Sunday, August 13, 2017

Partying, writing, and letting my husband drive my car

Washington Old Hall, Sunderland

Once again, it's the weekend, so it's time to write a blog post.
Not much has happened in the last week or so, but nonetheless, I'll mention a few things.
First of all, Steve got his Theory Test done, so he's half way through towards getting his license. This meant that he needed extra time with my car, which was something I really thought I could ignore until he had his own car. After years of having the dreaded manual shift and almost burning the whole clutch out waiting in traffic for an hour one morning, going to work, I traded it in for a little automatic Toyota Yaris. (I love that car!) Now I can concentrate on the road and cars and roundabouts -- not the stupid gear shift, hand brake, clutch control nonsense that's absolutely painful when sitting in some horrendous traffic through Newcastle each morning.
Anyway, I called our insurance company yesterday and we have Steve as an infrequent driver on my car. So he drove me to Beamish yesterday on the windy, country roads. To be fair, he did all right, but I was convinced I was going to be run off the road because I was so close to the left-hand side of the car.
I think it's fair to say I have an issue with the lack of control.
Work has been the same as usual. I'm still counting down the days until my holiday (5 weeks and two days). In the meantime, I have work parties that I can go to, but as all introverts have to struggle with -- do I go and be social or do I stay home and wish I had a social life? My main problem is location. I work every other weekend, and I live an hour away on the bus. That means if I do go anywhere, I have to take public transport to work, get a lift to the party (or even take a bus and hang out until official party time) then get a taxi home.
Plus, is it my age, or is hanging out in the bar for hours really, really boring? I mean, when I was in Florida, I could hang out with my friends for hours but we generally mixed it up with shopping, dining, drinking, and nightclub dancing. Then we could add some well-deserved drama when we were around other people who did strange things at said nightclub.
I know it's a very British thing to just hanging out at a pub, but I've tried it but after 2 hours, I'm just bored to tears. I guess if you go to different places it's more fun but, meh.
I did buy some cool Chelsea boots for the occasion though, just in case I want to go anywhere.
I don't like not being thin anymore either. Being chubby and trying to look cute is just not one of my strong suits. One of the girls at work said she'd pick me up and I could get ready at her house. My first thought was, "I'll be dressed for work. That's as ready and as dressy as I get these days."
But at any rate, the writing has been still a struggle, especially to stay focused and get chipping away at the actual project. I always liked pantsing my projects and letting them grow organically, as Stephen King says, but without a clear direction, I'm just writing bits of a whole and I need to know how they fit together.
Amy Pohler is right. Writing is hard.
If I were able to just write and hang out and not have the outside forces of the universe giving me reasons to stay distracted, I would have had a couple more rough drafts under my belt. I've even thought of just going back to one of my last projects and editing the crap out of that in order to have something productive to construct. At least then I could have an aim in mind because I know where I wanted those projects to go.
Instead, however, I'm blogging and playing The Sims 4 and hanging out at home with Steve and Jake (the cat) as I always do on Sundays. At least I have written something today, but that's small potatoes compared to what I should be doing.
It's a beautiful day outside and I'm indoors. Such is my life.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

House redecorating, holiday prep, driving, and losing writing

Morning stroll.

Well, it's my day off so it's blogging day.

Since my last post in June we've been doing more house remodeling than traveling. First of all, we live in a little two bedroom flat. It was built in the 80s so it's not that old but it hasn't been renovated for ages, so it needs a good make-over.
The first thing we did was get new blinds for the place. Steve stays home to work on Tuesdays, and with the sun blaring at us from the valley around 2PM on, it gets unbearably hot in the living room. (Insert my whining about why there is no air conditioning in the United Kingdom.) So I saw an ad in the paper that I happened to be looking at in the library one day and they had everything measured and cut within a few days of my initial call. Apparently, our flat has bigger windows than most homes, so I am pretty pleased that not only do we have an awesome view, but we have an awesome ability to look at it.
Now we have blackout blinds in each room, so I can come home from a long day of helping all the people with their IT queries, draw the blinds, grab a cider from the fridge and relax. It's a priceless luxury, I tell you that much.
The next thing on our list is the bathroom. We're getting the full suite redone so I actually have counter space (hooray!) instead of just dealing with a pedestal sink that can barely hold a toothbrush and a bottle of handwash. Now, the best part about our plumber coming to see us was that he immediately commented on how hot and humid our flat was. We have never had a vent working in our bathroom and there's no window to let the steam out, so it gets really damp in our place. Of course, neither of us have been smart enough to put two and two together and figure out that what we need is a dehumidifier along with a vent for the bathroom.
Now we have the dehumidifier and the ventilation will be included in our new bathroom suite which will be installed when we get back from the Florida trip in October. (Another hooray!)
Our other revamping adventure includes a kitchen which I'm still skeptical about. We planned everything with IKEA a couple of weeks ago, and as awesome as the thing seems, it's a big process for a little flat. I mean if we sell or rent the place out, it will increase the value, I guess. However, I will finally have a dishwasher again (I've been without for 6 and 1/2 years) plus a big refrigerator (ours is about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide - keeping a Thanksgiving turkey in it is non-negotiable). This will be tough to part with if we move from our little flat on the cul-de-sac with the awesome view.

Now, for the traveling bit -- we've taken a small visit to Washington Old Hall because it is the home of George Washington's ancestors. We've planned out our Florida trip and instead of taking a mini holiday to Nashville or Las Vegas while we're in the USA, I made the executive decision for us to take a cruise over one of the weekends we didn't have anything else planned.
I have never thought I wanted to go on a cruise but for the price and convenience, not to mention the fact that I don't have to drive or be mindful of some itinerary for a few days, I chose a 3-day cruise to The Bahamas. If it's too crowded or we hate it, fair enough, we don't have to do it again. But, if my parents end up moving back to Ohio (something they've considered since 1989) then this may be our last chance to go on one. My friends in Florida have been on zillions and enjoy it, so I may as well give it a whirl.

Speaking of driving, I've been practicing my driving a little more now that it's half term (school's out!) so the roads are less hectic. I still take the bus on Tuesdays because I like using it as reading day. Long bus rides = getting reading done. So I've driven to the coast on the weekends, even went to a library by myself in the car. I used to absolutely love driving, now it just makes me nervous if I don't know where I'm going.

Steve has just passed his Driving Theory Test though, so he's well on his way to getting his license. I'm so excited for him because he's wanted this for a very long time. Plus, it will be an immense help to have two drivers within the same household. When you want to take the bus you can, but if not, there's always the car.

For the writing bit -- I was complaining on Twitter that I had lost a bit of writing that I remembered doing not too long ago. It was part of a WIP that I've been playing around with for a couple of years now. It wasn't monumental or anything, it just had the tone right for the relationship between the mother and the daughter. I use Evernote, Scrivener, OneNote, Novlr, and 750 Words to keep my writing available on the fly. I've had to hunt before for bits of writing, but I usually find it. This one has just vanished and I honestly don't remember where or when I write the scene.

So absolutely frustrating.

Anyway, my life has been about work and I think Steve is fed up with hearing about me whine about it. I'm in desperate need of a vacation so next month I will be in Florida with the biggest smile on my face. (More and more hoorays!)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

York and Everyday Things


Yesterday, I surprised Steve with a trip to York so we could finally visit the Railway Museum. I was really surprised how big the place was, and we spent hours in there looking at everything. Personally, I was interested in the railway library called Search Engine (how appropriate).

Other than that, it's been all about work. I am trying to get back into the mental headspace of writing. Really, I'm trying to convince myself that A. I have time to write each day and B. Even if I just write a little each day, it's worth it. When I know I won't be able to keep my mind focused on a 50,000 word 1st draft of something for 2 months (if I split the normal 1667 word count into two), I just keep thinking that it's a failed effort.

However, I've been searching for inspiration and so far Gilbert's Big Magic has helped. She has a whole section on not quitting your day job while you write because if you require your creativity to pay your bills, especially before you've written your Eat, Pray, Love masterpiece/best-seller. I took this to heart and thought, yeah, I can chill out about that because I need to work and I'm just going to have to fit writing and using my time wisely around the schedule that I have at the moment.

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

This book also talks about how you're not going to succeed if you don't accept the tough bits. I, personally, do not like that after I've written, I have to rewrite, edit, find critique partners, rewrite again, find beta reader, and then maybe, hopefully, possibly snag an agent who maybe, hopefully, luckily, possibly get me a publishing deal. Yes, I hate the not-so-fun parts. I admit that wholeheartedly. I hate the idea of trying to make an author platform and pitching my ideas to potential agents. I don't really worry about the rejection because I sort of expect it, but knowing that I'll be rejected and knowing how tough it is. (Though you see people getting books deals for stuff that I think, "that's not that great" or "I could have written that" is equally as tormenting.)

But it has to be done, and right now I know it won't be done soon. I'm incredibly impatient. When I want something, I want it now. If I have to do stuff for it, fine, but I want the results to be swift and rewarding. With creating works of literature, I know that's just not how it goes. I have to be in it for the long haul, even if I think the finished product will never truly be done. (Another thing Gilbert talks about - perfectionism will keep your creativity from flowing.)

Other than that, I've been watching Orange is the New Black Season 5. I've been reading Dumplin' and The Hate U Give as I finish up Big Magic. My brother-in-law is getting married in July, so we'll be attending the wedding in Liverpool. And since today is Father's Day, I wished my Dad a very happy day. (And Steve too, even though we just have the cat and he pretty much runs our lives anyway.) And I've been playing The Sims 4: Parenthood, which is just an on-going thing that will never end for me and The Sims 4. We've been through too many years together to stop now.

For all of you doing JuNoWriMo, I salute you. Keep strong and write on! Find your inspiration and run with it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Our trip to Amsterdam


This week I went on my first continental European trip. I’ve lived in England for six years and I’ve never had the holiday time or the money for a city break. This year I made sure that we celebrated Steve’s birthday with something new and fun, and off to Amsterdam we went.

The trip from Newcastle is only about an hour’s flight time, and while we had the option of the ferry from North Shields, the advice by my friends was that we should take a flight so we had more time for museums and sightseeing. Everyone I know here has been to Amsterdam a bunch times, so it being my first journey I was so eager to see everything because the place had been so highly recommended.

We stayed for three nights and the weather was glorious. We stayed in this amazing little apartment all of our own in a busy area of the city. We were around the corner from the Anne Frank House and Westerkerk the church with the bells that Anne Frank found so reassuring.

Going to see the Anne Frank House was surreal. My first aspirations for writing came from my sixth grade teacher reading us The Diary of Anne Frank, so I was ready to spill tears all over the place before I even got into the museum – I was so moved by the whole experience. I soldiered on though, and I enjoyed seeing the museum. A lot of information about the family was stuff I knew from my own curiosity, so I’d seen some of the videos they played (thank you, internet) but it was fascinating and heart-breaking just the same. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do, and now I’ve done it. I even brought home something I’ve always wanted – a red, checked diary like Anne’s. (I love gift shops.)

We also saw the Van Gogh Museum. Steve and I liked getting up close to the paintings and seeing the intricate detail of the brush strokes. I cannot believe that he did so much in only ten years. I was also very impressed with myself that I had watched enough documentaries on artists to know how to pronounce the other artists names like Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin. Also, I decided that I love this painting of his the best. I just love the colors and the brush strokes, especially in his eyes.

We spent a lot of time at the Rijksmuseum and I can tell you that we saw so much culture that we were cultured out. I loved the Rembrandt painting and Napoleon’s pistols. I walked a total of 7 miles that day, and my feet were on fire, so I didn’t get to enjoy it all as much as I wished I could. But we went to every floor and saw as much as we could that afternoon.

It was Day Three of walking, drinking Heineken, eating pancakes, stroopwafles, and burgers. I had seen the Red Light District, a ton of bicycle riders, about as many American tourists (*waves flag*) and taken a canal boat cruise. All in all it was a perfect, lovely mini holiday and we’re eager to go back again. We only scratched the surface on all the things Amsterdam has to offer. We even talked about moving (though we hear it’s super expensive to live there) and I want to learn some Dutch for next time.

Anyway, this review sounds fairly juvenile and basic compared to what we saw and how we felt about the place, but it’ll have to do for now. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend seeing the place yourself. It’s a beautiful, laid-back city with all sorts of things to see and do. We hated to go back home but, alas, here we are and we’re back to work tomorrow. Oh well, Steve has had a good birthday.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What’s going on in April


It’s a nice, leisurely Sunday afternoon at Chez Pick. We’ve been fortunate enough to have some much needed time off, so we’re been trying to make the most of it.

Over Easter break we didn’t stay overnight anywhere like we usually do. This time we saw Ghost in the Shell and ate at Wagamamas on Easter Sunday, went to Cherryburn Farm on Easter Monday, and visited Cullercoats and Tynemouth on Saturday.

The movie was good and I’m glad we saw it, though I don’t remember a lot from the original that I saw ages ago. Wagamamas still doesn’t have breakfast like we saw in Gatwick Airport last December, so that was a mild bummer. And even though it was sunny in parts, the beach last Saturday was cold and it hailed on us. (We enjoyed our ice cream anyway.)

Yesterday we made another trip to our favorite place: Beamish Museum and saw their Horses at Work exhibition. I love that place, but having that many horses running around made it all the more enjoyable.

We’ve been watching Dave Grohl’s Sonic Highways, Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special (R.I.P. Charlie Murphy), and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because, why not?

Work has been work. I can’t say much else than that. I go to a bunch of libraries, I help people with tablets and phones and computers, then I go home. Nothing too exciting about that.

Writing has still been sketchy at best. I get so frustrated because I want to delve into my Camp NaNoWriMo project, but I know I’ll never get much done because my whole day is focused on running around for work. I try my best to zone out and get back into the mind-set of “this has to be done because this is what I want to do with my free time” but I still can’t shake the high I have from being so dang social all day. (Is this an introvert thing, or what?)

I’ve thought about getting a Kickstarter going, donating the money to charity, and using that as a way to keep myself on task and motivated. I guess it couldn’t hurt if I tried, could it?

I do love all these authors who are still plugging away and keeping me motivated. I especially loved the Camp NaNoWriMo Virtual Write Ins on Youtube. They’re so fun and inspiring to watch.

On that note, this has been yet another “got to update before the time gets away from me again” type of post. Hope all of you are well and writing, traveling and publishing, and doing all the cool stuff that makes you who you are.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo, here we come!

Stormy Weather

Once again the prep for Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us with less than a week to get our ducks in a row.

With that said, I have compiled a list of links and tools that I’m keeping in my bookmarks, that may help someone else as well. Many are oldies but goodies, and probably common knowledge to those of you who do this every year without fail. (Unlike yours truly.)

  • Sign up. This is a given, but if you haven’t done so, make sure to sign up here.
  • A Novel in 30 Days Worksheet Index.
  • The soothing sounds of a coffee shop when you need to drown out the distractions.
  • Writing Resources from Camp NaNo itself.
  • Scrivener trial for Camp NaNo campers.
  • Novlr, OneDrive, One Note, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, and whatever else you may need to keep your notes in check even when you’re not at your desk.
  • The Facebook experience of Camp.
  • Wattpad will let you post as you write, so if you want an audience (and potentially some motivation) here’s a perfect place to do it.
  • If you need a critique partner (and happen to be a lady) there’s a webpage for that.
  • And advice from other campers who have been there and done that.
  • Write or Die and Written? Kitten! (which isn’t displaying kittens for me, unfortunately) will motivate you when you need it.

If you have any other ideas, let me know. I’d love to hear how you get yourself motivated and prepared for a month of writing.