“Hostel” or “A Homophone for ‘Hostile’, but Way Friendlier”

As a part of my awesome NaNo 2012 adventure*…

*(My apologies to anyone who had performed a happy dance under the misapprehension that you wouldn’t have to hear another word about National Novel Writing Month until sometime next autumn. If you are, for personal reasons, sick to death of even a passing mention of the subject, please know that it was not my intention to contribute to your nausea, and have my assurance that this blog piece is not actually so much about The Month That Shall Not Be Named as it is about other stuff entirely. So do stick it out to the end of the article, if you feel that your constitution can handle it.)

…I traveled to California to, a) visit with my writing buddy bestie Tirzah and, b) participate in NaNo’s infamous Night of Writing Dangerously* in San Franciso*.

*(Both of these will totally get blog pieces all to themselves, in the near future. The “sick to death of NaNo” camp can feel free to skip the NoWD post.)

Now, while Tirzah’s house is significantly closer to San Francisco than is my place in the Midwest, it was still far enough away that we needed to find a place to board us while we were in the city. From what I glimpsed while walking its streets (usually somewhere in the range of “mildly lost” to “tragically lost”), San Fran’s got some ridiculously nice hotels to offer. But “ridiculously nice” = “crazy expensive”, often enough, and Tirzah and I were looking for something a little more within the budget.

Ultimately, then, we went with “a supervised, inexpensive lodging place for travelers, especially young travelers” – i.e., a hostel. The Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel, to be precise.

We arrived on a dark and stormy (well… rainy, anyway) Friday night, after a long day of missing train connections and walking several miles with forty-pound loads and inappropriate walking shoes (note to self from feet: Get some cushy insoles for my awesome boots) and, as I’ve mentioned, being lost. I was tired and sore and grumpy; Tirzah was tired and sore and less grumpy, because she’s the sort of cheerful person that I feel like punching in the face on nights like these. But upon the eventual discovery of the hostel’s door cleverly hidden just a few yards from where I’d been standing in despair, I did not cry – not tears of exhaustion at having to drag myself up three flights of stairs to get to the check-in desk, nor tears of joy at just finally, finally being there.

Checking in was a reasonably quick and friendly affair; we were given an overview of the rules of the realm, the keys we’d need to move about with autonomy, and the magical words every laptop-toting writer loves to hear: Free wi-fi. We spent our last hours of the evening in the common room, happily plugged in and slowly drying out and generally content with our lot. The night hadn’t ended before we’d gotten started on making ourselves at home, making friends, and making memories.

Tirzah with our new insta-buddy, Kat.
Tirzah with our new insta-buddy, Kat.
I told Tirzah to look like she was getting up to something in the kitchen;
she chose “no good”.

Pacific Tradewinds became our home base during our San Francisco stay; the place we looked forward to returning to after long days of sightseeing in the city and evenings dining and writing with fellow NaNo types. Falling out of my top-bunk bed didn’t happen, and enduring some roommate’s mighty snores for two out of my three nights there didn’t kill me (though I may or may not have spent a 4am contemplating suicide; my future husband had better not snore). Bathrooms were small and privacy was limited, but we’d been warned of that going in and were quite willing to pay that instead of additional money.

To my daily delight, every morning featured complimentary breakfast – toast (peanut butter and jelly optional) and cold cereal and hot tea and coffee. And if you were in the right place at the right time, somebody might offer you the remains of their lovely-smelling dinner from the next table over. (Evening number one, Tirzah and I were in that right place and time. Yum, yum, yay for chicken stir fry and potatoes.) There was even a Thanksgiving feast which, sadly, Tirzah and I didn’t get to partake in, having returned to her house the Monday before. On the upside, we didn’t leave too soon to miss out on contributing to the hostel-wide hand-turkey wall.

Voluntary holiday craft time!
Voluntary holiday craft time!
Tirzah is thankful for stars, clouds, ink and paper, the Night of Writing Dangerously, “The Night Circus” (the book that inspired her turkey’s design, by the way), a good night’s sleep, and all things noir.
Tirzah is thankful for stars, clouds, ink and paper, the Night of Writing Dangerously, “The Night Circus” (the book that inspired her turkey’s design, by the way), a good night’s sleep, and all things noir.
I’m thankful for books, characters, and we who write them; sky, water, and all pretty things blue; sisters, best friends *like* sisters, and San Fran; hostels that foster hand-turkey creation.
I’m thankful for books, characters, and we who write them; sky, water, and all pretty things blue; sisters, best friends *like* sisters, and San Fran; hostels that foster hand-turkey creation.
The Pacific Tradewinds hand-turkey wall, in all its glory. ...Or all the glory that we got to see before we left town, anyway.
The Pacific Tradewinds hand-turkey wall, in all its glory. …Or all the glory that we got to see before we left town, anyway.

So, that was pretty much my experience there. Travelers planning on passing through San Francisco, check it out. Pacific Tradewinds is run by a fun bunch of folks, and there’s plenty of cool stuff within walking or busing distance…some of which will get written about and photographically illustrated in a post coming soon to an Ever On Word blog near you. Stay tuned, y’all…

“Experience” or “Reflections of a Sailor in Sight of the Shore”

Arrgh, mateys, this be the final time I sail beneath the bloggin’ Buccaneer’s banner.

The Buccaneer Blogfest now comes to an end, and its captains have left me with one final essay question: Share your experience from this blogfest. What are the next steps you want to take with your blog?

It’s my “apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the senses or mind” ye be wantin’, is it? Here, then, I’ll give ye the short version: I had fun.

Now for the long version. (Sit down, you in the back! You knew I wasn’t done! The short version is never the end, with me.) I got the chance to hear from a variety of new blog voices that I might never have stumbled across otherwise, including those of some bloggers whom I now happily follow. Likewise, I’ve gained a number of new followers of my own, which is always a delight – (thanks again, my beloved Ever On Wordians!) – and have had some great interactions in the comments.

And speaking of action in the comments…

Will Scarlet grins unrepentantly. “Referring to my going about, socializing in your behalf, are you?”

My behalf?? And here I got impression you were running amok for your own pleasure.

“Call it multitasking. Come on now, in all sooth, you can’t say that the people haven’t been enjoying it. I’m always a hit with patrons, it’s just my way. Plus I made a new friend! Shout-out to Ashley Vaandere, whoot-whoot!”

Aye, new friendship is always good. (:

As for the next steps for Ever On Word… Well, in the coming weeks, I’m going to have a lot on my plate, word-wise. My announcement on the “Ballad” page a few days ago laid out the basics pretty well:

Tomorrow’s August 1st. Know what that means, lads?
“Irish Bank Holiday?” Robin Hood guesses.
…Possibly. But I was referring to the start of Camp NaNoWriMo.
“Ah, yes,” says Allyn-a-Dale. “The summer version of the November madness that birthed my ballad.”
Yup. 50,000 words in a month; 2,500 words a day.
Marion whistles. “The minimum last time was 1,667 words a day!”
I wasn’t working weekends at a Ren Faire, then. I was just writing about people who did.
“Are we in this new novel, too?” Will asks eagerly.
‘Fraid not. I’ve got a whole new story-world to build, involving fairies and kidnapped children, mermaids and demon pirates, shapeshifters, a dragon, and a boy who refuses to take “ordinary” for an answer.
“Augh, that sounds awesome! Are you sure we’re not in it?”
Positive, Will. But I’ll be sure to keep everyone here apprised of my progress; maybe highlight my favorite lines of the day, like I did during “Ballad”s creation.
“I’ll be in it,” Gant-o’-the-Lute says smugly.
Um, no, not really.
“That’s what you said last time,” he says breezily. “And yet, somehow…”
#HasAPoint

So that’s what’s happening now. (Have you seen the nifty word-counter widget on my home page? That will keep us all in the number-related know.) Fortunately, I’ve got a nice stockpile of blog pieces ready to post, skillfully avoiding both neglecting my readers for a month and having to scramble to write an additional couple thousand words a week. And come September and beyond? – the beginning of my second year of blogging? We’ll all just have to wait and see. Don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it! Bring me that horizon!

“Goals” or “The Motivation Behind My Madness”

People have asked me – “Danielle,” they’ve asked – “Why did you start blogging? What are your goals for your blog?

And when I say “people”, I mean the crew in charge of the Buccaneer Blogfest, yo-ho!

This badge is supposed to go alongside my blog, but I’m a rebel pirate (translation: I’ve yet to have much luck in figuring out how to get badges to stay where they belong), so I’ll be sticking the image inside all my blogfest posts.

Well, whoever’s asking, I’m very glad you did, because I do rather enjoy displaying the answers to such questions for the world’s viewing pleasure.

So, wherefore did I found Ever On Word? In a nutshell,  my writing bestie Tirzah told me to. She said it would be good for me, in my capacity as up-and-coming author, to start generating an online presence beyond the occasional Facebook post.

I dragged my feet. I fussed in that “noisily brave” fashion of mine (term coined by my much-adored tailor). I was scared to throw in my lot with technology (we have a long history of enmity; see my badge caption on the right), and nervous about having to talk to a bunch of strangers on a regular basis (assuming that anyone out there paid any attention to my little blog, which I wasn’t willing to bet too heavily on). But Tirzah said she was starting one, and I didn’t want to get left behind, so there was really nothing for it.

Goals? I’m supposed to have “purposes toward which an endeavor is directed; objectives”? Er…

I kid. I’ve got goals. First, foremost, and frankly, I want fans. (Quadruple-F alliteration points are awesome, too, but a secondary goal at most.) Now, fans can be a bit tricky to come by when you haven’t actually got a book out on the market, yet. Tricky, but not impossible; not when you’ve got other words with which to entertain the masses in the meanwhile. That’s how I view this blog, in part: As my opening act, keeping the audience happily in their seats until the Big Name shows up to rock the house. I talk writing, I talk characters; I share poems, songs, and short stories; I point to other stuff I’ve read and herald, “Hey, You Should Read This!”. And in the process, I’ve gained something that I didn’t even think to aim for:

Blog friends! Y’know what’s really cool? When you’ve got people who follow your blog, or you follow theirs (or, when fortune smiles, you’re both following each other), and you get to chat and trade ideas and goof around together, and maybe invite each other over to put your words on one another’s blogs, and nominate each other for blog awards and tag them in blog games and… well, back it up, I could easily condense all this. Y’know what’s really cool? Having blog friends. I love you, my blog friends! (You know who you are… And if you’re not sure, go ahead and count yourself among them, anyway; who’s it hurtin’?)

Let’s see, any other goals?… Well, it’s more of a long-shot dream than a goal, but I would very much like some big wig in the publishing industry to see my blog and say, “Whoa, this gal is awesome and can she ever write! I’m going to make her a star!” Like I said, a long-shot. But surely it happens. …Or else, surely I could be the first! And once I’ve been made a star by hook or crook, it is my intention that Ever On Word be a place where all my fans, old and new, can keep up with whatever behind-the-scenes news I’ll have to offer on the life of the author of what will be one of their favorite books.

Such are my goals. I’ll let you know when I get there. (:

“Togetherness”

A few years ago, I wrote a short Christmas story in which (nutshell version) fifteen-year-old Al Fischer spends the holiday enthusiastically telling his family everything he loves about the Christmas season.

By purist coincidence (or not…), Al and his author have similar ideas about Christmas. And he’ll be pleased to know that I’ve decided to commemorate our mutual obsession here on Ever On Word by dedicating a series of blog posts to The Top 10 Reasons Christmas Rocks My World.

* * *

#8: Togetherness

            Christmas, it is generally agreed, is no time of year to spend alone. People in Christmas stories and specials with no one with which to enjoy the holiday are viewed as wretched creatures indeed, and only the provision of togetherness by story’s end will satisfy. How bummed would Dr. Seuss fans have been if the reformed Grinch hadn’t participated in the Whoville feast? Would Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” have met with nearly as much perennial success had Scrooge not showed up at the Cratchit’s to pal around with Tiny Tim and the gang? If Rudolph’s heroism had not resulted in the lifting of his ban from the reindeer games, wouldn’t we be more irritated by the song than a number of us already are?

            Humans are social animals (even those of us who also harbor an antisocial side, as well as some measure of resentment about being fully human as opposed to, say, a part-elemental minstrel). We do best when we incorporate at least a little gathering “in or into a single group, mass, or place” in our lives. Perhaps, for some of us, having to deal with that every day of the year would prove unduly stressful. But what are holidays for if not to celebrate whatever the occasion is with beloved family members, or some fairly good friends, or a group of casual acquaintances you don’t necessarily want to drown in the eggnog?

            Fact is, Christmas wouldn’t be a lot of fun without someone to share it with. No one else would see all the gorgeous decorations you spent hours putting up all by your lonesome. There’d be no one to provide harmony as you sing carols while baking all the cookies that only you will ever eat. You’d have to give yourself your own presents, and put off writing yourself thank-you notes.

            Lest any of you think this is sounding depressingly like your reality, let me remind you that you have tons of togetherness options. Sure, maybe various setbacks mean that you won’t be able to head for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie this year, but you can still share your experience of the season with those beloved family members, fairly good friends, and casual acquaintances – or even total strangers, if you wish. You can post photos of that gorgeously-decorated house on Facebook. You can call in to a radio station to ask the deejay to play your favorite carol with which to sing along, and deliver a portion of those cookies you made to a soup kitchen. You can ship a gift to your friend on the other side of the country, or walk a gift down the street to surprise a neighbor. You can creep on people’s blogs and join the conversations about what everyone’s getting up to on and around December 25th.

            There is virtually no reason any of us should suffer Christmas in isolation! So don’t let your personal Christmas story end on a low note. Find your Whoville or Cratchit crib, and get your togetherness on!

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 21

Psalm 21. John 13; Matthew 26:36-41

            The spirit is willing; the rest is exhausted.

An hour and more, now, spent lying in sleep

Instead of communion which I had intended.

Having flashbacks up there, Lord, or what?

            Further proof (as if needed) that I am no better

Than any of your flawed-but-faithful eleven –

The ones about whom I’d been planning to write

Before tiredness took me with its nonsense dreams.

            I’d meant to inquire if you ever felt lonely,

There among the intimate dozen you’d chosen;

Those known, I suppose, as your best friends on earth;

The ones who loved but never quite understood you;

The ones for whom subtlety – and even plain speaking –

More often than not, went right over their heads;

The one who betrayed you; the one who denied you;

The ones who, like me, fell asleep on their watch.

You knew them – knew all of us – inside and out,

And singled us out to be yours anyway.

            What’s it like for you, hanging out with your buddies?

Fun mixed with frustration, I’d guess, based on mine;

Annoying, no doubt, when we don’t always listen,

Or act too bored or busy to give you attention.

And it’s good that you’re too big to need us to “get you”,

‘Cause we surely don’t, and maybe never will.

            And yet you still bother; still want to spend time with,

And want the affection of, people like them

And like me and far worse. You actually like us;

Like human companionship. Well, I’m awake now.

            Wanna hang?

“Immaterial”

This is no longer your world, Jones. The immaterial has become… immaterial.

            Ah, Lord Cutler Beckett… how I love to hate you. For those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing, that’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, spoken to another incredible villain of the franchise, living myth Davy Jones. Hats off to the script writers, because that’s actually a rather clever line, incorporating both definitions of the word at once:

1. Having no material body or form.

2. Of no importance or relevance; inconsequential or irrelevant.

(Dictionary order reversed for the sake of neatly matching the order presented in the quote, FYI.)

            Now, it’s time I confessed to something, readers: On occasions where I mention my “friends” in this blog, chances are I’m including comrades that most sane people would consider strictly imaginary. Fortunately (or not, according to my sisters), I don’t consider myself particularly sane; many writers of fiction don’t, you know.

            Mind you, I don’t refer to these friends as “imaginary”. Jacquelina, the invisible girl I danced with in my first (and only) ballet recital and who later was a horse – she was an imaginary friend, as were her fellow horses, Jacquo and Jacqueliese. (This spelling is total guesswork, by the way. At four years old, I never bothered to work out what to write on their nametags.) Blobbermouth, the man in the top hat who later became a genie and lived in a little gold-painted plastic bottle on my dresser – he was an imaginary friend. My minstrels, my tailor, my Dream World Deliverer… – these friends are not imaginary. They are merely immaterial.

            “Imaginary”, see, means “having existence only in the imagination; unreal”. Who wants to think of their dear friends that way? That would be depressing, and suggestive of mental problems (as opposed to mental peculiarities, which sounds much less worrisome, don’t you think?). But to say that the friends are immaterial does not impugn their reality in the least. They’re real enough – they’re just invisible, and incapable of physically manipulating our material world, except through possession of a willing vessel. …Okay, that did sound worrisome. As well it might. Any other authors out there who’ve had emails hijacked by characters who felt they had more important things to say to your material friend than you did? Any of your voices slip unconsciously into the accent of your primary antagonist during a phone conversation? Any of your tailors make you overdose on peanut butter? (Not to make mine feel bad by harping on that. But I digress…)

            I like to think that there are several planes of reality, all no more than an elusive cross-dimensional rift away. And one of those planes is a place where immaterial versions of ourselves can go to meet with characters out of the stories we write. And the whole gang can get into shenanigans like Fantasy Tug-o’-War, and battles against the equivalent of a pride of mutant lionesses, and the rougher-than-rugby brawl we call Super Soccer.

            Not exactly the kind of thing non-authors would necessarily expect of a twenty-something, I know. And I’m sorry if people like my sisters are occasionally annoyed by it. But I’m not about to ditch my friends any time soon. The immaterial are more than immaterial to me.

“Homeschool”

When I was a precious tyke of five, or so my mother tells me, I was ready and eager to head off and seek my fortune in the public schooling system. Trouble was, my birthday came particularly late in the year – too late, apparently, for the local schools to accept me until the following year. I wasn’t interested in waiting, and neither was Mom, so she decided “to instruct [me] in an educational program outside of established schools, [specifically] in the home”. In other words, she homeschooled me.

            Since that pivotal day, The People have wanted to know: Did I go to school in my pajamas?

            (Could someone please explain this obsession with getting away with life in one’s pajamas? This is one of many things I’ve never understood about the world.)

            Other FAQs included something along the lines of:

“So… what grade are you in?”

“How do you make friends?”

“Is it weird having your mom as a teacher?”

“Do you wish that you could go to regular school?”

            I’ll start out by putting an end to your slow death by curiosity, informing you that yes, I did sometimes tackle my lessons while wearing pajamas. And I gotta tell ya, it really wasn’t all that. Algebra is algebra, no matter your ensemble. And all else being equal, I’ll usually prefer to be dressed.

            As for the grading system, we barely bothered with it. My classmates (a.k.a. sisters) and I learned new material whenever we’d gotten the knack of the old stuff. The incorporated workbooks, computer programs, and videos might have been aimed at any grade, from that comparable to most other children our respective ages, to high school or college-level students. To simplify life in the world outside, I would generally claim whatever grade matched my age, but it was basically a worthless answer to a silly question.

            …Not as silly a question as the one about making friends, of course. Was I seriously getting asked how I met people by people who had obviously managed to meet me?? I was homeschooled, not a prisoner in solitary confinement. I left the house all the time for lessons of all sorts – dance, gymnastics, horseback riding, ice skating, piano, theater. I joined an orchestra with MYA (acronym, “Midwest Young Artists”). I took tons of park district classes for art, acting, some “fit kids” thing where they ran you up a hill. I went to church. I chatted up kids in the grocery store parking lot. (Seriously, I ended up getting invited to two of that girl’s birthday parties.) Strange but true: You don’t actually have to lock up a child in a classroom full of children their age for three seasons out of four to gain them friends. Socialization doesn’t have to sound like a nightmare.

            Talking of nightmares, you know those kids who want to die of shame after having accidentally called their teacher “Mommy”? Never worried me. Mommy was my teacher, and I forgave her for it. She listened patiently as I sounded out a story, syllable by syllable, and she made mathematical word problems comprehensible. She recorded herself reading my piano instructor’s notes for me when I couldn’t be bothered to decipher cursive writing, ending every directive with the pleasant command, “Turn off the tape, and do that.” She encouraged reading and writing and drawing and viewing edutainment like “Kratt’s Creatures”, “Bill Nye the Science Guy”, and my favorite forever, “The Magic School Bus”.

            Ah, school buses… The real reason that I ever wanted to go to public school in the first place, I’m told, and therefore one of the very few features of public school that ever caused me to feel that I was possibly missing out. School bus rides, field trips to outer space and under the sea and inside a classmate, food fights… my lack in these areas was my only regret. (And having subsequently ridden in a school bus and decided that throwing food everywhere is wasteful and gross, my list of unrealized dreams shortens.)

            I liked being homeschooled; probably would have enjoyed being unschooled, too. (More on unschooling here and also here, for the curious.) And I’m proud to represent (homeschoolers unite!) as a living refutation of all those bizarre stereotypes that would have you believe that homeschoolers are a special brand of uneducated freak.

            …Not denying that I’m a freak, mind you. But I’m thinking that’s mostly genetic. Thanks for everything, Mom.