inasmuch as it concerns The Beast That Rolls:
Mild-mannered writer by day, on certain evenings she becomes Fleur de Beast #504, skating with the Boulder County Bombers. (They told me that the position of "superhero" was unavailable. This was the next best thing.)
ok so here's the story of last week, ready set go
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?"
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:
And then it continues:
Impromptu Fire Damage Fundraiser for Boulder County Bombers hosted by 300 Suns Brewing
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
- 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
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!"
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 inglÚs, 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 ***
*** Sunday, June 3 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Sunday, June 3 ***
this fictionette has discovered its own private twitter
- 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?)
with a hot bath and a huge RPG monster all things are possible
- 1,432 wds. long
Actually Writing Trivia! DID YOU KNOW? Niki composes some 80% of her blog posts in the bathtub after derby. It's getting to where some nights I can't make myself get started at all unless I'm sitting in hot water. Especially those nights when I have derby practice. And I had quite the derby practice. Hard on the heels of the Mayday Mayhem tournament, I'm heading to Topeka this Saturday as a last minute substitute into the Bombshells roster. And we did a weird new thing with how we field blockers! It was hard on my brain. Then it was hard on my body. Then we did ten minutes of interval sprints and ten minutes of plyometrics. And all that came after my post-tournament massage, which was like an extra workout in which someone else makes your muscles do the hard stuff for you.
So, yes, the bath. The bath and the beer and the recovery dinner. The beer is Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan. The dinner was Dal-style Lentils & Greens with Poached Egg. (The greens were radish sprouts chopped fine. I know, I know. Cooking is a crime against microgreens. I can live with that.)
But back to the writing!
Even considering Mayday Mayhem, everything was late. Later. It took me the better part of four hours yesterday to get the Friday Fictionette polished and ready to read into an MP3. No, I didn't manage to nibble at it over the weekend. I got as far as my freewriting Friday and Saturday, and not even that much on Sunday. So I didn't actually push the release until this morning. Tuesday. Tuesday is apparently the new Friday. I don't like it any more than you do.
But it's up now! The Friday Fictionette for May 25, 2018 is, belatedly, "Payback" (ebook and audiobook for Patrons, teaser excerpt for everybody). It's... well, I don't entirely like it. The protagonist is a whiny, entitled twenty-something in his backstory and an angry, resentful, stalled-out 40-something/60-something in the main story. I don't think he deserves a second chance, honestly, although if pressed I'd admit that no one deserves to have twenty years of their youth siphoned off without their consent. I dunno. This is another one I'm not selling very well. I guess it's not that bad. It's just, I've committed Mainstream Literary Anti-hero under a thin veneer of Life-shattering Fae Interference, and it makes me feel dirty.
Welp, it's what we've got. Have at it.
After the delayed release, I buckled down and made a solid start on the June 1 fictionette. I put up the Monday Muse (late, obvs), wrote the first draft of the author's note, and wrote most of the first draft of the fictionette itself. Which is huge for a Tuesday. My motivation, on top of needing to get the June 1 fictionette out early (Friday's probably going to be all road trip all the time and Saturday's the bout), was having begun a battle with a Suulan. A Suulan is worth 3,500 words which you must produce in four hours. My attack and defense stats mitigate that somewhat, but it's still a lot of work with very little room for futzing around. So there was nothing for it but to keep babbling rough draft until I'd hit my target. Yay! 4thewords for the win!
Between being in full-on Friday Fictionette catch-up mode up 'til this morning and moving into preemptive catch-up mode today, I haven't made it back to the short story revisions and am not likely to get there this week. Alas. And I have three bout weekends in June, so crunch time will continue right through the fourth weekend of the month. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is JUNE HAS A FIFTH FRIDAY, HUZZAH! I look forward to doing absolutely nothing on that day.
there are games and then there are games
First, the good news. Boulder County Bombers won against Pikes Peak Derby Dames (Colorado Springs), 205 to 145. That means we go on to play Crossroads Roller Derby (Las Cruces, NM) at 3:30 on Saturday the 26th. It will be our second time facing them this year. The first went very well for us; we hope to do as well or better tomorrow.
Next, the not so good news: I didn't finish the Friday Fictionette in time to release it today. (This had a lot to do with sticking around after our game to watch our probable Sunday opponents play, then going out for dinner and games with one of the blockers from my "pod." About that latter, more in a moment.) Probably won't tomorrow, either. All I can do is nibble at it as often as I can over the tourmament weekend so I can have it up Monday at the latest.
Now for something completely different:
So right around the corner from the tournament venue is The Summit, an all-ages arcade. There's bowling, laser tag, and a bunch of the sort of arcade game that you pay for by swiping a card and that you can win tickets at for prizes in the little store. There is also a restaurant, the Crossroads Tavern & Grille.
John and I went there for dinner yesterday. This was right after some of the team went to the venue to preview the floor we'd be skating on. There were enough of us there, plus our coach, that it turned into a sort of capsule-sized practice session, with agility drills and wall work and so on. So by the time we were done, I was unexpectedly hot, tired, sweaty, and hungry.
Right at the top of the restaurant's burger menu is a Mac 'n Cheese Burger, kinda pricey at $19.99 but plenty enough food to be worth it. It's two full-sized patties each served open-face and covered in their signature three-cheese mac 'n cheese. The whole is sprinkled with bacon pieces and comes with a side of fries or whatever. That is what I ordered, mostly because both burgers and mac 'n cheese looked tasty and I was too hungry to decide between them.
Probably the first clue that something beyond the usual was going on: It arrived at the table and John asked me if I thought I could finish it. This is not a question he generally asks me, familiar as he is with my post-derby appetite. I was like, *shrug,* there's a refrigerator and microwave in the hotel room if I don't.
Time went by. We ate our meals. I read things on the internet. It was peaceful.
I was on my last couple bites of burger and just beginning to pay attention to the sweet potato fries when the server came back. She looked at my plate, looked at me, and then she told me, "You are the first person I have ever seen finish that burger all by themselves in one sitting." I'm all, huh? What? This? Seriously? Yes, she said. First time. Even the big burly guys who purport to be ready to eat a truck fade out somewhere in the second patty. "I am so proud of you," she said, "and I'm so happy that the first person I saw do that was a girl!"
All I could say was, "You must not get many roller derby skaters eating here."
But here's the kicker--apparently that Mac 'n Cheese Burger entree is a challenge entree. It's not listed as such in the menu--I probably wouldn't have ordered it if it were--but it is the case that if you do indeed eat it all by yourself in one sitting, they give you a $20 game card to spend in their arcade.
So that's what my podmate and I were doing there tonight. We were spending my windfall arcade money. And then I took all the tickets I earned playing those games and bought some fun little trinkets to share with the rest of our pod tomorrow.
It's a surprise, so don't tell!
but questions only lead to more questions and also a higher wordcount
Hi. I'm in a hotel in Loveland right now. I'm doing the derby thing this weekend. It is a tournament called Mayhem; details here. (Sorry, it's a Facebook event page, I don't think they have a regular web page about it.) We play at 2:15 PM tomorrow against the team from Colorado Springs. Our schedule for the rest of the weekend depends on whether we win or lose that first game. The latest bracket and schedule is... hard to find, actually, but it's in a Google Drive pdf that's viewable by anyone who has the link, so, here's the link.
So as you might expect, this complicates my Friday. My whole week has been complicated. But I have been good! I have been prioritizing the ongoing revision of "Survival, After" rather than doing just "the easy stuff" and sticking a fork in the rest of the day. So I actually have progress to report.
Progress has been... rather daunting.
As I've said before, I'm already daunted, disappointed, alarmed, something like that, by the story's refusal to remain a flash fiction story, and by its insistence on needing more than just a quick polish before sending it off to potential publishers. But I had become somewhat resigned to it. I gave in. I began indicating section breaks and expanding the resulting sections into full-blown individual scenes. I watched the word count rise and I shrugged and said, "So be it." I even got excited that I might have a brand new full-length story by the end of this process!
Then I took a look at the world-building and things really started blowing up.
Heh. That's almost literal, given how the story starts. As of last week, the draft began, "Within an hour of the bombs falling..." The original prompt had to do with immigrants and refugees, so my character was a refugee fleeing a war zone. Thus, bombs. Only bombs and war means territories and nations and policies and I just can't. Whatever it takes to arrange fictional wartime politics, I just don't got. I'm sorry. So, no. No one is dropping bombs on the protagonist's city.
So what does that mean? It means unexplained uncanny phenomena, of course! Again. I mean, it's basically "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" except survivable (and not flash fiction). Because that's what I do. Apparently I write stories about the real world turning quite suddenly into a science-fantasy world, and how everyday people cope with that. It's OK. If I'm a one-trick pony, there are worse tricks to have.
And so but anyway the point is, the story's beginning just keeps getting longer. Look, if you say "bombs," the reader can kind of imagine what that's like. Things go boom. Stuff gets smashed. People get smashed too. The fallout effects may be fantastical, but the initial concussive impact is can pretty much go without saying. Right? Well, delete the bombs and nothing goes without saying. How does the surreal effect happen? What does it look and sound and smell like? What do we know, what don't we know, and what can we hope to find out? QUESTIONS.
I also decided the protagonist can't just be a bystander when the cars at the traffic light go feral. The protagonist is in one of those cars. Which means the protagonist has no idea how widespread this is until they run home to reassure their family: hey, the thing you are no doubt staring horrified at on the morning news? I survived that. So I have to actually write the scene where the protagonist discovers what happened to their family's house. And I have to decide what happened to their family's house, because since it's not bombs I can't just refer to "the rubble that was my parents' garage" and leave it at that. And, damn, did I actually originally have the protagonist just fleeing the area without finding out for sure whether their family is OK? That's cold, y'all. That's super cold. The protagonist has to dig through the rubble. They have to go back to their brother's school and try to find him. They can't just leave without making sure.
So now I'm writing even more new material. For a story that started out 750 words long.
I'm in this weird back-and-forth between feeling really awesome about watching this story take shape, and getting all white-knuckled anxious WHEN WILL THIS BE DONE PLEASE?! Like, I would like to write other things in my life. Other short stories. Maybe even a novel! Could I not spend the entire rest of my career on this one used-to-be-flash story? Because right now it feels like this is my life now.
Anyway. Today I did not prioritize short story revision because tomorrow is Friday, and, having prioritized the short story revision all week, I had not made even a little bit of progress on this week's Friday Fictionette offering until today. And that sucker needs a lot of revision between today, because the hot mess I have babbled out isn't presentable. Also it is too long. It is almost 3000 words of not even a little bit presentable. So... I am hoping to be on time with it tomorrow, but tomorrow is Bout Day 1 of 3. Adjust your expectations accordingly and I shall try to do the same.
and sometimes food, and maybe a movie or play
- 1,722 wds. long
I'm still working on the same story. The same 750-word flash fiction piece that I was just going to give a brief spit-and-polish revision before submitting to, oh, I dunno, Flash Fiction Online. Well. It's not flash anymore and I'm still working on it.
I mean, to be fair, first I had to get to the point where I was actually putting in time on it every workday. Despite my lofty Camp NaNoWriMo goal, or perhaps because of it--because of the pressure such a goal created--I didn't manage to get any short story revision time in most days, let alone two hours every workday. I talked about that a little bit last blog post, which was... gosh, almost a week ago. Blogging's been a victim of the same mess of pressure and unreasonable expectations. I mean, here's the truth: I'm not going to go from "zero hours most days" to "two hours every day" without some sort of transition period, like "some non-zero number of minutes most days."
That's about where we're at this week. Yesterday, an hour and a half. Today, an hour. Monday, a little less than an hour. Some non-zero number of minutes.
Turns out the story needed its ending completely revised. To support that ending, the scenes needed a little fleshing out, both to improve pacing and to allow the themes involved to seed themselves more naturally through the plot. Next thing I know, the scenes are getting quite a bit longer, long enough to be worth separating into discrete text sections. And now the thing's more than 1700 words long, and instead of Flash Fiction Online I'm thinking Shimmer. I think it's gonna be really Shimmery.
But here's the other problem with two hours: Unless I have two-hours worth of stuff that I know how to fix, I can't. I can't go two hours. It's not a matter of stamina; it's a matter of creative process. An hour, an hour and a half in, I hit a wall.
Oh, you doubt me? You think I don't know what a wall looks like? This is what a wall looks like: Me, changing a sentence into two sentences, then, five minutes later, changing it back to one sentence with two independent clauses joined by a semicolon. Occasionally I will take a prepositional phrase and move it to the other end of the sentence. Then I will move it back.
Now, sometimes that sort of useless copyeditorial wittering means the story's done and you should just send it out already. That is not what is going on. How do I know? I know because the scene's still broken. Like, there are two different versions of this or that paragraph because I'm in the middle of moving text around for better flow. Only now I don't know how to fix the segues. It's messy. And my brain is just sliding off the problem like a jammer on 94-durometer wheels sliding out of Turn 2 at Mayday Mayhem. (Have you seen that track? Polished cement. Slick as never-you-mind. I plan to bring my 84s that were grooved aftermarket and I'm still nervous.)
That wall, I have learned, means that it's time to take a break. Stop writing for a bit and go do something else. Best if the something else is partially mindless, like taking a walk or cooking a meal or even re-reading a too-familiar book. It's got to take my conscious mind off the writing problem but leave room for things to simmer on the back-burner. Or maybe I should just go on with the rest of my day and plan to come back to the revision tomorrow.
That's what happened yesterday. I got to an hour and a half and knew I couldn't make two hours. I put it away. I went to derby. (Derby was very much not mindless. SO MANY THINGS TO LEARN, omg.) I played Spiral Knights a bit. I went to sleep. Then, this afternoon, I took a short walk just before getting back to the revision--and damn if some interesting things didn't just jump right into my head.
Well, I wrote them down, of course!
I hit a similar wall when I'm specifically trying to think about a writing problem. I discovered this when I was in Cincinnati for our bout back in February. Day of the bout, I decided to walk somewhere for lunch and cogitate on that week's Friday Fictionette, which, like many this year, was running late into the weekend. It was running late because I didn't know how to make it work. So I figured, I'd take the fifteen minute walk to figure it out in my head, then I'd take lunchtime to implement whatever I figured out.
Halfway through my walk--you guessed it--I hit a wall. That kind of wall looks like this: My brain, running over about half a scene, arriving at some insight or other, and then repeating from start. Over and over again.
But! When I sat down to write, I implemented that one insight... then discovered another insight on my way there. And another. Turns out I had to take the thought to the page before I could proceed to the next thought. There in fact wouldn't be a next thought until I switched from thinking to writing. So I wrote down the next thought, and the next. Then I ran out of thoughts and didn't find the next one until I was walking back to the hotel.
That's my creative process. Write, hit a wall, put it away. Think about it, hit a wall, proceed to the page. And repeat.
This may also be why I'm complete rubbish at pulling all-nighters, and why even on completely unscheduled days I can't whip out a complete new draft from scratch. I need time for this write-wander-think-write cycle to iterate. Time, and sleep. (But not too much at all. Is really all I want.)
whether it's an excuse or an explanation depends on the night
- 4,600 wds. long
OMG lookit me I'm writing after derby. Help.
I go back and forth on whether I can usefully get stuff done after derby. When I started this post during the last half hour before practice, I was thinking, this whole "can't work after derby, sorry" thing is just an excuse. But at that time I hadn't had derby yet. It's easy to plan to be virtuous when I haven't had three hours of skating hard, hitting and getting hit, attempting to perform strategy while metaphorical bricks are being thrown at me, and then doing a whole bunch of off-skates conditioning hell. Now that I have done those things, I'm feeling less gung-ho about writing, or in fact doing anything other than collapsing into bed. But I had a Perfect Day on Habitica yesterday--a day where I completed and checked off all my Dailies--and I'm damn well going to make today a Perfect Day, too. So I'm doing writing stuff after derby. Gods help me.
In addition to finishing this blog post, I also committed to doing my submissions procedures. Submission procedures isn't just one of my Habitica Dailies, and thus required for a Perfect Day, it's also hours I count toward my Camp NaNoWriMo goal! Any work done on drafting, revising, or submitting short stories counts. (I'd already done today's short story revision work, which was also a Daily I needed to check off. I only worked on it for about a half hour, but that counts.) But the thought of attempting to put together a submission late at night on a post-derby brain is kind of scary. I mean, post-derby brain is capable of all sorts of ridiculous mistakes. Post-derby brain has trouble telling black from white and counting to five, y'all. How am I going to rely on it to scrupulously follow submission guidelines, remember which editors I'm emailing, and attach the right file?
Theoretically, this can be easy and even mindless. Take that same manuscript file that went out last time, attach it to an email going to the new place (or upload it via their submission form, whatever), and off you go. Theoretically. But that's before you consider that some markets require blind submissions, so you have to scrub your identifying information off the page headers. And some editors prefer real italics and some prefer you use underlines in place of italics. Some editors really, really hate the Courier font, so you probably better change that to Times New Roman or Verdana or whatever it is they like. (Or maybe you hate Courier, but the market you're considering is all MONOSPACE OR DIE. Everyone's a potential casualty in the font wars.) So it's in the author's best interest to read the submission guidelines carefully and make whatever adjustments they require.
But before I get into all that, I have to know which story I'm sending out and where I'm sending it to. And that's really hard for post-derby brain to figure out, especially when pre-derby brain kind of had no idea either.
Thank goodness for the Submissions Grinder. It's a free-to-use submissions-tracking system built on top of a truly enormous market database. The whole thing is a labor of love and community service by Diabolical Plots and David Steffen, and I don't know what I would do without it. Poor post-derby brain Niki can just log in, click "Manage Pieces," and scroll down the list, and say to her self, "Oh, 'Caroline's Wake' isn't currently out in slush, is it? It should be. It's one of my best stories. I should submit it somewhere." Then I can click on the corresponding "Run Search" link to pull up a market search form already filled out with the stats for this particular story, and easily get a list of markets which accept submissions of that length, in that genre, and which I have not submitted this story to before. (That last is important. I got that last bit wrong once recently and it was so embarrassing. The rejection letter was very kind. They said they remembered the story and how much they admired it the first time they read it, but they would really like to see something else by me, pretty please.)
Anyway, that's what I did when I got home from derby. And while I didn't actually find a place to submit that story, I found a place I could submit it just as soon as they reopened to general submissions. In the meantime, they are reading for a very particular theme and format, for which one of my other stories might be a perfect fit, only first I need to trim it down to about two thirds its current length.
Which I will attempt to do tomorrow because, having fulfilled my duty vis-Ó-vis blogging and submissions procedures, collapsing in bed is imminent. Me and my sore, beat-up, worn-out body wish you a good night.