That Championship Practice

Last night was the practice that I was dreading for a couple of weeks while, at the same time, looking forward to it with tremendous exhilaration.  That’s ’cause I was about to get coached by a world champion–

Over this past weekend–3, 4, and 5 November–the WFTDA Division 1 Championships were held in Philadelphia and the best roller derby leagues from around the world when there to compete for the title and trophy, which is known as the Hydra, named after the first WFTDA President and excellent derby skater in her own right.  (Just so you know the name of our current president is Master Blaster.  Yeah, we’re cool–)  One of the past champions, Gotham Girls Roller Derby of, where else, New York City, came in third and got the bronze.  That left former champions Rose City Rollers of Portland, OR, to square off against Victorian Roller Derby League of Melbourne, Australia, for the big title.  And while Rose City put up a gallant effort and manged to be the only team to score over 100 points against VRDL, they lost 101 to 180.

That means for the first time a roller derby league from outside the US became the champions and prepared to take the Hydra back to their home country–

All save for one person.

Lorrae Evans, a blocker with VRDL, was asked by one of my teammates, Pixie Panzer, if she’d be interesting in staying over a couple of days and coming to Harrisburg to do a special coaching session.  She wouldn’t only coach us, but we’d invite players from other leagues to join us.  Surprisingly, Lorrae said yes, and the day after their championship win she’d take the train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and join us for a night at the rink.

Besides my team, HARD, and members of our sister team the York City Derby Dames, showing up, we had players from the Dutchland Rollers of Lancaster and the Black Rose Rollers of Hanover in attendance as well.  All together there were 28 of us on the floor, with me and one of my teammates being the only uncertified players in attendance.  Also, with the exception of one other person–one of my teammates–I had the least amount of time skating, only four months, whereas so many more players had 1 to 8 years of experience.

Like I said, I was dreading this for a couple of weeks.  However, yesterday I decided that I was going to show up and do my best, so rather than get into a negative head space over this, I’d see what I was capable of doing.

What I learned right away is that I have a lot to work on.

We started out simple:  stake forward and backward, then weave back and forth, the skate and plow then skate backward and plow, then do airplanes–go from one track side to the other, moving your arms like the wings of a plane and trying to touch the line–also skating forwards and back.  We finished off with trying to skate around on one foot also going forward and backwards.

Easy, yeah?  That was a line we’d heard from Lorrae off and on during the night.  As a coach she was easy going, but she was also in charge:  she let us know when she did a double whistle it mean we were to come to the center of the track right away and form up so she could speak with us.  No dallying: get in and listen up.  It was also like that with drills: we’d do one, then come in and find out what we were doing next, usually get shown an example of what we’d do, then it was out to do it.  Not a lot of rest in between, not a lot of banter and chatting between players.  Just listen and do it.

And it went on and on.

Like I said went with the attitude to do my best, but I knew I wasn’t going to be as good as the others there.  I knew instantly that we were working at a far higher skill level than I’d seen before and I felt it through all the sweat pouring from me.  But I felt something else as well: every so often a chill would pass through me and that was an indication that I was starting to get overheated and my body wasn’t responding well.  After 45 minutes I went through 40 ounces of water and at one point I hurried off to the bathroom ’cause I thought I was about to vomit, but after a couple of minutes there I felt better.  I refilled one of my water bottles and headed back out.

It wasn’t going to get any better for me, however.

During the middle of a three-person drill where we were pushing each other laterally from one side of the track to another I was pushed to the inside and thought for a moment I had a slight groin pull.  I didn’t and one of the women with me laughed and said to shake it off.  What happened after that was me going “Wait a minute–”

And then things got fuzzy.

I know I was told I should go sit down.  I was told that more than once, in fact.  I made my way off the floor to a bench and, I was told, a coach from Dutchland asked if I wanted to lay down, where then I would ask, “You want to lay down?”  That went on for a bit before my coach and one of the refs who is also a registered nurse came over and sorta helped me lay down before getting some ice for my neck to cool me down–I was told that my head was pretty hot at this time–and remove my gear, which is a sign that you’re done for the night.

I lasted 90 minutes, which is pretty good considering that’s pretty close the amount of time we actually spend doing drills in a two hour practice.  But this was nothing like our practices; this was way beyond anything I’d done up to that point.  Some of the York women who made it through the whole three hour practice and who are in fantastic shape said they were exhausted at the end of the night, so you know it was ass busting.

After I cooled down my coach wanted to make certain I was okay and I told her that I was and I wasn’t upset that I didn’t make it all the way through: I did my best and there was no shame in not being able to keep up with women with far more experience and in better shape.  She said she’d kept an eye on me and saw I was pushing myself, which made her proud.  The ref who helped me check to make sure I was okay and was glad I wasn’t upset with myself over not being able to make it all the way through:  like she said, “You didn’t have to do it, but you’d have been kicking yourself in the ass if you hadn’t gotten out there.”  And there’s a lot of truth there.

I not only learned a lot on the floor while I was there–and one of the things I learned was I have to improve my footwork–but I watched the rest of the practice from the sideline and saw things I so want to do when I get the chance.  I told my coach that I know now that I need to work on being a blocker and pivot, as that’s likely where I’ll help the team the best, as I’m not as crazy fast and quick as a real jammer, but I can do great defense as a blocker and run offence in the pack for the jammer as a pivot.  Hey, Lorrae is a blocker and she helped her team win a championship.  Not too shabby.

After practice we gathered around for a team photo that I also joined as I was out on the floor when this started so why not?


We also got to pass her gold medal around–which she just happened to bring–and take a few selfies with her.  Like this one, which was taken for me by another person:


After practice was over I spoke with Lorrae for a few minutes.  I told her I got heat exhausted about half way in and she was sorry to hear that and said that she saw me and said I’d done well.  I did ask her if she meant that and she said yes, she did.  I told her I’d only been practicing for four months and that did elicit a moment of surprise from her, as I suspect she didn’t think someone with that little experience would be on the floor.  She also let me know that the practice we did last night was pretty much the regular practice her team does–

Which means I was actually doing a practice meant for world champions.

It was a good night.  I learned from the experience and while a bit humbled by what happened, I also know I can push myself when necessary.  I’m not as good as the other out there, but then, I’m not supposed to be–at least not yet.  I have months of experience as compared to women with years behind them.

What does that mean?

I means that by working hard, I’ll one day I can be as good as most of the women with whom I shared the floor last night.

Which is the most important thing you can take away from any practice.

The Grim Dreams

After such an interesting weekend, here I am back at the start of the last full week of September.  Weather’s cooling off, and things are changing.  It rained Saturday afternoon, and was cloudy for most of the morning yesterday.  Oh, and I managed to write my article yesterday, all twenty-three hundred words of it.

I have things to do this week; it didn’t help that I had some very strange and disturbing dreams last night.

I don’t think there is just one thing that can be said about them, because there didn’t seem to be one thing that stood out and said, “Hey, disturbing.”  It just felt bad and depressing, with a lot of running around and being kept in small places, and feeling lonely and isolated.  It was very strange, ’cause I don’t think I can point to one thing, it was only feelings and sensations.  Oh, and cold:  there was that, too.  The feeling of cold.

Now, some people might say, “It’s because you went up to That Place on Saturday,” but I don’t believe that.  I didn’t feel like that Saturday night, and Sunday I was in a great mood all day.  Maybe it was because of watching Breaking Bad, which is down to its last episode, and is about a grim and dark as you’re ever going to find on television.  Sure, watching Meth Damon blow away some woman on her front porch after saying, “I want you to know this isn’t personal,” wasn’t a good moment, but the end?  Hey, never go on TV and say things that are going to piss off a drug kingpin who feels like getting even.  You’re getting tickets to Belize.

I can’t say, because you don’t know how your mind works, and you know even less about your subconscious.  I stopped trying to understand my dreams a while back, because trying to see if there was some meaning there was making me a little bonkers.  Besides, I’m not good at figuring out stuff like that, so I leave it to others.

But, man, no one wants to get up at two-thirty in the morning feelings like they just ran a race, and knowing that part of the time in your dream you were locked in a cage.  Bummer, man, bummer.

However . . . something woke me at five-twenty, and it was one of those, “Am I sleeping or am I awake?” kind of deals.  But someone was rubbing up against me, and I know who the person was and what part they were using to do the rubbing.  And that was driving me nuts, too, because more and more I’m looking for human contact, and this was definitely the sort of contact that I wouldn’t mind.  Yes, you can see where my mind is now . . .

It isn’t bad to have a grim dream now and then.  It’s when you have them all the time that it becomes a little hard on your constitution.  People want and deserve happiness, and when you don’t get it, you suffer.

Who wants to suffer?  Be happy with all you do–even if you’re forced into some bad dreams once in a while.

Around the World Through a Dream

The weekend is over, the week begins, and there are things to do.  I did a lot yesterday:  I ate, I walked, I edited, I did my research.  And I watched meth makers go on the lam.

All in all, pretty normal.

I started in on my research yesterday, bringing up The Foundation Chronicles and setting up a location folder for the different areas I have to name.  There were four that I knew off the top of my head, and the locations of a couple of others that I knew existed, but I needed to come up with names and nicknames, and that takes a little bit of brain work.  Not that I don’t have the later, but when you’re roaming the world in Google Maps, looking for interesting places to set up your world, you find places that make you go, “Hummm.”

I found my location in Australia because there was an airfield one hundred and eight kilometers from the nearest big place, and the railroad used to stop there once a week and help out the miners who lived there–at least until 1996, when the train stopped and people got the hell out.  I found my location in Japan because I found a lovely spot on a mountain pass, and found a road tunneling under that pass, then found another road that was nothing but tunnels and curves, and I had to follow it, see where it went.  In Russia I found an open pit mine, then another, then another, then the oil and gas fields in Siberia, and the city that I used was placed close by because it would make sense that my Foundation would have helped exploit those fields without the Soviets knowing they were being helped.

It went that way most of the night:  think, look, imagine.  I discovered earlier that I’m only an hour from the town that more or less was the inspiration for movie portion of Silent Hill, and I’m thinking of heading up there next weekend.  I start thinking about locations in the far north, and I start seeing roads and I want to follow them.  It’s the distraction from curiosity that gets me going, and it’s not a bad distraction, because anything that has you thinking and wondering is good.  I’m about half way through my list–I need twenty names for training facilities–and then it’s on to headquarters before going after a few research and development locations.

Then it was off to sleep, where the strangeness happens.

I had a very long, unpleasant dream.  It wasn’t a nightmare:  it was more a “Why are you torturing me so?” kind of dreams.  I was at the wedding of a person I know, a person I like–a lot.  She also knows this, but was getting married to some guy because–well, because.  There were a few moments in the dream where we talked, but we always talked around the thing that was between us, though you could tell it was there in the way looks were exchanged, word were said, even body language.

There was no Hollywood ending in the dream:  it just stopped at some point without resolution.  That woke me up and allowed me to lay in bed for maybe twenty minutes before falling back asleep and having another dream–

One that shouldn’t ever be mentioned again.  Oi.

At Home in Dragon Land

Roy Orbison once wrote about about seeing someone he loved in dreams, and then waking to find her gone.  I can’t say I’ve ever found myself in the same position, because I spend so much time sleeping alone that I never expect to find anyone but my little ol’ lonesome in bed when I wake up.  Oh, sure, I’ve had moment when I was half-asleep and imagined someone there, but that’s the exception and not the rule.

Last night, however, was a strange one for me.  One, I had difficulty falling asleep, which probably had something to do with that nap I took during the afternoon.  Two, when I fell asleep, I was treated to a dream where The Burg became Westeros, and I was hearing tales of woe from various characters.  It seemed that downtown Harrisburg was Lannisport, up by the Appalachia Trail was The Wall, and people were always running off to King’s Landing and Oldtown.  I know that one of the characters I spoke to ended up being murdered violently–but that could be anyone, right?  At least I wasn’t slapped by any Imps.

What made it so unusual a dream is that I woke up about four-thirty, something normal for me, then when I fell back into sleep, the dream restarted.  This is something that, as far as I can remember, has never happened with me.  One dream stops, another starts.  But this was a restart, picking up where I’d left off when I returned to the Land of Normal.

Talk about your unusual state of affairs.  I know not what, if anything, was going on, for A Song of Ice and Fire was nowhere near me yesterday, save when I saw a Mother of Dragons wig for sale and asked a sales woman if they had any Mother of Dragons dragons.  (She wasn’t happy with the question, by the way.  Obviously she’d heard it way too many times.)  I was thinking about my upcoming story for NaNo last night before bedtime, and that’s about as far away from Westeros as once could ever hope to get, as none of my characters are out to murder each other, or are in control of an army of eunuchs.

Dreams are straight outta Subconscious Territory, so understanding where this was coming from is puzzling.  Then again, it is possible that I was telling me of something else.  Maybe it was reminding me that my upcoming novel is not so much science fiction as it is fantasy, and the story began in a lead-in novel with lots of people dying.  But, perhaps, there is something else afoot here:

I was being reminded that I need to make readers care about the characters.

The well-known joke is that George R. R. Martin is a disgruntled gamer who gets readers to become so attached to a character than when he kills that character off the reader is filled with black emptiness.  Since I’ve had some experience gaming, I know a little bit about killing off characters of which we’ve grown fond, so maybe this is what I should do–make lovely, interesting characters, then have them die in horrific bleach conflagrations.

I need me some dragons.  Life is always better with dragons . . .

Darkness on the Edge of Town

It’s the Second Day of Work Camp, and it’s raining.

Apparently I slept through some good thunder storms, which is great with me, ’cause I needed a good night’s sleep.  I was still up a couple of times in the middle of the night, but only for a few minutes before I drifted back to sleep.  And for some reason I had a dream where I was riding a ferry alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, and we were going to work on an island, and he had some kind of phobia about being on land that was surrounded by water–which, if you think about it, means he’s totally screwed no matter where in the world he goes.  Maybe that’s why he likes going into space:  no water surrounding you.  Or being a dragon living inside a mountain; you don’t see the water.

The dreams were crazy.  There was something else in there about a friend’s daughter wanting to have sex with me, and a friend was coming to visit me, and she was expecting me to rub myself against her in ways that would make her feel most excellent.  Well, then.  I don’t often dream of being asked for sex, but when I do, I have it happen twice in one dream.

Though my friend never did show up in my dream–she only spoke to me on the phone.  Bummer.  Maybe tonight.

I made it through the first day of work unharmed.  Today I should have computer access, so I shouldn’t feel too much alone.  I can’t complain:  I have an office of sorts:  a large cube with high walls, and I door I can shut.  It’s still a bit funky, but compared to the broom closet I was in back at The Job From Hell, this is like being moved to a hotel suite.  Maybe that’s why I hated Indy so much:  I was stuck in a closet and I needed to come out.  Get it?  Come out!  Hoo, ha, I got a million of them this morning.

Finally, after hours of my network trying to download my Scrivener update, I managed to finished editing Chapter Nine of Couples Dance.  It was maybe two thousand words down the fairy hole, but that brought everything in line, and I’d forgotten about the entire end of the chapter after the reading of the journals.  That’s what happens when you stay away from your work for too long.  At the same time that’s what you need, because the story isn’t fresh in your mind and you can become amazed by it once again.  Or disgusted.  Depends on how well it was written.

The big push tonight will be to get through as much of Chapter Ten as possible, wrap it up tomorrow, start on Chapter Eleven, and then breeze through Chapter Twelve.  Looking at this, I mentally note that if I’m not out running around this weekend–and I don’t expect that to happen–then I can finish this edit by Saturday.  Maybe line up a few beta readers, get that ball rolling, and work on something else in the mean time.

Hey, it’s getting light outside.  Still raining, through.

I’ll take it.

Frolic Through the Fantasic

This morning I realized something:  at times I have trouble remembering my dreams because I don’t know if I was dreaming, or if my ideas were intruding and becoming manifest.

Let me explain:

Yesterday was an all around good day to dream.  I started about laying out a new plan for a school grounds that would, should, could end up in a story, and it was a bit o’ work, because I’m working off an area that’s real, and I needed to try and get my measurements correct.  I’m nutty that way, needing to see what’s available in the real world, and then going to work so I can get the fantasy as real as possible.

Some people call it too much work; I call it part of the job.

I know there are adjustments in one of the buildings I created.  for one, the space is far too large, and I need to scale it down just a bit.  I’ll do that this morning, after I finish this post.  Maybe I’ll add a few buildings.  Maybe I’ll start giving them names, and start in on instructors . . .

Then it was off to Fantasies in Harmonie.  I didn’t get into the story until around nine-forty PM, which is late by anyone’s measure, but I was so enthralled by my grounds work that I didn’t notice the passage of time.  When you get into your groove and you’re overtaken by the world you’re creating, you can find yourself getting lost easily.

There was writing, though, and it went smoothly.  It was time to describe the various transformations, and though I’d done one and went part ways through another, there was room to discuss what had happened to my characters, and for one person, that involved a lot of self-discovery which, in turn, required a bit of wordage to show what she was doing.

I once again found myself in my groove, because I’d finish a paragraph, then think, “Keep going; you need to finish what she’s feeling.”  It’s late, I’m tired, my eyes are starting to hurt–but I needed to finish.  That’s a feeling I haven’t had in a while when it comes to my writing.  You take a couple of months off to edit your work, to get your stories ready for publishing, and you get out of that mood of writing because you need to get something said.

By the time I finished with the line that I’d been waiting to write for a while–lets just say it’s something Ariel should have said after she washed up on shore–I’d put eleven hundred words behind me, and I’d done that in one hour.  I was even impressed, because I haven’t cranked out something like that in a while.  But the fantasy was there, and it demanded I give it my energy–and I did.

I had to write.

This is why I have trouble remembering my dreams some mornings:  I don’t always know what’s a dream and what’s left over from my imagination.  They are both one and the same–and it’s my job to get them out for others to see.


All Hail the Spider Queen

Well, isn’t this an interesting start to the week?  Actually that happened last night when I was working on Fantasies in Harmonie, and I started working things out in the initial scene . . . then again, maybe it started with the dreams last night, which were very bizarre.

Lets get this in order, shall we?

First off, I didn’t think I was going to write a lot last night.  I thought, “Yeah, did five hundred words last night, maybe do the same tonight.”  Right.  So I started writing after I got some information out of my ideas file and put into the current project.  I looked at the layout of the cabin, and started in with a question asked and answered.

I had no real idea about what was going to be in the scene, what was going to happen, and yet, the moment I started writing I didn’t feel as if I was going to need to search for words.  I knew what would happen, and I didn’t need to go into a lot of discussions about the why of being in the cabin–that’s probably left for tonight–but rather I wanted to show the ladies together as a group.  It doesn’t get simpler than that.

So I have the set up, the witty banter, the insinuation that one of the women is into My Little Pony fan porn (we’ll call it “Fifty Shades of Flutershy”), the unsaid feeling that something isn’t right with one of the characters–it’s all there.  It’s getting things set up for the big bangs to come–no pun intended.

I know tonight the words might not come out as easily as they did last night, but it felt good to be creating again.  It’s a silly little story, but so what?  It’s my story, and I feel for my characters.  Maybe you’ll feel them, too, when you read this.

As for the dream–hey, lets spend some time with this madness now . . .

Of late my dreams haven’t been that important.  They’ve been there, but nothing that has stood out, nothing that made me wake up and think, “What the hell was that all about?”  That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my semi-waking moments, but it’s been nothing like the dreams I had last year.

This time, though–let me tell you.  First I was out shopping, and no big deal there.  I was in a modest skirt, sandals, tee shirt, the sort of thing one wears on a warm, sunny day.

That somehow transitioned to ending up in an adult clothing store, and I was trying on this black latex mini dress and boots combo, and the girl who was waiting on me was pretty much drooling as she watched me in the mirror.  She kept calling me “Spider Queen” for no reason that was then apparent–

Then I was back home, and I was with someone I know, and she was having trouble containing herself.  At one point she says, “Take me, Spider Queen,” and before you can say “Metebelis III,” I’ve got six arms and I’m doing some rather strange and kinky things to my friend, who is more or less mumbling “I love you” between moments of ecstasy.

I mean, what the hell?  Me, the latex clad Spider Queen?

Maybe there’s a story in there–