“Fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
G. K. Chesterton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

because i am weak and it was there
Wed 2016-11-16 23:58:42 (single post)

There's this particular style of Chinese restaurants in the U.S. known as the "super buffet," which is exactly what it claims to be: an all-day all-you-can-eat buffet of about a bazillion different things upon which you stuff your face until your stomach begs for mercy. I have been to some very good ones. Recently, I went to a terrible one. I went back to it tonight. I'm still not sure why.

I was first introduced to the concept in my home town of Metairie, Louisiana. My parents took my husband and me out to Mandarin House on Severn Avenue. It was perfect, they said, because everyone could have what they wanted no matter how different their tastes. This was true. Dad filled plate after plate with spicy boiled crawfish (available year round, as far as I can tell), boiled shrimp, and oysters on the half-shell. I followed his lead, but made room for green-lipped mussels with dynamite sauce, black bean mussels, and sushi. Mom had a lot of some sort of fried chicken dish. And John had mac 'n cheese and mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.

(Mandarin House was the first place I ever had raw oysters, by the way. Up until then, despite priding myself on living up to the Justin Wilson joke about how Cajuns will eat "any damm t'ing", I'd never been able to make myself put that big, wobbly, unappetizing blob in my mouth. But I'd had a bit of a practice run with little raw bivalves at Legal's Seafood during a visit to Boston, so I gave it a shot. Thus the monster was created.)

Then there's the Great Wall Super Buffet in Lakewood, south of Denver, on Wadsworth just a little ways north of Hampden. I treated myself to a big lunch there coming home from a scrimmage with RMRG just before heading to playoffs. (Damn, I still haven't done the D2 round-up post. Seems a little anti-climactic now that Championships are done, though.) I was astounded at the extent to which their buffet contents matched those of Mandarin House. They even had boiled crawfish, although not, it must be said, very well spiced. If there is a spectrum that ranges from "picky eater" to "adventurous omnivore," if you'll forgive the American-centric description, Great Wall was a few clicks past Mandarin House toward the adventurous side.

Turns out that super buffets also exist on a spectrum from Must Eat All The Things to TERRIBLE, and in the latter end of that swimming pool is Longmont's China Buffet. I cannot bear to link to them for fear that they will read this. I feel rotten saying bad things about them, especially considering that, Gods help me, I will probably go back. Again. But I am afraid it's true. Their food is terrible.

The jalapeņo beef was tough. The salmon, swimming in its own juices on the steam table, nevertheless turned out to be dry. The green-lipped mussels were dessicated and their mayonnaise sauce had congealed. The "seafood pie"--sort of a mock-crab casserole, really--looked delicious, but its seemingly crispy-crunchy edges turned out to be made of leather. The hot and sour soup had a flavor I didn't care for, though that might have been the not-so-fresh chopped scallions I was fooled into garnishing it with. Even the little cream puffs on the dessert table were awful, the shell unpleasantly tough and chewy around a half-frozen filling. I guess they were defrosted badly. There were sushi rolls. Vegetarian, it looked like. Mostly cucumber. They were sitting under plastic wrap. I did not venture to try them.

I admit, the king crab legs were just fine. They were served with drawn butter that was also just fine. I cleaned out about five crab legs into a small cup of drawn butter and ate it all up with a spoon. That was just fine. My mistake was in eating anything else.

And I went back today.

The notion crept into my head as I was thinking about my appointment at Cafe of Life, and about how I needed to stay out and get some work done. I have not had a great start to this week, work-wise, because I keep screwing up my sleep cycle. I lost my Tuesday afternoon to food coma because I can't seem to keep from eating the whole serving of Five Spice Wok at Jin Chan Zhang. (Seriously, I have got to learn to either package away leftovers before I start eating, so as to blunt temptation, or just save Jin Chan lunches for days when I can afford the afternoon nap.) So I stayed up until 3 AM last night to get everything done. So I slept until noon today. So I really, really had to not collapse after my appointment. And one nice thing about a super buffet is, they typically don't seem to mind if I take up a table for several hours, nibbling leisurely and poking at my computer and not requiring much in the way of frequent refills or table-clearing.

I kept trying to talk myself out of it all day. Go literally anywhere else! Don't go there! You will eat a finite amount of meals in your lifetime; why waste one on bad food? These were good arguments. I agreed with them completely. And I still kept planning to go. Even as I was locking up my bike in front of the restaurant, the smart voice in my head was saying, "It's not too late. You could still go to Leenie's Cafe next door." But apparently not-smart me was in charge of the body today.

And everything was just about the same as it was last time. I tried items I did not try last time, and they were bad too. I employed strategy, by which I mean, I watched the kitchen doors for new trays to come out, hot and fresh and theoretically not yet dried out. The next fresh tray to come out contained a battered fried chicken. It was hot and fresh, true, but it consisted of a small, sad, bland nugget that rattled around inside a bready shell that managed somehow to be mushy and crispy at the same time. Strategy failed. (Also, I do not like fried chicken at a super buffet. It is simply not interesting enough to take up stomach real estate in an all-you-can-eat situation. Strategy failed twice.)

New strategy is to more or less just eat the crab legs and maybe one or two other items that might be improved by drawn butter. The stir-fried button mushrooms were OK that way. Also the flan did not seem to have come to any harm, so dessert was not a total loss.

The best strategy would surely be to not go back. And yet, I'm pretty sure I will. Because of nostalgia. Because of being able to get work done. Because they are right there and I'm stubborn. Because, despite all the reviews on Yelp that seem to agree with me, the place still gets busy around 6 PM--that many customers clearly see something worthwhile there. And because I guess all-you-can-eat crab legs for $11.99 is not actually a bad deal.

But you should probably not go there. This is not a recommendation. This is an admission of weakness. Don't be fooled.

Cover art incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com
for the wages of tardiness is insomnia but also a fictionette finally
Tue 2016-11-15 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 1,328 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK. This'll be quick, 'cause it's nearly two in the morning. (Ignore the timestamp. The timestamp has been altered to give the post a Tuesday datestamp. It's actually a couple hours later than it looks.)

I posted last week's Friday Fictionette today. (Yayyyy.) It's called "The Witch on the Corner" (Patron-only links: ebook | audiobook) and it's mostly about the futility of conformity. To a small extent, it's also about why you shouldn't try a witch's temper, nor try to categorize witches as "good" or "bad."

Like I said, I'm quite pleased that Patreon has added a "scheduled post" feature. I intend to use it the moment I have a Friday Fictionette ready to go sooner than its designated Friday. I am less than pleased with other features Patreon has recently rolled out, namely a new publishing process that (1) forces you to choose whether yours is a text, image, audio, video, or link post, (2) if you choose text or link, removes the ability upload an image, and (3) no longer lets you use HTML to format the text part of your post. You can include URLs by pasting the link in as text and relying on Patreon to make the link text clickable, and you can include inline images by jumping through a few more hoops, but that's it.

This is how they spin it: "We recently removed html capabilities on Patreon to reduce confusion and allow creators a more seamless posting experience."

NOT IMPRESSED.

Well, like I said, two in the morning. This is all you get today. More thoughts on other subjects tomorrow.

useless check-in post. also, a rose.
Mon 2016-11-14 23:49:19 (single post)

Hi. Um. I did not have the most productive week last week. You may have some idea of why, or at least one of the reasons why. I have thoughts but do not feel up to making them coherent enough to share right now. For now, have a rose.

Last week's Friday Fictionette--nominally for November 11--is this close to being done. I should have it up tomorrow.

(Patreon appears to have added the ability to schedule a post for a future date, which would be awesome if I were able to get the fictionettes done early. Right now, I'm just struggling for "reliably on time.")

My goal for this week is all the writing. I can't save the world, but, damn it, I can write. And that's worth something.

YPP Weekend Blockades, November 5-6: The Triumphant and Giddy Return
Sat 2016-11-05 13:22:07 (single post)

Hey, y'all! It's Saturday, it's noon Pacific time, and my blog is working again--let's talk YPP! First, we got blockades. We got quite a few blockades. Most of them are on the Emerald Ocean, and they involve a whole bunch of flags that are totally new to me. (I've been away a bit.)

Filling out the blockade schedule has brought to my attention that U.S. Daylight Savings Time ends tomorrow. That means most of you will have to set your clocks back one hour at 2:00 AM or thereabouts. It also means that this schedule here might be off by an hour now but will be just fine tomorrow. Or else it's fine now but will be off by an hour tomorrow. I still haven't figured this out.

It's a brand new month as well, and we've got a brand-new Seal o' Piracy to hunt down. This month's is easy cheesy; you'll earn it by...

Completing sessions of 4 different crafting puzzles

Like I say every time this particular task comes up: You don't even need a Labor Badge or Subscription on your Ocean of choice to do this. Just log in throughout the week as different crafting puzzles take their turn being free to play and eventually you'll get all four. (Follow that link to see the Freeplay Days schedule.)

And you do know that the Greedy Brigands feature is live now, right? It's live.

That's all for this update. (Whee! I made an update happen.) Have fun!

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, November 5 ***

12:00 p.m. - Arakoua Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: A Boosted Monkey
Undeclared: Knockout

12:00 p.m. - Wissahickon Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Major Key Alert
Attacker: Cluster Service

12:00 p.m. - Swampfen Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Squad Yohohologo
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (8)

3:00 p.m. - Hubble's Eye, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: The Enlightened (3)

3:00 p.m. - Penobscot Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Fleet of Dreams
Attacker: Sub-Zero

4:09 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The All-Consuming Flame (4)
Attacker: Chemical Romance

4:30 p.m. - Albatross Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Caught In Crossfire
Attacker: Nostalgia

5:00 p.m. - Spaniel Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Jinx (3)

10:56 p.m. - Polaris Point, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Velt's Boiyz
Attacker: Mobsters

*** Sunday, November 6 ***

10:00 a.m. - Gauntlet Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Letters of Marque
Attacker: Caught In Crossfire

10:37 a.m. - Fugu Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Black Veil (4)
Attacker: Imperial Coalition

11:13 a.m. - Armstrong Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: A Boosted Monkey

12:00 p.m. - Ilha da Aguia, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (3)

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

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Sunday, November 6 ***

11:58 a.m. - Zeta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (5)
Attacker: Sushicide

Cover art incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com
this fictionette has no time for cupids or obsolete code
Fri 2016-11-04 23:48:05 (single post)
  • 1,037 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hey! Guess what?! The blog is working. Today's post should be visible in REAL TIME. So without further ado, I bring you the on time publication of the Friday Fictionette for November 4: "Tit for Tat" ( ebook | audiobook ) in which we have absolutely no time or patience for cupids.

So my plan was to work on the novel after I got the Friday Fictionette up. But today I just said "eff it" and started poking at the non-functioning code. I mean, yes, my domain host support people got back to me two days ago asking me to verify that my email had actually come from the account holder. Cool. But I hadn't heard a peep from them since, and I was tired of having a broken blog. So let's at least take a look and see if it could be fixed from my end, yeah?

So it could. Here's the deal, in brief: I'd written some PHP code that conflicted with a reserved word. I'd created a class and called it SessionHandler; PHP already has a class called SessionHandler. The real question is, how the hell was my blog working at all before last week? Well, since the native class SessionHandler has only been available since PHP version 5.4.0, I can only guess that my server only got updated to 5.4.0 or above around October 27 or so. I don't know how to verify that. I do know we're currently running PHP 5.4.45, but I don't know how long that's been the case.

Anyway, I renamed my class to MySessionHandler, and everything worked like magic after that.

Note to self: Stay current on PHP and keep your code maintained, OK? OK.

NaNoWriMo Day 3: the slow accretion of plot and character data
Thu 2016-11-03 23:59:59 (single post)

There's been a little movement on the broken blog front. I heard back from my domain host's support people. They wanted to verify that I really was the account holder. I sent them back the requested proof that I am. Now I'm waiting some more.

Meanwhile, on the novel front, a few additional plot points and proto-characters came to light. This was in no small part due to a dream I had this morning, a rather disturbing one actually, but the disturbing ones make entertaining fiction fodder, so it's cool. (I have a strange relationship with nightmares. I wake up fascinated with them, replaying the memories with enjoyment. It's like I just got to watch a really entertaining horror-action-thriller-suspense movie in my sleep.) In that dream, I was obliged, because of careless promises I'd made, to give up several of my fingers. It wasn't going to hurt much, and the wounds would heal instantly, but it would--contrary to my understanding when I made those promises--be permanent. I was heartbroken because I wouldn't be able to play piano, flute, or guitar anymore. (You'd think "or type, or write with a fountain pen" would have occurred to me, but no.)

Once awake and thinking about the novel, I translated that into a better understanding of why Protagonist 2 had to give up her name and accept a new identity at the Magic Pixie Call Girl agency. She'd signed a long-term contract, and when time came, she found she simply couldn't bring herself to fulfill her part of the bargain, possibly because fulfilling it turned out to be a more dire proposition than she'd originally thought it would be. (Nothing to do with removal of fingers, by the way.) So the magical contract enforcement clause was triggered and she had to forfeit her name. The call girl agency gave her the improbably name of Delta Echoes. She's working hard and saving up money to buy her name back from--I dunno, the perjury pawn broker, something like that.

The name-forfeiture thing will be foreshadowed quite early when Protagonist 1 goes to fill out some routine form and is informed what will happen if anything he signs his name to turns out to be false. This will shock him. Also shocking will be the cat that one day starts talking to him. They don't have magic back where he's from. He's going to have to get used to it.

Things continue to slowly come together. Slowly. I'm very tempted to just start writing the first scene and see where it goes from there. But I have written quite a few novel drafts like that already. I want to try out this other method of novel writing, and I can't very well see how well I like it if I don't actually do it. So the planning stage continues.

My hope is, tomorrow, to figure out how the novel ends. Ambitious, I know, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Nanowrimo Day 2: write what you know, know what you want to write
Wed 2016-11-02 23:59:59 (single post)

Nope, still haven't managed to carve out time for web site troubleshooting. I've begun to suspect it might be something very simple, like, say, all the files in the /journal directory having mysteriously disappeared, or maybe just a key #include. I DON'T KNOW. I haven't gotten to any point in any day this week where I've felt like I had the time and the energy to take a look.

But I did manage to sit down and nibble off a bit of Step 1. Why, that must mean I finished Step 0! Indeed. Three of the freewriting documents I read yesterday apparently lodged themselves on my mental backburner and fell into a single pot left simmering there, and this afternoon it turned into soup. It all came together while I was on a massage table, of all places, with nothing to do but relax and occasionally be stoic while a skilled therapist applied pressure to bits of my shoulder and neck that weren't ready for it but needed it very badly. (My right shoulder has not fully relaxed in years. It makes it hard to sleep at night. The chiropractic treatments are helping, but very slowly, and meanwhile I keep playing roller derby. So I'm trying to help things along by getting my upper back and neck massaged about once a month or after every bout, whichever comes first.) I took advantage of that time to mull over story ideas, and was kind of surprised to find one already there, spooling out scenes in my head.

Some wise writer said once that the best stories rely not on a single idea but on two: two story ideas that combine and intersect in interesting ways. I appear to have three. Possibly four, if the dream I woke up with this morning turns out to be useful. It was terrifyingly epic and needs to wind up in a story. I just don't know whether it will be this story. Anyway, here they are in all their generic glory:

  • The Manic Pixie Call Girl Agency
  • Being obliged to file for name/identity bankruptcy after breaking a magically enforced oath
  • The cat started talking to its human today because it had a warning to give
  • On a train incognito through enemy territory; team leader gave the order to get off-planet

The story that arises out of the intersection of those ideas is the novel I'm going to write. FOR NOW. I've written down all I know about it as of this evening. We'll see if, in the morning, I know more.

And for goodness's sake, I have got to get this blog fixed. I'm tired of posting into the void.

Nanowrimo Day 1: Picking Out a Novel
Tue 2016-11-01 21:40:00 (single post)

Hiho, yet another blog post for posterity and not the present. Another day without the wherewithal to troubleshoot the broken blog pages. But I will not let the day go by without reporting in!

Why? Because it's November, and I said I'd work on a novel in November, didn't I? So here I am. And, for better or worse, I've decided it'll be a new novel, not a revision of a previous year's draft. But at the same time I'm determined that this will be the novel that I finally make publishable and start submitting places, because it's about time. So I've got a bit of work cut out for me.

If you've been following along at home, you won't be entirely surprised that I'm trying out Rachel Aaron's novel-writing strategies from 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. Thus, rather than writing 1,667 words every day, I'll be taking my time choosing an idea and plotting it out before writing a whole bunch of words every day. I'm not too fussed about hitting 50K. Mainly, I want to write a first draft that isn't so tangled up as to make revision impossible. And I want--if not by the end of this month, than by sometime during the next month that I shall designate as a Novel-Writing Season on my personal calendar, which will probably be March--a novel I can begin shopping around to agents and/or editors.

So today I spent some time on Aaron's Step 0: "Decide Which Book to Write." I dove into the Scrivener project where I keep my daily freewriting and reread a whole bunch of documents that I'd labeled "To Do" when I wrote them. (I'll label a freewriting document "To Do" if it strikes me as having any long-term project potential. Some of them are clearly short stories. Some are novels. Some, I don't know what they are, but they're intriguing enough to be worth a second look.) And now I am going to go to sleep. Hopefully, sometime between now and tomorrow morning, possibly during a dream if I am very lucky, something I read tonight will shake itself out, fluff up all its plumage to make itself seem as big as possible, inflate its very colorful throat sac, and yell, "HEY! YOU! WRITE ME! WRITE ME NOW NOW NOW!"

If not, well, I'll take a little more time auditioning ideas and just pick one.

After that will come Step 1: "Get Down What You Already Know," which will help me decide if I picked the right idea out or if I really should go back to Step 0. But about that, more later.

another post no one will see until someday
Mon 2016-10-31 23:59:59 (single post)

So the blog is still down. You won't see this post. That's why it will be a very short post.

Basically, everything to do with pulling blog posts out of this one particular database just... stopped working, late last week. Due to absolutely nothing I did. All the posts are still there in the database, and I can view them, edit them, and add to them via phpMyAdmin, but all the webpages designed to display them or edit them are coming up 500s.

I emailed my domain host about it the night I saw it, using the email address that their website says to use, but they have been disappointingly unresponsive.

Hopefully I will finally find time to do some troubleshooting tomorrow, so I can at least say "This particular PHP library is failing" or "Code that works to pull from my writingdb database is inexplicably failing to pull from my journal database" or whatever. Or maybe I'll just find that it's something stupid that changed for no good reason and I can change it back. WHO KNOWS. NOT ME. Not yet, anyway.

Cross your fingers that you'll actually see this post in the near future. (Wait a minute...) Right. Also, here is a wooden crate, which you my open with the crowbar that you will find inside...

*sigh* Ain't technology great?

Cover art features original photography by the author, who just knew that hopscotch was going to inspire a fictionette.
this fictionette came back from the future to wake the past up
Fri 2016-10-28 23:59:59 (single post)

Hallelujah, would you look at that: A Friday Fictionette actually out on Friday. It's called "Wake It Up Again" (Patrons, click here for audiobook and/or ebook) and it was inspired by a chalk hopscotch in front of that five-years-dead Walmart in Longmont. I took a picture of it on my way over to Leenie's Cafe one morning, then later used that picture as a freewriting prompt. So for once the cover art actually predated the fictionette.

I'm actually backfilling this blog post from almost a week later. The blog's been down, or at least the webpages that pull the entries out of the database and display them have stopped working, and, as late as it was when I finally released the October 28 Friday Fictionette, I couldn't see the point of blogging about it where nobody could see. I have since reconsidered the value of faithfully recording my writing progress each day, which has always primarily been for my own benefit anyway, and decided to fill in the missing links after all. Besides, eventually the blog will be working again, and maybe someone will page back through the entries and see this one.

If we want to be painfully honest, the Fictionette didn't actually go up until the very wee hours of Saturday the 29th. But I do think I get some credit for staying up until that sucker was done, even though it meant not getting to bed until 3:00 AM the night/morning before bout day. I was all dedicated and disciplined, y'all. Possibly unwisely so. (If only I'd been disciplined enough to get started earlier in the day.)

OK, so, now I gotta go remember how to upload a picture and link it to this blog post without the help of my blog editing web form. Yayyyy. Laters!

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