“Write what you feel and not what you think someone else feels.”
Stephen Sondheim

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

being the tragic comedy and comic tragedy of the death and resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2
Tue 2016-07-12 23:29:25 (single post)

Oh, my goodness, it's been a normal day at last. A normal day, with normal workday expectations, with the normal workday rituals, and with the normal battle between me and the short story currently under revision. (There are things I want said in the first scene, and there seems to be no good way to say them.) A normal Tuesday also with its normally scheduled roller derby beat-down because what doesn't kill us makes us strong. A normal day. Bliss.

So. Now that things have returned to normal, I will very briefly (Ha!) recount for you the tale of woe known as The Death and Resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2.

Here's the thing about a 20-year-old car: We knew quite well it needed replacing. We'd been talking about it all year. The problem is, we hadn't managed to find time to go car shopping, or even to think about what we might want in a new car. "After Boise," we kept saying to each other, referring to the last roller derby bout in a series of bouts each placed uncomfortably soon after the previous. "We'll have a little room to breathe after Boise."

We also knew quite well that, the car being 20 years old, it should get a check-up before we entrusted it with our trip to Salt Lake City. So on Thursday morning, June 23, I took it to the shop. The shop recommended some work be done. We did that work. The car was then proclaimed fit for the drive.

I am telling you this so that you will know that we did our due diligence.

On June 24, six hours into the eight-hour drive, 90 miles short of our destination, our transmission went out. Just died. By flooring the gas pedal, we managed to limp into the Pilot Travel Center in Evanston, Wyoming, exit 6 on I-80 west, at about 25 miles per hour and with our hazard lights blinking. We pulled into a parking space in a cloud of steam and a waterfall of bubbling-over coolant fluid. Things looked grim.

Thanks to the magic of Triple A Plus and the miracle of having made it just close enough, we were towed at no charge the whole rest of the way to our hotel. So at least we were there, more or less on time, and ready to participate in the Wasatch Roller Derby Great Salt Skate as planned. We'd be relying on our teammates' good graces and the remaining empty spaces in their cars to ferry us between the hotel and the venue, but our ability to skate or coach (depending on who you're talking about) at the event remained unimpaired.

The next day, the mechanic around the corner from the hotel (recommended to us glowingly by the Triple A agent) gave us the bad news. Why did the transmission go out? Because all the transmission fluid had leaked away. Why was there a leak in the transmission? Because the transmission was one of the few things remaining in that car that was actually still 20 years and 285,000 miles old. (The chassis is one of the few other things. The engine is not.) There was no sign of impact. It wasn't an accident. It was simple wear and tear--and nothing we could have expected our usual mechanic to have discovered, because it hadn't developed that leak until midway through our drive. It was just rotten luck and terrible, terrible timing. And our transmission, due no doubt to having been driven without fluid, fried its little self to a crisp. The only way that Saturn was riding again was with a new transmission--which the mechanic wasn't 100% certain he could source, it being for a car that not only was 20 years old but also whose manufacturer was no longer around to make parts for a Saturn SW2.

I got this news during half time of our first bout of the weekend. Imagine me geared up, phone at ear, rolling back and forth behind the short bank of spectator bleachers. Pacing. On roller skates. "Fleur? Is your head in the game?" Yes. Well. It will be.

John, that is to say Papa Whiskey, was in full-on coach mode, having just given the half-time pep talk when I got off the phone and told him what I'd learned. He put his arm around me and he said, "Whatever happens, we will figure this out, and we will handle it together." It was just what I needed to hear, and, weirdly, just the way I needed to hear it. A reminder that I wasn't alone. And that we weren't there alone. It wasn't just the Niki-and-John team, which is a pretty valiant team in its own right. The two of us had the rest of the BCB All Stars team with us, and we were part of that team, and just knowing that, I think, made both of us feel more capable. Indomitable. Up to whatever challenge life threw at us. Strong, Smart, Together. You hate for crisis to hit, but if it must, let it hit while you've got your roller derby team surrounding you.

We pause while the author composes herself. *ahem.*

So we had several decisions to make, some more urgent than others. The big one was, if the mechanic can source a replacement transmission, do we have them put it in? Into--I repeat--a 20-year-old car? The urgent decision was, how are we getting back to Boulder so that people can go to work on Monday? The answers transpiring on Saturday the 25th were "Maybe? Depending on the price?" and "Probably Niki will stay in SLC with her friend, and the rest of the carpool will find room in other carpools. We hope? And then maybe Niki will wish she had just gone home if it turns out the mechanic can't source a new transmission and/or we decide to abandon the vehicle? But at least she'll get a nice visit with her friend out of it?"

Then on Sunday morning we remembered that rental cars existed. The original carpool could go home Sunday afternoon/evening as planned, just in a 2016 Dodge rather than in a 1997 Saturn. Don't think we didn't notice the difference in the ride. (We were, in the course of things, reminded how expensive one-way out-of-state rentals can be, especially if you pick the car up at an airport but do not return it to an airport. What price peace of mind, right?) And I'd return to SLC alone if need be. So. We finished out the tournament, checked out of the hotel, and drove back to Boulder without incident.

That's Part 1 of the story.

Now, before I get to Part 2, I need to tell you this: I've retold this story several times, and very, very often, well-meaning friends will hear the bit about the transmission being fried and reflexively burst out, "No! A new transmission? No way. And it would cost how much? No. Not worth it. Get a new car. Stupid to put that kind of money into such an old car." And then they hear Part 2, and realize that they pretty much just called us, their friends, stupid. So it goes. Friends do that. They say unfortunate things to each other, they forgive each other, they move on. But, see, I really want to say this:

Everyone's got a right to make the best decision for themselves regarding the use of their particular resources, and, well, respect that, yeah?

Also, unfortunately, I kinda have Daddy Issues in this department. My Dad has many good qualities, don't get me wrong, but no parent is perfect, and, well, he authored a few of my most notable neuroses. Right now what I'm thinking of is the approach he took to Teaching Good Judgment. It goes like this: Any time young Niki had a decision to make, it was a test. Will Niki excercise good judgment? It was an easy test to evaluate. Either young Niki made exactly the decision her Dad would have made, in which case she had exercised good judgment, or she would make ANY OTHER DECISION which was by definition WRONG and STUPID and proof that she did not have good judgment and could not be trusted with responsibilities or privileges.

(Friends who know me well may also see the seeds of my own tendency to just assume that any plan I come up with is Obviously THE Most Logical Way to Do Things. I'm working on it. Sorry, friends.)

So you can see where I struggled with the decision. I knew very well what The Right Decision was. The Right Decision was to abandon the car and redirect the money that would have gone into the new transmission into the down payment on a new car. To do anything else would be WRONG and STUPID and proof that Niki Cannot Be Trusted With Money Or A Car.

The problem was... abandoning the car would leave John and I with no car. We can get by with no car, but not comfortably, and not for long. (For instance: During the week we had no car, there was a day I could not secure a ride to roller derby practice, so I biked it. It's possible! It also takes 45 minutes to an hour each way, there is no street lighting for almost the entire way, and a bike ride of that length requires an expenditure of physical energy that I'd rather save for roller derby practice.) And, remember, we had made no start on new-car-shopping yet, and new-car-decisions need to be made by people who can walk away from the table, not by people who are under the We Have No Car We Need A Car We Must Buy A Car NOW pressure. So we were really deciding between two different "wastes of money"--prolonging the life of the existing car so we could have time to make the right decision for ourselves on a new car later in the year (and enjoy having two cars for a little while), or pressuring ourselves into making a quite possibly poor decision on a replacement car NEXT WEEK.

(That's the logical stuff. There was emotional stuff at play, too, like I'm not ready to let it goooooooo! I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. But it was the logical stuff that won the day.)

The mechanic in Salt Lake called Monday and quoted us a price on a remanufactured transmission with a 100,000-mile/3-year warranty attached. We discussed it, determined that we could afford it, and--after much more discussion, because this was the hard part--decided that it was worth it to us. We told the mechanic to go ahead. Then I reserved train fare for the following weekend.

(I dithered over whether I should ever admit to Dad that this is, in fact, happened. We'd been talking about the car situation on and off for some time; besides, it was roller derby adjacent, and I tell him all my best roller derby stories. In the end, I did tell him the whole Salt Lake City saga. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. And, as it turned out, he did not say anything about poor judgment. I guess he really has adapted to the idea that his little girl is a grown-up now. Like I said, my Dad has many good qualities.)

Intermission over. We now proceed to Part 2. Part 2 is me returning to SLC to recover the car.

That, by the way, is my first attempt to Storify something. It doesn't tell the whole story, but it gives a good outline. You can see, by the way, why it took me so long to find time to blog about it. I'm not even sure I really had time tonight. But we all make the decisions that seem the best for us with the resources that we do have, and I'm blogging it tonight anyway.

So from the Storify you've got the basics: Sunday, July 3rd, at 5:00 AM, I biked down to Boulder Downtown Station to get on the 6:00 AM bus to Denver Union Station, arriving at 7:00 AM or so. I boarded the Amtrak train to Salt Lake City at 7:45 and began that 15-hour journey at 8:05. Amtrak, you see, was much cheaper than another car rental, since I have a goodly stash of Amtrak Guest Reward points stashed away for just such occasions. Well, mainly I have them stashed away to spend on single-zone one-way sleeper accommodations, but they are also useful for this sort of situation. Amtrak was much cheaper in terms of stress, too; I'd already have to make one 8-hour drive alone, so why make two if I could help it?

It was a super relaxing ride. It was gorgeous. The whole drive up to Salt Lake the first time--well, as far as John and I were driving--I kept exclaiming about the geology, the erosion-sculpted rocks, the colors of the strata, the way the mesas looked like giant children's play-dough sculptures plopped atop a table draped in a flowing tablecloth with crumbs spilling down the folds. "Fleur, you missed your calling," my teammate joked. Don't we all have multiple alternate lives we could have lived, and maybe are living now in some alternate universe somewhere? Anyway, I got to really feast my eyes on it this time through. I also was able to get some writing done, and some reading too. And playing, of course. Computer full of little clicky games, why not?

AND I GOT TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP. If you've been reading along, you know how important that was.

July 4 was a small respite from all the comings and goings. Not only did I get to skate around downtown Salt Lake City for a bit and then relax in my hotel room like someone with nothing better to do (bliss! having nothing better to do!), but there was time also for a long, unhurried evening having dinner with my very dear friend and her family. Even if I didn't already have Sound Logical Reasons for going to all this expense and effort to get our car back, even if those Reasons weren't in and of themselves perfectly sufficient, there was knowing also that if I went back to Salt Lake City, I'd get to see my friend again, and with any luck for more than that very hurried hour in the hotel lobby that was all we got during the first trip. It was worth that whole second trip, Monday the 4th was.

OK, wow, I've been at this blog post for two hours. Two hours after roller derby practice. And this post has exceeded 2,000 words, sez Scrivener. So, um... more later? There will be more later. The Storify has the short version, but I'm not really good at non-verbose. You may have noticed.

Cover art features original photography by the author; this is not the first time one of her hands has modeled for fictionette cover art.
this fictionette is having a secret magical affair
Sat 2016-07-02 01:40:57 (single post)
  • 1,070 wds. long

Hi, y'all. It's stupid-o-clock in the morning and I have to be out of here by 9:30 am, so here we go: The Friday Fictionette for July 1 is "Partners in Crime," which is sort of like Romeo and Juliet except it's more like Romeo and Horatio and it's not a love story. Well, you can read a love story into it if you like. I'm agnostic as to whether there's romance involved. I haven't written about it. Doesn't mean it's not there. But by goshawks and grackles, there's damn well magic involved.

Those of you who are Patrons at the $1/month level and up will notice a difference this time around: The ebook post is now available for download in PDF and .epub formats. I know that many people prefer not to read ebooks as PDFs, and they've got darn good reasons for it. So here you go. I need to go back and clean up the fonts, because Scrivener goes a little overboard with its CSS when you export as-is, and before I can add a .mobi version to the mix I need to figure out why my attempts to convert result in Kindle Previewer losing chunks of text at its soft page breaks, but this is what you get for now.

I think it's pretty snazzy. It has, however, kept me up later than anticipated. (Why? Why won't you stop adding like three blank pages after the cover art? I swear I have removed all the page-break-after crap, where are you getting this from? Is this a calibre thing? Do I need to look at it in Nook for Windows?)

I'll release the Fictionette Freebie for June sometime over the weekend, most likely late Sunday. I'm putting off everything until late Sunday, because on Sunday I will be spending 15 hours on a train passing through gorgeous scenery and I will finally have time to do stuff like that. This would also be why I still haven't blogged about Salt Lake City, Part 1: BCB vs. The World, and the Tragedy of the Saturn's Last Stand

Don't worry, the Saturn gets brought back to life in the sequel. At least, so I was told, over the phone, by a very nice mechanic in Salt Lake City. We will find out for sure during Salt Lake City, Part 2: Independence Day Resurrection. Hence taking the train on Sunday.

In the meantime, I have got to get to sleep. (Can I sleep now? Please? Pretty please? But why not? Too bad, I am going to sleep anyway. Pththbbbp.)

Dad shows us how it's done.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
Thu 2015-12-24 23:07:37 (single post)

We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.

Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.

At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.

("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)

So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.

And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.

Cover art incorporates vulture photograph by Daniel Daley (CC BY 2.0)
this fictionette is preparing to take a trip
Fri 2015-12-18 23:58:40 (single post)
  • 1,128 wds. long

The Friday Fictionette for December 18 is up! After some angsty deliberation (I hate coming up with titles), I called it "What Your Name is Worth," because that's pretty much what it's about. It's sort of Weird West, which isn't generally my thing; I just went where the writing prompt pointed. You know how it goes.

The link above goes to a brief excerpt hosted on Patreon. These links go to the full-length PDF and MP3 editions, which may be downloaded by subscribers at the $1 and $3 per month pledge tiers respectively. All the details about the Friday Fictionettes project are over here.

Once I got that published, I thought, "Hey, how about I post another excerpt to Wattpad?" I've been so very, very behind in posting the fictionette excerpts to Wattpad. I've been catching up, one excerpt at a time, as and when I have time. And supposedly anything that goes up on a Friday has a much better chance of being "discovered" than stuff that goes up most other days of the week, so, OK, I posted "...Champagne." That's the one from October 23, so I'm getting close to caught up at least.

And then I thought, "I have time, why not get a little more caught up in back-filling the meta-data from the earlier fictionettes?" Which is to say, the Scrivener fields in which I jot down the URLs of the PDF, MP3, and fictionette excerpt on Patreon, and the corresponding excerpt on Wattpad, and the corresponding excerpt on my blog. Not to mention title and date and wordcount and the date of the freewriting session the fictionette is based on, because I want to keep track of stuff like that. Some of these fields got added late in the game, so they were blank for many of the earlier fictionettes. Some of these fields I just forgot to fill in once in a while.

Much of the data I needed in order to back-fill the meta-data fields could only be retrieved by combing back... and back... and back through the Patreon and Wattpad archives. Both of them work like this: You go to the "Works" or "Posts" page, which loads the most recent handful of items. You page all the way to the bottom of the screen. If it's Patreon, it detects you've scrolled all the way down and says, "Loading more posts..." for a few seconds. If it's Wattpad, you click "show more," and you also wait for a few seconds. After waiting for a few seconds, it loads the next handful of items. And then you scroll down to the bottom of the page and you do it again. And again. And again.

And then I thought, "This is such a pain! Why don't I just get all caught up on meta-data right now so that I never, ever, ever have to go through this again?"

And that, dear readers, is why fictionette procedures took about four hours today.

A mostly unscheduled weekend looms. Saturday, for once, I've got nothing on the calendar at all--well, a couple of very brief errands, no big deal, but no events, you know?--so I'm going to hang out with my loving, lovable, and miraculously supportive husband. Sunday would usually be roller derby practice, but this Sunday is the third and final allotted session for travel team tryout skills evaluations, and I've already done mine. Besides, this being the final tryout session, John will probably wind up in a coaches' meeting long into the afternoon to finalize travel team rosters. I'd just be awkwardly trying to avoid overhearing confidential things while waiting impatiently to go home. So instead I'm just going to stay home in the first place. Glorious.

Then on Monday evening I fly to New Orleans for the holidays. So I suppose I'll spend Monday in a state of pre-travel stress. Yay? Yay.

i am very impressed, but then i am easily impressed
went out and spent some money, lookit
Wed 2015-12-02 22:34:32 (single post)
  • 1,400 wds. long

Rejoice! I have finally replaced my camera. I have also gone grocery shopping and returned home with, among other things, fruitcake fixings. Now I have combined BOTH bits of good news into ONE splendid photo, which you can see here.

Fruitcake! Will contain almonds, currants, green (golden) raisins, candied ginger, strawberries, and dates. I will decide on the booze tomorrow when I actually process everything and start it soaking. It will probably be scotch or bourbon, considering what's currently in the cabinet.

Camera! Currently contains date stamp. This will be adjusted shortly.

The camera is a Nikon Coolpix S3700. It was on sale at Target, and further marked down as a repackaged item. Now, I didn't go into Target thinking about cameras. I was shopping for strings of holiday lights to donate to my roller derby league's holiday parade float (Because we're going to skate in a local holiday parade, of course). But the holiday section was right next door to the electronics section, which reminded me that I'd been meaning to replace my previous camera, it being ten years old and furthermore having recently ceased to function.

So this new camera boasts 20.1 Megapixels, which is a revolution in comparison with my previous. Its view screen is breathtakingly sharp--again, comparing it with my old camera. It's zoom function seems darn near lossless. It has a function list longer than my arm, and--ooh!--an auto-extending lens. Look, I'm over the moon just because this camera doesn't need a rubberband to hold its battery case closed, OK? My standards are somewhat generous here.

Mainly I'm just pleased that my options for Friday Fictionette covers are no longer restricted to A. find Creative Commons (commercial use OK) or public domain images online, or B. take a really crappy photo with my flip phone.

So there's your happy technology content. As for writing content, well, soon as I'm done with this-here, I shall be logging the most recent adventures of "...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker" in the Submission Grinder and in my personal log as well. I got a response to its latest submission just this weekend, but I haven't even opened the email yet because I've been drowning in NaNoWriMo writing and NaNoWriMo catch-up. If it's a rejection, I'll be figuring out where to send that sucker yet. If it's not a rejection, expect some crowing. Next I'll be spending a little revision time with "Down Wind" to get it ready to to go and meet some very nice people itself. I think that's enough for a well-rounded late night, don't you?

near five thousand words and also some peach pepper pie
Thu 2015-11-19 00:28:50 (single post)
  • 18,471 wds. long

I remain woefully behind the NaNoWriMo curve. But today I found out how many words I can log in two dedicated hours of nanobabbling. As it turns out, that number is 4,865. Yes, I can type really fast! Also, the internal editor is turned entirely off, so it can't butt in and tell me, "You already explained that last scene, you don't need to have your character explain it again," or, "You realize that this bit of dialogue is just an excuse for you to figure out the backstory's timeline, right?" Internal editor doesn't get to say that stuff, so I just keep typing.

As usual, I'm not sure where the story's going to go tomorrow. But I jotted down some questions that occurred to me during today's session, and those will probably help get me pointed in the right direction.

In other news, my sprained wrist/thumb has not prevented me using the typewriter. Turns out, it's pretty painless. I don't even use my left thumb when I type. It just sits there and watches the right thumb do all the space-bar work. So I'm finally getting that October 2015 Fictionette Artifact done for them what's got one coming to 'em. Yay!

Typing on a manual typewriter is weird. It's not just because I've used the Dvorak layout for more than a decade now, and am no longer reliable to touch-type in Qwerty. I'm actually starting to get Qwerty back so long as I'm on the typewriter. It's a context thing. No, what makes the manual typewriter weird is the way I instinctively try to hit ALT-TAB on it when I switch between it and my laptop. You know. ALT-TAB. To get back to the typewriter "window." *facepalm*

In other other news, I organized our freezer. It's the sort that's one big below-fridge drawer in which everything gets dumped, which means it's hard to find stuff, especially if you keep a lot of ice-packs on hand to bring to roller derby practice just in case. So I pulled most everything out in order to put it all back following some semblance of logic. I discovered two things:

  • There are still like five 1-lb packages of breakfast sausage down there. WHATEVER DID I DO TO DESERVE SUCH LARGESS O UNIVERSE I AM NOT WORTHY.
  • There is way too much stuff in there that's been there for way too long and needs to either get used up or thrown away.

The following recipe/experiment arose from an attempt to use up some of that surplus.

Peach-Pepper Pie (muffin form)

  1. Set one sheet of puff pastry out to defrost. I believe I acquired the puff pastry package when a friend moved out of state and I helped her re-home many of the edible contents of her kitchen. The box was still unopened when I pulled it out of the freezer tonight.
  2. Put some peaches on to simmer over medium heat. Some years ago when I not only had a CSA share from Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce but also a fruit share add-on from Ela Family Farms, I found myself overrun with peaches. So I sliced up a bunch of them into sandwich bags, and I stuffed the sandwich bags into a gallon-sized freezer bag. This experiment used up one sandwich bag full of frozen peach slices. I was worried they might be freezer-burned after all this time, and it might indeed have been an issue if I was going to eat them plain. But instead...
  3. Stir in a crap-ton of sugar. It came out to two heaping soup spoons of brown sugar and two of plain granulated sugar.
  4. Stir in some pickled chili peppers. About one and a half heaping soup spoons of MMLocal's High Desert Peppers (mild).
  5. Season with black and red pepper, then continue simmering until mixture is thick. I like pepper. I put a bunch in. Anyway, I let the whole mess simmer until the pastry was tolerably defrosted, about 40 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Add 1 tbl butter, 1 egg, and some oatmeal. Stir. Four big soup-spoons of McCann's Quick Cooking Irish oatmeal (or whatever kind of quick-cook oatmeal you've got in your pantry), mainly to soak up any liquid that hadn't simmered away.
  7. Apply cooking spray to a 6-hole muffin tin. Line bottom of each hole with pastry. I was going to do a small pie tin, but I was too impatient with the pastry. I tried to unfold it when it wasn't quite defrosted, and it cracked into three strips. So I cut those strips up into twelve squares that fit the muffin holes nicely.
  8. Spoon in pie mixture. Not too much. You want your top crust and bottom crust to meet along the sides.
  9. Layer a piece of roasted chili on top of pie mixture. I also had a sandwich bag of roasted mild pueblo chilis in the freezer, because while I love them on everything, I still never manage to eat a whole package of them before mold sets in. So I've learned to parcel out most of them into small freezer bags and defrost when ready.
  10. Cover with another layer of pastry. Really smoosh it down. Don't be shy. Again, you want this top crust to meet up with the bottom so that the "muffin" doesn't fall apart too much when you go to eat it.
  11. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Let sit to cool for five or ten minutes, then carefully pry them out so you can devour them. Feeds one very greedy cook over the course of one two-hour NaNoWriMo session.

Ta-da!

a detailed look at the key-forging process as undertaken inside the cell
Tue 2015-10-27 17:01:08 (single post)
  • 4,514 wds. long
  • 1,338 wds. long

I put in two solid hours on the story revision today, and it is almost done. Tantalizingly close. I hope to submit it tomorrow, at which point I shall crow mightly.

I'd like to write a little about the process of turning one draft into another draft. You might not be interested. You might be all, "Feh! I have my own process. I do not need yours. Feh, I say!" in which case you can skip this bit and scroll down to the next bit. But if you're interested, here's my process. Or at least, here's the process I used for this story and for this draft.

To start with, I had a critiqued copy of the previous draft to work from. The response to its submission last year was to invite me to resubmit if I could get it down to between 4,000 and 5,000 words. So I wrote back, tentatively asking if the editor had any thoughts she'd like to share to guide me in that revision; the editor responded with a line-by-line critique, crossing out text that was slowing down the story and highlighting elements that should be foregrounded.

This, by the way, is the sort of unlooked-for gift that writers dream of getting. We get excited just to get a rejection letter with personal comments, so you can imagine the ecstasy occasioned by an unasked for critique and line edit. Accompanying an invitation to resubmit, no less.

So my first step was to import this critique into my Scrivener project. I moved the August 2014 draft out of the Draft folder (where the documents to compile into a manuscript live) and into my custom Previous Drafts folder, to keep a record and to make room. Then I imported the critique, which was handily in RTF already, into a custom Critiques folder. I converted all of the editor's notes and deletions into linked notes. I also inspected the recommended deletions for any content I didn't want to lose, noted those elements, and considered how I might incorporate them into the surviving text.

Next, I began to type up a new draft from blank, using the critiqued copy and my notes as a reference. This is what took me for-frickin'-ever. This is the part of the process where I kept abandoning it for weeks and then needing to reacquaint myself with the project whenever I tried to pick it up again. I was about a third of the way through this step when I finally got my act together last week.

Thursday night I began the next stage of the revision: print it out and scribble on it (line-edit). I had the foolish idea this would take me, oh, maybe an hour. WRONG! This took the remainder of Thursday and all of Friday too. Lots of crossing things out and attempting to rephrase things. Embarrassing typos to be hunted down and destroyed.

Today I picked up that scribbled-on copy and began to implement the line-edit. I scanned through the printed document for scribbles, and I typed into the new draft whatever the scribbles said. Sounds simple, right? Generally it was. But there were a few "bugs" that were more complex; those I put aside for later, creating a linked note for each to make coming back to them easier.

When the simple fixes were done, I went back to those linked notes, which live in Scrivener's Inspector pane under the Comments and Footnotes tab, and began addressing the more complex line-edits. There were four of them. I got through two before my time was up today.

That's it. Tomorrow I hope to address the last two "bugs" on my buglist, and submit the revision that was requested more than a year ago. I continue to feel silly about taking fourteen months to get this done, but the bad-ass joy of getting it done at last rather outweighs that embarrassment.

Also, as I upload this post to my blog, I will be finished with my work day. All finished. By five o'clock in the afternoon. I honestly can't remember the last time I managed that. It will feel so very good to gear up for roller derby practice in the certain, satisfied knowledge that no work awaits me when I come home. Again, I'm embarrassed that it's taken me until now to find my workday rhythm, but I'm too pleased with having found it to notice the embarrassment overmuch.

Oh! Also, today's submission procedures involved preparing "The Rapture of the Santiago Women," whose title I might yet change, for submission to the forthcoming Alien Artifacts anthology from Zombies Need Brains LLC. I will most definitely change the first line, as it was dictated by the market I sent it to first. I've already edited the story a bit today, just cleaning up the text to make it flow more smoothly. A story's always a little rough when I write it to a themed issue's deadline; I like to make sure it's a bit more polished before it heads out to meet the next slush pile.

This is another thing that feels awesome--as the revision on "Caroline's Wake" comes to a close, I've got brain-space for revising other stories for resubmission. It's like I'd been in jail for a year, but with the means to make the key to the prison door. What the eff took me so long to do it? Damn. Well, door's open now. Free!

many of whose hours weren't all that conducive to recovery, as it turns out
Mon 2015-10-26 23:25:09 (single post)

It's Recovery Monday! I had a lovely time at Mile Hi Con, but it was a con after the nature of cons, which is to say, exhausting. I can't swear I got more than 5 hours sleep on either night, and the drive was pretty dang tiring for being "local." Now, I feel like a terrible wimp saying this, because goodness knows John had a convention weekend and a drive between Boulder and Albequerque, but there it is: Just attending a con that's an hour's drive away, or two depending on traffic, wears me out.

The shenanigans involving coordinating auto maintenance and a rental car on either side of the trip didn't exactly help, mind you.

So anyway, long story short (too late!), I slept in this morning.

I've been off skates for a week because of resting the foot/ankle Tuesday, having scrimmage called off due to rain Thursday, and playing truant in order to enjoy Mile Hi Con's Sunday programming, but today I geared up again to take my turn helping to train our Phase 1 training class. Great bunch of skaters, all terrifically determined to master their crossovers and transitions; the improvement and increased confidence just over the course of this one practice was amazing. And of course I did everything right along with them, which means I'm all worn out--a close focus on basic maneuvers for two hours straight is no joke, not even for an experienced skater. This on top of deciding to ride my bike to practice, and I was glad I'd slept in. I may in fact go to bed early tonight.

The bike thing was because I don't quite trust the car not to fail to start. Our usual mechanic discovered a failing ignition control module, which, seeing as how they'd just put that one in less than a year ago, they replaced at no charge under warranty. (This is why it was worth having it towed to the usual mechanic, rather than leaving it in the care of the very nice shop next door to the place I found myself becalmed on Friday.) They put the new part in and the car started up just fine--but when I tried to drive it home today, it wouldn't start for me. They coaxed some life into it, and it hasn't failed me since, but that was only this afternoon. If there's any possibility of it failing to start in the near future, I'd as soon not have that be on a friend's farm, as it seems unkind to inflict a tow truck upon her property and animals and all. So I biked. I thought it would take me 30 minutes; it took about 50. I was able to catch a ride back from a very kind skater who lives up the road from me. She was extraordinarily patient with the whole big production required to get my bike to fit in her car.

So, yeah, that was my recovery day. Not all that "recovery," now that I look back on it.

A quick bit of Puzzle Pirates content, since I once again didn't manage to put any YPP content up on Sunday: Brigand King sightings do not in fact appear to count toward the October Seal o' Piracy. I have hard data on this! Both Oshun/Meridian and Millefleur/Emerald failed to acquire the trophy after travel + BK, then were awarded the Seal upon completing a Buried Treasure expedition. Meanwhile, four of my other pirates got the Seal with travel + Imperial Outpost or travel + shipwreck/treasure haul. So I can only conclude that BK sightings do not count, but buried treasure, shipwrecks, and imperial outposts do. And traveling around the ocean, of course.

I'm still working on my Ice pirate. Perhaps I'll buy her a Viking Raid map that's small enough to be able to win solo (I'm usually the only person logged onto the Ice server, which is no surprise, because Ice) and see if that counts. I keep sailing her up and down the route between Wemadeit and Maelstrom, and all I get are these lousy Kraken Hunt maps. No expeditions and no effin' map to Mini Island, drat the luck.

Update: Teshka on Ice was awarded her Seal o' Piracy upon buying the Viking Raid map. That is weird!

The other YPP news is that apparently there will be changes implemented to a couple scheduling aspects of blockades, but I'll go into that on Saturday when it's next time to blog blockades. If you're curious, the info's here.

And that's all. I will go fall over unconscious now. G'night!

Cover art features original photography by the author of something that's actually, despite my efforts, not bubbly.
this fictionette went shopping for mead, and hijinks ensued
Fri 2015-10-23 23:23:32 (single post)
  • 1,451 wds. long
  • 4,668 wds. long

Compared to my usual eleventh hour stunts, this week's Fictionette got done ridiculously early. Par for this week's course, happily. I got up early to see John off--he hit the road for New Mexicon--and then I got right to work so that I'd be able to go to a convention myself. MileHiCon's programming started at 2:00 PM, and I planned to be there.

So, yeah, I pretty much did my morning shift right away and straight through, and when I was done, "I Didn't Ask for Champagne" was up at Patreon and it had only gone twenty past noon. Go me!

But I still didn't make it to the con in time to catch the two o'clock panel. This is because, in the parking lot of Redstone Meadery, just when I'd finished purchasing gifts for a friend and was ready to make the hour-long drive to the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, the car died. The engine simply died before I'd even put the car in reverse, and it would not start again. It was 1:00 PM.

What followed was a long call to AAA from the tasting room of Redstone Meadery, and a short wait therein, which was followed by my car being towed to its usual mechanic and myself at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage rented from the nearby Hertz. When I at last began my drive out of Boulder, it was 2:30 PM. Pretty slick, I have to admit. What could have wrecked my weekend plans was reduced to mere inconvenience, and not even that much expense. Gods of travel, bless the Triple A.

(Not that much expense so far. The rental was under $35 for the whole weekend, but we'll see what the bill comes to when the Saturn gets diagnosed.)

The next hour was taken up with construction traffic on Highway 36 which began very early on the Foothills on-ramp. The hour after that, with normal traffic on I-25. But I had Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap to keep me company, so I laughed a lot instead of raging at the road.

Then I finally made it to the hotel around 4:30 PM and was in the audience by 5:00 to hear Kevin and Ursula live--Ursula Vernon is the artist guest of honor, and Kevin Sonney was not shy about contributing to her GoH hour, to everyone's enjoyment. Connie Willis took over at 6:00 to talk to us about foreshadowing and which movies do it well (or poorly), opening ceremonies were at 7:00, dinner was overpriced but delicious salmon at the hotel restaurant, and at 9:00 Carrie Vaughn interviewed Kevin Hearne in the style of her series heroine's "Midnight Hour" radio show on KNOB. There was ranting about conspiracy theorists and speculation about Bigfoot. Everything was splendid. We lived happily after ever. The end.

Oh, except I still had two more hours of workday to live up to, and a short story to line-edit. Well. I'm finishing that up now, aren't I?

The story has not yet been submitted, despite my hopes. That's OK. It wasn't for lack of working on it. Line edits are simply taking longer than expected. My bad for expecting them to be so quick! This is the stage where I do get to bring out my inner perfectionist and let her try to get every sentence in every paragraph right. Within reason, anyway. I expect I'll be all, "That's FINE, let it GO, just SUBMIT the dang thing" by about Wednesday.

Tomorrow: Breakfast off-site! And then at 9:30 AM I will have a dilemma: Do I go to the SFWA business meeting, or do I throw in my lot with a Wreckin' Roller Rebels skater who's giving the kids a sock-footed lesson in roller derby? THIS IS A HARD CHOICE no, I'm serious, it actually is. I mean it. Don't laugh!

Cool story, sis, but you could have told it in half the time...
(YPP) The Olympian Class Sloop: Sacrificing convenience for cool
Mon 2015-10-19 11:20:11 (single post)

I have been meaning for some time to blog about the Olympian Class Sloop that was available for shipyard purchase in July and August. But I keep trying to do this on Sunday, and the problem with Sunday is that it starts with roller derby practice, and I don't generally manage much that's productive after roller derby practice. Generally I wind up flat in bed for the rest of the day. (That especially goes for Sunday practices where I manage to roll my ankle and inflame some sort of tendon in my foot. Stoopid foot.) Next thing I know, it's Monday morning, and I missed another Sunday, and the sloop I want to blog about came out three months ago, and when am I going to blog about this month's limited edition sloop (the Undead Class Sloop, available through November 1), huh?

So, whatever, here's a Puzzle Pirates blog post on Monday morning. You can pretend it's still Sunday if you want to.

Olympian Class Sloop: Gorgeous and Terribly Inconvenient

It is shiny and pretty in every way. But I have discovered that I'm less than happy with its layout.

Puzzle Pirates has many good things going for it, but movement around a scene is not one of them. Which is usually OK. Almost all of the action takes place in chat and in mini-games, after all. Your pirate avatar mostly serves the purpose of playing dress-up and showing off the results. So it's understandable that, of all the things the game designers could focus on, the user experience of walking around isn't a high priority.

It only becomes a problem in two areas. One of those is walking around a large, uninhabited island; since you can't "teleport" to various areas via the buildings on the Dock map, you really do have to walk in order to find the horde of monsters waiting to be defeated or the island creator's inscription or whatever. And walking is nail-bitingly, knuckle-whiteningly slow. You click where you want to go, and then you wait for your pirate to get there, and then you right-click to shift the camera to the new area, and then you wait for the camera motion to finish, then you do it all over again. And again. And again.

The other problem area is walking around a ship, especially one with a lot of stairs and extraneous scenes. And in order to reach the booty chest an Olympian Class Sloop, you must navigate both.

Assuming that you've been performing the duty navigation puzzle (I always do), you start at the navigation wheel, up top the aft platform of the main deck. So first you've got to come down the stairs. I hate in-scene stairs. If you're already standing on the yellow arrow, you'll have to walk off it and walk back. And sometimes even then it doesn't work--instead of going down the stairs, your pirate simply stops at the top of the stairs. At this point, I'd usually click the other downstairs arrow--but on the Olympian Class Sloop there is only one set of stairs between the aft deck and the main deck. Arrgh! So I have to walk off the arrow and try it again.

Or I just skip the damn stairs. Right-clicking moves the camera over and brings the hatch into view. So I click on its little yellow arrow, and go downstairs into the main hold. Arrows that change scenes don't seem to fail at the rate that arrows for descending/ascending in-scene stairs do.

So now you are in the main hold, which is where most sloops keep the booty. But not this sloop. Oh, no. You must go down another level into the "Gorgon Den". And then you have to walk all the way to the other side of the Den, because the scene is too long to reach it by shifting the camera.

Now you can divide the booty. Finally. But then you'll have to go back up to the main hold if you want to then access the money and goods now aboard the ship. Arrrgh.

It's a cute narrative premise: The booty chest is buried deep in a stone labyrinth and watched over by the head of Medusa. Thus would-be thieves either get lost or turned to stone. Honestly, if the developers had seen fit to bring this narrative to life in a game-affecting way--say, giving the ship a modest functional bonus against gem thieves and the like--I'd complain less. But as things stand, it's purely a cosmetic thing which affects game play only by making booty divisions more of a pain in my butt.

Honestly, I'd prefer it if you could get to a ship's hold and booty via commands on the sidebar, just like you already do with the port/deport and sail/turn about buttons. But if they must be dependent on interacting with "physical" stations, can't those stations be made less inconvenient to get to?

It's not just the officer in command who has to deal with it. The Gorgon Den also houses the ship's two bilge stations and one of its carpentry/patching stations. So if you're a jobber switching from sails to something else, you risk getting yelled at to "station up, lazer!" when you're genuinely trying to do just that. If you're an officer moving your swabbies about, you have a long wait during which you might wonder if the swabbie will restation at all.

Pretty as it is, I'd as soon do away with the Olympian Class Sloop's main hold entirely--it's not particularly functional--and replace it with the Gorgon Den. Or just move all the functional parts of the Gorgon Den up onto the main hold, so that the room that's the hardest to get to is also the room that you need the least. Compare with the Red Room on the Dream Class Sloop. Clever hidden rooms and sub-basements are fun to look at and maybe throw parties in, but let's keep them strictly optional, yeah?

So there you go. It's a beautiful ship with a clever story behind it, and PixelPixie of the Cerulean Ocean deserves all the kudos for their contest-winning design. But the game developers have made it enough of a pain to interact with that I'd rather just leave ported at some island with an active market and just use it for executing shore trade.

So that's my rant. Meanwhile, I have just bought this month's Undead Class Sloop, which again is only available through November 1. Hopefully it turns out to be both really cool-looking and a pleasure to sail.

email