“Aliens enter Writers of the Future, but only earn honorable mentions.”
Greg Beatty

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates scaled and cropped photograph by Mark Grossalber (CC BY-SA 4.0).
YPP Weekend Blockades, February 18-19: Ice updates; also author self-promotion (this fictionette etc. etc.)
Sat 2017-02-18 14:40:08 (single post)

Ahoy and all that. This post is late because I wanted to include the Friday Fictionette announcement in it, which meant I had to finish publishing the thing first. The text was actually finished late last night, making this one the closest to on-time I've been in, I think, more than a month.

Thus:

Friday Fictionette for February 17: "Known Hazards of Employment in a Pawn Shop" (ebook, audiobook), which has much to do with the oxymoron "an infestation of will-o-the-wisps." I mean, how does that even work?

Puzzle Pirates blockade schedule and sundry news: Blockade schedule below; not much to say about it except it's there and it's hopping. Meanwhile, there have been a bunch of updates to the Ice Ocean that will be exciting to see released in production, among them some improvements to the YoWeb web pages and a "Sloop Mark II" that can be ordered from shipyards just like a regular sloop but which imitates limited edition sloops in floor plan and scene design.

And that's it. Have a great weekend!

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, February 18 ***

12:00 p.m. - Ansel Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Meridian's Most Wanted
Attacker: The Jade Empire (2)
(Not all that hopping actually; MMW does not appear to be defending)

6:30 p.m. - Doyle Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Keep the Peace

*** Sunday, February 19 ***

10:00 a.m. - Caravanserai Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Cuddly Sloths Of Doom
Attacker: Black Flag

10:00 a.m. - Aimuari Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: A Boosted Monkey

10:05 a.m. - Barbary Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Cuddly Sloths Of Doom
Attacker: Black Flag

12:00 p.m. - Armstrong Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: A Boosted Monkey

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 18 ***

12:04 p.m. - Kirin Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (3)
Attacker: Babylon

*** Sunday, February 19 ***

11:58 a.m. - Terra Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Secrets of the Deep
Defender: The Coalition

but i said i would update again so here you go
Wed 2017-02-15 23:13:43 (single post)

I am tired but I want to post because I'm supposed to blog every weekday and I am trying to get back into my routine and it doesn't work if I don't do the routine so here you go.

Update: Writing - Managed to do both fictionette work and freewriting today, and got back on the morning pages wagon too. If I can do that much every day for a week (and blogging too!), I'll consider it a good start.

I'm a little worried about the fictionette because, while I have the premise and the characters, I don't exactly have the shape of the plot. I don't have an ending. I don't even have a good cliffhanger faux-ending. So I feel like I spent today's session trying to perfect two paragraphs when I ought to have been more or less drafting the whole story. Hopefully I'll have a breakthrough tomorrow morning so that Friday doesn't turn into a panic.

In accordance with established Wednesday tradition, the writing took place at the Longmont Village Inn, a five minute walk from the mall's free public EV charging station. This is a plot point because...

Update: Skating - ...I did some. Yes! I got the good news I'd hoped for at my four-week orthopedics follow-up appointment. The PA actually seemed more excited than I was, and that's saying something. She manipulated my leg and enthused over how stable the ligaments were, she congratulated me on all the physical activity I was able to engage in recently, and she said she saw no reason I shouldn't strap on skates this very day.

So I did. I skated from the car (at the Village at The Peaks mall charging station) to Cafe of Life, which is about three quarters of a mile of sidewalks, street crossings, and parking lots. It felt great. I was cautious, of course, I went slow-to-moderate and I didn't do anything suddenly, but within those careful limits I tried out all the motions, deep carves and toe-stops and sculling and single-foot glides and backwards skating and everything, and nothing hurt. Not a thing.

Well, my glutes hurt from yesterday's exercise. I'll admit to that. But nothing injury-related. Not a peep out of the knee, not until I got home and curled it under me as part of crawling into bed and remembered too late that I still can't do it that way, not yet. But that is not a required motion for roller derby, so it's cool.

Yay! Good news. Now I go thunk. Good night!

The fruits of my non-writing labors
Cover art features original photography by author, who can't bear to throw away those tokens despite the video arcade that issued them closing down more than a decade ago.
when writing time turns into time invested toward making the future work better
Tue 2017-02-14 23:52:15 (single post)
  • 1,035 wds. long

Ahoy the actually writing blog! This will be a blog post that is actually about writing. Ok, and about other stuff too, but--writing! Yayyyy.

Friday Fictionettes: So the one for February 10 finally went up late Monday night, and I'm really, really hoping it's going to be the last late edition for a while. It's called "The Gold Drug" (ebook, audiobook), and it's about dragons and dragon-slaying knights and also how you should Just Say No. Cue the voices of Macgruff the Crime Dog, Nancy Reagan, and that voice-over that, while the camera zooms in on an egg frying in oil, intones, "Any questions?" But the wyrmlets never do listen until it's too late. It's enough to break a mama dragon's heart.

I didn't get much writing done today, but what little I did was a solid session on the February 17 release. It will be about... well, take Warehouse 13 but make it a pawn shop. There you go.

Here's the thing: It has been impossible to even hope for a full five-hour writing workday since I sprained my knee. Like I said, I'm still going to all my roller derby practices and Cafe of Life appointments; I'm also now going to twice weekly phsyical therapy appointments too. And the occasional orthopedist/sports medicine follow-up (my four-week check-in is tomorrow). And then there's roller derby events like the triple-header this past weekend and the New Recruit Nights this week. And unexpected naps because I still seem to have only a portion of the energy I count on having in a day. (It's getting better, though!) The only entirely unscheduled day is sometimes Friday, which falls apart under the pressure of "Ooh, an unscheduled day! Do ALL the writing OR ELSE YOU SUCK." (I'm sure I've mentioned before what a jerk my brain is, right? Well.)

So instead I'm just focusing on whatever needs to get done with the most urgency, and taking it from there. Today, that meant a short but solid session toward not being late with the fictionette this Friday.

I honestly thought I'd get more done. I had the time. I even had a sudden surge of energy! Which went toward... improving my living space and fixing things which were broken. Which, honestly, isn't time spent; it's time invested. It's so much easier to get work done when things are less cluttered, more pleasant to look at, and fully functioning. Even when the improvement is to something I don't necessarily interact with every day, but have merely been frustrated with now and again, knowing that it's been improved makes my brain a more pleasant place to be. So I went into the "distraction" with my eyes open. Sure, I thought, I might not get the writing done that I meant to, but I'm going to feel happier and healthier going forward.

Here's a short, non-exhausted list of things that got fixed or uncluttered or otherwise improved:

  • Restored my laptop's ability to send sound to the TV via HDMI, such that I can once again VJ Steven Universe marathons. Or whatever I want. This required rolling back the Intel HD Graphics 5500 driver on my laptop. The "Windows 10 Anniversary Edition" version that installed itself on Jan. 25 can take a flying leap from the nearest high-dive into a sewer, by the way.

  • Unpacked all my vinyl LPs and 45s (and accompanying concert program books, because apparently these go together) onto a freshly cleared shelf below the CDs. Recycled the now-empty boxes.

  • Unpacked the Ion USB turntable onto the top shelf above my desk so it can easily be plugged into my laptop. Stowed the box in the storage closet, along with a few other random objects I've been meaning to shlep down there for a while.

  • Digitized one of my 45s just to celebrate. (The Tubes, "She's a Beauty," 1983, in case you're wondering.)

  • Rearranged my CDs into four columns on a single double-tall shelf space. Placed a cardboard sheet under each column so I can slide an individual stack forward for ease of access. I am a genius.

  • Hung up five things that have been waiting to go back on the walls since we moved into this place back in April 2015. This represents a solid baby step toward emptying the box of wall-hangings that's been sitting in our bedroom since that time.

Now my office and the living room are both less cluttered, and I have the ability to play records in the office. Also it's easier to get to all my CDs now. Also there are pretty things on the walls! So. A sacrifice of potential writing time, but well worth it, I think.

Also, I'm still not on skates yet, but today at roller derby practice I did every single off-skates thing along with my team. Pre-practice warm-ups. Strength training hell. Post-practice yoga. Because it's exciting to be that physically capable again, and because I need to get those muscles back ASAP thank you. This is part of fixing what's broke and creating a happier, healthier future!

My roller derby team is totally my Valentine, y'all. <3 <3 <3

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 28-29: Entering now the Year of the Dark Seas...
Sat 2017-01-28 13:16:09 (single post)

OK, so, I'm still behind on the Friday Fictionette stuff, but I'm going to do a Puzzle Pirates Blockade Report anyway because, hell, I gotta live a little. (Pause for the inevitable jokes about how if YPP is "living a little" then the author needs to get a life. Yes, you are very droll. Ha ha. Also, you can KISS MY RINK RASH.) In any case, the Jan 20 fictionette will be uploaded to Patreon in a couple hours or so, and the Jan 27 one will follow it just as soon after that as I can manage.

So! What've we got? About a kabillion blockades on the Cerulean Ocean, that's what. Also a handful on Emerald and a couple on Meridian. Jade and Opal remain quiet.

Aside o' that, the developers announced something rather exciting last month: Dark Seas!

The goal for Dark Seas is to introduce an entirely new ocean where the rules are a bit different. This shadowy new ocean is a volatile place full of more danger and unexplored frontiers. We are going to introduce some new theme and story elements involving an insidious darkness that is invading the ocean, affecting the appearance of the world and the very nature of the pirates who live there.

See post for more details. It generated a lively discussion, to which Forculus has responded this week. And that has sparked discussion, of course. I'm not going to try to summarize--I, er, still need to read all about it myself. But now you can too!...if you haven't already.

Also, an early heads-up: it's time for the semiannual transfer of ownership of the shipyard shop on Fort Royal on the Ice Ocean. This time around, the shop will go to the crew with the highest fame. To register your crew for consideration, follow the instructions on Demeter's announcement by January 31.

On to the blockades!

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, January 28 ***

12:00 p.m. - Kirin Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (5)
Undeclared: Icy Sun

12:00 p.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: Delirium
Undeclared: Sons Of Anarchy

10:01 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Rubber Duckies of Doom
Attacker: Cuddly Sloths Of Doom

*** Sunday, January 29 ***

10:00 a.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: The Enlightened (4)

10:38 a.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: Sons Of Anarchy

11:33 a.m. - Jubilee Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Velt's Boiyz
Attacker: Infamous

11:58 a.m. - Paihia Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Dead In The Water
Attacker: Caught In Crossfire

12:00 p.m. - Terra Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Infamous
Attacker: Dragon Lords

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 28 ***

12:00 p.m. - Iris Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)
Undeclared: Fallen

5:00 p.m. - Vernal Equinox, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Attacker: Defiantly Deviant
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (3)

7:00 p.m. - Spectre Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Elements of Fear
Attacker: Babylon

7:00 p.m. - Park Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Elements of Fear
Attacker: Babylon

8:24 p.m. - Nu Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Phantom's Realm
Attacker: The Coalition

8:32 p.m. - Eta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Public Enemies
Attacker: The Coalition

*** Sunday, January 29 ***

12:00 a.m. - Remora Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Undertow
Attacker: The Enlightened (4)

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from PublicDomainPictures.net
but there really should have been room in my schedule for this sort of thing in general
Tue 2017-01-24 00:53:40 (single post)
  • 955 wds. long

OK so hi again after two weeks of radio silence. Let's skip the part where I whine about being embarrassed and ashamed and not knowing where to put my face. Let's just take that as read. Instead, let's skip ahead to the moral of the story, just put that right in the lede for a change: Do the shit you gotta do today because you never know when you'll be unable to do the shit tomorrow.

It's not entirely fair, as morals go--sometimes you can't do the shit because you have to do other shit, right? Like, catching up on a very belated task. Or catching up on your sleep so you can function. So maybe it's not a moral. Maybe it's more of a strategy, OK, a strategy that doesn't judge you and doesn't say anything about your worth and worthiness and virtue, sure, but a strategy, nevertheless, that takes into consideration how the world works. And I should know by now how the world works.

So. For instance. Let's say I take an entire Tuesday off work--just decided writing will not get done that day--because I have a chance to spend some much-needed, now-or-never time with a dear friend. Well, the smart thing to do would have been to do the writing on Monday because of that. Right? I knew that Tuesday was coming. I'd planned on that Tuesday for the better part of the previous week. I had ample warning time is what I'm saying.

(And it was a fantastic Tuesday. Me and one of my very bestest derby friends went derby shopping, and we had a long talkative lunch over excellent pizza, and we wound the afternoon up with an hour or two of a Steven Universe marathon. I am not complaining about Tuesday. Tuesday was the good part of last week. Please, let us have more Tuesdays like that soonest.)

Then there's the stuff that gives no warning other than this is how the world works, haven't you been paying attention? Like, after my awesome Tuesday-with-friend, I went to what should have been an awesome Tuesday evening travel team practice featuring a renowned guest skater teaching us All The Things. Looking forward to it all day, right? Could not have planned on wiping out during warm-ups and spraining my Gods-damned MCL. I mean, yes, I am cognizant of the phrase "able-bodied" having a "temporary" attached because we are frail mortal beings and time is passing, and also we play a contact sport; this concept actually came up during our long conversation over pizza, OK, but proving the concept was nevertheless not specifically on my schedule.

So I'm not skating right now. I won't be skating for, at a guess, some four weeks from the date of the injury. I definitely won't be skating in our February triple-header. (Which isn't to say I won't be there in some capacity, nor that you shouldn't come out and watch it. You should totally come out and watch it. Depending on what support role I do play at the event, I might be able to be your derby buddy. If not, we will find you a derby buddy.)

This has not exactly freed up extra time in my week. I'm still attending derby practice. I don't have to be skating to absorb skills coaching and strategy, and some of the off-skates conditioning I can participate in. I can be a non-skating official at scrimmage. On top of that, I now have physical therapy twice a week, physical therapy homework, a follow-up orthopedic appointment, and a new twice-weekly upper-body workout to keep from falling too much behind my team in metabolics conditioning.

And that's before we get into how very exhausted I am all the time. It's like my body is shorting my usual energy allotment in order to channel more energy toward healing. That's probably exactly what it's doing. And although I can walk and drive and otherwise get around enough to do regular day-to-day stuff, it takes so much more out of me than I realize until I'm back home and drooping with fatigue.

I know. I'm whining a lot for someone whose injury is pretty damn minor. I mean, nothing's torn (that we can tell so far), no one has even recommended an MRI, surgery definitely isn't on the menu. I'm staying exceptionally active, independent, and productive (aside from the writing). "When are you going to start acting injured?" John asked me a few days ago. I said, "I am acting injured. I'm not skating, am I?" as I proceeded to take out the recyclables.

But that's the thing. It is a minor injury. I would not have thought it would impact my energy levels this much. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I'm surprised, and I feel flat-out betrayed by my body. And all I did was an effin' plow-stop! It should not have wrecked me!

Anyway.

I finally got the January 13 Friday Fictionette out today. About time. It's called "The Sandpit Oracle" (ebook, audiobook), and, like other fictionettes featuring an oracle, it is told in the second person. I am not apologizing for this.

I hope to get the one for January 20 (a bar-story retelling of Monday and Tuesday) done in the next couple days so I can scramble back onto a proper schedule in time to release the one for January 27 (I have no idea what it'll be about, that's how far behind I am) on January 27, for a wonder.

Also I have people I still need to mail fruitcake too. Good thing brandy is such a good preservative.

Cover illustration incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com.
"What the heck does auld lang syne mean, anyway?"
Sat 2017-01-07 00:37:14 (single post)
  • 1,077 wds. long

Ahoy! So. The Friday Fictionette for January 6 is up. It was supposed to go up at 6 PM, taking advantage of Patreon's clever SCHEDULE POST feature. Only apparently I am not so clever, and I thought today was Jan 7. Eleven-thirty came around, and I was pulling up the HTML excerpt to copy-paste into Wattpad, and emergency! emergency! Where is my post?! Ya fool. It's right where you put it: on tomorrow's docket. Oops.

It's up now, though, and it's called "The Land Exhales" (ebook | audiobook | free excerpt ) It is not one of my more cheerful stories, dealing as it does with a meta-fictional land where everyone is miserable, but I like to think it ends on a hopeful note.

I wish I'd had time to do more with today--like take another crack at the novel-in-progress--but I got a little self-indulgent trying to produce a presentable four bars of "Auld Lang Syne" on the piano that I could include. Why "Auld Lang Syne"? Because it's January. Why on the piano? Why indeed. The flute version worked a lot better.

(Speaking of "Auld Lang Syne," this post's title is a quote from Barry Manilow off his double live album, segueing into "It's Just Another New Year's Eve." It may not be a very good question, but it's a pretty good song. "Don't look so sad / It's not so bad, you know / It's just another night, that's all it is...")

Artifacts are not quite in the mail yet. BUT THEY WILL BE SOON.

In other news, I skated on the track at our practice space tonight. The new floor is done. And it's so nice. it's flat. It's so nice, having a flat and level floor. And clean! So nice and clean...

three things i can't have
Fri 2017-01-06 00:47:58 (single post)

Three things there are not, no matter how much I might wish otherwise:

  1. The typing up of a Fictionette Artifact on my typewriter without discovering some typo in the source material, which I then feel compelled to go correct in all three ebook formats and, if I'm very unlucky and the typo appears in the teaser excerpt, in all three places where that excerpt is published too.

  2. Sleeping late without sleeping very late. I mean, I'm either up Right! On! Time! or I'm in bed until sometime past noon. You'd think I could manage to sleep just one hour late, get up at 10:30 maybe, but no. It's nineish or damn near one, no in-between. This is exacerbated by it being an especially stupid cold day outside, highs predicted not to surpass single digits. Also by my having drawn the blinds tight to help keep the warm inside, but with the effect of keeping the sun out so that I can't tell time is passing if I don't look at the clock. Also by my having had trouble getting to sleep, because there is no...

  3. Briefly taking some time in the evening to Work Through My Shit without finding myself continuing to Work Through My Shit in my brain, involuntarily, when I'm trying to get to sleep. Dammit. I put that dratted dream down in my blog to get it out of my system, OK? I was not inviting it, and everything it stands for, to sit on my head until well past two in the morning! Sheesh.

It's OK, I still got things done, including the daily gotta-dos and also the aforementioned typewriter work and ebook typo correction. (This one was just in the ebook, not in the excerpt.) And speaking of typewriters and typos, I'm getting a lot better at touch-typing on the typewriter without reverting to Dvorak every time I take my eyes off my fingers. That means less time trying to coax a just a little more use out of my just-about-used-up correction ribbon. (I just ordered a whole bunch more typewriter ribbon, so there will be a lot more correction ribbon capacity to use next time around. Ribbons Unlimited were having a sale to celebrate the new year. I essentially got 4 ribbons for the price of 3. Ka-ching.)

I would like to get things done tomorrow without any particular adversity, please brain, OK brain, thank you brain very much, good night.

new week new year new what the hell is this
Tue 2017-01-03 01:11:22 (single post)

It's very tempting to look at the first two days of a new year and panic. Like, argh, I did some of the same stupid shit I did all last year, does that mean this year's not going to be any better? Well, no. It doesn't mean that. January 1 does not have the magical property of setting the tone for the following 364 days. Despite being the first day of a brand new year, it's just another day. Every day is just another day.

On the other hand, what I did with my January 1 was kind of awesome. I did my daily writing, released the Fictionette Freebie for November, and I helped with ongoing construction at my roller derby league's practice space. Writing and roller derby are two of the biggest things in my current life, and I made them part of my New Year's Day--with time yet remaining to play Puzzle Pirates over beer and pulled pork at a favorite downtown restaurant/bar. So even if Jan. 1 does have magical properties, I think I used them well.

(The floor is done! As soon as the freshly washed sport-court is dry enough to place on top of plywood, we'll be skating on that sucker! Now if only the weather would warm up enough to let things dry rather than freeze.)

Now, about Jan. 2... I'm dialing back my Monday ambitions, y'all. There is no way that I'm getting five hours of writing done on a day that contains both chiro and any form of derby doings. Which today did. There was my usual Cafe of Life appointment, and there were new recruits to welcome to the league. There was no track for them to skate on yet, but we met up at a local brewery and, I do hope, made them feel real welcome.

(Local brewery = Finkel and Garf in Gunbarrel. A brewery where being old enough to drink doesn't mean you're too old to be a kid. There are toys in their logo and there are toys all over the store. There were giant lego, which we used in a three-team competition of creativity and style, and all the board games. Also a wide variety of snacks for a buck each. I had a can of Vienna sausages with my cherry wheat lager. I used my plastic size #2 knitting needles to eat the sausages because I had no toothpicks.)

(Of course I carry #2 knitting needles with me everywhere. You never know when you'll need to darn a sock. Or eat Vienna sausages.)

But even in a Monday with both chiro and derby doings, I still got all my daily "gotta-dos" did. And I got important household errands run. I did stuff. So it wasn't too shabby a Monday.

I am eying the rest of the week with equal amounts of determination and suspicion. I am determined to have a good week, a productive and writerly week, with lots of work on the novel and an on-time Jan 6 fictionette release... but I suspect that this week has something up its sleeve. I have no idea what. I have no good reason to think that this week in particular is out to get me. But I know its type. I have seen weeks like this before.

I'm on to you, Week One of 2016. I'm hip to your tricks. You just better watch out.

Cover art incorporates public domain images from Pixabay.com.
Cover art incorporates tarot image via Wikipedia.org (public domain, U.S.)
my brain is a jerk: christmas reminiscing
Mon 2016-12-26 23:45:23 (single post)
  • 1,240 wds. long
  • 1,054 wds. long

All right. Hi! New week. So: Friday Fictionettes for the past two Fridays were "Kill or Cure," which is about a symptomatic tree, and "The Miraculous Hide," which is sort of about Good King Wenceslas before he got to be all saint-like. I got 'em out both on time, more or less, but I never got around to announcing them here, so. There you go.

And now we are approaching the fifth Friday in a month, which means--woo-hoo!--I get a week off. Except I don't, because I still have to put together the Fictionette Artifacts for November and then do all the end-of-month stuff for December. And even if that were done, goodness knows I've got all the legacy catch-up work to do: backfilling the Wattpad excerpts, recording audiobook editions for the archives that don't have them yet, producing epub and mobi editions ditto. But it's cool. I don't have to do that and put together the next brand-new story-like object all at the same time, so things are vastly more doable than they could be.

So yesterday was Christmas. John and I did nothing special for it. We're more Winter Solstice types than Christmas types, which is to say, Pagan not Christian. Also our families are all multiple states away. So we did with Christmas the same thing we did with Thanksgiving: a whole lotta glorious nothing. We played on our computers and we cooked for each other.

Which right there puts it miles and miles beyond last Christmas in terms of enjoyability, i.e. I did not get into a shouting match with my bigoted, bullying, emotionally abusive uncle, and spend the rest of the evening sobbing myself sick. Yay?

Except I kept thinking about it. All my brain's idle cycles pointed right at it. I spent a self-indulgently huge number of hours just playing Puzzle Pirates all day long, which should have been uncomplicatedly fun, only it wasn't, because while my eyes and hands were busy with the mini-games, my brain kept re-running that shouting match and rewriting it and re-running the rewritten version and then revising that.

To be clear: My brain was not fixated on just one argument with my uncle. That shouting match catalyzed an epiphany about a lifetime of bullying at the hands of that uncle.

Wait. Wait up. Go fix yourself some coffee or something. Apparently I'm going to unload here.

Ready? Cool. Here we go.

Here's the thing. I think the reason he got so enraged when I called him on his hateful bullshit that Christmas afternoon is that no one else ever did. Everyone else in the family may grumble about him, but to his face they smile and reward him and tell him he's funny. Meanwhile, all my life, every Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter that he ruined for me, everyone told me I lacked a sense of humor. That's why I didn't find his bullying of me funny. And they told me it was my fault, the bullying; he wouldn't do it if I didn't give him such entertaining reactions. No one told him that there was anything wrong with a grown-ass man getting his jollies by verbally tormenting a little girl until she fucking lost it, and then laughing at her while her parents punished her for her unacceptable behavior. Everything he said, every word that came out of his mouth, was by definition golden, because it was coming out of his mouth.

Of course he hasn't changed a bit--why should he? He gets perfectly fine results as things stand; why should he do anything differently? And why wouldn't he be flabbergasted to the point of near-speechlessness that someone finally told him he was being a shit-head? If anyone ever tried to say it to him before, they sure as hell didn't make it stick.

I'm surprised it took me this long to come to that realization. I suppose I had some idea that, now that I was an adult myself, and not a powerless child, interactions would be better. And, well, to some extent, they are better. At age forty (well, thirty-nine at the time, but still) I'm not getting sent to my room or told to sit on the floor in the hallway and stare at the wall and think about what I've done. There is a different protocol for dealing with other adults than there is for dealing with children. And, being an adult, I'm a lot more capable now of putting my thoughts into words even while I'm furious, and of resisting my uncle's attempts to put me back in my place, the place he was comfortable with me inhabiting, the place that's entirely under his power, the place where I have to dance for his entertainment while the rest of the family laughs at his wit and my immaturity.

All of which added up to me being able to sit there and say, "That's some hateful, dehumanizing, transmisogynist bullshit you're spouting, not gonna pretend otherwise, I mean, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also you should grow the hell up, and, by the way, transwomen aren't existing at you just to spite you, and if you're tired of watching news stories about Caitlyn Jenner you can damn well pull up your big-boy paints, grab your big-boy TV remote, and change the fucking channel." And the worst he could do to me in response was sputter a bit and finally proclaim, "Don't get so fucking offended," like it was the last word on the matter (but it wasn't, because I could damn well spit back at him, "Then don't say such fucking offensive things, asshole," and walk out the room).

That's the worst he can do. But I can do so much worse to myself every day for the following year. I can relive that entire argument on a near-daily basis. I can also relive all the times he bullied me as a child, and I cried, and he laughed at me while I cried, and my parents told me I was defective for not enjoying it and/or morally weak for letting it get to me. That last shouting match doesn't exist on its own--it reconfigured my understanding of our interactions over my entire life.

I don't want to talk to him ever again. I don't want to see him ever again. But at the same time, I want to stand up in front of him and tell him, hey, you remember how you treated me while I was growing up? That wasn't even bullying. Bullying is between people of at least nominally equal standing. When a grown-ass man does it to a little girl, someone he has power over, and when he does it every time he sees her, from the time she's five to the time she's fifteen, that's straight up child abuse.

Wow. OK. So, that got real heavy real fast. Long story short: It's not that I fixate on 15 Minutes of Awful. It's that those 15 Minutes of Awful sort of recontextualized about 15 to 20 Years of Constant, Unremitting Awful. And that I'm liable to fixate on.

My fucking brain. My brain is a fucking jerk.

There's this fantastic Steven Universe episode, "Mindful Education," that kinda-sorta addresses the whole "I can't stop thinking about it, and it hurts, and I'm sick of hurting" thing. Rewatching it was soothing balm, but in a few hours the balm wears off. That's because the strategy of looking at the pain, understanding why it hurts, and being OK with the fact that it hurts, only goes so far. It's fantastic for surviving the painful thoughts, but it doesn't make them stop. And I can't spend another year going "Yes, I see that thought. Yes, it hurts. It's OK. I'm OK" on infinite repeat. I need to get my brain to stop running that damn program.

So here's what I did: I decided to actively fill my brain's idle cycles up with Other Narratives. I pulled up a blog I enjoy reading (one of several Steven Universe livebloggers, speaking of Steven Universe) and positioned it so I could read it while playing Puzzle Pirates. Then I pulled up some Mark Reads Discworld audio and listened to that while playing Puzzle Pirates.

The idea is, the longer I just sit there trying to play a particular video game while my brain keeps pushing the rewind-and-replay button on Worst Experiences Ever, the stronger grows the mental association between the two. It begins to feed itself: Playing the video game starts to cause the painful mental replay. But if I can associate the game strongly enough with something else, then playing the game will make me think of that something else--like, for instance, a gaggle of wizards arguing on a desert island, or the character development arcs of the Crystal Gems.

It's terrifying how easily programmable my brain is. The good news is, I can program it too. I just have to take, and keep taking, conscious action counter to the unwanted programming, until the unwanted programming has been thoroughly replaced my the preferred programming. That's all.

And in the meantime, well, I'm here.

but just a brief delay
Fri 2016-12-23 23:47:18 (single post)

I'll be uploading the Friday Fictionette for December 23rd in, oh, probably about 10 hours or so. I have everything written up and recorded and illustrated, but now it is late and I am sleepy and liable to make some sort of embarrassing and tedious-to-correct mistake if I keep going. Ebook compilation and conversion is fraught with so many opportunities to make embarrassing and tedious-to-correct mistakes. Not to mention interacting with Patreon's publishing process and coaxing it to do things it's not actually meant to do in its current version. By which I mean, HTML formatting and inline links. Not recommended after brain-shutdown-o'clock!

So I'll get a good night's sleep (the first in several days, I'm afraid) and then upload the whole shebang and announce it here. Until then!

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