“I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.”
Cormac McCarthy

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

i know i know just let me farm another 800 stone bricks ok
Wed 2018-10-10 22:30:25 (single post)

OK, so. Confession time. I'm addicted to smartphone app games, and I don't even have a smartphone.

What I have is a laptop running the Android simulator Bluestacks. I installed it several years ago when John showed me the game he was playing at the time, Two Dots, and I got hooked hard. Then I found out there wasn't a version for regular computers. This struck me as a great injustice. Surely every game on the smartphone had a regular computer version too, didn't it? Why not?

So, Bluestacks. It's come along way since then, through two full version numbers and into much better compatibility with more or less anything I try to run on it. And, to my chagrin, it's commercialized itself a lot more thoroughly. It's always had a for-fee mode, where you pay to get rid of the advertisements. It used to randomly play app trailers at me; no longer. Now it mostly contents itself with manifesting an icon of their Featured App of the Day in among my installed apps list.

But it's still got enough going on to get me into trouble.

It's got a metagame. It's got--whatever it's calling itself these days, what is it? Pika Land? Bluestacks World? In Bluestacks World, it runs periodic events where you enter a prize drawing by playing this or that app for ten minutes. Generally this is easy to ignore. I'm interested in none of the games, and I'm interested in almost none of the prizes. (It's a beautiful desk chair, ergonomic as hell, but entirely incompatible with my office environment.) So. Great! I'm safe! Except one day, the featured app was Two Dots. And, hey, great, I already play Two Dots, why not?

Why not, indeed. See, that's how they get you. It goes like this: The event that was running the time, "Deities of Egypt", asked you to play Featured App of the Day for ten minutes in order to open a divine scroll, summon the God or Goddess within, and, incidentally, get entered into the day's prize drawing. Well, now I've opened the Day 1 scroll. I've summoned Bast. Hooray! Guess I might as well participate in each of the following days, right? Just to see? Shame to give it up when I've gotten off to such a great start, right?

I am a filthy, rotten completist. Also a perfectionist and mildly obsessive. I did the Day 2 thing. And Day 3. And so forth. And I meant--I really meant!--to just leave the featured app running unattended for ten minutes while I did other things. Like, y'know, write. Except, a couple of those games, I clicked on. Just to see. And I found them oddly compelling. And I wound up playing them a whole lot. Dammit.

Guns of Glory had me addicted for two or three weeks before I got free. It's a resource-management kingdom-builder thing. It's also multi-player. I swore I wouldn't get involved in the multiplayer side of things. I'd restrict myself to upgrading my military tents and farms and stuff and not join an alliance. Not! Except then I saw an exchange on global chat (which appears impossible to disable) that went something like this:

"Alguien quiere unirse con nuestra alianza? Hay muchas ventajas en hacerlo."
"ENGLISH PLEASE"

And I was all like, "Screw your 'English please!' This is an international game! Deal with it! Just for that, I am going to join their alliance!"

And so I did. And I went into the game's settings and changed my language to Spanish, and forced myself despite my embarrassment to converse in Spanish with the other alliance members. I felt very virtuous about this. I wasn't just wasting time on a clicky game--I was taking advantage of a great opportunity to practice my second language in a real-life situation! Yay! Brava, chica. Meanwhile, a whole new part of the game I'd written off as off-limits, because I'd planned not to do the multiplayer thing, was now accessible, and it was fun and rewarding.

It was also more demanding. Everyone else probably looked in on their estates every time their smartphone gave them a notification about whatever. I felt obliged to log in more often throughout the day so as to be a good alliance member.

And then, one day, another alliance declared war on our alliance. I logged on and my castle was on fire. My troops were all in the hospital--in shifts, because hospitals have a limited capacity depending on how far you've upgraded them--and healing them was using up all the food and wood I'd had earmarked for structural upgrades. No sooner had I recovered and built up more reserves than another attack came in. Basically, they were using us as a resource farm. It made the game a lot less fun and rewarding.

And then, one day, I logged in and discovered that my alliance's leader had stepped down from his position and made me the new leader in his place. And nobody had heard from him since.

I gave him the leadership crown right back, apologized for the confusion to whoever happened to be reading alliance chat at that time, and then I logged off. And uninstalled the app. With prejudice.

So that was my brief foray into kingdom-building resource-management multiplayer clicky-games. Well and good. No harm done, right? Except, before the death throes of my brief love affair with Guns of Glory had ceased, I had yielded to temptation in the matter of Merge Dragons.

Here we go.

Merge Dragons does pretty much what it says in the name. You merge three dragons of the same type, you get one dragon of the next level up. (Or you merge five to get two. This is important.) You get dragons by merging eggs. You get eggs by, among other methods, completing levels, during which you merge all sorts of things into other things. Meanwhile, your dragons flit about the landscape, harvesting stuff from the objects you've merged and occasionally spitting fire at what emerges. There's a vague story involving a quest to heal the much-beleagured land of Dragonia of the blight laid upon it by the evil zomblins (zombie goblins, don't think too hard about), but it's not really the point. The point is, DRAGONS. And GETTING ALL THE THINGS. And DISCOVERING ALL THE MERGE CHAINS. And completing all the random goals, like "merge 5 seeds of the prism flower," which involves fending your dragons off from your slow accumulation of necromancer grass tufts so that they don't prematurely harvest them into seeds which will turn themselves into prism sprouts before you can accumulate the five you need to merge, and also you have to do that sixteen times to achieve the goal. This is how I find myself attempting to basically tire all my dragons out, like fractious toddlers, by distracting them with rocks they can harvest for stone bricks.

Oh, and there are events. Events! In which you have three days to work your way through a very, very large level, healing as much of its land as possible and maximizing its resources to earn points to get special trophy dragons and prize objects to take back to your Dragon Camp. I may have left Bluestacks running for the entire 72-hour period so that my dragons could harvest everything while I was at scrimmage or asleep. Whatever. I'm not proud of this.

Thankfully, there is only so much you can play at a time without spending money. Each new level costs a certain amount of "chalices" to play; you generate one chalice every hour; you can only hold seven chalices at a time. When you don't have enough chalices, all you can do is hang out in Dragon Camp, where each dragon eventually runs out of actions and has to go to sleep for a bit.

But, still, it's amazing how much time one can waste clicking around even a moderately advanced Dragon Camp, even when all one's dragons are asleep. There are processes that continue in their absence. Seeds blow in on the breeze. Rain clouds spawn. Bushes spit out mushroom caps. There are two entirely separate merge chains for mushrooms, do you realize? It seems unnecessary. Oh, and if you progress through all the levels of mushrooms (of either type), or bushes, or prism flowers, or whatever, you might unearth A WONDER OF THE DRAGON WORLD. Exciting! I merged some high-level bushes and unearthed RUINS OF THE SKY PALACE. (Oh, hey, did I just generate a fourth chalice? Great! Time to play the next level!)

So that's the story. I am trapped in Dragonia. There is no exit in sight. Do not send help. Stay away, far away. For the love of little yellow dandelions and all that is good in the world, not to mention your productivity in general, also your loved ones' expectations that they continue to see your face from time to time, save yourselves.

actually the only kind of dating i've ever done
Mon 2018-10-08 23:33:54 (single post)
  • 3,453 wds. long

Manuscript submissions can be thought of as something like internet dating. Manuscripts go out and meet editors. Both hope that something will click. Most often nothing does. Maybe the editor says "Not for us at this time," or maybe the author looks at the contract and says, "That's way too rights-grabby for me." And then there will be no second date. But sometimes that first date results in a match made in heaven.

Sometimes the author is like those guys Teresa Nielsen Hayden recalls less than fondly in her epic blog post Slushkiller.

An eon or two ago, when I was a girl and occasionally went on dates, I observed that there was a species of young man who’d be perfectly pleasant right up to the point where I declined to go to bed with him. Then he’d turn nasty and angry—all bridges burnt, not even minimally polite. It was clear that the sole thing that mattered was whether I’d put out.

Please, for the love of little fuzzy kittens, don't be that kind of author. It is much better to be the author who considers the whole thing as, at worst, an opportunity for a pleasant night out. I won't lie; this is made easier when the rejection letter says nice things about the manuscript. I'm only human. I respond well to encouragement. But even an impersonal, businesslike form rejection can be an encouraging thing. It means I succeeded at doing the business part of writing. I sent the thing out, and even though it came home again, I like to think it left a good impression. I like to hope I'm making friends and even fans among the editors and/or slush readers, that maybe they look forward to reading my stuff regardless of whether they can buy it. And maybe the next thing I send them will be more their type.

You can't build that kind of relationship if you're the sort of lout who throws unprofessional tantrums when someone tells you no.

I'm aware at this point that my metaphor has shifted a bit. At first it was the manuscript that was going out on dates, then it was the author, then the author was the dating service which sent the manuscript out on dates in hopes of finding The One. Only it's not ever just "The One," because there's reprint rights. The One For Now? As in, serial monogamy? Because, even though each market will want a period of exclusivity, when that period is over you are (that is, the manuscript is) free to play the field. But then the dating pool will be limited to those markets who don't mind not being The First. Annnnnd I'm going to stop right there before we wind up comparing "No reprints, original work only" to toxic attitudes toward women with sexual histories, which comparison is unfair, no good, and wrong no matter which party you're talking about.

Metaphors are, by nature, limited. Life is like a box of chocolates and ogres are like onions, but not in every way.

What I'm actually trying to say here with this tortured metaphor is, one of my manuscripts has been asked out on a second date. Yes! My little story got bumped up the editing chain! That means it's not actually worthless and unpublishable! At least, not at first glance. Not so's the first reader could tell. So I'll be over here on pins and needles until the Editor-in-Chief makes the final call.

Meanwhile, I have great hopes that this will be the week I finally get caught up on all things Friday Fictionettes. The offering for October 5th is this close to being ready for release. Wouldn't it be nice if I could release it tomorrow? Only I've got a dentist appointment, a handyworker coming over to give us an estimate on a couple small projects, and either roller derby practice or a roller derby work party. So the name of the game is low expectations. I mean, we see how well I did with unreasonable expectations, yeah? Not Well At All. So all I will promise is that I'll get some work done on the thing tomorrow, at some point, and we'll see where it goes from there.

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Max Pixel
but the universe nevertheless reminds you are loved, and that you have work to do
Tue 2018-09-25 17:13:33 (single post)
  • 1,310 wds. long

Oh hi there. So. Life has been a lot lately; hence the radio silence. Roller derby has been a lot of that lot. There was the North America West Continental Cup, as you know. Then there was our annual B-52 B-team tournament, officially branded this year as part of #ThinAirThrowdown and co-hosted with Denver Roller Derby. And then, when there should have been a week of rest and healing, roller derby suddenly became a painful place full of emotional turmoil. Things are not yet resolved, but I know that this too shall pass. In any case, I'm going to my first practice of the off-season tonight. Life's too short not to do what I love, and I love skating. And I love the people I get to skate with--that is unlikely to change.

But, all in all, roller derby has made it hard to buckle down to the writing day. So I have got a lot of writing to catch up on.

I am so very much behind on the Friday Fictionettes project. I only just pushed the September 14th offering last night ("The Poisoned Chalice," ebook, audiobook). And still I'm as much behind on the Fictionette Artifacts as I ever was. So. This week I have set myself the 100% Unreasonable Goal of releasing the fictionettes for September 21 and 28, pushing the August Fictionette Freebie to Wattpad and 4theWords, and getting caught up on the Artifacts, all by the end of the month.

My More Or Less Realistic Goal is exactly the same, just minus the Artifacts.

It's not so bad. I'm off to a good start already. This morning I went from blank page to full-length first draft on the fictionette for September 21. I might manage to get it out the door tomorrow. Then, if I can just do that two-day process all over again Thursday and Friday, the September 28 fictionette will go out on time. Follow it up with a weekend full of typing to see all overdue Artifacts in the mail Monday morning. It can be done!

If nothing else, a good percentage of it will get done, and I'll start October in a better place.

Back on the subject of roller derby... like I said, last week was rough. But on Sunday I got a couple reminders that, in the wider world, there is community and support and goodwill, and that there's still room for joy in the part of my brain where the skates are kept.

One of those reminders came as a more or less expected part of our afternoon plans. John and I took our laptops over to Vapor Distillery for a few hours of cocktails and writing (he's got his own heap of overdue writing project to contend with), and that's always a good time. Vapor Distillery makes very fine liquor. They mix an exceedingly tasty cocktail. And they're one of BCB's sponsors, so they are very generous to league members. Their generosity doesn't come in the form of a particular percentage discount. It's more sort of down to whatever the bartender feels like that day. Sometimes it's a couple bucks off the tab, or one of the afternoon's drinks free, or "hey, want to try our specialty shot? I'll do you one on the house, see how you like it." Sometimes it's more. On one memorable occasion, it was "put that back in your wallet, we've got you tonight. Yes, all of it. We're your sponsor and we love you and we're heartbroken that your practice space burned down."

Sunday's session, if I may be vague, fell somewhere in between the extremes. We were there some five hours and we drank rather a lot. We ordered Chinese food delivery so we could stay and work and drink some more. Meanwhile, the staff kibitzed with us about the football games they were watching and invited us to share their chips and dip. It was cozy. It felt like a form of self-care.

The other positive derby-related thing was completely out of the blue. That morning we went out to brunch, me and John and a friend. When the food arrived, the server said, "Your bill is taken care of, by the way, compliments of a fan of Fleur de Beast." My jaw dropped. "Seriously? Um... do I get to meet this fan and tell them thank you? Or are they a secret fan?" The server said he'd find out. As it happened, the mystery fan was shy and declined closer interaction, but they reiterated their compliments. I could only ask the server to pass along my gratitude.

And that was the occurrence that inspired this tweet, in case you saw it and were wondering.

Cover art incorporates and modifies “Haunted Tent City” (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Caitlin O’Neil-McKeown)
what i did after i came home from my summer not-so-vacation
Sat 2018-09-01 01:46:48 (single post)

It's been almost a week since I've said hi. Hi, blog! Stuff has been happening.

I came home from Omaha on Monday! I got sick! Now I'm getting better! I had a massage and a day off from practice on Tuesday, then I had classic sinusy crap on Wednesday, and then by Thursday I was feeling better enough to go to scrimmage.

That may not have been smart. I got more worn out and beat up than at either of our Continental Cup games! It being my first time back on the track in the Mile High area after spending a weekend playing derby at an elevation of only 1,090 feet might be a factor. Being sick, yeah, that was a factor too. Also relevant: we only had five skaters per bench. We played four-on-four so that everyone could get a chance to sit one jam in five, and everyone was in the jammer rotation. (You know what's fun? And by "fun" I mean "hell"? TWO-MINUTE JAMS. It is not always good news when the other jammer gets a penalty. Sometimes it just means now NOBODY has lead jammer status, and life for the next minute and a half will suuuuuuuuuck.) Then, at halftime, someone on one team had to leave. One of our skaters who had NSO'd the first half geared up to replace them. For reasons that were never entirely explained, the replacement skater was assigned to the other bench, so the second period of play featured a team of four versus a team of six. GUESS WHICH TEAM I WAS ON. Deathmarch scrim FTW! Did I mention that everybody jammed? And now nobody gets to sit out any? Woo. We got extra-long line-up time between jams, probably 45 seconds or a minute instead of the usual 30 seconds; it was just enough time for me to get just enough wind back to be able to swallow a small sip of water and then rush back out to the track.

In other derby news, archival footage is up from our games in Omaha! Here's Friday's game; here's Saturday. Archives are always free to watch. Have fun!

In still more derby news, my season would appear not to be over! I will be skating with the Bombshells in the B-team tournament bracket at the Thin Air Throwdown, which we are co-hosting at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on September 14-16. Tickets are available, and I recommend you get right on that, because in addition to the B-team tournament, there will be a round-robin exhibition of three of the highest ranked teams in the world. How often do you get to see Rose versus VRDL without leaving the state, let alone the county? So. MAKE PLANS.

Also I wrote! And finished stuff! And submitted stuff too! It's been a good week.

On Wedensday, I finally put up the Friday Fictionette for August 24. It's called "Change'll Do You Good." What kind of change? Any kind you like. Change of scenery. Change of career. Change in your social circle. Shape-changing, too, let's not forget that one. Anyway, it's about 1300 words long and available to subscribers in ebook and audio formats on Patreon.

Then I had to hurry up (as much as I could while subsisting on pseudoephedrine, Mucinex, and tea) and revise some older fictionettes for reprint submission for a deadline of TODAY. (I mean "today" as in August 31. I am aware it is has not been August 31 for a couple hours now. Shh.) I put them into the email about two hours ago and am feeling very proud of myself now. I'm actually quite pleased with how they turned out. Should they come home from today's excursions with rejections, I think they're worth the "til Hell won't have 'em" treatment. (When I finished my week at Viable Paradise in 2006, I swore the VP Graduate's Oath, which is to write, to finish what I write, to submit what I write, to paying markets, until Hell won't have 'em.) There aren't that many places that I know of that A. take reprints B. at flash length, and C. don't mind if their only previous appearance was on Patreon or by other self-publishing means, but I intend to find them all.

What with the traveling and the sick and the playing catch-up and the other, more implacable deadlines, I have not yet released the Fictionette Freebie for August. I intend to do that this weekend. I haven't selected one yet, but it probably won't be "Change'll Do You Good." Because it's only been out a few days, that's why. It would feel silly to have published it only Wednesday and then suddenly revisit it to change its "Who Can See This Post" option. Might as well have just pushed it up full public in the first place.

Look, I don't claim to make logical sense here. I'm not sure I even claim to make sense, period. But this is the sense of it I've got and I'm sticking with it until further notice.

Also scheduled for this weekend: More anti-moth activities. Yay? I finished putting the portion of the office I'd last cleaned back together last week Wednesday--which involved, you might remember, vacuuming every single book and vinegar-rinsing every single item that wasn't made out of paper--just in time to leave for Omaha. My next step will be the brick-and-board bookshelf in the bedroom, which I am now 98% sure houses its own infestation. We've been keeping doors closed so the moths don't migrate, and the bedroom's almost the only place I've seen moths all week. ALMOST. One crossed my path in the office the other day and I just about wept. I'm hoping it stumbled in after taking a tour of the house during a time when the bedroom door was left open. BUT WE'LL SEE.

Wow, that was a long post. Maybe my posts wouldn't be so stupidly long if I blogged more than once a week. More research on the subject is needed.

all's well that ends with a bang
Sat 2018-08-25 22:12:57 (single post)

Hey hey! We won today! Boulder County: 260; Pikes Peak: 167. Our goal was 1. to win, and 2. by a bigger margin than last time we played them, and, hot damn, that's what we did. Good job, BCB! Live Bold, Bleed Gold!

I'm told we looked a lot more together, cohesive, calm, and strong today, but I suspect a lot of that has to do with the difference between playing a team ranked above you and playing a team ranked below. I know I've seen footage of future opponents getting crushed by highly ranked teams and thought, "Oh, look at those weaknesses we can exploit," only to discover those weaknesses not to be in evidence when we met those opponents on the track. Or, rather, our team was less able to create and exploit weaknesses in those opponents than were the teams in the footage. Similarly, this weekend I feel as though we were pretty much the same team yesterday as today, fought just as hard and brought the same solid strategies and skills, but were more successful doing so during today's more favorable match-up.

Happy Valley, by the way, went on to lose to the number 1 seed, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, by only 100 points. There's another metric by which they were simply a stronger team than us right now. Having just now watched RMRG win their way through Calgary to tomorrow's championship game, I don't think we'd have done nearly as well against them as Happy Valley did.

And that would have been us playing RMRG if we'd won yesterday. And we would have lost. And then we would have most likely lost tomorrow to E-Ville. And that wouldn't have been as emotionally satisfying as today's win followed by our private afterparty at the hotel celebrating a veteran jammer who is retiring at the end of the season. After more than seven years with BCB and still more years than that in derby, she played her last game with us today. ALL THE FEELS were present in a big way. Also all the alcohol.

Omaha Rollergirls have been an amazing host league. Everything has gone swimmingly. Each day has gone according to schedule, and it has been clear at every moment where we needed to be. Each team was assigned a wrangler, and I can only hope the other teams had as amazing a wrangler as we did. Our wrangler was nothing less than an MVP. She took care of us in every way. She got our locker room set up, got our coaches and captains to their meetings on time, made sure we knew when our on-skates warm up was, found our bags when we lost them, high-fived us on our way out to the track, joined in with us for our silly pre-bout team bonding games and our off-skates warmup, asked us to teach her our cheers and then got led us in chanting them through the tunnels on our way to the track for today's game. She even made sure, by request, that the DJ played "Rock Lobster" for us during our on-skates warm-up. Then she boogied down on the side of the track with pompoms and red silicone lobster claws. Basically she was 100% on team BCB all weekend long. She went above and beyond to make our tournament experience not only positive but joyous. We felt so loved!

And so ends the All Stars' season, on a higher note than we could have dreamed. We've come a long way since that terrible Sunday night in June.

Tomorrow we get an unlooked-for rest day in which to relax in the stands and enjoy watching the final games of the tournament. You can watch too! (You can also listen to the live audio broadcast for free.) Then, after a little well-deserved time off, (how little will vary by the skater), the All Stars move into support mode for our Bombshells, who are preparing for our annual B-Team tournament in September--which this year is being presented as part of Denver Roller Derby's "Thin Air Throwdown," which showcases some of the very highest-level derby in the world. We'll be helping to host the three-day event, and before that, we'll be on the track at practice and scrimmage helping the Bombshells get the most out of their final month of training before playing their part in that season finale.

And after that the whole league segues into our off-season, with a lower-key combined practice schedule for all our skaters, lesser attendance requirements, and a chance to work on our skills outside of the pressure-cooker environment of the regular season when the next bout had been always just around the corner.

And next week, once I'm back in Boulder, I'm going to finally have a little time before the end of August for short story revisions and submissions. Yay!

couldn't have happened to a nicer team
Fri 2018-08-24 23:09:12 (single post)

Alas, we lost our Day 1 game. It was a decisive loss, too. Happy Valley 199, Boulder County 123. And there really wasn't much more we could have done about it. Sometimes you go in, you do all the things you've been practicing, but it's just not enough because the other team brought a better game. Some things you see going wrong, you can fix them over the course of a few jams if you're smart and you can adapt, and some of those things were in play. And we were smart, and we did adapt. But in the end I think this game was simply an accurate comparison of two teams' relative levels at this point in time. Kind of a bummer to come out on the losing end of that sort of contest, but also, in a weird way, kind of satisfying. When I know we more or less brought our best game, I can feel at peace with the results, if not precisely happy. I can skate away from it proud of how we represented ourselves to the derby world.

Our leaguemates back in Boulder were watching the livestream and cheering us on. The skater who was hosting a watch party and reporting the play-by-play to the league's Facebook chat group had a small joyous meltdown during the last jam of Period 1, when our relief jammer took the starting line for her first jam of the game and she made 18 points to the other jammer's 9. It was a great way to exit the half.

Also, I came back to the locker room at the half to find one of my friends from Steel City had tweeted this:

It’s always easy to spot @nicolejleboeuf on the track for @BCBDerby with her power braid and her power blocking.

Power braid. You heard it here. Also: *blush*

The sad outcome of the loss, though, is we don't get to play a game on Sunday. We just play tomorrow at 2 PM Central and that's it. Dang it, I came to play! I came to play three games! I want my Sunday game back! *Sigh*

But the silver lining is, it's a team we've already played this year (at the Mayhem tournament in May), and that was a game we won. So we're heading into tomorrow's game feeling it to be a familiar task which we can approach with confidence. Not overconfidence, mind. That way lies carelessness and disappointment. But confidence, certainly.

Tomorrow: Boulder County Bombers vs. Pikes Peak Derby Dames (Colorado Springs), 2 PM Central. Watch it live here.


derby to eat my weekend live in HD
Thu 2018-08-23 22:34:22 (single post)

Hi, y'all. I'm in Omaha (well, actually, Ralston), Nebraska at the Holiday Inn that shares a parking lot with the Ralston Arena (see?), and tomorrow is Day 1 of the North America West Continental Cup. Basically, it's Division 2 Playoffs only under a new regional structure. And the Boulder County Bombers are playing.

Here's the page with the livestream.

According to the bracket/schedule that's on the same page, we play tomorrow at 2:00 PM Central Time. Our opponents will be the Happy Valley Derby Darlins, out of Utah County. After that, our next game will be Saturday: at 10 AM if we win our Friday game, or at 2 PM if we lose it. (Obviously we hope to win it.)

I'll try to post updates as the tournament progresses.

If you watch, what I tell everyone is, look for the short blocker with the long braid skating under the number 504--that's me. Alternately, look for the skater with the long, colorful hand-knit stockings. "Aren't you hot in those socks?" "Of course. I look hot in all my socks."

If you can't watch live, you'll be able to watch it in reruns. Soon after the end of the tournament, probably by the middle of next week, all NAW Cup games will be available to watch free of charge in the WFTDA.tv archives. But of course by then it may be difficult to avoid spoilers.

That's about all I've got right now. Driving from Boulder to Omaha pretty much wiped us out. Right now I'm just lying here in bed, exhausted and pleasantly full of terrible insta-meals from the hotel pantry, listening to the derby sounds emanating from Papa Whiskey's computer while he does some last-minute "know your enemy" footage review. I should be watching it too, but I'm not sure I can make it all the way to the other side of the bed at this time. That would require energy and volition and stuff.

So for now I will give in to the sleepies, the better to wake up bright and early. Hotel breakfast starts at 6:30, and the tournament track will be available for testing our wheels on from 8:00 to 9:00. I do not consider either event optional.

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Pixabay.
but what is achievable is itself worthwhile, and worth celebrating
Mon 2018-08-13 20:53:09 (single post)

This week is off to a great start. I'm kind of being sarcastic here, but also not. Not sarcastic because I have been so productive! Even over the weekend! But also sarcastic because MOTHS. Awful, awful moths. Awful, awful levels of intense household cleaning required. So. Great start, week of August 13. Good job.

I should mention that last week's Friday Fictionette was released perfectly on time--and really on time, too, not just in the virtual sense but the technical one, before midnight on actual-factual Friday the 10th. It's called "Protocol for Visiting Witches," available both in ebook formats and as an audiobook. It's about right and wrong ways to do urban exploring. It's also about stories, and about who gets to be the protagonist. It will make you hungry for brownies. It might make you hungry for bad chowder and charred hamburgers, which would be OK but slightly baffling.

So that was good. Also good was doing my daily freewriting and fictionette prep work both days of the weekend, and also this morning. Productive! And I've got more stuff planned for the evening. I have a handful of rejection letters to log. I have a manuscript to send out again to a new place. I have several flash stories to revise for submission. This week is going to be great.

Except for the moths. Great.

Understand I am not talking about the kind of moths that sit on the wall with their painted wings splayed for all to admire. I'm talking about that bane of every fibercrafter's existence, the clothes moth. I had an infestation shortly before we moved two years ago, resulting in the loss of a heartbreaking amount of my stash, and now I've got another and it sucks. This time, thankfully, they don't seem to be getting into my fiber or yarn. Welllll, not this year. Last year they obliged me to thow out a couple bags of mohair a friend had given me, which was sad, but the infestation seemed to leave the house with the fleece. I did a bunch of medium-intensity cleaning in the area, just to be safe, and then winter came on, and the moths stopped appearing.

They're back this summer. They're all over the house. I squish them when I see them, and then I race into the office to peer at my black lamb fleece and my alpaca and the rest. Everything looks fine, so I breathe a sigh of relief. I assume the moths are being attracted to something else. Maybe the gunk in the sink. Maybe they're not clothes moths at all. I don't know.

Then I tidy the sheets on the futon in the office Saturday afternoon and I find honest-to-Gods larvae.

That's it! High-intensity cleaning commences. This will be my bible. With it, and through heroic, methodic, thorough effort, I will erase the scourge from my life!

It's not like I can drop everything and flash-sterilize the whole house in a day. Realistically, I can only manage high-intensity cleaning at the rate of one small bite each day. And each day, though I do my best, I know I'm missing something. So each day I repeat my mantra: Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. I said this to myself lots of times yesterday as I wiped down a bookshelf's every surface with diluted vinegar, as I vacuumed the crevices and cracks with every attachment on the Dust Devil, as I cleaned the dust from every book before putting it back on the shelf. As I laundered the sheets for the futon in hot water and dried them on high heat. As I cleaned the futon frame. As I vacuumed the futon itself and tumble-dried the pillows on hot. Perfection is not attainable, but improvement is. And isn't it nice to have that fraction of the house clean?

Today's small bite continued cleaning efforts counterclockwise around the office walls. I emptied the brick-and-board bookshelf of all books and took it apart into its component pieces and got ready to wipe and crevice-vacuum and clean every book and--

I found the infestation.

Each of the bricks has a piece of felt glued to whatever side contacts the boards. That felt was moth-eaten. That felt housed masses of moth eggs. That felt was Ground Zero.

Today's cleaning got serious. The bricks went outside. My clothes, full of dust from moving the boards and bricks, went in the washer immediately to prevent my carrying viable moth eggs elsewhere through the house. The carpet where the bricks had been got vacuumed multiple times, once per hose attachment and then, after blotting with the vinegar-water solution, once again. Everything came off the top of the file cabinet because I wanted to increase the radius of my "small bite." The boards got wiped down with the vinegar solution. Where felt was stuck to the boards, felt was scraped off with a chisel--to hell with the wood finish. As much felt as possible got scraped off the bricks and the bricks went into the oven. New felt went into the oven too, at a temperature of 170 degrees (our oven's "keep warm" setting), to pre-treat it before gluing strips of it onto the thoroughly treated bricks (which got vinegared after they came out the oven, just in case.)

The books are still stacked up waiting to be cleaned. The bookshelf components are still waiting to be put back together. Once you glue new strips of felt down, it takes time for them to dry. If I put the boards on too soon, the felt will get stuck to them. So the office is currently a mess.

But this particular infestation is gone.

I'm not done, mind you. I won't be done even once I put the bookshelf back together. For one thing, there is probably another infestation in the bedroom; the brick-and-board bookshelf in there is simply the other half of what's in the office, all of which was next to that very first infestation at our old address. It would make sense for moths to be colonizing and feeding off the felt on those bricks, too--and it would explain why moths keep showing up in the master bedroom and bath. And even if that weren't the case, good anti-moth hygiene says you do preventative cleaning across the whole house radiating out from the infestation site. So the days to come will also have their small bites of high-intensity cleaning.

It's going to feel very good to have it all done and behind me.

Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. And improvement is very, very satisfying.

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from www.tokkoro.com
YPP Weekend Blockades, August 4-5: Guess who's back? No, not ME. I mean THEM.
Sat 2018-08-04 14:34:41 (single post)
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The Friday Fictionette for August 3 went up last night (very late last night). It's called "We're All in This Together." It's sort of about consensual dytopias and sort of weird. Subscribers can download the ebook and/or audiobook from Patreon. Interested non-subscribers may wish to check out the Fictionette Freebie for July 2018, "Mardel's Salamander" (ebook, audiobook), which involves bad software programming habits and dragon dreams.

It feels rather novel to have that finished before waking up on Saturday morning. Now all I have to do is everything else I have to do today. I have crossfit at noon-thirty, and a Boulder County Bombers promotional event at the Boulder County Fair (come see us!), and some web design/copyediting work that should have got done this past week, and I also have to see a friend about a cat. It's going to be a full Saturday.

But I have determined, regardless, for the first Saturday in quite some time, to get back to the Saturday video game blogging. Because THAT'S a high-priority endeavor. Look, I haven't been playing Puzzle Pirates in... months! I feel kind of guilty about it. I'm definitely not feeling motivated to run around logging into the five servers to compile the blockade schedule. But I really should get back in the habit. If nothing else, it's a reason to log in with each of my accounts every week, thereby dispelling the risk of those accounts getting deleted for inactivity. Because, knowing me, one day I will be returning to the pixelated oceans, and when I do, it would be very sad to discover my ten-year-old accounts have all dusted. So let's not do that.

Meanwhile, hey! A YPP blockade round-up. (It's down here.) On the Meridian Ocean, it looks like Velt's Boiyz is either taking advantage of Dragon Lords's absentia or else giving vent to a great big grudge match. Or aiding Dragon Lord in handing off all their islands in the most entertaining way possible? I don't know--I haven't checked the forum yet to see if anyone's posted about it. I do not yet have time. In any case, we're talking about a whole bunch of simultaneous war chests dropping, most at 2:30 PM and a few at 6:25ish.

Annnnnnd it's time to go to crossfit. Standby...

{{the cheery tune playing softly in the background turns out to be a Muzak rendition of "Enter Sandman"}}

...And we're back. It's two hours later. I have done a number of sadistic hard exercise things that I'm told will, in the long run, make me stronger. They have in the short term made me stiff and sore and sweaty. And also hungry. I'm having lunch. And I'm browsing the Puzzle Pirates forums, where, yes, Velt's Boiyz have indeed made an announcement that they are back and ready to take over the ocean. They are also making CAMPAIGN PROMISES which some pirates are BUSILY FACT-CHECKING.

In other video game news, which is to say, the main reason I haven't been playing YPP, that being my continuing obsession with Spiral Knights: The tortodrones, they are marching. I've never participated in this event before--the entry fee is kind of high. I mean, first you gotta collect all the fiendish materials, then you gotta combine them along 10Kcr into a fiendish ID card, then you gotta spend the fiendish ID card (one use only!) to go through the Grim Gate, and then you gotta survive. I suppose I could try going with a party, but it's been a very long time since I've tried playing SK with random parties. I've kind of lost the hang of dealing with strangers in MMOs. Whether I'll get it back remains to be seen. Every day it's like, "Er, not today. I only have an hour to play so I kinda gotta be in charge of the experience."

So off I go, grinding Devilite levels and hoping for the best. I'm also working on gathering resources to craft the Obsidian Crusher, which is the 5-star bomb you make using materials gained during the Shroud of the Apocrea event. (I already have the special event materials, but I still need the Elite Orbs of Alchemy.) I've got a rather full plate in the Clockworks, is what I'm saying.

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, August 4 ***

12:00 p.m. - Havoc Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (1)

2:29 p.m. - Terra Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

2:30 p.m. - Fintan Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

2:30 p.m. - Labyrinth Moors, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

2:30 p.m. - Kirin Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

2:31 p.m. - Harmattan Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

2:31 p.m. - Ansel Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

6:24 p.m. - Swampfen Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

6:25 p.m. - Olive Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

6:25 p.m. - Carmine Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

6:26 p.m. - Spectre Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Velt's Boiyz

*** Sunday, August 5 ***

10:00 a.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Jinx (1)

10:00 a.m. - Corona Reef, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Jinx (1)

10:00 a.m. - Viridis Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Jinx (1)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, August 4 ***

12:00 p.m. - Pranayama Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: The Wanton
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

The Friday Fictionette for July 27, 2018 is belatedly available. Cover art incorporates original photography by the author.
the good news is we don't have to go deeper
Mon 2018-07-30 23:07:41 (single post)

Today we're gonna talk about procrastination. Or, rather, avoidance; procrastination is merely a common visible symptom of avoidance, Avoidance that, in my case, leads to further avoidance. Contagious avoidance that infects previously unaffected tasks. Recursive avoidance. Self-referential avoidance. Meta avoidance.

(If you just said "Avoidance inception! We must go deeper!" then you need to go sit in the corner with a dictionary and think about what you've done. The popular Leonardo DiCaprio movie about dreams within dreams within dreams notwithstanding, all "inception" means is "the starting point." Also, when it comes to avoidance, no we must not go deeper. We do not ever want to go deeper. We'd kind of like to surface, please. Soonest. Thank you.)

The avoidance is made up of more avoidance. Hypothetical solutions to the avoidance get bitten by the avoidance bug. Take the task I'm avoiding apart into its component steps, and those steps into baby steps, and there's avoidance attached at every level, all the way down.

Avoidance, my friends, is fractal.

Here is how that works in my brain:

  1. There is a task I am avoiding.
  2. In an attempt to make myself stop avoiding it, I put it first on the day's to-do list. That means I have to do it in order to get to the rest of the day's work.
  3. Stupid monkey brain says, "So if you keep avoiding task number one, then you never have to do tasks two through fourteen, several of which you are also avoiding."
  4. NOTHING GETS DONE. I SUCK.

Ah, but I see that dynamic coming a mile away, and I want nothing to do with it. I flip things around! Back to front and upside down! But as it turns out, avoidance is not only recursive and contagious but also transitive and commutative:

  1. There is a task I am avoiding.
  2. In an attempt to salvage the rest of the day, I decide to do all the tasks I'm not avoiding first. That means at least something will get done. And maybe the uplift of "I did a thing!" will help me approach the much-avoided task at last.
  3. Stupid monkey brain says, "So if you don't do all the other tasks, you won't ever have to do the much-avoided task. You just won't ever get to it. The problem simply won't arise."
  4. Bonus: All the other tasks get tainted with the miasma of avoidance clinging to the much-avoided task. Now I have more much-avoided tasks.
  5. NOTHING GETS DONE. I SUCK.

If life were like a sudoku puzzle, the conclusion would be really depressing. See, there's this strategy for solving extremely difficult sudoku called "forcing chains." It can be summarized like so: Find a candidate in a cell and examine the consequences of it being the answer for that cell. Now examine the consequences of it not being the answer for that cell. If in both cases the same result obtains elsewhere in the puzzle, then you can confidently include that result in your solution. For instance, if a 5 in J9 forces E1 not to be a 6, and J9 not being a 5 also forces E1 not to be a 6, then you know that, whatever else may be the case, E1 simply can't be 6.

Likewise, in both the case where I put the much-avoided task first, and the case where I don't put the much-avoided task first, the same result obtains: NOTHING GETS DONE AND I SUCK. Therefore I should just resign myself to nothing getting done. And sucking.

Thank goodness life is not a sudoku puzzle.

PS. I finally uploaded the Friday Fictionette for July 27. It's "Highlights for Creator Gods." Ebook and HTML here, audiobook here. And if I am very good and it doesn't slip my mind, the freebie for July gets announced tomorrow.

PPS. I submitted another story today. I DON'T SUCK.

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