“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live.... I'd type a little faster.”
Isaac Asimov

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

and andy williams can take the kids jingle belling ELSEWHERE thank you VERY much
Mon 2017-12-25 23:13:34 (single post)

When you celebrate a minority religion's holiday rather than the big mainstream federally approved one, you get problems. Some of them are petty and some of them are huge, but most of them are part of a larger issue about social justice, erasure, inclusion, assimilation, un/equal representation and respect, that sort of thing. You have this huge compelling social machine operating through every imaginable vector to push Christmas, Christmas, Christmas until everyone, Christian or non-, is warped around that one day.

My problem stems from that problem, but it is mostly a petty problem. On the scale of stubbed toe to social injustice, there's barely any hopping around and cussing at the furniture at all. Still, I'm going to whine about it. What else is a blog for, right?

Here's the problem.

Today, for me, was just a regular work day. Wake up, do the morning things, do the writing things, do the household things. But it was very, very hard to resist the siren voices of commerce and nostalgia singing "It's Christmas! It's a holiday! You don't have to work today! Sleep late, eat all the things, visit with family, open presents!"

Look, stupid voices, I already took my holiday off. I took off the two days surrounding the Winter Solstice. I ate all the things Wednesday night and I slept late Thursday. I already called family--well, I called Dad, and it was more about celebrating the Saints' total domination of the Falcons in Sunday's football game than it was about Christmas (please to Google "Lattimore" and "buttception" for maximum lols) but it counts. And wrapped presents is not a big expectation in my current social circle right now, thank the Gods. Point is, I did the holiday things. I did them during the holiday I actually celebrate. Today is not that day. Today I am working.

"But it's Christmas! No work today! Go play!"

I'm not listening to you. La la la la la...

OK, I slept in. I did do that. BUT THEN I WORKED. I did my writing, darn it. I may have done it late, but I did it. So there.

(I may also be grumpy because our water heater, which has been showing signs of being on its last legs for some weeks now, picked Christmas Eve to kick the actual bucket. Thankfully, at this address we have forced air heating rather than hot water radiators, and our furnace is working just fine. A dead water heater doesn't mean we're are actually freezing indoors. But it is very cold out there and I had to go walking out in it a lot today and I want a hot bath and I can't have one except I guess unless I boil a hell of a lot of water on the stove all at once which I may just do if the water heater isn't fixed or replaced by post-derby time tomorrow--if we even have practice, given the temperatures forecast for tomorrow. Also certain key portions of sidewalk which I rely on to get from my house to my neighbors for whom I am cat-sitting have been neglected by their respective snow removal teams. Look, it's freezing out, it snowed, it's winter, I am a southerner by birth and upbringing, I am going to be grumpy. Deal with it.)

YPP Weekend NON-Blockades, December 23-24: that jazz thing just got real yo
Sat 2017-12-23 13:37:04 (single post)

Ahoy! As you will recall, there are no blockades this weekend. Though brigand king scuttling is an explicit exception to the holiday blockade closure, no one appears to have taken advantage of it. Meanwhile, some event blockades have been scheduled for the next couple-three days, but those go beyond my remit to chronicle.

But there are other things to bother you with! Like this:

Remember Jazz the Twitch Streamer and the 24-hour Sailing For St. Jude event? Coming up on January the 6th? Well. The event notice has been updated with PRIZES on offer for...

  • Top Donator
  • Best Coach
  • Best Cheerleader

Actual prizes still to be announced, but Jazz assures us there will be some. Check out the original post for details on how to qualify.

In other news, Lanlaiely has announced the winners of Midnight Yacht Club's jobber raffle, held during last weekend's successful attack on Admiral Finius at Hephaestus' Forge. Follow that link to see if your name is on the lucky list. If it is, you have until January 1 to claim your prize.

I think that's all--at least, that's all the news I can find on the forums. If you want more news than that, you better ought to make some yourself. Have fun this weekend and give the brigands a cannonball to the broadsides for me!

Cover art incorporates public domain vector images from Pixabay and Public Domain Pictures.net
this fictionette is entering a world of longer days and shorter nights
Fri 2017-12-22 23:43:20 (single post)
  • 1,268 words (if poetry, lines) long

As hoped for and expected, the Friday Fictionette for December 22, 2017 did not suffer for the two days I took off from writing for Yuletide preparations, observance, and clean-up. It is out and ready for your perusal, should that sound like a good time to you. It's called, "The Croquet Lawn, and What They Found There." Here's your usual bouquet of links: ebook ($1/month patrons), audiobook ($3/month patrons), and teaser excerpt (available to all). It is about portals and why you might not want to go through them. Also entomophobia, nicknames for golden retrievers, and needing to buy a new Christmas tree.

It's the Christmas edition of Friday Fictionettes. Well, sort of. I mean, there's a Christmas tree in it. Only there isn't, but that's the whole point, really. Nothing that should have been in that closet is there, and a whole lot of something that oughtn't to be is. Portal fantasy, y'all.

All the above-mentioned Yuletide preparations went to plan. All the food got cooked, sampled, and declared delicious. I now have a lot of leftover pie, which takes care of the majority of my meals for the next three days. Egg nog got drunk on rum. People got drunk on rum. People came over! Some people stayed until very late at night! It was swell.

I even managed to convince my Pandora station to behave and play me songs like "The Holly King" and "Dark Mother." (Also a bunch of random Celtic tunes, a selection of Arthuriana set to harp and guitar, and a whole lot of Loreena McKennitt. Which near misses beat the heck out of random Pete Seeger. "I hear you like folk music so I brought you some folk music." That's nice, Pandora. Good try.) But I didn't end up listening to it much once I stopped cooking, because by then I was either socializing or playing Rock Band.

I played a lot of Rock Band. Rock Band got me through those final few hours after the last guests left (around... 3:30 AM? Maybe?) and John went to sleep (ditto) and staying awake became a real struggle. On the downside, my left wrist is extra sore from curving awkwardly around the controller to get to the overdrive trigger. (Also from mildly spraining it doing dishes the next day.) On the plus side, I've gotten a lot better at sight-reading for pro keys.

Then the sun came up and I went down. I woke briefly as John was leaving for work. He gave me the news that scrimmage had been canceled due to icy roads and stupidly cold temperatures. So it turned out I had only two things to do with my Thursday: 1. Clean up after the party. 2. Continue improving my Rock Band 3 scores. I did those things. In quantity.

And then today happened and I got back to work. For the results of which, I refer you to the first two paragraphs of this blog post.

In addition to my regular Friday writing tasks, I had my very first solo Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) groceries delivery. I've just started volunteering with them. My roller derby league turned me on to them; they were on the list of community organizations which members were encouraged to go pitch in with toward the end of the year. I joined them as a last-minute volunteer sous chef for their "lunch bunch" event back at the beginning of December, and subsequently decided I'd like to work with them more. So I went to the orientation last week, shadowed one of their veteran volunteers Monday morning, and had my first solo shift this afternoon.

It went OK! I arrived at the donor grocery, loaded up the BFR bike trailer with some 150 pounds of donated produce, and rode that sucker the couple miles up to the recipient community. The delivery was a success. I did not bump the trailer into any cars, curbs, or people. The bike did not fall over in what was left of the ice and snow. No food fell off the trailer. One volunteer fell over once trying to get off the bike, having forgotten that the bike's crossbar was too high for her usual dismount maneuver, but she picked herself up again and carried on.

BFR are pretty well known around here, and their trailers are distinctive. Several people recognized the trailer while I was sorting the food, loading it up, or riding it to its destination, and they thanked me. I didn't know what to say. I thanked them back and wished them a good evening. It was awkward and sweet and it kind of made me glow.

I like the gig so far. I'm going to do it again next week.

but none of the ducks will go the f&!$ to sleep
Wed 2017-12-20 01:10:52 (single post)

All right, I think I've got enough ducks in a row to keep from losing my mind tomorrow. Losing my mind on the afternoon of Solstice Eve is a part of the tradition I could really, really do without. To avoid losing my mind as best I can, I have...

gotten most of the groceries although I still need to run out tomorrow for evergreen branches and holly, and batteries for the wii, and also make my CSA pick-up at the Diaz Farm

cleaned most of the house at least the bits guests will see, well, at least those areas that I hadn't already cleaned within the last two months or so

meticulously planned my cooking down to the hour so that I won't be juggling "OMG why won't the broth for the pie roux cook down already" with "please tell me I didn't put salt instead of sugar in the egg nog" (true story) and "SUNSET IN 15 MINUTES GET THE FIRE READY"

...You know how it is. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to coax a good playlist out of Pandora, one that's both seasonal and unmistakably Pagan--and I don't mean Pagan lyrics filked onto Christmas carols. No, not even the carols that were arguably Pagan in the first place. I don't want the music playing in this house during this very definitely Pagan event to bear any resemblance at all to what I've been hearing in every retail establishment since early November. If I can't shut off Cultural Hegemony Radio for the duration of the longest night in my own home, when and where the heck can I?

Unfortunately, Pandora isn't really the best tool for what I'm trying to do. It's very good at Generic Pagan-Friendly Playlist--I mean, just throw together Gaia Consort and Avalon Rising and Womansong Chorus and the like--but it's not so good for subject matter refinements. I'm getting a bit too much Beltane and not enough Yule. It'll do in a pinch, but I might get a little more hands-on if I've any time to play with it tomorrow.

Writing-wise, I am not expecting much out of myself tomorrow or on Thursday. I'm going to do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, maybe post a couple brief check-ins on this blog here, but anything beyond that can go hang. I will be on holiday vacation. Sort of vacation. In any case, my priorities will be elsewhere.

It's just as well I finished drafting this week's Friday Fictionette today. That's right. Drafting done on a Tuesday. Woot, bam and other triumphant sound effects. Even if I get nothing done again until Friday, the release will be on time.

And then I get next week off because it is a fifth Friday. Whoo-hoo! A chance to get ahead of schedule--for real this time! I mean it! This time I've got 4thewords on my side. Like I said the other day, I often find myself at the end of writing task with some 400 words left to go on my current battle. Finding another 400 words at short notice is easy when I've got story seeds for future Friday Fictionettes lined up a month or more in advance. Also--oh, hey, I remember now--there's this new story I'm supposed to be working on and might actually get back to once the holiday madness is behind me.

People ask me "Got any plans for Christmas?" and I'm all like, "Nothing much, just recovering from the holiday I actually celebrate." And between the party and the all-nighter, recovery will be necessary. I mean, just for comparison, when I was a kid, my parents told me to go to sleep so Santa could arrive. They told me to go to sleep early. But now I'm all grown up and I celebrate Winter Solstice such that my goal is not to go to sleep. Christmas was easy, y'all. All-nighters are hard.

With that in mind, why the hell am I still awake? It's not like morning's going to come any later to make up for it. I'm out. See you on Solstice Eve.

YPP Weekend Blockades, December 16-17: The island transfer that might not be; the island opening to come
Sat 2017-12-16 13:33:27 (single post)

Ahoy! As scheduled some time ago, this weekend will feature the second blockade ever on the Obsidian Ocean. It'll be at noon on Triplet's Treasure--see below. (I finally updated my database this morning, so Obsidian blockades will show up in the schedule with all the other ones!) The faction of the winning flag will determine which island will be the first to open to player governance with January 6's blockade. If a flag belonging to the Defiant Armada wins, then it'll be Loggerhead Island. If a flag affiliated with Shadow Fleet wins, it'll be Magpie Island.

The winning flag will get no personal gain, mind you, other than a home field advantage in attacking the island at stake on Jan. 6 and, if they win it, defending it in future. At least one player has declared themselves less than impressed with the scenario: "It's sinking, and the results basically don't matter, so why even show up." However, as you'll see below, a respectable handful of flags have indeed showed up. Jobbing pay is currently between 1000 and 1500 PoE/Seg.

On the Cerulean Ocean, Babylon are attacking Fintan Island and Winter Solstice at 8:35 PM Pirate Time. At the same time, Tyranny, the defenders, had already agreed to transfer Winter Solstice to the flog Defiantly Deviant as part of their Christmas Island Giveaway Event. I suppose the transfer will only happen if Tyranny successfully defend.

Also on Cerulean, Midnight Yacht Club intend to take Hephaestus' Forge back from Admiral Finius. All Brigand King blockades are sinking; therefore MYC offers free healing of any unwanted injuries to their jobbers. They will also be holding a raffle.

Please note: All islands will be CLOSED to blockades over the holiday weekends of December 23 and 30. "You will still be able to scuttle brigand kings," Demeter says. If no one does and there is nothing to report, I may not bother posting. (Which will be entirely different from when I fail to post because life and schedules and argh, of course.)

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, December 16 ***

12:00 p.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Heavenly Waters
Attacker: The Enlightened (5)
Undeclared: Spoon Republic

12:00 p.m. - Drogeo Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (2)

12:00 p.m. - Triplet's Treasure, Obsidian Ocean
Event: 3 rounds, sinking!
Hosted by: Vilya
Participating: Amateur Hour
Participating: Art of War
Participating: Fanatical SOULS
Participating: Blame Brenda

5:58 p.m. - Kiwara Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Revenge Is Sweet

6:02 p.m. - Duat Island, Meridian Ocean
Attacker: Poseidon's Guards

9:02 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Heavenly Waters
Attacker: Spoon Republic

9:35 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Spoon Republic

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, December 16 ***

12:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (1)

12:01 p.m. - Islay of Luthien, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Carpe Noctem
Undeclared: Tyranny

12:05 p.m. - Namath Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Red Ribbon Army

8:28 p.m. - Winter Solstice, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Babylon

8:34 p.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Babylon
Attacker: Blackstar

*** Sunday, December 17 ***

10:00 a.m. - Hephaestus' Forge, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Midnight Yacht Club

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, December 16 ***

12:00 p.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Heavenly Waters
Attacker: The Enlightened (5)
Undeclared: Spoon Republic

12:00 p.m. - Drogeo Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (2)

12:00 p.m. - Triplet's Treasure, Obsidian Ocean
Event: 3 rounds, sinking!
Hosted by: Vilya
Participating: Amateur Hour
Participating: Art of War
Participating: Fanatical SOULS
Participating: Blame Brenda

5:58 p.m. - Kiwara Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Revenge Is Sweet

6:02 p.m. - Duat Island, Meridian Ocean
Attacker: Poseidon's Guards

9:02 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Heavenly Waters
Attacker: Spoon Republic

9:35 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Spoon Republic

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, December 16 ***

12:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (1)

12:01 p.m. - Islay of Luthien, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Carpe Noctem
Undeclared: Tyranny

12:05 p.m. - Namath Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Red Ribbon Army

8:28 p.m. - Winter Solstice, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Babylon

8:34 p.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Tyranny
Attacker: Babylon
Attacker: Blackstar

*** Sunday, December 17 ***

10:00 a.m. - Hephaestus' Forge, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (1)
Attacker: Midnight Yacht Club

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from pxhere.com
this fictionette forgot that writing doesn't prompt itself
Fri 2017-12-15 23:34:41 (single post)
  • 1,022 words (if poetry, lines) long

The Friday Fictionette release for December 15 is up and available for your perusal. It's called "The Youth Fairy." Here's the ebook and audiobook links for $1/month and $3/month patrons, respectively; here's a little teaser for the rest of everybody.

This one began as a response to a Magic Realism Bot tweet, "An opera singer makes a fortune trading in adolescence." Only I skipped right past the literal idea of adolescence and went instead after the more general fantasy trope of someone who sells youth. How do they manage that? Well, they must be some kind of supernatural being, a fairy or suchlike. Where do they get it from? Well... probably from people who don't want it: young people who are in a hurry to grow up. "Youth is wasted on the young," the fictionette begins, and it goes from there.

Writing from prompts is something I always assumed everyone who was a writer did, because it's an exercise that all my writing teachers going back to elementary school would assign me. Not everyone did it, I knew that, but everyone knew how to do it. Right? Only that's putting it too strongly, know how to do. That phrase implies a skill that you have to learn and practice, like knitting or calligraphy or touch-typing. Writing from a prompt, that's just something you do. Right?

Well, I've had roller derby trainers who thought that things like keeping your eye on the jammer or staying near your teammates wasn't so much a skill you learned as just something you did if you weren't totally stupid. And they couldn't understand why, in my very first few months after passing my skills and safety assessments and being allowed to play the actual game, I didn't just do it. And they got impatient with me, and I felt stupid.

But as it turns out, pack awareness is an actual skill. Teaching it is tricky; it's not like a skating skill where you can demonstrate the individual motions that make up the maneuver. But it's still a skill that one has to learn and practice and develop. Kind of like, oh, defensive driving. In both cases, you've got a list of things to be aware of and stay aware of, simultaneously, at any given moment, and you've got to be able to process that data and make split-second decisions because of it. Teaching it might involve things like, oh, periodically redirecting the student's attention by asking them questions during the activity ("What color is the car in your rearview mirror?" "Where did the opposing jammer position themselves before the whistle?"). And, safety permitting, the trainer needs to give the student a bit of mental space in which to work out how best to wrap their personal brain around the challenge. I mean, it's their brain and all. They know best how to operate it.

So different individual brains will process the skill differently. And some brains will glom onto the skill more readily than other brains will. But it's still a skill, not an instinct that you just magically have waiting within you that you can tap when the time comes, just by virtue of having a brain. It's a skill. You have to spend time learning how to do it before you can be expected to do it.

Same with writing skills. There are skills I've been practicing so long that I've forgotten that they are skills, but they are. Writing from prompts is a skill that can be taught and learned and practiced and developed. And clearly there is an audience who want to learn, or else there wouldn't be so many articles online purporting to teach it. Heck, here's a wikiHow about it.

For me, in my own personal practice, there are three basic steps to working with a prompt.

Choose a prompt. Depending on the prompt, I might choose one or several. A common "spread" might be a couple random words (watchout4snakes is a good source) and one image (e.g. tarot card, InspiroBot poster). Or one Magic Realism Bot tweet, which tends to be just complex enough to stand alone.

Give the brain space to respond. The first minute or two isn't for conscious, directed thought, and it's certainly not for passing judgment. It's for watching the brain bubble. Whatever passes through my brain goes directly onto the page. It's somewhere between free association and automatic writing.

Ask and answer follow-up questions. Questions will arise, either in response to the initial brain bubbles or in direct response to the prompt itself. "An opera singer..." Why an opera singer? Which part do they sing? Buying and selling youth... OK, how do you even do that? What price do you set on youth? Who sells it to you in the first place? What's the effect of selling youth to someone--does their driver's license actually show a more recent birth year, or is it just a physical appearance thing?

These questions are, more or less, new prompts; the brain bubbles up answers in response. And those answers spawn new questions. Questions! Questions are, arguably, the atom-unit of story. Why did they do that? How will the other character respond? And then what happened?

There's actually a fourth step: Then write a scene. This step is sort of like "And then a miracle occurs." At some point, the prompts and the bubbles and the questions coalesce into story. The trick is recognizing that moment and then getting out of my own way and letting it happen. Sometimes it happens very early, the first sentence writing itself in direct response to the prompt. Writing down that sentence and continuing on to the next one is a kind of leap of faith. But the moment I'm starting to get even a little narration, it's time to stop babbling, bubbling, and free associating and just start writing.

What's the worst that can happen? I can get stuck. No big deal. Getting stuck generally happens because I ran into some questions I didn't have answers to. So I stop a minute and ask those questions and throw some answers at the wall and see what sticks.

The important thing in a timed freewriting session is not to interpret getting stuck as a reason to stop writing. I have to write until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off, I stop. Or maybe I keep going. Maybe I can see the whole rest of the scene and I want to get it down. So I do. And then I stop, reluctantly, and mark the session as "To-Do." Those are the sessions that turn into flash fiction, fictionettes, and full-length short stories.

And there you have it: How a writing prompt becomes a story inside my personal brain. Your brain may vary. Void where prohibited. Please do try this at home.

the rest of the story about the other story sale; also the whole story about this solstice
Fri 2017-12-15 00:33:19 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

Regular readers of this blog will remember me making happy yet vague noises recently about having sold two stories for reprint. I was finally able to share more information about one of them Tuesday night, the publisher having given me permission that day to do so. Well, the publisher buying the other one got back to me today; therefore, this announcement:

"First Breath," originally published in Ellen Datlow's Blood and Other Cravings anthology, will be podcast in 2018 by the audio horror fiction magazine Tales to Terrify. Tales to Terrify is part of the District of Wonders Podcast Network, including also Far-Fetched Fables and the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa. If you take a listen to any of those podcasts, I think you'll agree that the prospect of hearing my story produced by one of them next year is very exciting.

I don't know exactly when in 2018; the podcast schedule is not yet set. Once I know, I'll pass the happy knowledge on.

In local news, we're planning to hold our semi-traditional Winter Solstice Yule Log Vigil and All-Night Open House between the hours of sunset on Wednesday, December 20 (when we set the yule log on fire) and sunrise on Thursday, December 21 (when I and anyone else still around and awake will briefly cheer for the victory of the Sun after the passing of the longest night before finally falling asleep). If you are reading this and you'll be around, come on over for as long or as little as you'd like. No need to RSVP. Ping me for the address if you don't already know it.

In terms of clock time, Google tells me that sunset on the 20th will be at 4:39 PM, and that sunrise on Solstice morning will be at 7:20 AM. When I make the Facebook event page tomorrow, that's how I'll fill in the blanks for start and end times.

Considering what I've got for a yule log this year, I suspect it won't last the whole night through. But we've got plenty of other firewood to burn, so it's cool. Don't worry, Sun! We won't let the fire go out! We're here to help you get home!

I will cook some collection of yummy seasonally festive things. Potluck offerings of food and drink happily accepted but not required. The board game collection will be available. Fibercrafts will likely happen; feel free to bring yours and spin/knit/crochet along. If folks want to have a story-telling/read-aloud thing happen, that would be seasonally appropriate too. I will warm up the Rock Band set and place it at everyone's disposal. I'll have a Solstice music playlist for back-up tunes. There might even be roller derby footage watching. I mean, consider the likely majority demographic.

What there won't be is a lot of writing. I mean, not from me. Not regular workday writing. I expect I'll do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, but for the most part Wednesday and Thursday will be holidays for me. Besides, there's no way I'm going to get a full work day in and also prepare for the party and/or sleep off the all-nighter. (Which isn't to say that, should a bunch of writers come over who were inspired to hold an impromptu write-in, I'd say no. I would definitely not say no to that.)

In some previous years, I've held out an open offer to drive carpool to Drumming Up the Sun at Red Rocks. I am emphatically not offering that this time around. I'm trying to ease my way back into this after taking a couple years off. It wouldn't do to bite off more than I could chew. But if you want to take in the most spectacular sunrise you're likely to see all year in company of a couple hundred Denver-area Pagans, that's going to be happening Thursday morning. You'll want to get to Red Rocks at least a half-hour before sunrise if you're doing that.

And that's the news, and I am outta here.

Also, that early-wee-hour freewriting session got me my 30-day streak wings. It's my wire anniversary!
a reminder that gamification exists to serve the writer, not vice versa
Thu 2017-12-14 00:31:49 (single post)

So I've been praising 4thewords to the heavens, but I haven't mentioned, possibly because I hadn't been acutely aware of them until recently, its detrimental effects. Welllll, "detrimental effects" is putting it a little strongly. It's more that the RPG quest-and-battle style of gamification, in addition to infusing my writing tasks with extra motivation and enthusiasm, also adds complications.

For instance, I've already mentioned the challenge of choosing one's battles. I don't want to "waste" words by not being in a battle. But I don't want to end a writing task with an inconvenient amount of battle left to go. My work day turns into a sort of jigsaw puzzle, where I try to fit tasks and battles together just so. It's not a bad problem to have; generally, if I've got a bit of battle left over, I'll find there's another writing task, one I had originally planned to work on the next day, that I can instead jump on immediately. This leads to more projects making more progress more quickly.

So it's not really a problem at all, is it? It's 4thewords acting exactly as advertised. It's great.

4thewords has also improved my workday pace to no end. Instead of taking long, leisurely breaks between writing tasks, procrastinating when I ought to get back to work, and suddenly finding I've run out of day to do things in, I've begun moving more briskly from one item on my list to the next, mainly because I still have a bunch more words to go before the current monster is defeated. And I've only got 40 minutes left write them in! All right, fine, I'll take that 5-minute stretch break, I know it's good for me. But that's all! I've got to get back to beating up that Nitana! I will defeat it! It will not defeat me! I WILL TAKE ITS FEATHERS AND MAKE THEM INTO A HAT!

Besides, it's an RGP-style video game after the nature of its species. It comes with that classic temptation to keep playing just a little longer, complete just one more quest, defeat just one more monster before shutting things down. Only, in the case of 4thewords, "just one more monster" doesn't keep the player from getting back to work; it requires the player to get back to work.

So this is all wonderful. In addition to encouraging greater discipline, or at least a really convincing cargo-cult imitation of it, it's made me more often successful at getting through my task list by five or six in the afternoon. It's an amazing feeling to get to the end of a three-hour roller derby practice and remember that all my work is done. No obligations are waiting for my tired brain to tackle them. I don't have to do anything but rest, play video games, take a long bath, maybe even go to bed early. Bliss!

Except.

Except 4thewords has to complicate matters by making certain monsters only come out at night. If I am very good and do all my writing between 8 AM and 5 PM, there are monsters I will never see, whose unique battle rewards I will not get to collect. And that's tragic!

So yesterday I deliberately left myself some work to do after derby. (Mainly my blog post. Which was just as well, given the news that altered its subject matter.) And, yes, that meant I got to fight the nocturnal Mawt, the defeat of which rewards the player with Fur and Claws, which are needed to complete certain quests and craft certain objects.

And then my blog post was done and I still had like 800 words to go and it was midnight.

And that's how I got today's freewriting out of the way before 1 AM. Hooray for silver linings, I guess?

Silver lining or not, it remains that, in this particular case, 4thewords is actively working against my personal writing goals. It has put certain in-game accomplishments out of reach of my preferred writing schedule. Oh, there are workarounds, like temporarily changing my computer's time zone or clock. And I haven't ruled out experimenting with late-night sessions as my schedule (and energy level) permits. But it's still a little jarring to encounter a situation where I do have to adapt either my writing routines or my use of the gamification app to make both sets of goals coincide.

And now I have about 50 more words to write to finish off this adorable but inconveniently timed Rudakai. Blast. Guess I'll pull up the new short story and hammer away on it for a minute or two.

"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
Tue 2017-12-12 23:48:05 (single post)
  • 739 words (if poetry, lines) long

Because Aubergine of Metafilter might need a little help eating all that cake.

I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--

(be right back.)

*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*

*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*

*Running footsteps getting louder until--*

OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)

And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.

I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"

And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.

Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!

OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.

I had more to say, but it can wait until tomorrow. I think I'm going to just go bask in the celebration on Metafilter and the PTV Facebook right now.

A little hard to see, but: firefox, scrivener, editplus, gimp, and bluestacks, and also RED KEYBOARD.
in praise of new high-powered tools and toys
Mon 2017-12-11 20:58:53 (single post)

It's here. The new computer is here. I'm using it now. And it's amazing.

I tried to overload it. I've got three windows of Firefox up, one with some 90 tabs open. I've got Chrome running. I've got LibreOffice Calc and Google Sheets ticking away. I've got four Scrivener projects open. And I've been running the Android emulator Bluestacks intermittently so I can play a few clicky game apps between tasks. Two Dots and Dots & Co. and Amazing Katamari Damacy. You know. Clicky games.

And everything's still running smoothly.

I only just discovered the Katamari app, by the way. Once I'd installed Bluestacks, the first app I installed on it was APK Pure for finding and installing the rest of my habitual apps (I prefer that over Google Play), and APK Pure was featuring Amazing Katamari Damacy prominently on its front page. I downloaded it, installed it, tried it out, and accepted it as my new addiction. It runs perfectly, no hitches or skips at all, and it's adorable.

I've only had Firefox hiccup on me a couple times, when I had it load a huge number of tabs all at once. It went into Not Responding mode for about five seconds and then came back. And it didn't take the whole computer down with it.

When I click the sound icon in the systray, the volume slider appears immediately. When I click the Start button, the Start Menu comes up right away.

Every key on the keyboard is functional.

I've had a few frustrations, no lie. There's the usual whack-a-mole game involving Windows 10 "features" that need to be turned off yesterday or, for preference, ripped out of the OS entirely. There's the Dell BIOS default of F-keys' firmware hotkey functions being primary rather than, as I'd have preferred, secondary to their assigned software keyboard shortcuts. (In other words, I'm used to pressing F2 when I want to rename a file or edit the contents of a spreadsheet cell. I'm not used to having to simultaneously hold down Fn to get that functionality. So I keep accidentally lowering my speaker volume, and it's irritating.) I'm going to have to toggle that next time I restart the computer. And, speaking of keyboard shortcuts, the latest version of Audacity has swapped the ones for "record to new track" and "append record to existing track." This is not a trivial change. I do find the new arrangement more intuitive, but the whole P, END, CTRL-S, P, SHFT-R routine is embedded in my muscle memory and it's going to take effort to dislodge it. (Also the shortcut for Stop and Set Cursor is no longer SHFT-A. Now it's just X. That messed me right up.)

But these frustrations are transitory and not originating with the computer itself.

The computer itself is amazing, if somewhat heavier than I expected. I suppose when you pack that much power into a 15" laptop (and also this many watt-hours into its battery), the poundage has to go up. (The power cord, too, is unusually hefty. Its surge protector brick could brain a squirrel.) I used to mindlessly grab the Asus by the top of its monitor in order to move it small distances; just the thought of doing that with the new Dell makes my wrist ache. This morning I woke up with a dream to write down; finding a comfortable and non-disruptive way to grab the laptop and haul it over and prop it up on my knees so I could type the dream down without having to sit up and shake that half-asleep feeling... was a little bit of a challenge.

(The keyboard lights up in the dark! It lights up red. It's very friendly on the night vision, a useful feature when trying to preserve that half-asleep feeling while recording a dream. Also it is stylish. Nothing says MAD GAMER SKILLZ like thin lines of neon red.)

I'm not really complaining. Pack it all in my bookbag, and put my bookbag on my back, and I don't really feel a difference. But let me try to carry my bookbag one-handed by its top handle, and I remember the wisdom of putting the damn thing on my back. At least I'm no longer obliged to pack an external keyboard too.

Oh! And it's got a fingerprint scanner. Because passwords are just so 2015.

It needed a name, of course. Given that this computer is about ten times the computer I probably actually need, I wanted to name it after some over-the-top kick-ass warrior queen or Goddess. So I did. Its name is BOUDICA.

I've just about got everything copied over from the Asus. Of course my writing directory came first; the least work downtime, the better. Also my Firefox profile so I could procrastinate in the manner to which I am accustomed. (What was that about the least work downtime...?) I recorded Sunday's show for AINC on the new machine. I did Sunday's freewriting on it as well as today's full writing workload. Pretty much all I've got left to do is port over my Edit Plus preferences and install the three flavors of Puzzle Pirates.

I have successfully moved MY ENTIRE LIFE onto the new machine, is what I'm saying. And it is good.

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