“and if i should die
god forbid that i
pass away with ideas left in limbo
in creative purgatory”
Brian Vander Ark

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

and it's no wonder i sleep so late so often
Thu 2015-07-09 00:27:57 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long

As if I don't have enough to work on already, I got up this morning in a terrible excitement about two brand new story ideas, straight out of dreams. That's a gift. That's a precious, unlooked-for gift--the dreams themselves, handing me the kernels of new stories on a silver platter, but also the excitement. Excitement about a new story--it's been way too long since I've felt that. That's absolutely a gift.

It's also very much a mixed blessing when I'm trying to get other things done. Thanks awfully, subconscious!

In one dream, all the statues had come to life, humans alongside animals both fantastical and mundane passing through the city as animate marble, cement, iron. As the bus I was riding on passed through a neighborhood full of old oaks, we saw a big old house whose decorative copper-verdigris fence was waking up. Green deer were untangling themselves from the knot the artist had worked them into, and were picking their way over and around their fellows out onto the sidewalk. Suddenly the neighborhood was full of deer, centaurs, and men and women on horseback, all the color of copper verdigris. "Look," I said to John, who was sitting next to me on the bus, "it's the perfect color for them."

In another dream, an owl I thought I'd shot dead in a careless and much-regretted moment turned out to be alive after all, but the relief of that turned into horror when it changed shape to reveal itself a nefarious spirit in disguise, to whom we both would be in thrall until it finished feeding off of us and we died.

"I had these wonderful mythopoetic dreams this morning," I said to John, "one of them a pure delight and the other a fantastic horror movie. I can't wait to make them into stories. All I have to do is excise all the Daffy Duck bits and give them more of a narrative shape."

"Daffy Duck bits" are the parts of the dream that are too banal or just too silly for the story the dream inspires. My calling them that comes from the dream that gave rise to the short story "First Breath." The dream's main plot repeated itself, as dream elements often do. The first time, I was in a crowd of people in a large cave, and someone pointed out to me a figure in a grey hooded robe. "Don't let her touch you," I was told. "You mustn't let her touch you." Or what? Or she'd become me, and I'd become nothing at all. I ran and ran through the caves, the hooded figure getting closer all the time... Then the chase scene started over, but with an oblivious and sputtering Daffy Duck in my place, comically falling hip-deep into a hole and asking the hooded, robed figure to pull him out.

As you might expect, Daffy Duck appears nowhere in any draft of the story, let alone the version published in Blood and Other Cravings. Similarly, there's some utterly ridiculous things in my dreams from this morning. Some of the verdigris centaurs were cobbled together backwards, such that their human halves face their horse's asses. And when we attempted to lock the owl-demon out of our house, it ran pipes up through the floor, spewing a noxiously yellow sleepy gas into the house to knock us out so it could gain entrance. Which we knew because the gas left a yellow stain wash up and down my legs. Also there was frozen corn defrosting in the oven that happened to be built into the back wall of our bedroom... See? Daffy Duck bits.

Regardless, so much of both stories is already there, fully formed, in the dream. Not an occurrence I can plan for. All I can do is be grateful when it happens. I certainly can't complain, except maybe a little about the timing.

Dreams are awesome! They're what make sleep worth it!

quality blogging takes time, like, all tuesday
Tue 2015-07-07 23:58:56 (single post)

Hello, Tuesday! You start my writing week off. You started this week off well! Five hours of writing every Tuesday through Friday, that's the idea, and by the Gods I have done that today. And not because I was frantically trying to finish an overdue fictionette! No, I am all caught up (more or less) on fictionettes, so I just did my daily half-hour on the upcoming one. Bliss! I get to fill my writing hours with other writing things.

Like that Boulder Writing Examiner gig I used to do almost regularly, but haven't done at all since February. I done did summa-dat today! Only the post is not up yet because it is not yet finished. Which is frustrating.

Since it's Hugo voting season, I'm working on an article explaining that yes, you too can vote on the Hugo Awards, here's what you need to know, go do it! It's just a Hugos 101 post, mind you. I'm not going to be getting into the Sad/Rabid Puppies mess, other than a link or two where appropriate. ("Some reasons why voters use the No Award option...") Even so, two hours were not enough time to get the post done and uploaded. I don't know what it is takes me so long with Examiner articles--finding good links? Finding the right way to word things? Sourcing an image? (I haven't even gotten to that part yet.) But it does. It reliably does.

Just to be clear: In terms of money, the hourly rate of return on writing this Hugos 101 post is minuscule. One does not do it for the money. One does it 'cause one's got something topical to say, because one wants to do one's part to get out the vote, to get that vote out just about as far as it can possibly be gotten. (One may also feel slightly ashamed that one's Puzzle Pirates Examiner posts outnumber one's Boulder Writing Examiner posts. Makes my priorities look a little whacked.)

So that was two hours. Two other hours already went toward those daily tasks that are mandatory for a work day--warm-ups, daily maintenance, that sort of thing. And the remaining hour starts off right here with ye olde actually writing blog. If there's time left over in the five hours, I'll work a little bit more on the Hugos thing.

It is possible that five hours over four days isn't enough in a week to get everything done. But I'm not futzing with the overall goal until I'm actually meeting it every week. That I'm reaching the five hour mark today is kind of a wowzer. I'd like it to be more of a routine occurrence before I step back and evaluate whether it's the right goal for, well, my goals. The long-term goals. Like "submit more fiction" and "get published more often" and "get a novel ready to meet the nice people."

So, that was Tuesday. It was a good Tuesday! (pats Tuesday on the head.) Tuesday gets a cookie! Good Tuesday.

a successful monday, with all the stuff taken care of
Tue 2015-07-07 01:32:45 (single post)

Monday is "get stuff done" day--the more stuff, the better, and better still if it's stuff that's overdue. Today was a very good Monday. It involved the following stuff:

Reconfigure bedroom electricity access. This was a complex process of furniture-moving, electric application inventorying, and delicate negotiation. As such, it got put off for weeks. We finally took the time to assess today: Which things can just get plugged in and stay there? Of the other things, which need three prongs and which need two? How far may cord travel before someone's going to trip over things in the dark? Oh, and you've got two less sockets over there once the lights go out because they're on the light switch circuit.

Things appear to be stable, which means all phones will get charged, neither laptop need run out its battery, other necessary appliances will be reliable, and peace will reign at bedtime henceforth.

Found a place for the remainder of the office board-and-brick bookshelf. There are five 6-foot planks and ten bricks that make up the bookshelf that, for my entire childhood, lived in the "toyroom" upstairs in my parents' house. When Mom and Dad were ready to get rid of it, John and I brought it up to... oh, goodness. To Oregon. We were still living in Oregon at the time. That means we've had this bookshelf since 1997. Anyway, it stood five shelves tall there, and in our first apartment in Boulder, and in our house that we just moved out of. When we moved into the new place, I put three of its five shelves together under the window in the office, but that left two planks and four bricks just sitting around doing nothing.

Today we tried putting them on the dresser in the bedroom, which also happens to be six feet long (or close enough). With pillowcases on the bricks to make them look a little less brickish, the effect is surprisingly nice. The room suddenly feels uncluttered and open. Probably because the dresser had to get decluttered before this and the previous item could happen; probably also because some of the remaining clutter got organized onto the new shelving.

Did the books. On time for once, too. So the bills are paid again, and my inbox is once more empty. Ahhh.

This task included an hour on webchat with Comcast's support staff. Our transfer of services to the new address created a new account number, which did not automatically connect itself to my online billing account. This was awkward, because our billing is only online. We haven't gotten a statement since we moved, which meant last month I had to visit the Comcast office and pay three months' worth of bills all at once.

Well, the techs were able to get our current account linked to the login, but I can't do much with it until I have a PIN, which the system keeps failing to send me. But they processed my payment for this month's bill, so things aren't urgent. Yet.

Connected the Xfinity Digital Voice signal to the landline jacks. Because I was tired of waiting out in the living room for Comcast to call with my PIN, because that was where the sole "landline" phone in the house was, because that's where the Xfinity gateway was. I'd much rather wait in the office, where I could usefully get stuff done while I was waiting. So I put together a frankensteinian mess of phone cords connected to more phone cords using old Qwest DSL filters as glue, and I ran the resulting length of cord from the Xfinity gateway to the nearest landline jack...

...which happened to be in the kitchen because I don't know what the people who built this place were thinking. I guess they figured that the living room/dining area/kitchen really were only one room, albeit a very long one, so why have two phone jacks? Why have a phone by the sofa when you've got one you have to stand up to answer in the kitchen? Why indeed?

Anyway, once I'd run a line from the gateway to the "nearest" phone jack, the rest of the landline jacks in house got dial tone. I can take landline calls in the office again. Whee! Now all I have to do is run another frankensteinian phone cord across the room, because the jack doesn't happen to be on the wall where I chose to put my desk. (Also I need to find where I hid the cable tacks.)

But of course the Comcast call with the PIN never did come. Nor did the email. I'll give it a week to arrive in the postal mail (the analyst swore up and down she'd sent it and it would arrive in 2 to 5 days) before I gripe at them again.

Cleared Gardens 8 and 9! Woo, one of these things isn't like the others, is it? Those being work and this being a game. Too bad. I get to play games sometimes. I did my daily writing work almost as soon as I got out of bed! I deserve some game time. Thththbbbp!

And I hadn't played Eden in so very long. Not for many months before we moved, in fact. I recall being very frustrated with the end of Garden 8, where the last Spectra is barricaded in behind a bunch of movable rocks; you have to hit a bunch of switches in the right order and quickly before everything resets. I think? Maybe they aren't on a timer and I just accidentally reset things because I was panicking because I was running very low on energy--I mean, my "oscillator" was almost completely "out of tune"--

In any case, with John's help (point "That one! Now--back onto the right side--" point "That one! No, the one below it!") I got that sucker. Then, after we took care of the bedroom electricity and furniture rearrangements, I bulled my way through Garden 9. Now my hands hurt.

Going to bed on time. Maybe? Let's find out--

The grave markers in the cover photo are neither of them the one that says Kneebone.
too much sun on this fictionette's bones
Fri 2015-07-03 23:53:00 (single post)
  • 1,078 words (if poetry, lines) long

So this is a Friday Fictionette that is actually on time. Yes, it took staying up until stupid o'clock at night, but, shut up, I don't care, it got done on time. Pretty please to enjoy the crap out of it, OK? That would be keen.

In any case, it is called "All the Flowers of the Field" and the field is a memorial lawn with graves and, yes, flowers. And an exceedingly proud skeleton. Also a live dude who wasn't intentionally modeled off of the caretaker in Peter S. Beagle's A Fine and Private Place, but turned out to bear a family resemblance.

The skeleton's name is Mr. Kneebone. How can you not love that? I'd have to revisit Mountain View Memorial Park to be sure, but I think I nabbed that name from an actual grave marker. I remember walking past it last month and thinking, "Oh, how perfect!" So, with respect to the real-life Kneebone family, here you go.

The reason I'm up so late is, I was flat all afternoon. And the reason I was flat all afternoon was, I went skating outside at the Bob L. Burger Recreation Center in Lafayette. They have a skate part and a roller hockey rink. We skated around the rink. "We" consisted of myself and a handful of Boulder County Bombers members who were back on skates for the first time, or one of the first times, after a leave of absence: skaters recovering from injuries large and small or from time during which skating hadn't fit into their lives. John was in the latter category; he'd last been on skates in December. He was determined to improve his transitions today (i.e. reversing one's orientation from forward to backward or vice versa while skating). He succeeded, and in a big way. I'm really proud of him!

Here's where the afternoon flatness came in: It was bright and sunny and stupid hot outside. We had a blast, but we also got pretty damn blasted by all that direct sunlight. John caved in first, and I stuck it out for another fifteen minutes before pleading oncoming heatstroke. (Seriously, there were a few moments between pulling the car around and acquiring various liquids from the vending machine when I thought I might actually die, or at least pass out. Thank goodness for well-stocked vending machines.)

So we got home and I immediately began applying a cold soda from the fridge to every part of my face. While reading in bed, of course. (I was rereading C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station from the beginning, having discovered that I'd lost the thread of the plot due to having lost track of the characters.) Didn't manage to get out of bed until something like 8:00 PM--just in time to acquire the cover photo in the Memorial Park--and still didn't manage to get back to work until ten.

But I got it done on time, dangnabbit!

We'll go skate outside again next week Friday, but it'll be in the evening, when the temperatures will be more tolerable. Presuming it doesn't rain, of course.

Meantime, happy July 4 to everyone in the U.S., and a happy weekend to all!

This is the mini-loaf pan calzone to be eaten cold. Once cold, it becomes hand-held food because the innards hold their shape better. It's just like winter solstice pie that way.
a tale of two pot pie calzones
Thu 2015-07-02 23:52:53 (single post)

OK, so, Pot Pie Calzones. These are something you might do if you have leftover pizza dough and would like to use it up in a non-pizza kind of way. Mine were carnivorous, but yours don't have to be. This is a very flexible sort of use-up-the-leftovers meal.

Here's the short story version: Take sufficient pizza dough as for an individual-sized pizza. Roll it out just as thin as you can make it. Cut it into two pieces. Drape these in/over two mini-loaf pans. Fill with some kind of filling. Fold the ends of the dough over the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Eat one "calzone" hot today and the other cold tomorrow.

Here's the longer story.

John's been doing a lot of cooking lately, which makes me very happy and also well-fed. For our housewarming party, he made a large batch of pizza dough and offered to make pizzas on demand for anyone who asked for one. No one took him up on it, possibly because there was also red beans & rice, orange baked tofu, stuffed mushroom caps (contains dairy), sauteed mushrooms (contains no dairy), cookies, cherry tomatoes, a watermelon, potato chips, and I forget what else. (I bought some andouille sausage to serve as an optional side to the red beans & rice. What with the rest of the menu, I forgot to take them out of the refrigerator, and wound up eating them all by myself alongside homemade creamed corn. I WIN AT DINNER. Also, I saved the drippings, because I'm from the south and it's, like, a rule.)

So a couple days later, John made pizzas for the two of us for lunch. Which was delicious and induced serious food coma--but it did not use up all the dough. He was all set to throw out the remaining two lumps ("It's only good for six days or so, and I'm not going to make pizza again that soon") but I wouldn't hear of it. "I'll use it up somehow," I said.

A week passed. "Will you please use that dough?" "Oh, right, yeah. Will do! Any minute now."

Finally, I took one of the two lumps, worked it into as thin a sheet as I could (it is important to let the dough warm to room temperature before attempting this! Trust me), and draped it over a single normal-sized loaf pan. Into this "deep dish pizza" cavity I stuffed a stuffing which involved

  • a quarter onion, chopped, sauteed
  • one pound ground beef, browned
  • the leftover non-dairy sauteed mushrooms from the party
  • gravy made with the reserved drippings from the andouille sausage
  • enough frozen peas to comprise a comfort food ratio

And baked this as described above.

It was delicious. Only problems were, the middle tended to fall apart due to its high volume-to-surface-area ratio, and I didn't know when to stop eating. I damn near devoured it all before I realized I was ready to burst. Between that and a bottle of beer, I was down for the count.

Next night, I did it again, only in two mini-loaf pans instead of a single normal loaf pan. And the filling was much more simple: a pound of bulk italian sausage, gravy made from the drippings left in the pan after browning the sausage, and more frozen peas. The results were much less unwieldy and, very importantly, included a natural stopping point. I ate one of the resulting "calzones" on a plate with knife and fork and put the other away. That one (pictured here) I ate tonight, cold, with my hands, over a plate.

(Leftover pot pie calzone tonight because the Bombshells footage-watching party had to be rescheduled. Vegan dal and curry paneer will happen some other night. Not sure when, but it'll be soon.)

One last snafu: You can see in the photo how I rolled up the dough on the long sides of the pan, right? OK. Don't do that. The resulting extra-thick ridge of dough was difficult to chew and almost impossible to cut without smooshing the loaf. Probably better off to just lay the excess flat in layers rather than try to make fancy edging.

And that's the story of Pot Pie Calzones. Go forth and enjoy with whatever filling your tummy most desires.

This is a reenactment. I forgot to take pictures during the actual boil.
It was a nice coincidence that the milk jug fit so exactly into the Ziploks, and the whole fits so well in the refrigerator door.
So much easier this way. Perfectly rectangular! Except for the bit I sliced off to nibble on. Cook's privilege, OK?
painless paneer and a fictionette freebie
Wed 2015-07-01 23:53:35 (single post)
  • 1,571 words (if poetry, lines) long

I've got more recipes to share! Why? Because I win at leftovers, and that is a fine, fine feeling.

I've also got this month's Fictionette Freebie for everybody. I decided on "You Could Go a Long Way in Shoes Like Those" because I think it's funny and I wanted to show it off in full. You can download the PDF ebooklet or the MP3 audiofictionette, be you subscriber or no, just as you please. Enjoy!

OK, so. Recipes! Here we go. Today, it's How to Make Paneer Without Making a Mess.

This is not originally my recipe. It isn't even a recipe, no more than instructions on how to turn cream into butter is a recipe. (Step 1: Put heavy whipping cream in a sealed container. Step 2: Shake container until the contents are no longer sloshing. You've got whipped cream. Step 3: Shake container some more until contents are sloshing again. You've got butter and buttermilk.) Paneer is just a form of fresh house cheese, which is to say, curds separated out of milk. You can find out how to make it on the internet. So did I! I follow the instructions linked from a Tea & Cookies blog post from June 2007. (I also use the Tea & Cookies recipe for saag paneer. It's the best.)

But I have also developed a method that makes it less of a pain in my butt.

But first--why do I make paneer when I can easily buy it in the store? Well, for one thing, it's very satisfying to make my own. For another, I'm terribly prone to letting the better part of a half-gallon of milk go to waste. I do not want to waste milk! Thus I make cheese.

The main innovation: I no longer boil the milk in a pot over direct heat. I got heartily sick of scraping burnt milk solids off the pan when I was done, see. Now I take my biggest stainless steel pot, and I fill it with enough water such that when I nest the next biggest pot inside it, the nested pot's bottom is only barely submerged. Milk goes in the nested pot, of course, with a lid on top to keep the heat in. Then I turn the heat to full boil and I just walk away.

Well, not too far. But from my desk in the office I can easily hear when the water in the big pot reaches full boil. It sounds weirdly like footsteps. The milk, meanwhile, not being over direct heat, isn't quite so prone to froth over and make a mess on the stove. It will also leave no worse mess in the pot than a ring of (unburnt) curd crumbs that I can knock off in seconds with a sponge.

(Caution: If water keeps slopping over the side once it's boiling, take the milk pot out of the boiler pot, then take a sturdy coffee mug and scoop out about half a cup of water. Replace the milk pot. Repeat until water no longer slops over the side.)

Milk reaches boil, lemon juice goes in, stir stir stir, strain. For straining, I use clothespins to secure a folded-over piece of cheesecloth to the top of my largest resealable leftovers container--the square-bottomed tall one I call my "soup tupperware." This is for retaining the whey. I don't like the whey to go to waste, either. (Note to self: Acquire more recipes that use whey. Besides roti.)

Drip drip drip squeeeeeeze, OK, now what? Now I have two smaller resealable containers--I think they came in a Ziplok set of four--ready to mold the cheese. It's important that they be identical, because what happens next is I nest the containers one inside the other with the cheese in between them. Very important to note that the cheese remains wrapped in cheesecloth! The cheesecloth helps wick away excess water, and it also makes it easier to extract the cheese from the mold. So the cheese-molding sandwich, from bottom to top, goes like this: Container, cheesecloth, cheese, cheesecloth, container, milk jug filled with water (better compression through gravity!). Then the whole shebang goes into the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, the paneer comes out the cheesecloth, gets wrapped in Press-and-Seal or plastic wrap, then sealed inside a gallon-size freezer bag, then put in the freezer. Eventually I'll feel I've accumulated enough to make saag paneer with, and that's a happy day.

That's what usually happens, anyway. This week, however, the paneer is just going in the refrigerator. My roller derby team is coming over to watch film of our most recent game, and the paneer's going into my potluck contribution. My plan is to fry the paneer in ghee and add it to some sort of curry. I'm also going to cook up a big pot of vegan red lentil dal and a batch of rice. HUNGRY ALREADY.

Tomorrow I shall share the other recipe I'm quite pleased with, the one that made me say "I win at leftovers." I'm calling it Pot Pie Calzones. Stay tuned.

This is my flute. I've had it since 1986. I mostly remember how to play it.
this fictionette can carry a tune
Tue 2015-06-30 23:44:29 (single post)
  • 1,103 words (if poetry, lines) long

Behold! On this very last day of the month, we have the Friday Fictionette for the fourth week of June 2015. It's called "Every Note Passes Away Forever." It's got music in it, and also another funeral. Possibly a tiny bit derivative--I mean reminiscent--of the beginning of Tepper's Raising the Stones, now that I think about it. Sorry?

Patterns! After weeks of doing these freewriting sessions every day (or almost every day, shut up), patterns tend to emerge in the way I respond to writing prompts. After a while, it's like a metro bus system, and each writing prompt is like a stop on a bus route. Turns out, some of these stops are on the same bus route. They go to the same places, but maybe they see different sights along the way.

I'm still a bit behind and will have to choose the June 2015 Fictionette Freebie tomorrow. I'm also like two months behind in posting Wattpad excerpts. Backfilling the audiofictionettes? Have not even begun to think about it. But this is a good week for getting caught up. My roller derby team is taking the week off (a well-deserved break after the game on June 27) and some of our friends are out of town, so hopefully I'll be able to put all that sudden glut of free time to good use.

Meanwhile, I have begun reading Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs. I brought it home from the Boulder Bookstore on June 19, the Friday that was declared TorsDay in response to a threatened boycott of Tor Books. (The threatened boycott was in fact laughable, but we're SFF fans. If we can at all afford it, we'll jump at any excuse to buy more books.) Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Bennett isn't published by Tor, is he?" Indeed, City of Stairs falls under the Random Penguin umbrella. (OK, Random House Inc. But "Random Penguin" is more fun. It sounds like a chapter of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) But while my arms were full of books by Elizabeth Bear and Jo Walton and Cherie Priest and an anthology by the VanderMeers (and if you think that sounds like a heavy armful, you are right!), I spotted the Bennett and I pounced. Without dropping any books.

Bennett is also the author of the Shirley Jackson Award-winning American Elsewhere, which persists in being one of my favorite books ever. It lives on the horror end of the SFF street and it's got beings from beyond space and time, a female protagonist who kicks ass while dealing with seriously strange mother-daughter issues, no romantic subplot whatsoever, and supernaturally unreliable architecture. I am a fan of supernaturally unreliable architecture. (Speaking of which, have you read this fantastic House of Leaves/Sherlock Holmes crossover fanfic? You're welcome!).

Bennett's Locus Award-nominated City of Stairs also has supernaturally unreliable architecture (the eponymous stairs, miraculous walls that are sort of transparent and opaque at the same time, buildings stuck half inside other buildings), but the beings from beyond space are less cthulhuoid and more, well, Gods.

I'm only three chapters in, mind you. I would very much like to be four chapters in or more, which is why I'm going to end this blog post here.

The planks and bricks came home today and boy am I exhausted.
the workshop ate my homework
Fri 2015-06-26 23:56:01 (single post)

Pictured at right is a large part of the reason that the July 26 Friday Fictionette will be late. This is the walking-in-the-door view of our storage closet, which is located downstairs in the parking garage. Every unit in the building gets one. Bigger units presumably get bigger storage closets. Our unit is a 2-bed 2-bath, which apparently corresponds to a huge storage closet.

It was also a huge selling point for our new home. From the first time we looked at the address's listing online and saw pictures of all the rooms and amenities, John declared that, if we did buy the place, the storage closet would not be used exclusively or even primarily for storage; it would in fact become his new workshop. He has all kinds of DIY projects in various stages of development, and he needs a place where he can store all their components and work on them in comfort.

If he were that sort of a dude, this would be his "man cave." But he is not that sort of a dude (I probably wouldn't have married that sort of a dude), and he finds the whole gender-normative and gender-restrictive idea of a "man cave" to be repulsive. Scrapping and woodworking and electrical projects aren't just for men. And, as he was quick to point out, the workshop/storage unit isn't just his. Some of my DIY is down there too: fleeces I have yet to card and spin, used roller derby equipment to be donated or upcycled, my homebrew equipment for when I finally contemplate making mead again, & etc.

John's been excitedly showing me every step in the ongoing process of organizing and furnishing the place. Like when he brought home that work bench from Home Depot (you can barely see it on the left in the photo) and pointed out where he was going to hang a peg board. And how he met a neighbor who's put his own storage closet to similar use, and got some useful tips from him.

Today we went to the rental storage unit and, together, ferried back four 8-foot planks and a whole bunch of cement blocks. Back at the old place, these used to be part of our entertainment center, where we kept and used our TV, computer, phonograph and records, CDs, and video games. Now they've been erected as storage shelving. See how well they work?

After bringing those things home, I was officially beat. I have no idea how John found the energy to go down there, put a bunch of things on the shelves, sand his workbench to a satiny finish, sweep the whole place out, and make a first pass at staining the workbench. Me, I was flat. It also bears mentioning that in addition to the planks and bricks, we brought home two boxes of paperbacks, and I wasted no time picking out one to reread. So I wasn't just flat, I was flat with my falling-apart copy of Patricia McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe. I had the self-restraint to put it away after fourteen chapters and several hours of on-and-off napping. Would that I had not picked it up in the first place, but it was probably unreasonable to expect me to resist that much temptation.

(Books! Books are coming home! We have a house full of books once more!)

We don't have a name for the workshop besides "the workshop," other than agreeing, with much rolling of the eyes at the mere mention, that it is not "the man cave." But we do have a name for the house. We came up with it last week: The Conservatory. It is phonetically similar to the previous place's name (The Observatory), and it makes reference to almost all the senses of the word we can think of:

A solarium/greenhouse. We've got the herb and vegetable container garden out back, the tropical plants indoors, and the flowers on the front patio.

A place for the performance arts. We've got a number of musical instruments, many of them real (piano, guitar, hammer dulcimer, cornet, etc.) and a few of them fake (Rock Band 2 and 3 on the Wii). Transitioning from a third-floor unit with neighbors below to a street-level unit with nothing underneath but a parking garage has made us much more free to indulge in melodious noise-makers.

A sunroom. AKA the back half of the house. Since the summer arrived in earnest, it's gotten quite bright and warm. The plants are happy, but we find ourselves retreating to the office, kitchen, and front patio for a little relief.

A pun on "conservation." I've already made mention of the wildlife in the neighborhood, specifically itinerant whitetail and mule deer. And then there's the bird-and-squirrel TV on the back porch. We get house finches, sparrows, and the occasional grackle on the feeder. Then there's a very timid bird, somewhat smaller than a sparrow, that visits the feeder quickly and stealthily, almost before I can get a good look at it. I think it's a black-capped chickadee. Squirrels show up to eat whatever winds up on the deck. Sometimes the squirrels investigate our garden, at which point we chase them away with brooms. It'll be a pleasant surprise if any of our sunflowers make it to the flowering stage.

The most recent bird drama has been a family of grackles--possibly more than one family--the adolescents of which have been doggedly resisting their parents' attempts to teach them self-sufficiency. They yap and yap until the adult birds shove a mouthful of suet cake into their faces. Or until the parents make it clear they are not going to do this anymore, but instead showily demonstrate how one goes about getting one's own damn mouthful of suet cake from the feeder. Today, the youngsters have been shyly arriving on the back porch, unchaperoned and determined to figure things out.

Best of all today was the dragonfly swarm at dusk. I don't generally get to see dragonflies in Boulder in anywhere near the numbers I would back home in New Orleans. Usually I just see one or two, mostly out by the small private lakes, along the creeks, or in the pocket "wetlands" where the cattails grow. But as I walked down the block to go see how John was coming along in the workshop, I happened to look up at the place where our building separates into two "towers," into the space in between that's open to the sky, and in that narrow alley was a mob of dragonflies, all swooping and diving and hunting their prey. John came up with me to see the spectacle. We went up to the second floor walkway for a better look, and it was that much more amazing--especially when some of them repeatedly swooped at our faces. I only wish I could have seen their colors better; at twilight, small things turn monochrome.

Well, I also wish I'd gotten a picture, but I doubt my crappy 10-year-old Kodak would have done the scene justice. Maybe I'll try anyway on Sunday. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow's bout day. Come twilight I'll be skating roller derby at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. (If you would like to see this for yourself, doors open at 5:30 PM and tickets are $15; I'll be in the second bout.) But I'll be home at twilight on Sunday, unless plans should change.

Sunday is also when I'm hoping to post the July 26 Friday Fictionette. Monday at the latest. (Sorry again.)

So that's the week, that's the news from the Conservatory, and that's it for me for now. Good night!

we have met the enemy, yadda yadda yadda
Thu 2015-06-25 23:59:59 (single post)

Being a terribly self-indulgent iteration of the steps by which a mind sabotages itself. This is how it begins:

  1. "Oh, crud! I overslept! The whole day is ruined!"
  2. "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of day left. Not all is lost!"
  3. "In fact... heck, I could go back to sleep. There's still plenty of time."

Second iteration

  1. "Oh, crud! I wasn't supposed to go back to sleep for that long! I've overslept! The whole day is toast!"
  2. "No, wait, it's OK. There's still plenty of time. Let's not panic."
  3. "In fact, let's relax. Have a nice breakfast (er, lunch). Let off a little steam."

Third iteration

  1. "Crud! How did another two hours pass while I was just reading blogs/playing games over breakfast/lunch? It is now futile to get anything done today!"

...And so forth. Steps 1-3 repeat for some indeterminate number of times until Step 1 is followed by Step APOCALYPSE, which is, "Seeing as how it is futile to get anything done at this late hour, I might as well not try. It's not worth the stress. I'm sorry, but, good night."

What I'm trying to do is build exit ramps for this merry-go-round.

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with "It's OK, there's still plenty of time, don't panic." As a source of hope, Step 2 is quite healthy. The problem is Step 3, wherein Step 2 is used as an excuse to procrastinate.

I'm experimenting with an alternate Step 3, which goes, "So if I get started on my work now, I'll finish it early and have plenty time for other things, like spinning or practicing piano or playing video games!" Followed by actually starting the work, no matter how late the day's gotten. I mean, hell, no matter how impossible it has become to log a whole 5 hours of writing, I can always at least log a few minutes. (And, for the record, I did. This blog post is part of that. Go me.)

Practice, as they say, makes permanent. Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice finding excuses to never get started at all. Doing otherwise requires a certain amount of escape velocity. Doing otherwise repeatedly is damn difficult. Thus, Tuesday was pretty good, Wednesday was only half-good, and today... was barely any good at all.

Tomorrow will be better.

For our purposes, "tomorrow" starts now.

Cover art incorporates a photo of a Greyhound bus by Kevin.B on Wikimedia Commons. Click to see original photo.
this fictionette is only for the strong of stomach
Tue 2015-06-23 22:21:33 (single post)
  • 1,192 words (if poetry, lines) long

So here's the Friday Fictionette I was supposed to post for June 19. It's called "All Creatures Great and Small," and it is, at least partially, about puking. (That's by way of your content warning. You may not want to read it while you're eating.) It's also about the creation of teeny, tiny, cute yet disgusting monsters after the manner of a particular fairy tale.

Today's work day went almost exactly as planned, down to taking five-minute spinning breaks out on the patio in between 25-minute sessions of writing. I'm spinning a lovely half-fleece of "black" (really a very dark brown) CVM lamb. At least, I think it's CVM. I used to have this written down on a card that I kept with the fleece, but the moths ate it along with a shameful amount of wool.

When I discovered the moths had gotten into it--this was last year when I was cleaning out the office closet at the old address--I went into Emergency Wool Rescue Mode. The first step of Emergency Wool Rescue Mode was wash it all right now. The second and subsequent steps were to allow it to freeze, then allow it to thaw, repeat until sure all moth eggs have been destroyed.

Despite the emergency washing, the wool still feels greasy. But it's nice. Lanolin is good for your hands, after all. And each flicked lock seems to stretch like taffy as I draft it into the twist. It's pleasant and easy work, and very rewarding as the yards and yards of thin single ply wind onto the bobbin.

We've been spending more and more time out on the patio since bringing home the deck furniture. John and I had breakfast out there together, along with our usual post-breakfast state-of-the-household chat. Then I brought the spinning wheel, fleece, and carding combs out, and they sat beside or on the table all day, ready for me to come out and take each five-minute break. When the five minutes were up, I could easily hear the Pomodoro Timer's "get back to work" whistle through the open office window. Neighbors passed by and waved, smiled, commented on the weather. Lawn mowers sent their buzz-saw serenades up into the sky, where small planes doing airport pattern work occasionally echoed that song back down.

Despite the heat of the summer, it's cool on the patio, cooler even than in the house. It's a very nice place to be--at least until the mosquitoes start their twilight hunt. I may start taking more of my work out there.