“I don't take much notice of critics, except when they praise me extravagantly.”
Philip Pullman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

So it turns out this pen writes on BOTH these paper products equally well after all. Who know?
fountain pen NRE
Fri 2020-05-29 20:26:05 (single post)

So the Platinum Curidas arrived last week to much fanfare and excitement! It actually arrived two days earlier than the USPS Tracking widget predicted. I've spent the last week on and off putting it through its paces, and I think I'm ready to make a report.

Here are the pictures I took of it when it arrived. You can see what an elegant piece of work it is, especially in the photo where it's all disassembled. And don't miss the close-up of the nib retracting behind the little turtle flap! It's very impressive. It's relatively slim, which me and my wee little hands prefer. At 27 grams, it handles like the heavier sort of ballpoint--you know, the fancy-schmancy showoff sort. But without the cigar-shaped barrel (thank goodness).

The clicking action of deploying and retracting the nib is a little jolting; after filling it, I expect it will be more important than usual to blot the nib a bit to avoid spattering.

I had a real disappointment, though, when I used it for last week Friday's morning pages session. I assumed this had to do with my poor choice of notebook. I really like the BioBased "environotes" notebooks, both for being made of ecologically sustainable fiber and also just for their heft. But their paper is super absorbant and, frankly, terrible for fountain pens. Which hasn't stopped me from writing in them with my Sheaffer student demonstrator, my Sheaffer Agio, and John's Lamy Safari. All of the above have fine-tipped nibs, though what that means varies between manufacturer and even between models by the same manufacturer; the Agio's nib feels more like a medium while the student feels extra-fine. In all cases, the ink bleeds dramatically through this notebook's pages, making it hard to read what I've written once I've written on both sides. But morning pages mostly aren't meant to be read ever again, and besides, my handwriting is atrocious.

But I couldn't get through three lines on that paper with the Platinum Curidas. It simply shut down, nib dry as dust. I was able to finish my session by treating it like a dip pen, and each dip got me another five or six lines before, again, the flow just stopped. My suspicion was that the nib's feed must be exceptionally narrow, and the absorbent paper was wicking the ink out of it faster than it could refill itself.

This suspicion, happily, turned out to be wrong. But I didn't find that out until just now.

So earlier today, I joined a Nebula Conference panel on fountain pens (because of course there was a panel on fountain pens), and while I listened to people geeking out about their favorite pens and ink and paper, I took the time to experiment further with the Platinum Curidas by writing out a handful of Postcards to Voters. I had to dip the pen once to restart its flow, but it flowed very well after that, gamely working its way through four postcards without a hitch. (One of the panel attendees, in response to my mentioning this pen in the text chat, warned me that there have been incidences of hairline cracks discovered in the feed and that I might want to examine mine closely. If the linked blog post is representative of what she was talking about, then so far so good. But I'll keep an eye on it going forward.)

So now that the ink was flowing nicely, I thought I'd experiment again with the Biobased environotebook. Hot damn! It worked great. Wrote my way down a quarter of the page, and nary a hiccup. Nary any visible "spread" in the stroke, either, despite how absorbent the paper is, and ridiculously minimal bleedthrough, too. So I guess the problem was temporary, or its long-term nature has yet to be determined, and in any case I can incorporate the Platinum Curidas into my morning pages rotation after all, at least for now. Yay?

tl;dr: DID I MENTION FOUNTAIN PENS ARE GREAT? THEY ARE GREAT.

63rd St. Farm gets Gemma's stamp of approval.
salad days are here
Thu 2020-05-28 17:49:31 (single post)

Speaking of annual events that have been affected by the pandemic, today was the first veggie pick-up of 63rd St. Farm's 2020 CSA season. I was both excited about it and dreading it. Excited because, obviously, yay! farm-fresh produce! Also extra variety in greens for the bunnies. But I was kinda dreading submitting myself to yet another errand that had been made more arduous by contagion-suppression processes.

There were three processes each member could choose from, but only one gave me the option to be picky about my veggies and therefore probably not take home an unwanted bunch of cilantro. There are very few things I will not eat, and cilantro isn't precisely one of them--it's omnipresent in Colorado and in many of the cultural cuisines I enjoy, so I've worked up a tolerance more or less out of self-defense--but it's certainly something I will choose not to eat it if I get that choice without causing others too much inconvenience. Although, John points out, if I did wind up with a bunch of cilantro, the bunnies would most certainly eat it for us. But I'd still have to handle it, get the smell all over my hands, and, well, if at all possible, no thanks. (No, it's not that I think cilantro tastes like soap. I think marjoram tastes like soap. I think cilantro tastes like cilantro. And I don't like the taste of cilantro. It is a preference that reasonable people can have, as it happens.) So although I was wistfully tempted by the convenience of the two options involving prepackaged shares, I opted to come on out and select my veggies myself under the farm's strict sanitation and separation rules.

Pick-up hours were from 3:00 to 7:00. I arrived right at 3. And the line of cars was already well out the entrance driveway and damn near sticking out into 63rd street. There was just room for me to squeeze in at the end of the line without blocking traffic. And that was with every driver conscientiously inching up to compress the line just as much as they possibly could. Then the line moved slowly, slowly, slowly along the driveway (I'd brought a book to read, it was cool) toward the check-in station, where the farmers would check off that you'd arrived, give you your instructions, and, if you wanted to buy something extra, like honey or eggs or herbal products, sell you something extra. (I bought a dozen eggs).

After the check-in station, everything smoothed out. I hung a right into their Brand! New! Parking lot! (it wasn't technically much bigger than the old one, but it had a better traffic flow, and that made it feel HUGE) and got myself parked. My next stop was the hand-washing station, which was equipped with liquid soap and running water and paper towels and also a sign reminding you to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Then I took a plastic bag from the box of Brand! New! Plastic bags! (we were asked not to bring any from home, and also to save these for use in future, less complicated times) and headed over to the veggie cart.

"Cart" feels like an understatement; the word makes me think of shopping carts and bike trailers and, at most, small horse-drawn conveyances. This was more like a large horse-drawn conveyance, maybe 20 feet long by 6 feet wide, with vegetables arranged along its circumference on a shelf like a grocery store's produce display. Four people were allowed to be at the cart at once; more than that and you waited in line with 10-foot separation. Vegetables were pre-bagged in amounts labeled according to share size (I have a half-share, which is less than a full but more than a small). All you had to do was grab the bags that corresponded with your share size, make that tough choice between chard or kale or collard greens (I've got okra and mirliton at home, of course I chose collards), and maybe sometimes ask for supplies of this or that to be replenished. Which they would be from the prepackaging station where a number of farm staff were very busy not only keeping the cart supplied but also putting together the drive-up shares for those who chose Option #2.

So it all went very smoothly. Everyone, members and farm staff alike, was cheerful and polite and wore their face masks like responsible and caring community members do. The whole experience was much more pleasant than I'd anticipated. And as I left, I saw that the line of cars had now entirely outgrown the driveway and extended for several hundred feet along the shoulder of north-bound 63rd Street, so clearly I'd done well to get there right at 3. In fact, I might try for 2:45 next week. Maybe also budget time to order some pizza to take home. The smells coming from the brick oven were hugely tempting.

Anyway, I got home with fresh veg, made up a plate for the bunnies, and then made up a salad for myself. All in all, it was a successful outing.

to do this weekend: attend the nebulas
Wed 2020-05-27 17:28:07 (single post)

Like every year, this weekend SFWA will announce the recipients of this year's Nebula Awards. And, like every year, there will be a weekend-long conference centered on the award ceremony.

What's different, obviously, is the COVID-19 pandemic. So for the first time, this year's Nebula Conference will be entirely online. And while it's a bummer not to get to hang out with people in person, the truth is, I wouldn't ordinarily have been there in person. A lot of people wouldn't. Travel is a non-trivial expense in more ways than the monetary. But now travel is not a factor at all. All you need is an up-to-date computer, an internet connection, and the $150 membership fee.

So I signed up and I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. But the first official activities were this past weekend. There was a reception on Saturday evening, May 23rd, to celebrate all the Nebula Award finalists (two hours of awesome audiobook narrators reading excerpts of awesome stuff!) and to give conference attendees a chance to say hi to each other, first via text chat during the reception and later during the room parties.

I went to a room party. I connected to the main Zoom room, and the hosts there redirected me, at my request, to the karaoke party. I'd never done online karaoke before. It was pretty chill. I understand there was also a bar room, where a bartender would assist you with drink-mixing instructions. I may try that one of the evenings this weekend. And of course there will be All! The! Panels! to attend. I've very excited about this.

But first I have another frustrating session of juggling sound drivers ahead of me. That's right--the sound lag static bug is back. ARGH. I discovered this during last night's Spiral Knights session (just a relaxing hour or so soloing the Shroud of the Aprocrea prestige mission and listening to the soothing sounds of the Apocrean Harvester stalking me through the graveyard) which was intolerable over the computer's speakers. Today I experimented with voice recording, and the distortion was there too. Either I get this settled, or I'm going to have to connect to the Nebula Conference on the aging Asus, and I'm not looking forward to that.

But that is not your concern. What concerns you is whether you wish to attend the Nebula Conference, attend all the panels, enjoy all the room parties, sing all the karaoke, and mix all the drinks; or simply watch the award ceremony on Facebook, which you can do for free.

Or none of the above, I guess, but that's not the fun option.

Behold! (Click through to see more gorgeous pictures in the slideshow on the product page.)
did i mention i love fountain pens i may have mentioned this once or twice
Wed 2020-05-20 19:10:10 (single post)

I am very excited! The Goulet Pen Company has at long last resumed shipping orders, and the pen I ordered is scheduled to arrive SATURDAY! Eeeeeee.... This is it: the Platinum Curidas retractable fountain pen. I've never owned a retractable fountain pen before. I hope it's as pleasant to write with as it is to look at.

I ordered it because April had begun, which meant my birthday was coming up, which meant I should give myself a treat. Well. Turns out I should have waited until the actual date of my birthday, because that's when Goulet sent me a Happy Birthday email with a coupon code for a free random 8-pack of ink samples. And of course then it was way too late to add that coupon and item to my fancy pen order! *facepalm* And, what with the pandemic and all, all Goulet shipments were on hold while all Goulet staff were working remote. Shipments would resume when it was safe to return to the building, whenever that would be. I didn't want to have two orders sitting in limbo.

But then I got the email saying that my pen was on its way! Also, I'd just run two of my J. Herbin bottles dry. So, what the heck, how about I order some replacements in the blue-to-turquoise range, maybe try out a couple Noodler's inks just to shake things up? And then thwack the free samples on top, since the coupon code was good for up to 30 days past my birthday?

But Goulet's free shipping offer only applies to orders of $50 or more. Two bottles of ink comes only up to about half that...

So I ended up ordering four Noodler's bottles. Coupla turquoisy blues (Liberty's Elysium, Blue Nose Bear) and a couple of excitingly heirloomish reds (Red Black, Black Swan). And the "Surprise me!" 8-pack of samplers free with birthday coupon code, of course. WELL PLAYED, GOULET.

No idea when that will ship--Goulet's got quite a backlog to work through--but I'm sure it will be a delightful surprise in more than one way when it arrives.

In summary: SQUEE! FOUNTAIN PENS!

Food goes in here.
the more skating but also more eating take-out diet
Thu 2020-05-14 18:18:22 (single post)

My roller derby league is challenging its members to skate an ULTRAMARATHON IN MAY. There are sponsors, there will be prizes, there is certainly competition. And I can tell you right now, I am not likely to complete even Tier 1. I'll keep track of my miles, but I have pretty much zero ambition about it.

But now I'm curious. I have been doing a fair amount of street skating recently (if somewhat less over the past couple weeks since it's been raining off and on). How much of it am I doing? At the rate I'm doing it, how long will take me to accumulate 26.2 miles of skating?

What if all the skating I was doing was to pick up take-out meals?

(Could I stop using GrubHub entirely? There are so many reasons.)

Could I SKATE A TAKE-OUT MARATHON?

Last week Tuesday, the day that I and my computer received a visit from that onsite tech who was a total tool, I got it in my head to skate to My Ramen & Izakaya. I began placing the order online on the backup laptop while the tech finished up with my Dell Inspiron and prepared to leave. I hadn't quite finished placing the order when the computer stalled out in its attempt to load Windows. While the tech yelled at Dispatch over the phone, I stared longingly at the computer screen. Then I put on my gear and rolled around the house gathering facemask, bluetooth headphones, and wallet. The instant the tech left, I hit SUBMIT on my take-out order and rolled the heck out of there. I figured, by now, between the tech visit gone wrong and the exercise I was currently getting, I would deserve my tantanmen ramen and Japanese pancakes. And yes, I did deserve those tasty treats, even if I probably shouldn't have eaten them all in one sitting. I went to bed painfully full but very happy. Or, at least, considering the loss of the use of my good laptop, more happy than I would have been otherwise.

Distance skated: 1.58 miles.

That worked out so well, I thought I'd do it again yesterday. Only this time I was in the mood for Buddha Thai. John was game--I could put him down for medium-spicy tofu pad thai any old evening. Me, I got the drunken noodles with seafood combo. I skated there mostly along the streets, taking advantage of bike lanes and multi-use sidewalks. At the restaurant, I took off my wrist guards and donned the disposable gloves that the restaurant had made available on a table outside the door. I put the entrees into my old Rock Boat soft-side thermal tote and poured the Thai iced tea into my old Einstein Bros. to-go mug with lid. Then there was a minimal amount of cross-stepping across a corner of lawn after skating over to the nearest trash receptacle to dispose of the gloves and the plastic cup and straw. Then, back home to stuff myself silly!

Distance skated: 1.20 miles.

At this rate, I will probably not skate a take-out marathon in May. But if I do this instead of ordering delivery more often, I will certainly be getting good exercise to go along with my tasty food!

a long road to nowhere but with some interesting stops along the way
Tue 2020-05-12 23:45:53 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

Item the first: I want to make sure I've linked y'all to the correct version of the Dreams and Nightmares website, which is here: https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/. That's kind of important, since the place I linked you before is out of date; I hadn't realized that where it said the May issue had just been released, it was referring to May 2011. Whoops. Sometimes I am not a very careful reader.

It's early days yet. The issue featuring my poem "The Ascent of Inanna" won't be out until September. But why not get a head-start on bookmarking the webpage and maybe subscribing? (I will point out again that for $90, the same price as a three years' subscription outside the US, you can get yourself subscribed for life.) Meanwhile, the editor is posting a new poem every day on the magazine's blog (the page you'll land on when you click the link above), so you might as well make a habit of checking back every day, maybe over your lunch break. Doesn't lunch go down better with poetry? I certainly think it does.

Item the second: The Laptop Saga appears to have arrived at a satisfying conclusion, if by a long and twisty route. No, Thursday's replacement replacement motherboard did not resolve matters. But it got the ball rolling in the right direction.

Also, the onsite technician who visited on Thursday? He was a lot more pleasant than Tuesday's guy.

Tuesday's guy--I won’t sugarcoat this--he was a tool. Rather a jerk, is what I'm saying. He was the kind of guy who shows up during a pandemic under Colorado's "Safer at Home" phase of restrictions with no mask and no gloves (which I was cautiously OK with) and a snide attitude about how "everyone's getting paranoid these days" (which made me less OK about the no mask or gloves thing). The kind of guy who asks you what's going on with your computer, and when you try to answer, he talks over you. The kind of guy who says "I've been doing this thirty years, trust me, I know what I'm talking about" multiple times in a conversation. The kind of guy who, when the planned hardware replacement results in unplanned problems (the aforementioned failure to load Windows), calls up Dell Dispatch and straight-up abuses the dispatch tech. "Do you even know what you're doing? Look, I've been doing this 30 years, I am telling you, this motherboard is glitchy! It needs to be replaced!" The kind of guy who then, after hanging up the phone, starts explaining to you, his captive audience, why it was justified for him to yell at the dispatch tech like that, that dispatch tech doesn't know what he's doing, dealing with people like that dispatch tech is so hard. Also, the onsite tech was white and the dispatch tech was not, but that couldn't possibly have factored into the situation, could it? (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

So Tuesday's onsite tech made everything extremely uncomfortable. But a different technician showed up Thursday to install the replacement motherboard, and the difference was like night and day.

Thursday's tech was not a tool. Thursday's tech was entirely pleasant. Thursday's tech I would quite happily go out for beers with, or coffee, once we're allowed to go out to bars and cafes again, and talk tech and play board games.

To start with, he had no snide attitude about the pandemic; on the contrary, he arrived in facemask and gloves, and he opted to do the repair out on the front patio, "to minimize contact." So I, too, donned a facemask and helped him get set up on the folding table and chair out there. I pried open the screen on the office window so we could pass the laptop's charger cable through. Then I hung out at my desk in the office so we could easily communicate through the window while practicing responsible social distancing.

When he asked me questions about the computer, he listened when I answered. When I had questions, he took them seriously.

When he found the screws that the previous tech had stripped, he replaced them. (Seriously. Tuesday's awful toolish, jerkish tech stripped the screws. I suppose that, when he said, for the tenth or twentieth time, "I've been doing this 30 years," I should have asked, "Doing what?")

And then, after Thursday's entirely pleasant and professionally cautious tech put my computer together again, and it booted up successfully, he said, "I've got a couple other appointments in the area; when I'm done with those, I'll give you a call to see how it's doing and whether you need me to come back." That's how awesome Thursday's tech was.

And indeed, when we spoke again, the computer was not doing so great. Again, on the second or maybe third reboot, right after I installed all the drivers Dell's SupportAssist app told me to install, it choked. Black screen, Dell logo, infinitely revolving wheel of dots forever. Alas.

So the tech set me up another dispatch, one where they ship me a box for me to ship the computer back to the Repair Depot, and that was that.

Only, over the weekend, I got to thinking--am I really helpless here? Does my laptop have to be a paperweight? Must I limp along on the backup ASUS, afraid of running two programs at the same time for fear of bringing the whole machine to a grinding halt? So I booted up the Dell, tapped F8 until the advanced startup options menu appeared, and I invoked Windows Startup Repair.

And it worked. Dang thing rolled back the driver installs and booted up like a charm.

After that, I installed the recommended drivers one by one until I hit the one that caused Windows to fail to load. Turned out to be one of the optional drivers. Easy enough to just refrain from reinstalling it. Meanwhile, replacing the motherboard did seem to have resolved my webcam flicker issue. Sound out the speakers was worse than ever, but after some hours spent juggling Realtek drivers I apparently hit a winning combination; the stutter-lag-static is more or less gone now. I was able join in yesterday’s co-writing session over Zoom and my writing group’s critique session today over Discord without any problems.

The only real issue of note is that the power button will only power the computer on; any attempts to perform a hard shut-down by depressing the power button fail. Which is weird, but hardly worth shipping my computer away for a week. If the computer stops responding and I need a hard shut-down option, I know how to detach the battery.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the computer's fine now.

The box for shipping the computer to Dell arrived yesterday. I emailed the Repair Center to let them know I won't be using it. And they're cool with that.

The Fictionette Freebie for April 2020. Cover image incorporates and modifies photo sourced from Pixabay.
surfacing in between crises to bring you all sorts of flash fiction (not all of it is mine)
Tue 2020-05-05 23:21:31 (single post)
  • 950 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,189 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,260 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,240 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm still catching up on last week, and this week isn't helping. The bunnies are settling in nicely, and the water-from-the-ceiling crisis is resolved with the exception of needing to replace the vent fan--an irritation, but hardly an emergency. However, the laptop warranty repair situation is blowing up again.

The Onsite Technician came to visit today and replaced the motherboard and speakers, and for a few lovely minutes everything worked. We played and recorded sound, and there was no static. We tested the webcam, and there was no flicker. Hooray! So I signed the paperwork that said "All is resolved," the tech walked out the door... and I noticed the laptop's latest reboot cycle hadn't finished. I ran out to grab the tech before he could disappear, and he took a look. The reboot still never finished. Also it wouldn't respond to holding down the power button; the only way to turn it off was to unplug it and detach the battery.

So Thursday I get another visit from another tech with another new motherboard and maybe a hard drive too. And I'm using the backup Asus laptop because I can't even boot up the Dell in Safe Mode, with or without networking. The tech managed it once, but damn if I can figure out how. Good thing I backed every little thing up that changed since the last time I backed every little thing up, because I don't think I'm getting into that computer again without another Windows reinstall.

Nevertheless, I have been working diligently in between all these interruptions, and have at last arrived at the point where I can bring you the April 2020 Friday Fictionette Roundup!

Friday, April 3, 2020: "Real Friends" (ebook, audiobook) In which the protagonist discovers her origin story and determines to get real--and to take her best friend Samantha with her.

Friday, April 10, 2020: "Marla in Two Rooms" (ebook, audiobook) In which Marla endeavors to be a model citizen, unlike her parents and big sister.

Friday, April 17, 2020: "Human Capital" (ebook, audiobook) In which euphemisms aren't.

Friday, April 24, 2020: "She Danced for the Queen" (ebook, audiobook) In which the curse on the Beast and his castle turns out to be transferable. Now the Fictionette Freebie for April 2020!

The Friday Fictionette Project is short-short stories by subscription, a new one every first through fourth Friday (or, as we see from last weeks, a near facsimile thereof), which you can access as an ebook (HTML, PDF, epub, Kindle mobi) for $1/month and as an audiobook (mp3) for $3/month. Powered by Patreon. At the end of each month, one of that month's releases gets to fly and be freeeeeeee! to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

All right! So. That done, my next task is to make sure not to be late with the Friday Fictionette scheduled for May 8, or at least endeavor to be less late. Thankfully, there is a fifth Friday at the end of this month, which I hope to use to get a week ahead of schedule so that weeks bearing multiple crises (or, hey, weeks with a roller derby bout at the end, assuming we get to have roller derby bouts again someday!) don't throw the whole schedule off.

Also I am participating in the latest Escape Artists flash fiction contest, which means I have a lot of very short stories to read and vote on. You, too, can participate as a reader and a voter, even without entering a story! Just point your browser at the Escape Artists Forum, register yourself an account, then go find the "Flash Fiction Contest VI - Escape Pod" in The Arcade. (As a new forum user, pay especial attention to the thread "Can't see the story groups? Post here!")

It is an anonymous contest, so I can neither confirm nor deny any guesses as to which story might be my story. I guess you'll just have to read them all!

One book, two bunnies.
bunny population increases by two and book population by one
Mon 2020-05-04 17:21:52 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Guess what today is? It's BOOK RELEASE day! Community of Magic Pens is out, and I have copies of my very own. See? I mean, yes, of course, I already had the ebook edition downloaded, and that was lovely, but there's nothing quite like the reality of a physical paperback, holding it in my hand, flipping to page 209 to see my story in print! Right there! On paper! That has that new book smell and everything!

It is a gorgeous object, this book. It's just perfect for reading. And it would look very nice on your bookshelf. You should totally go order yourself a copy. (Maybe two or three. They make excellent gifts.)

Now, you might notice that there's a bunny posing alongside that book in the photo. Two bunnies, actually, but Holland will insist on hiding behind Gemma and making himself hard to see. He's still a little wary of me since I had to give them both medicine over the weekend. Gemma, on the other hand, will come right up to the crate bars just in case I've got a treat for her. All is forgiven, so long as I bring her a treat.

These two came home with us last week from the Colorado House Rabbit Society. We are "overnighting" them. I put scare-quotes around the word because it's not going to be just a few nights, or even a few weeks. We don't know how long it's going to be. In light of the current RHDV2 outbreak in the southwest US, COHRS is taking active measures to protect their herd of 130 rabbits waiting for adoption. They are dispersing them among their volunteers, so that should any of their bunnies tragically contract the disease, only one other bunny, rather than 129, will be at risk of catching it from them.

So we have furry house-guests until a vaccine becomes available (which it might never--one exists, but getting hold of it involves a lot of money and bureaucracy and at least one confirmed case in a domestic rabbit in the state), or until the risk of infection has passed (no sooner than three months after the last confirmed case in the area, I guess? The virus can survive a long time without a host), or until Gemma and Holland get adopted permanently (which can't happen during the COVID-19 pandemic), or... well, I don't know. We have furry house-guests for the foreseeable future. That's all we know for sure.

On the one hand, there's a certain amount of work involved. You know how it is with pets. Care and feeding and cleaning and love and attention and so forth. On the other hand, there's a lot of joy involved too. Also laughter. Bunnies are hilarious. I just watched Holland pick up his jingle toy, fling it across the crate, then go pick it up and fling it back, repeatedly, for about five minutes. His other favorite game is "Get the stupid oversized apes to chase me." He will play that game around and around the sofa for as long as the stupid oversized apes are willing to play along. Gemma is quieter but more trusting. She's getting very good at practicing "pick up!" with me. Then I'll set her down in my lap, and she will consent to sit there for a few minutes and even tolerate my combing her a little. This, when she hasn't even been here a week yet! It is magical.

It's amazing how much they relieve the solitude of shelter-in-place. I know John is smiling and laughing a lot more since they came home. And while I still seem to thrive more than not in this pandemic-induced isolation, I'm finding it unexpectedly delightful to have additional beings in my face-to-face physical space to interact with.

Between the bunnies coming home last week, the water falling from the ceiling, the domino effect of no sleep one night leading to no work the next day leading to no sleep as I try to catch on the work the next night, and of course some new issues to troubleshoot on my computer because of course there had to be (its replaced hardware is working fine, but now the speakers and microphone have developed a lot of snap-crackle-pop static and the webcam flickers badly)... last week was more or less a loss. I'm still trying to finish the Friday Fictionette for May 1. I made good progress on it this morning, though, so I feel confident saying it'll go up on Patreon either tonight or tomorrow. After that, I'll release the April 2020 Fictionette Freebie and tell you all about it.

Until then! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go give the bunnies their afternoon salad. And also another treat.

poetry is a help in times of water falling from the ceiling
Thu 2020-04-30 00:24:13 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

About that poetry sale from the other weekend: I've got the go-ahead to share the details with you! My poem, "The Ascent of Inanna," will be part of the September 2020 issue of Dreams and Nightmares Magazine. Founded in 1986, it's one of the longest-running print publishers of speculative poetry, and I am so pleased to get to be a part of it.

The thing about this poem is, it started as a piece of flash fiction, which I wrote for Codex's annual Weekend Warrior contest. I'm sure I've mentioned it before; this was my third time participating. Each entry must be written new for the contest in the space of a single weekend and can be no longer than 500 words. For Week 2, somehow I lit on the idea that after Inanna hung around three days dead in the Underworld, it must have been just the absolute pits to have to climb back up to Heaven and be Queen again.

So that's what I wrote. But I couldn't figure out how to end it properly. There wasn't enough story in the moment of Inanna's contemplation of her re-ascent to the Great Above. But attempting to pack her entire return into 500 words, right up to the bit where she finds her husband celebrating rather mourning and tells the demons they can have him in her stead, was a little much. I knew that no matter how well or poorly the story did in the contest, it would need a significant revision.

I wound up revising it into a poem. And the editor of Dreams & Nightmares offered to buy it. And you will get to read it in September. Information on subscribing to the magazine can be found here. (I'm intrigued to see that lifetime subscriptions are an option at roughly the cost of a three-year subscription. That's super tempting.)

The acceptance email came on Sunday the 18th, and payment, as the guidelines said it would be, came shortly after that acceptance, on Saturday the 25th. And on Thursday the 23rd, my laptop came home from the repair depot full of brand new hardware that worked blissfully well. It was a good week! And apparently I needed it, because the next week--this week--was gonna start out pretty crappy: In the wee hours of Monday the 27th, I was awakened by the sound of a waterfall where a waterfall had no business being.

About a gallon of water, all told, just poured out of vent fan unit. (This was due, I found out later, to a toilet in the unit above me overflowing. Also, this is not the first time something like this has happened. My upstairs neighbor has let me know she's doing what she can to make sure it's the last.) But it started slowly enough that, before the deluge hit full force, I had time to hop out onto the back porch, select the bucket that was full of pruned bits of tomato plant rather than potting soil, and then--this is key--stand there wavering groggily over what to do with those tomato prunings. I think I stood there for about twenty seconds, just paralyzed over having nowhere to put 'em. This is what happens when I get woken up suddenly at 3:45 AM. My brain does not work. Finally I came to my senses, dumped the compost-to-be onto the patio deck, and raced back inside to position the bucket where it would do the most good. Maddeningly, the water was coming down precisely onto the edge of the toilet seat, not a stable place for the bucket. I wound up using a stool to support it.

Then I went to call the condo association's emergency maintenance line. The emergency maintenance line unexpectedly went to voice mail. I left a rather pathetic message, which was returned around 7:30 AM by the property manager, telling me that they'd get the property restoration people on the case right away, and also that I should have called the emergency maintenance line. "Option four," they tell me. "You press four, that gets you the after-hours emergency people." I told him I did press four, and that's how I got the answering machine. Why did that happen, did they think? "Oh. I don't know why that happened." *facepalm*

So now we are living with two heavy duty fans and a dehydration unit in our bathroom, making the whole bedroom/bathroom area hot and noisy. But the noise is surprisingly easy to sleep through, and the weather outside is nice enough to leave the bedroom window open all night, and the heat in the bathroom has made my sourdough yeast starter experiment encouragingly vigorous. So things aren't all that bad.

Besides, I just sold a poem! I can't get too far down in the dumps before I remember that and smile.

All that rolling around and squatting down to pick up stuff was a surprisingly effective core-strength workout.
a very small portion of north Boulder is now roughly twelve gallons cleaner, and I am tired
Wed 2020-04-22 19:43:30 (single post)

It's Earth Day, so my skate-starved derby friends and I rolled around our individual neighborhoods (separately) picking up trash and taking selfies promoting our league. Here's a picture of me picking up trash in my skates and BCB tank top. I kind of suck at selfies, but my camera has a timer function, so it all worked out OK. Speaking of which, the amount of times I got the shot all set up and then pressed the power-off button instead of the take-a-picture button doesn't bear calculating.

I felt all self-conscious about it--about the picking up of a more or less symbolic amount of trash as well as about attempting to selfie myself doing so--it felt like I was obviously just showing off--but after two bicyclists on 30th Street went by calling out, "Thank you for doing that!" I felt a little better about the whole exercise.

People wave to each other a lot more when they're wearing face-masks because the usual smile-and-nod routine is harder to see. Every time someone waved at me, I waved back and yelled "Happy Earth Day!" But given my mask it might have sounded like "Happy birthday," which would only be accurate in case of pure coincidence or if I were talking to myself and it was tomorrow.

(Forty-four, in case you're wondering. And I'm proud of every single one of 'em.)

As I did some years ago, I ordered myself a new fountain pen for a birthday treat. One of these. I've never owned a retractable fountain pen before, and these are very pretty. I have no idea when it'll arrive, though. Goulet's building is temporarily shuttered for the COVID-19 pandemic. My pen won't ship until there's someone there to process the order and ship it. That's all right. By the time it arrives, it'll be a delightful surprise.

The rest of the news, in brief: Today was another good writing day. It's been a week full of 'em. Also I am up to 6 granny squares for the afghan: two large, four small, all incredibly gaudy. Dinner tonight was courtesy of My Ramen & Izakaya, who are still operating through the pandemic for takeout and delivery. (Delivery was courtesy GrubHub.) I ordered before I left for my Earth Day trash skate, and when I got home, there was my food waiting on the chair outside my door. And it was so, so good.

And now I am full and tired. Good night!

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