“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

adventures are what happens when you're busy making other plans that you subsequently get distracted from
Tue 2018-01-09 23:45:01 (single post)

Broke my New Year's streak of flawless workdays yesterday. Had to happen sometime. Had things on the schedule after which I felt tired and headachy and sick and good for nothing. So I wound up just doing my freewriting last night and not much else. (Of course I did my freewriting. I am not breaking my 4thewords streak if I can help it.)

The morning was taken up with a visit from an EnergySmart assessor who came to help us determine how energy-efficient our home was. Turns out, not very! Some of it we'll be able to improve, some we will not, at least not without cooperation from the Condominium Association Board. It will all be in a nicely itemized list with explanations and instructions when the assessment report comes in next week.

I mention this mostly in order to explain why I got none of my work done in the morning, and why I was counting on a productive afternoon. Which I didn't get. Well. Not in the way I had expected, anyway.

I spent the afternoon in Longmont. I had an afternoon appointment at Cafe of Life, so I drove on up with the Volt around lunchtime to give it time to charge at Village at the Peaks. This is fairly routine for a Cafe day. What generally happens is, after I start the car charging, I walk over to wherever I'm going to have lunch, then after lunch I have a long writing session at Ozo Coffee. Then, depending on whether the car's done charging, I either walk or drive to my Cafe appointment. There's usually also groceries at Whole Foods and beer and soda at Wyatt's, sandwiched into the afternoon agenda wherever it most makes sense.

Only yesterday, after lunch at China Buffet, I didn't walk back over to Ozo. I got distracted. Or, more accurately put, I got curious. I wanted to see how far I'd have to walk east along the ditch between the Hobby Lobby and the Sam's Club before I found another place to cross over. Why? There doesn't gotta be a reason. I just wanted to see.

Turns out, the closest spot to cross over is the little spur of Sunset Way over between Valley Subaru and Sunset Acadamy. It was a middling long walk over grass lots, gravel, sand, and ditch-side boulders. I saw intriguing graffiti on the dam where the ditch leaves the mall area. I saw ducks where the water escaped the most recent freeze. A V of geese flew low enough overhead that I heard their wings creaking rhythmically. Across the ditch, behind The Suites apartments, I saw people out exercising their dogs. The dogs crossed the ditch wherever they wanted to; they clearly didn't mind getting their feet wet. I did, so I didn't.

I saw myself when I was a young teenager, getting on my bike and hitting the path for a long ride just to see where I'd be when I stopped. (That was almost thirty years ago, which seems impossible.) I don't do enough of that these days. I mean, I do some. There was that one time I headed out barefoot to get a paper and, when the box I visited turned up empty, I just kept walking all the way down to Bluff Street. (Reading a book as I went.) And I'll go rambling through Mountain View Memorial Park once in a while, since it's right there and all. But I don't make a habit of it the way I did when I was thirteen or so. Mostly I just Go For Walks, which involves set routes, known locations, and a predictable amount of time. It's not the same.

It felt so nice to channeling my inner pre-teen and go on a walking adventure that I kept walking. I made one big loop via Sunset to Nelson to Ken Pratt, checking out all the retail storefronts I can never quite identify from Diagonal Highway. I tried to go to the City Cafe whose sign I'd seen before but never investigated; turns out that, since November, the sign is all that's left of City Cafe. The sign, and a bunch of chairs stacked on tables. I wound up instead at the Bavarian Bakery (Google tells me it's actually called Michael's, but the sign out front says Bavarian Bakery) doing a late Morning Pages session over coffee and piece of baklava.

Walking adventures are fun and all, but they are tiring. My back was getting very angry at me over the size of my bookbag and the length of time I'd required it be carried. My feet were starting to hurt. I had a headache. And I still had to make groceries and go to my Cafe of Life appointment. Which I did. (Not complaining; I ran into an old friend while I was resting at a table in the Whole Foods. Rather, she ran across me and got my attention. I'm so glad she did. HEY SELKIE IF YOU'RE READING THIS DO PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH I'VE MISSED YOU CALL OR TEXT SOMETIME.)

So, anyway, when I got home, I was tired. I didn't do hardly nothing.

Today was much better. I slept in to chase away the last of the sore-tired-headachy blues, but other than that everything went to schedule.

And for today's freewriting session, I let yesterday's walking adventure inspire me. I wrote the germ of a short story involving two warring factions of Faerie, separated by that same ditch that I'd walked along yesterday, having negotiated a truce requiring each to stay to their side. Each faction developed its own culture based on the nature of their microterritory. The graffiti on the dam, which said (it really did!) MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL WHO WILL BE THE QUEEN OF THEM ALL, was, when I got through with it, a souvenir from the last annual ball that the Northside Fae had held. They elect something like a Prom Queen every year. They lead a hectic and frivolous life, throwing parties, playing tricks, and vowing not to be like the ants that lived in the grass lot they'd made their home. The Southside Fae, a more serious bunch, have adopted The Suites. They keep watch over pets and children at play; if they like you exceptionally well they might come help out around your apartment, too. And then there's a Thing that lives in the ditch that will steal fairy children away if they got to close. Human children, too. But for some reason it absolutely dotes upon on dogs, especially Labradors and golden retrievers. It will need to be dealt with. And of course the heroes of the story would be two children, one from each side of the boundary, finding common ground in the need to defeat the Thing. Working title: Creekside Story.

Anyway, it just goes to show, experience is never wasted. It just sometimes isn't the experience you'd planned on having, is all.

YPP Weekend Blockades, January 6-7: All of Obsidian At Loggerheads, Blockade at 12:00
Sat 2018-01-06 11:20:38 (single post)

Welp, today's the big day: Loggerhead Island on the Obsidian Ocean, a.k.a. "Dark Seas," will be blockaded at noon Pirate Time so as to determine its first player-flag owner. It's being held by Admiral Finius for the purposes of giving everyone someone to fight. A whoooooole bunch of flags have tossed their hats in the ring, or war chests on the shore, or something. A couple have posted blockade intents, which I herein link for your education and amusement:

Amateur Hour - "Well, I accidentally clicked the blockade button to find out what it did, and it turns out we dropped a war chest? Oops?" Cool story, mate, I LOL'd, but I'm guessing, given y'all have an intent video and a detailed island plan, that this in fact a premeditated action. There will be trivia, random PoE bonus, and prizes. "Just be warned, we probably don't have a clue what we're doing. This is Amateur Hour after all." Heh. (Thread includes bonus detailed discussion of abovementioned island plan beginning with some feedback from a veteran colonizer.)

Blame Brenda - "I'm going to keep this simple because you are all smart people and know how islands work." What follows is an admittedly vague list of island plans which "will drastically change depending on how this affects the ocean's population." Realism for the win! BB too will be paying random bonuses and giving random prizes.

And speaking of Obsidian, check out the "War" tab on the Notice Board. It's got bounties!

Today is also the day when Jazz embarks on a 24-hour Sailing for St. Jude voyage! He's already at sea--tune in, jump on the Discord, say hi! Jazz has updated the thread again, adding details, stunning new graphics, an hourly schedule of events, and a selection of prizes on offer. Jazz attempted to get some Ocean Master buy-in for the prizes; when they declined, several pirates stepped in and made it a reality. The grand prize will be... the black and gold sloop "Record Breaker" which Jazz will be sailing on swabbie transport for 24 hours straight. "This prize includes a portrait with Jazz himself, all expenses paid." Visit the thread for links to the twitch livestream, the donation drive page, and... well, I don't see a link to the Discord channel, but the 7 PM event is "Coach Me! (Discord)" so I assume there is one.

Moving on to other oceans: The blockade schedules on Meridian and Emerald both feature simultaneous drops by one flag on islands held by a particular other flag. The simu-drop by Pew Pew on islands held by Lit (Emerald Ocean) is a thing of particular beauty. Or ambition. Or something. Cerulean's got just one event blockade, 7 rounds, underway as we speak. Even Opal's got something going on.

Jade's the only ocean with no blockades. You may have noticed it's been all but abandoned for... well, months. Years, maybe. I stubbornly keep my Serenidad active there, but most times I've logged on I've been the only pirate logged on. In light of this dearth of population and therefore economy, Pirate Protemius has proposed that the developers support those few who still play on Jade by waiving the requirements for Fine Rum, Grog, and Swill on pillages/voyages. This would not affect blockades, which would still require rum etc. (Caveat lector: I am not an expert or experienced translator and I make mistakes; please view the thread for the original post in Spanish.) Ocean Master Clotho has responded, saying that she has passed this proposal on to the developers. We'll see if anything comes of it. If so, I expect I know where my new favorite source of doubloons will be.

Lastly, Prometheus would like to remind pirates everywhere that before they try to login to the forums they should ensure they actually are on the forums.

We are aware of a link going around that redirects players to a web page that is an exact copy of the forum log-in page. In filling out this form, rather than logging into the forums, one is in fact unwittingly handing over their account name and password to a scammer. We have taken steps to identify and lock out those accounts that have been already been compromised to prevent any further damage to them. If you are the owner of one of these accounts please do e-mail our support department using the e-mail support form (http://www.puzzlepirates.com/support) immediately to confirm ownership of your account.

Always verify the URL of the website you're about to type your password into. Before clicking a link, verify in your browser's status bar where it's actually going. And be skeptical of unusual or unfamiliar browser activity, like unexpected popups prompting you for "authorization." If you see such a popup while traversing the forum, do not fill in the form. Instead, submit a petition in-game to the on-duty Ocean Master. "Petitioning an Ocean Master is always the best first step for this or any other forum problem."

Be sure to review http://yppedia.puzzlepirates.com/Account_security for more information on keeping your account secure.

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 6 ***

11:00 a.m. - Edgars Wahl, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Das As Team
Attacker: Flotte ihrer schuppig-charmanten Hoheit (2)

12:00 p.m. - Loggerhead Island, Obsidian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)
Attacker: Amateur Hour
Attacker: Blame Brenda
Attacker: Illusion
Attacker: Consider it Sunk
Attacker: Friendly Fire
Attacker: Focus

12:00 p.m. - Pukru Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (4)
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:00 p.m. - Gallows Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - Ilha da Aguia, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - The Lowland Hundred, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:02 p.m. - Doyle Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Pew Pew

2:12 p.m. - Basset Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Sudden Revenge
Attacker: Poe In My Purse

7:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

7:00 p.m. - Windward Vale, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

7:00 p.m. - Havoc Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

7:00 p.m. - Surtsey Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Puzzleholics Anonymous
Attacker: Trap House

*** Sunday, January 7 ***

10:00 a.m. - Amity Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, January 6 ***

10:25 a.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Event: 7 rounds, nonsinking
Hosted by: Tyranny

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay.
this fictionette still counts as a win i don't care
Fri 2018-01-05 23:56:28 (single post)
  • 1,087 words (if poetry, lines) long

The first Friday Fictionette of 2018 is out on time! It is not out early, and the Wattpad excerpt will have to wait, but the bits that matter are not out late. So there.

The title is "The Ones Who Don't Walk Away Fast Enough" (public excerpt, Patron-only ebook, audiobook). It's ... a thought experiment about a thought experiment, I guess. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT INCEPTION. Which is kind of obnoxiously hypocritical of me because, typically, thought experiments make me grumpy. Why should I inflict one on you? Sure, I got suddenly interested in questions arising from Le Guin's worldbuilding but that's no excuse. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT BAD. HULK SMASH.

Except, writing this fictionette required me to carefully re-read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" for, I hope, obvious reasons, and, in rereading it, I got less grumpy about it. It's not really a thought experiment at all, is it? It's more of an examination of the limits of thought experiments. But then I've already mouthed off about that in the Author's Note section and spent a stupid amount of time rewriting it for accuracy and brevity, so I'm not going into it further here, thank you very much.

Mind you, I futzed up the cover art. I kept forgetting the title was "The Ones Who..." not "Those Who..." and IT MATTERS, DAMMIT so I will be fixing the cover art tomorrow. This is the level of attention to detail you get for your dollar! Expect no less! Take no substitutes!

(Why tomorrow? Because you don't get that level of attention to detail from me when I'm up past my bedtime.)

So I haven't given up on eventually getting ahead of the Friday Fictionettes schedule. I just haven't gotten there yet. I think the multithreading thing, drafting next week's offering on the same days as revising the one for this week, slowed both processes down. And so the January 5th release came out at just before January 6 O'Clock after all. The various interruptions to my schedule today (and the sudden exhausted nap that became necessary 'round mid-afternoon) had something to do with that, too. But had I not let that misguided attempt at DO ALL THE THINGS bog me down this week, I might have been better able to absorb the interruptions (and the unexpected nap attack). Ah, well, better luck next week.

Except the first Weekend Warrior prompts dropped tonight. Which means I'll be writing a brand new short-short (750 words max) this weekend. So maybe this weekend will only include doing a little and not a lot toward the goal of getting ahead of the fictionette schedule. But, on the bright side, I've got six fresh writing prompts to choose between for this weekend's freewriting. I feel rich! Now if only I can find time on Saturday and Sunday to do that freewriting. (Not to mention the subsequent revising and polishing and uploading.)

pathological multitasking strikes again or maybe bowls a strike i don't know yet jury's still out
Thu 2018-01-04 23:08:56 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 50,235 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 698 words (if poetry, lines) long

I had no idea what to blog about today, but I had some 650 words left on a battle with a Tylu (they're tough!) and only half an hour to finish up in, so I just started babbling to myself about my day so far in hopes of stumbling across an appropriate blog subject.

Welp, it worked. Here's the topic du jour: MULTITASKING! Does it help or hurt? And does it matter? IT IS WHAT I DO.

There's a topic that shows up sometimes when writers get together online to talk about writing. (It may show up when they get together face-to-face, too. I don't know. I am very rarely in face-to-face conversations with other writers. It's kind of sad and I'm working on it.) That topic is, "One project at a time, or several?" And it seems to me that, more often than not, the consensus is, "One. Dear Gods, one. I can't even imagine switching back and forth in the same week, let alone in a day. I'd lose the thread."

Maybe it's confirmation bias on my part to think that this is the answer in an overwhelming majority of cases. And goodness knows the universe of writerly conversations I have witnessed is not by any means a statistically meaningful representative sample. But after babbling descriptively about today's activities, and then letting that babble sift into my hindbrain during tonight's scrimmage (writing doesn't get a place in the forebrain when the immediate concern is "jammer in lane two, jammer in lane three, jammer in OH GOD I HAVE OFFENSE HELP ouch")... I got to thinking.

I got to thinking that "one project at a time" isn't remotely what I do.

So here's a condensed version of some of that babble. We'll skip the boring bits where I whine about what a late start I got and why that might have been, and go straight to an itemized list of actions taken on January 4, 2018:

  • Dream journaling (15 minutes)
  • Freewriting (15 minutes)
  • Story rewrite toward converting a once-submitted, never-published drabble into a 1,000-word flash piece (50 minutes, 800 words)
  • Submission procedures: logging some new response correspondence in the database
  • Fictionette Artifact production (only 25 minutes/one typewritten page because holy shit I've only got 30 minutes left to defeat this Tylu)
  • Pre-blog babble (17 minutes, and yes, I did prevail in battle)

And now I am working on this blog post, and afterward I plan to...

  • Finish revising the Jan 5 Fictionette
  • Get started taking notes toward revising the NaNoWriMo novel

That is by no means "one project at a time." It is emphatically several. I went from "somehow I never manage to get any fiction revision into my workday" to GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR AND REVISE ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. This on top of my latest trick, which is multithreading fictionette production so that I am revising this week's offering while drafting next week's in the same day. (That, at least, I've decided is maybe not such a good deal, if only because it crowds out time I could have used to revise stories for commercial submission.)

Is it a problem? Is it just my process? Is my process an acceptable process or am I getting in my own way? I don't know. The question may be moot at this time; everything I'm revising today has a deadline coming up. But going forward, maybe I need to figure this out.

No doubt, hopping from task to task is my natural inclination. I start to chafe if I spend too many hours on a single thing. I start to feel trapped and a little desperate, like dear Gods in alphabetical order, will this thing never be done? But I don't entirely trust that I'm simply gravitating toward a process that works best for me. I experience it rather as a failure to persevere and stick through a thing and see it through. I wonder if my tendency to keep a bunch of balls in the air is an indication less that I'm good at juggling and more that I tend to shy away from a task the moment it becomes hard work.

But, then again, can I really trust my evaluation of the situation? I'm notorious for being terribly down on myself, not to mention depressive and anxious. I have no reliable yardstick for diagnosing this mess.

It may be that my best bet is to wait and see what the results are. I mean, who cares if I'm running toward or away, so long as I successfully get all the crap done on time?

I can at least speak to the obstacle my colleagues have mentioned, that of failing to keep the threads of multiple projects untangled. That, at least, has not appeared to be a problem. I'm not distracted by one project while working on another, nor do I find myself mentally lingering in the wrong fictional world. But! (Yes, here comes more anxious wibbling.) But is that really because I'm just preternaturally good at multitasking, or because I don't let myself sink as deeply into any one fictional world as art would require? Am I in fact producing shallower work?

If so, I can't entirely drop the multitasking, not if I'm going to keep up the Friday Fictionette project. And I'm not going to just do the Friday Fictionette project. Even if by some miracle I had enough subscribers that it paid as much as I could ever hope to earn as a freelance writer, it's not enough for me artistically. I have longer stories to tell. So I will, for the time being, be working on at least two projects in a day. And doing my freewriting and dream journaling and morning pages, because those are good for my skill set, my idea flow, and my mental health. So...

Maybe the question really is moot. I'm clearly not going to stop cramming multiple writing projects into a single workday any time soon. The question is, how many projects? Two? Three? It depends? And what's the best way to juggle them? How can I best organize my day around the current projects so that my writing life continues sustainable and meaningfully productive? And still leaves room for me to be a competitive roller derby skater and a responsible adult householder?

See, this is why I keep spreadsheets.

just another day on the job
Wed 2018-01-03 23:41:10 (single post)
  • 1,200 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Lesson for today: Submitting fiction is no big deal.

With the new year I am renewing a long-term goal of mine, or ideal, that every workday will include a session of what I call submission procedures. This means tending to the business side of being a freelance author of commercial fiction, which is submitting stories to paying markets.

I successfully did this on January 1 by logging a rejection letter for a story I had submitted, then sending that story on again to another market. I successfully did this on January 2 by identifying a market I wanted to submit to, deciding on a story I wanted to submit to it, and determining to rewrite the story so that I could submit it there. (I began that rewrite today. It's currently a drabble; the rewrite will be about 1,000 words.)

I was sort of stumped as to what to do today.

I mean, I can always pull up my list of what's currently out on submission and double-check that there's been no response yet, but that's sort of busywork. I can't do that every day and call it fulfilling the spirit of my resolution. But what did I have that was ready to submit? Nothing, I thought. Everything's either out or I don't know where else to send it and maybe it should be revised or even trunked because clearly it sucks and no one wants it.

This is not a productive state of mind.

Around this point, my mouse happened to hover over the browser tab with the Codex Weekend Warrior 2018 contest discussion in it. (Codex: an online community of pro and semi-pro writers. Weekend Warrior: a high-pressure contest wherein writing prompts appear on Friday and fresh new flash fiction is due on Sunday. You can see a list of previous winners, as well as contest entries that went on to be published, here.) I'm going to be participating in that contest, and I'm kind of nervous that I just might forget to write my first contest entry this weekend, so I've been keeping that tab open.

Now, a common concern of participants is, where am I going to try to publish all these new stories I'll have written for the contest? So several people helpfully listed markets that publish flash fiction.

Reading through those lists, I felt a light-bulb go on in my brain. It's not that I don't have anything ready to submit anywhere. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles and short-shorts. But somehow I've mentally disqualified them all as "no one wants drabbles" or "this one isn't ready to go out again" or even "this one I've earmarked for rewriting into an interactive fiction piece, so until I do that rewrite I can't send it anywhere."

I've also got this weirdly elevated idea of the very process of submitting fiction. Like, if you're going to send it, you'd better be sure it's perfect and that it's a precise fit for that market and the stars are aligned just right. I'm not sure I consciously realized I had that idea until just now, but, turns out, I do.

Hell with all that, I thought, and sent two pieces out to two different flash-publishing markets in quick succession. One's a drabble about a unicorn that no one's seen except SpeckLit, who didn't publish it (and who have closed since then anyway). The other's the dimension-hopping flash piece that I want to rewrite as interactive fiction but that's no reason for it to sit on its hands all bored and stuff waiting for me to get around to it.

So I have successfully included Submission Procedures on day 3 of 2018. And it was No Big Deal.

all this and hot water too
Tue 2018-01-02 23:55:06 (single post)

OMG you guys. I took a bath today. In my own bathtub. With hot water and everything. And the new furnace is working great. The big open vents in the laundry room, rendered obsolete by the new units, have been capped off, making things a lot warmer on that side of the house. And the new thermostat is really cool too--we spent a little extra to get a 7-day programmable one so that we can differentiate our derby weekdays from our regular weekdays from our Sunday with derby in the morning from our Saturday with nothing scheduled at all.

The systems that support our comfort and energy efficiency are greatly improved. Today was a good day.

(Also, that bath was just as sorely needed as I expected. After so many missed practices due to holidays and/or weather, my body was not ready for all the plow-stops, hockey-stops, and sprints. My adductors, y'all. My adductors are very, very angry with me. My ribs aren't too pleased either, but they're not what's yelling at me every time I sit or stand.)

So. Writing? Yes.

Yesterday I said, a little of each of the things in every workday: drafting, revising, submitting. And while it's true for yesterday and today, it takes a bit of a stretch to see it. Drafting--no problem. The daily gottas take care of that handily. Submissions--more or less OK. Today I mentally paired up a market with an existing story, but the story is at this time a drabble and the market wants flash of about 1,000 words in length. So that will require some rewriting. But it still counts as submission procedures, by golly!

Editing, however... Well, I'm trying to stick to my mantra of "If I can't do a lot, I'll do a little." And what with the eight hours of appliance installation labor going on in my house today, I couldn't really do a lot. That dang brain glitch struck again: I felt paralyzed by being "on call" all day, obliged to remain AVAILABLE while the technicians were working. I worked through it, sure, but it was there to work through. It slowed me down. It especially made difficult the transition from one task to the next.

So I did a little.

In the case of the NaNoWriMo novel, and specifically the task of preparing the first 4,000 words for submission to the 4thewords contest, "editing" has so far only consisted of reading the first few scenes to remind myself what I wrote. What I wrote was a mess. I think when I finally get something concrete done, it won't be editing so much as notes toward editing. I'll go through those first few scenes and just catalog what information is being communicated by the text on the page. Then can I decide what information needs to be communicated and what information does not. Not to mention what information is being communicated redundantly; when I draft with daily word-count targets in mind, I'm not exactly terse. So, once I've done that, I should be able to cut whole swaths of unnecessary gabble, clearing the way for brand new draft.

In the case of this week's fictionette, it, too, got merely reread yesterday. But today--while I was in that lovely hot bath, bliss!--I revised the first half of it substantially. I'm still well on target to release it on time, if not early. Well, I mean, not release it early. But finish it early, and upload it early, and use the SCHEDULE feature so that it will go live on time with no further input from me.

The Fictionette Artifacts for November 2017 went into the mail today; the ones for October went a few days ago. I am all caught up. As long as I send December's on time, which is to say by the end of this week, I will remain all caught up.

So even with a little stretching, I think I can say that, two days into the new year, I am still on point with my New Year's Resolutions, such as they are. Two whole days, y'all! Let's go for three!

so about those new year's resolutions
Mon 2018-01-01 23:07:23 (single post)

Happy 2018 everybody! I hope the first day of the new year has treated you splendidly. If it hasn't, well, what's one day out of three hundred and sixty-five? Not even one percent. Tomorrow can always be better.

I have done my darnedest to stuff everything I want into a single day. Writing, playing, exercising, cooking, time with my husband doing all of the above. All that was missing was fibercrafts and derby, and those will happen tomorrow.

I even got in a visit to the Boulder Bookstore. When I checked out the other day, they gave me a coupon for 25% off everything in the store on January 1. "Is this because you've got annual inventory coming up, and you'd like as little stock as possible to inventory?" I asked. Both staff members on check-out duty nodded emphatically. So John and I went in today and did our part to make their annual inventory easier.

I got new packages of non-specific winter holiday greeting cards. (All the winter solstice cards had sold out long ago.) John got a couple of books. One of them was all about bread. So tonight, a few hours after our lovely homemade dinner of saag paneer over rice with fresh naan (I win at dinner), John opened up his new book and started experimenting. As we speak, he is eating quesadillas made from his very first attempts at making tortillas.

So I said I'd come up with some New Year's resolutions today, something more specific than what I babbled out Friday. I'm not sure I have, actually. I've just kind of made today into a sort of microcosm of what I want my writing life in 2018 to look like. Which is to say: drafting new story, revising existing story, submitting finished story. I want every working day to have all three of those things in it.

Additionally, I want to:

  • Keep the Friday Fictionette project on schedule
  • Finish new stories and submit them to paying markets
  • Make meaningful progress on novel revision

And of course I would love to actually make some sales and get published more. But I'm leaving that out of my resolution-like statements here because it's not entirely under my control. I can't make editors say "Yes, we love it, take our money and let us publish it please!" But all the work that comes before the editor's yes or no--that is, writing, revising, and submitting pieces of fiction to paying markets--that is under my control. So that's what I'm resolving to do in 2018: More of that.

As for right now this minute I want to write enough words to defeat enough Winter Frizis to collect enough Winter Snowflakes to complete the Snowflake Collector Quest before the Winter Wonderland 2018 event ends midday January 3! Well, that's less "this minute" and more "tonight and tomorrow." Still.

Yay, one more Winter Frizi down and two more Winter Snowflakes in my inventory! Woot!

not with a bang but i defy you to say i'm whimpering
Sat 2017-12-30 01:27:56 (single post)

Speaking of holidays, what with being in the middle of an ongoing parade of them, turns out thanks to the Friday Fictionettes project I've made up my own personal recurring holiday: Fifth Fridays. I only do a release every first through fourth Friday, so the fifth Friday is a day off. It only today occurred to me to really treat it like a day off--not just from Friday Fictionettes, but from writing. Like, total holiday. Guilt-free. I don't really have a system of holidays in place for myself; Winter Solstice excepted, and that only through necessity, I tend to hold myself to a full workday Monday through Friday regardless of the calendar. So why not explicitly give myself permission take fifth Fridays off?

And boy howdy did I treat it like a day off. I stayed in bed an inordinately long time rereading Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation (inspired by seeing the trailer for the movie release in March; I'm excited about it, even though I have no illusions as to its likelihood to match the book for pure brooding weirdness), getting up only when necessary to run my Boulder Food Rescue grocery delivery shift. Then, after that and a bit of dinner, I did get a couple writing tasks done, but not a heck of a lot. Converting this morning's dream into a coherent narrative. Typing up the second Fictionette Artifact owing from October. Reminding myself I am not to feel guilty over getting nothing else done. Holiday!

Despite my work-from-home flexible schedule, I don't really get to sleep in very often. At least, I shouldn't. I can't get a good workday in if I'm not up by at least eight, and my weekends have their own morning obligations. So today was a bit of a treat.

It was, or would have been, my last workday of 2017. The occasion inspires a bit of introspection. And introspection sort of hurts. I mean, I sucked at producing new fiction in December. I flat out failed. I never completed the new story nor got to work editing anything in the revision queue. On the other hand, I stayed on track with daily tasks; other than today and the two days I took off for Winter Solstice, I haven't missed a day of freewriting. I'm nearly a full week ahead on Friday Fictionettes. So that's nothing to sneeze at.

January is going to be busy. I am going to be participating in two, count 'em, two contests, for both of which the chance of winning is much less important than the motivation to Do A Writing Thing. To wit:

Codex Weekend Warrior 2018: I belong to the Codex online writing community, and one of the benefits of that is several contests every year to help motivate you to write, revise, and submit fiction. (If you like the sound of that, maybe you should join Codex. Check it out.) Weekend Warrior is a flash fiction contest that happens every January. Prompts go up on Fridays, you submit a flash fiction based on one of those prompts by Sunday, and during the week you read and rate each others' stories. The winner is the writer who, by the end of the contest, has the highest score based on these ratings--but, again, everyone who participates is a winner because they've got up to five new flash stories they can then polish up and try to sell. For example, my story "Other Theories of Relativity" was originally a Weekend Warrior contestant.

4thewords "4 for 4" contest: The announcement begins, "Since you wrote so many words during the month of November, we want to help you edit those words, spend some time with them, and polish them for future use." Members are encouraged to polish up the first four chapters or first 4,000 words (whichever is shorter) of their novels and publish them to the READ section (you must be logged in to access the READ section of 4thewords). Other participants will read these offerings, comment on them, and rate them. (There will be a "best comment" award, to encourage sincerity and brilliance in that activity as well.) Prizes include cash, in-game currency, and special in-game wardrobe items--but, again, the real prize, as far as I'm concerned, is getting a jump-start on editing my novel.

So that's what'll be keeping me busy for a good chunk of January 2018.

As far as New Year's Resolutions go: Write more! Finish more stories! Submit more things! Start shopping a novel around! Except, other than that last one, these are all admirable but really ill-defined goals. I need to think about how to make them more specific so that they're challenging yet reasonably achievable. I'll get back to you on that come January 1, how about it?

it's all fun and games 'til the cat gets confused
Thu 2017-12-28 23:44:55 (single post)

All right. So. Still no hot water over here, but we have accepted Blue Valley's proposal on a new water heater. Also a new furnace, because 95% efficiency and hefty rebates and also PVC venting which means finally sealing the combustion vent holes in the laundry room wall. It's dang hard to keep a house heated comfortably when one exterior wall is letting the ten-degree weather in through two holes the size of softballs. And that door between the kitchen and laundry room? It's just a regular interior door. Big crack under the door and everything. I keep a rolled-up afghan against it during the winter, sort of a makeshift draft-dodger. After Tuesday, probably, that will no longer be necessary.

Yesterday around eleven, noon or so, after Blue Valley had already visited but just before they emailed the proposal, Save Home Heat finally got back to me. We set up a visit for today during the noon-to-two window. But by today 9:30 we'd already examined Blue Valley's proposal, gone over it with the EnergySmart advisor, and accepted it. So I called Save Home Heat back and canceled. (It was really handy to have those two hours back, actually.)

So no hot water until Tuesday probably, but in the meantime, still cat-sitting for generous friends with working showers. And boy did I need that hot soak after scrimmage tonight. (We actually had scrimmage tonight! It was warm today, and overnight lows will be in the 30s--bliss!) And it wasn't the usual format. It was Team Colorado versus The World format. So those of us Boulder County Bombers who aren't on Team Colorado, we got our asses handed to us in a most educational way. No, seriously, it was amazing. I have never had so much fun dying on the opposing team's wall or getting blown up by offense. But, as you might imagine, I expected to really need some quality bath time for my sore muscles after that. I had been looking forward to that bath all day.

And I'd planned to write this very blog post while in the tub, as I sometimes do. I have a system! It involves setting the laptop on a stool or chair well out of harm's way and not touching it at all, putting a pressboard plank across the tub in lieu of a desk, and using a wireless keyboard and mouse to interact with the computer. This also might involve dinner and a beer or a glass of wine. I have my needs. I am not proud.

Except I forgot to bring the wireless keyboard over. Now that I have a laptop with a functional keyboard, I don't carry the wireless keyboard around by default. It lives in the drawer in our bathroom, precisely for use during long hot baths. But I did not bring it with me to my friends' house. I brought the wireless mouse. I brought the pressboard desk. But I did not bring the wireless keyboard, damn it.

I did bring my typewriter.

I'd brought it earlier this afternoon because I'd thought to have time to do some catch-up work on Fictionette Artifacts during that visit. Only I didn't. So I left the typewriter there thinking, OK, well, maybe after the blog post tonight. Or maybe during tomorrow's visit.

Turns out, manual typewriters are perfectly safe around water. They are not electric! And mine fit on the pressboard plank just fine, and the plank was sturdy enough to hold it. The set up was perfectly absurd, but it worked surprisingly well. The first of the two Fictionette Artifacts I still owe for October 2017 got typed up. Nothing got damagingly wet.

Meanwhile, I totally confused the cat. I count that as a win.

And now this blog post, having more to report than originally planned, is longer than it would have been, which 4thewords counts as a win. So.

starting bid 48 hours, do I hear 24, do I hear--SOLD (probably) to the contractor with the two MINUTE response time
Tue 2017-12-26 23:34:35 (single post)

OK, so, derby practice was canceled. When outdoor temperatures are 10 degrees Fahrenheit at sunset, it's too dang cold to drive the roads, let alone skate in a mostly non-climate-controlled practice building where the floor gets really slick under low temperature conditions. But I am having that hot bath anyway, and not by dint of lots of stovetop activity either, but rather by the good graces of some friends we are cat-sitting for. Turns out their vacation timing was impeccable, and they are very generous with their facilities.

In order that we not have to impose on their generosity longer than necessary, I got on the phone about the dead water heater this morning.

08:30: Called EnergySmart and pled ignorance to all things water heater. They got us enrolled in their program and then talked me through my options for replacement units (tank or tankless), asked me about our furnace (which may also need replacing or at least servicing), and queried as to other related appliances in the house (yes, we have a programmable thermostat, but we would like one that is more programmable; between roller derby and working from home, a basic Honeywell of type WEEKDAY Y/N? doesn't cover all the bases). Then they sent me a list of contractors whom they have vetted as both trustworthy and having energy efficiency priorities.

EnergySmart's services are free: Boulder County tax dollars at work! And doing a brilliant job, too. A+ would pay my taxes again.

09:15: Called Save Home Heat Co first; of the contractors on the list who handled both tankless water heaters and gas furnaces, they were the company that were physically nearest to our address. After about ten rings I got patched over to their answering service. No one was in the office, doubtless because everyone was out tending to other emergencies that had cropped up during the December 25 Federal Holiday. Their answering service was professional and efficient, not to mention brusque and rapid-fire. They evinced some impatience with me for my constantly asking them to repeat that, please, more slowly? as they rattled back the info they'd interrogated me for. They told me to expect a call back as soon as someone returned to the office.

11:00 It turns out I can't get anything done while waiting for a call-back. Just another little glitch in my brain, I guess. (As though I don't have enough.) I could not seem to bring myself to tackle even a half-hour's worth of writing. Not even my morning pages. I mean, I guess I could have, if I'd exerted more willpower, but it would have been miserable. The feeling of paralysis was strong. It was like, in some mental/psychological way, being still on the phone and on hold for almost two hours.

Which is not Save Home Heat's fault nor their lookout. My brain glitches are mine to manage. Besides, EnergySmart says they ask the contractors they vet to return calls within 48 hours. That I had waited two was hardly unreasonable.

Still, I did have to manage that brain glitch if I was going to get any work done. So I went ahead and called a second contractor, Blue Valley Heating & Cooling. And their receptionist was really patient with me before patching me directly over to a tech, who was also patient and friendly. He listened to my story with sympathy, answered my questions with care (including giving me a rough price estimate on the unit I was interested in, subject of course to the details of my installation; it was about what I expected and quite reasonable for the expected lifespan of the unit, not to mention the savings in energy efficiency). Turned out that, hey, he had a call-out in Boulder tomorrow anyway; why not arrange for a consult while he was in the neighborhood? Since my plight was an uncomfortable one and shouldn't be prolonged unnecessarily, and all.

I said yes please thank you you're the best. We agreed he'd visit tomorrow around 8:30 AM. I hung up the phone. And breathed a huge sigh of relief, feeling immensely more psychologically free to get things done.

It's recommended to call multiple contractors anyway, so one can get multiple bids and make a sound economic decision. I had not been looking forward to this. It would involve multiple contractor visits which would probably entail multiple days or weeks before we could have hot running water again. But it seems like I did, in a way, get two separate bids just this morning. Only, instead of being expressed in job price, they were expressed in terms of rapid response and friendliness.

And though I got a late start on my workday, I did get to start. And continue. And finish. Which I might not have otherwise, because...

23:32 (at the time of this writing) ...I still haven't heard a peep from Save Home Heat. I guess they're just super busy and never got back to the office at all.

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