Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tales from Dove Cottage

Wordsworth's Dove Cottag

Well, I’ve seen it – Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. This has been on my To Do list for only about 20 years, so I’m completely pleased to have finally visited. I was in a literature class in college and the professor shared around the photos of the England trip she and some of her students had gone on the year before. That’s when I first heard of The Lake District and Dove Cottage – I knew I had to get there one day.

Being the bank holiday and my rare opportunity to have all three days off (no work last Saturday – hooray) I booked us a nice excursion to the The Lake District. For those of us who aren’t British by birth, this is the done thing in England. You go to The Lakes over the last bank holiday of the year.

Of course I didn’t know this before I booked it – I just thought it would be nice to get away when we had the chance to spend more than one night not in town.

Anyway, so we stayed at Raise View House in Grasmere and spent time walking around Wordsworth’s grave at St. Oswald’s Church, the Gingerbread Shop, Allan Bank, Dove Cottage, The Wordsworth Trust Museum, and a few local bars and cafes.

The weather was incredible and it felt so, so nice to be away in the fresh air and the serenity of The Lakes. I’m so glad this area has been preserved and left in the natural beauty. Living in the city is nice and convenient and there is a ton of stuff at your fingertips there but, yeah, my natural disposition to enjoy being away from all of that.

Therefore, my new life goal – live in the The Lake District and write books.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

How Edinburgh can keep you from boredom

Edinburgh collage Jun 2016
Edinburgh. We always look forward to going on the train a ways to Edinburgh. This year we went for Steve's birthday in lieu of the first birthday he spend with me 8 years ago.
After traveling to Newcastle, it was my first proper tourist trip in the UK as well. I remember being speechless (which isn't a feat easily obtained for me) at it all. The age, the museums, the gardens, the red phone booths. It was amazing for a little country girl who'd only been to some American museums a few times in her life.
This time, for a change of pace, we stayed at The George Hotel which was in an excellent location - near Princes Street and Rose Street. We did the usual walking around, taking in the view, and wandering around the pubs thing. The new thing we did was visit the Edinburgh Zoo to see the panda. That was the coolest part of the trip without a doubt.
It was nice to be across from the Hard Rock Cafe, I can't deny. Rarely do we get to just hang out late at night having a drink and walk back "home." We nosed around Rose Street and did some mini pub crawls too. We even stopped off at The Guildford Arms on the way back from Carlton Hill.
Again, it's a change out of the ordinary commute-work-commute routine. It all gets quite dull when everything is a-okay and same ol' same ol' every day.
Granted, this trip was at the beginning of the month, a few weeks before the EU Referendum came through, so even if Scotland decides to leave the U.K., we'll still love to visit.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

How Bamburgh Castle and The Bowes Museum saved my weekend

Barnard Castle collage2

A few weeks ago, Steve and I went on another little trip to explore England. Northern England to be exact because, hey, why not start the adventures in your own back yard? We took a trip an hour south from us into County Durham and into Barnard Castle. (A place I'm told is quite posh and from the pictures, I have to agree.)

We stayed at Jersey Farm Hotel which was right down the road from town. There we saw Shetland ponies (even newborn ponies), deer, and alpacas. We even had a nice view of the animals from our window, which made for a nice stay in the countryside.

After a lovely evening of relaxing with a whirlpool bath and the windows open so the fresh air could lull me to sleep as I drank Caribbean Twist and watched The Hollow Crown, I was ready for a Sunday of site seeing.

First we went to town to see the castle, which was super cool, especially with the views over the rolling hills (what you imagine England to look like all the time). Then we went to Bowes Museum for the Silver Swan and the art. The grounds there are so neat and that house is way impressive. I'm so glad we decided to scurry down there for a little weekend break.

I was disappointed that we didn't get to see the Shoes exhibit. There were tons of signs around town advertising it, but when we went, the exhibition was still being set up, which meant we couldn't see any of the Fashion displays.

Also, we did pass on Raby Castle. There is a deer park there, that we drove by on our way home. From the brochure, it seems like a canny way to spend the afternoon as well, so we'll definitely be back.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Back from Seahouses

Seahouses collage

It’s been since January when I last posted something, so it’s high time I take a moment from my only day off this week to update things.

As you can see from the collage above, Steve and I have been travelling. These pictures were taken during our last weekend getaway to Seahouses and stayed in a lovely little B&B alongside the coast. We drank at the pub, we ate fish and chips, and relaxed with the windows open while the salty sea air lulled me to sleep. (Things I do miss from Florida.)

The next day, we saw castles. Steve’s idea was to go to Holy Island which I had heard of, but didn’t realize that one has to drive on the bottom of the ocean in low tide to get there. I swear, I had never been so scared about driving in my life. It was early morning, super foggy so you had no idea where you were going, with all these oh-so-handy warning signs about “use your own best judgement” or “do not cross if this road is wet.”

Okay, first of all, we don’t drive on tiny little road in the middle of the sea where I come from. In Florida, if there’s an island you either drive across a bridge or you take a boat. Simple. What I didn’t get was why we can be so hung up on health and safety (you can’t even go into an elevator without a little robot lady announcing, “doors closing” just so you don’t get confused or stick your hands in the door jam) but something as dangerous as possibily getting your car stuck in cold water and being swept away with the tide, is no big thing. “Don’t be an idiot and drive your car out when it’s dangerous.” Well, why don’t you make it so that it’s not dangerous, huh? Why don’t you have barricades or someone patroling the one mile stip of land into nowhere? How about that, Healthy and Safety Minister?

Anyway, after I screamed bloody murder and drove through the abyss (still amazed I did that) we arrive to an island where people lived their day to day lives on perpetual holiday, never caring about rising tides or the people who may get washed away with it. On Holy Island we saw Lindisfarne Castle and the Priory. (We didn’t go into the priory because, let’s face it, time was a ticking and I wanted to make darn sure I was away from some angry sea that would swallow my little Toyota for lunch.)

After the nightmare of Holy Island, we drove to the castle I originally wanted to go to Seahouses for – Bamburgh Castle. That’s the one that’s been used in films. It was huge and very impressive and after having the best brie and ham toastie in my life (the caramel and sea salt fudge was amazing as well), we walked around the beach. The dunes there are nothing that Florida is used to either – you have to treck across mountains of sand just to get to the coastline. But it was worth it. We had ice cream, FaceTimed my folks, and all in all enjoyed our adventure.

* * *

Our reason for going out and about so much on weekends is that I’ve honeslty been quite down. Work is all I know and all I do. Granted it’s good, fun, enjoyable work that I look forward to, but it takes a lot out of you to travel to all the libraries and be in charge of teaching customers and staff how to do computery things. When I get home, I just get depressed and bored really easily. I don’t know if it’s because I have a hard time winding down and when I do, I just emotionally crash, or what. But at any rate, being out and about and spending time with Steve makes me do something other than stew in the house, waiting for the next day to come when I’m running off to some library again.

This means that writing hasn’t been progressing much either. I can write scenes here and there on my phone, but nothing structured or productive really gets done. That takes a lot of time, organizaton and planning – none of which I have much of.

I have, however, started reading on the bus again (because my life consists of commuting and computer updating) so that was a relief that I could get back to my roots, as it were, by taking 15-20 minutes at a time to get back into the habit.

Yesterday I also decided to take a look at my poor blog that has been neglected for so long. Low and behold, the urge to update came over me and here I am. I’m also going to have to update and dress up bookblogarama soon. It’s been too long since I promoted books or did a review, so that will be next on my agenda (after everything else, of course.)

* * *

Anyway, the Great British Summer is upon us, sort of. I have my bathrobe on with the heater running downstairs. Both Steve and I had a cold a few weeks ago (he stayed home sick, but I kept on truckin’ despite my urge to crawl up in a batcave and sleep for days). We’ve also been entertaining the idea of buying a house somewhere. The issue is that my work is way out on the coast and Steve’s work is way out in the country. Town may be our only mid-point solution.

And books-wise: I’ve finished the Half Bad series (amazing) and have now gone back to Ready Player One. This will be a test to see if I finish this book finally before I write another post.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Writing for yourself in the new year

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” ~ Stephen King

It’s now January and 2016. It’s raining outside as it has been for the entire Christmas holiday. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the holiday as good as it should have been. I was wishy washy, insecure, and feeling downright sorry for myself.

Our holiday started on 19th of December. I was supposed to work that Saturday, but since my schedule changed for my new IT job, I was free. We took a trip to Edinburgh that Sunday, and that didn’t start out very well either. We missed a bus that didn’t turn up in the morning, and by the time we got to the station we had only 15 minutes left to get out tickets from the kiosk and board.

But we couldn’t get the tickets. I had forgotten that back in October when we booked the holiday, we had the tickets sent to the house. Where they are now – who knows? That’s just an example of how jumbled your brain can get when you work full time and have a zillion other things on your mind from the minute you wake up until an hour (at least) when you get home.

Steve eventually bought a fresh set of tickets for us, 1st class as well, and we travelled in style up to our own city of lights. Sunday was super packed and raining, as expected, and I was just a grouch. I’m finding it harder and harder to settle down after working. It’s not like the job is fast-paced or stressful, I think it’s just that I have to be go-go-go all the time that when I sit down at home, I’m like, “I’m so bored!”

And that was kind of how I was for the better part of the trip. We went to the National Museum of Scotland and relaxed indoors for the better part of Monday. In the evening, we went back to the market which was less packed and found ourselves some tasty German beer and food.

During this trip I also decided that I need to desperately lose more weight because my feet have been killing me lately. I’m sure this was all part of my fussiness too. The doctors had said I have plantar fasciitis, but the tops of my feet started hurting too. My chiropractor said it was a tendon that was inflamed, but whatever it is, it’s driving me batty. But, I digress …

We FaceTimed my parents at the market, just so they could see all the fun we’re having here and try to lure them over for a visit. A vain attempt, but it is fun to share the experience with them in Florida.

We came back on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I had my first official work Christmas party in England. (It was at lunch time and I was the only one drinking, but hey, that’s how it goes.) Afterwards my friend from my old library and I drank mimosas and wine at Jamie Oliver’s in town and had a gift exchange/catch up. That made me feel 100% more festive.

Back home, Steve and I hung out, we had a lovely Christmas, and I was spoiled rotten with gifts. (Steve outdid himself this year, and I was really surprised by my new iPad Air that he’d sneakily hidden A Christmas Story style by the television. Bless him.)

I went back to work on the 29th for a one off day. It was fun too because we sat and caught up, waited for the phone to ring, and left promptly at 5PM to start the rest of the five day break.

I did get some cabin fever, and grew totally listless with the same old same old attempts at distraction and killing time. I’ve played Sims 4, Fallout 4, LEGO Dimensions, Disney Infinity 3.0 (the Star Wars packs!) and watched all of Making a Murderer on Netflix.

After a trip to the Metrocentre yesterday, wading through traffic, and trying to hobble through the mall with my dodgy foot (it was the left one, now it’s the right one – I can’t win!) I was a complete grouchy pants. Finally, I decided it was time for me to just stop being miserable and get on with things.

So, with all that said, my topic was of writing for myself. I think too often when we’re sitting around trying to do good on our promises to ourselves, we get too insecure or too down on ourselves when we see that other people are publishing their books at a much higher rate than we are.

Someone on Twitter had said a while ago that if we’re sitting around trying to write for fame and fortune, we should re-evaluate. True, the notoriety isn’t the best angle to view your work from, but with this audience that we can see the outline of in social media, I think it’s hard to not take them into consideration.

“What would people like to read? Would they enjoy this story, or this other one better? Will they think it’s too much like this book or that book?” Etc.

It made me think about Stephen King’s quote again, about writing with the door closed. I think with all the Wattpad, Twitter, #pitchmad, and blog posts about writing that we have in abundance, it’s hard to forget that we’re doing this just for us as a #1 priority.

With that in mind, I’ve sort of reasoned with myself that posting stories on Wattpad, or talking about projects probably isn’t the best way for me to work. I even debated mentioning this in a blog post because, yet again, I’m blathering on to the potential audience. I’m really too private to be doing that.

I’ve made my peace with Twitter and jump in and out without making much of a ripple in the account. I’m going to look at all of it as a means of inspiration rather than comparison. If someone at age 20 has 200 books already published by Disney Hyperion then, bravo. However, they are not me. I am not them. End of discussion.

I’ve also thought about how to keep myself in check throughout the year and how posting word counts or updates lets someone else in to the writing process.

Granted, I think all of this sharing with the world is second nature to most of us anymore, but maybe this year, as I learn to become the Mistress of IT, ironically, that I switch off the connection between the world and my little hidey hole of creating my own reality.