inasmuch as it concerns Political Maunderings:
There's a whole world of people behaving badly out there. They have weird neuroses and they get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes it's prudent to pay attention.
an occasion to rethink and revise before reprinting
- 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
So, just to remind y'all that the author is a New Orleanian author, lemme tell you what happened this week. So yesterday, OK, the payment for the short story I sold to Apex Magazine arrived via PayPal. Hooray! So today I decided to celebrate the sale, as I had not tangibly celebrated it yet, by splurging on mail-order oysters. In fact, I ordered the gift bundle (it's a gift for me! From me!) on the strength of it including a free shucking knife and gloves, reason being, I don't own any yet and I probably should, and I don't want to make a special trip to--where would I even buy an oyster shucking knife in Boulder, Colorado? A restaurant supply store, I suppose. Or I'd have to mail order it from somewhere and try to get the two separate shipments to coincide. Hell with that. This is easier.
Anyway. Oysters coming mid-March. Forty of 'em. I'm gonna slurp up a dozen on arrival, then chop up the rest for kimchi. (That link there, that's the recipe that got Dad's whole hunting club asking, "Niki's coming home next week, you say? Will she make us kimchi again? Tell her to make it spicier this time.")
All right, yes, I could have been responsible and left the money in my PayPal account against actual household necessities. But it's not like we're relying on my story sales to make household ends meet. (Hoo, girls-n-boys, would we be in trouble if we were!) Besides--a sale to Apex Magazine! The hell to the yes that deserves celebrating!
(Don't worry, it only cost about half the check. I'm sure I can find something responsible to do with the rest.)
So for my next trick, I'd like to see if I can get "Lambing Season" reprinted again. It initially appeared in NAMELESS Magazine #3 in March of 2014. (You can still purchase the issue as an ebook from that link for $3.99. I recommend it; there's a lot of good stuff in there, including a haunting story by my friend and colleague Nicole Cushing.) It's been reprint only once so far, as episode 413 of Tales to Terrify, narrated beautifully by Summer Brooks, on December 19, 2019. (You can listen to it there for free, along with a retrospective of the horror of the two-thousand-teens.)
...And that's probably a good thing. The only having been reprinted once, I mean. Because... Wow there's some problematic bits in the story. Which I completely overlooked when I wrote the story because Hi there, white privilege! Without even having laid eyes or ears on it since the Tales to Terrify outing, I knew I'd need to revise the opening a titch. Here's the second paragraph so you can see what I mean:
I'd so badly needed to escape. Months had passed since I'd last been able to relax. In my mind, I was always on duty, no matter what the clock said. Then my partner went to the hospital on a bullet fired by a twelve-year-old girl, and I started suspecting everyone I met of being armed and dangerous. The chief suggested I take off the uniform and badge for a while before I wound up shooting someone for startling me.
Wow. Just... wow. That sounds like nothing so much as a "Blue Lives Matter" defense of the cop who murdered Tamir Rice. "How was he supposed to know it was only a toy gun? Some of those urban kids out there, those little monsters'd shoot you soon as look at you. You try taking time in one of those neighborhoods to verify if the gun is real, you're dead."
Eeeuuurgh. No. So much no. There is no way I'm submitting that story to be reprinted with that opening. Should be simple enough to fix, though. Instead of a crisis of paranoia, the main character can have a crisis of conscience over her partner having shot a child, and the rest of the department rallying around to defend him, and maybe the protagonist's reluctance to join in the defense is why the chief suggests she take a temporary unpaid leave. Much more believable of a scenario (except for the crisis of conscience part, I fear), and a lot more defensible then what's there now. Because, face it, what's there now is doing white supremacy's work of upholding the narrative of cops who are more wronged than wrong-doing even when they've just fired a bullet into a Black child's body, or knelt on a Black man's neck until he suffocated. As though that had anything to do with justice and keeping the peace. My God. No. I will have no part of even appearing to support those abominations. Not if I can help it. Not any more than I already have, Gods forgive me.
(Virtue signaling? Damn straight I am, and what's wrong with that? The bigots are out there signaling to each other all the time with their dog-whistles and bullhorns everywhere from the corner store to the Capitol. The rest of us are gonna damn well "signal" that we stand four-square against that shit. Got it? Good.)
Except it's not going to be as simple as fixing the opening, turns out.
The manuscript was still in one long LibreOffice RTF, so the first thing I did tonight was pull the manuscript into a Scrivener project and break it up into scenes. There were hard-coded tab-indents, too, so I had to remove those by hand because Scrivener for Windows still doesn't have find-and-replace for special characters. So that required traveling paragraph by paragraph through the whole story. Which meant I was lightly skimming the text as I went along. Which resulted in my realizing the racism kinda permeates the whole story.
I'm not going to get into the details at this time. It's not that I'm worried about spoiling the story for you; you can go read or listen to it right now if you haven't already. No, it's that I know, with a sinking, that I have yet to uncover all the details. Right now I just have a general impression of the dehumanization of non-white people in this story. And you could argue that it's not just the shepherds but all the townspeople too who are under Maud Shempf's sway, they're all going to wind up fleeced and turned into mutton eventually. But the predominately (implied) white townspeople get to act like human beings, even so, while the predominately (heavily implied) black and brown shepherds get to have "dead shark stares" while they menace the protagonist (including with a gun!). And yeah, that could stand as a metaphor for the way systems of authority regularly dehumanize non-white people--but that's not how it looks on the page at this time. At this time, it looks hella racist, and it makes me cringe.
So I'll be taking my time the rest of this week going over the story with a fine-toothed comb, trying my damnedest to blunt its capacity to do harm. It may take more than a week, in which case I'll put it aside temporarily, because the next story in the revision queue has a deadline. But then I'll come back to it, because this is job that needs to be done right more than it needs to be done in a hurry.
Whew. I warned y'all a while back this blog was gonna get political from time to time. Because the alternative is to be silently oblivious, and all that does is prop up the status quo. And the status quo has really gotta go.
only bummer is no one gives you an I VOTED sticker
So here's a thing we did this past weekend: We voted.
John and I have had the pleasure of living in two different states that conduct their elections primarily by mail: Oregon, and now Colorado. The way it works is, if you're a registered voter, you get one. You don't have to ask. You don't have to sign up for it. You don't have to jump through any hoops. Be registered to vote when October rolls around, and a ballot shows up in your mailbox about three weeks before election day.
In the Before Times, when people fearlessly gathered in public knowing they risked no more than catching a cold, we had a tradition. We'd take our ballots out to BeauJo's for delicious Colorado Style Pizza. (After the Boulder location closed, we went to the one in Longmont, or found a different restaurant closer to home. As long as it had wifi and electrical outlets, it was golden.) We'd arrive, place our food orders, then break out the laptops. Once we'd filled out our ballots to our satisfaction and sealed them in their envelopes according to the instructions, we high-fived and then settled down to a celebratory video game marathon. Eventually we'd roll out of there, full and happy and tired and proud of ourselves, and head home--making one quick stop at the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder Office to deposit our ballots in the drop-box. And that's how Chez LeBoeuf-Little votes in Colorado, give or take a pandemic.
The routine was pretty much the same this election, with two important differences:
- We didn't let the ballots sit around for a week before voting them. We turned those suckers around overnight.
- And we voted them at the kitchen table over delivery from Curry 'n' Kebob.
That's it. That's the story. We voted, and you should too. The end.
no. it won't be enough. do it anyway.
OK, so, political thoughts I've been having. It starts with an anecdote about my Mom. And it's not a particularly positive anecdote, so I should probably start with the acknowledgement that in many ways, she was a wonderful person. But people are complicated, and there's a thing she did that wasn't so great.
When I was a teenager, I levied my share of teenager complaints against Mom. As teenagers do. And, because I was a teenager, some of those complaints were bullshit, reflecting nothing more than the muddled mess of heightened emotion and solipsism that teenagers can be prone to. But, because I was also an intelligent young adult who was rapidly acquiring tools for critical thinking and was very aware of the world around me, some of those complaints were spot on.
My Mom had the same stock reaction to all complaints. "Yes, you're right. I'm a horrible mother." These words would be followed by a smug grin as she turned her back on me. Sometimes, if I protested, she'd repeat those words louder (to drown me out) and smile even more widely and twice as smugly. The main implication was clear: any complaints I had were by definition illegitimate, because I was the one making them, because I was making them about her. The only appropriate reaction, she thought, was to ridicule my complaints as absurd on their face using this kind of hyperbolic reductio ad absurdum. "Yes, you're right. I'm a terrible parent. There's the phone; go ahead and call Child Protective Services."
But there was another implication behind this response. "The fact that you are complaining about me means you think I'm a horrible parent. And you will always think I'm a horrible parent, no matter what I do. Therefore I am not going to bother trying to convince you otherwise."
I suspect Mom was always anxious about whether she was being a good mother, so this knee-jerk dismissal of any criticism from me was in some part misguided self-defense. Misguided, because I wasn't the one calling her a horrible parent. The fact that I had a criticism or complaint didn't mean I thought she was a terrible person or a bad mother. It just meant I thought she'd done or said something fucked up and please don't, OK? (Or it meant that I thought it was terribly unfair that she wouldn't let me borrow the car to drive myself to the French Quarter, or that she'd forbidden me to take a job as a pizza delivery driver. Like I said, I was a teenager.)
(To be clear, I know she was anxious about whether she was a good mother. In those months after she'd lost a lot of her vocabulary and cognitive function but was still living at home and able to hold conversations, that's one of the last questions she asked me: "Was I a good mother?" The part I can only suspect, but can't ever know for sure, is that her habit of dismissing my complaints with ridicule stemmed from that anxiety.)
So keep that anecdote in mind while I seemingly change the subject.
Not long ago, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America issued a statement in response to George Floyd's murder, in solidarity with the protests, and in support of #BlackLivesMatter. In that statement, signed unanimously by SFWA's Board of Directors, the organization acknowledged the need to act, admitted their responsibility for having been part of the problem, and outlined a list of first step actions they were committing to immediately.
Now, those first step actions were primarily financial in nature. To me, that scanned. A similar conversation had been going on in the roller derby community, wherein skaters of color were pointing out that the sport's cost of entry was a disproportionately greater barrier to them than to white skaters simply because poverty and race are so inextricably linked. So roller derby leagues began talking about things they could do to address this.
And these were just first steps. Meanwhile, SFWA's statement included a list of educational resources for those looking for ways to help and a list of organizations to support with one's time, money, energy, and signal-boosting power. They ended with a further call to action, and with a link to the organization's email address so readers could share further how-to-help suggestions.
As a SFWA member, I was feeling kinda proud. My organization was being proactive and trying to help! They were fighting the good fight! And I, with my drop-in-the-bucket membership fees, was a small part of that! Yay!
Not long after, I read this response on twitter:
Jennifer Marie Brissett @jennbrissett Jun 4 How about dealing with the fact that several of SWFA approved magazines STILL have 0% black writers in them -- an issue brought to your attention YEARS ago by myself and others and the #BlackSpecFic Reports? Black ppl don't want your charity. We want equal and fair treatment.
And this is why I wanted you to keep that anecdote about Mom in the back of your mind. Because this is where I have personally witnessed a bunch of white people doing kind of the same thing she did.
Maybe it's because they're genuinely anxious about whether they're being good allies, and people are hardly at their best when they act out of their insecurities. Or maybe it's because they never really were allies in good faith anyway, and they're pouncing on an opportunity to let themselves off the hook. For whatever reason, this is where they throw up their hands and say things like, "See? It doesn't matter what we do! It's never good enough! Why should we even try?"
In many cases, what's going on is, these white people are looking for that One Neat Trick to end racism, so that they can perform that trick, pat themselves on the back, cash in their ally chips, and go back to Not Thinking About It. (You will recall that Not Thinking About It is one of the privileges of being white.) So they are asking Black people to all get together and make up their minds about what that One Neat Trick is. And then, when different Black people have different answers, these would-be allies want to know which Black people to listen to. Who's right? Who's wrong? Who's got the One Right Trick and who can be safely ignored?
That's no way to be an ally.
Brisset isn't wrong. If SFWA sponsors Nebula Convention registrations for Black writers and donates to the Carl Brandon Society, but doesn't leverage their influence in the industry hard for greater Black inclusion in SFF publishing (not to mention equal payment!), then they're ignoring a huge part of the good that's in their power to do.
On the other hand, SFWA isn't wrong to take those financial first steps. Racial economic disparity is a very real problem. And the Black writers who are pointing out that very real problem--along with skaters of color in the roller derby version of this conversation--aren't wrong either.
But it would be wrong to mistake the economic symptoms for the whole of the disease. It would be wrong to think that once you've thrown money at the problem, the problem's solved. And it would be wrong to stop with monetary solutions when you have it in your power to do so much more.
Here's the thing: People of color are not a monolith. No one color demographic is a monolith, either. At any given time, different individuals will each face a different subset of that hydra-headed beast that is systemic racism. So they won't all have the same answer to "How can I help?"
And that beast is old. It's older than the U.S. and it's got its paws all over the nation's history and it's still got a hand in writing the nation's future. It came over with the smallpox blankets, and it came over with the slave traders. It staffed desks at Ellis Island, where it sliced people's hair off, made them throw away precious possessions, and fucked up their names. It "reeducated" Native kids. It wielded whips and firehoses and attack dogs and nooses. It's doing it still. It's throwing children into cages without benefit of soap, toothbrush, or face mask, and it's deporting those children's parents. It's shooting Black men for such heinous crimes as carrying a bag of Skittles or being found sleeping in a car.
It's been doing all these things and more for centuries. It's still at it. Where do white people get off thinking they can stop it cold with One Neat Trick, preferably performed in fifteen minutes or less?
Look. Y'all. You're partly right. Whatever you do, it won't be enough. That is because the problem is bigger and older than you. No one individual will slay the beast alone; no one entity can subdue it over the course of a single lifetime. And that's no reason to throw up your hands and storm off in a huff--that's precisely why doing whatever you can matters. What's important is not being the hero that single-handedly slays the beast (my, how we white folks love to center ourselves in the narrative! How angry we get when the story's not about us!) but contributing whatever you've got to the fight that eventually takes the beast down. And you contribute not, pace me several paragraphs ago, to puff yourself up with pride over having fought, but to hasten the day the beast goes down, because that is the priority.
Let's bring science fiction back into it with one more metaphor. You know about generation ships? A large community takes off on an interstellar journey of hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Space is big, and we don't go so fast. The people who board the ship on Earth will be many generations dead by the time the journey ends. But do any of them throw a fit for that reason and declare the journey not worth making? They do not. They celebrate the future arrival of their descendants, and they do whatever's in their power to make sure it happens. While they live and work as members of both a community and a starship's crew, they do their part to keep that ship on course.
Unless I am very much surprised, none of us, not me writing this post in June 2020 nor you reading it, will get to live in a post-racist society. There's light-years still to go. But while we crew this ship of Earth, we can contribute the level best we've got to keep its vector of travel bending toward justice, so that some generation to follow ours can reach that destination.
So, yeah. Do what you can to help. Listen to the people you're trying to help, because they're the authorities on whether you're actually helping. Realize different people will be focused on different parts of the problem, and none of them are necessarily wrong. Accept criticism with good grace. Accept that even if you do everything "right," it won't be "enough." Do it anyway.
...And that's what I've been thinking about these past couple weeks.
came here to do two things
The ink I ordered arrived last week. It's glorious. I actually haven't tried much of it out yet, but just looking at all those bottles set out on my desk gives me a happy feeling. The sample bottles are especially lovely, with the jewel tones of the inks shining visibly through the clear sides. (The accompanying photo does not do the sight justice. But then I never claimed to be a good photographer.)
Which isn't to say I haven't tried them out at all. I've dipped into three of the little sample vials so far. I used the De Atramentis Document Red to do my next Morning Pages session--carefully, avoiding spills and stained fingers as much as possible, because that whole Document line of inks is waterproof. (I had to work hard with soap and water to get it off the pen's nib when I wanted to change colors.) The next day's Morning Pages were done with the Jacques Herbin Caroube de Chypre 1670, a lovely red-brown--not very much less red than the Document Red, now that I come to compare them. I didn't actually realize that the 1670 line is all shimmer inks--I didn't notice the flecks of gold in the bottle, and I hadn't read up on the ink until just now--so I didn't shake the bottle before filling my pen. That might be why no significant shimmer made its way onto those three pages.
I darn well did notice that the Robert Oster Morning Shine was a shimmer ink--teal with silver flecks. I used it to write a handful of Postcards To Voters. You can see how that worked out in the accompanying picture. Despite shaking the ink bottle and occasionally rotating my pen, I still managed to get some shimmer clumps, such that none showed up on the page, and then the pen clogged, and then once I cleared the clog I got a bunch of flecks at once. (That's pretty much me with shimmer inks, no matter whose. I have a love-hate relationship with shimmer inks.) Things smoothed out after a while, though. I'll be writing another batch of postcards with that ink soon enough.
Postcards To Voters is one of the political actions I can take when I don't have the wherewithal for political action. It's perfect for a low-energy introvert. I sit at my desk and play with my fountain pen inks, and, not long after, a handful of people get postcards in the mail reminding them to make their voices heard. The pictured postcards were part of a Florida Vote-By-Mail campaign, specifically for Osceola County, whose purpose is twofold: a general GOTV campaign to get more Democrats ready to turn in their ballots, and a specific push to make sure more Democrats are aware of the vote-by-mail option and are taking advantage of it.
Yes, Postcards To Voters absolutely is partisan. In general elections, their campaigns support the Domecratic candidate; in Democratic primaries, they support the more progressive candidate. If any hypothetical reader has a problem with that, I can't help you. I'm not going to pretend that at this point in time that there's some moral equivalence between the two major U.S. parties. I'm not going to pretend that the Republican party has not unequivocally positioned itself as the party of voter suppression, white supremacy, "bathroom bills" pushing trans people out of public spaces, attacks on queer rights and women's rights and reproductive rights and health care rights, corporate interests over individual life and health and well-being, stochastic terrorism, and police violence against people of color.
I'm not here to make you, hypothetical Republican voter inexplicably reading my blog, feel better about voting Republican. You know what you're supporting. Either make your own peace with that or stop doing it.
No, what I'm here to do is 1. play with fountain pen ink, and 2. advocate for the small but meaningful and highly accessible anti-racist, pro-social-justice act that is Postcards To (Democratic) Voters. Having done those things, I count today a small but meaningful success.
And now I'm off to pick up this week's CSA veggies. The end.
Day 6: Recreational and involuntary poll watching
- 4,600 words (if poetry, lines) long
This blog post comes to you LIVE from Denver Union Station, where the author is waiting to board her train, and a significant portion of the population of the city and county of Denver is waiting patiently to vote. Wait time is currently reported as being an hour. The line snakes all the way across the lobby, out the east door, and right around the building. A poll worker continues to advise those in line that the polling place at Tivoli, only half a mile away, has no line whatsoever, but most of everyone remains doggedly in their place. They are going to vote, dammit, and at least here they are certain of their place in line.
I sent a report to Pizza To The Polls, but feel free to report this line again. Take care of these people as they do their civic duty!
Overheard in that line, in a sing-song tone: "Long lines just mean that a lot of people are excited about the democratic process--jazz hands!" My silent reaction: Yes, but it also means we aren't doing enough to smooth that democratic process. Polling capacity is not keeping up with population, and that's just one of the many ways this country commits voter suppression every damn election.
But enough of that--I suspect I'm more or less preaching to the choir.
(Yes, I voted. John and I spent a few quality hours with our mail-in ballots a few weeks ago, and he dropped them off at the County Clerk and Recorder building on his way to work the very next day. Catch us not voting? Not gonna happen.)
So I'll be boarding that train in about an hour, hour-anna-half, something like that. Then I'll be doing the usual trip--Denver to Chicago on the California Zephyr, Chicago to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans. Most of today has been taken up with getting read to get out of here, but before John picked me up for lunch and a ride to the Boulder bus station, I did make some strides toward catching up on the Fictionette Artifacts. That's the $5 pledge tier reward at my Patreon, which in addition to access to the first-through-fourth-Friday ebook and audiobook/podcast also gets a typewritten and hand-illustrated copy once a month of one of that month's stories. Sounds cool, right? Also this is a limited edition reward, and two of the three are already taken. Except I'm very behind in producing those. So I scrambled to get the next handful of 'em typed up so I can illustrate and mail them during my trip.
The rest of everything else is the subject of today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report, like so:
Morning Pages: Got right to 'em, right on time. Early, in fact. Had my alarm set for 8:00, woke up at 7:30, tried to go back to sleep but instead worked myself into a panic about how little time remained between then and go-time, so I got up. Again used my Pages as a medium for converting a cloud of anxiety into a concrete task list. Hooray!
Freewriting: To be done on the train this evening.
Fictionette Progress: To be done on the train this evening.
Short story editing: To be done on the train this evening.
"Seriously? Are you just putting everything off until you board the train?" NO! I am not. Just the stuff that doesn't require internet access. Here's a thing I have got done:
Submission Procedures: Some administrative communications, followed by--Huzzah!--an actual submission. Found a place I hadn't sent "Caroline's Wake" yet, and I went ahead and sent it. No self-rejection! Til hell won't have it!
Blogging: As of now, done. Yer welcome.
Honestly, I'll probably get started on the freewriting sooner than train time, because I've still got 550ish words left to write to defeat this 4thewords monster. Yeah, the 3,000-word sucker from last night. This blog post was NOT LONG ENOUGH. Thus I leave you and pay a visit to InspiroBot, where the writing prompts live. See you tomorrow!
the saga continues: skating happens, much venison is eaten
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- Political Maunderings
- The Beast That Rolls
Have just arrived at Chicago Union Station. Will be boarding the train for Denver in just under four hours. Going by my experience on the outbound journey, there won't be a wifi hotspot on the California Zephyr (or if there is one, it won't get much reliable signal after the first couple hours), so if I'm going to upload a blog post today, I'd better compose it now-ish.
The Friday Fictionette for July 20 will also be late; I'm going to have to finish it on the train, but I won't be able to upload it before Denver Union Station. Still, it'll be a sight closer to on time than last week's "sometime this weekend, I mean Tuesday" release (see below).
Anyway, to continue the travel journal...
Tuesday, July 17, 2018: Mini family reunion over venison backstrap
Was deliberately antisocial when I woke up so I could get caught up on some writing tasks. Among other things, got the much-delayed Friday Fictionette for nominally July 13 recorded, packaged, and uploaded.
Breakfast: Made myself a little omelette-on-toast. Had an unexpected boiled egg on the side (I expected it would be a raw egg when I cracked it open BUT IT WAS NOT) which I chopped up and mingled with some kimchi. The kimchi turned out just fine, though if I had to do it with yellow squash again (and I might--the Diaz Farm back in Boulder is starting to harvest their squash and zucchini), I'd slice it into rounds and include it with the traditional cabbage kimchi. It didn't benefit as much from the stuffed cucumber treatment as I'd hoped.
So. Got those things done. Then Dad pokes his head in the door and says, "Let's go find some oysters for lunch." Which is how we ended up at Seither's devouring a dozen oysters on the half shell each. NO COMPLAINTS. NONE.
After that it was time to run some errands. I had postcards to write and mail and also I needed fountain pen ink. (Forgot to refill my pens before leaving Boulder.) Plus I figured while I was out I could finish illustrating the April Fictionette artifacts (still running a bit behind on them) and get them ready to mail out, too. So I headed over to the 17th Street end of Lakeside Mall where all three errands could be conveniently accomplished within a two-block radius.
OR SO I THOUGHT. I mean, well, they could, but not the way I'd imagined. I'd imagined visiting Scriptura for fountain pen ink, then walking across the street to Morning Call for coffee and beignets and postcard writing and artifact illustration, then dropping off all mailables in the blue drive-up boxes at the post office. In fact the coffee and stationery enjoyment phase happened at Puccino's because MORNING CALL IS GONE FOREVER AND I AM BEREFT. Oh, they've still got a location in City Park, sure. But is that within an easy biking or skating distance of Dad's house? No. Is that where I got taken to all through childhood for beignets and chocolate milk? No. Is that where I faithfully wrote every morning around 6:00 AM during my visits home from college and struck up a brief correspondence with a waiter who was also a writer? No. No, it is not. The location of so many formative memories is GONE. Some sort of smoke shop appears to be going in, but not a smoke-and-news shop of the sort that used to be next door to the Morning Call and where I often used to pick up copies of OMNI and F&SF for market research. Just a smoke shop, going by the sign. And it's not even open yet. There's a big blue garbage roll-off in front of the shop because apparently they are ripping out all the marble counters and mirrors and little round tables and crappy chairs and I AM GOING TO CRY FOREVER.
So, yeah. Postcards and watercolors at Puccino's. Dammit. And a latte. And a sad little slice of cranberry poundcake.
Meanwhile Dad's getting ready for dinner, because the time between meals should always be spent prepping for the next meal. (Food is important in New Orleans. You may have heard.) He's working on a particular Dad special, which is venison backstrap seared to medium-rare on the grill and served with a homemade béarnaise sauce. Also rosemary potatoes slow-roasted in a heavy, lidded pan on the stove. Also a package of frozen broccoli florets.
The occasion--not that it needs an occasion, really--was my brother coming over for a bit of a visit. Usually I visit him when he's tending bar at Hurricane's, but most of the nights I was in town he had off. He works the bar fewer nights now that he works full time during regular hours at an Uptown emergency vet clinic. So instead of us having a long, disjointed conversation over several hours of beer at the bar, we had a long continuous conversation over delicious food and red wine and a live DVD of Three Dog Night. It was a superior experience. I could actually hear what Ricky said on the first try, no one was smoking anywhere near me, and there were 100% fewer drunks demanding I get off my laptop and "have fun," or putting their arms over my shoulders and arguing with me over my right to tell them HANDS OFF. Yay for non-bar family reunions!
Wednesday, July 18, 2018: Mini high school reunion, mini derby meet-n-greet
Wednesday got off to a similar start: Anti-social productive beginnings to make room for socializing the rest of the day.
Social activity #1: Lunch with a high school friend at Giorlando's. This is something I try to make time for in all my visits home. In addition to giving us a chance to catch up on things since last time, it's a bit of an oasis politically. After tip-toeing around the news Dad always seems to have playing on the TV and biting my tongue so I don't yell back at the news anchors giving only half the story or the Republican senators on live cameras saying things like "Sure ICE operatives have raised performative cruelty and homicidal neglect to a fine art, but how do you think liberals pushing to have them shut down makes them feel?"... it's really, really nice to sit down to someone who's on the same page with me about, oh, human rights and fact-based education and diverse representation in media, those sorts of REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS.
Social activity #2: Public skate session at Skater's Paradise, the rink in Slidell. The whole afternoon after lunch I was fighting a case of the sleepies--well, not so much fighting it as not fighting it but hoping I'd be able to stop napping and get out of bed on time. I was starting to worry this was a pattern. When I was in town last October, I really wanted to go skating around the French Quarter on Halloween night; unfortunately, having already skated from Covington to Abita Springs that day, I had used up allotment of oomph, and so instead I stayed in bed and binged Stranger Things 2. I hadn't been quite so extravagant today, so thankfully I did manage to get up not only in time to make the skate session but also to enjoy another damn fine Dad dinner before I went. It was venison sauce piquante over pasta shells. Also some more kimchi.
(I told him that some time later I'd probably be picking his brain for the recipe over the phone; I had the recipe from Talk About Good! but I suspected his recipe was better. He said, "If it doesn't involve two cans of beer, forget about it." Which, fair.)
Anyway, Skater's Paradise is a pretty nice rink! Very smooth floor, polished concrete I guess but no trouble on my 88s. Good sound system, decent music selection given the audience, although the DJ did have a tendency to suddenly change songs midway through. And I got to meet and hang out with some of the skaters from Northshore Roller Derby. And also make up a little for missing a week's worth of my usual derby practice, alway an issue while on vacation.
So I got to skate and it was awesome. Then I drove home, set my alarm for stupid early, and went to bed. The end.
Food Talley for Tuesday and Wednesday, also something I forgot from Monday:
- 2018-07-16, 18:30 - Venison hot tamales! I knew the tomatoes were an appetizer for something, I just couldn't remember what. (Home: venison from Dad's hunting trips, tamales made by one of Dad's friends)
- 2018-07-17, 08:30 - Scallion omette on toast, yellow squash kimchi (home, made by me)
- 2018-07-17, 11:30 - Oysters on the half shell (Seither's)
- 2018-07-17, 13:00 - Sad little slice of cranberry poundcake (Puccino's)
- 2018-07-17, 20:00 - Venison backstrap with béarnaise sauce, rosemary potatoes, and broccoli. Also more squid-dressed tomatoes. (Home, thank you Dad)
- 2018-07-18, 12;00 - Crawfish fettucini (Giorlando's)
- 2018-07-18, 18:00 - Venison sauce piquante, Korean radish kimchi (home, thank you again Dad)
That sure is a lot of venison. Dad and his friends maintain a hunting camp in Alabama, so, no surprises there. ALSO NO COMPLAINTS. NONE. I will complain, however, about the lack of beignets on this trip. (ALL THE SADS FOR MORNING CALL.) I guess I'll have to make some when I get back to Boulder.
but questions only lead to more questions and also a higher wordcount
- 3,496 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 566 words (if poetry, lines) long
Hi. I'm in a hotel in Loveland right now. I'm doing the derby thing this weekend. It is a tournament called Mayhem; details here. (Sorry, it's a Facebook event page, I don't think they have a regular web page about it.) We play at 2:15 PM tomorrow against the team from Colorado Springs. Our schedule for the rest of the weekend depends on whether we win or lose that first game. The latest bracket and schedule is... hard to find, actually, but it's in a Google Drive pdf that's viewable by anyone who has the link, so, here's the link.
So as you might expect, this complicates my Friday. My whole week has been complicated. But I have been good! I have been prioritizing the ongoing revision of "Survival, After" rather than doing just "the easy stuff" and sticking a fork in the rest of the day. So I actually have progress to report.
Progress has been... rather daunting.
As I've said before, I'm already daunted, disappointed, alarmed, something like that, by the story's refusal to remain a flash fiction story, and by its insistence on needing more than just a quick polish before sending it off to potential publishers. But I had become somewhat resigned to it. I gave in. I began indicating section breaks and expanding the resulting sections into full-blown individual scenes. I watched the word count rise and I shrugged and said, "So be it." I even got excited that I might have a brand new full-length story by the end of this process!
Then I took a look at the world-building and things really started blowing up.
Heh. That's almost literal, given how the story starts. As of last week, the draft began, "Within an hour of the bombs falling..." The original prompt had to do with immigrants and refugees, so my character was a refugee fleeing a war zone. Thus, bombs. Only bombs and war means territories and nations and policies and I just can't. Whatever it takes to arrange fictional wartime politics, I just don't got. I'm sorry. So, no. No one is dropping bombs on the protagonist's city.
So what does that mean? It means unexplained uncanny phenomena, of course! Again. I mean, it's basically "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" except survivable (and not flash fiction). Because that's what I do. Apparently I write stories about the real world turning quite suddenly into a science-fantasy world, and how everyday people cope with that. It's OK. If I'm a one-trick pony, there are worse tricks to have.
And so but anyway the point is, the story's beginning just keeps getting longer. Look, if you say "bombs," the reader can kind of imagine what that's like. Things go boom. Stuff gets smashed. People get smashed too. The fallout effects may be fantastical, but the initial concussive impact is can pretty much go without saying. Right? Well, delete the bombs and nothing goes without saying. How does the surreal effect happen? What does it look and sound and smell like? What do we know, what don't we know, and what can we hope to find out? QUESTIONS.
I also decided the protagonist can't just be a bystander when the cars at the traffic light go feral. The protagonist is in one of those cars. Which means the protagonist has no idea how widespread this is until they run home to reassure their family: hey, the thing you are no doubt staring horrified at on the morning news? I survived that. So I have to actually write the scene where the protagonist discovers what happened to their family's house. And I have to decide what happened to their family's house, because since it's not bombs I can't just refer to "the rubble that was my parents' garage" and leave it at that. And, damn, did I actually originally have the protagonist just fleeing the area without finding out for sure whether their family is OK? That's cold, y'all. That's super cold. The protagonist has to dig through the rubble. They have to go back to their brother's school and try to find him. They can't just leave without making sure.
So now I'm writing even more new material. For a story that started out 750 words long.
I'm in this weird back-and-forth between feeling really awesome about watching this story take shape, and getting all white-knuckled anxious WHEN WILL THIS BE DONE PLEASE?! Like, I would like to write other things in my life. Other short stories. Maybe even a novel! Could I not spend the entire rest of my career on this one used-to-be-flash story? Because right now it feels like this is my life now.
Anyway. Today I did not prioritize short story revision because tomorrow is Friday, and, having prioritized the short story revision all week, I had not made even a little bit of progress on this week's Friday Fictionette offering until today. And that sucker needs a lot of revision between today, because the hot mess I have babbled out isn't presentable. Also it is too long. It is almost 3000 words of not even a little bit presentable. So... I am hoping to be on time with it tomorrow, but tomorrow is Bout Day 1 of 3. Adjust your expectations accordingly and I shall try to do the same.
i often dislike ironclaw menders
Speaking of the Tide app (as I was yesterday), it gave me a really weird "inspirational" quote today. I honestly wondered for a moment if i was looking at InspiroBot. Except it was way too topical. Today is International Women's Day, and the "greeting words" Tide displayed were,
I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.
I mean, I know Tide's creators are not primarily English speakers, but even allowing for a poor translation, I can't figure out a non-awful way to interpret that. "Women are great! They're totally inscrutable and self-reliant! Not that I know any of them individually, I'm not friends with any, but I sometimes find myself admiring them as a monolithic class of people who fit neatly into a shiny category box."
Of all the facepalms of today (not gonna talk politics, not gonna talk politics), that was the one I wasn't expecting. I wish there was a way to tell Tide to give me a different quote. Far as I can tell, you get a new one every day, and that same one all day long.
Speaking of facepalm, guess who did something stupid Monday? Me! It's me! I did something stupid! Guess what I did?
I reinstalled Spiral Knights, that's what. Gods help me.
Spiral Knights is an adorable and exquisite MMORG created by Three Rings Design, the same great minds that brought us Puzzle Pirates. (At the time, presumably this guy was one of those great minds. See also this here and that there or just everything under this tag.) I started playing it when it went into limited Beta release--I have fond memories of playing it at ten o'clock at night on the patio of a closed-up cafe in Estes Park when it was frigid cold because my hotel's wifi was borked and I needed my fix--but then a few years later I sorta just trailed off. Don't know why. Just stopped logging in. Maybe because John stopped playing it with me, and it wasn't as much fun to play solo. Maybe because I got some effin' discipline and got so busy writing I didn't have time. Dunno.
But then this week I had to go and remember it existed. "I had fun doing that. I wonder if it's still fun? Maybe I'll just make a brand new character and see."
And that's why getting pretty much anything done (other than grinding for orbs of alchemy dammit) has been a bit of a challenge. Mind you, I have been getting things done! Mostly. Most of the time. But. The temptation is real.
"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- Mirabile Dictu
- Political Maunderings
- Selling My Soul
- The Beast That Rolls
- Yahoo! Yeehah! Woopie!
- 739 words (if poetry, lines) long
I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--
(be right back.)
*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*
*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*
*Running footsteps getting louder until--*
OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)
And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.
I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"
And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.
Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!
OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.
making awful things happen to fictional people
- 20,223 words (if poetry, lines) long
Still sick, but getting better. Better enough to take a walk down to the bank and the bookstore. Still sick enough that any pace above a leisurely amble resulted in a painful coughing fit. Three hours of roller derby practice was out of the question. Am spending the evening at home with my writing instead.
I went to the bookstore for more postcards. What with the current Postcards to Voters campaign, I'm going through them pretty fast. I've got a 100-pack of BE A VOTER! postcards winging their way to me as we speak, but in the meantime, I'm fresh out. And the Bookworm has, in addition to its spin-rack full of shiny Colorado and Boulder tourist postcards, a box full of random donated postcards and greeting cards I was looking forward to exploring. I picked out eight to get me through my current list of addresses. They were a mix of historical architecture, tourist souvenirs from assorted locations, and... cactus flowers? Also a moose.
Then, when I brought my selection up to the check-out counter, there was this amazing-looking book of 20 postcards of classic The Hobbit illustrations by various artists, just waiting for me like it knew I was coming. Why yes I snatched it up. Some Alabama voters are going to be getting some very pretty postcards early next week.
The epic word count days continue. Managed the requisite two NaNoWriMo sessions both today and yesterday; now, at 20K plus change, I am caught up through day 12. 3,300 words per day from here on out and I am set.
Last night I did a bunch of mental plotting while I was waiting to fall asleep, which helped prime the pump for today. Of course, I had to pick out and discard the bits of not-quite-asleep-but-already-dreaming nonsense that crept into the mix. Like, I'm running through the scene in which Delta and Michael first meet, and she's paying to replace his lunch (she klutzed his meal all over his clothes as a contrived meet-cute), and they're exchanging numbers, and... helping each other make squares in Two Dots? Because that's what I did before going to bed, I guess?
Hypnagogic contributions aside, last night in bed was also when I realized that, during the tragic flashback I'd written all about Michael's little brother's very short life, I'd never once mentioned his parents' kindertotems. In fact, all through my conception of the novel, I've only mentioned Michael's kindertotem. For those just joining us today, kindertotems are specific to people from Michael's country, who are born in animal form and slowly change to full biological humanity as they reach adulthood. Once they have fully outgrown their non-human morphology, an animal of the corresponding species will show up and become part of that adult's life going forward. Kindertotems enjoy a mild, mostly one-way psychic connection with their humans, and they can talk (when they wish) just like animal companions in any number of fantasy books you may have read, but they remain more or less immature as regards things like imagination and impulse control. So it's sort of like a person's "inner child" but as a concrete, living being.
So, in the flashback, seven-year-old Michael is still part cat, and poor doomed Karlkin is a kitten who's just opened his eyes--but their parents are adults, so where are their kindertotems? What are they? Even considering their come-and-go-as-they-please nature, why don't they show up at all over a several-month-long flashback? Well, I came up with some answers. They are not pleasant answers, but they are in keeping with other things I discovered/decided while writing that flashback. (Michael's father really is a piece of work, you know that?) Michael's mother's kindertotem is a canary, which probably means she herself has a tendency to sing. Or did. Until all the awfulness happened.
"But so anyway about that meet-cute in the coffee shop," she said, desperate to change the subject and lighten the mood...