Of Freedom and Far Horizons

First, if you haven’t yet, check out my #AuThorsday interview on the blog of Sunshine Somerville. Good Outlaws of Avalon talk!

Second, for your reading pleasure: A pair of drabbles (stories exactly 100 words in length) inspired by pieces discovered via deviartART. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

I thought, She’s small enough to fit inside my suitcase.

So in she went.

The airport never questioned it and, despite the flight attendants’ judgment, I kept the case in my lap in the air.

We traveled the skies, and then overland by bus, and underground by train – everything blurring past like some long-ago memory.

The broad, winding rivers carried us through enchanted country, beneath the same moon that rises over everywhere.

We posed before windmills, cathedrals, the ruins of castles.

She saw much of the world. Or, well, it saw her.

The dear little thing napped the whole time.

“Enchanted Traveler” by RachelRose - http://rachaelrose.deviantart.com/art/Enchanted-Traveler-277152930
“Enchanted Traveler” by RachelRose – http://rachaelrose.deviantart.com/art/Enchanted-Traveler-277152930

<<<>>>

He’d started with vessels tied up at the docks, then scaled it down from there.

Ships in bottles. Ships in paintings. The ship on his great-auntie’s brooch.

He’d heard it said – no, read it on a poster – that a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. And he first of all agreed, and second of all freed the glossy ship from its motivational prison.

Things with sails were meant for sailing, and his fingers were meant for magic. If his liberations made him a pirate, he didn’t much care. The sea’s far horizon was calling.

“Set them free” by alltelleringet - http://alltelleringet.deviantart.com/art/Set-them-free-328051603
“Set them free” by alltelleringet – http://alltelleringet.deviantart.com/art/Set-them-free-328051603

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Or if you wish, leave a tip on my GoFundMe page; I’m covered for Outlaws of Avalon 2, praise God, but there’s always Book 3 and beyond… ;D )

Wish I Were Here and There

What I’ll Miss Most About Germany, which I am soon to leave:

with-tirzah-in-the-woods

– Walks through the woods with Tirzah

– Walks through the fields with Tirzah

– Climbing to sit in stands erected for deer hunters

– …With Tirzah

with-tirzah-in-a-stand

– The green smell of after-rain

– The golden smell of summer

– The spicy, fruity, woody wood smell of lumber in the forest

– Smelling it all with Tirzah

with-tirzah-in-the-fields

– Sunsets like a painting and moons like a nocturne

– Rolls of hay and carpets of moss

– Greetings (mine and Tirzah’s) to the water spirit of the little town fountain

– Greetings (Allyn-a-Dale’s) to the slumbering souls in the local graveyard

– Greetings (Will Scarlet’s) to… pretty much everything we came across, while climbing on stumps and picking up sticks and shouting at slugs, etc.

with-tirzah-at-the-fountain

– French fries with mayo from the doner kebab shop

– Cheese and sweet bread from the supermarket

– Coffee and crepes in that selfsame supermarket’s “cool people” corner

– Roasted potatoes at midnight

– Sniffing shot glasses of whisky in the wee hours

– Endless mugs of tea, morning, noon, and night

with-tirzah-at-crepes

– Tirzah, minus all the parts of her that drive me crazy

– …

– Craziness with Tirzah

with-tirzah-craziness

What I’ll Most Love About Returning to the States, which I am soon to do:

*

– My parents, in person, more than half an hour, once a week

– My Baby Nephew, who blessedly has yet to forget me

– My sisters, now and then

– No roommates who are neither family nor Tirzah

*

– A library within walking distance

– Another library just a short drive away

– More libraries to which my mother knows the way

– Barnes & Noble and Half-Price Books

– (Also, the within-walking-distance post office, its lack of books notwithstanding)

*

– YouTube unblocking several of my favorite tunes

– Netflix allowing access to the U.S. list of shows

– Keeping up with “Once Upon a Time” as it airs

*

– Going to grandmother’s house for Christmas, as in those happy golden days of yore

– My native tongue as the language of the land

– Not living 7 hours ahead of my baseline time zone

– Being allowed to kill any and all creepy-crawlies invading my space

– Pizza as a household staple

*

– …

– …

– Phone conversations with Tirzah

rothenburg-24

Aloha, Comfort Zone

Hawaii 01I’ve recently returned from a trip to Hawai’i. My sister and I flew down to Maui to visit our uncle (MASSIVE THANKS FOR INVITING US, dude!), and if I had to summarize the whole experience in a single word, I believe I would choose… “uncomfortable”.

Hold up! That sounds worse than I mean it. Let me elucidate.

Y’know what’s not comfy? Air travel.

Airports stress me out. The crowds and the busyness. The gazillion signs everywhere and the blaring loud-speaker announcements (for me? Not for me? Do I have to try to figure out what they’re saying? Am I doomed?). The sitting around, waiting to stand around, lined up so I can sit for hours longer in a cramped economy seat on a plane that might (probably won’t, but might) crash and kill me. Also, the struggle [between trying to stay hydrated at flight altitudes and not peeing yourself while waiting for an onboard bathroom to open up] is real. Plus Dianne and I neglected to bring travel snacks, so… that was dumb. But we survived, with a little help from Hangman and charades.

Why not rename it Uncomfortable Beach?

I could honestly get into the idea of using HAZMAT suits as everyday-wear. The world is gross, and I prefer to touch it as little as possible. But you can’t live like that on the many and varied beaches of Maui. Sand calls for sandals – or, just as often, for bare feet. It’s the only way to play with the opalescent waves that act all coy ‘til you’re close enough to drench up to the hips.

People sunbathe for comfort??

For some, “vacation” conjures up an image of lounging on a sunny shore doing absolutely nothing. I’ve never done that before. Now I’ve done it for hours. It was… weird. Getting nothing done. Ignoring any kind of to-do list. Anti-productivity. It should’ve been my kryptonite. Instead, I watched the ever-changing water, and let my mind wander with no clear objective, and startled up straight when Dianne and I spotted what we’re pretty sure was a sea turtle, riding under a wave. We also got painfully sunburnt, ‘cause sunscreen, girls. Use it.

“Adventure” and “comfort” are not synonyms. (Unless you’re Gant-o’-the-Lute.)

IMG_2239b

Maui is not all beaches.

It’s also mountains under a near-constant cap of hazy clouds, periwinkle shadows in the morning mist, or with and a peach-and-lavender twilight behind them.

Big colorful blooms bursting from every bush – hibiscus, African violets (which are orange, of all colors), and blossoms that serve as harbingers of mangoes.

A hundred kinds of greenery – grass and fronds, leaves and needles, trees that twist or reach up tall and straight or look like they’ve got to be either painted or made of playdough.

And hilariously enough, chickens roaming everywhere. Crowing through the forests. Wandering through backyards and way-out-there wilderness. Quite often, crossing the road. (Your guess as to why is as good as mine.)

Over the course of three days, unser Onkel* drove us all over the island. (* German; “our uncle”.) Along the shore, up mountainsides, through a bit of a national park.  We clambered over rocks and watched for whales and kept cool with shaved ice – a local treat that puts snow cones to shame. We cruised the highway with the windows down, island music bouncing from the radio as we crossed a volcanic wasteland. We hiked treacherous paths to overlook hidden coves of red sand or spectacular cliff-side ocean vistas.

Sometimes a sight was such a special kind of gorgeous that it kind of hurt my heart. My photos couldn’t do them justice. I hope my memory will.

IMG_2272b

Nothing comfortable about putting me behind the wheel!

So Dianne and I could explore on our own time, the uncle rented us a car. Dianne, alas, is not yet 25 – the minimum age to drive a rental in this country. That meant the task fell to me: The Shipley voted Least Likely to Be Driving, Because No Thank You. But we weren’t about to let our uncle’s generosity go to waste, so there I was, trying to navigate Maui’s roads of insanity.

Hawaii 03

Why do these street names all look alike? Maybe because you can’t actually read the sign until you’ve almost passed it. Of course, one street can have three or four names, depending on which stretch of the road you’re on; guess you should’ve made that left turn at Albuquerque.

Even with Dianne’s eyes glued to the map on her phone, we got lost as often as we didn’t.

IMG_2435, etc

We also figured out routes to a couple of cool touristy areas, where we could browse potential gifts for our family, and Dianne could get a bangin’ new tattoo, and we could eat perfect ice cream beneath a banyan tree that spread for a block. We made our way to a spot where the waves crash up through a hole in the ground. We somehow survived miles and miles of twisted mountain roads that liked to narrow to one lane with a rock wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other, just in time for traffic coming the other way around a blind curve.

Heaven and hell on a single island. I’m shocked to be alive. Mahalo*, Lord.

(*Hawaiian; “thanks”.)

“Comfortable”s not the word for a night beach.

Because we could, we also drove to a nearby beach after sunset.

Walking the shadowed shore felt illicit, even though we were hardly the only ones out there. The water seemed a dark and formless thing – a place for ghost ships and monsters of myth. We didn’t dare anymore to get close enough to let the waves touch us. Instead, we sat on a lifeguard station abandoned for the day.

Listened to the surf’s stage whispers.

Tipped our heads back to gaze at the stars.

Sang a melancholy medley at the bedazzled sky.

Never comfortable. Better than.

^ Hawai’i in a coconut shell.

Open Journal: River Cruisin’ Europe

I promised my loyal readers (and whatever random people happen to drop by the blog) that I would eventually tell all about my magnificent river cruise with Tirzah from Amsterdam to Budapest.

But I don’t wanna.

(Aboard ship and in Amsterdam, Netherlands)

The whole thing was just too amazing. Too grand. Too gorgeously surreal. Trying to write it down would be like trying to get last night’s dream on the page upon waking. Maybe I’d capture some of the facts, but it would only further fuzz the memories of the truth – turn what was so rich in the moment into a dry, tired record I’d be totally over chronicling halfway through.

(Kinderdijk, Netherlands)

So I’m not going to bother with a detailed narrative. Can’t do it justice, not gonna try. Instead, I’ll talk impressions. Also – *gestures throughout the post* – there will be pics.

(Cologne, Germany)

1 = Gant-o’-the-Lute has the right idea. I made the questionable decision to travel with two suitcases, a backpack, a lute in a case in a box… and none of the strapping men in my head to manage it all for me. I should’ve taken a page out of my minstrel’s book: Just whatever clothes I was wearing, and the lute strapped to my back. It would have made the nightmare of train connections at the end of the trip a lot easier, lemme tell you.

(Marksburg Castle in Koblenz, Germany)

2 = There are actually competent people in this world, and their prince was our program director. I don’t tend to trust people any farther than I can throw them. Humans have a terrible habit of letting me down. And frankly, the lack of solid communication during the registration process for my trip with Viking River Cruises left me none too reassured as to the quality of the hands into which I was placing myself for two weeks.

But our ship’s program director – a German fellow by the name of Oliver – was an absolute dream.

(Miltenberg, Germany)

His manner was just so… on top of it. Steady and punctual and a brilliant blend of good-humored and no-nonsense. And not only did he keep us regularly informed regarding our onboard schedules and onshore excursions, but when we had to change ships (twice) due to impassably low water levels (rainfall had been scant for some while, along the river route), he made the transition so smooth that we didn’t have to do anything but make sure our bags were packed – he and his people took care of the rest while we sightsaw on land.

The man made me feel secure. Which I never feel.

Really, my only complaint is that he’s already got a fiancée.

IMG_1067

(Würzburg, Germany)

3 = Cruises are a great place to meet the elderly. And a terrible place to avoid them.

(Bamberg, Germany)

4 = Apparently, Tirzah and I come off like a lesbian couple. Was it her green hair? The way we finish each other’s sandwiches sentences? Our tendency to hold hands when we are particularly delighted or I’m in need of comfort while slogging through a depressive slump? There’s no telling. All I know is, the hordes of senior citizens were continually surprised to learn that Tirzah has a husband. Who is not me. Heck, I’m not sure all of them believed us. Fortunately, I didn’t notice us suffering any discrimination based on the ship-wide assumption, so… good on ya for that, yester-generation.

(Nuremberg, Germany)

5 = So, that’s what it’s like to be rich. I’ve written royalty and gazillionaires. I’ve seen movies featuring the likes of Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, and Daddy Warbucks. I can well enough imagine the kind of luxury people like that experience on a daily basis. But I’ve never lived it.

(Shärding, Austria)

Three gourmet meals a day. Attendants standing by to hand you flutes of champagne and warm freshening towels when you return from an intimate Mozart concert in a palace in Vienna. (Yes. We did that.) I just… what even is that life?? And how many books do I have to sell before I can afford to do it again?

(Passau, Germany)

6 = I finally know what a lock is. Not the sort that comes with a key, or a tendril of hair. The locks of rivers and canals. I’d heard of them while proofreading J.D. Spero’s “Forte, but I couldn’t visualize what they were. Now I know: The boat goes in the narrow passage, the gates close behind, the water fills in and raises (or lowers) the boat to the level of the river on the other side, then onward it sails. Our ship passed through several such locks over the course of our journey. It was cool to watch.

(Melk Abbey in Melk, Austria and on the river through the Wachau Valley)

7 = The Baroque aesthetic was insane. Check out the Prince-Bishop’s palace in Würzburg, sometime. See if you can make it past the front stairs without your jaw hitting the floor from opulence overwhelm. It’s really just as well they don’t allow photographs in there; my poor little iPod and I couldn’t have done even a fraction of the place justice.

(Vienna, Austria)

8 = Europe is bae. I shall never tire of castles and cathedrals. I’ll swear the growing greens are greener, the air more delicious, the very cobblestones somehow awash with a magic rarely seen in the U.S. of A. I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, but my home is somewhere on this continent. And I’m closer to finding it than ever before.

IMG_3352

IMG_3548

(Budapest, Hungary – end of the line)

Open Journal: Countdown Coma

By the time this post goes live, it’ll be October. For me – this year in particular – that means a lot of things.

It means birthdays – my sister’s (Oct. 1), my other sister’s son’s (Baby Nephew hits 1 year old on the 16th!), and my own (Oct. 30th. I’mma be old. *ducks fruit thrown by the 30-and-over crowd*).

It means adding to my publication list – the “Beyond the Wail” paranormal anthology (Oct. 10th), “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)” (Oct. 13th), and I’m pretty sure another anthology with a story of mine is set to come out in the neighborhood of Halloween, too, but I’m still waiting on the details for that, so everybody stand by.

It means leaving the country – first for a European river cruise with my bestie (is this the real life???), then onto my temporary/permanent residence in Germany, where I will be aforementioned bestie’s (and her husband’s) butler.

I’ve already proved I’ve got the chops! …The only qualifications are looking suspicious during a murder case, right?
I’ve already proved I’ve got the chops! …The only qualifications are looking hella suspicious during a murder case, right?

Boy, do I hope my boxes ship there safe and sound. *freaks out at the prospect of the post office losing HALF MY STUFF*

There’s soooooo much on my horizon that all I can really feel is tired. And stressed (but that’s pretty much a given, for me). And all kinds of out-of-it. Thank God I had the foresight to do most of the planning and prep for my “Story’s End” launch party well in advance, ‘cause I’ve got precious little get-up-‘n’-get-‘er-done left, at this point.

Part of that’s to do with all the editorial work I’ve been doing on Xchyler Publishing projects, lately – hardcore author-brain activity on stories not my own (weeeeeeird), all in between packing for my move and having to do stuff like eat every day.

“That last item isn’t actually supposed to be a chore,” Edgwyn reminds me gently.

Yeah, but it is for me.

So much to do, still only twenty-four hours in a day, minus sleep.

“HA.”

I sleep more nights than not. Hush your face.

“Sleep nights,” Will Scarlet jumps in. “Meaning that whole nocturnal thing didn’t work out, for ya.”

Nah, not for long.

Nocturnal pros:

– Nighttime doesn’t mean bedtime

– Watching Netflix during the hours least plagued by interruptions from family members and tech glitches

Nocturnal cons:

– Daytime means bedtime

– Missing out on hanging with Baby Nephew during the day*

*(Which, I mean, also happens when I’m juggling a dozen looming deadlines at once… and/or marathon phone conversations with the bestie)

– Everyone else in the house is awake, so don’t expect any peace and quiet

What I’d really like is a sleep schedule that doesn’t require sleep, but my body repeatedly yells at me that this is unfeasible. So my new plan has been to basically stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open, then crash.

Edgwyn crosses his arms, his expression his approximation of stern. “That sounds suspiciously like your semi-suicidal plan for life in general.”

Things will be different when I get to Germany. My plate will be much cleared. Heck, I’m even thinking about a blogging break.

“But… but…!” Will cries. “You don’t mean my Fridays?”

You mean like today? <_< Not really bothered about ‘em, dude. Mind you, I don’t plan to disappear from Ever On Word entirely. I’ll still drop in when the mood strikes. ‘Cause I mean, I’ll be in Europe. I intend to have Experiences. I’ll want some kind of record of that. And call me nutty, but I don’t expect I’ll feel much like taking time out of, say, exploring the Black Forest to help you draft frivolous skits.

“Humph.”

“It’s for the greater good, Will,” Edgwyn reminds him. “Who is it who keeps saying the girl needs a vacation?”

Will flaps a hand. “Oh, some hot stud in red. His name escapes me. Wanna call him Will Something, or Something Scarlet…”

Well, the vacation draws nearer. Just a matter, now, of getting through the month…

My wall’s stripped half-naked in the name of art relocation to my future space. Future Me thanks me. Present Me responds, “Blergggh.”
My wall’s stripped half-naked in the name of art relocation to my future space. Future Me thanks me. Present Me responds, “Blergggh.”

“Roundup 4” or “A Work Week of Saturdays”

Busy as my giveaway for the launch week of “The Swan Prince (Book One of The Wilderhark Tales” kept me, it’s not to blame for the absence of Save-a-Word Saturday vignettes around here lately. Nay, that honor goes to the lord and keeper of my summer weekends, the Bristol Renaissance Faire (which opens tomorrow! Drop on by, if you’re able!).

What’s that? It’s been so long that some of you have forgotten how Save-a-Word Saturday works? Allow me to recap:

Save-a-Word Saturday

1) Create a post linking back to the hosts, The Feather and the Rose.

2) Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in the post. (If you find yourself in want of options, Feather ‘n’ Rose recommended a site that may have some word-lovers drooling. Luciferous Logolepsy. Even its name is old and delicious!)

3) Provide a definition of your word, and use it in a sentence/short paragraph/mini story vaguely related to the particular week’s chosen theme.

4) Sign up properly on the host post’s linky list so participants can easily find each other and share their logophilistic joy.

5) Be a hero by sharing these retro words with the world!

Since it’s quicker than blogging it, I’ve been participating in the weekly fun via my Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page, giving myself the extra challenge/fun of relating every word I pick to my re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend (a.k.a. the magnum opus to be self-published after the completion of “The Wilderhark Tales”). For those who haven’t kept up to date on the “Ballad” page, here’s all the word-saving fun you’ve been missing since June!

* * *

June 1/13 – The theme: Tea – The word: “Autological”, an adjective meaning, “self-descriptive, or being a word that exemplifies what it means (e.g. “English” is English, “polysyllabic” is polysyllabic)”.

The Example:

“I say, Robin,” Will Scarlet said of a sudden, scarcely before he’d finished his swallow from a mug of Avalon ale. “You know what’s weird? Here we are, Englishmen so English we’re a part of its cultural heritage – people visiting our statues and supposed gravesites and all – and yet we never drink tea!”

Over the top of his own tankard, Robin’s brows quirked in question at his cousin. “And that’s weird because…?”

“Because we’re English!” Will repeated. “English people means tea – it’s practically autological!”

“Not actually, Will.”

“But practically. You and I are a disgrace to our country, do you know that?”

Robin rolled eyes sparkling with amusement. “Well, you’re welcome to pour yourself a cuppa if you want. Shall I protect what’s left of your honor by disposing of your ale?”

“Now, now,” said Will, drawing his mug protectively nearer to himself. “I never said I minded being a disgrace. All part of being an outlaw, eh wot?”

“That’s the English spirit,” said Robin, raising his tankard in laughing salute.

* * *

June 8/13 – The theme: Hourglasses – The word: “Cumber”, a noun meaning “a hindrance or burden”. (Fun bonus: This was a “word of the day” at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, last year!)

The Example:

If there was one thing Gant-o’-the-Lute missed from before his professional minstrel days, it was the freedom to ignore time completely. With no responsibilities worth caring about, he could live at his leisure, without the cumber of matching his rhythm to the trickle of sand in hourglasses or ticks of mechanical clocks. Even still, though mindful of time he must now by necessity be, he was no slave to it. His only mistress was music.

* * *

June 15/13 – The theme: Travel – The word: “Amain”, an adverb meaning “with full force; at full speed; hastily; at once”. (Likewise a BRF word of the day!)

The Example:

Will Scarlet looked with longing as the herd of patrons poured out the main gates, their day of Faire-going fun at an end. He’d be dashing out with them amain, if he thought he could get away with it, Avalon at his back and the whole Outside world before him to roam as he pleased.

“Do you miss it?” he asked Allyn, beside him. “Being a traveling minstrel, instead of a minstrel stuck in the same place all the time?”

Allyn shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t feel stuck.”

Will crooked a wistful smile. It was nice one of them didn’t.

* * *

June 22/13 – The theme: Porch Swings – The word: “Truck”, a noun meaning “dealings”. (Another BRF word of the day!)

The Example: “All right, think,” Will Scarlet mutters. “We managed to get around that ‘scorpions’ theme, even though we’ve no truck with those. Surely we can do the same with porch swings, never mind Avalon’s utter lack of porches and swings…”

“We could always rig a bench up to a tree limb with rope,” Allyn suggests. “That would be rather like a porch swing, would it not?”

“Well, of course we could, but what would be the point?”

Allyn blinks at him. “There isn’t one. But what with your generally nonexistent truck with forethought, I didn’t think you’d care.”

“Fair enough. I’ll grab a bench, you find a rope, and somebody make some lemonade, ‘cause we’re about to do these lazy summer evenings old school, yo!”

“Yo,” Allyn agrees.

* * *

June 29/13 – The theme: Scarf-a-Scone Saturday! – The word: “Convive”, a verb meaning “to feast together”. (Also a BRF word of the day!)

The Example: “Scarf-a-Scone Saturday?!” Will’s eyes fly wide open. “That’s a thing?!”

“So it would seem,” says Allyn.

Will punches the air. “Oo-de-lally! Scones for everybody! Merry Men, assemble, and let us convive!”

The band stares at him.

“‘Oo-de-lally’?” Little John repeats. “This is Avalon’s Sherwood, not Disney’s.”

“And yet am I a hot fox,” Robin Hood notes.

“And I a classy vixen,” says a grinning Marion.

“And I a narrating rooster, apparently,” Allyn grumbles, taking a bite of blueberry goodness with butter and jam.

“And I—” Will stops short, appalled. “Son of a scone, there’s no Will Scarlet in the movie at all! What in the world were they thinking of?! We should write a letter of complaint!”

“Or eat,” says Little John, stuffing a scone into Will’s mouth.

Will’s muffled reply agrees, “Or that.”

“Bucket” or “What Are Your 18 Things?”

Something very exciting is happening to one of my blog’s cherished followers (yes, my darlings, I cherish you all): Congratulations, Jamie Ayres – it’s a published novel! …Or it will be, come its release day on January 24th, a.k.a. this Thursday.

I gotta say, I’m a fan of the cover. Water and sailboats and blue are a few of my favorite (if not 18) things!
I gotta say, I’m a fan of the cover. Water and sailboats and blue are a few of my favorite (if not 18) things!

In anticipation, celebration, and promotion of her book, “18 Things”, Jamie is hosting the What Are Your 18 Things Blogfest. Full details and sign-up can be found here, but to quote in the interest of summary:

The official bucket badge.
The official bucket badge.

All you have to do is blog about things on your bucket list. …And it doesn’t have to be 18 Things . . . it can be anywhere from 1-18 things (I just needed my title to get out there. Marketing trolls said so!)

Anyone who posts their 18 Things between January 17th-24th can enter to win a number of prizes… I will use RANDOM.ORG to pick 2 winners each day (4 winners on January 24th–release day!), and winners, you get to choose your prize. So, early bird gets the worm, my friends!

…Don’t blog? Put the cover of 18 Things or the bucket badge [seen here] up on your FB wall and post your bucket list item under the photo, or pin it on Pinterest with your bucket list item in the comments, or tweet one of your 18 Things. Use the words ‘18 Things’ somewhere to go with the picture and link back to this blog wherever you decide to post. All non-blog entries will still be available for the awesome prizes! Just remember to link to me so I know you participated!!

So, what would I like to do before I inevitably kick the “cylindrical vessel used for holding or carrying liquids or solids”? Eliminating apparently infeasible feats like sprouting wings to fly, singing with myself in three-part harmony, and crossing the planes of reality to pal around in person with my fictional characters made assembling a list of any length a more difficult venture than it would otherwise have been. I also chose to leave out things like getting picked up by a publisher and wooed by some hottie who’s head-over-heels in love with me – not because I don’t want these things, but because the attainment of them is as much up to the other party as it is to me, and hinging all my hopes on other people seems like a fast track to disasppointment. Given time and thought, however, I was able to identify 18 things that are both humanly possible and within my control to do. Behold: My bucket list!

1) Write a series of murder mysteries – just as soon as I can figure out how to juggle suspects, clues, and red herrings like a boss.

2) Roam Sherwood Forest – and if tourists aren’t allowed to wander at will, I may have to sneak around, outlaw-style.

3) While I’m in the U.K., visit London, Ireland, and Scotland – and enjoy all the local beauty, including but not limited to the variety of British accents.

4) See the musical “Wicked” onstage, somewhere – if only for the thrill that the opening song sends rushing through me every time I hear it on YouTube.

5) Sing in an onstage musical myself – perhaps one that I wrote!

6) Figure out how to write a musical – first things first.

7) Learn how to speak Italian – mostly because Bruno can, and I don’t like my characters to be too much cooler than me, if I can help it.

8) …And then visit Italy – or I could try to manage both at once, but that might be painful. And obviously, Bruno would have to come with me; Italy is like his home away from San Francisco.

9) Obtain (and learn to play) a lute – …while being resigned to the fact that I’ll never play as well as my minstrels, for whom the lute is their signature instrument.

10) Obtain (and learn to play) an ocarina – and let that be my signature minstrel instrument (since, y’know, a piano is a pain to lug around over hill and dale).

11) Pet a red fox – no explanation needed. It’s a fox.

12) Shoot arrows well enough that I can feel like Robin Hood – the day I split my first bullseye with a second shot, there will be much rejoicing.

13) Contribute to the production of a beautifully-animated movie – preferably create some of the art and/or give a character my voice; maybe help with the script, too, I don’t know. What I do know is, I want it to be largely hand-drawn 2D, like the Disney classics.

14) Name my adulthood home – even if it doesn’t have expansive country grounds to go with it, the house itself should bear the dignity of a name, for the sake of awesomeness.

15) Learn to draw human hands to my satisfaction – hands are so darn hard.

16) Dance without feeling like a doofus – even under the scathing mockery of my judgmental sisters!

17) Be able to jog 3+ consecutive miles – I used to be able to manage two. Someday, I shall surpass that.

18) Laugh during my wedding – not to the point that it ruins the ceremony, or anything; I just want the day to have enough laughter to balance the inevitable stress.

How ‘bout the rest of you? What sorts of delights do you want to fill your life with? If that list includes participating in this blogfest and/or reading Jamie’s new book, then head over to her blog and take the appropriate steps. Don’t let life – or the book’s release date – pass you by. Carpe diem! No regrets!

“San Francisco 2” or “Because You Can’t See the Half of San Fran in One Go”

My last post on exploring bits of magnificent San Francisco featured only one day. This post will cover parts of two, and still barely scratch the city’s surface. It’s a big place with lots to offer, and traveling companion Tirzah and I had limited time and cash to throw to the wind. Even so, we made our visit worth remembering.

‘Twas the day before the Night of Writing Dangerously – (y’know, that oft-mentioned NaNoWriMo event that brought me to San Fran in the first place, to be more properly chronicled in a post to come) – and Tirzah and I had time to kill, along with our friends from the hostel, Kat and Jory. (Jory would be joining us at the NoWD, too. United writers, for the win!) We decided to bus over to the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park, but we hadn’t even come within sight of the garden before the fun surprises began.

First there was the huge group of swing dancers. I know, it sounds like I’m kidding you or exaggerating, but seriously, there were dozens of them just outside the park, all jiving together on the walkway.

As my friends and I stood by watching for a few minutes, I couldn’t resist following along with the moves somebody with a microphone was calling out to the participating crowd. It felt almost familiar to me, after a brief swing lesson at Bristol, one weekend. (Our number of multi-talented, fun-loving Rennies included a stage manager who liked to moonlight as a dance instructor. I’m only sorry my feet tended to be too sore after pounding the streets as a Crier all day for me to join the after-hours swing sessions more than just the once.)

My more-or-less competent moves attracted the attention of an older fellow who offered the hand of partnership. So what the hey? I accepted. Because, far more than a few basic dance steps, Bristol’s taught me the number one motto of improvisation: “Yes, And!” Take what you’re given, and roll with it. …Or, in this specific case, swing with it.

Impromptu dance with Anonymous Grandpa? Yes, And!
Impromptu dance with Anonymous Grandpa? Yes, And!

After we left the dance floor, my pals and I came to a pathway spouting mist into the air. Dressed as we were for a noir-themed writing event, Tirzah and I knew there was only one thing to be done: Get photographed standing looking suspiciously cool. (Because fog is like alleyways, like that.) And here’s the amazing part: Mere moments after we decided that we’d taken enough pics and started to walk away, the path’s mist-makers just stopped. Boom. No more fog. Not even when some other people walked down the path, meaning that it wasn’t just a motion-sensitive thing. Nay, my friends – it was San Francisco magic, just for us.

This utter awesomeness was clearly – or, well, foggily – meant to be.
This utter awesomeness was clearly – or, well, foggily – meant to be.
This guy was a natural model.
This guy was a natural model.

Now inside the park proper, we paused for some pics with a stately sphinx before continuing on into the Japanese Tea Garden.

There was much prettiness to be seen, there – serene waterscapes, a singular bridge, a pagoda, and a zen garden, just to put names to a few.

 

 

 

It would probably take more talent than I’ve got to shoot a really terrible picture of this place.
It would probably take more talent than I’ve got to shoot a really terrible picture of this place.
Behold, the Arch Bridge – also known as the Drum Bridge and the Moon Bridge. You literally (and I don’t use the word “literally” lightly) had to wait in line to get photographed on this thing; everyone with a camera wanted their turn to snap a few shots, and even people without cameras just wanted a climb.
Behold, the Arch Bridge – also known as the Drum Bridge and the Moon Bridge. You literally (and I don’t use the word “literally” lightly) had to wait in line to get photographed on this thing; everyone with a camera wanted their turn to snap a few shots, and even people without cameras just wanted a climb.
Noir Detective Tirzah suspects that this koi may know more than it’s letting on.
Noir Detective Tirzah suspects that this koi may know more than it’s letting on.
Model Tirzah wasn’t so much posing as just sitting there, but with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t leave the pic untaken.
Model Tirzah wasn’t so much posing as just sitting there, but with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t leave the pic untaken.
By the time we worked our way around to the gift shop, Sleepy Tirzah wanted little more than a nap. ...and shelter from the paparazzi.
By the time we worked our way around to the gift shop, Sleepy Tirzah wanted little more than a nap. …and shelter from the paparazzi.

We called it a day early, wanting to be reasonably rested for the night ahead. And so that might have been the end of our sightseeing, had not Tirzah’s father phoned the next day (our last in the city) to insist that we visit one more landmark before we left town: The Coit Tower. He’d been there before, and declared that the view was not to be missed. So before making our way toward public transit and home, T and I detoured to the top of Telegraph Hill. …A very high hill. Steep, too. Lots of steps. And we were carrying all our baggage. Spoiler alert: We some how managed to survive. And we got more pictures!

The tower, a statue, and us, posed to impress.
The tower, a statue, and us, posed to impress.
Here’s that view we were told of. Hello again, Golden Gate Bridge!
Here’s that view we were told of. Hello again, Golden Gate Bridge!
See that change in altitude? We climbed that. San Francisco hills = no joke.
See that change in altitude? We climbed that. San Francisco hills = no joke.

That was our tour of San Francisco. In the grand scheme of things, we hardly saw anything at all. But we also saw a lot. And did a lot. And loved a lot. And left a lot for us to see and do and love the next time!

“San Francisco” or “The Home Where Part of My Heart Is”

I’ve been to San Francisco!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that statement was absolutely worth that many exclamation points. I’ve wanted to visit San Fran for years, for the very best of reasons:

1, Uncle Jesse lived there.

2, my character Bruno lives there, and loves his home city more than he does his own soul.

3, this Vanessa Carlton song makes me happy. …Although that’s bound to be in large part simply because the title is “San Francisco”, which appeals with irrational strength to my Bruno side.

Legitimate, right? So when I had a fourth reason to go to San Francisco – namely, NaNoWriMo’s Night of Writing Dangerously write-a-thon taking place there – I determined that it was time to turn the thought of visiting from the realm of “maybe, someday, would be nice” into “it’s happening”.

“Pics, or it didn’t happen,” say you? Well, keep scrolling down, reader: It happened.

First we did China Town – “we” being me, Tirzah, and our new friends made at the hostel, Kat and Jory. This made another of my characters very happy, as he adores all things Chinese. Rather than do much in the way of appreciating the culture, however, Tirzah and I decided to mostly skulk in the numerous alleyways, suspicious creeper style. (As we were both wearing fedoras, it kinda had to happen.)

A shady rendezvous.
A shady rendezvous.
This pigeon had alley-creeping down to an art form.
This pigeon had alley-creeping down to an art form.
Inspired, Tirzah and I took our game up a level by adding in the thug factor.
Inspired, Tirzah and I took our game up a level by adding in the thug factor.

Our continued walk through the city took us past the iconic Transamerica Pyramid and various unexpected delights – the best-of-the-best part being the corner down from the City Lights Bookstore. The pavement was covered with words, with books suspended in flight overhead. (Books that, we later learned, are actually lamps that light up the night with biblio-type magic.) We also passed a road with perhaps the best name ever: Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard. …also known as Green Street, but come on, why would I call it that?

A prominent piece of the city skyline, and me.
A prominent piece of the city skyline, and me.
It’s the little things – like managing to get a shot of your reflection through a grille in the sidewalk – that make days like these extra magical.
It’s the little things – like managing to get a shot of your reflection through a grille in the sidewalk – that make days like these extra magical.
Just walking down the street, and what treasure do we find?
Just walking down the street, and what treasure do we find?

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 420

I feel like this should be the cover of my autobiography or something.
I feel like this should be the cover of my autobiography or something.
And if this word doesn’t just sum up our San Fran day, what does?
And if this word doesn’t just sum up our San Fran day, what does?
A photo of Tirzah taking a photo of me with a cable car, and the photo she took. Awesome x2.
A photo of Tirzah taking a photo of me with a cable car, and the photo she took. Awesome x2.

Next stop, Fisherman’s Wharf, where we lunched among the seagulls (brazen birds waiting for handouts, they), admired the view of/from the harbor (including the one and only Golden Gate Bridge!), and set our sights on the last stop of the day, Ghiradelli Square. Posing in front of a famed fountain and getting free samples of peppermint bark chocolate made a good end to a great tour; and catching the bus back to the hostel made it even better. (“Y’know what’s awesome?” I drawl in my Bruno voice. “Sitting down.”)

“Fisherman’s Wharf, The Musical!” Not really. That would have been cool, though.
“Fisherman’s Wharf, The Musical!” Not really.
That would have been cool, though.
God bless Kat’s camera’s panorama feature. Couldn’t have nabbed this image without it.
God bless Kat’s camera’s panorama feature.
Couldn’t have nabbed this image without it.
As could be said of much of the rest of the day, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge made my Bruno side feel uncharacteristically contented.
As could be said of much of the rest of the day, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge made my Bruno side feel uncharacteristically contented.
A sign from above: We should get chocolate.
A sign from above: We should get chocolate.
If I look like I belong here, it’s probably due to my being part-mermaid. ...or some sort of water elemental, anyway.
If I look like I belong here, it’s probably due to my being part-mermaid.
…or some sort of water elemental, anyway.

Yeah, this day, this place, seemed pretty much made for Bruno. I’m so glad I got to take him home – to where his heart lies, and where I left a piece of mine.

“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…