“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.”
Peter De Vries

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from PublicDomainPictures.net
but there really should have been room in my schedule for this sort of thing in general
Tue 2017-01-24 00:53:40 (single post)
  • 955 wds. long

OK so hi again after two weeks of radio silence. Let's skip the part where I whine about being embarrassed and ashamed and not knowing where to put my face. Let's just take that as read. Instead, let's skip ahead to the moral of the story, just put that right in the lede for a change: Do the shit you gotta do today because you never know when you'll be unable to do the shit tomorrow.

It's not entirely fair, as morals go--sometimes you can't do the shit because you have to do other shit, right? Like, catching up on a very belated task. Or catching up on your sleep so you can function. So maybe it's not a moral. Maybe it's more of a strategy, OK, a strategy that doesn't judge you and doesn't say anything about your worth and worthiness and virtue, sure, but a strategy, nevertheless, that takes into consideration how the world works. And I should know by now how the world works.

So. For instance. Let's say I take an entire Tuesday off work--just decided writing will not get done that day--because I have a chance to spend some much-needed, now-or-never time with a dear friend. Well, the smart thing to do would have been to do the writing on Monday because of that. Right? I knew that Tuesday was coming. I'd planned on that Tuesday for the better part of the previous week. I had ample warning time is what I'm saying.

(And it was a fantastic Tuesday. Me and one of my very bestest derby friends went derby shopping, and we had a long talkative lunch over excellent pizza, and we wound the afternoon up with an hour or two of a Steven Universe marathon. I am not complaining about Tuesday. Tuesday was the good part of last week. Please, let us have more Tuesdays like that soonest.)

Then there's the stuff that gives no warning other than this is how the world works, haven't you been paying attention? Like, after my awesome Tuesday-with-friend, I went to what should have been an awesome Tuesday evening travel team practice featuring a renowned guest skater teaching us All The Things. Looking forward to it all day, right? Could not have planned on wiping out during warm-ups and spraining my Gods-damned MCL. I mean, yes, I am cognizant of the phrase "able-bodied" having a "temporary" attached because we are frail mortal beings and time is passing, and also we play a contact sport; this concept actually came up during our long conversation over pizza, OK, but proving the concept was nevertheless not specifically on my schedule.

So I'm not skating right now. I won't be skating for, at a guess, some four weeks from the date of the injury. I definitely won't be skating in our February triple-header. (Which isn't to say I won't be there in some capacity, nor that you shouldn't come out and watch it. You should totally come out and watch it. Depending on what support role I do play at the event, I might be able to be your derby buddy. If not, we will find you a derby buddy.)

This has not exactly freed up extra time in my week. I'm still attending derby practice. I don't have to be skating to absorb skills coaching and strategy, and some of the off-skates conditioning I can participate in. I can be a non-skating official at scrimmage. On top of that, I now have physical therapy twice a week, physical therapy homework, a follow-up orthopedic appointment, and a new twice-weekly upper-body workout to keep from falling too much behind my team in metabolics conditioning.

And that's before we get into how very exhausted I am all the time. It's like my body is shorting my usual energy allotment in order to channel more energy toward healing. That's probably exactly what it's doing. And although I can walk and drive and otherwise get around enough to do regular day-to-day stuff, it takes so much more out of me than I realize until I'm back home and drooping with fatigue.

I know. I'm whining a lot for someone whose injury is pretty damn minor. I mean, nothing's torn (that we can tell so far), no one has even recommended an MRI, surgery definitely isn't on the menu. I'm staying exceptionally active, independent, and productive (aside from the writing). "When are you going to start acting injured?" John asked me a few days ago. I said, "I am acting injured. I'm not skating, am I?" as I proceeded to take out the recyclables.

But that's the thing. It is a minor injury. I would not have thought it would impact my energy levels this much. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I'm surprised, and I feel flat-out betrayed by my body. And all I did was an effin' plow-stop! It should not have wrecked me!

Anyway.

I finally got the January 13 Friday Fictionette out today. About time. It's called "The Sandpit Oracle" (ebook, audiobook), and, like other fictionettes featuring an oracle, it is told in the second person. I am not apologizing for this.

I hope to get the one for January 20 (a bar-story retelling of Monday and Tuesday) done in the next couple days so I can scramble back onto a proper schedule in time to release the one for January 27 (I have no idea what it'll be about, that's how far behind I am) on January 27, for a wonder.

Also I have people I still need to mail fruitcake too. Good thing brandy is such a good preservative.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 7-8: We return you to your regularly scheduled interflag hostilities, already in progress
Sat 2017-01-07 13:01:15 (single post)

With the holiday weekends behind us, it's open season on all blockadable islands, and the flags of the Emerald and Cerulean Oceans, at least, are ready to jump back into the fray. And, well, one flag on the Meridian Ocean. If they in fact choose to defend. We'll see.

This just in: There's now a second blockade on the Meridian Ocean schedule! Infamous dropped a war chest on Coming Soon at Labyrinth Moors at the last minute, so you know they mean it.

The blockade on Cerulean's Conglin Island is a deliberate giveaway. Flag Babylon do not wish to hold onto it, so they hit the big red SCUTTLE button to summon Brigand King hostilities to its shores:

However, since event participation is lackluster, and rather expensive in terms of cost to participants, we will be scuttling the island to Admiral Finius. The reason we have chosen Finius is because he is the easiest Brigand King in terms of difficulty.

We want to encourage anyone* to blockade the island. If you want to inquire about securing Babylon's support in a blockade at Conglin please contact Fourteen.

*Excluding Fedorov, you're not a part of the organisation

As of ten minutes to go time, I see no one jobbing in defense of Conglin. Maybe it's too early? Probably not; The Coalition are already on the Notice Board as offering 3K per segment for the defense of Kirin Island. They're loading a War Frigate right now, so get on out there!

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, January 7 ***

12:00 p.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Consensual Restraint
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (3)

12:00 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Cluster Service
Attacker: Black Veil (4)
Undeclared: Spoon Republic

4:27 p.m. - Paihia Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: The Corsairs Alliance
Attacker: Dead In The Water

10:10 p.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pirate King
Attacker: Sons Of Anarchy

*** Sunday, January 8 ***

10:00 a.m. - Tumult Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Ad Infinitum Libertas

11:30 a.m. - Labyrinth Moors, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Coming Soon
Attacker: Infamous

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 7 ***

12:00 p.m. - Kirin Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (5)
Attacker: The Coalition

12:00 p.m. - Conglin Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (5)

12:03 p.m. - Harmattan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Adept Warriors
Attacker: Eggocentric Eggcentrics

*** Sunday, January 8 ***

10:00 a.m. - Iris Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Bathrobe Army
Attacker: Undertow

10:00 a.m. - Remora Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: The Phoenix Rises
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (5)

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)
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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.

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