“and if i should die
god forbid that i
pass away with ideas left in limbo
in creative purgatory”
Brian Vander Ark

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

look here is the ON switch you can even flip it
Tue 2015-09-15 23:51:30 (single post)

I've bemoaned this before: I have "on" days and "off" days. On my "on" days, I'm so on. I have energy and boundless well-being and I Get Stuff Done. On my "off" days I'm lucky if I can get out of bed. I get whatever day I get--I don't get a say, they just happen to me.

Except that's not quite the case. Careful observation yields useful discoveries.

Such as: If I get some serious writing time in, if I just do it even I don't feel up to it (even if it's shaping up to be an "off" day), I'll have a reason to feel good about myself. I might feel sick and lethargic, but I won't also be feeling ashamed.

Such as: If I get my morning cup of strong Assam tea, it not only wards off withdrawal headaches (hello, mild caffeine addiction), but it makes me feel pampered and cared for. In conjunction with the rest of my wake-up ritual--morning pages scribbled at the front patio table--it makes me feel like "someone thinks I'm worth it." That someone is me, but that counts.

Such as: If I get some exercise early in the day, sometimes I stay energized for a long time afterwards.

Such as: Skating just makes me happy.

As to that last--it's a roller derby thing. Or it may be more accurate to say, roller derby (and, presumably, other roller sports) attracts people who find that, no matter how bad the day has been so far, strapping on skates makes everything at least a little better. Like, I'm on eight wheels now, I'm flying, how bad can it be?

I had cause to reflect on this Saturday. It was a very "on" day, Saturday. And there was every reason for it to have been an "off" day. It was stuffed to the gills with scheduling, it started stupid-early in the morning, and I didn't get to sleep until 2:00 AM the night before. And what sleep I got wasn't solid. And yet I had that boundless well-being and do-stuff energy and I just felt good.

The reason I had to get up early was, I had to be in Longmont for 9:00 AM and in my skate gear at the rendezvous point for 9:15. I'd volunteered to skate in a parade. I got up at 7:00 AM, managed to drag through my Saturday morning stuff in time to leave the house by 8:45, drove all squinty-eyed with sleepiness up the Diagonal Highway, found a parking spot near the parade route in downtown Longmont, sat on the car's back bumper and tugged on my skate gear, launched myself down Terry toward 5th Street...

...and suddenly realized I was feeling good. Awake. Vibrant. Cheerful and optimistic. Pain-free. Energetic. Spirits lifted. Just physically and emotionally well.

The feeling lasted all day. And this despite adding a surprise trip to the car mechanic to my already overflowing agenda. I just kept feeling good all day.

So I thought, maybe "on" days are a thing I can cause to happen. On purpose!

Today I got up and had my morning ritual of tea and scribbles out on the patio. Then I put on my skate gear and I rolled around the neighborhood for about fifteen minutes.

Then I came back to the house, had breakfast, and just dove into the work day. Bam. Got a bunch of stuff I'd been putting off for a while done, too.

Morning skate. Huh. Might have to make a habit of this.

Can't hear... ears still ringing...
YPP Weekend Blockade Roundup for Sept 12-13
Sat 2015-09-12 13:35:55 (single post)

In the last minutes before high noon, the Emerald Ocean was deafened with the clang, thump and clatter of A THOUSAND WAR CHESTS DROPPING SIMULTANEOUSLY. Well, maybe not a thousand. More like... *counts* ...seven. Seven declarations to blockade. All by different (though varyingly allied) flags. And all on Bacon Strips. Because they don't bring nobody flowers anymore.

Seriously, watching these blockade declarations come down the chat screen while I was playing the Shipwrightery puzzle was kind of jaw-dropping.

On the Meridian Ocean, Legacy (currently of Life but this has been known to change) is reopening the Blockade Pond. What's that, you ask? Heck if I know. Click the link, read the forum post, you'll know as much as I do. In any case, the first "pond island" will be Havoc, which means the first ~victim~ student flag will be The Warriors.

Also on Meridian, Peanut Butter Jelly Flag wants you to know that they're back, and they're coming for Lilac. Dunh dunh dunnnnnnh!

On Cerulean, A Song for the Deaf intends to transfer ownership of Winter Solstice to Babylon at the earliest opportunity. However, they can't do that if Dies Irae take it from them this weekend! Here's their intent to defend, plus jobber raffle details. Meanwhile, Hephaestus' Forge is under attack, and Midnight Yacht Club find themselves unable to defend. They encourage you to join in the sinky-sinky fun and "job for anyone that's not Babylon." Of course, the latest from Babylon is that they're not going to be blockading at all, no way, no how. So they say. For now. Which isn't going to stop Dies Irae from moving in on Nu Island, mind you.

OK, that was a lot of forum babble. Time to get this post up and run away to sea! (pew pew)

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, September 12 ***

12:00 p.m. - Wissahickon Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Hysteria
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (3)

2:00 p.m. - Stormy Fell, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Sink or Swim
Attacker: Barely Dressed

4:00 p.m. - Penobscot Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pirate King
Attacker: Keep the Peace

11:14 p.m. - Maia-Insel, Opal Ocean
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Glare

*** Sunday, September 13 ***

12:00 a.m. - Havoc Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: The Warriors
Attacker: Legacy of Life

9:17 a.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: The Forums

9:55 a.m. - Arco Ascalón, Jade Ocean
Defender: HIPOCAMPOS
Attacker: Courage

11:22 a.m. - Isla Spaniel, Jade Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Sortilegio (1)
Attacker: CORSARIOS DE POSEIDÓN

11:54 a.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: Illuminatti

11:54 a.m. - The Lowland Hundred, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: This Means War

11:54 a.m. - Bowditch Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: Loose Lips Sink Ships

11:55 a.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: This Means War

11:55 a.m. - Armstrong Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: The Crazy Department

11:58 a.m. - Kasidim Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: The Crazy Department

11:58 a.m. - Aimuari Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: Illuminatti

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, September 12 ***

1:02 p.m. - Hephaestus' Forge, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Midnight Yacht Club
Attacker: Babylon

1:13 p.m. - Winter Solstice, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: A Song For The Deaf
Attacker: Dies Irae

2:00 p.m. - Nu Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Dies Irae

2:00 p.m. - Jorvik Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Resurgence
Defender: Dies Irae

Original photography by me. No bicycles were ridden on this nature path.
this fictionette is watching your tv
Fri 2015-09-11 23:55:34 (single post)
  • 1,030 words (if poetry, lines) long

This week's Friday Fictionette is about a frog with a fantastic opening line, and the change in the world that allowed him to utter it. It's called "The Spy Who Croaked."

As for the experiment with Viggle and the worries about whether it will be a terrible distraction that will kill my productivity--worry not, for as it turns out I'm not allowed to use it. I hear from Various Sources Online that the app's terms and conditions consider emulators a banning offense, and of course Bluestacks is an emulator. And there is no non-smartphone version of the functionality. Besides, it was absolutely failing to credit my music check-ins.

On the other hand, TV check-in appears to work. And football season is upon us...

No! No, I will be strong.

No, actually, I'm not...
click the music
Wed 2015-09-09 23:29:08 (single post)

Heavens help me. Some scurvy arglebargler made me aware of the Viggle app. Click... click... click...

It is, they say, an app that lets you earn points for the media you consume (say, music and TV shows), then redeem those points for free media (say, ebooks and audiobooks). I like free, and I'm not above a bit of mindless clicking. Therefore, I'm doomed.

Now, as I've probably mentioned before, I am not yet smartphone-enabled. I have a flip phone--it makes phone calls, and for a bonus it sends and receives texts. It will take a picture, and if it is feeling very generous, it will allow me to send the picture somewhere. That's pretty much it. Oh, it's also my alarm clock.

But I have the Bluestacks Android emulator installed on my computer, and so I installed the Viggle app thereon.

There was a bit of a hitch at first. I'm told there's a way to manually tell the app what you're watching/listening to, but darned if I can find it. All I get is the screen that says "Listening..." And then it says, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio. Turn up the volume or try a different show or song."

And then that was it, until I finally went into the Windows Recording Devices interface, and disabled Acoustic Echo Cancellation and disallowed applications taking exclusive control of this device. They seemed like likely culprits.

Shortly after I did this, Viggle said, "Got it!" and told me to click the little bouncy V bubble. Click. It made thinky animations at me for a few seconds, and then it said, "You're listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush," and I said, "I sure am!" Then I clicked the "get your points" bar, and it took me back to the "Listening..." screen.

Then it told me to click again. "You're still listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush!" Why yes, little device, I am, and will be for roughly the next four minutes. But it gave me more points just for not turning off the song partway through and for being willing to click some more.

And so it went throughout the album, until we got to track four, "Marathon," and Viggle identified it as "Cosmic Breath" by Ansatheus. Perhaps Viggle's mistakes can function as a sort of "if you liked this, then try that" recommendation engine. Perhaps I'd really dig Ansatheus. I don't know. I clicked anyway.

This could be a terrible distraction during writing time. The good news is, Viggle has been telling me, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio" ever since I started up the Pomodoro Challenge Timer app. Maybe somehow the timer app is messing with Viggle's microphone access--

Wait, I spoke too soon. Viggle just got something. It says I'm listening to... "Legs In Tha Air (Dope Solution Remix)" by Yung Sheikh.

That doesn't sound remotely close to "Mystic Rhythms."

No, Viggle, it's not "Dub the Witch" by need2reason, either.

*sigh* Click.

Here's hoping I get some phat digital reading out of this experiment. Hugo Award nomination season is getting closer every day, yo.

visual demonstrations and reverse engineering
Tue 2015-09-08 23:58:36 (single post)

We have a working washing machine again! I'm going to wash all of the clothes tomorrow. And the towels. And my exercise pants. And etcetera.

It was, as suspected, just a matter of replacing the lid sensor switch. Very simple--only, like I said before, I wasn't going to mess with it and maybe mess things up with either it or our home warranty policy or both. So today we had a visit from an appliance technician who opened things up, confirmed that it really was just the lid sensor switch and nothing else, and replaced that switch for us. And we gave him a check for the amount of the warranty co-pay.

And life was once more that particular sort of good that you get when you can wash your clothes without leaving the house, paying attention to business hours, and/or scrounging quarters.

The fun part was getting to see what the washing machine looked like under the hood. Our model requires one to pop off the end-caps of the front panel in order to reveal the access screws, then unscrew those screws to flip up the front panel, then simply walk off the entire chassis and lid. I didn't realize how little solid machine there was inside the big white aluminum rectangle--it's just a big flimsy metal box that gives the washtub somewhere to live. And also the lid sensor; the bit the technician replaced seemed to be attached to the inside of the chassis there.

It's OK if you're not getting a perfect visualization of the machine's innards from that abomination of a paragraph. Point is--OK, so, I'm thinking of one of John's T-shirts. The one with the slogan, "The insides of things are beautiful. Let's see what they look like." I'm feeling that slogan so very much right now.

There is probably a metaphor for writing in there somewhere. Something about the literary equivalent of taking it apart and finding out what the insides look like: examining the author's choices on a line-by-line level, or watching how they make two themes interact, or spotting that clever bit of foreshadowing on the reread. And sometimes you can't quite figure out how to take the story apart until you've had a chance to discuss it with someone else, or read an insightful review, and then you go, "Oh! So that's how you open it up and get at the lid sensor switch!" Something like that, anyway.

It's not "overthinking it." It's reverse engineering.

from the oops department
Mon 2015-09-07 23:56:14 (single post)
  • 883 words (if poetry, lines) long

Finally got the audio version of last Friday's fictionette up. Don't know why it took me so long. Guess I've been in kinda full bumming-around-the-house mode since I got back from Avon. The two-hour drive home in the sun was so much more exhausting than the four-hour round trip between Avon and DIA at night. It sort of took it out of me.

But it's Monday. Dragging around the house on a Monday is OK. But what happens on a Monday gets left behind with Monday when it turns Tuesday. Tuesday is working hard day! Just you watch!

In reading through the fictionette, I noticed and fixed two typos, so after uploading the MP3 I got to upload a new version of the PDF and correct the excerpts posted to Patreon and here. And this is why I try most weeks to record the MP3 before publishing the fictionette in any format--reading aloud is my best method of proof reading. Even reading the piece slowly so that I could "hear" my voice reading it aloud in my head--which I did while out at dinner Friday night--isn't quite as effective.

Thankfully, Patreon has greatly improved their publishing experience, such that it is now possible to delete and re-upload attachments. Genius, right? Used to be you couldn't do that, which made late-discovered typos terribly frustrating. But now it's simple.

In other news, John and I have been watching a lot of Steven Universe lately. Steven Universe is a cartoon that is awesome and you should watch it. It is good for the heart, it is emotionally deep and gloriously silly, it is constructed with such meticulous care that no detail can be rightly called "throw-away," and it boasts some amazing voice acting talent as well as a cast of characters who are wildly diverse in a delightfully unmarked way. (And it's totally stolen a plot point from my semi-trunked novel trilogy, but nevermind, it's my bad for not having converted it from semi-trunked to publishable by now.)

I've just discovered Vrai's recaps at The Mary Sue. These are smart and rewarding reading, articles that love to delve deep into subtext, point out resonances with other popular animated works, and revel in the show's unapologetic yet entirely understated political statements.

Don't know where I was going with that. What is this, a thesis? Go click on the links and read smart articles and watch good cartoons. That is all.

Cover art incorporates public domain images from Pixabay.com and from the U.S. National Parks Service
this fictionette's breakfast burrito comes in a bowl with its name on it
Fri 2015-09-04 22:22:19 (single post)
  • 883 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's Friday, and the fictionette for the first week in September is up! Its working title has become its actual title--"Still Life with Coyote"--and it's in the format of an interview. With a coyote. Just because.

Thing about being in a hotel room, even a very nice one with a small kitchen and a separate bedroom, is that there really isn't a lot of extra space to make into a recording studio. It's pretty much whatever room isn't occupied. So I'm going to wait until tomorrow morning early to record the MP3 edition, while John's still asleep in bed and I have the kitchen/living/dining room area to myself, because the kitchen table is oodles more comfortable for recording at. I'll update both excerpts to include the MP3 link at that time.

The past couple of days have been pretty relaxed. After John's daily phone meeting (working vacation, remember), we've been walking across the street over to Loaded Joe's for breakfast-with-computers. They have a pretty extensive menu these days; I had the brioche french toast yesterday and the philly steak burrito today. These were delicious. John had their fried eggs over medium both days. He reports they cook it perfectly.

And now for a brief culinary tangent: Your classic Philly Cheesesteak, that involves onions and green peppers, right? Green bell peppers? The philly steak burrito had mild jalapeños instead. Not a complaint! Just an observation.

Afternoon naps continue to be a necessity, helped along by the daily afternoon rain shower we've been getting. Tuesday and Wednesday were the only exceptions, so it was a good thing I went trail-skating Wednesday.

It's been an underwhelming week for writing. I've pretty much only gotten to my morning gotta-do tasks, and nothing else. I thought I'd get a whole bunch of work done on the short story revision, but as it turns out, I acted like I was on vacation or something. Funny thing about that.

Well. Next week is back-to-normal week. Let's see if I can locate an acceptable normal.

extra-curricular skating and the daily afternoon nap
Wed 2015-09-02 23:40:39 (single post)

Guess what?! I went skating today. Just for an hour, but still.

We drove over to the Riverwalk at Edwards, had a little lunch at Local Joe's Pizza (not to be confused with Loaded Joe's, whose Avon location is still on my to-be-visited list this week), then settled into the Bookworm's cafe. Then, after a little work time, I put the computer away, went down to the car, and geared up.

Now, I've skated the 8-mile round trip between Avon and Edwards, with the Bookworm as my westmost point each time. Today I thought I'd see what the trail did if I took it farther west. Surprise! The trail doesn't go farther west. There's the rickety wooden bridge that crosses under Edwards Village Road, which deposited me either into a residential area when I took it across the river or into the parking lot across the road if I didn't; and then back up by the rec center there's a loop around a little lake in the park just before the Colorado Mountain College campus, but alas, no real mileage beyond that. I thought about putting in my mouthguard and messing around in the skate park by the rec center, but the thought of being there without any friends to watch out for me made me nervous.

Still, got an hour's good skating in, with uphills working my endurance and downhills working my stability and my plow stops. It wasn't team practice, but it was a darn good substitute I think.

And then, dear reader, John and I went back to the hotel and collapsed for the afternoon.

(The Daily Afternoon Nap appears to be an important part of our vacation itinerary.)

literary adventures in avon
Wed 2015-09-02 00:36:58 (single post)
  • 936 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hello from Avon, Colorado! John and I have run away from home for the week, as we sometimes do. It's a working vacation for both of us, but the change of scenery is always nice, as is that freedom from household responsibility that comes from staying in a hotel.

Also, there's having the week off from roller derby practice. Only I have very mixed feelings about that, since our B team has a home tournament to play in less than three weeks. John, on the other hand, desperately needed the recovery time after traveling to Detroit to be part of the coaching force for our A team at the second round of Division 2 playoffs. Still, he and I are both seriously considering that, when we check out of the hotel on Sunday, we could drive straight back to the Longmont YMCA and go to that afternoon's practice.

I do plan to spend some time while up here on skates. If the weather holds fair, tomorrow might be a nice day to take the trail from Avon to Edwards. I did that a couple years ago, and it was fabulous. The miles flew by. And the Bookworm in Edwards didn't seem to mind my sweaty self wandering in with kneepads on and skates in my hand to buy a book and drink a latte. Then again, they didn't mind sweaty bicyclists in logo-covered spandex coming in off the trail, either. They are very accommodating of active lifestyles in Eagle County.

After lunch at [Bob's Place] (an Avon institution), I have already been to the Avon Public Library and checked out an armful of books. I made a beeline for their collection of Terry Pratchett hardbacks, because I came in with a deep need to reread Unseen Academicals. Then since I was in the Ps already, I selected a Tim Powers novella, "Salvage and Demolition." In the comic book section, Astro City: Through Open Doors jumped out at me, not least because the author has been a frequent participant in all the Hugo-adjacent conversation over at File770. And then I visited the new fiction shelf, because I intend to cast a nomination ballot for the 2015 Hugo Awards, so I'd better start reading stuff that's eligible. Max Gladstone's Last First Snow was a no-brainer choice, seeing as how I adored Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise.

Writing-wise, I spent today catching up on last week's fictionette stuff. The MP3 is up as well as the PDF for "How Featherkind Got Its Song," and they are both free to download by anyone who'd like to--I've made the August 28th offering the Fictionette Freebie for the month. I'm not entirely happy with it, as the author's note attests, but I feel like the most honest response to the problematic implications is to open it up to others' feedback and maybe learn how to do it better next time. Or else learn that I'm just whining and insecure and being all look-at-my-self-flagellation about something that's really no big deal and I should shut up. I'm not sure which.

(This week's fictionette is going to be a lot more fun. I am tentatively calling it "Still Life with Coyote.")

Tomorrow, once I get my Morning Gotta-Dos done, I mean to dedicate the rest of my writing time entirely to short story revision. Go me.

And now to join John in front of the TV, where he's watching archived bout footage from D2 Cleveland. No, wait, D2 Detroit archives are up already! Awesome! Time to rewatch Boulder's game against Brewcity. Go derby!

Cover art incorporates 'California barberry (Berberis pinnata)' by Franco Folini (CC BY-SA 2.0) and 'Golden Tanager (Tangara arthus)' by Jon Sullivan (public domain)
and monday is the new saturday for this fictionette
Mon 2015-08-31 19:27:08 (single post)
  • 936 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm late, and I'm going to be even later. I just put up the PDF edition of the Friday Fictionette for August 28, "How Featherkind Got Its Song." Patrons pledging at least $1/month can download it right this second. Hurrah!

And now I must run to pick up John at the airport. Since I'm coming from and returning to Avon, Colorado, we're looking at a round trip between four and five hours. That means the following probably won't be up until tomorrow morning sometime: the MP3 edition (available to patrons pledging $3/month), or the excerpt (available to everyone), or the Fictionette Freebie for August 2015. Damn and blast.

But hey, now you've got something to look forward to, right?

Talk to you then.

email