Friday, December 28, 2012

Just when you miss your family the most... 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?!

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?


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 65ยบ 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 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 :)