“A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.”
Emily Dickinson

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day 7: Late into Ottumwa means more time to write
Wed 2018-11-07 16:55:46 (single post)

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 6: Recreational and involuntary poll watching
Tue 2018-11-06 17:42:11 (single post)
  • 4,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

This blog post comes to you LIVE from Denver Union Station, where the author is waiting to board her train, and a significant portion of the population of the city and county of Denver is waiting patiently to vote. Wait time is currently reported as being an hour. The line snakes all the way across the lobby, out the east door, and right around the building. A poll worker continues to advise those in line that the polling place at Tivoli, only half a mile away, has no line whatsoever, but most of everyone remains doggedly in their place. They are going to vote, dammit, and at least here they are certain of their place in line.

I sent a report to Pizza To The Polls, but feel free to report this line again. Take care of these people as they do their civic duty!

Overheard in that line, in a sing-song tone: "Long lines just mean that a lot of people are excited about the democratic process--jazz hands!" My silent reaction: Yes, but it also means we aren't doing enough to smooth that democratic process. Polling capacity is not keeping up with population, and that's just one of the many ways this country commits voter suppression every damn election.

But enough of that--I suspect I'm more or less preaching to the choir.

(Yes, I voted. John and I spent a few quality hours with our mail-in ballots a few weeks ago, and he dropped them off at the County Clerk and Recorder building on his way to work the very next day. Catch us not voting? Not gonna happen.)

So I'll be boarding that train in about an hour, hour-anna-half, something like that. Then I'll be doing the usual trip--Denver to Chicago on the California Zephyr, Chicago to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans. Most of today has been taken up with getting read to get out of here, but before John picked me up for lunch and a ride to the Boulder bus station, I did make some strides toward catching up on the Fictionette Artifacts. That's the $5 pledge tier reward at my Patreon, which in addition to access to the first-through-fourth-Friday ebook and audiobook/podcast also gets a typewritten and hand-illustrated copy once a month of one of that month's stories. Sounds cool, right? Also this is a limited edition reward, and two of the three are already taken. Except I'm very behind in producing those. So I scrambled to get the next handful of 'em typed up so I can illustrate and mail them during my trip.

The rest of everything else is the subject of today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report, like so:

Morning Pages: Got right to 'em, right on time. Early, in fact. Had my alarm set for 8:00, woke up at 7:30, tried to go back to sleep but instead worked myself into a panic about how little time remained between then and go-time, so I got up. Again used my Pages as a medium for converting a cloud of anxiety into a concrete task list. Hooray!

Freewriting: To be done on the train this evening.

Fictionette Progress: To be done on the train this evening.

Short story editing: To be done on the train this evening.

"Seriously? Are you just putting everything off until you board the train?" NO! I am not. Just the stuff that doesn't require internet access. Here's a thing I have got done:

Submission Procedures: Some administrative communications, followed by--Huzzah!--an actual submission. Found a place I hadn't sent "Caroline's Wake" yet, and I went ahead and sent it. No self-rejection! Til hell won't have it!

Blogging: As of now, done. Yer welcome.

Honestly, I'll probably get started on the freewriting sooner than train time, because I've still got 550ish words left to write to defeat this 4thewords monster. Yeah, the 3,000-word sucker from last night. This blog post was NOT LONG ENOUGH. Thus I leave you and pay a visit to InspiroBot, where the writing prompts live. See you tomorrow!

Days 3-5: In which we arrive, share some good news, and make plans to depart once more
Mon 2018-11-05 23:57:27 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long

So remember when I said that my first pro sale, "First Breath," would be on the Tales To Terrify podcast this year sometime only I had no idea when? Well, it's up now! It went up on October 12 in Episode 350, and you can listen to it here.

I had the weirdest reluctance to listen to it. Well, maybe not so weird. Maybe it's related to the way I have to leave the room if someone is reading something of mine; if I stay there, I'll be on pins and needles, trying to read reactions into every shift or sigh--"They yawned. Are they bored? They keep recrossing their legs, are they uncomfortable? Do they think I'm a freak because I thought up stuff like that and put it in a story?" I guess I had similar discomfort with the idea of hearing someone else read my story out loud. In my gut I was sure that, hearing it, I'd finally see what an awful, stupid, shameful thing I'd written and put out into the world--

Stop that, I told myself; you know perfectly well that a prestigious editor already thought this was worth putting in an anthology. And this is a Hugo-nominated podcast; its editor clearly has good taste--and he chose to run your story. Your story has not suddenly become awful. Press play.

I listened to the episode on my drive out of Avon Sunday morning. My story comes first, narrated by Michelle Kane, and she does a good job. I mean, I have quibbles, as I expect I would no matter who read it because it's my baby and they're not me; but they're only quibbles, and not worth going into. Most importantly, I was gently crying by the end, so, go her, and go me.

Thing about that story is, I keep forgetting it's a horror story, and, moreover, a vampire story, or at least it has a sort of vampirism at its heart. I didn't write it with vampires or the horror genre in mind. But it's clear the vampire aspect was a factor in the choice of story to pair it with: Victoria Glad's "Each Man Kills," originally published in Weird Tales in 1951. Now, there's a vampire story, one springing from under the cape of Dracula himself.

Anyway. I hope you get a chance to wander over and take a listen.

Time now for the NaNoWriMo Rebel report, covering today and the weekend we just left behind us. The short story is, I'm still at 100% on my self-challenge. Here are the details.

Morning Pages: (Weekdays only.) Did them today, but lollygagged on my way there. It was like I couldn't bear to admit it was Monday. Used them mostly to make sense of my vague sense of dread about all the things I had to get done today: it's my first full day back in Boulder, but also my last full day in Boulder before I leave again, so we're back in travel prep stress mode. It helped to write down the specific things I had to do, make a concrete list of them, and make a plan to hit each one. It made the scary big cloud of dread into an achievable agenda.

Freewriting: I'm happy to report that I did this faithfully each day of the weekend as well as today. But I'll admit that on Saturday and Sunday I put it off until almost the end of the night. Saturday I actually played Puzzle Pirates again--my crew on the Cerulean Ocean was defending an island, and I wanted to help. After four rounds, I pulled myself away and got to work. I had to put off all my writing work until evening today, too, but for a better reason--I had to prioritize some travel prep errands first.

Over the weekend I began using the 50 Creative Writing Prompts at NowNovel.com. This is a series of exercises for focused writing practice. They feel a little like classroom assignments. They remind me of working my way through Ursula K. LeGuin's Steering the Craft, which was also full of classroom-like exercises for focused writing practice. I did exercise 1 on Saturday and exercise 2 on Sunday.

Today's writing prompt came from Chuck Wendig's series of flash fiction challenges; I've been working my way backwards through his archive, doing one a week. Here's the one I did today.

Fictionette Development: Pretty much part of the same writing session as freewriting over the past three days. Each session was kind of small, in keeping with the philosophy of "at least do a little." By the end of Sunday I had finished the Monday Muse post and set it for scheduled release--I love it when I can do that, it means I am perfectly on schedule--and today I babbled to myself on the page about what the piece due Friday will look like.

Commercial Fiction Production/Revision: (Weekdays only.) More babbling. Made a list of questions that would have to be answered as I expanded the original flash piece into a full-length story. May have encountered some answers along the way. Will have to sleep on it.

Submission Procedures: (Weekdays only.) So, about Friday. You know how I said it was late and I wasn't going to do anything more than just think about where to send "Survival, After" next? Well, turns out, I figured out where to send it next--and discovered that they'd be closing to submissions Saturday afternoon. So I sent them the story then and there. Go me!

Today was just for record-keeping. Logged that "First Breath" was now published at Tales To Terrify; logged that the place I sent "Survival, After" had sent an acknowledgement of the submission. Pretty much left it at that.

Blogging: (Weekdays only.) And there you go.

Tomorrow's work day will be prioritized according to what must be done before I get on the train, which is to say, while I can still access the internet. So Tuesday's blog post should show up sometime in the afternoon rather than stupid-o-clock at night. At least I won't have to stress about getting in my daily 444 on 4thewords.com; since I have continued writing this post well after midnight (its date stamp notwithstanding), I've extended my streak through Tuesday the 6th already. That's a relief. However, I'm currently battling a 24-hour 3,000-word monster, and I'm not finishing that sucker tonight. Guess I'll have to blog it to death from Denver Union Station tomorrow afternoon.

'Til then!

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain images. Full attributions in the ebook.
Day 2: In which we complete the day's final requirements in an environment that is hardly compatible with work an' stuff
Sat 2018-11-03 01:02:05 (single post)
  • 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!]

Click through to ebook download for cover art attribution and a link to the book it comes out of, hosted at the Internet Archive.
NaNoWriMo Day 1: Introducing the Rebel Report
Thu 2018-11-01 23:51:17 (single post)
  • 1,500 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's November 1! Everyone around these here bloggish parts knows what that means, right? Pardon me while I commit derivative doggerel:


Remember, remember, the first of November:
Character, story and plot;
It's now Wrimo season, so now there's no reason
to put off that novel you've got.

Only, I am not noveling this year. That's OK. I don't always. But I do always observe NaNoWriMo in some way. (This is what they call being a NaNoWriMo "rebel.") When the whole internet explodes in word sprints, word wars, writing prompts, and mutual encouragement, it's a great time to set myself some writing challenge or other, and that's what I'm doing this year.

My challenge to myself is this: 30 days of accomplishing every writing task on my daily list.

It's the same list I've been trying to accomplish for, well, years, I guess. Every day, let there be a session each of freewriting and Friday Fictionette progress. Every weekday, let there also be progress on some commercial fiction project (usually a short story) and the usual manuscript submission procedures, and let there also be a blog post. Like this one. Hi! And let every weekday begin with Morning Pages, because that's how I give my brain a daily tune-up.

Only, now that it's NaNoWriMo, let there also be no excuses. No missed tasks! No more "drat, I didn't get it done before derby" or "blast, I only have 15 minutes." As I keep telling myself, if I can't do a lot, I'll do a little; it's better than doing nothing at all.

This blog began as a way of tracking my progress through what was probably my second NaNoWriMo ever. After NaNoWriMo was over that year, I used it to track my writing progress in general. I blogged to report that, yes, I had showed up on the page today, too. Sort of an accountability thing. Regardless of whether anyone was reading. It was like Natalie Goldberg's trick of calling a friend's answering machine and leaving a message saying "I'll be at the cafe at 5:00 PM tomorrow to get some writing done. Join me if you like, but don't tell me whether you're coming. See you there, or not!" Having left that message, well, now she had to show up, didn't she? Same thing here: Someone could be reading, so I'd better uphold the commitment.

But of course I've drifted away from that focus over the years. I also blog about non-writing things, like roller derby and addictive clicky games. Or I'll go for weeks without blogging, even though I've been writing, because I just keep running all out of evens by Blog O'Clock. Alas.

This month I intend to blog every weekday, because it's one of my writing tasks, and doing all my writing tasks every day is what I'm challenging myself to do this November. And I'm going to focus on reporting to y'all (accountability!) my successes and failures at this challenge.

Accordingly:

Morning Pages: As soon as I was functional this morning. This wasn't immediate; I had an awful headache starting at about 4 AM--a rare thing these days, thank goodness--that made it hard to get moving after the alarm clock went off. Some days, just getting up and putting pen to paper is a righteous accomplishment.

Freewriting: Kept it short, because I had a lot of other things to do. About 10 minutes and 600 words. Writing prompt courtesy of the Writer Igniter.

Friday Fictionette Project: Finally pushed the one due last week out the door. Made it the Fictionette Freebie for October: "Living Undercover," in which we wonder if the sacrifices have all been worth it. Then started babbling out a draft for tomorrow's release. I've been suffering from a chronic Perfectionism Infection where these are concerned; it makes me take longer drafting the suckers, but at the same time, because the pressure of Must Get This Right heightens the avoidance factor, it makes it harder for me to force myself to sit down and do them. I'm going to try to--this sounds awful, but I hope you know what I mean--care less about quality. These are meant to offer readers a glimpse into my writing process while holding me to the challenge of producing a flash-length story-like object on a recurring deadline. They are not meant to be perfect. I have to remember that.

Submission Procedures: I never did report, did I, that my story came home from its "second date" knowing that there would not be a third? Alas. The Editors-in-Chief decided to pass on it. I still need to log that R in my database and figure out where to send that sucker next. I haven't done this yet, I wanted to get this blog post out while it was still November 1, and it's quite late tonight. So, under the rubric of "Do a little if you can't do a lot," I'm just going to log the rejection and leave resubbing the story for another day.

Commercial Fiction: By the same token, I haven't left myself a lot of time for this; I'll pick a story that needs revising, read it over, and jot a couple notes down.

Blogging: Why, so I have!

That's the Day 1 report--see you tomorrow. Happy NaNoWriMo, one and all!

i know i know just let me farm another 800 stone bricks ok
Wed 2018-10-10 22:30:25 (single post)

OK, so. Confession time. I'm addicted to smartphone app games, and I don't even have a smartphone.

What I have is a laptop running the Android simulator Bluestacks. I installed it several years ago when John showed me the game he was playing at the time, Two Dots, and I got hooked hard. Then I found out there wasn't a version for regular computers. This struck me as a great injustice. Surely every game on the smartphone had a regular computer version too, didn't it? Why not?

So, Bluestacks. It's come along way since then, through two full version numbers and into much better compatibility with more or less anything I try to run on it. And, to my chagrin, it's commercialized itself a lot more thoroughly. It's always had a for-fee mode, where you pay to get rid of the advertisements. It used to randomly play app trailers at me; no longer. Now it mostly contents itself with manifesting an icon of their Featured App of the Day in among my installed apps list.

But it's still got enough going on to get me into trouble.

It's got a metagame. It's got--whatever it's calling itself these days, what is it? Pika Land? Bluestacks World? In Bluestacks World, it runs periodic events where you enter a prize drawing by playing this or that app for ten minutes. Generally this is easy to ignore. I'm interested in none of the games, and I'm interested in almost none of the prizes. (It's a beautiful desk chair, ergonomic as hell, but entirely incompatible with my office environment.) So. Great! I'm safe! Except one day, the featured app was Two Dots. And, hey, great, I already play Two Dots, why not?

Why not, indeed. See, that's how they get you. It goes like this: The event that was running the time, "Deities of Egypt", asked you to play Featured App of the Day for ten minutes in order to open a divine scroll, summon the God or Goddess within, and, incidentally, get entered into the day's prize drawing. Well, now I've opened the Day 1 scroll. I've summoned Bast. Hooray! Guess I might as well participate in each of the following days, right? Just to see? Shame to give it up when I've gotten off to such a great start, right?

I am a filthy, rotten completist. Also a perfectionist and mildly obsessive. I did the Day 2 thing. And Day 3. And so forth. And I meant--I really meant!--to just leave the featured app running unattended for ten minutes while I did other things. Like, y'know, write. Except, a couple of those games, I clicked on. Just to see. And I found them oddly compelling. And I wound up playing them a whole lot. Dammit.

Guns of Glory had me addicted for two or three weeks before I got free. It's a resource-management kingdom-builder thing. It's also multi-player. I swore I wouldn't get involved in the multiplayer side of things. I'd restrict myself to upgrading my military tents and farms and stuff and not join an alliance. Not! Except then I saw an exchange on global chat (which appears impossible to disable) that went something like this:

"Alguien quiere unirse con nuestra alianza? Hay muchas ventajas en hacerlo."
"ENGLISH PLEASE"

And I was all like, "Screw your 'English please!' This is an international game! Deal with it! Just for that, I am going to join their alliance!"

And so I did. And I went into the game's settings and changed my language to Spanish, and forced myself despite my embarrassment to converse in Spanish with the other alliance members. I felt very virtuous about this. I wasn't just wasting time on a clicky game--I was taking advantage of a great opportunity to practice my second language in a real-life situation! Yay! Brava, chica. Meanwhile, a whole new part of the game I'd written off as off-limits, because I'd planned not to do the multiplayer thing, was now accessible, and it was fun and rewarding.

It was also more demanding. Everyone else probably looked in on their estates every time their smartphone gave them a notification about whatever. I felt obliged to log in more often throughout the day so as to be a good alliance member.

And then, one day, another alliance declared war on our alliance. I logged on and my castle was on fire. My troops were all in the hospital--in shifts, because hospitals have a limited capacity depending on how far you've upgraded them--and healing them was using up all the food and wood I'd had earmarked for structural upgrades. No sooner had I recovered and built up more reserves than another attack came in. Basically, they were using us as a resource farm. It made the game a lot less fun and rewarding.

And then, one day, I logged in and discovered that my alliance's leader had stepped down from his position and made me the new leader in his place. And nobody had heard from him since.

I gave him the leadership crown right back, apologized for the confusion to whoever happened to be reading alliance chat at that time, and then I logged off. And uninstalled the app. With prejudice.

So that was my brief foray into kingdom-building resource-management multiplayer clicky-games. Well and good. No harm done, right? Except, before the death throes of my brief love affair with Guns of Glory had ceased, I had yielded to temptation in the matter of Merge Dragons.

Here we go.

Merge Dragons does pretty much what it says in the name. You merge three dragons of the same type, you get one dragon of the next level up. (Or you merge five to get two. This is important.) You get dragons by merging eggs. You get eggs by, among other methods, completing levels, during which you merge all sorts of things into other things. Meanwhile, your dragons flit about the landscape, harvesting stuff from the objects you've merged and occasionally spitting fire at what emerges. There's a vague story involving a quest to heal the much-beleagured land of Dragonia of the blight laid upon it by the evil zomblins (zombie goblins, don't think too hard about), but it's not really the point. The point is, DRAGONS. And GETTING ALL THE THINGS. And DISCOVERING ALL THE MERGE CHAINS. And completing all the random goals, like "merge 5 seeds of the prism flower," which involves fending your dragons off from your slow accumulation of necromancer grass tufts so that they don't prematurely harvest them into seeds which will turn themselves into prism sprouts before you can accumulate the five you need to merge, and also you have to do that sixteen times to achieve the goal. This is how I find myself attempting to basically tire all my dragons out, like fractious toddlers, by distracting them with rocks they can harvest for stone bricks.

Oh, and there are events. Events! In which you have three days to work your way through a very, very large level, healing as much of its land as possible and maximizing its resources to earn points to get special trophy dragons and prize objects to take back to your Dragon Camp. I may have left Bluestacks running for the entire 72-hour period so that my dragons could harvest everything while I was at scrimmage or asleep. Whatever. I'm not proud of this.

Thankfully, there is only so much you can play at a time without spending money. Each new level costs a certain amount of "chalices" to play; you generate one chalice every hour; you can only hold seven chalices at a time. When you don't have enough chalices, all you can do is hang out in Dragon Camp, where each dragon eventually runs out of actions and has to go to sleep for a bit.

But, still, it's amazing how much time one can waste clicking around even a moderately advanced Dragon Camp, even when all one's dragons are asleep. There are processes that continue in their absence. Seeds blow in on the breeze. Rain clouds spawn. Bushes spit out mushroom caps. There are two entirely separate merge chains for mushrooms, do you realize? It seems unnecessary. Oh, and if you progress through all the levels of mushrooms (of either type), or bushes, or prism flowers, or whatever, you might unearth A WONDER OF THE DRAGON WORLD. Exciting! I merged some high-level bushes and unearthed RUINS OF THE SKY PALACE. (Oh, hey, did I just generate a fourth chalice? Great! Time to play the next level!)

So that's the story. I am trapped in Dragonia. There is no exit in sight. Do not send help. Stay away, far away. For the love of little yellow dandelions and all that is good in the world, not to mention your productivity in general, also your loved ones' expectations that they continue to see your face from time to time, save yourselves.

actually the only kind of dating i've ever done
Mon 2018-10-08 23:33:54 (single post)
  • 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long

Manuscript submissions can be thought of as something like internet dating. Manuscripts go out and meet editors. Both hope that something will click. Most often nothing does. Maybe the editor says "Not for us at this time," or maybe the author looks at the contract and says, "That's way too rights-grabby for me." And then there will be no second date. But sometimes that first date results in a match made in heaven.

Sometimes the author is like those guys Teresa Nielsen Hayden recalls less than fondly in her epic blog post Slushkiller.

An eon or two ago, when I was a girl and occasionally went on dates, I observed that there was a species of young man who’d be perfectly pleasant right up to the point where I declined to go to bed with him. Then he’d turn nasty and angry—all bridges burnt, not even minimally polite. It was clear that the sole thing that mattered was whether I’d put out.

Please, for the love of little fuzzy kittens, don't be that kind of author. It is much better to be the author who considers the whole thing as, at worst, an opportunity for a pleasant night out. I won't lie; this is made easier when the rejection letter says nice things about the manuscript. I'm only human. I respond well to encouragement. But even an impersonal, businesslike form rejection can be an encouraging thing. It means I succeeded at doing the business part of writing. I sent the thing out, and even though it came home again, I like to think it left a good impression. I like to hope I'm making friends and even fans among the editors and/or slush readers, that maybe they look forward to reading my stuff regardless of whether they can buy it. And maybe the next thing I send them will be more their type.

You can't build that kind of relationship if you're the sort of lout who throws unprofessional tantrums when someone tells you no.

I'm aware at this point that my metaphor has shifted a bit. At first it was the manuscript that was going out on dates, then it was the author, then the author was the dating service which sent the manuscript out on dates in hopes of finding The One. Only it's not ever just "The One," because there's reprint rights. The One For Now? As in, serial monogamy? Because, even though each market will want a period of exclusivity, when that period is over you are (that is, the manuscript is) free to play the field. But then the dating pool will be limited to those markets who don't mind not being The First. Annnnnd I'm going to stop right there before we wind up comparing "No reprints, original work only" to toxic attitudes toward women with sexual histories, which comparison is unfair, no good, and wrong no matter which party you're talking about.

Metaphors are, by nature, limited. Life is like a box of chocolates and ogres are like onions, but not in every way.

What I'm actually trying to say here with this tortured metaphor is, one of my manuscripts has been asked out on a second date. Yes! My little story got bumped up the editing chain! That means it's not actually worthless and unpublishable! At least, not at first glance. Not so's the first reader could tell. So I'll be over here on pins and needles until the Editor-in-Chief makes the final call.

Meanwhile, I have great hopes that this will be the week I finally get caught up on all things Friday Fictionettes. The offering for October 5th is this close to being ready for release. Wouldn't it be nice if I could release it tomorrow? Only I've got a dentist appointment, a handyworker coming over to give us an estimate on a couple small projects, and either roller derby practice or a roller derby work party. So the name of the game is low expectations. I mean, we see how well I did with unreasonable expectations, yeah? Not Well At All. So all I will promise is that I'll get some work done on the thing tomorrow, at some point, and we'll see where it goes from there.

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Max Pixel
but the universe nevertheless reminds you are loved, and that you have work to do
Tue 2018-09-25 17:13:33 (single post)
  • 1,310 words (if poetry, lines) long

Oh hi there. So. Life has been a lot lately; hence the radio silence. Roller derby has been a lot of that lot. There was the North America West Continental Cup, as you know. Then there was our annual B-52 B-team tournament, officially branded this year as part of #ThinAirThrowdown and co-hosted with Denver Roller Derby. And then, when there should have been a week of rest and healing, roller derby suddenly became a painful place full of emotional turmoil. Things are not yet resolved, but I know that this too shall pass. In any case, I'm going to my first practice of the off-season tonight. Life's too short not to do what I love, and I love skating. And I love the people I get to skate with--that is unlikely to change.

But, all in all, roller derby has made it hard to buckle down to the writing day. So I have got a lot of writing to catch up on.

I am so very much behind on the Friday Fictionettes project. I only just pushed the September 14th offering last night ("The Poisoned Chalice," ebook, audiobook). And still I'm as much behind on the Fictionette Artifacts as I ever was. So. This week I have set myself the 100% Unreasonable Goal of releasing the fictionettes for September 21 and 28, pushing the August Fictionette Freebie to Wattpad and 4theWords, and getting caught up on the Artifacts, all by the end of the month.

My More Or Less Realistic Goal is exactly the same, just minus the Artifacts.

It's not so bad. I'm off to a good start already. This morning I went from blank page to full-length first draft on the fictionette for September 21. I might manage to get it out the door tomorrow. Then, if I can just do that two-day process all over again Thursday and Friday, the September 28 fictionette will go out on time. Follow it up with a weekend full of typing to see all overdue Artifacts in the mail Monday morning. It can be done!

If nothing else, a good percentage of it will get done, and I'll start October in a better place.

Back on the subject of roller derby... like I said, last week was rough. But on Sunday I got a couple reminders that, in the wider world, there is community and support and goodwill, and that there's still room for joy in the part of my brain where the skates are kept.

One of those reminders came as a more or less expected part of our afternoon plans. John and I took our laptops over to Vapor Distillery for a few hours of cocktails and writing (he's got his own heap of overdue writing project to contend with), and that's always a good time. Vapor Distillery makes very fine liquor. They mix an exceedingly tasty cocktail. And they're one of BCB's sponsors, so they are very generous to league members. Their generosity doesn't come in the form of a particular percentage discount. It's more sort of down to whatever the bartender feels like that day. Sometimes it's a couple bucks off the tab, or one of the afternoon's drinks free, or "hey, want to try our specialty shot? I'll do you one on the house, see how you like it." Sometimes it's more. On one memorable occasion, it was "put that back in your wallet, we've got you tonight. Yes, all of it. We're your sponsor and we love you and we're heartbroken that your practice space burned down."

Sunday's session, if I may be vague, fell somewhere in between the extremes. We were there some five hours and we drank rather a lot. We ordered Chinese food delivery so we could stay and work and drink some more. Meanwhile, the staff kibitzed with us about the football games they were watching and invited us to share their chips and dip. It was cozy. It felt like a form of self-care.

The other positive derby-related thing was completely out of the blue. That morning we went out to brunch, me and John and a friend. When the food arrived, the server said, "Your bill is taken care of, by the way, compliments of a fan of Fleur de Beast." My jaw dropped. "Seriously? Um... do I get to meet this fan and tell them thank you? Or are they a secret fan?" The server said he'd find out. As it happened, the mystery fan was shy and declined closer interaction, but they reiterated their compliments. I could only ask the server to pass along my gratitude.

And that was the occurrence that inspired this tweet, in case you saw it and were wondering.

Cover art incorporates and modifies “Haunted Tent City” (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Caitlin O’Neil-McKeown)
what i did after i came home from my summer not-so-vacation
Sat 2018-09-01 01:46:48 (single post)
  • 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 other derby news, archival footage is up from our games in Omaha! Here's Friday's game; here's Saturday. Archives are always free to watch. Have fun!

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.

all's well that ends with a bang
Sat 2018-08-25 22:12:57 (single post)

Hey hey! We won today! Boulder County: 260; Pikes Peak: 167. Our goal was 1. to win, and 2. by a bigger margin than last time we played them, and, hot damn, that's what we did. Good job, BCB! Live Bold, Bleed Gold!

I'm told we looked a lot more together, cohesive, calm, and strong today, but I suspect a lot of that has to do with the difference between playing a team ranked above you and playing a team ranked below. I know I've seen footage of future opponents getting crushed by highly ranked teams and thought, "Oh, look at those weaknesses we can exploit," only to discover those weaknesses not to be in evidence when we met those opponents on the track. Or, rather, our team was less able to create and exploit weaknesses in those opponents than were the teams in the footage. Similarly, this weekend I feel as though we were pretty much the same team yesterday as today, fought just as hard and brought the same solid strategies and skills, but were more successful doing so during today's more favorable match-up.

Happy Valley, by the way, went on to lose to the number 1 seed, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, by only 100 points. There's another metric by which they were simply a stronger team than us right now. Having just now watched RMRG win their way through Calgary to tomorrow's championship game, I don't think we'd have done nearly as well against them as Happy Valley did.

And that would have been us playing RMRG if we'd won yesterday. And we would have lost. And then we would have most likely lost tomorrow to E-Ville. And that wouldn't have been as emotionally satisfying as today's win followed by our private afterparty at the hotel celebrating a veteran jammer who is retiring at the end of the season. After more than seven years with BCB and still more years than that in derby, she played her last game with us today. ALL THE FEELS were present in a big way. Also all the alcohol.

Omaha Rollergirls have been an amazing host league. Everything has gone swimmingly. Each day has gone according to schedule, and it has been clear at every moment where we needed to be. Each team was assigned a wrangler, and I can only hope the other teams had as amazing a wrangler as we did. Our wrangler was nothing less than an MVP. She took care of us in every way. She got our locker room set up, got our coaches and captains to their meetings on time, made sure we knew when our on-skates warm up was, found our bags when we lost them, high-fived us on our way out to the track, joined in with us for our silly pre-bout team bonding games and our off-skates warmup, asked us to teach her our cheers and then got led us in chanting them through the tunnels on our way to the track for today's game. She even made sure, by request, that the DJ played "Rock Lobster" for us during our on-skates warm-up. Then she boogied down on the side of the track with pompoms and red silicone lobster claws. Basically she was 100% on team BCB all weekend long. She went above and beyond to make our tournament experience not only positive but joyous. We felt so loved!

And so ends the All Stars' season, on a higher note than we could have dreamed. We've come a long way since that terrible Sunday night in June.

Tomorrow we get an unlooked-for rest day in which to relax in the stands and enjoy watching the final games of the tournament. You can watch too! (You can also listen to the live audio broadcast for free.) Then, after a little well-deserved time off, (how little will vary by the skater), the All Stars move into support mode for our Bombshells, who are preparing for our annual B-Team tournament in September--which this year is being presented as part of Denver Roller Derby's "Thin Air Throwdown," which showcases some of the very highest-level derby in the world. We'll be helping to host the three-day event, and before that, we'll be on the track at practice and scrimmage helping the Bombshells get the most out of their final month of training before playing their part in that season finale.

And after that the whole league segues into our off-season, with a lower-key combined practice schedule for all our skaters, lesser attendance requirements, and a chance to work on our skills outside of the pressure-cooker environment of the regular season when the next bout had been always just around the corner.

And next week, once I'm back in Boulder, I'm going to finally have a little time before the end of August for short story revisions and submissions. Yay!

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