Friday, December 28, 2012

Just when you miss your family the most...

...you look around and find some really super stand-ins.

This Christmas Eve we began the day by welcoming some old friends in for a quick visit. Liz and her family used to live here, but moved back to the States about two and a half years ago right after we discovered what great friends we could've been all that time we lived near one another had one of us not been so blasted introverted like we both are. Anyway, back for a quick holiday trip to see friends, we lucked out and were able to squeeze ourselves into their tight schedule. The luck part has a lot to do with the fact that our house was on their route headed out of town and on to Paris where they'd be spending Christmas Day, but I'd like to think our promises of coffee, hot chocolate, and hugs had a little to do with it, too.

While we talked and played a little face-to-face catch-up, Liz's husband (who clearly doesn't care for dogs) humored Murphy with a little hide-and-seek.


Where'd he go?!






                         
                        BAH!
Murphy switched between running on cartoon legs around the living room to cuddling and kissing everyone who would have him - and lucky for him, that was everyone.

This puppy needs some kids of his own :)




When the French Press was drained and hot chocolate safely in little girls' tummies, it was time to hug see-you-later again, but I was thrilled to have gotten the chance to see an old friend. I'm no stranger to whirlwind trips where it's impossible to see everybody, so I fully appreciated that we snagged a bit of their time.

As soon as they were gone, it was time to head over to another friend's house for a Christmas meal together. Murphy put on his dashing sweater, we packed up the cheesecake and we were off. What's great about going to Melody and Brian's house is that they're the kind of friends weirdos like us can feel comfortable around, and they've got the cutest baby to giggle over AND two little fluffsters for Murphy to play with (or hide from until he warms up again). Add to that an amazing meal and our first introduction to coffee milk, and you've got the makings for the perfect day. 


Murphy can't get enough baby sniffs and he'll sneak a kiss if he can swing it. He also has a good friend in Olivia, Mel's sister, who made sure he never felt left out.   


Check these boys out in their holiday sweaters. Chillin'.

And what do you get when you've had a day packed full of little girls, new and familiar faces to lick, and puppy dog play time?


Pooped.

The holidays wouldn't be complete without some time spent at Nancy and Jens' place for more Christmas celebration, so we spent our Second Christmas there (it's a real thing in Germany!) 

More yummy food, more friends, and Nancy's homemade eggnog made for fuller hearts this time of year when missing family is at its peak. This was my first time seeing a Christmas tree lit by traditional candles and it looked truly magical.

Above left: Proof that Juergen has a big soft heart beneath all that scoffing.  

Puppy dogs all around sporting holiday cheer via glowing collars.





These ladies have become like sisters to me in this place and I don't look forward to the day that calls for moving boxes. Together we share ideas, writing, and the moments you carry close to your heart. I've learned a great deal from both of them and regardless of where the future leads, I'm not afraid of losing touch.

           Nancy, Kirsten, & Lindsey

                  We are women,
                   we are writers,
                   we are winged.

 

           
 We're also a little silly.


Merry Christmas!!!

All I can ever hope for is to have friends I cherish enough to spend the holidays with when family is too far away to hug. Thank goodness for Skype - we may not be able to hug, but we can sit in the same room and share a little bit of holiday cheer amidst the noise of tearing wrapping paper and the chatter of loved ones.  


Miss and love you guys.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Green Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve!

I'm going to be uncharacteristically brief about something that's been a source of abundant worry over the last couple of months, and just say that this may or may not be our final Christmas in Germany. We're hoping it's not, but preparing for the crappier possibility. That said, I bought the tallest and fullest Weihnachtbaum (Christmas tree) that would fit in our living room this year and we decided to only hang ornaments we've picked up on our travels. These are some of my favorites.


Find the pickle!



























From what I can recall, we've always had snow on Christmas living in Germany - it's Germany. I'm pretty sure Germany means cold ass winters in some distant dialect. This is the first place I've lived that not only visibly has all four seasons, but brings lots of snow each winter, which is the prettiest thing outside a window when there's no reason to leave the house. (That year in Virginia was just an extended visit, not living.) There have been Christmases in the past few years when we thought we might not have a white Christmas, but awoke Christmas morning to trees coated in white and a fresh blanket of the beautiful stuff laid across the front yard.

I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen this year.

Sure, we had a crazy early first snow of the season before Halloween and everybody was racing to get their winter tires put on their cars and buy salt for the sidewalks, because who's ready for snow in October? Nice one, Mother Nature. Some kind of freakish warmth has since settled in and melted it all away, leaving it almost feeling like a Florida Christmas outside. The trees are winterly bare, but the ground is green and as the forecast is calling for a high of 65º F on the 25th, me thinks it's going to be our first Green Christmas in Germany.

I'm not sure who to blame, but it begins with Murphy's nakedness this holiday season. Let's go back.

Last spring Murphy's curly crazy hair had gotten so matted the groomer had to shave him. Without his adorable curly hair he is a third the size and looks perpetually frightened. Though still adorable, he has the face of a schnauzer and the body of a tiny, baby deer when shaved and we willed his hair to grown back on a daily basis with our amazing mind power. Six months later, we had our fluffy puppy back and we were so happy to see him, we let the hair get super long again. The day I learned that I do not, in fact, know how to properly care for curly long hair on a dog was slightly traumatizing, as the groomer looked at me and said Murphy would need to be shaved again!

"No!"  I cried.

To which the groomer said, "It must be done. Come back in two months and I'll teach you how to properly brush him."

Embarrassed and guilt-ridden, I went straight out and bought him a fluffy new throw blanket to curl up in and a puppy jacket to battle the cold and (eventually) snow. I have to say, he's quite handsome, and without his long mustache and grumpy old man beard, he looks more like a young gentleman with his new cut.

What does this have to do with the odd lack of snow outside? Keep reading.

When I woefully relayed this story to a friend, explaining how terrible I felt about it and what a shame it would be for Murphy's-first-Christmas-with-us pictures, she helpfully suggested we simply call it a Green Christmas where Murphy's nudity would be appropriate. I don't think she realized how powerful a woman she is, and that she may have single handedly kept the snow away this Christmas. So it's her fault.

But then, if I weren't lamenting over Murphy's seasonally inappropriate nudity then she never would have accidentally melted all the snow to make it okay for Murphy (she's a good friend and she loves the Murphster), and the groomer's the one who shaved him, so it's the groomer's fault there's no snow this Christmas.

But then I guess it's not the groomer's fault that I let Murphy's undercoat get matted, even though I  do brush him, I swear! And a lay person wouldn't have even been able to tell there were any mattes most places because the hair is so fine and soft, it just felt a little tangled, nothing shave-worthy. Nonetheless, it had to be done...and it's me who apparently needs to learn how to brush a dog correctly...so I guess it's my fault it's going to be a snowless Christmas. Crap.

But wait! Chris is just as responsible for Murphy as me, so it's his fault, too! Let's just blame him altogether, that makes it simpler.

Thanks a lot, Chris.














             You can hardly tell, right?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Chronicles of NaNoWriMo 2012


In case you're unsure, as the graphic is a little subtle I know, I won the National Novel Writing Month challenge this year. You know, whatever, no big deal. It's just a 200 page novel. In a month, but not the kind of month you're probably thinking of. No, I didn't write this new novel in one of those 150 day months, I did it in one of those crazy ones that only has 30 days in it. I know. And it's not like I've never written a novel before (I guess I've never actually finished one) in my 22ish years of life (shut up, I said ish). So like I said. No. Big. Woop.

Except that it kind of is, which isn't to say that thousands of participants around the world didn't also meet this crazy writing goal during the month of November this year, because lots did, but inside my tiny corner of the world, within my little life, it's a pretty big deal. Now I know how much better I do with deadlines when it comes to writing, and I know that if I really want to, I can make daily writing a priority above all the things that usually beat it to the top of the list, but not just daily writing (like the blog), but a lot of daily writing. 

But it's not done yet, no sir. Fifty thousand words does not a complete novel make, at least not in this case. On Friday when I passed the 50,000 word mark I was giddy. I high-fived fellow writers in the pub and giggled a little at my own shock and ordered the most expensive whiskey on the menu (it was only €4.50). The weekend after I hit the mark was super busy, but I didn't have to find the time to fit in a bunch of writing, so it was a nice break. Now I'm kind of itchy because I haven't written until today, so it would seem good habits aren't such an impossibility. Quick, give me a keyboard, I can't take it anymore, I need to write!

While I'm certainly not abandoning the new novel, this week is all about playing catch-up with life in general, Christmastizing the house, and getting re-organized post NaNoWriMo craziness. I started out making notes about the process with the intention of sharing here in some kind of witty and interesting way, and then it kind of crumbled into a pitiful pile of good intention, as you'll see below. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
NaNoWriMo 2012
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Because I'm not sure if this will be entertaining or interesting, I'm keeping track as the days pass but keeping it all together to post as one big comment on the whole experience at the conclusion of this experience.

* Oct. 30 & 31 were spent obsessing and worrying and effectively talking myself out of jumping in with this new novel idea. I read a little, watched TV, checked email compulsively, and stressed myself right out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And GO!

Nov. 1 - I got a good start, logging 2,156 words. If you divide 50,000 words by 30 days you get 1,666.666 words per day, so really I totally kicked today's goal of 1,667 words in the ass.

Went to a kick-off get together at the library tonight for a little Q&A with three different published writers and chat time with other Wrimos. Kirsten Carlson, Amber Riley, & Dan Wells, thanks for getting things going.

The best moment of the evening: The collective gasp of the entire room when horror author Dan Wells suggested not allowing yourself to use the 'delete' button while writing this month. Scary stuff.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nov. 7 - I'm up to 12,567 words and feeling pretty good. (That's 30 pages in week one!) 

The election is over and I'm so glad I got to sleep through all the waiting last night in the States and just wake up to the results and President Obama's acceptance speech. Sometimes the difference in time zones is a good thing.

Yesterday YA and mystery author Bonnie Ramthun talked to a room full of writers via Skype about her experiences with traditional publishing, offering us all kinds of helpful tidbits she said she wished she would have known when she was just starting out. Maybe I'll write up a blog-o-tips for writers after I catch my breath from this month.

Every day when I sit down to write I struggle against the feeling that I have no idea what I'm doing, but each day I also feel so lucky and supported, to stop is not an option. I don't know if it's the worldwide juju of other writers or the fact that I'm meeting successful authors who want to help me reach my goal, but something is certainly in the air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nov. 8 - Dan Wells just blew my mind with his presentation about outlining...the 7 Point System is exactly what I've been needing to get my stories organized. After scribbling furiously everything he projected on the screen, he gave us the link to this very presentation online. Blast, my aching hand, but now I've got it to refer back to whenever, which is wonderful. He's also one of 3 or 4 other writers who put on a 15 minute podcast weekly about all things writing, which I'll actually include in a later post. 

The day after Dan's session a piece of wall behind my writing desk became a giant story map. I spent the whole day constructing it and getting to know my own story better. It was fantastic. The math loving side of my brain is drooling over this formula, while the creative side searches for ways to reinvent it.

Same evening, we Skyped with Beth Groundwater, a mystery author out of Colorado. She talked to us about networking not only with publishers and agents, but other writers and writing organizations. Lots of good stuff here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Holy shenanigans, I am on fire! A 5,000 word day and I'm still going! Love this, love this, love this feeling of being caught up in a wave of inspiration when the characters start making their own choices and I'm just here to write it all down, a medium to the story inside me. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nov. 14 - Balancing Dialogue, Action, and Narrative
    and   Determining Genre
    and   Writing a Log Line and Synopsis with Margi Desmond and Thomas Edgar

Lots more great tips for summing up what you've been pouring your soul into over the last month(s) in order to sell it to others who'll want to publish it and make you very happy.

Mario Acevedo Skyped in to talk about the benefits of attending writing conferences - I can't wait for my first one in the spring!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I near the home stretch of this insane writing commitment, I'm struggling with what I'm doing. At this moment, I hate my story and feel wholly incapable of writing a cohesive story anyone would want to read. My characters are running all over the place and what I thought was well-planned is now fraying out in so many directions I want to quit. This is so frustrating! 

In the end (and after a tearful breakdown in front of Chris) I realize even if this novel never leaves this house, I will have learned a great deal from this experience, and no writing is wasted effort because it all helps build me as an author. Breathe. I can finish. It's important that I finish. 

I can I can I can I will I will I will.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nov. 27 - SCBWI Panel with Kirsten Carlson and Jen Blom

The Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators is a global organization that started in California that connects people with a love of children's books and films together in one giant network. I joined this year and am loving the resources available to me, even if my YA manuscript turned out not to be YA after all.

Nov. 28 - It's all about the query letter when the novel's ready to shop around, pitching well, and finding an agent to represent your work in the publishing industry.

Donnell Ann Bell Skyped in our final night to talk about how writing contests can lend a hand by giving great feedback, and possibly giving a previously unknown author a launch into the published world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And this brings us back around to Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, the final day of NaNoWriMo, when I typed past that 50,000 word mark and celebrated with a manly dram of whiskey and allowed myself to feel genuinely proud for a little while.

Now it's time to start revising, when I'm told the real work begins. I'm grateful to have had this crazy experience because it connected me with lots of other writers and authors I wouldn't have otherwise met, and opened a world up to me I didn't realize was so close.

Will I do it again next year? You bet :)  

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Letter to Myself

If I were myself and another person, this is something I would say to me from time to time:

Sometimes there are days when there's absolutely no Earthly (or otherwise) reason you should feel down, but you do anyway. Sometimes it's your birthday and you're sad all day for no reason at all, even after you get 50 happy birthdays on FaceBook, a card in the mail, a text from America, and a couple of phone calls. Sometimes you have everything to be happy and grateful for, yet all you want to do is hide in a hole all day. I'm here to tell you that it's okay when this happens.

It's okay because sometimes your body just needs to purge pent up stress and worry and whatever else it's been carting around. It's okay because sometimes everybody has an illogically down day even if Dee isn't a major presence in their life. (Haven't been introduced? Click on her name.)

If you're one of the millions living with their own Dee, having a down kind of day doesn't mean you're slipping again. It doesn't mean what you thought was working suddenly isn't anymore, and it doesn't mean you'll still feel like this tomorrow.

It's okay to feel your emotions, even when especially when they seem completely unfounded and unjustified. It's okay to let them bubble up, because how else are they going to get out and leave you alone? You can't get rid of something inside of you unless you allow it to rise to the surface, after all. It's okay to have a weak moment, a vulnerable moment when no amount of everything will be okaying can do a thing to pull you out of your funk. (It's also okay to pretend it helped.)

You'll be back tomorrow, and if not by then, shortly after. This never lasts, so don't worry about worrying about it because that doesn't accomplish anything except making you feel even worse about feeling bad. You see the cycle..remember when you lived there?

I won't tell you to buck up, and I won't ask you to explain. But I will be around tomorrow to sit with you over pumpkin spice flavored coffee and talk casually how awesome this life is.

Lots of love,
Me


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rush of Writing

Hi.

I'm sorry I've been so quiet, but I've been immersed in writing a new novel, you see. The difference between everything else I've ever written before and this time is that this time I know a little more about what I'm doing, and this time I've gained a lot more advice from other writers who are actually making a living from writing. 

Suddenly, I have a more concrete plan and things make more sense and I see which direction I should be going. 

Suddenly, it actually feels possible that I, too, will publish my own writing and maybe even sell a copy or two. 

Suddenly, the mystique has been lifted and I've had a glimpse inside the magical machine that is a well-told story and its successful novelist and it doesn't seem so unlikely. It's like when you learn the secret behind the magic trick; it loses its magic, sure, but now you know how to do the trick, as well. You become the magician, the story-teller. 

Yesterday I wrote for hours and experienced the first rush of organic writing of this novel. What I mean is, when I sit down to write a story I generally know what it's going to be about. I usually know the ending first and work my way toward it, but even knowing the essence of the story, I don't know what's going to happen specifically from page to page, chapter to chapter. There are key scenes I know must be there, but all the connective tissue between the bones of the story tend to evolve on their own. So when I refer to an organic moment in my writing, I'm talking about the moment when the writer becomes mere medium to the story pouring out of her fingers. I'm not consciously making decisions, the characters are leading me and following their own paths before my eyes. 

It's a rush losing yourself in your own story. Yesterday, my main character took over and I trailed behind trying to keep up on the keyboard. I found out she's much darker than I first thought thought and while this makes me a tad bit nervous for when people read this story, it's exciting, too, because it's growing on its own.


Later that same day...


I spent hours working today and barely squeezed out 2,000 words (between 4 and 5 pages). Yesterday's writing session wrung it out of me...I hope the week shapes up.

Here's to all the Wrimos pushing out words this month. I'll send you some of my motivation if you let me borrow some of yours.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Liebster

Guess who just got her first ever blog award?

This girl! 

(If this isn't proof I've got a healthy sense of humor, I'm not sure what is.)

I call this picture Cave Zombies, even though we're not all broken and dead looking yet. Think of it like this: We've just been bitten on our ankles and died quickly from Zombie infection, and are now holding back a postmortem sneeze, and hungry for that first cannibalistic morsel, from left to right.

Thank you Erica of Yeah, I'm a Nerd blog fame for this super sweet acknowledgement, which I humbly accept. Erica is an avid hiker and runner, an advocate for the woman's ability to pee while standing, and has a healthy respect for zombies. I already loved this girl for awarding me an awesome new pStyle during her giveaway and now she's gone and given my writing ego a boost, so let's just say Erica has officially gotten herself a new stalker. You should check her out and stalk her, as well. She's got a great writing style and fantastic sense of humor and frankly, if you're not reading her (or my 3 Liebster winners below) you are missing out on something special, my friend.

So without further ado, here it is...


Because I'm too lazy and otherwise focused on writing a novel in a month, I cheated and just read Erica's explanation of the history of the Liebster Award and the requirements that come with receiving this prestigious award for up-and-coming blogs of 200 followers or less, and I'm going to go ahead and follow her lead. Here it goes.

Eleven Things About Me
Flowing in these veins I've got Scottish, Irish, English and Cherokee blood, which explains my light skin, eyes, and hair, as well as my artistic streak, as far as I'm concerned; I'm a Floridian by birth but am growing more and more rootless the longer I live outside the United States, and this is slowly becoming okay with me; My favorite color is red, but the deep, dark, blood kind of red; I love '80s music partly because my kind of rhythmless dorky dancing seems to go hand-in-hand with the classics of my childhood; I hate glitter because it gets everywhere and I have a strong aversion to tiny, sticky things that won't. come. off. my. skin. (Sorry, my Lawsbian comrades.); I bungy jumped off the Kawarau Bridge outside of Queenstown, NZ and loved it; I zip-lined from the top of the Atomium in Brussels (an enormous version of an atom 335 feet tall built for the 1958 World's Fair in Belgium); I love dogs; my imaginary friend during childhood was an animated Skunk, appropriately named Skunky; back in my school days I looked forward to every fall because it meant new school supplies; and I'm a writer.

Eleven Questions from Erica
1. If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza, because it's diverse and I will never not love pizza. Plus you can eat pizza for any meal, hot or cold. Oh, nobody asked why? Fine, bonus information for you.

2. In the case of a zombie apocalypse, if one of the people most dear to you turned into a zombie, would you put them out of their misery, lock them up in hopes for a cure, or set them free to feed on brains? (Or if you have another alternative, what would you do?)

I would chain him up in a shed behind the house a'la Shaun of the Dead and continue to hang out with him at a safe distance. I'd also feed him all the jerks he wanted, provided they were already dead when I found them. 

3. When living with a spouse or partner, what are your thoughts about using the restroom with the door open?

In real life I always close the door if he's home, but pretend I'm capable of welcoming him in during such business to gross him out when  necessary. This comes in handy when he's intentionally driving me crazy, because all I have to do is run into the bathroom and drop my pants and he runs in the other direction. 

4. Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog to give myself a place to ramble about life and explore my own writing, while trying to learn a little self-discipline. 

5. Who is your favorite super hero?

This is hard...I'll go with Iron Man because of my life-long crush on Robert Downey, Jr.

6. If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?

If I was guaranteed to belong to someone like me or Ellen, who loves and pampers her dogs, I'd go with any kind of dog. If not, a mockingbird because I've always wanted to fly (hence all the jumping from the tops of high structures), and the mockingbird is Florida's state bird.

7. What are your feelings on Hot Cheetos and Takis?

This is one of those times that living outside of the States puts me at a sad disadvantage when it comes to what's popular at any given time. Sure I can read news online, but I usually don't. If you're referring to the individual snacks, then I'm sure they're great for people who like setting their mouths on fire for fun, but I prefer to still have feeling in my tongue post-snack. In other words, I'm a huge baby when it comes to hot and spicy, so these aren't my choice, though I've never tried (or heard of) Takis. If you're referring to the rap song I just found a thousand times over when I consulted Dr. Google, then I think it's a fun little bit of silliness that was totally worth the minute and a half I watched of it.

8. Toilet paper hanging over or under?

Is this a serious question? Over, of course. I wasn't raised in a barn.

9. Do you believe in ghosts?  Why or why not?

I want to, but have yet to be convinced. Why? Because I want to believe in more than I see.

10. If you could leave today and go anywhere in the world for a week-long trip, where would you go? (money and life won’t get in your way, so dream as big as you’d like)

Honestly? I'm amazingly fortunate when it comes to travel, so my answer to this one is easy: I'd go home. In this case, home means the States, more specifically Florida (because I'm sure I could convince Mom and Dad to come down from NC to see me if I camped out at my brother or sister's house). I miss my family more than I let myself acknowledge most days and more time to pretend I don't live across an ocean is always fine by me.

11. Mac or PC and why?

Mac, but only because that's what I've got.


Eleven Questions for my Liebster Award Winners
1. If money was no object, what would you spend your life doing?
2. If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
3. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?
4. Beach or the mountains?
5. What's your all-time favorite movie? (Top 3 is acceptable if it's too hard to choose one.)
6. Do you have a favorite book? If not, your favorite author will do.
7. Are you a cuddly sleeper, or do you need your space?
8. What is your favorite time of day, and why?
9. What's your weakness, salty or sweet?
10. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
11. Who's your biggest celebrity crush right now?
(I know that last one is cheap. Sue me.)

And now for my Liebster Award Winners...

As a self-proclaimed lover of shiny objects, Lesley uses her blog to shine a light on the brighter side of things. Strolling through her posts will bring smiles, chuckles, warm fuzzies, and nods of appreciation. She's a writer of both non-fiction and children's books, and lends her witticisms to her posts for her readers to look upon and admire.     

This American-born lady has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti, veterinarian, and now a proud mother of five. She lived as a transplant in Germany, and now in Australia where she continues her quest to figure out what she's doing. She writes about her own struggles with understanding the Universe and her place in it, as well as her children and the adventure that is raising them, weaving in the wisdom she's picked up along the way to keep her readers coming back. No longer just a Mommy blog, this writer gets into commentaries about the education system across continents and the shared experience of being human and flawed that we all share, but struggle to overcome no matter where we are in the world.

Katy is an artist living in Oregon who has spent the last few years finding her own spirit through her art. She's a photographer, a mother, and a dreamer who isn't afraid to chase after the whimsy that keeps life magical. Some of her posts are peeks into her soul, and some are fun photographical glimpses into a weekend festivity, but they all succeed in sharing pieces of herself in a beautiful and honest light. When you visit Katy's space, you feel like you've gotten to know her a little and the feeling is something special.

Dear Liebster Award recipients,
Please accept this nod of appreciation from me and complete the following steps:
1. Thank the person who gave the award to you.
2. Display the Liebster Award on your blog.
3. Post 11 things about yourself.
4. Answer the 11 questions posed to you by the person giving you the award.
5. Create 11 questions for those you choose to nominate for the award.
6. Nominate 3-5 up-and-coming blogs (with 200 subscribers or less) for the Liebster Award. For this, let them know and send them a link to your post.

No tag backs.
And congratulations on being inspiring. Keep it going, ladies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ready to Write



Below is a typed out version of the Noveling Affidavit that comes from Chris Baty's NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM! Novel-Writing Kit. A lovely friend who has this kit was kind enough to make me a copy of the above affidavit, which we signed together last Friday. We're both participating in this year's novel-writing month challenge and it's necessary to have writerly support all around for such crazy commitments. The National Novel Writing Month may have begun with something like 21 people back in 1999, but this year there are people from nearly every continent jumping in. It's exciting to know there are writers carving out their stories all at the same time all over the world, and I'm looking forward to being one of them.



I've been reading and developing character backgrounds and thinking non-stop about this novel project, so have already managed to overwhelm myself with all the planning I convinced myself I should do before beginning. Today I'm not thinking about any of it - aside from writing this post - so that come tomorrow morning, I'll be excited and ready to start this story.  


Thursday morning I will begin writing a novel and by November 30th the goal is to have 50,000 words written, the first draft completed of a new manuscript. It's equal parts insane and exciting. With my plans for a previous mentioned young adult manuscript suddenly halted and drastically changed, the timing is pretty great to focus elsewhere on something completely different and completely new. I'm sort of counting on being able to stick to this 30 day commitment partly because I stuck with the 30 day daily blog thing. Plus there's the whole wanting to be a professional author and all. 



Noveling Affidavit


I, Lindsey Cole, hereby pledge my intent to write a 50,000-word novel in one month's time.
By invoking an absurd monthlong deadline on such an enormous undertaking, I understand that notions of craft, brilliance, and competency are to be chucked right out the window, where they will remain, ignored, until they are retrieved for the editing process. I understand that I am a talented person, capable of heroic acts of creativity, and I will give myself enough time over the course of the next month to allow my innate gifts to come to the surface, unmolested by self-doubt, self-criticism, and other acts of self-bullying.
During the month ahead, I realize I will produce clunky dialogue, clichéd characters, and deeply flawed plots. I agree that all of these things will be left in my rough draft, to be corrected or excised at a later point. I understand my right to withhold my manuscript from all readers until I deem it complete. I also acknowledge my right as author to substantially inflate both the quality of the rough draft and the rigors of the writing process, should such inflation prove useful in garnering me respect, attention, or freedom from household chores.
I acknowledge that the monthlong, 50,000-word deadline I set for myself is absolute and unchangeable, and that any failure to meet the deadline, or any effort on my part to move the deadline once the adventure has begun, will result in well-deserved mockery from friends and family. I also acknowledge that, upon successful completion of the stated noveling objective, I am entitled to a period of gleeful celebration and revelry, the duration and intensity of which may preclude me from participating fully in workplace activities for days, if not weeks, afterward.

Signed and dated with a witness, so it's serious business. And now I've effectively made you a witness, if not to my signing of this agreement, then to my sharing and acknowledging of it. You now have permission to question/encourage me with regards to my novel-in-progress, just be aware that depending on how far into the month it is and what condition my mental state is currently in, I may run from you.

WARNING: If you know me in real life and see me out and about in November, please excuse the dark circles under my eyes, over-caffeinated jitters, far-off staring in the middle of conversations, and unwashed hair. I will likely have been obsessing for hours over plot conflicts or the color of somebody's shirt, then left my house in an attempt to recapture some semblance of normalcy among other human people. I appreciate your understanding and willingness to selectively ignore the weirdness that may or may not escape me in the coming month. 

I'll keep you in the loop and will hopefully be celebrating a first draft in a month's time. I'll also be a year older by the time that happens - how's that for time flying by?


Friday, October 26, 2012

Domizil & NaNoWriMo

This is me acknowledging what a terrible liar I am when it comes to posting regularly. I try really hard not to be someone who can only focus on one main thing at a time, but apparently that's totally who I am. When I was blogging daily, that was the main thing around which everything else had to maneuver; now it's my new novel and all the thinking and planning and researching that goes with starting a new project, in this case, a complete first draft to be written within the month of November.

I'm sitting in Domizil on this cold and grey Friday afternoon with Murphy curled up under the bench and three guys singing around a guitar to my right. I forget how much I love live music, especially when it happens in small and intimate spaces such as this bar in Leonberg. Especially especially when said three guys are not only singing songs in English, but songs I like. They're keeping their voices soft since we're inside, and the strumming of the guitar is gently massaging my temples. I could fall asleep if not for the coffee I've just ingested with copious amounts of sugar.

By next Friday it will officially be November and Domizil may or may not be swarmed with more writers participating in NaNoWriMo, as we three Friday regulars decided to share one of our favorite writing spots with others chasing the writing dream. NaNoWriMo, for those of you not in the know about such things, stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's been happening since it's July debut in 1999. These days November gets the honor of wrapping its arms around thousands of participating novelists (from wannabes to published) while we commit to the 50,000 word count, whine about writer's block in the on-line forums, and push each other to hang in there, suck it up, and keep the writing going. This is my first time participating and I'm excited to see if it'll work for me. Even though I'm awful at being consistent with things totally in my control, I do seem to rise to the occasion when an honest commitment is made, so here I go on another 30 day commitment, this time I'm just going to write a novel.

You know, no big deal.

This time next week, I hope to be surrounded by the sound of tapping keys while I drink my coffee and scratch Murphy's head under the table. The mere presence of other writers (or any kind of artist, really) does something to my motivation; the air changes and carries with it the vibe of creative electricity. Since I haven't been allowed to begin the actual writing of my new novel (per the rules of NaNoWriMo) I've been nose-deep in outlining and researching it, which just feels like a tease and makes me want to get started even more. But I think having this time to really give it time to roll around in my head will prove to be super beneficial. My characters are developing with more thought than had I jumped right into writing, and I feel like when I do sit down at my laptop on November 1st, all the anticipation and delayed gratification will result in an outpouring of amazing story. I'm hoping, anyway.

Now I need to get back to building backstories and developing my story's blueprint, so please stop bothering me.

Here's a picture of my gorgeous Goddaughter just because I love you so much. Call this my apology present for yelling at you for bugging me and making me write something today while I was supposed to be working on other things.  

This child is four years old - FOUR! - and I swear she's almost as tall as I am already. Why can't children stop growing while I'm living far away and just wait till I visit to spring up? Is that so much to ask? Meanwhile, I've got three nieces and three nephews getting all kinds of grown up with their driving (bikes, cars, go-karts and 4-wheelers), dance-attending, and general 9-going-on-19 shenanigans. I don't agree with this, not at all.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

His Name is Helmut

Oct. 11, 2012

This morning I was rushing down streets and between trains to the Frankfurt Book Fair, having completely underestimated the amount of time I'd need to get there by 9am to meet my friend Kirsten for lattes. The fair is overwhelmingly enormous, both in its physical expanse and the sheer number or events (discussions, exhibitions, interviews, readings, signings, this year's Maori dances, game demos, screenings, and I'm sure 50 more categories) going on all day long. As I rose up the escalator from the U-Bahn (underground city train) station I could hear the music. Assuming it was a recording being piped in, possibly as part of the fair, I thought about how nice it was to hear such lovely violin music floating over the heads of the hundreds of fair-goers as we moved like a wave through the halls toward the surface of the city.

When I saw him my hurried pace slowed just a little bit, because for a moment, I was enjoying his music so earnestly I forgot that I was late (and I really hate being late). It was the perfect playing of songs I didn't recognize but wanted to know that invited me to pull over out of the flow of traffic to dig out some change to drop in his case, but it didn't hurt that he was a gentleman of mature years who so obviously loved what he was doing. He wore scarves knotted at and trailing from his waist as he moved with the music as if he were in his own living room playing only for himself. He intermittently closed his eyes as he swayed and danced, always smiling. I was fascinated because looking at this man jumping around outside a U-Bahn station with scarves and long, white hair, you might assume he's another street performer who may or may not be saving up for a bottle of something or another, but you would be wrong, you judgmental snob! But I wouldn't know his story until later.

Busker: A street performer 
So here I was watching and listening to this grandfatherly looking man play away on his violin with a smile on his face, and he was good, really good. I took out my camera, caught his eye for the okay, and snapped a shot of him, then dropped in a coin and continued on my way. After all, I was late and in desperate need of coffee.

But thanks to the violinist in the hall, I rushed on smiling.

After a fantastically long day, I headed back down that same hall to the underground to hop the train back to my hotel, and there he was again! He wasn't playing, but was packed up and changing his shoes for the walk he'd be doing post-performance. I got all the way to the top of the escalator, before I stopped. I needed to tell him how much I enjoyed his playing that morning.

So I did. When I approached, he cordially flipped his hat forward and off his head with a little bow, and I loved him immediately (even more). Once we established that his English was better than my German, we chatted for a while about his music and my writing, the Frankfurt Book Fair and how 20 years ago he used to play at this very fair, until the "big guys" made things too complicated. I remembered seeing a few CDs in his violin case that morning, so I asked about his recording career. He'd made a handful of albums, the last couple featuring an accordion player by the name of Katherine Toy. As I was out of cash at that point, I asked how much and told him I'd be back the next day for one of his CDs. His response was, Don't let money be an issue. I'll trade you. My music for one of your stories. More than his suggestion, it was his enthusiasm about it that reached right into me and jostled awake that bit of myself I forget I still have, the artist who cares not for whether or not I ever get published, but who lives for her craft and the freedom to share it.

Ever tethered to blasted reality, I explained to him that I didn't have a printer at the hotel, and asked if he had an email address, instead. Whether he completely understood me or just figured it was getting too complicated, he gave me the CD anyway. Only then did I realize I hadn't asked his name, and when I did he pointed to the CD in my hands. His name is Helmut Scholz.

Since I've been back in my room I've Googled Herr Scholz and read up a little about him and his partner in music, Frau Toy.

On their website, I found this account from someone who saw them perform: They are indeed an unconventional duo. Mr Scholz, an elderly and much-bearded gentleman, seems the physical manifestation of some sort of mad, passion frenzied, whimsical and fiery violin solo. When he takes to the stage he does not perform as a man playing a violin but as the body of the music, dancing with all of his being, white hair flying. 

http://www.thevirtuosos.com/

Then I found an article written about him when he was first discovered in London in 2001, and now I can't wait to run into him again tomorrow and ask him more about his life. Also, I just learned a new word: busking. Give this short article a read.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/may/15/davidward

I've curious about why he's back in Germany and what his future in music looks like. And I'm totally going to ask him again if he has an e-mail address.

Today I boarded the U4 train with a recording of Helmut Scholz performing at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, London where he said he lived for around 15 years. This CD, which I've been listening to since I sat down to write, features Helmut mixing the art of spoken word with playing the violin, both the poetry and music composed by him. It is a short CD of just 5 poem/music pieces, but it's moving. Called A Dream You Forgot, I think this might be one of the coolest gifts I've received in a long time, and certainly from a stranger.

It's always nice when goodbye isn't necessary, even if the connection you make will only be short-lived. The idea of no good-byes has become a way of life for me given the ever-changing landscape of my social surroundings living abroad among a semi-nomadic community. Both because sometimes you just want to hope you'll run into someone again, and sometimes the chances are truly great that you will, saying something like "See you later" is a better way to walk away from someone with whom your connection really meant something.

As I walked away this evening with his CD in my bag, we both said, "See you tomorrow."

***********************************

Sadly, I did not see Helmut again. Although I know he planned to be there for the duration of the fair for the high volume of traffic, hence our plans to talk again, the hall was empty of his boisterous music the next day. Perhaps it was the police officers hanging around his stretch of hall leaving the U-Bahn station who kept him away. I wanted Chris to meet him when he joined me on the weekend, but still, Helmut wasn't there. 

Image borrowed from http://www.thevirtuosos.com/
Fear not, Helmut - I'll track you down some day and tell you what I thought of the music you shared with me, per your request. I hope you'll keep busking to your heart's content, and I hope I'll see you tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's Day 30

Hello people of the interwebs.

Today marks the 30th day of my 30 day commitment, something I've sort of harped on over the past few posts because I'm a little surprised I made it without incident. That said, I figured I should address how this blog will progress from here.

I had a lot of fun with the themed days, and will continue to post to them sporadically, though not every one, every week...a Travel Tuesday here, a Secret Saturday there. If you're a regular reader (thank you!) I hope you'll bear with me as I scale back the number of posts I write per week. The rest of October is going to be a little crazy, then November will begin a whole new novel writing project, but fear not, the blog will not be totally forgotten. I aim to post at least once a week, more if I can manage it, and hope you'll keep popping by.

Tomorrow I'll board a 6am train that'll take me a couple hours north to attend an international book fair, complete with interviews with and readings by authors, discussions about digital publishing, and the chance to meet other members of SCBWI (Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators). My head is so submerged in writing and publication, I never want to come up for air!

Until next time, thanks for reading.

France? Oui, s'il vous plaît.

Travel Tuesday


Today I’m not writing about one particular trip, but my overall impressions and experiences with the people of one particular country. Having just spent a weekend in and around Colmar in the Alsace region of France, my tummy still full of escargot gratin, and my trunk full of fresh pastries (okay, maybe not full), I’ve got France on the brain.

When Chris and I first moved abroad in 2004, beginning this high travel way of life, we did not immediately venture off to Paris, perhaps the most popular European destination for Americans. We visited Croatia in the east and Ireland way up north before we ever set foot in France. It’s relevant to note here that we were living in Northern Italy at the time, the French border a mere 4 hour drive away. France was so close, but our desire to explore within its borders were heavily influenced by what other people told us about their time there. For instance, we heard nothing but negative stories about Paris. Everyone we talked to who’d been said everyone was so rude, they didn’t care to ever return. Looking back now, I’m a little ashamed that we let other people’s impressions dissuade us from going anywhere, but we were new and impressionable; call us Freshmen of the University of Travel.

It was November of 2006 when we decided we really did want to see Paris, and it would be our first Thanksgiving not spent with friends or family around a big table full of enough food to feed an army. We went prepared for over the top snobbery, pushy Parisians and endless pretension, but what we discovered had us floored: Parisians were nice, and not just nice, but helpful. Sure we inspired our share of sighs when we walked a little too slowly in front of someone who knew where they were going, but you get that in any big city. (This reminded me of being in New York for the first time and being surprised by the helpfulness of the people there, too, after being fed story after story of the horrible and rude people of that metropolis.) We attempted French whenever possible, both badly and apologetically, and I think that helped because we weren’t feeding the stereotype of the loud, entitled Americans who demand to be catered to. People were generally friendly and patient as we stumbled through their melodic language, smashing its toes with our clumsy American accents. And suddenly some of the stories of horrid rudeness we’d heard made sense, because we’d seen some of the people who'd told us these stories out and about. The difference was, we embraced the fact that we were visitors in someone else's country, and we were trying.

One night we were looking for an art gallery in a neighborhood near the Moulin Rouge. We’d been over and over the map but still couldn’t figure out what we were missing. It must’ve been around 9 o’clock at night and we were staring at our little tourist map under a streetlamp. There was a woman walking toward us leading her toddler by the hand, and I reflexively smiled at the little girl as she drew closer to us. I didn’t expect what happened next.

“Ay twa vare do? Preesh voosadi?” said the woman, or something that sounded like that to my non-French-understanding ears.

I gave her the look that meant I didn’t understand a thing she’d said, which I’ve now perfected and consists of eyebrows raised to my hairline, eyes as wide as golf balls, and a cartoon-esque smile.

To which she responded, “Oh, pardon me. Do you need some help finding something?”

Clearly a Parisian walking home with her daughter, and she was asking to help us. This was our Paris, and pretty indicative of the rest of our time there. It should be said that we did encounter one man whose rudeness had me considering walking out on the check, but he wasn’t even French.

After that trip, we happily returned to France several more times, eager to help them get through some of those butter croissants and amazing cheeses and bread and wine and crepes and foi gras on toast and fondant chocolate and wow do we love French food.

This weekend in Colmar, our experience was no difference. Granted, Colmar isn’t Paris, but it gets it share of tourism all year long, or so our waiter said today at lunch. Jordan’s actually from New Zealand, but living in Colmar because of, what else, the love of a French woman. Before we knew he wasn’t French and he took our order, he was quick to make sure I knew I’d ordered snails, and his facial expression told me he expected some show of revulsion on my part. I smiled and nodded, because I freaking love escargot. My favorite is the Alsace style of simmering the snails in garlic butter, or sometimes pesto, but today it was escargot cooked in a gratin kind of potato, cheese, and onion casserole and I’m still full. After we’d eaten Jordan asked where we were from, detecting our North American accents, and we had a nice conversation with him about our respective homes and living abroad. His fiancé is from Colmar, it turned out, so there he was, trying to learn French and making plans. As we chatted on, I noticed the rest of the (presumably) French restaurant staff standing behind the bar watching with smiles on their faces. Later we mused that perhaps they were giggling at the chatty Kiwi they worked with, for Jordan was the only waiter we had such a nice long conversation with on the trip. We even talked about service with Jordan, and he kind of rolled his eyes and commented on how rude the service usually was around Alsace, but we had to disagree – we’d had great service, friendly, even. He said we’d been lucky, and perhaps he was right, but to this day we’ve never had a terrible experience anywhere in France. Knock on wood.

Hiking back out of Verdon Gorge
Jordan is the second non-French person we’ve met living in France because of a woman, the first being artist Kamil Vojnar. We met Kamil athis gallery in St. Remy a couple of years ago. Kamil is Czech, and his wife, a French woman from St. Remy, which was one of the stops we made on our road trip through Provence in the spring of 2010. That weeklong trip has got to be one of my favorites. We took to the road and rolled through the countryside of southern France, stopping in Apt, Rousillon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Avignon, St. Remy, and Annecy slightly out of Provence on our way home. On that trip we learned how amazing a simple picnic of market sausage and cheese on a fresh baguette with local mustard and fresh strawberries on the side could be. We also learned how good small town French hoteliers were at charades, as this was generally how we communicated with them. We hiked to the bottom of a small canyon on that trip, and only found our way out because of some French hikers who’d come prepared with a map of the trails. We tried real aioli for the first time and never loved blanched vegetables so much. I fantasize about having a little cottage in the countryside where I can buy my produce from the farm down the road and write in a garden bursting with lavender.

I guess my point in recounting these times in various parts of France is that people are people, and just because a person happens to have been be born in a place like Paris doesn’t make them any more (or less) likely to be a jerk. People appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language while you’re visiting their country, in the same way we expect everyone in the States to speak English. People also appreciate it when you acknowledge the cultural differences with respect. Every place has its own rhythm, and you don't have to understand it or force yourself to fall in line with it, but it is my opinion that you should at least be respectful, if not give it a try. The people of any given place know its rhythm and therefor function with it; this is something visitors do not innately understand, so my advice is to try not to hurry when you're there. (Thanks, Nancy, for this thought.) Take a step back and just observe a place for a minute; you might find you understand it a little more. And yes, some people can be real douchebags, but that’s true wherever you go in the world. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while living this traveler’s dream over the past eight plus years, it’s that no matter where people come from, we are all very much the same. We all love, fear and dream. We can all be rude and obnoxious, and we can all be gracious and helpful, depending on our moods. Everyone has their moments, I think it has more to do with our attitudes than anything else, and being open to whatever comes, in my opinion, is the best way to be in a world so full of could-be spectacular moments.