oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.
Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.
At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.
("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)
So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.
And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.
well stuff my face and take a picture
So I made it into the New Orleans area Monday night. My flight was pleasant, comfortable, and uneventful. Even my pre-trip packing and last-minute chores parade wasn't so bad. Got everything done early and had time for dinner (and the first half of the Saints game) at the airport Rock Bottom in terminal C.
Turns out that Riedell's bottom-loading "gear pack" does indeed function as carry-on luggage. Fits right into the overhead bin. However, once you get your gear in there, forget about all those enticing home-office style pockets that make it look like you can pack your laptop and accessories and pens and pencils and stuff too. I mean, I did manage to get that in there, because that's me--determined, like--but it was a tight squeeze. Getting any single thing out again was a bit of a process.
The helmet does not fit in the gear pack. The helmet went clipped to an outside loop. I was prepared to offer to put the helmet on my head if they gave me any trouble taking it onto the plane. But they didn't, so I just unclipped it and shoved it under the seat in front of me.
That I had my roller derby gear as carry-on luggage made it very, very tempting to put my skates on at my arrival gate--it was a bit of a walk from there to baggage claim, and the aisle was uncarpeted and linoleumish the whole way. But I didn't. I didn't want to alarm any airport security, and, more to the point, I didn't want to go to the trouble of actually sitting down and changing my footwear when I could just keep walking.
I shoulda done, though. It's not like I've been able to skate at all since I've been here. STOP RAINING ALREADY JEEZ.
My first few days in town have been laid back. They have been divided up into vaguely scheduled chunks governed by "do I have access to Mom's car or not" and "am I hungry and what wonderful tasty thing will I put into my mouth." For example, Monday night/Tuesday morning (we got home from the airport around midnight) was all about Question 2 and the venison stew Dad had been cooking all day in the crock pot. Tuesday afternoon was all about Question 1 and driving myself to a coffee shop for a few hours of writing far away from my parents' Fox News habit. (Also for a bowl of the coffee house's corn-and-crab bisque.) Today the answer to Question 1 was "yes, but I want to take the bike to the shop" and the answer to Question 2 was "Mandarin House with Mom for lunch, then beignets at Morning Call while I wait for the bike shop to call." Also there have been random raw oysters, because Dad's friend picked up a sack and brought them over. And crawfish sushi because I was at the grocery Tuesday and it looked good. And more of the venison stew, and also the corn and sausage soup, and random Popeye's leftovers, because they were in the fridge and I was feeling snacky at late-o-clock at night.
I've begun assembling a photo album over on Facebook - I think it's totally public and you don't have to be logged in to see it - because I have this new camera, as you may remember. Here's a close-up of one of the photos. Apparently they have yellow caution signs for everything.
YPP Weekend Blockades, Dec 19: Scuttling makes baby penguins cry
You guys, I cannot even with the forum posts today. My ability to even has been reduced to nothing. Mind you, I'm in a noisy taproom having lunch and a rather high ABV beer, so that could have something to do with it. But there's nothing really informative in the forums that I can see, just people sniping at each other in a way that might be related to this weekend's blockade schedule. They have even gone back to arguing about the tree on Aimuari. The tree, you guys!
Look, there are blockades. There are a lot of blockades. On Meridian, Imperial Coalition did a lot of scuttling (which got them accused of cowardice because enticing a Brigand King to attack your island is an effective means of preventing player flags from doing the same), as did Alria (ditto), and now there are a billion Brigand King attacks going on which hopefully means a lot of PoE for jobbers. On Emerald, it just looks like a lot of simultaneous drops from This Means War, Order of the Jolly Roger, and Naughtiest Naughtiness. By contrast, Cerulean is quiet, and so is Jade and Opal, each of them with one or two blockades or so.
Anyway, this isn't even the interesting thing this weekend. Not hardly! This weekend, the Sealpocalypse has been unleashed upon the Oceans! You may have noticed.
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, December 19 ***
12:00 p.m. - Labyrinth Moors, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Fellowship of Friends
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (5)
Undeclared: Glub Glub Glub
Undeclared: Heisenberg's Uncertainty
*** Sunday, December 20 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, December 19 ***
this fictionette is preparing to take a trip
- 1,128 words (if poetry, lines) long
The Friday Fictionette for December 18 is up! After some angsty deliberation (I hate coming up with titles), I called it "What Your Name is Worth," because that's pretty much what it's about. It's sort of Weird West, which isn't generally my thing; I just went where the writing prompt pointed. You know how it goes.
The link above goes to a brief excerpt hosted on Patreon. These links go to the full-length PDF and MP3 editions, which may be downloaded by subscribers at the $1 and $3 per month pledge tiers respectively. All the details about the Friday Fictionettes project are over here.
Once I got that published, I thought, "Hey, how about I post another excerpt to Wattpad?" I've been so very, very behind in posting the fictionette excerpts to Wattpad. I've been catching up, one excerpt at a time, as and when I have time. And supposedly anything that goes up on a Friday has a much better chance of being "discovered" than stuff that goes up most other days of the week, so, OK, I posted "...Champagne." That's the one from October 23, so I'm getting close to caught up at least.
And then I thought, "I have time, why not get a little more caught up in back-filling the meta-data from the earlier fictionettes?" Which is to say, the Scrivener fields in which I jot down the URLs of the PDF, MP3, and fictionette excerpt on Patreon, and the corresponding excerpt on Wattpad, and the corresponding excerpt on my blog. Not to mention title and date and wordcount and the date of the freewriting session the fictionette is based on, because I want to keep track of stuff like that. Some of these fields got added late in the game, so they were blank for many of the earlier fictionettes. Some of these fields I just forgot to fill in once in a while.
Much of the data I needed in order to back-fill the meta-data fields could only be retrieved by combing back... and back... and back through the Patreon and Wattpad archives. Both of them work like this: You go to the "Works" or "Posts" page, which loads the most recent handful of items. You page all the way to the bottom of the screen. If it's Patreon, it detects you've scrolled all the way down and says, "Loading more posts..." for a few seconds. If it's Wattpad, you click "show more," and you also wait for a few seconds. After waiting for a few seconds, it loads the next handful of items. And then you scroll down to the bottom of the page and you do it again. And again. And again.
And then I thought, "This is such a pain! Why don't I just get all caught up on meta-data right now so that I never, ever, ever have to go through this again?"
And that, dear readers, is why fictionette procedures took about four hours today.
A mostly unscheduled weekend looms. Saturday, for once, I've got nothing on the calendar at all--well, a couple of very brief errands, no big deal, but no events, you know?--so I'm going to hang out with my loving, lovable, and miraculously supportive husband. Sunday would usually be roller derby practice, but this Sunday is the third and final allotted session for travel team tryout skills evaluations, and I've already done mine. Besides, this being the final tryout session, John will probably wind up in a coaches' meeting long into the afternoon to finalize travel team rosters. I'd just be awkwardly trying to avoid overhearing confidential things while waiting impatiently to go home. So instead I'm just going to stay home in the first place. Glorious.
Then on Monday evening I fly to New Orleans for the holidays. So I suppose I'll spend Monday in a state of pre-travel stress. Yay? Yay.
do the one thing, then do the next thing
- 1,869 words (if poetry, lines) long
Today's revision session was all about making the story's first protagonist and her wife real, living, breathing characters, with interests and dreams and day jobs and food preferences and families. Not all of the above can appear in a story that's only some 1,500 to 2,000 words long, but even just a few sentences alluding to their full, richly detailed lives can make the difference between that and vague character-shaped variables in a story-shaped equation.
One of the biggest frustrations of story revision is the general free-floating sense that the story as it stands is crap and I don't know how to even begin to make it better. I don't always know that's what I'm feeling, is the weird thing. It is such an unpleasant feeling that I push it away, unwilling to admit or even to become aware that this is what I'm feeling. So it gets translated into an even more general sense--a sense that is yet one more step removed--of vague unhappiness and malaise and avoidance.
Once I figured out that was where my head was at, I gritted my teeth and forced myself to focus in. What made the story crap? What were its problems? List them. Be specific. Then pick one and make solving that problem the focus for today's revision session. Thus, today's goal of turning Malika and Cheryl into fully realized characters.
What makes this hard to do is the sense that time is slipping away from me. I only alloted two hours to work on the story today, and I only managed some 45 minutes instead. I got through my morning shift by noon or not much later than, but all my lunchtime tasks just streeeeeeetched ooouuuuuut until it seemed to take forever to get back to work. So my frustration changed from "there's so much wrong with the story and I don't know where to begin" to "there's so much wrong with the story and I'll never have time to fix it all."
But then it's not like this story is on a deadline right now. Well, it sort of is, in that the place I want to send it is only open to submissions until January 15. But I couldn't send this piece to them even if it was ready tomorrow because I already sent them something else last week. I can't send this one in until that one gets rejected. And, who knows, that one might not even get rejected, wouldn't that be nice?
So. No deadline. So no stress. That's what I keep telling myself. No stress. Just take your time and solve the one problem that's in front of you right now. Really, for the most part, that's all anyone can do ever. Do the one thing, then do the next thing. It's expecting ourselves to do all the things at once that causes all that unnecessarily stress.
I know this. Doesn't stop me stressing though.
hard work is hard you guys
- 1,764 words (if poetry, lines) long
Finally got around to revisions on "Down Wind" today, with the result that I'm confused and annoyed and in despair. Well, OK, it's not that bad, but--this is not simple fix territory. This is hard, frustrating, mind-boggling work territory. And the darn thing's only 1400 words long! Well, 1750 now. Good thing? Bad thing? Unknown at this time.
The story is very short and cycles between three different characters' points of view. Right there we have potential problems. I received feedback that the scene segues were a little confusing; the reader didn't easily clue in that we'd moved from one scene to another. This is probably because I'd tried to be "clever." I was trying to do this sort of pivot maneuver on a word or concept that two adjacent scenes had in common, like referring to the prospect of a character "leaving" somewhere or someone in both the last sentence of one scene and the first sentence of the next. But while I was busy doing this, I was failing, to some extent, to make clear that we had in fact moved on to another character.
Solution 1: White-space scene breaks! ...which, no, because some of these scenes are more like "scenelettes," barely two paragraphs long. Separating them by white space would be just awkward and annoying.
Solution 2: Some sort of "meanwhile, back at the ranch" lead-in to each scene! ...which, maybe, but runs the risk of sounding hokey if done badly. And even if done well, that lead-in would represent a significant percentage of the scene it's part of.
Solution 3: Eff it, that reader who gave me that feedback was just silly and wrong! ...which, well, NO. I'm often tempted to respond that way to negative feedback, and it's really not a good habit to get into. That way lies golden word syndrome and no one wanting to critique my stuff because of all the unhelpful push-back. Not going there, if I can help it! Besides, even if the reader is dead wrong, there's often useful revision pointers to be unearthed in trying to figure out how they got so wrong.
Solution 4: Still looking for one. Probably some combination of all of the above, though, even Solution 3 in careful moderation, in proportions to be determined on a case by case basis.
Also, on the reread I am spotting theme and character depth and other very ambitious things that I want to salt onto the stew, like the idea that the pigeon singularity really is all about keeping things and people together by infinitesimally slowing the expansion of the universe, and can I show that in each scene, and also these people have lives and background and history and can't I show that in each scene by just adding maybe one more sentence per, only it has to be the right sentence that also plays into the keep-people-together theme, and can I maybe do something meta with this, like right in the very structure of the story?
Y'all, revision is hard. I do not understand people who enjoy the revision stage. I really wish I did. What I actually enjoy are those couple seconds right as the revision ends. That's the bit where I sit back, all pleased with myself, and say, "Yes, I have made it perfect. Or very nearly so, anyway. Damn I'm good at this." The long hours of brain-wringing work involved getting to those couple seconds, those are not nearly as enjoyable except in the sort of abstract "hard work that I know will be worth it" way.
Breakthroughs tomorrow? I sure as hell hope so.
this fictionette got distracted by an audiobook, sorry
- 997 words (if poetry, lines) long
It's ridiculously late, but it's out now: "Mala's Desert Muse," your Friday Fictionette for the second week of December 2015. That link will take you to a brief excerpt of the fictionette, followed by links to download the full-length piece if you're already a subscriber, and links to become a subscriber if you're not one yet and would like to be.
The weekend was extremely full of roller derby, what with the two-day clinic down at the Glitterdome. I learned a lot! It was awesome! And I had no energy for just about anything else all weekend except visiting some friends on the way home from Denver. They were nice visits. They are very nice friends who don't mind me arriving somewhat sweaty and also vague from exhaustion.
I took advantage of the long-ish drive to begin listening to an audiobook of Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Then I just sort of kept listening through my post-derby bath and on my way to sleep. I'm midway through Chapter 15 as of last night. The Overdrive download chops it up into "parts" that don't actually correspond with chapter headings; I've listened through Part 7. I have had people describe this book to me as "another take on Beauty and the Beast," which I suppose is accurate insofar as it goes. It doesn't go nearly far enough. I'm also hearing very strong echoes of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Goethe, not Disney--or, if Disney, Fantasia, not Nicolas Cage) only not so much the plot thereof as the premise and emotional conflict therein. But there's a lot more going on in Novik's novel than in either tale. I am hooked. I'm desperately looking forward to Part 8 tonight at bedtime.
I downloaded the audiobook, by the way, from the Viggle Store. It is the second thing I've purchased from Viggle, the first being an ebook of Dreams of Shreds and Tatters. (I'm about two-thirds through reading it. It's OK. It could be better. But I do appreciate me some King in Yellow fan fiction.) I've finally gotten the hang of using Viggle efficiently. It involves clicking on bonus ads during my writing stints, playing the Viggle Football game, and using the resources made available by this web site here. (Ssh! Don't tell.) By the time I've listened through all of Uprooted I will probably have enough points to purchase some other wonderful thing. In fact I'm only about 2,000 points away from downloading this wonderful thing, the link to which I include mainly to remind me that I'm interested in purchasing it.
YPP Weekend Blockades, Dec 12: pure vanilla extract for fairness and fun
Meridian flag Barely Dressed decided there wasn't enough action on the ocean, so they dropped a war chest on Napi Peak just to shake things up. Defending flag Imperial Coalition promptly counterdropped on Stormy Fell. This means war! But hopefully a fair and fun one.
On Cerulean, Babylon is attacking Sushicide on Namath Island. There is the usual stick figure intent art for you to enjoy.
And on Emerald, Coming in Hot is doing just that, attacking Black Flag on Kiwara Island. "Not bells or whistles - just a plain old intent." Admirable restraint!
Those were the highlights; here comes the complete schedule. Enjoy! (And did you get your Seal o' Piracy for December 2015 yet? My current hypothesis is that it takes three leagues for a session on station to count--does that match your experience?)
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, December 12 ***
*** Sunday, December 13 ***
5:00 p.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Event: 3 rounds, nonsinking
Hosted by: Qlimax Telecom
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, December 12 ***
someday i'll be taking the blame for someone else's productivity loss
This is another one of those unfortunate weeks where the Friday Fictionette will have to be a Weekend Fictionette. I could blame yesterday's scrimmage, which was fantastic but left me exhausted enough to use "roller derby recovery" as an excuse to sleep late the next day. I could blame that, but I won't, because that's not the problem. The problem was, when I finally got up, I rolled over, grabbed my library copy of The Bone Clocks, and didn't put it down again until I'd reached the end.
My problem is, I have very little self-discipline around books.
Now, this weekend is a weekend containing no less than eight hours of roller derby doings and a good friend's birthday party, so I'm going to have to be clever about eking out enough time to get the fictionette up while we can still sort of kind of call it December: Week 2. Clever and also somewhat strict with myself. (Alas. It is no fun whatsoever to be strict with myself.) But not so strict that I don't let myself get enough sleep, because, well, roller derby. Athletes need sleep!
But at least I finished the library book, so that temptation is behind me.
The Bone Clocks is by David Mitchell, who also wrote that Cloud Atlas whose movie adaptation everyone was raving about not so long ago. In this book, he's created a huge sort of puzzle box that solves itself for you slowly, piece by piece, over the course of one woman's lifetime. In many ways it felt like a more mature and nuanced version of what Sheri Tepper was trying to do with Beauty. It's got a very similar story structure--at least, superficially so--and it voices very similar concerns. But it strikes a much more convincing balance between "Some things are just wrong, mmkay?" and "It's always more complicated than you think." And when it was over I not only cried a little at the end, but I found myself more prone to crying over other things, both happy and sad, for some time after I'd closed the book. It was as though the book stayed not so much in my conscious thoughts as in my emotional circuitry, magnifying everything else I felt for the rest of the afternoon.
It's either science fiction or fantasy depending on your point of view. Maybe a little of both. It has a science fictional tendency towards exploring future outcomes of present day action. It has a fantastical approach to psionic powers, reincarnation, and the afterlife. It has a terribly realistic viewpoint on disasters both past and present, but it never quite robs the reader of hope. It dangles what feel like hundreds of loose threads over the course of the story, and all but I think two of them get woven back into a satisfying resulotion. (One of those unresolved threads is a real humdinger, though, I gotta say. [ROT13]Pevfcva'f zheqre jnf fhccbfrq gb znxr gur cbrzf trg angvbany nggragvba, ohg gurl ner va snpg arire zragvbarq ntnva.[/ROT13] This bugs. But by the end of the book I wasn't thinking about that. I didn't actually think about it until hours after I'd finished, because everything else about the book was so good.)
It wouldn't be fair to give me all of the blame for my unfortunate binge-reading. I think Mitchell has to shoulder some of the responsibility. He wrote a book that was very, very hard to put down. I'm going to have to wait some time before checking out Cloud Atlas. Purely out of self-defense, you understand. Can't afford to have days like this every day.
mothballing the mourning wardrobe
Today was indeed more productive than yesterday. "Caroline's Wake" got a small amount of fine-tuning (turned out to need less than I anticipated); then it got sent out into the world to meet a new bunch of editor-type people. It feels good, having sent it out again. It's what a writer's supposed to do. And it occasions new hope.
The common advice is, "Never let a manuscript sleep over." That is to say, the moment a rejection comes in, take that story and send it somewhere else immediately. Have a list of places you want to send it, and just send it to the next place on your list. This is very smart from a business perspective: your story, once completed, is a product, and you need to keep trying to sell that product. But it's also smart from an emotional standpoint. It helps the writer end the mourning period and start afresh.
Of course there's a mourning period. Rejections occasion grief. They signal the death of a hope. No, not the Death of Hope, nothing that grand or melodramatic--but the demise of a very particular hoped-for outcome. There was a possibility that the story would be published by a specific market; the rejection signals that the possibility is no more.
So, OK, a writer can grieve. But a writer can also move on. Submitting the story to the next place is how to do that. Also working on the next story.
The next story is "Down Wind," which needs more of an overhaul than "Caroline" did. It needs section breaks and more of a textual differentiation between the three characters' points of view. It probably needs more than that, but I won't know until I pull it out and read it over. Which is next on my agenda!