schedule is still much reduced, but tonight at least was pure balm on that wound, so, yay.

Dailiness

Did kinda so-so today. Let's see how tomorrow goes.

ok so here's the story of last week, ready set go
Mon 2018-06-18 23:43:14 (single post)

Last week was weird and sad and traumatic and horrible and uplifting and heartwarming and I'm going to try to tell the story of it now. I told it piece by piece in a private forum where I felt a little freer to just blurt as shit happened, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do A Real Blog Post about it until now. Honestly, I'm not sure I really have that wherewithal tonight, but now's better than later because everything gets harder with procrastination.

So. A story.

Sunday June 10th began like any other Sunday in the life of a Boulder County Bombers Travel Team member. We had practice from 10 AM to 1 PM. It was a long, slow, exhausting practice because we were in the tail end of a heat wave and the barn we practice in has no air conditioning beyond the two industrial-sized box fans at either end of the track. The coaches gave us long breaks, urged us to drink water, and passed around ice packs to hug to our chests or smack on our foreheads. But even though we took it slow, we worked hard. It was our last Sunday practice before a big away game scheduled for Saturday the 16th in Pittsburgh, a sanctioned bout that would make or break our hopes for a berth at the North America West Continental Cup. The main topic was "second pass defense." The opposing team's jammer just got out of the pack with Lead Jammer status; how do you keep them scoring as few points as possible? Answer: You get them off the track and you run them back. Repeatedly. Here's how you're gonna do it...

I went home after practice and napped hard for most of the rest of the daylight hours. So did John. Eventually we both got up. He left for the night. I found enough energy to scrounge a bite to eat and settle into a session of Spiral Knights. The Shroud of Apocrea event was on, and I wanted to farm enough Apocrean Sigils to eventually craft all three special weapons. I was this close to being able to turn my Silent Nightblade into an Obsidian Edge!

Around about 10:00 or 10:30 PM, I was in the middle of meticulously clearing the Grasping Plateau when John texted me. "Have you seen the news on Facebook about the barn?"

The first thought, the very first thought that jumped into my head was, "Oh, shit, did it burn down?"

I really wish I'd been wrong.

So on the Grasping Plateau you get stalked by a big unkillable beastie known as the Apocrean Harvester. When it catches you with its many hands, it zaps you 'til you're dead. You avoid it by using the "dash" action, which makes it lose track of you for a short while. I started hitting the keyboard shortcut for "dash" a lot so I could check Facebook without getting dead.

I found the Facebook post. I saw the pictures of flames pouring out both the barn aisle and the track area. I thought about the sportcourt we'd just bought. I realized I'd left all my gear at the barn, including my skates with the Bont boots that had come in only the month before. No one could say yet how much league or individual property was damaged, not even after the fire was put out and the building was shown to be still standing.

Eventually I gave up and shut down Spiral Knights because I couldn't even. I shut it down and curled up on the sofa and cried for a little while.

Then I put all my Habitica damage on hold, used a stempo so that my 4thewords streak wouldn't be broken, and began a dedicated reread of all the Diana Wynne Jones novels in the house just to give my brain somewhere else to live other than in the horrible, horrible world I was suddenly inhabiting in which the only certainty was that my derby world just went up in flames and all that was left was to find out how extensive the damage was.

I kept waking up through the night wondering why there was pain lodged in my mind, then remembering why, then having to read some more to in order to forget again sufficiently to fall back asleep.

The next morning--Oh, good Gods, I had to get the Volt to its regular check-up appointment and I had to do something about the Saturn completely failing to start yesterday and now there was the barn. OK. One thing at a time. The Volt went to its appointment. John and I and Avedan had breakfast. Avedan helped distract us with pictures from her trip to Iceland, paying special attention to the baby sheep. The distractions helped, but there was only so much distraction that was possible when John's cell phone screen caught my eye and, without meaning to, I read the text he'd just received from a teammate: "Everything's been destroyed." I put my head down on the table next to my biscuits and gravy and tried not to scream.

As soon as we'd reclaimed the Volt from the garage, we went up to the barn to see for ourselves.

Thanks to our teammates who'd already been there that morning, the first thing we saw was a neat line of the burnt and melted remains of skates. I could barely look. I've been told since then that one of those pairs was probably mine, and I could probably salvage the plates; a couple of my teammates did and skated on them in Pittsburgh. I wish I'd looked more closely; we haven't been allowed back since. But at the time it was too much.

Inside, everything was black with soot. Where gear had been packed away or set out to dry Sunday afternoon, there were heaps of... gunk. You could kind of make out a toe-stop here, a wheel there. Where my own gear had been, I found the remains of one boot and its insole melted to the floor. I poked around looking for my tools--they were metal, they should have survived--but nothing else recognizable was there.

The team benches, repurposed pews discarded by the church group next door back when we practiced on Weaver Park Road, were still standing. Their upholstery was destroyed, but the wood was still solid. So were the penalty benches that our head NSO, Spectre, had lovingly crafted for us. He'd also made a big rolling box to store a bunch of officials' supplies neatly in drawers and on shelves, and it still existed too. Someone had pulled it outside into the clean air. Its contents would turn out later to have sustained smoke damage, but the laptop and projector stored inside, nestled in foam, would boot up just fine as though nothing had happened.

During that walk-through, I became fascinated with what the fire had claimed and what it had left untouched. It had utterly destroyed the sportcourt we'd just bought, yet underneath the subfloor we'd all sweated and labored over at the end of 2016 looked untouched. (There is some question as to how much damage the plywood floor took from being doused with fire hoses. We have yet to really determine how viable it actually is. I remain cautiously optimistic simply because the subfloor is of a "floating" design; the plywood wouldn't have been sitting in the water for any length of time, and between the fire and the heat wave it probably dried quickly. But we will see.) The paper lanterns decorating the rafters were lying on the floor like globes of magma, their paper darkened to a rust color and yet still paper. How does paper not just go up in a flash in those conditions? The laundry basket full of helmet covers for pivots and jammers, as well as mesh pinnies for creating black-and-white team color distinctions in a hurry, was a weird egg-shape in the center of the track where the basket had melted around its contents. We cracked the egg open to find a surprising amount of undamaged helmet covers inside: enough for each of our home teams to skate in come the round robin tournament on June 23rd, and certainly enough black and gold to bring to Pittsburgh. They were singed and melted in places, but we wore them in Pittsburgh.

The back end of the barn, where the fire hadn't reached, was just as blackened, the sportcourt just as crisped and curling, but more items there were intact. Everyone was "overjoyed" to know that our plyo boxes--the wooden crates we did box jumps and depth jumps on as part of our off-skates conditioning--had survived the flyer with just a coating of soot. (I did a depth jump off one of them, just to stick my finger in Fate's eye.) The rolling whiteboard that John considered the bane of his existence--it had always managed to be in his way when he went looking for drill supplies--survived the fire too. John considered that a personal offense. He rolled it into the center of the floor and took a picture of it, to cuss it out more effectively on Facebook.

Possibly the greatest source of hope after the apparent survival of the subfloor was the seemingly untouched state of our old sportcourt, or "Old Blue" as we'd taken to calling it. When we bought the new one, we tried to sell the old one off. No one nibbled. We wound up storing it in stacks on pallets at the back of the barn aisle. Again, because the fire had been mostly at the front of the building, Old Blue, seemed to have escaped completely unscathed. We hope, with a cautious hope, to skate on it again.

There was this ball of duct tape we'd been growing since the 2016 season. Every time a skater had to use duct tape to keep their gear fastened--it happens a lot as the velcro fastenings weaken--they'd take the tape off after practice and add it to the ball. The thing had gotten to about two feet in diameter at least. Someone took a picture of it after the fire, looking like a two-foot-wide cinder, and posted it on Facebook with the caption RIP DUCT TAPE BALL. Several league members commented along the lines of, "Just put some duct tape on it, it'll be fine."

Anyway, I could go on, much in the same way I could have wandered around the burned-out barn for hours oscillating between despair and scientific fascination, but that would serve no good purpose. Let's move on to the happy stuff.

The happy stuff starts here:

Fundly: Help the Boulder County Bombers Rebuild After a Fire

Facebook Fundraiser: Raising Money to help Family/Barn Fire

And then it continues:

Impromptu Fire Damage Fundraiser for Boulder County Bombers hosted by 300 Suns Brewing

@TheDerbyApex challenges #DerbyTwitter to support BCB

And continues, and continues, and continues. The retweets/reposts/reblogs of the fundraisers across the worldwide derby community. The neighbor leagues starting impromptu fundraisers of their own. The deep discounts on replacement gear from local sponsors. The outright donations of gear by people known to us and not so known. Neighbor leagues inviting us to their practices, discounting their drop-in fees for us.

I was able to replace all my gear in time to skate Saturday in Pittsburgh. We won both our games, and the sanctioned game between the BCB All Stars and Steel City's "Steel Hurtin'" was very very close. It was the best kind of smart, strategic chess-on-wheels you could hope for. I said to John later that it was like a wizard's duel: "I'll be a mouse and hide from you." "I'll be a hawk and stoop on you." "I'll be a Boeing 747 and suck you into my jets." "I'll be a ground-to-air missile and blow you out of the sky." It was a game of each team adapting to the other's strategy as the other's strategy changed to adapt to theirs.

Steel City and their fans were absolute sweethearts in every way. The announcers repeated the story of our barn burning all night long, sending oodles of people to our merchandise table to buy shirts and drop cash in the donation jar. They sold $1 "shout-outs" as an additional fundraiser. (The skate shop that had a table set up at the bout donated a bunch of wheels!) And that's on top of just being a fantastic host league in the usual way, showing us all the hospitality and love that is the best of derby community on the track and off.

Even deeper than the need to win a game, was the simple need to play a game. To know at a gut level that despite losing our practice space (temporarily or permanently remains to be seen), we're still going to play. As our captains said during the pre-bout team meeting, "We lost a building, but we didn't lose our home. Whenever we're strong, smart, and together on the track, we are home." So we made our home in the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena for the night. We made derby happen. We're gonna make derby happen, no matter what.

Or, to put it another way, the real winner Saturday night was Team Derby.

And here we are now. This is back-to-normal week. Last week was full of mourning, post-crisis logistics, and pre-travel preparations, all of them affecting each other--I mean, when you suddenly have to replace all your gear, even if you're fortunate as I was to be able to do so without financial hardship, it's pretty much your whole day; and then there's everything else the week brought me, like late library books to return and hardware to pick up at McGuckin and no second car to do it with because of no time or energy to deal with the non-starting Saturn. Well, today I got some writing done. I also got a much-needed post-bout massage and I distributed flyers to ten different locations in support of the home team round robin tournament. And I got this blog post done.

And I installed a new battery in the Saturn all by myself, and the car started up again, first try.

One way or another, things are going to be OK.

quod erat demonstrandum etcetera
Wed 2018-06-06 00:22:10 (single post)
  • 100 wds. long

Oh hi there SURPRISE ERRAND TO GET A LEAKY TIRE PATCHED. Car, not bike, so you can see it was kind of immediate. Nevertheless, I kept my promise. Today was MUCH MORE RIGOROUS. Maybe not as many hours logged as I'd hoped, but every task on the check-list got done, so I'm calling it a success.

Also, today was relevant in terms of the new "hard stuff first, easy stuff later" theory of scheduling writing time. Only not in the usual way. I didn't get to do the hard stuff during my morning shift because, thanks to the leaky tire errand, I didn't get a morning shift. So I had to do the hard stuff shift as an afternoon shift, when it is always hard to get back to work. Plus, after the sort of morning I'd had, I really felt like I deserved to skip to my budgeted play time the moment I got home.

But no! I was good. I clocked in and began my submissions procedure session. I figured, it didn't need to be a lot. I'd just check on the status of all outstanding submissions, and then I'd take a look at a couple newly opened submissions windows and give some thought to whether I had anything vaguely ready to go that might be remotely appropriate. And it's a good thing I did! When it turned out that in fact I did have something appropriate, and that it was more than just vaguely ready to go, I revised and submitted that sucker.

It was like the manuscript submission version of tricking myself into an actual honest-to-goodness story revision session with "All right, you don't have to edit it, but at least open up the document and read the draft". Time and time again, we see amply demonstrated that A GOOD WORK ETHIC IS ITS OWN REWARD. If you can't do a lot, do a little, and be open to the possibility of that little turning into a lot after all.

(It was also a demonstration of the principle DON'T SELF-REJECT. I caught myself thinking, "They want science fiction. Is this science fiction enough? There is a unicorn in it. The space ship and the cloning might be considered a pasted-on afterthought." Then I whapped that thought with a rolled up newspaper. I told it sternly, "There is a space ship in it! And cloning! It is science fiction! Send the damn thing! It is better to send something than to not send something!" So I sent it. So there.)

Anyway, where this ties in to the "hard stuff first, easy stuff later" theory of scheduling is here: Getting the hard stuff done during the brief window of time I had open this afternoon meant that I had only the easy stuff remaining when I got home from roller derby practice. After derby is, as we know, not when the hard stuff gets done. It's not realistic to expect me to put on either my editing or marketing hat at that time and not disgrace the headgear. But even exhausted from the heat and tender from new bruises, I can manage about 500 to 750 words of freewriting. And I can at least reread the current draft of this week's Friday Fictionette, make a few line-edits, and scribble some notes toward working on the final draft tomorrow.

And I can blog. How hard is blogging, really? It is not really hard. I mean, even I can do it.

All that done, I may stay up a little late playing Spiral Knights. It is the season of the Apocrea, and I want to go farm Apocrean Sigils on the Grasping Plateau. And during the little bit of play time I budgeted this afternoon, the dang game server kept booting me before I even got to the Grasping Plateau. The random gate rotation would put me through three levels of bog-standard Clockwork Tunnels and Arenas, and then, just before it absolutely had to send me to the Grasping Plateau because it's the last level before the departure lounge and that's all you can get, wham! Lag, lag, lag, lag, logged off. WASTE OF MY TIME, GAME SERVER. I feel owed another chance at it tonight. And if that means I'm up until two aye em, so be it.

Tomorrow's Wednesday, after all. I don't have anything planned for my Wednesday evening. I'm free to time-shift my work day if I choose. That can't possibly go wrong.

i left all my adrenaline in topeka
Mon 2018-06-04 14:20:35 (single post)

Well, I'm back from Kansas. The Capital City Crushers took the wins in both of our roller derby bouts Saturday night. Both were exceedingly tight games with very close scores, and both leagues have a lot to be proud of. An additional joy was the unexpected honor of being the Crushers' choice for MVP Blocker in the Bombshells game. We all hit hard and played our hearts out. For some of our crew, it was their very first bout. Congratulations to them!

The drive there and back was pretty straightforward. I had it easy; I wasn't the driver. All I had to do was sit there and be a good passenger. Nevertheless, sitting in a car for eight hours on a hot, sunny day can be pretty tiring all by itself, so I'm moving kind of slowly today. Which is precisely why I started another Suulan battle on 4thewords. When you have to reach 3,500 words by 2:00 PM, there's only so slowly you can afford to move. Thus far today, I have...

  • written down this morning's dream (another weird and stressy dream about roller derby)
  • done a freewriting session using a Magic Realism Bot tweet as a prompt
  • posted the Monday Muse for this week's Friday Fictionette
  • and also composed its Author's Note.

And I'm in the middle of writing this blog post, as you can see.

I made some good use out of the return drive yesterday, drafting this week's Friday Fictionette right there in the car. It's a fun bit of fluff involving goblins, elves, and other mythical beings. It needs a bit more shaping and refining, of course, but it's more or less the same story it was when I first came up with it last month in response to one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge writing prompt blog posts. Which only goes to show, final drafts are easier when first drafts are actually drafts and not just babble.

(This just in: I have defeated the Suulan / that I was battling / and that required another 250 words with 10 seconds to go. / Forgive me, / the cost to fight was too high, / copy-pasting too easy, / the battle rewards too sweet to let go to waste. )

I may or may not get to the short story revision today. There's time, but I am allowing myself to consider today a recovery day, at least in part. Plus I have some household chores to catch up on after being away for the weekend.

Tomorrow will be more rigorous, I promise!

YPP Weekend Blockades, June 2-3: "Cross blades with everyone in your path!"
Sat 2018-06-02 12:35:16 (single post)

Ahoy, here's yer Saturday YPP blockade round-up post with extra sports content! Obviously by "sports" I mean roller derby. I'm compiling this information from a hotel lounge in Topeka, Kansas, where the two of the Boulder County Bombers teams, the Bombshells and the Screamin' Mimis, are preparing to bout against the Capital City Crushers (again, the roller derby league, not the basketball team) in a double-header at the Sk8away roller rink. In the area? Want to come watch? More details here!

And I should probably recap the rest of the Mayday Mayhem tournament from last weekend. As you may remember, the BCB All Stars won their bout 205-145 against Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, CO) on Friday. We went on to suffer a tight loss, 195-203, in our Saturday game versus Crossroads (Las Cruces, NM). That sent us into the 3rd/4th place game on Sunday, which we won 279-224 against Quebec.

Meanwhile, Crossroads went on to play in the championship game against Perth, and their fate was much the same as every other team whose paths crossed with Perth. Flattrackstats.com tells the story and takes care of all your number-crunching needs. Having witnessed the swath Perth had cut through the tournament participants thus far, not to mention the trail of bodies they were leaving in their wake, we were not as heart-broken as you might imagine to lose in these particular circumstances to our rivals from New Mexico.

So there's your sports update. How about them Puzzle Pirates?

We got a client update last month! But the Ringers are having technical troubles updating the changelog, so you get a forum post from Cronus instead. Includes tweaks to the new Limited Edition Quest Galleon and some bug fixes.

Blockade news! In a valiant attempt to resurrect the Jade Ocean, the flag appropriately named Reviviendo a Jade is poking the hornets' nest of Sortilegio (en inglés, Jinx) on Sunday morning. Jade is sorely in need of some action, as noted in this pirate's plaintive forum post. And Wampuscat reassures the Cerulean Ocean that, yes, Blackstar will be defending Fintan at noon tomorrow. "Hopefully it will be a gallant time for all."

And in non-blockade events, in my forum wanderings I stumbled across the Obsidian Swordfighting League, announced here. I'm not quite sure what to make of it myself--it's pinging my TL/DR buttons--so I am passing it along to you. Enjoy!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, June 2 ***

12:00 p.m. - Conglin Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Infierno De los Diablos
Attacker: The Enlightened (2)

12:01 p.m. - Isle of Kent, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Black Flag

12:57 p.m. - Barbary Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (2)
Attacker: Black Flag

10:00 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Defender: Amateur Hour
Attacker: Keep the Peace

*** Sunday, June 3 ***

10:00 a.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (3)
Attacker: Seven Deadliest Sins

10:20 a.m. - Isla Ventress, Jade Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Sortilegio (1)
Attacker: Reviviendo a Jade

12:00 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Right Meow
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Sunday, June 3 ***

12:00 p.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (2)

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image from Pixabay.
this fictionette has discovered its own private twitter
Fri 2018-06-01 23:36:32 (single post)
  • 1,210 wds. long

Success! Multiple successes! Success the first: I am now ensconced on a couch in a hotel room in Topeka, Kansas. We got here intact and in the appropriate amount of pieces, having utterly failed to attract the attention of any Kansas police officers. (Colorado license plates are a cop magnet in Kansas. It's the marijuana thing. It's tiresome.) And, success the second, I have launched this week's Friday Fictionette! On time! Yes! Got most of that sucker written Tuesday, finished it up and recorded the MP3 yesterday, assembled the downloadables while en route via I-70 East, and pushed the offerings LIVE just now this second.

I'm so unreasonably excited about this, I can hardly tell you. On time! Squee! What's even more awesome is, this weekend is just one bout. So I wake up in the hotel tomorrow with nothing on my schedule until go-time. Which means plenty of room in the day to get ahead on next week's fictionette. Which means maybe I'll get to work on the short story rewrite every day next week! *wibble*

A small disappointment: Apparently Patreon just introduced a "public teaser text" feature. I thought, great! If I put the excerpt in that field on the ebook page, I can condense two posts into one! Then I discovered that the field is limited to 140 characters. So it's more like a public teaser tweet. Oh well.

So here are the usual three Patreon posts for the Friday Fictionette for June 1, 2018, "Encore": the ebook and the audiobook for Patrons pledging from $1 and $3 per month, respectively, and the teaser excerpt for everyone regardless of pledge status. "Encore" was a lot of fun to write, though it didn't come together quite until I'd turned it back-to-front and chosen a different viewpoint character. It's very understated, and not by design. There's a lot I wanted to put in there about why Mister Omega retired, how his great-aunt Madame Zee shaped his career, what exactly's up with the ring, and what happened at Mister Omega's final show. Alas, word count limitations bit me in the butt. Hopefully the hints that remain will still make sense.

I had other conversation topics floating around in my head, but they seem to have melted away in the on-time excitement and the post-roadtrip fatigue. If they occur to me later, you'll probably hear about it on Monday. (Ooh! Or tomorrow! I might get to the MMORG blogging tomorrow! Wouldn't that be fun?)

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