Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Photo Highlights of My Italy Trip

Hello, All.

I posted a little while ago about having decided to go to Italy. Well, I just got back!

I'd scheduled a few posts while I was gone b/c, you know, it's not really smart to tell everyone on the internet that your house is empty.

Anyway, I've got a ton of post-vacation things to do (like sleep, for example), but I intend to write a few Italy posts over the next few weeks b/c I've been feeling kind of un-inspired on the writing about writing front, and because, you know: Italy.

So, here's the really quick photo tour of my trip.

First we went to Rome (Roma in Italian):

My Husband at the Colosseum

The Forum
(by the Colosseum)

Inside St. Peter's Basilica (The Vatican)
Here you get some idea of the crowds. These placed were packed.

The Vatican guards wearing their funny uniforms.

We used trains to get everywhere. Oh, and we walked a lot. Our next stop was the very cool medieval town of Sienna (Siena in Italian):

Sienna had these narrow, super cool windy streets.
There was also a ton of laundry hung out of windows, which was oddly picturesque.

Sienna's Cathedral, Il Duomo
(Which just means "The Dome" and is also the name of the main Cathedral in Florence)
This place was absolutely packed with art. It was every-freaking-where.
Oh, and it had a Michelangelo and a Donatello or two.
You know.

Nigel drinking some Italian wine out on the super awesome patio of our hotel, overlooking the Tuscan countryside.

Then we moved on to Florence (Firenze), although we were sad to say goodbye to beautiful Sienna.

Ponte Vecchio

I love art. I absolutely do, but this is what the museums were all like.
So even I got seriously overwhelmed by the sheer amount of art there was to view.
BTW, in the middle is Ruben's The Consequence of War.

Next stop: Venice (Venezia)

It was a quick stop, but we loved it.

Last stop: Cinque Terre, a set of five seaside towns set into the mountain-scape itself.

See? Aren't they crazy?
You can sort of see some of their vineyards chopped into the mountainside itself.
Oh, and some of their pirate defenses!

The water was gorgeous. The sun was bright and so warm, but it was also super windy.

Also, Italy had some tiny trucks.
I did not manage to get a picture of the tiny garbage trucks, but they were adorable.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting Inspired By History

"World Map 1681 - No. 1" by Gerard van Schagen
Photo by Chuck Coker.
On a side note, I recommend downloading this image. It is crazy cool and detailed.
And they had no idea what Alaska looked like.

My Dilemma

I was recently told that I ought to create a much more detailed back-story for my MG fantasy world. I ought to know how dragons came into my world and how they changed human history. This made sense to me, and I felt a little silly for not doing it before. I'd always had ideas, but I hadn't fully fleshed them out.

At first I was a bit stumped about some of the specifics, but then I started listening to history podcasts. So many interesting things have happened throughout human history! It's hard not to be inspired when the story is told in a compelling way. (Side note: not all history podcasts are told in an inspiring way.)

I mean, anybody can give the cold, hard facts. The facts alone typically aren't what make a story thrive. It's the odd little details.

Genghis Khan
(Photo by Ludovic Hirlimann)

Hardcore History

For me, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History helps bring history to life. He actually tries to give an idea of what life was like on the ground. And it just so happened that when I was searching for a way to deliver my dragons into my world, I listened to his series on Genghis Khan, and I thought, "What if these Dragon People had been living the rough life on the Mongolian steppe for years and were led to conquer Europe by a ruthless and brilliant leader?"

Genghis Khan

Did you know that at one point in time in history, Genghis Khan's army (his son was the Khan at this point) had stormed through Europe defeating armies left and right? I'd had no idea.

(Picture curtesy of Internet Archive Book Images)

When the Khan's army was on the verge of finishing off France and basically owning all of Europe, the Khan (Ogedei - pronounced O - geh - die) died, and the armies pulled back so they could elect a new Khan, and that took forever and was a bit contentious, and that's why we don't speak Mongolian today. Or something like that. Seeing as how it didn't actually happen, there is, of course, debate on exactly what would have happened.

People Had Crazy Names Back Then

I've been listening to a few different history (and other) podcasts. It's good stuff for a long trip. I learned about Charlemagne and his dad, Pippin the Short, and his son, Louis the Pious, on my long trip to a wedding.

Long story short: check out a few history podcasts. You might learn something cool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Whimsical Cake for Me

As a special treat, my husband took me to a nice restaurant, and the desserts were amazing - very delicious and almost too amazing looking to eat.

Here was Nigel's dessert:

If I remember correctly, it was a honey flavored ice cream that was so freaking good set on top of a little cake and covered with some baked meringue. A honey bee baked Alaska sorta deal.

And here is my dessert, with Nigel stealing some of it.

It was chocolate mousse inside and quite delicious, although by this point I was completely stuffed. Everything was edible, but I was informed that some of the flowers tasted a little bitter.

They weren't too bad, but the mousse was definitely the most delicious part.

And that's all you're getting for this post. I felt our desserts deserved a post all their own. I mean, honestly, they were gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How I'm Like A Two-Year-Old

I'll admit it, I can be kind of annoying. You know that stage in life where you're always asking, "Why?" or "Why not?" I never completely outgrew it.

This image came up when I search the Creative Commons for "Why"
I laughed.
So here it is.
(Photo by Patrick Wilken)

Because I do have a certain level of social awareness, I try not to always ask the question when it pops into my head, but watching movies with me can get irritating if I like you so much that I'm truly comfortable around you. I always want to know why someone did something.

Don't worry, I try to give my friends, family, and husband a break sometimes (I worry less about my husband; he's stuck with me). I sometimes make a real effort to watch movies without talking, just as a kindness to them.

I ask the same questions when reading books, but since the only person I can reasonably ask my questions is myself, I'm less annoying in that scenario.

(Photo by BuzzFarmers)

You wanna know what really bugs me?

There are way too many times when there doesn't seem to be any real answer to the "But why?" question. I don't know. Maybe I'm just missing it. I can be oblivious sometimes. But sometimes I think the writer's answer to the "Why?" question is just "Because." Situations like that make me grind my teeth in annoyance.

I try really hard not to be like that, to the extent that I come up with really long and complex back stories to explain some of the smallest stuff in my novels. It's kind of ridiculous, but it makes me happy. And, to be perfectly honest, if you ask me "Why?" about something that I actually hadn't considered, I'm more than happy to make something up.

Because I am in love with the question.

This image came up when I searched "Perché". I went with it.

Just for fun, in Italian, the best word ever is "Perché?" Or, if you want "But why not?" it's "Ma perché no?" I have been attempting to learn some Italian. I may not understand the answer, but at least I can ask my favorite question.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Library Obession

(Photo credit to Samantha Marx)

For the past few years I've been on a mission: let people know that libraries loan out e-books. You can use the library without setting foot a library ever again! (But, really, why would you do that? Libraries are awesome).

Here are a few of the reasons I'm so obsessed with this fact:
  1. I love books.
  2. I love libraries. 
  3. I love free things.
  4. I'm pretty lazy.
  5. It is crazy convenient. I can decide one moment that I want a book and then one minute later, I can be reading it!
  6. I'm pretty much inseparable from my laptop, and now I can read and keep it close. (My preccciiousss.)
  7. You can try a book you just aren't sure about, and it's no big loss if it sucks.
  8. Surfing through books online feels more productive than surfing through movies on Netflix.
(Photo credit to Jason Mrachina)

Lately, when I've been talking up libraries to my friends and acquaintances (yes, this is something I really do), many of them have said that they're too busy to go to the library. And while one part of me (the part that adores libraries) wishes to scoff at this, I do understand. I can get that way too. But now that libraries loan e-books, there are no more excuses!

This message brought to you by a library-obsessed reader.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cinematic Inspiration

Okay, I'm going to stop watching Academy Originals and write this blog post. Which means, of course, this blog post is about the YouTube channel Academy Originals.

(From Brent Zupp)

I'm watching their series "Creative Spark" which shows mini interviews with members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The first one I watched was with Eric Roth (screenwriter for "Forest Gump" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). The interviews are in short clips that give you a very brief view of what it means to have their job and be them.

This series features a movie costume designer, a film composer, director, and a ton of others I haven't watched yet.

(From SMN)

One that really touched me was Paul Haggis (writer-director of "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash") letting us see that he really has to struggle to create. It's almost a little painful hearing him talk about how he struggles to write, but for me, that makes it even more moving.

(From Brooke Atwell)

Then, for something fun and different, there's two best friends who write together (it wasn't explicitly stated that they were best friends, but, I'd say it's pretty obvious). They wrote "Legally Blonde" and "10 Things I Hate About You." Their video gave a little more detail on how they write than some of the others, and they're quite an adorable pair. (One looks like a character out of Legally Blonde.)

Anyway, it's a fun little series, and I hope you check it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Starting All Over Again (Ugh)

Last week I mentioned my completed first draft but I didn't mention the MG fantasy I'd been querying and revising for the past year. That's because I'm going back to the drawing board.

Okay, so it's not quite as desperate as that. The plot is staying mostly in tact, but I am basically re-writing it only using bits and pieces of my much revised, much sweated over current draft.

I mentioned some very helpful advice I got, and that advice extended beyond how to write better description and to add in a "want line". The feedback I got made me feel like it'd be a good idea to start all over with the writing process, eliminating a large number of the first chapters, combining one or two more characters, and generally overhauling everything.

It's discouraging to know I've got that much work ahead of me (again!) but I think it'll make for a much better book, so I'm going to plow ahead with the changes. I've been devoting a lot more of my time to writing lately because I really want to make this happen and I'm sick of waiting, and the only way I have to speed the process up is to devote more time to writing (or, in this case, re-writing). Here's hoping it pays off.