Weekly Update, 2/12/2018 to 2/18/2018

Brief Update

February can be a bleak month. It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride for me, emotionally.

I am reading some great books, though. In addition to the ones that have already come up in my Accomplishments, I’m working my way through Savage Beauty, Nancy Milford’s biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay. (Who happens to be one of my favorite poets. Yes, I’m the kind of person who has multiple favorite poets, not just one). I’m utterly fascinated by the similarities in the development of a writer — I identify strongly with some of her feelings and behavior.

I’m also reading (listening to) Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, which I have been posting about on Facebook. It’s so good. I’m a bit iffy on the seven narrators in the audiobook version, but it’s growing on me.

I’m re-reading Word Work, by Bruce Holland Rogers, a book about writing I bought and read many years ago — I have distinct memories of reading it while sitting in the spare bedroom of my Haverhill apartment. I remember precisely none of the actual content, however, so it’s been a great rediscovery. I especially have enjoyed his essays on dreams, which have inspired me to start keeping a dream journal.

In my habitat project, February is devoted to the living room and the downstairs bathroom. I haven’t had a lot of free weekends, but I’ve been tackling it when I can. I went shopping for some new living room furniture this past weekend, but didn’t end up selecting anything — it kind of turned into a decision paralysis situation.

Also, I’ve started logging habitat related stuff here, so get used to seeing boring entries like “washed the shower curtain.”

Finally, I managed to save the day at work this week — by catching an odd bug before it went into production, and ultimately fixing it — so that’s pretty neat.

Links

Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy. I used to be heavily invested in minimalism, but I soured on it after a while. This is part of why.

(Also, as I discovered, there’s a flaw in the “buy fewer high quality things that last longer” logic. That “last longer” part, while implied, is frequently not delivered. A personal example for me is clothing. It does me no good to buy an expensive capsule wardrobe or “essentials” when I know my unnaturally-pointy elbows will destroy all the shirts, I’ll spill pasta sauce on the pants, and/or I’ll be too fat/too thin to wear it all a year from now. Might as well just buy cheaply…)

Accomplishments

Writing
– 2h 40m work on Lioness
– Wrote a poem for my character in Bloody Slippers to perform
– Wrote blog post The Year of Habitat: the detailed plan

Reading
– Read Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
– Read “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™”, by Rebecca Roanhorse, in Apex #99

Other Media
– Listened to Happier with Gretchen Rubin, episodes #152 and 156
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “The Nine Dream Worlds of Frederik van Eeden”, “Conjoined Dreamers”, and “From the Vault: Dune Biology”
– Did Ulduar timewalking in WoW with Terbodhna

Health
– 17m on exercise bike/15min ZR supply run
– 2 x Did Hacker’s Diet introductory fitness ladder, rung 1
– Did Zombies Run 5K training, week 4 workout 1 (2.93mi in 51:24)
– ZR5K, week 4 workout 2 (2.75mi in 48:33)

Habitat
– Washed rags, towels, and shower curtain
– Cleaned out the downstairs bathroom cabinet under the sink
– Did a 45/15 on the living room
– Vacuumed upstairs
– Broke down cardboard for recycling
– Cleaned the shower
– Went shopping for new living room furniture

Picture of the Week


Some fabric samples for a sectional, on top of a coffee table we were considering.

The Year of Habitat: the detailed plan

As I wrote about in my 2018 resolution post, I have declared this the year of habitat — the year of making my home and surroundings more comfortable and habitable, instead of living like an itinerant college student.

I had an intention in that post, but I never talked about what my plan is. I do in fact have one! I’ve been refining it during the month of January, and I thought I’d share it here, for personal accountability.

Rooms and projects

I started by making a list of all the projects and tasks I wanted to get done in each room. This list is aspirational; I’m realistic that I’m not going to achieve everything on the list. This was mostly to give me a sense of how long to devote to each space; I allocated a star rating of difficulty to each room based on the number and size of tasks.

I also wanted to take seasons into account — I don’t want to be working in my unheated basement in winter; nor do I want to be working in the computer room/library in the heat of the summer (i.e. the room that gets so warm, even with central air, that we put an auxiliary A/C unit in there).

There are also some question marks in here. Do I need a new dishwasher? No; the one we have works okay, but it’s older than our tenure in the house, starting to break down, and probably not very energy-efficient. Likewise, I don’t need a new couch or end tables, but our couch is ratty and cat-clawed and our end tables are black-matte-painted monstrosities. (I was gratified when Matt told me, completely on his own, “We might need to consider replacing the sectional in the near future”).

There are a couple of big projects that span the whole house that aren’t always explicitly mentioned here:

One, the previous owners looooooved cellular shades, and installed them in every single room in very… bold colors. (Pink, wine red, baby blue, etc). I really do not like cellular shades. They look cheap, and they break easily — many of them already have. And I do not need pink anything in my dining room, thank you.

Two, the upstairs bathroom needs an entire remodel. On top of fixtures which are BABY BLUE, the bathtub leaks and has been patched numerous times. (We haven’t used it in years, because of this). About the only thing I like about it is the wooden cabinets. We are planning to get some professional help to address this room this year.

The downstairs bathroom isn’t much better. Water has leaked into it from the upstairs tub, damaging the ceiling. The counters and walls are a peach color, and the tile is vintage 1980s. (Matt argues this room needs a full remodel, too. But I’m not as keen to tackle it this year).

Three, skylights. Hey, skylights are great. But in a house with central air… why do they need to open? In my experience with skylights, having ones that open is just asking for double the amount of leaks. And gosh, do these things leak. It will sometimes pour rain in our sunroom, depending on conditions. Replacing them may need to be a thing that happens.

Those are the overarching concerns. Let’s go room by room now:

Kitchen (**)
– new dishwasher?
– finally replace microwave over range
– clean out, replace, or get rid of old coffee pot
– clean out gap between window and screen
– clean behind fridge
– have well water tested (do after a heavy rainstorm)
– glue foot back on cutting board
– Replace bulb above sink

Dining room (*)
– replace, or at least remove, old broken blinds
– get rid of cookbooks we don’t use (which is most of them)
– replace bulbs in chandelier
– Hang/find a place for family photos

Living room (**)
– clean/purge/organize media collection
– new end tables?
– new couch/seating?
– new media console?
– Wash drapes
– Consolidate/digitize my music collection
– Lighting for my ruby flash souvenir glass collection
– Make a sleeve for and hang decorative quilt
– Organize cat files/paperwork

Downstairs bathroom (*)
– Replace light/fan fixture
– Paint walls
– Replace/cover damaged bit of ceiling from water leak

Sunroom (*)
– Replace skylights with ones that don’t open?
– window treatments
– clean/purge/organize board games/rpgs

Mudroom (**)
– cover cat door (with something more permanent than cardboard & duct tape)
– stain step
– clean behind washer/dryer

Basement – sewing room (***)
– better storage for fabric and yarn
– get rid of desk?
– shampoo carpet

Basement – costume storage (*) and workshop (*) – these mostly just need cleaning/purging/organizing

Upstairs bathroom (***)
– (short term) rehang mirror
– (short term) reattach towel bar
– (long term) full renovation – new bath, toilet, sink, counters – want a heated towel rack – better ventilation/fan
– replace skylight window with one that doesn’t open?

Master bedroom (**)
✅ See if curtains I bought work
✅ Set up reading nook
✅ Acquire carpet
✅ move one of the cat posts out
– new lamps (or just new lamp harps/shades)
– Purge unwanted clothes – I’ll give myself half a checkmark for this; I did get rid of a lot of stuff, but could probably do more
✅ Clean/purge/organize loft
– Put up mirror that came with bedroom set? (Requires cleaning stickers off it first)

Computer room(*)
– Consolidate my collection of digital photos
– Remove blinds by the foot of my desk?
– Scan box of mementos/nostalgia
– Select 10 favorite postcards from European postcard collection, frame them, and hang them in my writing space

Guest room (**)
– Paint walls
– Hang three-panel screen
– Remove and sort clothes from loft
– purge/organize larp memorabilia

Deck (**)
– Stain portion of the deck we replaced
– Re-stain the rest of the deck

Garden (***)
– Build a bridge for the stream
– Remove old garden gate

Screenhouse (**)
– Acquire outdoor dining set
– Patch holes in screen
– Better solution than crappy tiles for floor

Schedule

Basically I plan to focus on a difference space each month. Some spaces are more work than others, and some months are busier than others — and I don’t have exactly twelve spaces — but I’ve tried to break it down relatively equitably.

January: bedroom
February: living room/downstairs bathroom
March: kitchen
April: upstairs bathroom
May: guest room
June: garden/screenhouse
July: deck/garden
August: basement
September: mudroom
October: sun room
November: dining room
December: computer room

Upkeep/maintenance

As part of this project, I’d like to become more regular about keeping my house ordered and clean. I have very much found that (to quote Gretchen Rubin) “outer order contributes to inner calm.” Keeping a neat house keeps my anxiety at bay and helps me to be more energetic and productive.

… which honestly sucks, because I hate cleaning.

I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous cleaning calendars going around on FB — something that someone like me, who works full time and has a number of active hobbies, who could not maintain.


Incidentally, this is about all I am qualified to do in Photoshop.

The closest I’ve found to a cleaning and maintenance schedule that works for me is Unfuck Your Habitat’s cleaning lists. Even then, I find them a bit… ambitious, and I have to modify them to keep with the “do what you can; no marathons” ethos of the site. (Which is really great, btw, and aimed at people who have physical limitations, like chronic illness, that keep them from doing as much as they would like). The actual number of items on the UFYH list is greater, but each one seems smaller. No MOPPING YOUR KITCHEN EVERY DAY.

So here’s my modification of the UFYH lists. It’s evolved over the course of January-February, and is continuing to evolve.

Daily list:
– Make bed (if someone’s not in it, i.e. mostly on weekends)
– Wipe down one surface
– Wash dishes
– Put clothes and shoes away
– Deal with incoming mail
– Clean litterbox
– One 20/10 on an area that needs it
– Prepare for tomorrow, if going into the office (pick out outfit, pack up laptop and gym bag, optionally make lunch)

Weekly:
– Vacuum upstairs or downstairs (alternate)
– Wash, dry, and put away laundry
– Wipe down stovetop/oven door
– Take trash out
– Put away everything on bedroom floor

Bi-weekly (every two weeks, not twice a week!):
– Wash sheets
– Wash towels and rags
– Break down cardboard and recycle
– Clean toilets

Monthly:
– Dust all surfaces
– Wipe down baseboards
– Clean out refrigerator
– Wipe down bathroom walls
– Clean light switches and door handles
– Shred or file old bills and mail
– Clean shower
– Mop upstairs or downstairs floors (alternate)
– Do full litter replacement

Seasonally:
– Wash curtains/clean vertical blinds
– Go through closet and sort through clothes
– Vacuum/clean upholstered furniture
– Clean oven
– Vacuum and rotate mattress
– Clean out bathroom drawers and cabinets
– Change water pitcher filter
– Change HVAC filter
– Clean out and organize pantry

Do I do all of this every day/week/month/season? Gods, no. It’s hard to go from mopping your floor once a year to mopping monthly. But it gives me a framework, if nothing else. I always know what I could be doing to maintain the house. So while being somewhat aspirational, it still does spur me to do stuff.

For me the most important daily tasks are washing dishes and doing the litterboxes, and being sure to pack my gym bag on Sunday night, to set the tone for the week. Making the bed only rarely happens, because there’s usually someone in it when I get up — my husband, 1-3 cats, or all of the above. And that’s okay. It’s nice to get into a made bed, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. (Ha).

Weekly, vacuuming takes the highest priority; everything else happens automatically (i.e. I clean the stovetop when I’m wiping down the counters, or Matt does the laundry).

Also note that all I care is that this stuff is done; it doesn’t matter who in our house does it. Fundamentally, things like doing the laundry or cleaning the litterboxes usually fall to Matt; he also cooks all the food. So a lot of these tasks are “do them unless Matt has already done them.”

So far?

January was devoted to the bedroom, and folks, it is so much more comfortable than it was a month or so ago. I have a comfortable space to read in, with a neatly folded blanket on a (relatively) clean chair under good lighting with a stack of books beside it. My closets and drawers are emptier. The contents of my bedroom loft have reduced by half, and I no longer am tripping over Christmas ornaments. I HAVE CURTAINS!!! AND A RUG!! Here is a photo of my progress on the room — alas, I didn’t prepare any dramatic before/after shots.

Is it magazine-worthy? Hell no. Is it a sight better than it was in 2017? HELLZ YES. I felt such a sense of peace and calm sitting in that room last weekend, reading and drinking coffee.

This month — February — I am tackling the living room and the downstairs bathroom. (Short term stuff for the downstairs bathroom, if Matt really wants to do a full remodel). It’s tougher because I’m away several weekends in February (Mad3, Intercon coming up) and it’s a shorter month, but I’m hoping to go furniture shopping this weekend and replace some of our beat-up living room pieces. I like having an area rug in the bedroom so much that I might just put one in the living room, too.

I’m cautiously optimistic.

Weekly Update, 2/5/2018 to 2/11/2018

Accomplishments

Writing
– Worked ~2h 10m on Lioness

Reading
– Read The Captive Prince, by C.S. Pacat
– Read Prince’s Gambit, by C.S. Pacat

Other Media
– Listened to Happier with Gretchen Rubin, episodes 153-155
– Listened to By the Book, “The Five Love Languages”
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “From the Vault: Dune Technology”
– Listened to Stuff You Missed in History Class, “SYMHC Classics: Abelard and Heloise”

Health
– Did Zombies Run 5K training, week 3 workout 2 (2.69mi in 46:24)
– Did Hacker’s Diet introductory fitness ladder, rung 1 (x2)

Weekly Update, 1/29/2018 to 2/4/2018

Links

10 Excellent Online Courses I Highly Recommend (and They’re All Free!) For my later reference. Also, I’ve done the Learning How to Learn Coursera course before, and highly recommend it. (As well as the related book, A Mind for Numbers).

Let’s talk about the fantasy of the writer’s life. In which we are all living — or wishing we lived — in an Anthropologie catalogue and/or post-war Europe, and maybe that’s not serving us very well.

Accomplishments

Writing
– 45m work on Lioness

Reading
– Read Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

Other Media
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “From the Vault: Tetris Syndrome” and “Don’t Drink the Salt Water”
– Listened to By the Book, “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself”
– Listened to Larpcast, “Fifth Gate Recap, part 1”

LARP
– NPCed Madrigal 3 revel

Health
– Zombies Run 5K training, week 2 workout 3 (1.83mi in 35:20)
– 10 x crunches
– 5 x alternate heel touchers
– Zombies Run 5K training, week 3 workout 1 (2.6mi in 46:19)

Picture of the Week


Trying new things with my hair. In which I look like an 1890s spinster and/or Miss Frizzle.

Weekly Update, 1/22/2018 to 1/28/2018

This has been a week of ups and downs. I hit bottom on Wednesday, feeling overwhelmed with the stress of life, and in particular worries about writing. Thankfully I have amazing friends who helped to lift me out of that bad place, and by the end of the week I was back to work on Lioness, writing what is functionally a new beginning for the novel, to address some of the bigger structural and character concerns that were stymying me.

Also this week I visited Newport, RI with EB, which hit a sweet spot of gravestones and gilded age glory.

I have mostly closed out the month of January in my year of habitat, which was devoted to improving my master bedroom. I managed to finally put away Christmas decorations, clean out the loft, get rid of a lot of junk, hang curtains, and put down a rug. More remains to be done, but it is already way more comfortable and habitable than it was.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Brainstormed a “mini-mission” for a new beginning to Lioness
– Worked 1h 30m on this mini-mission

Other Media
– Listened to The Training Dummies, episode 183
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Meditation Lab: Empathy and Energy”

Habitat
– Bought a new rug for the bedroom

Social/Travel
– Had sushi with EB at Jasmine in Auburn
– Visited Newport, RI with EB, where I:

  • Had lunch at local chain Walt’s Roast Beef
  • Toured The Breakers, the famous Vanderbilt “cottage”
  • Visited the Irish lot, a private family graveyard with mysterious holes through the tombstones
  • Visited the Ragged Island Brewery and sampled their collection of beers
  • Looked in vain for the grave of Pookie, a dog that belonged to Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
  • Had dinner at Benjamin’s in downtown Newport

Health
– Free run/walk (1.63mi in 30m; thanks, ZR5K, for crashing repeatedly and making this necessary)
– 10 min on stationary bike
– Did Zombies Run 5K Training week 2 workout 1 (1.75mi in 34:47)
– Did ZR5K week 2 workout 2 (1.87mi in 33:47)

Picture of the Week


New rug. Cat not included in the price.

Weekly Update, 1/8/2018 to 1/21/2018

Brief Update

I’m grouping two weeks together here. While I was pretty productive on the habitat project in the first week (I’m currently working on my master bedroom), in the second week I wanted to nothing more than sleep and play vidya games.

Hey Lise; stop pushing yourself to exhaustion and then wondering why you feel sluggish for a week.

Last week too I was struggling with distraction, so I did what I should always do when terminally distracted: deleted social media apps from my phone. It seems to have helped a bit.

I am starting to get a quorum of responses back on Lioness, so I’m going to have to stop vamping and get back to editing that soon.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Entered some notes into my idea file about potential next novel projects
– Did a free write on one of my potential novel ideas
– Wrote blog post “My thoughts on the leveling changes in WoW 7.3.5”

Other Media
– Listened to Writing Excuses 12.40-12.41
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “From the Vault: The Forer Effect”, “Where’s my Eternal Youth?” parts 1 and 2
– Listened to By the Book, “The Miracle Morning”
– Listened to By the Book, “Why Good Things Happen to Good People”
– Played San-Ni-Ichi, Joking Hazard, and Channel A

Social
– Met EB for dinner and LARP work at Panera in Framingham
– Dinner with Nat and the Oberons at Bistro781 in Waltham
– Attended Mel’s birthday party

Habitat
– Cleaned out the bedroom loft
– Finally hung curtains in the master bedroom!
– Purged three big boxes full of stuff (mostly clothes and some stuffed animals)

Health
– Zombies Run 5K training week 1 workout 1
– Zombies Run 5K training week 1 workout 2
– Had a massage

Rejection Log

– 9-day form for “Granny Hubbard” from Factor Four

Picture of the Week


An almost empty loft!

My thoughts on the leveling changes in WoW 7.3.5

On Tuesday, WoW rolled out a huge game-changing feature — most zones now scale to the player.

To be a little bit more precise:

The vanilla zones generally scale from whatever their original starting level was to 60. (So Duskwood, instead of being 20-30, is now 20-60). Starter zones like Elwynn Forest or Bloodmyst Isle scale to 20.

At 60, you can choose to go to either Outland or Northrend, or a mix of both — all these zones scale from 60-80.

At 80, you can choose to do Cataclysm or Pandaria content — all these zones scale from 80-90.

The Draenor zones scale 90-100.

The Broken Isles still scale 100-110 exactly like they did before.

(More details on Icy Veins).

The less-anticipated part of this change was: the amount of XP required for each level was increased, and the health of mobs was increased to 300-400% that of the player. Heirloom gear was made less powerful (in terms of primary and secondary stats), and playing Random Dungeon Roulette through the group finder is no longer the fastest way to level.

As you might imagine, player reaction to these changes is all over the map. Some people are convinced this makes it impossible to reach “the real game” (i.e. endgame, what you do at 110); that this is a scheme by evil Blizzard to get people to buy character boosts. And then on the exact opposite end, some folks like how it hearkens back to classic, where leveling was occasionally challenging! Where players communicated with each other! Where you learned how to play, because not everything fell over when you looked at it! Where people used CC and didn’t pull the entire dungeon at once! Where the men were men and the sheep were all Defias bandits…

… er, I lost track of that metaphor somewhere.

ANYWAY. All this prompted me to do my own research. I only have three characters at max level, so there are a goodly number of classes I still need to level. My “research” was done on two different characters. Both are decked out in heirlooms (I even have the fishing tournament ring!) Previous to 7.3.5, they leveled largely by doing random dungeons through the LFG tool; after the change, exclusively via quests.

(I appreciate this is not exactly comparing apples to apples, but by all accounts leveling in dungeons is no longer the fastest way to level).

My first “research assignment”

… was a fire mage who was 47 when the changes rolled out. I had leveled her to about 20 through questing, and after that with a mix of quests and dungeons, when I could get them (queues being what they are for dps classes). Honestly most of her playtime has been sitting in Stormwind disenchanting stuff for my other toons!

When 7.3.5 rolled out, I started by heading to Eastern Plaguelands grabbing one of the Fiona caravan quests. Along the way I run into plaguebats… who are my level, and who no longer melt as soon as I look at them. I used to be able to kill these guys with a single Fireball and Fire Blast. Now? I pretty much have to unload my whole arsenal into them — and if I grab more than one, things get hairy.

I’m soon perfecting the Fireball-from-max-range, Fireball, Frost Nova, Blink and turn, Fireball, Dragon’s Breath for the disorient, Fireball (plus hope for a crit, Fire Blast, Pyroblast) rotation. Which… is basically fire mage right there. (Though… with not really enough crit to make it work properly).

So I guess you could say that I’m learning my rotation better than I did when it was “what spells can I cast before this thing dies?” And I like that. I like feeling like leveling has danger.

I also like that I’m experiencing the story of EPL before I level out of it. I am making a point of reading the quest descriptions, of listening to the banter between Fiona and Gidwin and Taeranar. I’m eager to see where this blood elf/dwarf paladin bromance will go. This feels like how the zones were intended to be experienced — as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, rather than a story that cuts off in the middle when you realize you’re not getting any XP from mob kills any more. I imagine if I’d done this a million times before, I’d feel differently, but given my odd playing history, I’ve never gotten to finish post-Cata EPL before!

But… at the end of the day, it’s just slower. I don’t have precise numbers for this character, but I played for several hours and still didn’t get her to 50, which was my goal. (So that she could at least learn the next level of enchanting!) So that was disappointing — like suddenly I’m leveling through molasses, when yesterday I was zipping around.

As an aside, I played more during vanilla than I did at any other time in the history of WoW. As a result I recall exactly what vanilla was like, and I have very little nostalgia for it. And this? This feels like vanilla soloing as a clothie.

(Granted, with the benefit of a lot of the conveniences that have been introduced since then, i.e. better quest placement, better drop rates, more than one graveyard per zone, a toy that gives you all the flight paths, more bag space, etc).

More research was necessary

My next character, a prot pally, was 45 when the changes hit. I play her beside my husband’s second monk (pandaren, not dwarf, this time). I had soloed her through the draenei starting zones up until 15; then we had pretty much chain-queued random dungeons as a tank and healer up until 45. After 7.3.5, we decided to hit up Duskwood, since I remembered liking that zone in vanilla, and I hadn’t done more than a few quests there since Cata.

First of all, this was easier than leveling my fire mage — because I had twice the damage thanks to my pocket monk, and because melee damage tends to be front-loaded. By the time slow pally catches up to less-slow monk, a single Avenger’s Shield and Judgment was usually enough to finish things off.

Second thing I noticed — Darkshire was inhabited again.

Like there were people of all levels wandering about.

Questing. In the world.

Not endlessly queuing random dungeons.

This is so bloody rare in this era of the game. The only time I remember running into other players when I was leveling my last 110 was in Outland, which still retained a lot of this feel, even pre-7.3.5. (And which was miiiiiiiserable). Some random dude actually messaged my husband to ask how he had the monk class mount (that is awarded at the end of the Legionfall campaign, at 110) on his level 45 monk. (At which he had to explain his main is monk, too).

However… the slowness of eeeeeeverything was starting to wear on me here. I wanted to read the Legend of Stalvan quest text; I remembered it being really neat in vanilla, and it apparently didn’t change much in Cata. But my eyes would just keep glazing over and honestly I couldn’t tell you anything about it today except that there were some slashed letters in a worgen camp.

And if they are going to return to the classic speed of leveling? By god, they need to fix the drop rates on some of these quests. I did not need to spend an hour searching for six Dusky Lumps. (Although without this we might not have started singing “my lovely spider lumps,” to the tune of a certain Black Eyed Peas song. Which, yanno, is Something).

As for a more objective assessment: when I hit 46 after turning in a bunch of quests at the end of the evening, my /played time for that character was 11.5 hours, with one hour of that being at level 45. My fast and loose napkin math (assuming all levels take equal time, which isn’t entirely accurate) is that leveling time has increased from 14 mins per level to one hour per level.

Four times slower. That’s… a bit absurd.

In conclusion

Leveling unquestionably takes much longer now, and I don’t know how I feel about it. Sometimes it feels fun and yet challenging; sometimes it’s just tedious. I imagine for new players, it may be more compelling, but for more experienced players who want another 110, Right Now, it will be annoying. I’m not hurting for cash, so if I really need another character to be 110 Right the Hell Now, I suspect it’s a problem I will throw $60 at. Maybe that’s intentional.

Also I will like this change SO MUCH MORE when I get to 60 and realize I never ever have to see Outland ever again.

I also suspect that this will be tuned in some way. There’s another big maintenance coming tomorrow; maybe some changes will roll out with that. At the very least maybe I will stop dying in raid due to Portal Keeper Hasabel’s endlessly flashing beam of death.

Lise Needs a New Writing Project

Day 148: The end of the line

I need a new project to work on. Probably a novel, since last year did a pretty good job of establishing that I’d rather be writing long-form fiction instead of short. I am feeling antsy to put new words on paper. The question is: on what?

“But Lise!” I hear you say. “Aren’t you still working on novel edits/querying Lioness/submitting short stories?”

Yes, but that’s a different sort of creative energy. They are important, and good, but they do not give me that wild exhilaration of creating something out of nothing. Drafting is arguably why writers write; it’s the most enjoyable part of the process, and probably what drew us to the vocation in the first place.

So what are my options for drafting something new?

A sequel to Lioness

I know, roughly, what happens in the sequel to Lioness. It involves sea journeys, and new cultures, and probably new points of view, since our trio of main characters is going to be split up. (If you wanted an Estevien POV, for example, he’s going to be off by himself in the equivalent of the New World).

The problem with this option is… there’s a lot of wisdom against writing a sequel to a novel you haven’t sold. You’re investing a lot in something that may not pan out. This is true for all writing, of course, but if your goal is ultimately to reach readers, then spending a year writing something you can never, ever sell (without selling the first novel) is kind of frustrating.

I guess there’s no harm in outlining the next novel? But outlining doesn’t really scratch the right itch…

Something else in the world of Lioness

On a whim a few months ago, I started writing a romance story in the world of Lioness. (It is the answer to the question, “what exactly does happen when Bizel goes back to Lisieres on the Empress’ orders to reconcile with his estranged wife?”) It’s a lot of fun to write — because Bizel is a lot of fun to write, and I’m discovering his wife is, too — but it’s yet another example of Something I Can’t Do Anything With ™ unless Lioness succeeds.

Revisiting an old project

I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to Gods and Fathers. There’s a lot of good stuff there, though marred by issues of “why am I handling characters at such a remove?” and “is this story really about Mirasa or Serevic?”

(Some day I’d like to get to the bottom of why I find it easier to write compelling male characters than I do female, despite my own gender. I don’t think Lioness has quite the same level of problem as G&F did, but my male characters do tend to be scene stealers, and so many of my edits on Lioness were, “no, seriously, make sure this scene is ACTUALLY ABOUT YFRE GODDAMMIT.” I blame years of narrative training with male protagonists in male-dominated SFF worlds).

This would be a lot of work, of course. If I want to be serious about self-pub I should probably rewrite it from scratch, and then plan out an entire series and marketing pieces for it.

I also have the half-a-novel I wrote in 2009 for NaNoWriMo, Viktory Empire, which is kind of steampunk/weird West with a young woman searching for her mother across a desert landscape. Again I would probably start over from scratch, keeping some scenes that I particularly liked. There’s a lot of filler that was just to make wordcount for NaNo, and of course it is only 50k, and unfinished as a story.

An entirely new novel

This holds the most appeal. And yet… I’m not sure what. Looking at my idea file, a few things stand out:

“Built-up fairyland.” This is intended as a return to Exilian Marquis, the portal fantasy world where I set all of my (seldom written down, usually just narrated to myself while walking circles in my yard) childhood stories. Looking over what I DID write down, a lot of it is rubbish, but there are many things I still love. I loved the arcane bureaucracy of the magical order I created; the race of grey-eyed, black-haired fae who were ever opposed to the main characters; my authorial stand-in, badass spinster sorceress who set the leader of her order on fire (I was anti-authoritarian even then…); the Japanese diaspora I created which was born out of my love for the Samurai Cat books and noodling with language.

I love the idea of reworking that world for my adult sensibilities… especially turning it into this sort of crossroads between different times and places, where technology sorta half-works and half-doesn’t…. oh heck, that’s the premise of the larp Crossover, isn’t it?

Also… I have no real plot for it. I guess I could go back to the plot of one of the novels I did try to write in that world. The last novel I tried to write in that world (I was working on it when I lived in France) is probably the most amenable to that treatment.

Of course, I don’t want to turn into That Guy in Your SFF Writing Workshop ™ who’s been writing the same story since they were in high school. That’s the danger with going back to familiar settings — there’s so much that resonates with you which means nothing to other people.

And then there’s the boringly-named “dark queen” story. Basically I like all those stories like Labyrinth which start with something like “disaffected young woman meets up with seductive dark prince and considers embracing his sort of evil.” But then said woman inevitably makes the choice to turn towards light and goodness and… yawn. That’s where I lose interest. What is even the point of fantasy that tells us, “Get the fuck out of this fantasy world and Be Good?”

There are of course many pitfalls of this idea. What I WANT the story to be is a tale of the slow descent into evil by one banal decision after another; of a woman taking her power from being villainous. But “evil” winning often doesn’t fit with the narrative structures we know and love. There’s also the risk that the relationship between guy and girl will come off disturbingly coercive, when I see it more as him being the catalyst to a voyage of (villainous) self-discovery. And of course, this feels like another place where I am likely to fall into “the most interesting character is a) not the main character, and b) is a dude”-syndrome.

Honestly I just re-read Rosamund Hodge’s “A Guide For Young Ladies Entering the Service of the Fairies” and it strikes me I want to hit a lot of the same notes as that story.

Finish Yo’ Shit 2018

There’s a certain appeal to this, too. I have a lot of unfinished projects that I cared enough to start, but haven’t bothered to finish. This is true even if I just count stuff I wrote in the last decade, what I consider to be my “adult” writing. There are the ones I mentioned above — the Lioness romance story, the half-novel — plus a couple of stories in the world of Gods & Fathers, a few standalone shorts, etc.

This feels good and responsible, and it involves putting new words on paper — but will it give me that “new novel energy” I seem to be seeking?

So what do I do?

I’ve talked before about how I use tarot as a sort of narrative therapy, using my interpretation of the cards to tell stories about my life. Since I was stymied by this question, I decided to use this method. I drew one card — the Magician, a card that is all about agency, master, and personal power.

… well, then. That seemed to very much point to the “built-up fairyland” story, where one of the main characters is, as I said, a badass spinster sorceress. I was especially drawn to one of the themes suggested by this card — “prodigy at the cost of normalcy” — which seemed to fit very well with how I envisioned the character, and the importance she played in my meaning-making and storytelling at that age. In the original tales, she was more like a mentor character, one POV out of way too many, but I think if I am going to write this, she needs to be front and center. I am Done with writing main characters who are not the protagonist.

I actually did a free write on this this morning, trying to get a feel for the character, the world, what the heck I’m doing. This is usually my first step, before I even write an outline; it’s not intended to be part of the finished story, although sometimes it is. I’m trying first-person POV for now; I may try third-person another day. I do like the immediacy of first person, even if these days its use seems to scream young adult. I mean, I guess this could be YA? I don’t know enough to say for sure yet.

So that’s, I think, what’s next for me.

Unless I decide to change my mind tomorrow. Which is entirely possible.

Weekly Update, 1/1/2018 to 1/7/2018

Meta

I’ve decided to relabel these thingers as a “weekly update,” since they have expanded from just links and accomplishments to include my short story rejection log, sometimes a picture of the week, and sometimes a brief update. If nothing else it gives me an excuse to post something regularly, which I’m not always good about doing.

Also we’re doing these things Monday – Sunday now, since weekend-long larp events made the Sat/Sun divide tricky.

Brief Update

Mental health seems to be holding steady, despite the winter doldrums.

I have Lioness out to a few beta readers at the moment, and a few stories on submission. I need to figure out what writing project to work on next.

I’m still planning out my Year of Habitat. This weekend I spent a lot of time cleaning the bedroom, putting aside a bunch of stuff to get rid of.

I got so out of shape over the holidays — mostly just from being away from the office gym — that I decided to redo the Zombies Run 5k training program from the beginning. Of course then we got 8-10 inches of snow and my plans were foiled by being stuck indoors Thurs-Fri. So if your question is “Are you still running?” (hi, Dad), the answer is: yes, intermittently.

I highly recommend the book I just read (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee) if you have any interest in queer YA historical romance (with a bi protagonist!) I had some quibbles with the plot and pacing, but the emotional arc was heart-rending and lovely.

I’ve been playing with tarot as narrative therapy again, and I just ordered the least woo-woo book about tarot I could find on Amazon. Looking forward to reading it…

Links

“Why Am I So Lazy?”, on Ask Polly. This resonated SO MUCH with me, both in the letter writer’s description (“When I finally do get down to business, I consider myself to be fairly hardworking, if only for the shortest amount of time possible”), and Polly/Havrilesky’s response (“But I do want you to notice how deeply and profoundly you’ve made messiness and procrastination part of your identity”, or “You are a fearful, avoidant person because you’re a little bit anxious about the world and the other people in it”).

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote blog post, “2017 Retrospective/2018 Resolutions”
– Submitted “The Mirrors of Her Eyes” to Fantasy & Science Fiction
– Submitted “Mirrors” to Beneath Ceaseless Skies
– Submitted “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime” to Factor Four
– Made some notes on further edits I want to make to Lioness
– Edited “Pinions,” the last of my FSOTU stories. I’m still not sure it’s doing what I need it to do, but I’ll let it breathe for a while before deciding that.

Reading
– Read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee

Other Media
– Listened to Stuff You Missed in History Class, “Edward Gorey” and “SYMHC Classics: A Conspiracy Starring Aaron Burr”
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “The Winter People,” parts 1 and 2
– Watched Dark and Stormy Night, a spoof of Dark House-type movies from the creators of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Health
– (Weds) ZR 5K training week 0
– (Weds) 10 x alternate heel touchers, 10 x dead bugs, 10 x jackknives

Rejection Log

– 1-day personal for “Mirrors” from F&SF

2017 Retrospective/2018 Resolutions

This is a year that sucked for a lot of people. In many ways, for me, too, the world is a darker, scarier place–

Oh crap, that’s how I began last year’s post. Um. Well. Still true?

This was also a year for some personal achievements, so I can’t condemn all of 2017 to the trash heap. Here’s where I’ve been and what I did.

Last Year’s Resolutions

For 2017 I wanted to complete edits on Lioness and query agents. This was a partial success. I felt a lot of resistance to editing, and I’m embarrassed to admit I avoided it for much of the year. But in the last days of 2017, I “finished” structural edits and send the story to my beta readers. I use the scare-quotes because editing feels like something that’s never finished; Lioness wasn’t so much released to my beta readers as allowed to escape. But: progress.

Write four new short stories. Partial success. I wrote three flash-length stories as part of the Codex flash contest, and started work on two (theoretically short) pieces. Two of those (“The Mirrors of Her Eyes” and “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime”) have been edited and sent out to a few markets.

Participate in one of the Codex flash fiction challenges. Success! I participated in Flash, Savior of the Universe (FSOTU) 2017, the winter flash contest on Codex, and wrote a story for all three rounds. And my scores weren’t totally shitty!

Read 50 new-to-me short stories. Success! Even though I read the last one on December 31st 🙂 Sam J. Miller’s “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” “The Dauphin’s Metaphysics,” by Eric Schwitzgebel, and “Scattered Along the River of Heaven,” by Aliette de Bodard, were among some of my favorites.

Conclusion: In my Year of the Short Story, I discovered… I don’t enjoy short stories as much as I enjoy novels. It has something to do with immersion — I value spending time in a beautifully crafted SFF world, but by the time I get into a short story, it dumps me out into the real world again. Given all this, maybe I shouldn’t spend my limited writing/reading time focusing on them? A fine thing to discover halfway through the year, but there you go.

Other Cool Stuff Wot I Did in 2017

  • Read 25 books
  • Wrote 12 substantive blog posts (i.e. not the accomplishments posts)
  • Visited England and attended Kaleidoscopic Consequences
  • Attended the Stratford Festival with my mom
  • Got my druid Wodehouse to 110 in WoW
  • Completed Nighthold (normal and heroic), Tomb of Sargeras (normal and heroic), and Antorus (normal) with my guild in WoW
  • Did a road trip through Western Massachusetts with EB
  • Did a road trip (with a stay at a theme hotel) in New Hampshire with EB
  • Finally framed the 10-year anniversary gift I made for Matt
  • Completed season one of Zombies Run!
  • Ran my first 5k race
  • Completed two developer self-directed days: one on CSS Shapes and clipping/masking, and a second on CSS Grid layout
  • Visited ten places on Atlas Obscura I hadn’t been before
  • Replaced the lamp globes in my upstairs bathroom
  • Started playing a new boffer larp campaign, Shadowvale
  • Finished PCing my first boffer larp campaign, Fifth Gate (Silverfire)
  • Staffed three Tales from the Cotting House events
  • NPCed five Madrigal 3 events
  • Played in four theater-style larps

What I Want to Do in 2017

As I wrote about in “Moving into my own life”, my theme for 2018 is going to be habitat. As I wrote there:

So, starting in 2018, I am moving — into my own life. I am going to do the things you do when you move: go through my crap and getting rid of what no longer suits, make our house into a comfortable place to live, and keep it that way through regular maintenance. I am going to make it the sort of place I love to spend time, instead of the kind of place I dread to come home to.

I’m still working out a concrete plan on how I will tackle these goals, going through each room of my house. And of course, I have the “Habitat” section of my 101 goals in 1001 days list to refer to.

What else? By itself, that could keep me busy for a year! But I feel remiss if I don’t hit on some other aspects of my life.

Writing: There are more edits ahead first, but by the end of 2018, I’d like to have queried a non-zero number of agents. I would also like to do Pitch Wars or another pitch contest.I will continue to submit my short pieces to markets, until hell won’t have ’em, etc.

Reading: My Goodreads Challenge for 2018 is 30 books. I really admire those folks who read 100+ books per year, but I, dear reader, am not one of them.

Health: I intend to continue to run and mostly stick with a healthy, low-GI diet. I’ll try to take my vitamin D and use my sunlamp more regularly.

Family: I will spend time with my mom, who has a terminal lung disease. I’m already planning to go to the Stratford Festival with her in 2018, her health permitting.

And that’s about it. But most importantly:


The last photo of 2017. I did, in fact, pet more kitties this year.