“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Mark Twain

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates 'a t-res-fossil' by 3weg.nl (CC BY 4.0)
Cover art incorporates and modifies 'Mirepoix' by Matthew Yglesias (CC BY-SA 2.0)
avoidance and its protective coloring in the revision habitat
Tue 2018-03-20 17:30:25 (single post)
  • 1,552 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,543 words (if poetry, lines) long

So on the 16th I released the Friday Fictionette for March 9th, then yesterday the one for March 16th. Here's a little bit about 'em.

Friday, March 9, 2018: "Tomorrow Belongs to the Dragons" (excerpt, ebook, audio). Dragon skeletons are a dime a dozen, but this one's lodged in a cliff face in Hannah's beachfront neighborhood. So it's special and familiar, all at once. That it makes her irritating friend Mary inexplicably nervous, Hannah considers a bonus.

Friday, March 16, 2018: "The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner" (excerpt, ebook, audio). Sammy escapes an unexciting future in the family tailoring business by getting himself apprenticed to the soup witch. But the cauldron tells him things he'd really rather not hear.

All of which means I'm at lateness: zero once again, and I hope to stay there, because lateness: zero means I get to do interesting things like continue getting my Weekend Warrior flash fiction ready for commercial submission. Because--shock!--my writing career encompasses more than my Patreon experiment! You know that. I know you know that. Sometimes I need to remind myself, though. It's too easy to feel like doing my daily Fictionette work means I'm done for the day, when in fact I am not.

Except Fictionettes are, more or less, easy; revising fiction for commercial submission is hard. Flash fiction is no exception! Each of these five short-shorts I want to get out the door, they took me a weekend to think up, maybe 2 hours to write, that's it. But when it comes to doing just that "quick revision pass" I think is all each needs, it takes hours and hours and days. I'm not sure how much of that effect comes from me avoiding the difficult crap, and how much comes from the crap genuinely being hard. I suppose you can't separate the one from the other.

There's also a tendency to get bogged down for half an hour in trying to find the perfect first sentence for the next paragraph. Again, there's two factors at work here. There's panic over this being the final draft and therefore it must be perfect therefore not-perfect words cannot stand! And then there's the tendency to allow myself to get bogged down in tetchy details because it keeps me from having to face the bigger picture of the whole damn revision. Unfortunately for me and my avoidance issues, reorienting on the bigger picture is precisely what I need to do in order to drag myself out of the bog of tetchy details. When in doubt about different versions of a sentence, refer back to the purpose this sentence serves in the overall story! Argh.

Avoidance issues and difficulties notwithstanding, I hope by the end of this week to both A. get the March 23rd Friday Fictionette out on time, and B. submit one of my Weekend Warrior flash stories to a paying market. If I also get the Fictionette Artifacts for February in the mail this week, that will be a bonus. And next week is a week with a fifth Friday which means A. getting ahead of schedule, and B. taking a Friday off! Things are looking up and moving forward, is what I'm saying.

(meanwhile my new spiral knights character has all 4-star gear and is starting to venture into tier 3, huzzah, but she really really needs to upgrade her fyrotech alchemizer pretty please soonest--might have to dust off my old 5-star character and go grind for crowns and energy down to the core)

YPP Weekend Blockades, March 17-18: Waving red flags at charging bulls to invigorate the Dark Seas blockading scene
Sat 2018-03-17 12:58:06 (single post)

Ahoy! It's Saturday--time for the blockade schedule and any other YPP news worth noting.

First off, sorry to miss y'all last week; I was in a hotel in Cincinnati preparing to play in a double header between the host league and our own Boulder County Bombers. If you're interested, you can watch both games via the Cincinnati Rollergirls Youtube video archive. (You can identify your humble chronicler in the CRG Black Sheep vs. BCB All Stars bout via the 504 on the back of her jersey and also the very long braid swinging down her back. Also, that game was a nail-biter. Make yourself some popcorn.)

Next up: Not a lot in the way of blockading this week. On the Meridian Ocean, newcomer to the scene Mccoo's Flag will attempt to drive Barnabas the Pale from the fair shores of Fintan Island. And on the Dark Seas, Amateur Hour is being attacked by the forces of Vargas the Mad on both Magpie and Loggerhead Islands. We are talking huuuuuuuuge fleets. Like, I had to sit there with the mouse pointer for a couple minutes counting the little ship icons, that kind of huge. But if the player flag is defending, there's a potential for lots of ship-sinking bounties and treasure-hauling riches. Amateur Hour have an intent thread about this which you might be interested in reading.

Bank error in your favor! Oceanmaster Cronus announces that, thanks to a bit of billing system maintenance they had to do Thursday, your window of opportunity to take advantage of the Spring Green Box sale will be extended through March 23.

Obsidian video clips contest winners announced! With apologies for the delay, Cronus announces the winners here. And do enjoy the resulting promotional trailer now playing in the Steam store!

That is all I have time for, for now - talk to y'all later and have a fun time in the 'kades!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, March 17 ***

12:14 p.m. - Fintan Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Mccoo's Flag

*** Sunday, March 18 ***

12:01 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Amateur Hour
Attacker: The Enlightened (14)

12:02 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Amateur Hour
Attacker: The Enlightened (18)

on setting oneself unreasonable expectations
Fri 2018-03-09 22:08:45 (single post)

"It'll be fine," I said. "The story's almost done. I'll just finish it up in the hotel in Cincinnati."

Turns out, when you spent all day running errands and then you go to the Denver Airport and you fly across two time zones in an eastward direction so that it's midnight local when you finally check into your hotel, you don't do much of anything but sleep.

Sorry, folks. Another late Friday Fictionette coming up. Sunday, I hope; theoretically I'll be getting those two hours back. Wish us luck tomorrow!

i often dislike ironclaw menders
Thu 2018-03-08 22:49:55 (single post)

Speaking of the Tide app (as I was yesterday), it gave me a really weird "inspirational" quote today. I honestly wondered for a moment if i was looking at InspiroBot. Except it was way too topical. Today is International Women's Day, and the "greeting words" Tide displayed were,

I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.

I mean, I know Tide's creators are not primarily English speakers, but even allowing for a poor translation, I can't figure out a non-awful way to interpret that. "Women are great! They're totally inscrutable and self-reliant! Not that I know any of them individually, I'm not friends with any, but I sometimes find myself admiring them as a monolithic class of people who fit neatly into a shiny category box."

Of all the facepalms of today (not gonna talk politics, not gonna talk politics), that was the one I wasn't expecting. I wish there was a way to tell Tide to give me a different quote. Far as I can tell, you get a new one every day, and that same one all day long.

Speaking of facepalm, guess who did something stupid Monday? Me! It's me! I did something stupid! Guess what I did?

I reinstalled Spiral Knights, that's what. Gods help me.

Spiral Knights is an adorable and exquisite MMORG created by Three Rings Design, the same great minds that brought us Puzzle Pirates. (At the time, presumably this guy was one of those great minds. See also this here and that there or just everything under this tag.) I started playing it when it went into limited Beta release--I have fond memories of playing it at ten o'clock at night on the patio of a closed-up cafe in Estes Park when it was frigid cold because my hotel's wifi was borked and I needed my fix--but then a few years later I sorta just trailed off. Don't know why. Just stopped logging in. Maybe because John stopped playing it with me, and it wasn't as much fun to play solo. Maybe because I got some effin' discipline and got so busy writing I didn't have time. Dunno.

But then this week I had to go and remember it existed. "I had fun doing that. I wonder if it's still fun? Maybe I'll just make a brand new character and see."

And that's why getting pretty much anything done (other than grinding for orbs of alchemy dammit) has been a bit of a challenge. Mind you, I have been getting things done! Mostly. Most of the time. But. The temptation is real.

watching the time as it passes in tomato-sized chunks
Tue 2018-03-06 17:41:41 (single post)

4thewords.com has made a huge difference in my productivity as far as word count goes, but I seem to have let it diminish my productivity in terms of time. Measuring my writing in terms of monster battles is not of universal utility. It's amazing how I can log two successful monster battles a day of babble-draft on the current Friday Fictionette and still not have a coherent story ready on time. Meanwhile, if I don't pay attention to time spent on writing tasks and, more to the point, time spent getting around to the next writing task, it's very easy to look back on the day and wonder where all the hours went.

So I've begun using the Pomodoro technique again. And that's making a huge difference in my productivity. Holding myself to four 25-minute sessions separated by breaks of no more than five minutes means I get a lot of work done in two hours. And since two hours isn't such a large percentage of the day, I have plenty of day left after those two hours to deal with household stuff, catch up on email and other communications, cook and eat and clean up after a meal, maybe play some quick video games, and still put in another two-hour writing shift after that.

When last I used this technique with any consistency, I used the app Productivity Challenge Timer. But its toxic attitude really wore me down, not to mention its extremely male-centric design. Eventually I stopped using it. I used Focus Booster instead, but the version I had installed was clunky, and upgrading meant either paying money or limiting myself to twenty "poms" a week. That's less than helpful when I'm trying to get up to eight a day five days a week. So I needed to find a new timer program.

I found Tide.

Tide is very simple. It shows you a peaceful image (it chooses them at random) and plays peaceful sounds (you choose by swiping between the five options) during your work session. At the end of your work session, it flips directly into break mode. At the end of your break, you hit the START button to do it again. After four work sessions, it gives you a long break. All times are adjustable. It has some other features about keeping track of your progress and letting your share it on social media, but I haven't been interested enough to mess with them. I'm mainly here for the session timing. The gentle sights and sounds are a pleasing bonus and a huge improvement over Productivity Challenge Timer's calling me a lazy slob, demoting me for insisting on a reasonable weekly schedule, and asserting that Male Is Default.

(To be fair, screenshots of PCT's latest version appear to indicate that the Man Doing Science in the Projects screen is now a Woman Doing Science. This means PCT currently has at least one non-male illustration of Humans Being Productive. Its attitude, however, has not improved.)

So there we go--one concrete action toward getting all the things done. So far, so good--in addition to doing my daily gottas, I actually spent some time today on a fiction revision and got this blog post done before roller derby practice. I get to play video games tonight! ...if I have any energy left for staying upright after derby, that is. Good luck me!

Cover art incorporates public domain images sourced from PIXNIO
this time i'm taking notes
Mon 2018-03-05 23:10:58 (single post)
  • 1,054 words (if poetry, lines) long

This is another Monday post announcing a Friday Fictionette that got released on Saturday, because I am a time warp.

The March 2nd release is titled "Taking Care of Bigfoot" and it involves that near-universal childhood discovery of what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet. My brother and I learned that lesson when we brought home a small... king snake? I think? In any case, one of the many harmless varieties whose coloring mimics that of the venomous coral snake, giving rise to the rhyme that goes something like "Red touching yellow, dangerous fellow; red touching black, it's OK, Jack." (Exact words may vary by region and generation.) It was a red-touching-black snake. We kept it in a terrarium. We took it out occasionally for the thrill of watching it coil around our fingers. We caught live lizards and dragonflies and spiders for it to eat, but it didn't, and eventually the poor thing died. And our parents said, "That's what usually happens when you try to keep a wild animal as a pet."

(We had much better luck with the crawfish we saved from a weekend crawfish boil. We put it in an aquarium that at the time was full of guppies. Soon the aquarium was empty of guppies, and the crawfish was a good deal bigger. We fed it bits of hot dog after that, hoping it would grow into a lobster. It didn't, but it made a sincere and noticeable effort before going the way of all flesh--at least, the way of all fleshly beings on a diet of nothing but hot dogs.)

Not to spoil the fictionette, but I feel obliged to reassure you that no one's pet actually dies in this story.

Subscribers may download the full text of "Taking Care of Bigfoot" as an ebook or audiobook depending on their Patreon pledge tier. (Teaser excerpt linked above.)

Now I'm looking back at last week and wondering where it went. It's hard to remember. Most of the details are lost to history because my Morning Pages are illegible, for one thing, and for another, I utterly failed to make any blog posts at all. Maybe I can keep better track of this week before it decants into the weekend, when the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" and "Bombshells" will each have their first away games of the season. (It will be in Cincinnati!) Once I get on the plane Friday afternoon, nothing much else of use is going to get done. So between now and then, I need to keep up with the daily stuff (so far so good), make time to work on flash-fiction revisions (today not so much), remember to account in my planning for time spent fulfilling other obligations (such as taking the Saturn in for its oil change and tire balance/rotation and also picking up a Boulder Food Rescue biking shift on the windiest darn day of spring thus far). Meanwhile, I'm going to try not to fall off the blog quite so dramatically again.

Hi! Lookit that, I blogged today!

I have been better at getting to bed on time. Go me. Going to bed at eleven feels luxurious. Now that I think about it, that might be where some of last week went: going to bed earlier but not getting up correspondingly earlier. Math, that spoilsport, says if you do the one but you don't do the other you get fewer hours in your day. Stupid math. Math is clearly why we can't have nice things.

YPP Weekend Blockades, March 3-4: welp, better find something else to do
Sat 2018-03-03 12:50:43 (single post)

As of 11:24 AM Pirate Time on Saturday, March 3rd, there is only one blockade on the schedule. Just one! There is a Brigand King attack on the Cerulean Ocean, and that's it. I don't even know if Tyranny will be defending. (They are not jobbing as far as I can tell at this time.) Seriously, after logging onto four oceans and seeing nothing on the schedule each time, I was beginning to wonder if this was another official no-blockading weekend. Had Easter come early? (No.) Is Easter in fact a no-blockading holiday? (I don't think so.) I guess people just aren't feeling very blockady this weekend. That, or they're all waiting to for the last minute to drop their war chests. I suppose we'll know in about half an hour.

We just got a client update on February 28th. The big news is, there's a new pet available on the Dark Seas! It's a wolverine. You may acquire them at Trading Posts in exchange for Faction PvP trinkets. There have been some updates as to how Faction PvP trinkets work, too. Read the release notes for details. Also, there's a new ship coming to all the oceans: the War Galleon. It will be debuting on the Ice Ocean for testing "soon."

Only other thing even resembling news I got for you today is the March Seal o' Piracy. (How'd you do getting your 2 expeditions for February?) For March, the limited edition trophy will be awarded upon your participation in four tournaments. You might consider jumping on that today if you're bored for lack of blockades; Saturday is a freeplay day for those popular mainstays of the tournament circuit, rumble and swordfighting.

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, March 3 ***

12:00 p.m. - Endurance Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (3)

this fictionette heaved a great big sigh of relief and another of disappointment
Sun 2018-02-25 00:03:26 (single post)
  • 1,022 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,260 words (if poetry, lines) long

All right! That's it! I'm all caught up! The appallingly late Friday Fictionette for February 16th is now up, and so is the mildly late February 23rd one. They go something like this:

"When in Rome" (teaser excerpt, full text ebook and audiobook), in which we explore the effects of photosynthesis on the U.S. tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, and also the international tradition of teenage rebellion and frustration.

"Can We Have a Little Privacy Over Here" (teaser excerpt, full text ebook and audiobook), in which the dead assert reasonable personal boundaries, which we will endeavor to respect.

I'm not entirely done with February's Fictionette work, of course. I've still got to type up, illustrate, and mail the not-yet-late January Artifacts; I should be able to take care of that in the next few days. And of course there's the late-but-low-priority Wattpad excerpts for most of February; ditto. But as far as Patreon posts for February go, I am finally up to date. I can breathe a little easier, having once more temporarily relieved myself of the weight of The Overdue. And I can look forward with excitement to working on next week's release. So that's fantastic.

Speaking of excitement, I feel like I misplaced some. Annihilation, the movie, was... just a really poor adaptation. I'm sorry, but I honestly think so. It was visually stunning but so, so incoherent. And the maddening thing about it was, most of the plot holes were so unnecessary. They could have been fixed simply by not abandoning the relevant elements from novel. While I admire the attempt to take a sprawling trilogy and turn it into one compact movie, combining elements and sometimes conflating separate characters to make things tighter for the big screen, 2-hour-ish format, it ultimately didn't work.

But what disappointed me the most--and, to be fair, surprised me the least--was the erasure of some of the things that make the trilogy the masterwork that it is. They sawed off the inconvenient things, which were powerful things, and replaced them with predictable tropes. The gloriously misanthropic biologist was replaced by a woman defined by and motivated by saving her husband and their marriage. The ineffable Area X was replaced by, more or less, a mere dragon to slay. The trilogy's relentless deconstruction of identity, its insistence that you leave your name at the border and wear your function as both camouflage and armor, is erased entirely; the characters have names, they share their backstories with each other, they form a camaraderie familiar from any number of SF horror-thrillers in the "hostile territory" subgenre. There is nothing here you haven't seen before, and that is where the movie ultimately fails its source material.

I suppose, if we want to get all meta here, the failings of the movie adaptation are rather an extension on the novels' exploration of the theme of identity, duplication, replacement and failed copies. But I can't give anyone credit for doing it on purpose. There were some subtle and not-so-subtle details in the movie that felt like a nod toward the theme of duplication, but I can't entirely trust these were meant and not mistakes. And if they were meant, they're cheats, because they're things the main character ought to have recognized and reacted to. I mean, if you make the abandoned house they camp out in have the exact same floor plan as the protagonist's house, but you don't have the protagonist appear to notice this at all, you risk your audience thinking not "oh, wow, that's creepy, how unsettling, it's a dark mirror version of that earlier scene," but rather "oh, for crying out loud, were you so cheap you had to reuse that set?"

In short: Pretty visuals, emotionally intense movie, earned its R rating plenty times over, and even sometimes manages to evoke the feeling of the way people fall apart when they explore Area X (the videos especially captured the creeping horror of the one we don't want to watch in Authority)... but in the end it was a mess of wasted opportunities. I am sad about what could have been and must console myself by rereading the books now.

YPP Weekend Blockades, February 24-25: tsia
Sat 2018-02-24 13:09:20 (single post)

Not a lot to say about this weekend's blockades. They're mainly on the Cerulean and Emerald Oceans, and they are listed here.

I'm not playing in the noon blockades because 1. I'm at a restaurant whose wifi has blocked the necessary port for logging on, 2. I've got two Friday Fictionettes to finish producing so I can stop being perpetually behind schedule, and 3. in less than an hour I'm going to go see the movie adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation and I am so! very! excited! about this.

But y'all should totally go have some fun. Enjoy!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 24 ***

12:18 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew
Undeclared: Viridian Empire

7:53 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Old World Order

7:53 p.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Old World Order

*** Sunday, February 25 ***

10:00 a.m. - Kiwara Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 24 ***

4:45 p.m. - Spectre Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Black Veil (1)
Attacker: Babylon

*** Sunday, February 25 ***

11:02 a.m. - Emperor Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Because I Can
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

YPP Weekend Blockades, February 17-18: take it to parley already jeez
Sat 2018-02-17 14:15:55 (single post)

The Oceanmasters are unusually involved in this weekend's blockade shenanigans. Well, I say "involved," but that may be overstating things. Vilya holds Frond Island on the Cerulean Ocean, and they do not appear to be defending it against a small attacking fleet belonging to Admiral Finius. If your flag wants this prime unit of real estate, you know what to do.

On the Obsidian Ocean (Dark Seas), the OMs are facilitating an exciting Event Blockade scheduled to take place on Night Harbour on February 27th. It's Fresh and Bold's Bumper Boat Bonanza! No sinking, no canons, just bump-bump-bump yer sloops not-so-gently round the battle board. The first round is for fun and the second will be for keepsies. Visit the linked thread for scoring details, a list of prizes, and a list of the generous donors of the prizes.

But no need to wait until then for Event Blockade Fun. Blame Brenda is hosting a Mustering at Magpie where you can win a war frig and war brigs! The announcement thread with all the details is here, same as last week but now with bonus argue-drama mostly from some dude complaining that they're Doin Kades Rong and also something whiny something off-topic shipyards take it to parley already, jeez.

(SPOILER: They didn't.)

Emerald and Meridian are not without activity too; scroll down for the full schedule. Have fun everyone!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 17 ***

12:00 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: The Enlightened (3)

4:00 p.m. - Magpie Island, Obsidian Ocean
Event: 5 rounds, nonsinking
Hosted by: Blame Brenda

4:29 p.m. - Hadrian Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Meridian's Most Wanted

6:42 p.m. - Jubilee Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Velt's Boiyz
Attacker: Smoke and Mirrors

9:54 p.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Minions
Attacker: Pirateology

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, February 17 ***

12:00 p.m. - Frond Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Vilya
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)

8:30 p.m. - Corona Reef, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (1)
Attacker: Because I Can

*** Sunday, February 18 ***

12:00 p.m. - Tinga Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: Because I Can