“I don't take much notice of critics, except when they praise me extravagantly.”
Philip Pullman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover illustration incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com.
"What the heck does auld lang syne mean, anyway?"
Sat 2017-01-07 00:37:14 (single post)
  • 1,077 wds. long

Ahoy! So. The Friday Fictionette for January 6 is up. It was supposed to go up at 6 PM, taking advantage of Patreon's clever SCHEDULE POST feature. Only apparently I am not so clever, and I thought today was Jan 7. Eleven-thirty came around, and I was pulling up the HTML excerpt to copy-paste into Wattpad, and emergency! emergency! Where is my post?! Ya fool. It's right where you put it: on tomorrow's docket. Oops.

It's up now, though, and it's called "The Land Exhales" (ebook | audiobook | free excerpt ) It is not one of my more cheerful stories, dealing as it does with a meta-fictional land where everyone is miserable, but I like to think it ends on a hopeful note.

I wish I'd had time to do more with today--like take another crack at the novel-in-progress--but I got a little self-indulgent trying to produce a presentable four bars of "Auld Lang Syne" on the piano that I could include. Why "Auld Lang Syne"? Because it's January. Why on the piano? Why indeed. The flute version worked a lot better.

(Speaking of "Auld Lang Syne," this post's title is a quote from Barry Manilow off his double live album, segueing into "It's Just Another New Year's Eve." It may not be a very good question, but it's a pretty good song. "Don't look so sad / It's not so bad, you know / It's just another night, that's all it is...")

Artifacts are not quite in the mail yet. BUT THEY WILL BE SOON.

In other news, I skated on the track at our practice space tonight. The new floor is done. And it's so nice. it's flat. It's so nice, having a flat and level floor. And clean! So nice and clean...

three things i can't have
Fri 2017-01-06 00:47:58 (single post)

Three things there are not, no matter how much I might wish otherwise:

  1. The typing up of a Fictionette Artifact on my typewriter without discovering some typo in the source material, which I then feel compelled to go correct in all three ebook formats and, if I'm very unlucky and the typo appears in the teaser excerpt, in all three places where that excerpt is published too.

  2. Sleeping late without sleeping very late. I mean, I'm either up Right! On! Time! or I'm in bed until sometime past noon. You'd think I could manage to sleep just one hour late, get up at 10:30 maybe, but no. It's nineish or damn near one, no in-between. This is exacerbated by it being an especially stupid cold day outside, highs predicted not to surpass single digits. Also by my having drawn the blinds tight to help keep the warm inside, but with the effect of keeping the sun out so that I can't tell time is passing if I don't look at the clock. Also by my having had trouble getting to sleep, because there is no...

  3. Briefly taking some time in the evening to Work Through My Shit without finding myself continuing to Work Through My Shit in my brain, involuntarily, when I'm trying to get to sleep. Dammit. I put that dratted dream down in my blog to get it out of my system, OK? I was not inviting it, and everything it stands for, to sit on my head until well past two in the morning! Sheesh.

It's OK, I still got things done, including the daily gotta-dos and also the aforementioned typewriter work and ebook typo correction. (This one was just in the ebook, not in the excerpt.) And speaking of typewriters and typos, I'm getting a lot better at touch-typing on the typewriter without reverting to Dvorak every time I take my eyes off my fingers. That means less time trying to coax a just a little more use out of my just-about-used-up correction ribbon. (I just ordered a whole bunch more typewriter ribbon, so there will be a lot more correction ribbon capacity to use next time around. Ribbons Unlimited were having a sale to celebrate the new year. I essentially got 4 ribbons for the price of 3. Ka-ching.)

I would like to get things done tomorrow without any particular adversity, please brain, OK brain, thank you brain very much, good night.

the car gets energized and i get ennervated because wednesday
Wed 2017-01-04 23:43:05 (single post)

I have a new Wednesday routine! It goes like this:

10:00 - Give up on the morning writing shift. Just get the volunteer reading done and uploaded so I can get out of the house. (True fax: I think I forgot to do the actual uploading, I was that much in a hurry to leave. DAMN IT.)

12:30 - Park the Volt at one of the electric vehicle charging stations at Village At The Peaks (used-to-been Twin Peaks Mall). Start that sucker charging. (Current state of car custody: I get the Volt if I promise to charge it, or if I have a Darn Good Reason. Otherwise, I get the Saturn.

12:40 - Ensconce myself at the Village Inn for a long working lunch. (I still think of China Buffet, because I am weak. But Village Inn has actual good food. Also coffee and wi-fi. And a shorter walk from the charging station. And a free slice of pie on Wednesdays. "Even if all you order is a pot of coffee, you get free pie!" Noted.) Get the daily writing tasks done. It's Wednesday, so I don't expect much, but do at least that much, yeah? OK. I did.

3:30 - Walk on over to Cafe of Life and arrive 10 minutes early for my adjustment and traction.

4:20 - Walk on back to the car, which is by now fully charged or almost so. Lament having to use some of that fresh battery capacity on driving home from Longmont.)

Ta-da. The car is charged, I have time to do a little writing, and I get to my appointment early (rather than late, which had been happening recently, because having a car meant the luxury of dribbling out the door at quarter-til-four rather than racing to the bus stop for 3:15). I like it. Let's do this again sometime. (Free pie!)

Derby doings this evening consisted of sitting on the BRAND NEW FLOOR and scraping old tape off the track. Obviously we pulled up the track boundary tape the night we emptied out the barn for subfloor construction, because there was a rope under there, but the rest of the tape we were in too much of a hurry to bother with. (The tape that used to be ten-foot hashmarks is especially hard to remove. The tape that formed our exercise ladder and jump-around crosses was fresher, less skated-upon, and somewhat easier. None of it was easy, though. Razor blades, chisels, paint scrapers, and rubbing alcohol were involved in the process. Which is not yet done.)

You would think this wouldn't be very tiring work, wouldn't you? Just tedious. We were all sitting down to do it, after all. But

  • my back doesn't like hunching over floor work so long, and
  • it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we were done, and it is possible to get exhausted from being cold.

Mostly I got exhausted waiting for the car to warm up. I was shivering so hard I was out of breath from shivering. I was also irrationally angry--at no one in particular, just generally rageful--that we weren't home already. We got home and I promptly dumped myself in the tub, wasting in hot water all the energy I saved in charging the car. I think. These calculations are not exact.

Meanwhile--

(emotion-wrangling beyond this point - I said I'd warn y'all, so I'm warning y'all)

--apparently all that recent Working Through Childhood Trauma stuff I've been doing lately, here and in my Morning Pages and in my brain when I don't wanna has been chugging away in the background, because I had a dream about it this AM.

In my dream, I was moving into Awful Abusive Asshole Uncle's house. It was empty of everything but furniture. I wasn't inheriting it or anything. It was more like, it was empty, so someone might as well move in, and the rest of the family thought I might as well be the one. Anyway, someone had unpacked a few art canvases that used to be on the walls, abstract multimedia collages as well as portraits. There was a portrait of one of my younger cousins, whom I adore; I wanted to hang it on the wall going up the stair where my memory in the dream told me it used to be, but the nail had been removed and the nail-hole painted over when the house got emptied. I'd have to hammer a nail into that wall myself to do it, but not right now, because I had to go to the bathroom something awful.

I really did, too. I mean, in waking life. I may have mentioned my frustrations with my bladder's suddenly reduced retention at night? At least it didn't start to bother me until time to get up anyway. Nevetheless, I feel like it had dream symbolism too. I would have to hammer my own nail into the wall, but first I would have to process and dispose of some nasty substances. Get it? Get it? OK, well, I do. At least, I'm pretty sure I do. There's probably more to get later. There always is.

Anyway, there was also a portrait of my asshole uncle. And though I recognized that the portrait was gorgeous as a piece of art--just a really fantastic portrait of him standing there on a French Quarter street and everything in vibrant, exaggerated colors and the lines of his face emphasized in a way that showed personality rather than reducing the portrait to a caricature--I could not bring myself to hang it up. I didn't want to look at his face every day.

So I decided I would take one of the empty ottoman/storage chests that was positioned as a footrest in the living room by the big L-shaped couch, and put the painting inside it, face-down, and sprinkle it with salt to neutralize its energy.

That's right. I made up a magic spell in my dream. I haven't made up a magic spell in waking life in years, unless you count the creation of writing-dedicated ritual space I sometimes do with a candle and incense and an Enya CD these days. But I just made one up in my dream.

It's a damn good one, too. Right up there with taking a photo of The Bad Guy and rolling it up and tying it with string and sticking it in the freezer. I may have to do it in waking life. I think I know the item that can stand in for the portrait, too. I just need to find an appropriate storage space.

...So. That's the state of the Niki tonight.

invalid question, redo from line (n - 1)
Tue 2017-01-03 22:02:16 (single post)

Holy heck. Said I had this week's number, didn't I? No idle threat, that. Writing! Derby floor preparation! Household chores! Seafood udon for dinner! I just blew Tuesday right out of the water. Bang! Splash!

I am especially pleased because I finally got to work a solid afternoon session on the novel. And despite not spending that session in the tub with a glass of wine, I figured out some extremely key things. I still haven't figured out the ending, but I did finally figure out what exactly the main antagonist wants anyway. That's an important piece to uncover. Just that by itself got me miles closer to the ending.

Thing that makes plotting difficult sometimes: Unlimited choice. Otherwise known as having to figure out who wants what and what happens where, from the micro to the macro. What knick-knacks are on the receptionist's desk in the first scene. How long a drive our protagonists take on their way to confronting Delta's mother. The nature of Michael's relationship with his parents--or is that just one parent? And which one? Which of them took the lead on that terrible decision years ago and argued the other around to their way of thinking? After the divorce, which one raised Michael? How often did he see the other? And how did each parent answer questions about that terrible decision Michael was not to know about? What about the secondary characters we've met along the way--what's their larger role?

So many decisions. And there aren't any right or wrong choices, not at first. So those first decisions are the hardest to make because how can I choose? How do I know I'm not painting myself into a corner? Because once the first decisions are made, they limit the options available to the rest of the decisions.

The later decisions are the next hardest to make because it turns out some of the earlier decisions--not the first ones, but some of the ones somewhere down the decision chain from there--can be totally wrong, but I won't know it until later.

It goes like this. I'm stomping around the house asking myself, "What exactly is it Delta's mother wants? Why is she calling Delta up? Why is she reappearing in her life? Why doesn't she just spirit Delta's daughter away from Delta's ex-husband--is she calling Delta up just to taunt her? What the hell, as-of-yet nameless antagonist?!" And there are no right answers. Nothing feels right. Nothing makes sense. No answers I can think up come with that special sense of inevitability. There's no near-inaudible thunk of a puzzle piece fitting into the slot that only it can fill.

Why? Why am I stuck? Whyyyyyy?

Because, as it turns out, I was asking the wrong question. And this was because, at a particular decision point just upstream from here, I managed to get myself stuck up a tree.

The question I answered wrongly was "Who calls Delta up during her first date with Michael, and why does it upset her?"

Since the right answer turns out not to be "Delta's mother" but rather "Delta's ex-husband," it makes perfect sense that I couldn't answer the question "Why is Delta's mother calling her up?" Turns out she's not. So.

Moral of the story: If you're stuck on a plot question, it might be because the plot answer that led you to that plot question was wrong. Back up a step and see.

new week new year new what the hell is this
Tue 2017-01-03 01:11:22 (single post)

It's very tempting to look at the first two days of a new year and panic. Like, argh, I did some of the same stupid shit I did all last year, does that mean this year's not going to be any better? Well, no. It doesn't mean that. January 1 does not have the magical property of setting the tone for the following 364 days. Despite being the first day of a brand new year, it's just another day. Every day is just another day.

On the other hand, what I did with my January 1 was kind of awesome. I did my daily writing, released the Fictionette Freebie for November, and I helped with ongoing construction at my roller derby league's practice space. Writing and roller derby are two of the biggest things in my current life, and I made them part of my New Year's Day--with time yet remaining to play Puzzle Pirates over beer and pulled pork at a favorite downtown restaurant/bar. So even if Jan. 1 does have magical properties, I think I used them well.

(The floor is done! As soon as the freshly washed sport-court is dry enough to place on top of plywood, we'll be skating on that sucker! Now if only the weather would warm up enough to let things dry rather than freeze.)

Now, about Jan. 2... I'm dialing back my Monday ambitions, y'all. There is no way that I'm getting five hours of writing done on a day that contains both chiro and any form of derby doings. Which today did. There was my usual Cafe of Life appointment, and there were new recruits to welcome to the league. There was no track for them to skate on yet, but we met up at a local brewery and, I do hope, made them feel real welcome.

(Local brewery = Finkel and Garf in Gunbarrel. A brewery where being old enough to drink doesn't mean you're too old to be a kid. There are toys in their logo and there are toys all over the store. There were giant lego, which we used in a three-team competition of creativity and style, and all the board games. Also a wide variety of snacks for a buck each. I had a can of Vienna sausages with my cherry wheat lager. I used my plastic size #2 knitting needles to eat the sausages because I had no toothpicks.)

(Of course I carry #2 knitting needles with me everywhere. You never know when you'll need to darn a sock. Or eat Vienna sausages.)

But even in a Monday with both chiro and derby doings, I still got all my daily "gotta-dos" did. And I got important household errands run. I did stuff. So it wasn't too shabby a Monday.

I am eying the rest of the week with equal amounts of determination and suspicion. I am determined to have a good week, a productive and writerly week, with lots of work on the novel and an on-time Jan 6 fictionette release... but I suspect that this week has something up its sleeve. I have no idea what. I have no good reason to think that this week in particular is out to get me. But I know its type. I have seen weeks like this before.

I'm on to you, Week One of 2016. I'm hip to your tricks. You just better watch out.

new construction and reconstruction, neither being hardly done yet
Tue 2016-12-27 23:54:35 (single post)

I would like to be able to report a full day of working on all my writing tasks, including the novel-still-in-planning, but alas, today was almost entirely taken up by household chores and administrative duties. And, as usual, nothing constructive (except for this blog post) is getting done post-derby. Doesn't matter that "derby" right now means construction labor rather than skating; it's still physical work that turns my brain to mush.

The floor is coming along nicely, though. It's very exciting. A few small sections of the final floor are done, maybe an eighth of the total surface. I got to walk on it. I got to help haul pieces of plywood flooring into the work area so they would be in reach of the work crew nailing them down. I also got to pound nails into joists, which was immensely satisfying (except when the nails bent, the bastids). Spent time washing slabs of sport-court, too--well, I wasn't actually wielding the power washer, but I was part of the assembly line. I was schlepping slabs of sport-court to and from the wash stall, turning slabs of sport-court around, and picking bits of shredded plastic ground cover canvas out of the bottom of the sport-court tiles. In any case, we closed down the washing station when we emptied off the current pallet of sport court; and we washed the pallet, too. I am so excited for our new floor, you have no idea. (Unless you're one of my league-mates reading this now. In which case you have every idea.)

We're hoping to skate on it next week, but not expecting to be able to. It depends entirely upon the work crews we can muster between now and then. Tonight's work crew seemed huge. Hopefully that will continue.

Tomorrow doesn't bode well for writing, either. I get to take the Volt all over town on errands. The first of those is getting the car registered and license-plated. Also I'm to put gas in and charge the battery. And then there's chiro and groceries and who knows what else I'll remember I have to do. Then maybe I'll go skating at the Wagon Wheel, if the Wednesday night session is on. I miss skating. No floor means no practice means no skating. If I do not go to the Wagon Wheel, I'll probably just go outside, since the weather's supposed to stay sunny and clear and moderately above freezing. MUST SKATE.

Maybe I'll get in a little time on the novel while the car charges, who knows.

As for last night...

Woah-kay, emotionally charged blogging starts here. After last night's post, you knew it was coming. Stop reading now, or continue with a full understanding of what you're in for.

Anyway. Last night, after I published that blog post, I got bowled over by Manhattan-sized APPREHENSION and DREAD. I couldn't quite parse it. I didn't even want to look at it head-on, let alone try to understand it. I told myself, hey, what are you afraid of? Pretty much none of your immediate family are online beyond that necessary to forward urban myths and tasteless jokes to everyone else in the family. The only people reading this blog tend to be either school friends or writing friends or derby friends. Or some combination of the above. Or John's sister, or his mother, both of whom are A-plus phenomenal people. What I'm saying is, this blog's audience is made up of at least 99.8% people sympathetic to its author. It is safe to tell stories here about Why Niki Grew Up Dreading Family Gatherings.

But the APPREHENSION and DREAD weren't susceptible to this logic. And they were very specifically the APPREHENSION and DREAD that accompany GUILT. Put them in words, they go like this: "I done wrong. I gonna get punished. I been bad."

When I finally figured it out, I nearly laughed out loud, it was so damn classic. it was because I'd actually used the "a" word--abuse--to describe a long-running family interaction, and I'd done it in a publicly viewable space. I had outed a family dynamic as abusive. What a betrayal! What disloyalty! What an absolutely stereotypic taboo to defy. That's the common rule most abused children learn: this stays in the family. You don't tell people. You don't shatter the illusion that we are a healthy, happy family. That's the rule, and I have finally, unambiguously, broken it. Of course I was a mess of GUILT and APPREHENSION and DREAD.

(To be clear, in many ways, we were a healthy, happy family. But in many ways, we were not. I don't identify with the phrase "abused child," partially because it seems too absolute, too much one thing without allowance for anything else, and partially because--though I know this shouldn't be a factor--so many people had it so much worse, I don't want to dilute the term. Still and all, I absolutely identify some of how I was treated as emotional abuse. I can even understand where some of it came from! I can just about work out the rationale. It doesn't excuse the abuse, but it contextualizes it. It helps me square the circle of "loving, supporting family" with "abuse and abuse enablers." People are complex. They are capable of heartbreaking kindness and jaw-dropping cruelty. They are capable of carrying both off simultaneously.)

Weirdly, when I woke up this morning, most of that roil of emotion was gone. I felt pretty good, actually. Abusive Asshole Uncle has not been in my head at all today. If anything, the memories involving him are hanging out in the middle distance, easy to spot if I look for them, easy to ignore if I don't. That's restful.

I'm very likely not done blogging about it. Not only is it dramatically, demonstrably freeing to be able to concretely describe it all in words, and words that people other than me can see (when I break a taboo, I mean to break it hard), but also it's probably kind of important for me as a writer. Authors draw on their experiences when they write; I need to be clear what my experiences are. I need to be able to own my experiences and put them into words. I need to be able to put them into my words, look at them through my own lens, rather than continuing to tell myself the same stories the rest of the family told me and told themselves. I gotta know my own story if I'm gonna write new stories.

So don't be surprised if more stories about Abusive Asshole Uncle And His Team of Enablers show up here in the coming days. 'Cause they will. Where possible I'll try to put it after the writing-related stuff, make it easy for y'all to skip if you'd rather. But it's not always gonna be easily separable, because writing. Hope you'll understand. Anyway, you've been warned.

Cover art incorporates public domain images from Pixabay.com.
Cover art incorporates tarot image via Wikipedia.org (public domain, U.S.)
my brain is a jerk: christmas reminiscing
Mon 2016-12-26 23:45:23 (single post)
  • 1,240 wds. long
  • 1,054 wds. long

All right. Hi! New week. So: Friday Fictionettes for the past two Fridays were "Kill or Cure," which is about a symptomatic tree, and "The Miraculous Hide," which is sort of about Good King Wenceslas before he got to be all saint-like. I got 'em out both on time, more or less, but I never got around to announcing them here, so. There you go.

And now we are approaching the fifth Friday in a month, which means--woo-hoo!--I get a week off. Except I don't, because I still have to put together the Fictionette Artifacts for November and then do all the end-of-month stuff for December. And even if that were done, goodness knows I've got all the legacy catch-up work to do: backfilling the Wattpad excerpts, recording audiobook editions for the archives that don't have them yet, producing epub and mobi editions ditto. But it's cool. I don't have to do that and put together the next brand-new story-like object all at the same time, so things are vastly more doable than they could be.

So yesterday was Christmas. John and I did nothing special for it. We're more Winter Solstice types than Christmas types, which is to say, Pagan not Christian. Also our families are all multiple states away. So we did with Christmas the same thing we did with Thanksgiving: a whole lotta glorious nothing. We played on our computers and we cooked for each other.

Which right there puts it miles and miles beyond last Christmas in terms of enjoyability, i.e. I did not get into a shouting match with my bigoted, bullying, emotionally abusive uncle, and spend the rest of the evening sobbing myself sick. Yay?

Except I kept thinking about it. All my brain's idle cycles pointed right at it. I spent a self-indulgently huge number of hours just playing Puzzle Pirates all day long, which should have been uncomplicatedly fun, only it wasn't, because while my eyes and hands were busy with the mini-games, my brain kept re-running that shouting match and rewriting it and re-running the rewritten version and then revising that.

To be clear: My brain was not fixated on just one argument with my uncle. That shouting match catalyzed an epiphany about a lifetime of bullying at the hands of that uncle.

Wait. Wait up. Go fix yourself some coffee or something. Apparently I'm going to unload here.

Ready? Cool. Here we go.

Here's the thing. I think the reason he got so enraged when I called him on his hateful bullshit that Christmas afternoon is that no one else ever did. Everyone else in the family may grumble about him, but to his face they smile and reward him and tell him he's funny. Meanwhile, all my life, every Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter that he ruined for me, everyone told me I lacked a sense of humor. That's why I didn't find his bullying of me funny. And they told me it was my fault, the bullying; he wouldn't do it if I didn't give him such entertaining reactions. No one told him that there was anything wrong with a grown-ass man getting his jollies by verbally tormenting a little girl until she fucking lost it, and then laughing at her while her parents punished her for her unacceptable behavior. Everything he said, every word that came out of his mouth, was by definition golden, because it was coming out of his mouth.

Of course he hasn't changed a bit--why should he? He gets perfectly fine results as things stand; why should he do anything differently? And why wouldn't he be flabbergasted to the point of near-speechlessness that someone finally told him he was being a shit-head? If anyone ever tried to say it to him before, they sure as hell didn't make it stick.

I'm surprised it took me this long to come to that realization. I suppose I had some idea that, now that I was an adult myself, and not a powerless child, interactions would be better. And, well, to some extent, they are better. At age forty (well, thirty-nine at the time, but still) I'm not getting sent to my room or told to sit on the floor in the hallway and stare at the wall and think about what I've done. There is a different protocol for dealing with other adults than there is for dealing with children. And, being an adult, I'm a lot more capable now of putting my thoughts into words even while I'm furious, and of resisting my uncle's attempts to put me back in my place, the place he was comfortable with me inhabiting, the place that's entirely under his power, the place where I have to dance for his entertainment while the rest of the family laughs at his wit and my immaturity.

All of which added up to me being able to sit there and say, "That's some hateful, dehumanizing, transmisogynist bullshit you're spouting, not gonna pretend otherwise, I mean, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also you should grow the hell up, and, by the way, transwomen aren't existing at you just to spite you, and if you're tired of watching news stories about Caitlyn Jenner you can damn well pull up your big-boy paints, grab your big-boy TV remote, and change the fucking channel." And the worst he could do to me in response was sputter a bit and finally proclaim, "Don't get so fucking offended," like it was the last word on the matter (but it wasn't, because I could damn well spit back at him, "Then don't say such fucking offensive things, asshole," and walk out the room).

That's the worst he can do. But I can do so much worse to myself every day for the following year. I can relive that entire argument on a near-daily basis. I can also relive all the times he bullied me as a child, and I cried, and he laughed at me while I cried, and my parents told me I was defective for not enjoying it and/or morally weak for letting it get to me. That last shouting match doesn't exist on its own--it reconfigured my understanding of our interactions over my entire life.

I don't want to talk to him ever again. I don't want to see him ever again. But at the same time, I want to stand up in front of him and tell him, hey, you remember how you treated me while I was growing up? That wasn't even bullying. Bullying is between people of at least nominally equal standing. When a grown-ass man does it to a little girl, someone he has power over, and when he does it every time he sees her, from the time she's five to the time she's fifteen, that's straight up child abuse.

Wow. OK. So, that got real heavy real fast. Long story short: It's not that I fixate on 15 Minutes of Awful. It's that those 15 Minutes of Awful sort of recontextualized about 15 to 20 Years of Constant, Unremitting Awful. And that I'm liable to fixate on.

My fucking brain. My brain is a fucking jerk.

There's this fantastic Steven Universe episode, "Mindful Education," that kinda-sorta addresses the whole "I can't stop thinking about it, and it hurts, and I'm sick of hurting" thing. Rewatching it was soothing balm, but in a few hours the balm wears off. That's because the strategy of looking at the pain, understanding why it hurts, and being OK with the fact that it hurts, only goes so far. It's fantastic for surviving the painful thoughts, but it doesn't make them stop. And I can't spend another year going "Yes, I see that thought. Yes, it hurts. It's OK. I'm OK" on infinite repeat. I need to get my brain to stop running that damn program.

So here's what I did: I decided to actively fill my brain's idle cycles up with Other Narratives. I pulled up a blog I enjoy reading (one of several Steven Universe livebloggers, speaking of Steven Universe) and positioned it so I could read it while playing Puzzle Pirates. Then I pulled up some Mark Reads Discworld audio and listened to that while playing Puzzle Pirates.

The idea is, the longer I just sit there trying to play a particular video game while my brain keeps pushing the rewind-and-replay button on Worst Experiences Ever, the stronger grows the mental association between the two. It begins to feed itself: Playing the video game starts to cause the painful mental replay. But if I can associate the game strongly enough with something else, then playing the game will make me think of that something else--like, for instance, a gaggle of wizards arguing on a desert island, or the character development arcs of the Crystal Gems.

It's terrifying how easily programmable my brain is. The good news is, I can program it too. I just have to take, and keep taking, conscious action counter to the unwanted programming, until the unwanted programming has been thoroughly replaced my the preferred programming. That's all.

And in the meantime, well, I'm here.

YPP Weekend Blockades, December 24-25: No blockades for the holiday weekend; might I suggest pillaging instead?
Sat 2016-12-24 12:28:18 (single post)

As you may remember, there are no PVP blockades this weekend or the next. Unless some naughty flag officer decides to scuttle up some Brigand King action, we're all on holiday!

Meantime, we've got two great reasons to focus on old-school pillaging.

Firstly, as has already been mentioned, that's how you earn this month's limited edition Seal o' Piracy trophy: by completing 30 sea battles by December 31. Sword fighting, rumble, brigand king or plain ol' spawn, it doesn't matter. Just make sure you get to the melee portion of the contest so that it counts.

Secondly, we're in the middle of "A Pirate Carol!" That's this winter's holiday competition. You may have noticed, last time you logged in, that you've been transformed into a ghost. A ghost, to be precise, of holidays past, present, or yet to come! Those are the three teams competing for trophies and bragging rights through January 2. You earn points for your team for every sea battle you complete victorious. Therefore, the more you pillage, the more you help your team's standings. For more information, check out the "Competition" tab on your Notice Board, and/or click here.

Standard reminders: ...are entirely unnecessary this weekend, because of the aforementioned "no blockades" thing.

but just a brief delay
Fri 2016-12-23 23:47:18 (single post)

I'll be uploading the Friday Fictionette for December 23rd in, oh, probably about 10 hours or so. I have everything written up and recorded and illustrated, but now it is late and I am sleepy and liable to make some sort of embarrassing and tedious-to-correct mistake if I keep going. Ebook compilation and conversion is fraught with so many opportunities to make embarrassing and tedious-to-correct mistakes. Not to mention interacting with Patreon's publishing process and coaxing it to do things it's not actually meant to do in its current version. By which I mean, HTML formatting and inline links. Not recommended after brain-shutdown-o'clock!

So I'll get a good night's sleep (the first in several days, I'm afraid) and then upload the whole shebang and announce it here. Until then!

they are things but they are not the intended things
Thu 2016-12-22 23:23:46 (single post)

There were, in fact, more things "tomorrow" (referencing a tomorrow which was more than a week ago now). The problem is, none of those things were writing things. I mean, I got the Friday Fictionette out on time last week, yay, but... that was about it.

So what did I do instead?

Well.

Er. We bought a car? That was one thing. Almost six months after the Fried Transmission incident, we have at last acquired the Saturn's replacement. Only it's not a replacement per se, not yet, because we're keeping the Saturn. It's got a near-new transmission in it! Also four almost-new tires! And OMG it's nice having two cars in the house FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OUR LIFE TOGETHER.

True fact: When we first moved into our current home, it was an upgrade from a 1bath2bed to a 2bath2bed. In those first few weeks, we'd come home, and, as per ancient tradition, one of us would go, "I gotta go potty, brb," and the other would go "SO DO I WAIT ME FIRST" ...then we'd remember, oh, we can BOTH go, it's cool, and we would get absurdly giddy with delight about that fact. OK, so, same thing about having a second car.

Except there is still some car custody negotiation because, frankly, a 2013 Chevy Volt is really fun to drive. In addition to having features which most of our peers take for granted these days--electronic locks, cruise control, remote key fobs, keyless operation, an engine you can't hear half a mile away.--it is also an electric hybrid, which means it comes equipped with the addictive video game which I call Can You Maximize Your Driving Efficiency? There is multicolor pictorial feedback that tells you how you are doing at this game. My favorite is the bit where your battery is on zero charge, and the readout says you have 154 miles left on the gas tank, and then you manage to invoke so much BATTERY POWER REGEN via longer coasting times into stop lights that you actually increase your gas driving range to 155.

And of course there's the scavenger hunt where you try to find a free charging station that does not require a smartcard or app to operate and that has a vacant plug. (The ChargePoint card is on its way now, and John has downloaded the app. Huzzah.)

These are the kinds of things that gives me life. They will make me glow with accomplishment for days. Which, I admit, may be a bit of a brain-glitch on my part, but at least we can leverage that glitch for savings at the pump.

Any-hoo, there was also bringing the car back to the shop for installation of heated seats (the car was well under our projected budget, so John argued, successfully, that we should live a little). There was acquiring insurance on the Volt. There was taking the Saturn to the bump shop to have the license plate reattached up front since getting sat on by a careless SUV driver (they wanted to change lanes at the stop light and didn't see me behind them--good thing I wasn't driving the new car that night). There were, in short, other car adventures, not all of them related to the big one.

The other Thing taking up a large chunk of recent hours has been a joyful Thing, which is A New Floor To Skate On. For the past year and more, my roller derby league has been practicing on, essentially, a dirt floor. Packed dirt, yes, and of course a sport court floor on top of that, but still, it isn't what you'd call "flat." It has been described as skating on a slick-surfaced waterbed. It has been great for our ankle strength, but somewhat deleterious to our strategic timing. And most of us wind up going elsewhere to time our 27-in-5.

So we have bit the cost-and-time bullet. We have begun constructing a raised and leveled subfloor. IT IS GOING TO BE AMAZING. In the meantime, it's a lot of work. Anyone who can has been dropping by each day to donate labor hours. I've been there almost every other day, and when I'm not there, I'm cleaning tiles of sport court that I brought home. We've been crowd-sourcing the sport court cleaning. It needs a cleaning. The dust you would not believe. (This would be another advantage to the subfloor: less dust billowing up from between the sport court tiles.) Tonight's labor involved one team nailing joists between barn-long pairs of two-by-eights, while another, smaller team (me and another skater and two eager children) cleared furniture and other large items out of the wash stall so we could start cleaning sport court on site. If I manage to free up a couple hours to go in tomorrow afternoon, it's very likely I will be hosing down sport court.

And then I added a Thing by insisting on observing the Winter Solstice in the Traditional Way Of My People (in this case, My People is me and sometimes John BUT IT IS STILL A TRADITION DAMMIT). So my Tuesday and my Wednesday were shot and today was only marginally better. It's so easy to knock my sleep patterns off schedule, and so hard to realign them to the diurnal round.

And I still haven't had that slice of fruitcake!

Well. I expect tomorrow that Things will improve. Especially the writing things. I mean, I've got another Friday Fictionette due!

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