California = snowboarding + sun

 ** Sorry to those who received a jumbled-up run-on email version of this post moments ago. It should be much easier to read this time around!**

I made it back! Sans broken bones!!

I'm no snow fan, but I had to admit, the views were stunning.
I’m no snow fan, but I had to admit, the views were stunning.

My husband and I (who I should take to calling the Scotsman as a fellow writer I admire calls hers “the Frenchman”, and it’s much simpler than saying, “My husband” all the time. And I’m not fond of “The Hubs,” at least, not with a straight face…).

Okay, start over.

The Scotsman and I returned from a very unexpected holiday to Northern California.  I lived in Sacramento (or “Sac”, as it’s disgustingly referred to by locals, but I myself have been known to call it that ;)) for about 4 years just prior to moving to the UK, so it’s been a little over 6 years since I was last there. In fact, I celebrated my 6th anniversary of living in the UK while we were over there.

SIX YEARS. Wow. So much has happened in that time, so much I never expected to experience. But that’s another post. Our holiday was awesome. When I moved away from California, I was so ready to go, ready to start my new life in Britain, and ready to leave a lot of toxic stuff behind.

A week at Tahoe was enough to make me really sore... but love snowboarding.
A week at Tahoe was enough to make me really sore… but love snowboarding.

I did, but I also left some really good friends behind, friends I now only see on Skype, or if they do the unthinkable and make it over to visit. I left some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen: Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, Mt. Tamalpais, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco. I left a few of the most mouth-watering restaurants behind: Wasabi sushi bar, and Sizzling Fresh (yes, I do love a good Mongolian BBQ and that’s the best IMHO). I left behind glorious weather and that big orange thing in the sky.

The wonderful news is I got to experience all these things again, and this time, with the Scotsman. I’m so grateful to my awesome friends for taking time out of their non-holiday days to spend catching up, eating, chilling, and generally being their generous and fun selves that I miss so much. It was all a huge breath of fresh air, and we soaked up every second of it.

Visited my favourite wine's vineyard. Yay! We both had colds. BOO.
Visited my favourite wine’s vineyard. Yay! We both had colds. BOO.

On a writerly note, my first MS is set in another part of the Bay area but is based on a lot of the places and experiences I had in Sac and the north Bay, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I revisited these places. I’m happy to report we had an awesome time, despite us both catching colds after Tahoe, and I lived 100% in the present while appreciating what was good about my past experiences there. I’m so grateful we had the chance to take this trip.

I could get used to this view (from Coppola's vineyard).
I could get used to this view (from Coppola’s vineyard).

Apart from the memory lane-trips and seeing friends, we spent a week in South Lake Tahoe, mostly at Heavenly (one day at Northstar). The Scotsman is an experienced snowboarder and we had two friends from the UK over there on their own holiday, so the 3 of them went off on the slopes in the morning while I had 3 mornings of lessons.

In retrospect, I’d like to have had maybe 5 days of lessons, but Tahoe is ridiculously expensive. I had ONE good instructor, and he was from Scunthorpe, England.

The first day I had a stoner dude, the sort of which I am told there are a lot in Tahoe. He was all, “Use your MIIIIND, be a wise learner, watch others!” to which I wanted to reply, “Why the heck am I paying YOU, then?” The third day, I had a 19-year-old LA girl who said, “Snowboarding is all about the cute outfits!” and when I asked for help on starting to turn on my board, she said, “I don’t know how else to explain it to you,” I again wanted to ask, why the *&*£$£ am I paying you?

I finally walked across the Golden Gate for the first time, & wore flip-flops. Mistake.

My husband and friends gave me lots of tips, though, along with the GOOD instructor, and while I think I mastered falling leaf and braking, and got in lots of J- and C-turns, I didn’t start to connect them to S-turns, and managed to exit the ski lifts about 4 times without wiping out (and taking others with me). Getting off ski lifts is the most frightening part for me. But it turned out fantastic all the same. For 5 days and having never skied before, I’m actually really happy with that 😀 There’ll be a next time 🙂

So now we’ve been back nearly a week and jet lag still has me in its clutches, but I managed to get back on track and start working on my WIP again yesterday, as well as some more (very slow) job hunting.

On to my #WriteMotivation update:

1. Revise NG chapter. Not yet, but I made some notes today and I do think there needs to be even less backstory than there is here. None would be nice, since I know backstory in the first chapter is meant to be a big no-no…. it’s a bit confusing though when most books I’ve read lately are CHOCK FULL of it in the first chapter. But I will persevere.

2. NG x10. Not going to happen unless #1 happens and I’m 100% happy with the result.

3. Revise 1st draft of A BREATH OF SILVER. HAHAHA, uh, what now? That would mean having a finished 1st draft.

4. Finish reading all outstanding CPs/betas’ stories. I’ve finished two this month, so I’ve actually done okay with this one. 3 more to go!!

So, as you can see, sadly it’s day 23 out of 31 and I’ve not accomplished much, but for being out of the country for 17 days and fighting jet lag and a cold that clings for the last 4 days, it’s not surprising, really. Every #Writemotivation month I’ve been involved in so far, I’ve failed to reach all my goals, but I’ve also done a lot more than I would have, had I not been involved. That I know is a fact. So thank you, as always, to KT and the crew for giving us all this extra push to get our words down 🙂

If I have a completed 1st draft of A BREATH OF SILVER done by the end of April, I’ll be pleased. If I rewrite NG chapter 1, and maybe another 10k on BREATH by the end of this March #Writemotivation Month, and finish one more beta’s MS, then I’ll settle for that!

Revised Goals, then:

  1. 10k written on WIP.
  2. 1st chapter of NG rewritten.
  3. If #2, then NG x3.
  4. Finish at least 1 more beta’s MS.

Hope you’re all doing well and getting those ideas down! I know this weather is appalling but happy almost spring anyhow 🙂

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NaNoWriMo and November #WriteMotivation Wrap-up

I just realised my first #Writemotivation and NaNo post for November was saved as a draft . . . and never published. This is the ultimate example of how scattered my brain has been. My great ability to start things and not finish them has reared its head this year. Well, that’s quite enough of that. If nothing else, I hereby dedicate 2013 to be the year of finishing projects/tasks/goals I start, and being able to happily point at finished products before moving on to the next thing.

To everyone who wrote *any* words during November for NaNo, WELL DONE! A lot of friends and Twitterers have said they focused more on the quality of the words they wrote this year, as opposed to just throwing whatever up there in order to “win”, and I’m wholeheartedly in this camp. I think NaNo is an awesome motivator for people to get pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. It’s rewarding to be writing alongside others, even if they’re fellow storytellers we’ll never meet, and this is never more obvious to me than during NaNo, so thank you to everyone who shared encouraging words on Twitter 🙂

Writing Ahead of the Blank Wall

My goals for November #Writemotivation and NaNo were the same: add 50k to my WIP, A BREATH OF SILVER, and I succeeded. This time I tried something different though – I have the synopsis for the story down, all the pivotal story points and the ending, but it was the little details and connecting scenes that I began to struggle with halfway through the month. Some days I wrote nothing. Two weekends my husband and I were away so I got nothing down, but I secretly revelled in these excuses to take a break. Then I decided to do what someone suggested: write what I know right now. I wrote some pivotal scenes I’ve had simmering for awhile, and in doing so, on the spot I came up with details, characters, and side plots that I’ll have to explain later.

For instance, my MC–Bryn–travels from North London to Scotland in 1691. The last scene in chronological order I wrote was her arrival north of the border. Then when I blanked on what happens between her arrival in Scotland to her life at her ancestral clan’s Highland castle, I jumped several months ahead to her trying to fit in, what job she’s doing there, and what friends and rivals she’s made. That meant I immediately had to make up the peripheral characters and situations that would propel her to the next plot point: meeting a romantic interest and major character. It also means that the bits that will come in between her arrival in Scotland and her life at the castle are now sketched out, and backtracking to write these scenes will be much easier.

The point is, I think sometimes you need to move forward to fill the gap. It can be a massive chasm of unknown obstacles, characters, creatures, threats. There could be anything in there, particularly as this is first and foremost a fantasy. But when I jumped to the other side of that ravine, since I know what happens there, I can look back easier than I could look forward. I know some are totally against writing out of order, but I’m finding it really does get my creative juices flowing when I’ve reached a wall. So, you never know until you try. If you’re stuck, I recommend it! But probably only if you’ve got a solid overall synopsis constructed first.

It felt great to reach my goals this month for the first time in awhile, and special thanks to Leigh Caroline, Megan Peterson, and Andrew Patterson for encouragement, and Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas for their fabulous #NaNoWriMoBattle word sprints that seriously pushed me! Hope everyone enjoyed pressing forward in their goals this month, and are enjoying the holiday season!

Oh yeah, and yesterday was a year since my husband proposed to me 🙂 Nice to see my ring has survived everything I’ve put it through, including climbing Helvellyn in the Lake District covered in snow, climbing the highest peak in England & Wales (Snowdon), as well as other hills, scurrying down rocks to reach a hidden cove in Cornwall, jumping off a boat into the freezing-cold Mediterranean, and many other adventures. Here’s to many more 🙂 <3

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Westonbirt Arboretum, November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a warm, cosy, family- and food-filled Thanksgiving Day! I wish I was back home with my family in WNY helping and celebrating, but instead I’ll be cookin’ a bird next week for my husband and friend coming to visit from Plymouth. As in, Plymouth, England. Which I just realised is sort of fitting given the first Thanksgiving was in Plymouth, Massachusetts, if I remember correctly from elementary school lessons. So, thanks to Lauri for bringing a bit of tradition to our Thanksgiving 😉

In honour of the day and the simple message of counting your blessings and giving thanks for what you have, here is one of my favourite quotes:

Being happy doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.
– Helen Keller

I think that speaks for itself.

I have so much to be thankful for – my husband, our memorable wedding day this past May, my family back in the U.S., my friends both there and here, good health, a roof over our heads, and so much more. It’s easy to focus on what I don’t have, but that’s the story of mankind, really; we’re always focused on what’s missing rather than what’s present.

I have been job-hunting, trying to get my foot into a career since graduation 2.5 years ago. At my age, as I’m often reminded, this is not a great situation. It’s frustrating mentally, and also frustrating our plans and goals of settling down. As wearying as these things are though, I’m trying to learn to choose to be thankful. Every morning (well, okay, most mornings) I jot down at least 3 things in a journal that I’m thankful for; 3 positives. Some days the best I can come up with (and most days if this is true, it’s on the list) is that the sun is shining. In the UK, that’s cause for breaking out the champers.

I’ve also been learning this year to just focus on today. I believe God meets our needs daily. The example for prayer includes the phrase Give us this day our daily bread. It doesn’t say Give us what we’ll need for the next year in advance so we can feel safe and secure. The reason? I think it’s so we learn to trust Something bigger than ourselves. We have to trust that tomorrow will take care of itself, but for today, we will have our current needs met. Even if this means what we think we need, we really don’t. Not yet.

I find this hard because I’m a planner, and a bit OCD. I make 10 lists before going on a trip, check the kitchen about 5 times before leaving to make sure everything’s off, check that the door is locked multiple times. I struggle with it a bit. I’m the same way with future plans. It’s wise to make arrangements for what’s to come so when it comes you’re not left scrambling, but I think in many cases, there’s only so much planning you can really do until the need arrives. So I have to let go of needing to know how things will be on the 8th of February four years from now, and just focus on today.

I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving, and have a lot to be thankful for!

– – –

On another brief note, my #Writemotivation updates have been scattered this month but I think that’s expected, given NaNo. My update is a positive one, though:

1) 50k on WIP (which will bring the word count to ~70k): I’ve written 34,306 NaNo words bringing my WIP first draft to a grand total of 76,476. Yay!

2) MS#1 x3. Done.

– – –

Best of luck, you NaNoWriMo and WriteMotivation writers! And enjoy your holiday, Americans! 🙂

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September Writing Goals

I can’t believe September’s here. It’s the month that always make me a bit sad and nostalgic for every summer past, my favourite time of year. When I was a kid, it was long vacations, trips to Allegany State Park, theme parks, beaches, endless days and late nights of playing, swimming, and going for walks. I’ve never really gotten into winter. I don’t like wearing 18 layers, being cold, and the dangers of winter travel. So each year I struggle to say goodbye to August.

By the year’s end, we’ll hopefully have bought a house and either be moved or preparing to move all our stuff up north. We’ll hopefully both have new jobs lined up, and be ready to move into that next phase of life, as a home-owning married couple who can finally get a cat, paint walls, hang frames, and pick out carpet. I can’t frickin’ wait. After 31 (or is it 32?) moves in my life, mostly from one apartment to another all over Nashville and Sacramento, I am so keen to be in one place, throw out the cardboard boxes, and just breathe knowing we can spread out, join a community, join a gym, and put some roots down.

Before I begin my work experience placement in October, September is the time for getting SHEDLOADS done on both my WIP and my first manuscript. I received amazingly helpful feedback from a few lovely beta readers on both, and I want to send you HUGE GIANT SALTY HUGS AND PINCHES. Just in case you haven’t met Giant Salty yet, which you probably haven’t as he’s only made one blog appearance so far and it was a year ago, here you are:

This is him being shy. But he really wants to hug you. And maybe pinch.

Here are my #Writemotivation goals for September:

1. Reach 70k word mark on WIP first rough draft.
2. Revise 1st MS based on any beta feedback received.
3. Send feedback for beta reading (if not done by end of August).
4. 1st MS x3.
5. Revise query for WIP to include changes.
6. Set aside specific time weekly to read blogs/comment/cheer! 

I should point out that as of 1 September, I’m starting out at 42,076 words in total for my first draft of my WIP, so this means only another 28,000. I know that still sounds like a lot, but it is doable.

I might have to wait until the end of the month for #4. So far I’ve got one set of feedback on it, and I’m in the middle of implementing changes. But if I’m not happy with where I’m at with it in say 3 weeks, I might need to postpone this. 

I’d like to visit blogs on Tuesdays, since most people blog on Mondays in #Writemotivation. Then Twitter breaks throughout the week, in between writing scenes, would be ideal. As it is now, I’m all over the place. Twitter for 10 minutes, blogs for 20, Amazon, job websites, RSS feeds… I need to SERIOUSLY straighten out my focus. One thing at a time. Get it done, take a break, then get back to it.

Good luck with all your goals this month, and I hope you surprise yourself with what you can accomplish! And if the 30-inch plush red crab didn’t make you smile the first time, here’s another shot…

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Fruit flies like a banana.

Calm and tranquil; that’s me right now. Of course. (Red House Lake, Allegany State Park)

Heard the old saying, “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”? Well, I’m trying desperately NOT to think about the first half of that saying. Time is flying way too fast, and as excited as I am about this weekend and the following few weeks, I’m also trying my hardest to focus on what’s right in front of me.

A banana with lots of fruit flies ready to devour it.

Fruit flies are basically all the little niggling things I “need” to get done before my family arrives for the wedding. The banana? Yeah, that’s my writing goals.

My fellow writers working on their May goals with #writemotivation are not only doing AWESOME and inspiring me every day by how much they’re achieving, they’re also encouraging me. It’s amazing how valuable a short Twitter post can be, from someone I’ve never met. Thank you all for welcoming me and being okay with the fact that my life is busier right this instant than it ever has been before. It will slow down and I’ll have more time to post on your blogs and work on my own goals when this month is through 🙂

As for the check-in, a disclaimer: my family begins to arrive from the USA on Friday this week, so from then on until the start of next month, I’m going to be here, there, and everywhere. So my time to write is short for now, but I’ll do the best I possibly can:

1) Rework few small sections of 1st novel based on recent feedback. Still not touched yet. Must work on this Wednesday. Even just a little, and I’ll feel better.
2) WIP: finish 2nd draft of first 7 chapters. I am on chapter 7 of this rework, so trucking along with this goal.
3) WIP: finish outline. Ha! Haven’t started it.
4) WIP: write 3 more chapters. I haven’t started any new chapters, but in my rework of the first 7, I’ve written a substantial amount of words so I’m not feeling too shabby about this, all things considered. Were this a “normal” month, you know, one in which I wasn’t getting married, well, I’d feel a bit crap. But as it stands, I’m not doing terrible 🙂

I’ll aim to blog again on Thursday night because that’s the bulk of what I can get done this month, though I’ll have check-ins when and if I can around the craziness. Thanks for reading, and keep on writing!

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