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

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

work smarter not more panickeder
Wed 2017-11-15 20:49:43 (single post)

Today is my second day using 4thewords to improve my daily writing routine, and already I've figured out how to use it better.

So, like I said, you pick a monster to battle and then you battle it. But on what criteria do you pick it? If you're me, you want to pick it based on the next quest you hope to solve. But you feel like you have to pick the monster whose target word count matches the estimated size of the next writing task. So you look at something like a Wiwaz (a variant of malign animated marionette) and you think, "I want to defeat that critter, it would complete my Dungeon Marionettes quest. But my current task is only good for about 600 new words, tops. Besides, with a 1,667-word target, the Wiwaz is obviously geared toward one's daily NaNoWriMo session. I should save it for when I work on my novel and just queue up a Persea for now."

But hopefully you're not me. I mean, I'm me, and there's not room enough in here for both of us. And you don't want to be short-sighted like that. You don't want to just look at the monster's target word count--you want to look a the time allotted to reach it.

A Wiwaz has a target of 1667 words and a time-limit of 24 hours. Because one Wiwaz equals one day's worth of NaNoWriMo writing.

Immediately I realized that, my process changed. Instead of carefully choosing a monster based on how closely it approximated the size of my current task, then typing like hell once the battle started... I initiated battle with the monster I really wanted to defeat, then calmly went about my day. I got done with the fictionette draft and its author's note, saw that I still had 22 hours left to defeat the Wiwaz, and decided I had time for a leisurely dinner break.

This calls for some discernment, of course. Not every monster has as roomy a deadline by which to hit its target word count. But the basic strategy stands: Consider potential monster battles from the standpoint of not a headlong sprint but a reasonable workday shift. Like, yes, I'm probably going to write 1500 words over the next two hours, given the tasks I've scheduled for that time. Then the battle becomes a vector of accountability: I'd better stay focused and keep my breaks short, because now I have to get both those tasks done over those next two hours.

The moral of the story is, gamification was made for us, and not us for gamification!

(Meanwhile, 4thewords tells me I've written 3,355 words today over 156 minutes--and I haven't even gotten to the novel yet. And I will. Believe it. When I'm done with the Wiwaz I want to go after the Dark Magician right away. That's about 1800 words. I'd love to bash out an 1800-word chunk of novel tonight.)

forward brave dust warriors - for the words!
Wed 2017-11-15 00:31:19 (single post)

Sometimes, you have to ask yourself: Is there room for more gamification in your workday? And the answer is YES. There is always more room for gamification in my workday.

I just joined 4thewords.

Like Habitica, 4thewords is a self-improvement role-playing game. But instead of being checklist-based like Habitica, it's word-count based. It's very simple: You pick a monster and you fight it. You fight it by completing X amount of words in Y minutes. For instance, right now at this very minute I am fighting a Wignow. Wignows are fuzzy and fangy and pop-eyed and cute. They come in many varieties. You beat the plain ones by writing 250 words in 20 minutes. When you hit the target word-count, you get your reward. Then, if you are so moved, you do it again.

Actually, there's a lot more to 4thewords than that. It's a complete RPG with quests, markets, the crafting of simple objects into more complex ones, maps of different regions with their own particular challenges and monsters and quests, and limited-time events as the calendar inevitably proceeds forward through its allotment of days.

We are, as you might imagine, in the middle of one such limited-time event, that being NaNoWriMo. There's a brand new region to explore and quests that will go away when December comes, so you can imagine I'm all fired up to beat all the monsters and solve all the quests.

Which means I'm writing all the words.

I'm looking forward to writing all the words. I am looking forward to them the way I usually look forward to taking an earned break to play Two Dots or Puzzle Pirates or solve another jigsaw sudoku. 4thewords has made writing itself into the alluring and addictive time-sink I can't wait to get back to, just like it always should have been.

This is new.

I've used every bit of today's writing to battle monsters and win stuff. Well, everything but the Morning Pages. Everything else. Freewriting (629 words), this week's fictionette draft (1000 words), today's NaNoWriMo progress (1844 words), today's blog post and all the blog backlog (which I finally completed, though I still need to upload it and backdate it). I wrote about 4500 words today--or more like 5000 if you consider this bit since crossing midnight "today."

And I want to write more because there are so many quests to complete!

I'm completely astounded by how effective this game is at getting me to do what I'm already supposed to want to do but have spent so many cumulative hours of my life avoiding. I never thought I could be this motivated by basically an online word-counting application.

If all this burble and glee has got you intrigued, then you should probably visit 4thewords and sign up. Caveat: It is not free. It is, at its most expensive, $4/month. You pay for subscriptions with in-game items called "core crystals," and you can buy crystals in bulk at a discount, lowering the monthly price to something like $2 and change. But the first month is free, and you get full functionality during that month so you can better evaluate whether it's worth your while.

Spoiler: I am totally going to subscribe.

Anyway, if you do sign up, feel free to use my referral code: XABFN67843 to get 20 core crystals free right from the get-go when you make your first actual payment (and, full disclosure, to earn me 44 of 'em at that time, too, but no pressure). And you can send me a friend request! I'm "vortexae" just like on Habitica (and on far too many BBS systems going back to the mid-90s).

I guess I'm done for the night. Until tomorrow, when I plan to defeat a large number of monsters in Luciola Forest and at Uurwall's Marionette Carnival!

i also like anchovies don't judge
Fri 2017-11-10 00:15:56 (single post)

Congratulate me. I have logged my first 1700 words for NaNoWriMo 2017. I'm a week late getting started, but it's early days yet. And every day that I post a word count is a victory. So huzzah for victory!

I've been avoiding writing the first words. The first words are scary! Brainstorming and worldbuilding is fun and low-stakes; none of the worldbuilding babble I've typed over the past year counts. But writing actual draft, now, that's real words, that's the actual story, am I ready to write the actual story? Do I know enough? What if I get it wrong?

Which is exactly the sort of meebling that NaNoWriMo is supposed to help curtail. So.

I haven't managed the blog backfill yet, but I'm in process. I wrote the post for Tuesday, October 31 (which ends on a depressing note, I'm afraid) and got halfway through the post for Wednesday, November 1 (which is more fun, though I admit it indulges in a bit of whining). I'm... no longer sure what happened on Thursday, November 2? I think not a lot happened after all, when I think back on it. There was breakfast--Dad made me breakfast every day, I think what with Mom in the assisted living community he misses having someone to cook for--and then I think we visited Mom, and then I had a nap, and then later I visited my brother. The nap might be the problem here. I have this feeling like, more must have happened, but I guess maybe not, it was pretty much all domestic stuff and napping. OK.

Speaking of napping, and needing to nap more often than I'd like, HEY YOU KNOW WHAT I FOUND OUT?! I got my blood lab results back Tuesday, and it turns out I'm vitamin D deficient! By a lot! You know what some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are? Fatigue and feelings of depression. GEE THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. At least it's actionable! I have added a D3 supplement to my daily routine, renewed my habit of a daily walk in the sunshine, and, to my daily banana, I have added a daily glass of fortified milk and a daily can of some sort of canned fish. (I'm cycling between salmon, tuna, sardines, and smoked oysters.) If this goes on--I mean, the adding new things to the "try to eat daily" list--I fear my meals will become as regimented as September's in The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. I quite like canned fish, though.

(Maybe I don't have to have it every day.)

To be clear, I still need to have a chat with an Actual Medical Professional about this and also about the fact that my lipid panel results got flagged this year for the first time. But in the meantime, the fish/fortified milk/sunshine/D3 supplements thing isn't gonna hurt me. It might actually help. But it's way too soon to tell.

I didn't nap today, in any case. I got a lot done today. Got up early, put in about six hours of writing throughout the day (six! usually I barely manage three!), picked up the car from the mechanic, took myself out for a late lunch of kimchi jjigae, went to scrimmage, started my day off with a leisurely breakfast of sardines on toast with onions and peppers, and ended my day with a tasty bowl of Dal-Style Lentils and Stuff (the Stuff being eggplant, spinach, kimchi juice, and a poached egg--hey, egg yolks are also a source of vitamin D!) and also a nice long soak in the tub. I mean, that's one packed day. Packed with writing and derby and TASTY MEALS.

It was a good day, is what I'm saying.

ten postcards to ten potential democratic voters in alabama - there will be more
look at that forecast little orphan annie LIED to us
Mon 2017-11-06 23:42:39 (single post)

So I'm back in Boulder and I actually do want to upload blog posts for the week that I was in New Orleans because I have THOUGHTS and this is how I share them. There will be backfill. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight I am tired, because today I did all sorts of doctorish things, including having seven vials of blood drawn because apparently there is only so much you can condense all the annual wellness checks and I seem to have more annual wellness checks than I used to. Forty is a magic number! And I was very good and did my twice-weekly half-hour core workout, yay. Also I did quite a bit of the writerly things but not enough of them (I promise I am doing NaNoWriMo! I am!) because there is NEVER ENOUGH TIME.

Well. Tomorrow is a new day. Isn't it always?

I got back home around 9:30 yesterday morning. The train got in around 6:45, which was early, but the first bus for Boulder didn't leave until almost 8:00, and then the bus from the station to my neighborhood left around 9:00, and then I had to walk a few blocks with my luggage rolling along. Uphill. Through a construction zone. So. Technically I was early enough to make it to the back half of Sunday practice and then watch WFTDA Championships with everyone else, but I was kind of done in by the time I got home and it was easier to just keep being a New Orleanian for a bit.

Which is why I got on my bike and headed to the neighborhood bar to watch the Saints game instead.

The Saints won. And the sun came out. It was a pretty OK day.

Also I wrote postcards! I wrote ten postcards. Remember those postcards I picked up at Scriptura and that lovely green fountain pen ink? (Sure you do. I wrote about them in Friday's post. I haven't yet written that post, but once I do I will go back in time to plant it oh-so-casually in the blogstream. Backfill is coming.) I made use of those postcards and that ink in the cause of Postcard to Voters Campaign #32, getting out the vote for Alabama's Doug Jones for U.S. Senate. (His opponent is Roy Moore, if that helps give an idea of the urgency of the race.) This the very first statewide Postcard to Voters campaign ever, and in order to reach every address on their list in time for the December 12 special election, they need a whole bunch more volunteers. This is me, doing my part. If you feel so moved, you can email "join" at "tonythedemocrat" dot "org" to get started.

And that's me for tonight. Like I said, not as much as I hoped to report, but they tell me the sun'll come out tomorrow. OK, well, maybe it won't, maybe it will snow, but the planet will darn well rotate, causing the sun to darn well rise and tomorrow to darn well happen. Which I intend to take full advantage of.

ending on the right note
Fri 2017-11-03 21:19:57 (single post)

Rabbit stew was indeed on the menu yesterday. And for lunch today, we had boiled blue crabs. Then it was time to go to the train station.

But first, I had an errand to run at the post office. (Not unrelated: Fictionette Artifacts for August 2017 are in the mail!) And as long as I was biking over to Seventeenth Street and Severn, I might as well enact the ritual of beignets and cafe au lait.

This used to be a pilgrimage every time I came to town. I had to have at least one early morning bike ride to the Morning Call and attempt once more the feat of writing while simultaneously eating beignets covered in powdered sugar. (Once upon a time I was pen pals with a Morning Call waiter who, also being a writer, noticed my frequent scribbling visits and said hello. We exchanged short manuscripts by post over several years before losing touch somewhere in the late '90s.)

Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit. But today--why not? I'd be in the neighborhood anyway. OK, well, I'd already had breakfast, but since when is "I already ate" a good reason not to indulge in good food? I mean, it's just three beignets. And I'm biking! When you really get right down to it, it's negative calories. (Look, I'll pedal really really hard, OK?)

So that happened. And as long as I was going to be snacking and errands-running along the north face of Lakeside Mall, I might as well also go shopping at Scriptura, right? And buy some gorgeous "moss green" Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pen ink? And a handful of New Orleans postcards for my next batch of Postcards to Voters? Oh, and surely there'll be something I want to buy at the Lakeside Plaza Fleurty Girl...

So I went shopping and ate too much. Which is the proper New Orleans experience, come to think of it.

now i'm tired
Wed 2017-11-01 21:13:59 (single post)

So tonight I did derby. And then I made kimchi. "Now I'm tired."

I went to the Big Easy Rollergirls Rec'ing Krewe practice tonight--that's primarily their "fresh meat" class, similar I think to our Phase 1--which is why I am now exhausted and sore. One thing I've learned as a veteran skater is that circumnavigating the holes in your skating abilities is as much a skill as all the other skills. The more advanced you are, the more advanced your coping strategies. They can get so advanced that you don't even know you don't actually have plow-stops mastered, or that your cross-overs aren't as efficient as they could be, until a coach laser-focuses on the skill in question and makes you do them right. So. We did all the things and now I am sore in all the parts.

Also I did 29.5 laps in 5 minutes, which is reassuring.

Their practice space is in New Orleans East, in an area off the I-25 Louisa Street exit that my Dad identified as "the seedy part of town. One of the seediest. I'm not real happy about you driving there." In vain did I protest that BERG practices there multiple times a week without sustaining any Tragedies Due To Bad Neighborhood. He was not going to let me borrow the truck. He was instead going to drive me there, which meant I had to pin him down to a schedule and then, when we got to the neighborhood, deal with his particular style of responding to lack of street signs, which is to just keep driving until he's satisfied we've gone too far. (I would have turned around and gone back to the street that I suspected of being the right one rather than turn right on the big street that obviously wasn't it and driving down it for a mile.)

I asked Dad, before I left Boulder, about the car situation. Just the one, he said. Sure, I could borrow it. No, I didn't need to rent a car. Honestly, I don't know why I bothered--there always seems to be some reason why he'd rather drive me than just let me borrow the truck. I mean, it's nice that this means we're spending more time together, I won't deny that. And it was damn near saintly of him to be willing to drive me to the French Quarter for Halloween, despite really not liking the idea. But turning me-plans into us-plans increases the difficulty of making plans. I came in thinking I was going to be in charge of my own movements around the Greater New Orleans area, and I'm really not, and it's been kind of exhausting to have to renegotiate my itinerary.

And but so anyway, Dad made himself a martini, drove us to the BERG warehouse, and sipped his drink while watching us practice. He admits he napped a little. He was also very kind and fetched me extra water bottles from the truck when it became clear two would not suffice.

Then we went home, and Dad ordered us a pizza (sausage and pepperoni and anchovies, heaven), and I made kimchi.

So, back around Christmas 2015, I created a monster. One of Dad's friends had just outright given him a 40-pound sack of oysters, so we spent a bunch of Christmas Eve shucking oysters. And I said, "With all these oysters, I should make kimchi." Dad was unfamiliar but intrigued. He ventured that one of his hunting buddies was notorious for his taste in spicy foods, and it would be interesting to see how some homemade kimchi went over with him. So. Dad drove me out to the Asian grocery store that's on Transcontinental, we bought napa cabbage and Korean radish and Asian chives and hot pepper flakes and fish sauce and so on, and I damn well made kimchi.

And Dad shared it around with his hunting buddies--not just the guy notorious for eating ghost peppers and Carolina reapers, but everyone--and next thing you know, this becomes something they request I do every time I roll into town.

So before today's roller derby outing, we went shopping and I set the vegetables up to get salty. After today's roller derby outing, I made kimchi. I made the napa cabbage and Korean radish kimchi featured in the recipe linked above (here it is again!) and the stuffed cucumber kimchi. It was a lot more work than I am accustomed to doing in the post-derby portion of the evening. The pizza helped. Also the prospect of knowing we'll have cucumber kimchi alongside breakfast tomorrow morning.

I may complain about Dad's overprotectiveness (and also his reactionary politics but let's not go there), but I will never complain about his taste in food. He's a Cajun. He eats all the things. Kimchi at breakfast? Not a problem. Complements the venison sausage nicely. And rabbit stew is on the menu tomorrow.

we're all perfectly ok here
Tue 2017-10-31 21:02:37 (single post)

I had great plans for Halloween night. I was going to go down to the French Quarter, strap on my gear, and skate in and around and through the festive chaos for several hours. Turns out, though, that doesn't work so good if I wear myself out earlier in the afternoon. Note for the future: If I want to party all night long (on skates), I have to be a little more cautious about the prospect of using up all my oomph with a full daytime itinerary that involves a tough workout (on skates).

So instead I stayed in and binged Stranger Things 2 instead.

Some brief, spoiler-free thoughts (spoiler-free concerning Season 2, that is; you're on your own for Season 1): While I don't think it necessarily succeeds on all fronts, Stranger Things 2 makes honest attempts at some very admirable things. Primarily it's a story about families, about the dynamics of different families, the families you get and the families you choose, and struggling to find the healthiest way for a family (noun) to family (verb). It examines the ways families succeed, the ways they fail, and the ways they try again.

It's also a story about aftermath. It's a story that happens after the triumphant and bittersweet ending of the first season. It doesn't attempt to reset everyone to We're All Perfectly OK Here except maybe in the ironic sense. All the major characters, and all the families they comprise, have gone though some amount of trauma. It is clear from the very first episode of Season 2 that they're all still dealing with that trauma. I can't overstate the importance of that. The show gets so many gold stars with me just for starting there.

And, if I can get a little meta here, part of the trauma for some characters is having to keep that trauma a secret from certain of the other characters. This is an element of supernatural horror that I'm not sure I've seen as directly addressed since the first season of Torchwood (but admittedly I have a lot of TV to catch up on, so take that for what it's worth). There's so much extra pressure on a survivor if the nature of their trauma simply can't be discussed with their usual support network. It's almost as though characters like Will and Joyce and Hopper, upon escaping the Upside Down, came back to a different Rightside Up than the one inhabited by the rest of their friends and neighbors. The world of the people who consciously survived the dimensional incursion is not the same world as the one inhabited by those who only touched it briefly and/or unknowingly. Those two worlds stand in relationship to each other similarly to the relationship between the Upside Down and the Rightside Up--they're barely a breath apart and yet impenetrably separated, and the one is constantly threatening to eat the other up bones and all.

After that, the meta gets a little personal.

So, my major plan for the afternoon was to meet a high school friend for lunch in Covington, then skate the Trace from Covington to Abita Springs, then have a beer at the Abita Brew Pub. These plans were indeed enacted (mine was a Pecan Ale), and were the primary reason my Halloween Night plans pooped out. But those plans also had to absorb Dad's plans, since we only had one vehicle between us and that vehicle was his.

Thus, before we headed across the lake, we stopped to pick up Mom.

I've mentioned this before, but Mom has been on the downward slope of some sort of non-alzheimer dementia for several years now. Well, a few weeks before my visit home, Dad bowed to necessity and moved her into the memory care unit of an assisted living community.

I was already prepared for certain changes, as it's been a full year since my last visit, and I knew the dementia was progressing rapidly. Over the year, her phone conversations with me got briefer and briefer. She used to at least ask how I was doing, ask me if I'm still doing that thing, with the skates, what is it called again? and recite me her New Orleans Pelicans fan version of the Merritt doggerel. But most of this past year she seemed less enthusiastic about talking with me on the phone, even to some extent unsure about what to do on the phone. Dad would hand it to her, she'd say "Hello," I'd ask "how are you?" and she'd say, "Good. OK, let me hand you back to your Daddy." After awhile, Dad didn't try to put her on the phone because she was asleep. She was going to sleep earlier all the time, pretty much as soon as Wheel of Fortune was over.

About a week before I came to town, I heard Dad say to Mom, "Niki's on the phone, you want to talk to Niki?" and I heard her say, "No," and he said, "Do you know who Niki is?" and she said, "No."

I'd prepared myself for that, though. It wasn't a huge blow. I knew it was coming. It wasn't a landmark; the Mom I knew had already gone away long before, and I had already mourned her. What it was, was awkward. I didn't know how to address her when we picked her up at the assisted living community. Dad tells her, "This is Niki, she's your daughter," but it doesn't mean anything to her. So should I still call her Mom, or would that confuse her? Should I call her by her first name instead? Does it matter what I call her, if she doesn't really respond? Like I said, awkward. But I was prepared.

What I wasn't precisely prepared for was how old she looks now. She looks a lot like Grandmama did when we visited her in the nursing home less than ten years ago.

She likes to go for rides in the truck. Dad shows up, immediately she wants to know when we're getting in the truck and going for a drive. She follows Dad around wherever he goes, like a duckling after a mama duck, because she knows he's going to take her for a drive. Also because she just wants to be with him; that's one of the few complete sentences I heard her say: "I just want to be with you. You're so good to me."

At one point, just before we left the memory care unit, Dad remembered he needed to fetch something from Mom's room. He told her to wait with me. I held her hand--and then I had to firmly hold onto her hand to keep her from following him. That was a disconcerting first, having to physically restrain my mother, however gently.

Sometimes she says things that sound perfectly normal. Except "perfectly normal" refers to what became normal over the first few years of her noticeably exhibiting symptoms of dementia. "Normal" has changed; post-dementia Mom is the new normal. Nine times out of ten, when I dream of her, I dream of her like she is now, even in the dreams where I'm back in school and never lived anywhere but my parents' house.

I'm OK. I'm pretty sure Dad's not OK, but he puts a good face on it. He talks to Mom the way he used to talk to the kids at his pediatrics office. This is an improvement, actually, from when he talked to her the way he used to talk to my brother and I when we were young and misbehaving--frustrated and angry with us for making mistakes and expecting us to learn from them. He's very patient now and will gently repeat whatever needs repeating as many times as she needs him to.

There are moments, as we leave the building, after we've said goodbye, when I can see some of Dad's not-OK-ness glaring through. After we brought her back to the assisted living community, and as we were driving out the gate, the radio started playing a song whose main line was, "Take me back to the night we met" or "I wanna go back to the night we met." And I just about lost it, thinking about how Dad must be feeling. This is the woman he loved and wooed and wed and made a home with and raised children with--how very far time has taken her from the night they met. I stared out the window until the danger of tears had passed; I didn't want to set Dad off, or have him feel like he has to comfort me.

I guess the comparison with Stranger Things, 1 or 2, with the nearness yet almost totally separateness of the two different worlds depicted therein--of any two of the different worlds depicted within--is going to be left as an exercise for the reader.

Sorry to end on a downer. Come back to tomorrow's post for roller derby fun and games! Bonus content: a woman in her 40s will struggle to resist being compelled to regress to her teens! Also there will be kimchi! Yayyyy.

tfw you wake up in tennessee and go to bed in
Mon 2017-10-30 22:27:46 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long
  • 739 wds. long

Hello from Metairie, Louisiana. After two very pleasant days on trains, I have arrived. Have not done anything particularly exciting beyond biking some postcards to the post office on 17th street and piecing together a this-n-that dinner from Dad's leftovers (although that can be very exciting, because Dad's leftovers include venison sausage, crawfish boudin, and seasoned trout in wine sauce with green onions). But that's OK. The week is young yet.

I made very good use of my time in the sleeper cars. I finished up last week's Fictionette (ebook, audiobook, excerpt) in time to send it live from a pub in Chicago (Haymarket, which brews, among other beers, a robust porter and a magnificent lemon saison). I made progress on this week's Fictionette so that hopefully it will go live on time. I got a reprint flash fiction submission package together and ready to email tonight to a very nice editor. I also played a lot of Two Dots/Dots & Co. and solved today's jigsaw sudoku.

And now I am inexplicably exhausted. Aside from today's bike ride and yesterday's street-skating between Chicago Union Station and Haymarket, I have done very little since Saturday afternoon that didn't involve sitting on my butt. I guess being shuttled across the country, however passively, takes its toll. And it will be nice to sleep in a bed that isn't rocking back and forth all night long.

Big day tomorrow. Lots of driving, visiting, and skating planned. Also it'll be Halloween. I'll be out late, so tomorrow's post will come early or, more likely, not at all. You have been warned.

YPP Weekend Blockades, October 28-29: Carve a real pumpkin, get fake prizes. Not as bad a bad deal as it sounds.
Sat 2017-10-28 13:14:54 (single post)

OK so! Blockade schedule. But first, a confession: The Friday Fictionette for Oct 27 is late and, due to bad time management in the face of scheduling conflicts including traveling circumstances, won't see the light of day until Sunday, October 28. And by traveling circumstances, I mean I will be getting on a train this afternoon and won't have reliable wifi until I get to Chicago tomorrow afternoon. I will be recording the MP3 in my sleeper roomette most likely somewhere between Omaha and Galesburg. There should be some amusing and entirely irrelevant background noises, possibly including the sound of the Snowball iCE mike falling over.

There. I have confessed. I feel better now. Onward!

So we're in the midst of the annual YPP Pumpkin Carving Contest. Real pumpkins, really carved. Pixelated prizes. If pumpkins are not an option for you, the rules specify a hierarchy of replacement vegetables:

Obtain a real pumpkin. If pumpkins are not available where you live, you can try any type of gourd, squash, etc. If those aren't available, you may use a melon.

I admit I am disappointed there's no mention of turnips.

I am also, by the way, totally amused at the public statement by Flag Bang. Click through to their Flag page to see it. It's not just me, right? Y'all get the joke? Don't you? *Sigh* Nevermind.

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, October 28 ***

12:00 p.m. - Kirin Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Jade Empire (1)
Attacker: Till The End of Time

12:00 p.m. - Caravanserai Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (4)

4:54 p.m. - Hubble's Eye, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Symonds Says
Attacker: Illuminatti

6:32 p.m. - Paihia Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Bang

8:06 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Minions

*** Sunday, October 29 ***

10:00 a.m. - Gauntlet Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Symonds Says
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, October 28 ***

5:09 p.m. - Jorvik Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Dies Irae
Attacker: Pirates Empire of Whisky

*** Sunday, October 29 ***

10:00 a.m. - Delta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Tyranny

10:18 a.m. - Labyrinth Moors, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Pirates Empire of Whisky
Attacker: Red Ribbon Army

this also is a thing that can happen
Fri 2017-10-27 00:34:21 (single post)

I got an acceptance letter. It would seem I have sold a story.

Without going into details that I am not yet at liberty to share, here are a few of the thoughts (and we are differentiating those mental processes we can dignify with the term "thoughts" from the wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering with incoherent delight) that occur on such an occasion.

Oh, yeah, this is also a thing that can happen. I opened the email fully expecting it to say something like "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read [STORY TITLE]. After careful consideration, we regret to say it does not meet our needs at this time. We wish you the best of luck finding it a home elsewhere." Because that is what emails with the subject header "Re: Story submission - '[TITLE]' - LeBoeuf" always say. I mean, once you boil it down to the practical effects. That is the only thing such emails ever say.

(See also: "Nothing good ever comes in self-addressed, stamped envelopes.")

That's a depressing habit of expectation to get into. I don't recommend it. But it's useful. It helps mitigate the disappointment around rejection letters, which I'm told will continue to outnumber the acceptances by a factor of oodles 'n oodles well into my career. It also makes the words "We love it and we want to publish it" that much more of a joyful surprise.

Still, a much more healthy habit is one of simply celebrating every rejection letter as a trophy, a tangible marker of having once more, despite all odds, gone forth and done the freelance writer thing. Every rejection letter is a response to a submission; every submission of fiction for publication is a victory. That's what's important to remember.

It's a numbers game. This is a submission that went out in August. My records tell me that I sent 13 submissions in August, kind of a high for me at that time. The more you submit, the more likely you are to get good news on the return post.

Actually, the odds are more complicated than that. It's like, number of submissions times quality of submitted work plus some modifier corresponding to how well-disposed the editor is toward liking your story on the day they read it plus also how free they are at this particular moment to say "yes." So it's kind of better and worse than a lottery.

It's really easy to diminish the accomplishment. As I write this, a little voice in the back of my head is saying, "Well, not that much wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, right? I mean, it's only a reprint. It's not like it's a pro-paying sale of new fiction. You're just resting on your laurels, and pretty old and wilted laurels at that. I mean, you haven't written anything new, at least not that's good enough to submit anywhere, in ages. Don't give yourself airs."

And that little voice can shut its little mouth anytime now, yesterday for preference.

What do I do now? Again, all responses to submissions are expected to be rejections until proven otherwise. Which means I click on the email thinking, "Ah, [STORY TITLE] got rejected. Today my Submission Procedures activity will be to send it out again." Then the email opens up and... it's an acceptance? I'm not going to send the story elsewhere? Because it was accepted here? ...so now what do I do?"

Well, I went back through my early Fictionettes and selected another good candidate for polishing up and submitting to reprint-friendly markets, that's what I did. ("The Hound at the Heart of the Maze," if you really want to know. October 2014. Not a freebie, sorry. But $1/month gets you access to it and all the rest of the ebook archives, so there you go.)

There's always something.

If nothing else, there's more wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, 'cause I seem to have sold a story! Woo-hoo!

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