inasmuch as it concerns Mapping Territories:
Writing from the road. Writing about roads. Writing in the middle of the road. Squish. Just like grape.
dispatches from the rails
Guess where I'm blogging from!? I'm blogging from the train! In COACH! ...Apparently trains get more civilized east of the Mississippi. Or maybe there's just fewer dead zones so that it seems worth getting a hotspot up and running. In any case, I'm on the Cardinal, having boarded at its originating station in Chicago and staying right on to its last stop of New York City. And there is wifi.
I'm heading to Montreal for Scintillation 2019. Everything sounds like a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to author readings, outings for dim sum and tea tastings, walking tours of various bits of town, tabletop games, and of course all sorts of panels. But I have to get there first.
It has been an adventure. I knew it would be an adventure going into this. I bought the fare reassuring the ticketing agent on the phone, "Yes, I know. Three nights on board. That's fine. I like trains." And I do! But, let me tell you, I have never been more glad of an impending twelve hour overnight layover than I am now.
My layover between Denver and Chicago was only to be three hours, which felt uncomfortably lean. Look, you take the California Zephyr with any regularity, you know there's a lot of potential for mishap and slowdowns between San Francisco and Chicago. And indeed the train was two hours late into Chicago, just late enough to keep me from relaxing. I spent the hour between trains walking one big and slow clockwise circle from track 26, around the track area, into the main terminal, over to gate C, into the line for boarding (pause for half an hour because boarding started late), then shuffling slowly in that line from gate C over to track 28. You will notice the proximity of 26 to 28, yes? Well. When my shuffling, shambling queue came alongside Train 50, I couldn't help but notice that proximity, either. Physically, mechanically, I could have stepped off Train 6, crossed the platform, and boarded Train 50 in under 5 minutes. Unfortunately, Amtrak connections don't work like that unless you're so desperately super-late that they're actually holding up the departure of the train just for you. And thankfully things weren't that desperate.
So, OK, I got my steps in for the day, as the kids with the FitBits do say.
Those two hours of late, by the way? There was this one half hour in there that was absolutely fascinating. Apparently Amtrak had left a car to be repaired somewhere east of, oh, Osceola, Iowa? Maybe? And it had been repaired. So our crew was tasked with picking it up and dragging it into Chicago. Like, "Oh, hey, while you're out, could you pick up some milk and a dozen eggs?" Only instead of groceries it was an Amtrak passenger car. So I was that passenger, the one who runs off to the back of the last coach to watch the goings-on over the engineers' shoulders. I was on my best behavior, though! I kept my mouth shut and did not bother them with questions. Some of the crew got out to manually throw (or shove) the switches that directly and visibly switched the lie of the tracks so that we could back onto the spur where the car for pick up was. The engineer on board kept saying into the walkie talkie, "Give me three more cars. Give me about a car and a half more. Twenty feet, nice and easy." And thus we backed, ever so gently, right into the orphaned car. Then they did a bunch of stuff I couldn't see to attach the car, then we waited a while, and then we went on our way, one car longer.
Anyway. Train 50, the Cardinal, has a single-decker coach with modern, comfy seats and, by Amtrak standards, very little leg-room. For comparison, in the upper level of the double-decker coach on the California Zephyr, I'd had so much room for my short little legs that I couldn't reach the footrest attached to the seat-back in front of me. The fold-down desk was just useable if I extended my seat's leg rest and sat on that rather than on the seat itself. Not complaining! It was spacious. It was comfy. Just, it was a bit of a surprise to be get on the Cardinal and be reminded of an airplane. First class in an airplane, maybe, but still.
And this worried me because I was going to be in that coach car for twenty-eight hours. (Twenty-eight! Haha ahaha ha. But see below.) Fortunately, I didn't have a next-seat neighbor until sometime past noon the next day, so I was able to curl up on my pair of seats and sleep cozily enough, at least until my knees started complaining about having been too long in a bent position. (Aging! I'm telling you.)
Did I write? Why yes I wrote. I have been writing. I have been doing all the writing every day on every train. I did some freewriting that turned into a flash fiction piece that has muscled its way onto the revision workbench despite said workbench already being occupied. I made some progress on the latest overdue Friday Fictionette. Also I battled 4thewords monsters and submitted a manuscript because, as stated above, there is wifi on this train, so I could do those things.
OK, well, much of West Virginia was dead zone. But then much of West Virginia was too beautiful for gluing eyes to the laptop screen anyway, so.
But here's the thing: Throughout today, this train has been getting more and more behind schedule. It had picked up a forty-five minute delay overnight, and this steadily increased to an hour and a half by the time we got to Charlottesville. Then we hit Washington D.C., where I gawked out the window at the Iconic Architectural Features of America's Capitol, like you do. (I saw the Washington Monument and I think I saw the back end of the White House. It was hard to be sure. It was dark out, and the big double rectangle between me and the recognizable dome could have been just a bigger version of any random IT office back in east Boulder.) And we came to the station, and we stopped, and we stayed there a long, long time.
They had to change off the diesel engine for electric, to start. That was planned. Then they had to do something arcane with the brakes, which was not planned. Then the other passengers in coach started shouting at the Amtrak crew like spoiled children, and I upped stakes and departed for the lounge car where it was quiet.
And then. And then and then and then. Just before the stop in Wilmington, Delaware, there is drama. There is a man who has been in the bathroom a long, long time and is not responding to the crew. I mean, he's not in medical distress, as far as they can tell, but he refuses to come out. And other passengers indicate that earlier conversations with said gentleman made them think he might be doing drugs in there. OR SOMETHING. And the coach attendant is all, "That's going to slow us down some more, because we're going to have to call the police to deal with him." Cue the shouting and the wails of despair and "Please, Lord, just let us reach Philadelphia!" I'd just returned to my seat toward the front of coach. I turned right around and parked myself in the last seat in coach, as far from the shouting and wailing as I could get. Because I've got a sleepless night in NYC ahead of me, and I need a nap.
The stop at Wilmington wasn't actually all that long. As we pulled away, I saw the aforementioned gentleman being questioned on the platform by three police officers. I suppose extracting him didn't turn out to be all that difficult.
So. I'm going to be at least two and a half hours late into New York Penn Station. Which is fine. Once I get there, I have until around 8:00 AM to board my next train. My only regret is, we're going to get in after all the groceries close, and I had wanted to pick up a few things. Well. One of them opens again at 5:00 AM, so maybe I'll get to do my shopping after all.
Meanwhile, you know what's open all night long in New York City? This Korean BBQ place. So it doesn't matter how late I get in, I'm still getting my order of kimchi kalguksu or maybe galbitang or, I dunno, something delicious. Also I have not counted the number of karaoke bars in the neighborhood but a glance at Google Maps tells me that number is upward of A LOT. So it'll be fine.
But I should probably take that nap now.
A bunch of yay and also driving
- 29 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 46 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hello. I have just driven through a lot of Kansas. This weekend is the War of Wheels tournament in Salina, and I'm here to cheer on the Boulder County Bombers Screaming Mimis as they compete. It's going to be a lot of fun and very exciting and I am looking forward to it but what I'm really looking forward to right now is a good night's sleep because, woo, driving through a lot of Kansas.
Currently I'm at the Ambassador Hotel and Convention Center, and it's... weird. Which I supposed I should have expected. I know better than to take the cheapest hotel Google finds me. I mean, I've seen what happens when teammates do that. They come up to you at the afterparty asking wistfully, "Does your hotel have towels? Clean ones?" But in this case, the very cheap price was tacked onto a convention center. They host conventions! How bad can they be? Also, free breakfast.
And, well, they're not sketch. They're just weird. OK, from the outside they look sketch. To start with, the signage is difficult to make out--I went up and down the block a few times before I spotted it; Google unhelpfully told me "turn left (after the Subway restaurants)" and, well, that describes the driveways of about four hotels as well as an ice cream shop (Braum's) and something that looks like a rebranded Steak & Shake (Spangles!). All I could see was a big red A on black sign presiding over a seriously depopulated parking lot in front of an extinct Irish pub. But inside, it's this huge, cavernous space, four or five levels of balconies jutting out over what's unmistakably a hotel and convention center lobby, with lots of brass banisters and foliage-topped half-walls partitioning out the wide carpeted areas containing tables and chairs and, incongruously, random toy dispensers. You know, you put in a quarter and you get out a little plastic egg with a trinket inside? Yeah. And those toy dispensers make more light than the actual interior lighting of the space, which is super dim. I mean, I described it as "cavernous" advisedly. It's like a town carved into the walls of a great big cave. Also it kind of reminds me of the Christie Lodge in Avon, that one time I stayed there, only, like I said, not as well lit, and instead of pho there's BBQ.
And the place is simply deserted, undoubtedly because there are no conventions going on at the moment (unless you count the "Welcome Baptist Church!" signs visible through the windows near the locked and unlit convention center entrance; maybe it's a convention every Sunday morning) and also because the roller derby tournament hosts reserved their special rate block with the Quality Inn on the other side of the highway. I've run into a total of... three other guests, I think. Hardly anyone seems to be staying here right now. This underground cliff-dwelling is a ghost town. Or, at least, so it seems tonight. Maybe I'll get a better sense of the hotel's current population when I go over for the complimentary breakfast in the morning.
My room is pretty basic. It has the usual assortment of hotel furniture. There is a bathtub, which puts it ahead of some hotel rooms I've stayed in. Honestly, I can't complain.
But back to the actually writing, about which, this blog.
This week has been rough in terms of productivity. I managed about half of a late-starting Monday before getting pleasantly distracted by John's playing Dicey Dungeons. (That's an excellent fun time, by the way. Totally worth whatever Steam is charging for it. I may end up buying it myself.) Then neither of us managed much sleep (and not for lack of trying), so my Tuesday turned into pretty much nothing but recovering from that sleepless night in time to be functional at derby practice. I missed my daily submissions procedures and everything.
Then Wednesday I opened up my mail and found responses to five different submissions.
That's a lot. I've just gotten used to the idea that, with my one-sub-each-workday challenge, I may well have a rejection to log more days than not. OK. Fine. But five? Five submission responses? Accumulated only over 48 hours? That's... well, that's something that only happens when you have a lot of manuscripts out on submission at once. Which isn't something I've ever had before this year.
Here's the thing. Only two of those five responses were rejections.
One of the remaining three was from the Denver Horror Collective, which just reprinted "First Breath", to square away payment details with me. The contract said X amount within Y days of publication, and, hot damn, that's exactly what happened. That's always nice. Well, I say "always," but it's not like I get to deal with the post-acceptance part of the submission process often enough for "always" to mean a lot. This was only my second sale of 2019.
The other two? Were my fourth and fifth sales of 2019. Which is to say: ACCEPTANCE LETTERS. Yay!
I may have yelped and run out into the living room shouting, "It's a two-acceptance day! Eeeeee!" And then I may have tackle-hugged my husband. If so, he took it in stride.
One of those acceptance letters was for an old poem ("Your Disembodied Friends Would Like to Remind You") that I pulled out of the archives for a serious overhaul in order to submit it to a brand new horror quarterly. The other was for a previously published story ("Lambing Season") I'd submitted for reprint to an established podcast. Both should go live later this year. As usual, that's about all I can say until things develop further. In the meantime, please enjoy imagining me doing the happy dance. Any kind of happy dance. What kind of happy dance would you do? That one will be fine.
(If you are wondering, "Fourth and fifth? What happened to the third publication?" the answer is, "Didn't I mention that I sold a poem a couple weeks ago? I sold a poem called 'At Night, the Dead' a couple weeks ago. It'll be out later this year." Again, more details later.)
So my week may have slid into a rough patch, but Wednesday's inbox goodies really perked it right up! ...just in time for it to get all chaotic again what with the solo road trip and the roller derby tournament.
rejections += 1 (yay) and so do submissions
- 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,285 words (if poetry, lines) long
I got a rejection letter today! That makes four of the one hundred I want to acquire in 2019, and the first in response to the avalanche of daily manuscript submissions I began sending out mid-April. It's working, it's working!
Meanwhile, Hi. I'm in a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado. Tomorrow I skate with the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" in the Melee in the Mountains tournament. Our first game, against the Chicago Outfit, will be at noon. And I am super tired and ready for bed.
It doesn't help that I just walked down to the Park 'n Ride to retrieve my car from where I left it charging at the free public charging station, only to discover when I got there that I'd left my car keys in the hotel room. So I decided the car can just stay there until tomorrow morning. I'm not unhappy that I went for the extra walk, though. Walks are nice.
But now I'm really tired. Therefore the rest of today's writing update will be super fast and super brief.
- Still way behind on the Friday Fictionettes, but I got a decent nibble in just now on the one for April 19.
- I kept up my daily submitting streak. Over lunch, I sent "First Breath," with its Colorado ski-town setting, to a Denver-centric anthology that might reprint it.
- Over meatloaf at the Eagle Diner, I managed a brief talk-to-myself session on the current short story revision.
- Also at the diner, I did some similarly brief freewriting, resulting in what looks like a solid "zero draft" for a brand new short story.
To be painfully honest, I have to admit to overestimating my submission streak the other day. At the time, Habitica reported a 9-day streak on that particular daily task, but it's very generous in preserving my streak so long as I use my Rogue powers of stealth to avoid damage from uncompleted dailies. Looking at the Submission Grinder, I see that today's submission brings me up to seven days of daily manuscript submissions, one each weekday from April 18-26 inclusive. Also I did one April 16. So it's not like the ongoing achievement loses any impressiveness after the correction. I'm still pretty damn pleased.
So. Today I did a Boulder Food Rescue shift, packed for a weekend trip, and drove three hours from Boulder to Eagle, and I still managed to do all my weekday writing things. That's pretty darn cool. Here's hoping I can do the same Monday despite Saturday's tournament, Sunday's drive home, and Monday's much-needed recovery activities.
reporting from the unexpectedly lengthened road
The train station in Raton, New Mexico is little more than a tiny waiting room cared for by dedicated WWII veterans who really, really, really want to help you with your luggage. (Honestly, the gentleman offering to take my suitcase looked like he could easily fit in it, at which point I could then bench press the whole ensemble.) However, there is this little gift shop across the street ("The Rat Pack"?) where the staff will happily stow your bags in the back room so you can enjoy beautiful downtown Raton while waiting for your train. I have, accordingly, been enjoying this comfy, friendly cafe and its delicious lunch fare.
Outside, the weather has cycled from sunny to light flurries of snow to sunny again. I hear there will be eight to ten inches of snow tonight, but by then I'll be well on my way to Chicago and my connection with Train 59, the southbound City of New Orleans. And the weather in New Orleans for the next few days is forecast to be perfect skating and biking weather. Also great weather for parade-watching.
What with the actually writing blog still being down (didn't find time this past week to poke at it, unfortunately), I've been turning the Monday Muse into something of a blog substitute. So this week's Monday Muse contains, in addition to the writing prompt associated with March 22nd's Friday Fictionette, the story of why I'm in Raton and not, as originally planned, in Denver Union Station waiting for the arrival of the eastbound California Zephyr. The tl;dr version is "blame climate change."
And that's about all I've got to report today.
Day 14: surprise internet was not all that helpful actually
I thought Amtrak only offered mobile hotspots in the sleeper cars, but it turns out that the City of New Orleans typically sets one up behind the snack bar, too. So I spent most of my ride from New Orleans to Chicago ensconced at a cafe table. Working? Nooooo. When I get unexpected internet access, I use it to procrastinate. I caught up on a lot of my online reading, is basically what I did. Then I realized it was almost ten o'clock and if I was going to have a 100% day I'd better do it before today turned into tomorrow.
Thus, the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report for November 14:
Morning Pages: ...are a lot harder to do on a train that's rocketing north from Champaign toward Chicago, then they are on a train that's stopped on the tracks west of Ottumwa. Can't complain; we got to the station right on time, or as near as makes no difference. But it's a good thing I don't rely on being able to reread my Morning Pages later. And my handwriting kind of sucks at the best of times. Anyway, they got done.
Freewriting: Yesterday's got done in the wee hours. I had just read a lot of microfiction involving the intersection of "demon" and "cute & sentimental" (for example) (see also), so I decided my writing prompt would be "Write about a demon pony." The demon pony's name was Midnight, and he had a tendency to burn things with his drool.
As for today's, that'll be my first task once I've boarded the California Zephyr in a few hours.
Friday Fictionettes: Ditto on all counts: Yesterday's was very late, and today's will happen on the train. After several days of nibbling at the story, I hope to finish the draft today. It shouldn't be too hard; all the narrative beats are more or less determined. But there will probably be surprises in the details that show up when I fill in the outline.
Short Story Revisions: See above. This one I'm feeling kind of stuck about. I'm hitting that point in story development where I have to make choices about what happens and how and why, and I don't want to decide. I like all the possibilities. I'm considering taking advantage of the fact that this is a Weird Multiple Timeline Story to have all the cake and eat it too. I mean, why not make "it happened this way, but it also happened that way" a plot point?
Anyway. I hope to spend enough time on it this afternoon that I can resolve some of these quandaries and start producing something other than babble-notes. It's likely. Last couple times I rode the California Zephyr, there were no mobile hotspots, not even in the sleeper cars, so there oughtn't to be internet to distract me. However, there's always Merge Dragons. BUT I WILL BE STRONG.
Submission Procedures: I have a bit of time after I post this but before I get on the train to send some manuscript somewhere. So I will.
Blogging: As you see.
I was disappointed in my choice of work environments inside Chicago Union Station. It was too early for the bar to be open, and there was no place in the food court with access to a plug. That was a deliberate choice on the part of station administration; there are outlets, but they've all got panels closing them off. Well then, so. I'm currently propping up a table in the Corner Bakery Cafe that's just outside Chicago Union Station, at the Jackson Street entrance. I had their Anaheim panini, despite being disappointed that no Anaheim peppers were involved in its making. Maybe I shouldn't find that disappointing. I mean, the town of Anaheim CA is about more than just delicious roasted peppers. But as far as I can tell, the only thing differentiating the sandwich's eggy filling from, say, a Denver omelette, was the inclusion of avocado. Is avocado necessarily an Anaheim thing? For that matter, who decided that ham, cheese, onions, and green bell pepper is a Denver thing? These claims seem tenuous at best.
(Diner chain Gunther Toody's attempts to answer the Denver omelette question. Tl;dr: They don't know, either, but they have a few guesses that might interest you.)
(Did you know Gunther Toody's had a blog? I had not known that. I guess if Dot's Diner can have a blog, so can Gunther Toody's. Did you know Dot's Diner had a blog?)
Days 10-13: moving the goalposts but not by all that much really
Welp, I did it. I broke my streak. I found an excuse that would not be denied, and that excuse was, "I'm tired." I'd been going non-stop since getting off the train Thursday. I got maybe three hours sleep Sunday night, not getting in from the various downtown afterparty activities until about 3:30 AM and then having to get up for some scheduled errands at 6:30. (I tried to go back to sleep after those errands, but, in a stunning reversal of roles, Dad woke me up playing his music too loud.) What I really needed was a whole 'nother weekend to rest from my weekend. I couldn't have that, so I took Monday off instead.
That's the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report for Monday the 12th: Nada, zip, zilch, and NO REGRETS. As for the weekend, I was very dutiful. I did my freewriting session and a bit of work toward Friday's fictionette every day. Got the work in Saturday morning before going to the tournament venue, and then did it Sunday evening at the Cafe Envie in the French Quarter (the one at Decatur and Barracks) when I ran out of personal partying capacity and was ready for some quiet me-and-a-laptop time.
...I suppose I should set down some thoughts here about the tournament. It was... a lot of derby. It was very exciting. I have thoughts, but I haven't sorted through them just yet, so. Maybe tomorrow?
Anyway, there you go. Out of the first 12 days of November, eleven had a perfect record and the twelfth was a rest day. It's the thirteenth now and I'm getting back to it. I'm also getting on the train out of town, so we're back to prioritizing the internetty stuff for when wifi is available and saving the offline-capable stuff for when I'm rolling. Thus, an early blog post. I'll also do a bit of puttering around my manuscript database before I go, see if there's any responses to outstanding submissions, maybe figure out what story to send where next.
Oh hey yeah, and I've also done my Morning Pages for the day. No particular psychological insights there or anything. Just listed out the stuff I'd have to do to get ready to leave, and then babbled about how stressed out I was about getting it all done in four hours. Travel prep stress! It gets me coming and going.
Anyway, that's all I've got. See y'all tomorrow morning at Chicago Union Station.
Day 8: but i'm really tired, do i have to
This will be brief. If it weren't NaNoWriMo and I hadn't challenged myself with doing all my writing tasks every day, no excuses, this blog post would not be. My excuse would be a damn good one. It would be, "Have you seen the day I had?" But it is NaNoWriMo, and I have set myself a challenge, and even good excuses violate the rule of NO EXCUSES, so. Despite how nonstop my day has been since arriving in New Orleans--pretty much straight from the train station to the French Quarter, at which point the skates went on and stayed on until about ten o'clock tonight--I am blogging. You're welcome.
Let's head straight into the day's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report so I can get this done and go to sleep.
Morning Pages: Funny how I got to them late yesterday because I slept badly and didn't want to get up, and today I got to them late because I slept so well I didn't want to get up. Either I don't get enough sleep so I want more, or I get plenty sleep and it feels so good I don't want it to stop. But I got 'em done. Set up in the lounge car at a cafe table again and pretty much camped out there until the train left the Hammond, LA station. I no longer have any memory of what I wrote, but it obviously did the job, because the rest of my writing time on the train was enjoyable and productive. Yay!
Freewriting: My prompt was the phrase "Don't miss the train," to be considered both literally and figuratively. Additionally, describe how you hope an upcoming event will go, but from the point of view of a future you, years later, telling the story of that event to your (or someone else's) grandkids.
Friday Fictionette: Hot damn. Got it done. The last three days have been nothing but babble draft and babble notes, but today I got the story and the author's note done.
Short Story: Have I mentioned the day I've had? Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to reread my notes. Then I'm going to jot down another couple notes. Then I'm going to sleep. "If you can't do a lot, do a little--but do something." So I shall.
(Yesterday's session on the train was a bunch of notes about structure. Trying to figure out if I can keep it mainly to the single scene from the original flash, but use bits of that scene as jumping off points for flashbacks. Looks like yes, maybe.)
Submission Procedures: This is another one filed under "I'm tired, how little can I get away with?" It's going to be administrative email rounds again. What does that mean, you ask? Well, tonight it means, check email for responses to outstanding submissions, and continue correspondence with editor concerning latest publication. That's about all I've got the wherewithal for. If I tried to send a submission tonight I'd probably flub it something dire. I'm that done in.
(This is pretty much all I did at the train station last night. We were late into the station, I didn't have a lot of time, and rush jobs are as susceptible as overtired jobs to dire flubbing.)
Blogging: Well, I've done that.
So I continue at 100%, even if it feels like I'm getting by on technicalities.
Tomorrow: Day 1 of WFTDA champs! Will get some of my work done before heading to the venue in time to watch probably Game 2. Will hopefully get the rest of my work done after I get back home. Look for a late night blog post again.
Day 7: Late into Ottumwa means more time to write
Track shenanigans gave us delays on either side of the Ottumwa, Iowa station. I'm not sure precisely what that does to our estimated arrival into Chicago, but I know they're anticipating it'll be later than 4:00 PM because some passengers trying to make a connection for that time have been rerouted to another train later in the afternoon.
My connection isn't until 8:00 PM, so I have the luxury of viewing this delay as an opportunity for more writing time. It does mean less layover time at the station, though. So I'll be finishing this blog post on the train, getting it all ready to upload the moment I find myself an internet connection. Since I'm riding coach this time, I won't find that connection in the Metropolitan Lounge. I'll probably wind up instead at the little bar in the upper level of the station. I remember that as being a pleasant place, cozy if not spacious, not too dominated by TVs, and with a bartender who actually asked my permission first when a man down the bar declared his intent to cover the cost of my drink. These things are all pluses, though I doubt I'll be able to count on minimal TV interference the day after election day. (Yes, I care about the results; I just want to be in control of how I take in that information.)
Today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report features a long-winded rumination on my writing routine and certain related anxieties. You have been warned.
Morning Pages: Got to them somewhat reluctantly. Didn't sleep well, despite the unusual fortune of an underpopulated coach car in which everyone got a pair of seats to themselves. Small as I am, I still get sore legs from curling up in that space, and a sore neck from having yet to find the proper pillow substitute. I think something in the zipper pocket of my jacket was stabbing me in the shoulder. I had to go to the bathroom constantly. Then, of course, there was the station stop at Omaha at 3:30 AM. Getting woken up in Omaha is inevitable; people get on, the conductor helps them find seats, sometimes there's mystery luggage whose owner needs to be found. You know. But being kept up after Omaha was entirely unnecessary. Sadly, it happens all the time. There's always some group of men (and it's always men) who decide that, hey, they're awake, they might as well enjoy themselves, and if they're enjoying themselves, surely everyone else in the car must be enjoying themselves too. What do you mean, it's four in the morning and everyone around us is trying to sleep? Well, accommodating them is hardly our responsibility.
Between that and the way headphones seem to have fallen out of fashion among smartphone-enabled multimedia consumers, I am in full Old Lady Shaking Her Cane At The Clouds And Yelling About Kids These Days mode.
In any case, once I heard the cafe attendant in the lounge car announce he was open and serving, I made my bleary way over for a cup of coffee and set up my mobile office at a table upstairs.
A large portion of my Morning Pages was occupied with justifying my writing routine to imaginary critics. This is because my brain kind of sucks sometimes. It produced a scenario in which a stranger comes up to me in the lounge car and says, "Morning Pages, huh? You know they don't work, right?" and then harangues me when I don't simply stop writing on his say-so. Next thing I know, I'm having long drawn-out arguments in my head with this phantasm. That is no way to spend one's writing day.
Here's what I figure. I have a lot of voices implanted in my head (or "those damn tapes," as I've heard the phenomenon called) by various critics throughout my life, parents and friends and online acquaintances and strangers, all of whom were of the opinion that at no time and on no subject could I possibly know what I was talking about. Then you have the communities of writers I've passed through, every single one of which had its share of self-proclaimed experts whose response to other writers' enthusiasm was to try to wither it right up. The result is me constantly questioning my own damn writing process.
I remember, once upon a time in 2004, crowing happily on misc.writing about how my husband and I had decided together that I could quit my day job and write full time, and I was burbling excitedly about how I'd spend my work days now that I finally got a whole day to work in--
And I got so many condescending responses, like,
"Congratulations. You have been given the gift of time. Don't waste it."
"Well, with all those 'morning pages' and 'writing practice' sessions and meditations and whatnot, when will you actually get a chance to write?"
That shit has stuck in my head ever since. So now that I'm using NaNoWriMo 2018 to challenge myself to complete all my writing tasks each day, and I'm moreover blogging about it where anyone, including the really condescending self-proclaimed writing experts, can see, well of course I'm feeling obliged to preemptively justify myself to someone who will inevitably come along and tell me UR DOIN IT RONG. Envisioning that hypothetical scenario is how the internal tape recordings externalize themselves. Thus I waste brain cycles arguing with imaginary people's unsolicited opinions.
So. Having ruminated on that for three pages of longhand, I've come to the conclusion that I don't have to argue. Should someone actually be rude enough to ask me, "Why are you doing that?" I can just say, "Because I choose to." I can also choose to tell them, "Go away," or even to ignore them completely.
OK, then. So mote it be. Onward.
Freewriting: Most Wednesdays I get my writing prompt from the Magic Realism Bot. However, being on a train with no internet access trumps the Wednesday writing prompt routine. The being-on-a-train-without-wifi writing prompt is generally "I am looking at..." This tends to develop into a storyline of some sort. That storyline will typically involve a train. Go figure.
Friday Fictionettes: As usually happens when I board the eastbound California Zephyr, I got remarkably sleepy around eight o'clock. It's the expected effect of a day spent stressing about getting out the door on time, then spent in the crowded Denver Union Station with constant back-burner worrying about "What if I lose track of time and forget to go trackside for boarding time?" Once I actually board, the stress lifts, I relax, and my body decides it must now be bedtime.
So last night's session was brief, about ten minutes of mere brainstorm-babbling. Today's session was better; a full twenty-five minutes spent writing a draft that successfully, if clumsily, incorporated all the brainstormed elements into a narrative flow with a beginning, middle, and end. Tomorrow I expect I'll be able to refine it into what's going to go up Friday.
Short Story Editing: Also because of the "stressful day is done and I'm going to bed" effect, Tuesday's session was less productive than I'd have liked. Which isn't to say it wasn't productive at all. I chose one of the questions I'd need to answer in the expanded version of the story, and I explored a possible answer to that question via some 500 words in the protagonist's point of view.
I'll hit today's session on the City of New Orleans train as it departs Chicago.
Submission Procedures: Not sure what I'll do today, but I trust I'll figure it out in Chicago Union Station once I can access my writing database and various submission guidelines online. Will let you know tomorrow how that went.
Blogging: I appear to have done that now.
NANOWRIMO SELF-CHALLENGE PROGRESS SO FAR: Assuming I do hit the short story editing and submission procedures tonight as promised, that's 100% success through the first full week of the month. Go me!
Tomorrow's blog post won't be until late. I'll be hustling straight from the train station to the line-up site for the PARADE held by Big Easy Rollergirls to celebrate WFTDA Champs in New Orleans, so while I might write the blog post on the train, I ain't getting a chance to upload it until pretty much bedtime. A very late bedtime. So. See you after the first funtimes of the weekend!
Day 2: In which we complete the day's final requirements in an environment that is hardly compatible with work an' stuff
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- NaNo Oh-No
- Status Report
- Support Structures
- The Beast That Rolls
- 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,315 words (if poetry, lines) long
Ahoy. This blog post comes to you live from Loaded Joe's in Avon, where Friday Nights mean Karaoke with Sandman. I brought the tail end of my work day here--ok, well, I admit it, I brought most of my work day here. At least half. Which means typing and singing along at the same time even more than usual. Which means that, now and again, I'll end up typing the lyrics of whatever song is being performed, and I'll have to go back and figure out where I really left off. MULTITASKING! Yes.
[Author's turn to sing! Author couldn't decide, so she went with that old standby, "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes. The crowd is very supportive tonight. It always is, though. Love this place.]
I've been in Avon, Colorado since Sunday afternoon, on my annual "aaaauuugh finally it's off-season I'M RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME" week. I've spent it mostly quietly, walking around town, hanging out in the library, watching the Saints game at Loaded Joe's, dropping in with the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls for a practice, writing, avoiding writing, excoriating myself for avoiding writing, finally getting back to the writing... kind of the same as at home, really, only ALL BY MYSELF and not in my own house where I can suddenly discover the need to do the dishes and the laundry.
OK, well, there are dishes and laundry in a resort-style hotel, yes. BUT NOT AS MANY.
I'm done with moths, by the way! Did I say? Yeah. I put forth a heroic effort on the night before I drove out of town, emptying the closet to the bare walls, cycling batches of clothes through a 170-degree oven for 50 minutes at a time, wiping things down with diluted vinegar--you know the drill--and I didn't get to sleep until three. BUT NOW I AM DONE. The last stronghold of the months has been CLEANED OUT. OK, well, it's possible that there a few hanging on in the office and some desultory preventative cleaning may be advised. But the confirmed active infestations are done.
[Author pauses while a duet gets up to sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and the entire establishment joins in, anthem-style.]
That's the sense of accomplishment and completion I drove away from Boulder with. And here I am. And now it's time for the Day 2 of the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report.
Morning Pages: More or less on time. A much better morning--one hundred percent percent less headache, for one thing--but took it slow. I am on vacation, dammit! Most of the first of the three pages was just writing down what I dreamt. I have trouble sleeping through the night these days, so it's always a good sign when I wake up with a bunch of dreams to write down. Foremost among the dream imagery was a bull nosing up to the front door of a suburban house, and me thinking, "That's weird, usually it's deer."
[Author pauses to appreciate the host and his partner in crime dueting on "Home" by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. With customized lyrics.]
Freewriting: Got that just now here at Loaded Joe's. Came up with an idea for a whole damn novel. That happens a lot, actually. It doesn't exactly make me happy. I always get this sense of despair like, I will never live long enough to make novels out of all these ideas. I suppose that's the wrong attitude. I should be thinking, "I will never run out of ideas as long as I live." But what I'm really thinking is, I will never run out of homework. Well, that's what you sign up for when you decide to be a writer, Niki. Deal with it.
The prompt was from the weekly Reedsy newsletter. I wholeheartedly recommend this newsletter. They give you five prompts every Friday and challenge you to submit a story based on one of those prompts to their weekly contest. Deadline is always midnight Eastern of the following Friday.
The Friday Fictionettes Project: Woo-cha! Got it in one. One DAY. I would like not to have to do that again, but: the Friday Fictionette for November 2 is up, and it's called "The Chance of a Lifetime." It's about the drawbacks of immortality and what might be done about 'em. Patrons pledging $1/month may download the ebook, and Patrons pledging $3/month may additionally access the audiobook. Everyone else, just wait up and the freebie for the month will be released when November's over.
Real Fiction Stuff for Real Money (I Hope): So, last night, I brushed the dust off a short-short I'd written for a Codex contest early this year and gave it a read-through. Wound up making like a hundred words or so of notes on the sucker and getting excited about it all over again. I'll hit it again for about five minutes before bed tonight.
Submission Procedures: Soon as I'm done with this blog post I'm going to figure out where to send "Survival, After" next. I may have mentioned this before, but it, too, started as a flash piece for that same contest. What am I thinking--of course I mentioned it before. I remember whining endlessly in this here blog about how the revision kept getting longer and longer and OH MY GODS WILL THIS NEVER BE FINISHED? Well. It did, and it's heading out again tonight. Or at least I'll figure out tonight where to send it, and send it on Monday. Look, it's late, OK? I'm three beers in.
Blogging: Et voila.
[Author's runs away to sing "Here I Go Again" in front of a very drunk and supportive crowd. Love y'all bunches!]
what i did after i came home from my summer not-so-vacation
- Friday Fictionettes
- Idol Worship
- Mapping Territories
- Selling My Soul
- Spit and Polish
- The Beast That Rolls
- 1,001 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,299 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 954 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 909 words (if poetry, lines) long
It's been almost a week since I've said hi. Hi, blog! Stuff has been happening.
I came home from Omaha on Monday! I got sick! Now I'm getting better! I had a massage and a day off from practice on Tuesday, then I had classic sinusy crap on Wednesday, and then by Thursday I was feeling better enough to go to scrimmage.
That may not have been smart. I got more worn out and beat up than at either of our Continental Cup games! It being my first time back on the track in the Mile High area after spending a weekend playing derby at an elevation of only 1,090 feet might be a factor. Being sick, yeah, that was a factor too. Also relevant: we only had five skaters per bench. We played four-on-four so that everyone could get a chance to sit one jam in five, and everyone was in the jammer rotation. (You know what's fun? And by "fun" I mean "hell"? TWO-MINUTE JAMS. It is not always good news when the other jammer gets a penalty. Sometimes it just means now NOBODY has lead jammer status, and life for the next minute and a half will suuuuuuuuuck.) Then, at halftime, someone on one team had to leave. One of our skaters who had NSO'd the first half geared up to replace them. For reasons that were never entirely explained, the replacement skater was assigned to the other bench, so the second period of play featured a team of four versus a team of six. GUESS WHICH TEAM I WAS ON. Deathmarch scrim FTW! Did I mention that everybody jammed? And now nobody gets to sit out any? Woo. We got extra-long line-up time between jams, probably 45 seconds or a minute instead of the usual 30 seconds; it was just enough time for me to get just enough wind back to be able to swallow a small sip of water and then rush back out to the track.
In still more derby news, my season would appear not to be over! I will be skating with the Bombshells in the B-team tournament bracket at the Thin Air Throwdown, which we are co-hosting at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on September 14-16. Tickets are available, and I recommend you get right on that, because in addition to the B-team tournament, there will be a round-robin exhibition of three of the highest ranked teams in the world. How often do you get to see Rose versus VRDL without leaving the state, let alone the county? So. MAKE PLANS.
Also I wrote! And finished stuff! And submitted stuff too! It's been a good week.
On Wedensday, I finally put up the Friday Fictionette for August 24. It's called "Change'll Do You Good." What kind of change? Any kind you like. Change of scenery. Change of career. Change in your social circle. Shape-changing, too, let's not forget that one. Anyway, it's about 1300 words long and available to subscribers in ebook and audio formats on Patreon.
Then I had to hurry up (as much as I could while subsisting on pseudoephedrine, Mucinex, and tea) and revise some older fictionettes for reprint submission for a deadline of TODAY. (I mean "today" as in August 31. I am aware it is has not been August 31 for a couple hours now. Shh.) I put them into the email about two hours ago and am feeling very proud of myself now. I'm actually quite pleased with how they turned out. Should they come home from today's excursions with rejections, I think they're worth the "til Hell won't have 'em" treatment. (When I finished my week at Viable Paradise in 2006, I swore the VP Graduate's Oath, which is to write, to finish what I write, to submit what I write, to paying markets, until Hell won't have 'em.) There aren't that many places that I know of that A. take reprints B. at flash length, and C. don't mind if their only previous appearance was on Patreon or by other self-publishing means, but I intend to find them all.
What with the traveling and the sick and the playing catch-up and the other, more implacable deadlines, I have not yet released the Fictionette Freebie for August. I intend to do that this weekend. I haven't selected one yet, but it probably won't be "Change'll Do You Good." Because it's only been out a few days, that's why. It would feel silly to have published it only Wednesday and then suddenly revisit it to change its "Who Can See This Post" option. Might as well have just pushed it up full public in the first place.
Look, I don't claim to make logical sense here. I'm not sure I even claim to make sense, period. But this is the sense of it I've got and I'm sticking with it until further notice.
Also scheduled for this weekend: More anti-moth activities. Yay? I finished putting the portion of the office I'd last cleaned back together last week Wednesday--which involved, you might remember, vacuuming every single book and vinegar-rinsing every single item that wasn't made out of paper--just in time to leave for Omaha. My next step will be the brick-and-board bookshelf in the bedroom, which I am now 98% sure houses its own infestation. We've been keeping doors closed so the moths don't migrate, and the bedroom's almost the only place I've seen moths all week. ALMOST. One crossed my path in the office the other day and I just about wept. I'm hoping it stumbled in after taking a tour of the house during a time when the bedroom door was left open. BUT WE'LL SEE.
Wow, that was a long post. Maybe my posts wouldn't be so stupidly long if I blogged more than once a week. More research on the subject is needed.