“Here's the kind of writer I want to be: a better writer today than I was yesterday.
John Vorhaus

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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!

data analysis and the testing of hypotheses
Thu 2016-10-27 23:59:00 (single post)

This is a blog post written in hope. Currently my blog isn't coming up at all--not the entries, not the composition form, nada. I'm not happy about this, but at 11:30 PM after double derby scrimmage I have no brain left for HTML/PHP troubleshooting. So I'm just going to write this post, because I saved time and energy for the writing of this post despite double derby scrimmage. I'll just hope that by the time I'm done, or maybe by the time I wake up, everything will be back to normal. Why shouldn't it? I didn't do anything to break my blog. With any luck I won't need to do anything to fix it.

I'm going to reference Rachel Aaron's 2K to 10K book again. I read it very recently, so it is the new shiny thing in my head. This time what I'd like to talk about is one of the sides of her "triangle" metric: Time. Aaron writes,

I started keeping records. Every day I sat down to write, I would note the time I started, the time I stopped, how many words I wrote, and where I was writing on a spreadsheet (to see an example, check out the bonus section at the end of this chapter). I did this for two months, and then I sat down with my data to look for patterns.

By studying this data, Aaron discovered that certain circumstances--times of day, locations, computing environments--consistently correlated with higher output. Thereafter she set about recreating those circumstances for her daily writing sessions. Lo and behold, her word counts went up.

There's a lot in common here with what Havi Brooks calls The Book of You. The practice is simple: Observe yourself. Take notes. What contributes to a good work/play session? What makes it easier to be happy? What makes for a sense of safety? What sabotages that sense of safety?

It makes perfect sense, and I can't bring myself to do it. I mean, in either context. I have so many excuses for this. For instance, I tell myself, I already keep a spreadsheet where I log my hours, and I already do Morning Pages; any further note-taking would be redundant, right? Except, of course, the point isn't so much the note-taking as the data analysis. Excuse: Neither timesheet nor Morning Pages are optimized for data analysis! How would I even begin?

Well, I did mention that I've been slowly rereading my Pages from January.

So, yesterday, I got home and keeled over. I'd meant to use my free evening to Get Shit Done, including all the shit I should have done by that time of the day but hadn't. Instead, due to being profoundly exhausted, I just slept until about 9:30 that night.

Some time after that I decided to salvage as much left of the evening as possible by reading a days' worth of Morning Pages and taking notes. January 7. And right there, on the page: a complaint that I'd meant to get work done that afternoon, but around 3 PM I got so sleepy, I had to nap.

PLUS CA CHANGE Y'ALL.

First I thought, "Self, this afternoon napping thing is a problem. Cut it out!" But that isn't practical or compassionate. Afternoon naps happen when, despite my best intentions, I get so tired that it becomes literally painful to remain upright. Telling myself "just stop napping" would be like telling myself "just work, all right?" on a Thursday night after three hours of roller derby practice and scrimmage. That's not "discipline." That's self-torture. That's an attempt to deny the body its physical needs. That doesn't work.

So my second thought was, "Self, afternoon exhaustion is a Thing That Happens. Accept it and work around it." How to work around it? "Damn well do your morning shift of writing, self!"

Because that's within the realm of the actually doable. The unfortunate habits of oversleeping and dragging through the morning don't come from the same sense of physical fatigue; they come more from a mental place of not wanting to face the day's work. And that's a place where this so-called "discipline" can actually be helpful rather than destructive. "Self, I know how much you don't want to get to work. I sympathize. But I promise you'll feel better about yourself if you do the work. You'll feel proud of yourself instead of guilty and unhappy. So just go ahead and set that timer... there you go! ...and start writing."

So even though the data analysis hasn't been comprehensive or formal, I did analyze enough data to come up with these conclusions:

  • Because I sometime lose afternoons to crippling exhaustion, I must protect my morning work session from interference. It may be the only work session I get.

  • Successfully working my morning session makes me feel proud and happy. This in turn makes it more likely I'll feel energized and eager to work my afternoon session.

  • Morning sessions are in danger from sleeping late and from taking too long of a break between each task. Thus: Get up on time, and work to a strict schedule.

  • Oversleeping stems in part from hitting snooze too many times (because "just fifteen more minutes" never feels like enough!), and then from a depressed feeling that I've wasted so much morning there's no point in getting up anymore. The latter feeling can be addressed by halting the initial snooze cycle. I can halt that cycle by arranging two alarms: one for the time I actually want to get up, and one for about an hour or so earlier, which is a long enough snooze cycle to feel sufficiently restful that I'll be ready to get up when the later alarm goes off.

I based this morning's wake-up routine and work session around those conclusions, and, lo and behold, I worked a righteous morning session. And a righteous afternoon session. And, during lunch and during my afternoon writing session, I got stuff done that had been hanging over my head for weeks.

Thus my hypotheses are supported by experimentation. Hooray!

Of course, even knowing that I'd gotten so very much good stuff done today, I still caught myself feeling stressed out at derby scrimmage because of all the stuff I just knew I still had to get done after I got home. Being stressed out can become a habit. It's going to take some work--which is to say, more successful days like this one--to break that habit.

Onward.

That is not a tiny loaf of bread. That is a normal-sized loaf of sourdough bread.
when you get to the ends of things you might look back
Tue 2016-10-25 23:38:42 (single post)
  • 3,339 words (if poetry, lines) long

Would you look at the size of those carrots? This is the last week of veggie shares from my CSA, and those are finale-sized carrots. I dug up the potatoes I'd planted this year in hopes of matching those carrots in a soup, but all I seem to have grown are potatoes the size of kidney beans. Large kidney beans, like you'd make red beans & rice with, but still. Even smaller than the potatoes you might see sold as "pee wees." Will nothing match those carrots for grandiosity? Perhaps I should go buy some parsnips. And a huuuuuuuge daikon radish.

Speaking of retrospectives (I kind of was, if you squint a little), I've reached the point in The Artist's Way where Julia Cameron tells you to reread your Morning Pages. I've been doing so, but slowly, because even only going back to the beginning of the year, even given that I've only been doing them on weekdays, that's a lot of pages and there are other things I'd like to do with my waking time after all. I'm taking along for the ride a brand new blank notebook that I bought in New Orleans at the Tremé Fall Festival in which I'm jotting down any insights which arise.

it's interesting, and sometimes disheartening, to see what problems remain an unchanged part of my life, and most of them my own doing, too, like "Mustn't get distracted and try to multitask other activities during Morning Pages" or "Mustn't let the day leak away through the cracks in the hours." It's refreshing to see, from what I wrote in anticipation of my very first All Stars practice as a just-made-it A/B crossover skater, that I no longer have the insecurities and self-esteem issues I had back then. (I still have insecurities in that area, but they're different insecurities.) It's surprising to see turns of phrase striking the page like sudden lightning with no indication I thought twice about them at the time I wrote them. ("Pin the blame on the donkey"--ouch. "Morning Pages as a devotional practice"--really? Wow, yes, really.) There's a dream back in early January that I don't think I paid much attention to the morning I jotted it down, even though I'd just come back from a family visit, undoubtedly because I was dealing with more dramatic emotional upheaval fresh from Christmas afternoon, still too blindsided by that to notice the chronic low-level background unease that the dream was pointing out. ("I have brand new arrows. Dad borrows them. He says he has to prep the arrows for use. He does this by breaking them about 6 inches behind the arrowhead. He doesn't understand why I'm angry, nor will he promise to stop doing it, so I have to hide the remaining unbroken arrows in the attic behind a loose board in the wall." SHIT THAT'S UNCOMFORTABLY REAL.)

I'm taking notes and hoping to learn from them. And flinching sometimes. *flinch* It's cool. It's just the contents of my head from ten months ago. No big deal. The contents of my head are often thorny.

In other news, "It's For You" came back last week with a rejection letter and went back out again today with fresh reserves of hope. This is its twelfth time out in the slush mines. I know very well that, in this business, twelve isn't that high of a number, nowhere near high enough to mean I should give up on a story, but it's sometimes hard to remember that. I just keep telling myself, "Remember how that other editor loved it and passed it on to the second round? This is a good story! Someone will buy it!" But what would really make me feel better is having a brand new story to send out to meet the nice people. Only one way to make that happen, though. *cracks knuckles, surveys revision queue*

Cover art features original and fortuitously blurry photography by the author. Pint glass features Boulder Beer's Pulp Fusion, a blood orange IPA that's remarkably tasty.
this fictionette shoulda been more silly
Mon 2016-10-24 18:34:04 (single post)
  • 1,172 words (if poetry, lines) long

First order of business: I have finally posted the Friday Fictionette for October 21. It is "Shoulda Been a Wizard" (for subscribers, here are full text links for the ebook and audiobook editions). It's about this guy who wants to relive his past and get it right this time. He actually knows just enough magic to do it, too. All he needs is a volunteer.

I was having trouble coming up with a title, so I went back and riffed off of one of my writing prompts, which were the song titles "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Shoulda Been a Cowboy." Virtual Writers has been doing a lot with song titles and song lyrics for their writers' dash prompts lately, which is, oddly, doing very little for me.

Which leads to my second order of business here, which is this: I am bored of the whole Virtual Writers plus Watchout4Snakes plus Tarot Card writing prompt spread. I think this is why I am having a damn hard time forcing myself to do my daily freewriting.

Trying to freshen things up, I did a Google search for "silly writing prompts" and I got Scholastic's "Story Starters" which are awesome. It's a lot like Gabriela Pereira's "Writer Igniter" with its four-column slot machine design, only you get to choose from four genre or genre-like categories first. Also the Scholastic version is aimed at kids, which is perfect given that I want to inject some playfulness into my daily freewriting.

I tried out the Fantasy category and got "Write about a magical event with a lionhearted elder who brews a love potion." I had a lot of fun with that. The results might even turn into November's Week 3 Fictionette.

Third order of business: I'm hungry and, thanks to my very dear friend in Salt Lake City, I have tamales in the freezer. Also I have green tomatillo salsa in the freezer thanks to my CSA. Also I have a microwave with a defrost function. DINNER HERE I COME.

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