Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Imagination

A short passage from my latest chapter...just to keep the suspense rolling. It's tough to find many parts of the work that doesn't reveal too much!


Chapter 14: Violet Storm

His lips quiver into a small smile and then large arms pull me into a tight embrace. “Flower, I’ve missed you so much.” A hand caresses the back of my head, and runs softly down the length of my hair. The Monarch holds me like he’s breathing air for the first time since his daughter went missing. Unwilling to steal this moment from him, I allow my body to loosen, to accept his mixture of grief and joy, and to wrap itself around the man who obviously loves his daughter more than anyone or anything else in the world. I hug him back like I would my own father on the day I’m reunited with him again.

It might have been only several minutes, but it feels closer to an eternity in hell within my torn mind before he releases me. The Monarch gestures for me to take my seat across from him on the small round table. His light eyes are rimmed in red but his face is grinning broadly. I let the image stab my soul; consume my conscience for it’s less than I deserve...


... My eyes close of their own accord, and also because I know I have to answer him with something. “I’m sorry, father, I don’t. All I remember is running through the city, and being attacked by one of the guards. And then…I woke up here.” The lie that is only partly a lie, will have to do. My new life started over again, and for the third time no less. The second, was the night I’d woken up in Behr’s shed to discover Agria had been destroyed. The third, was the night Aemon stabbed me in the neck with sleeping serum, and then waking up to discover that there was no remnant of the girl I was before...



I don't know how many more chapters lie ahead of me. But after each chapter, each day of work that steals hours upon hours of my days, I catch a glimpse of my purpose and it reinvigorates me. It reignites the passion to weave the stories my creative conscience wants so badly to have written; to relive over and over again.

Imagination is a wonderful thing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Being Brave

I know...I know, where on earth have I been? Am I still even writing? Has my blog disappeared into the black void, never to be recalled or even remembered ever again?

It's been slightly over a year since I began this journey--and guess what? I'm still in it. My first novel was an amazing adventure in and of itself. I got to create an incredible world with fun characters and I was even brave enough to try and get representation for it.

But after a growing pile of letter after letter telling me, "No thanks", "Not right for me", "Good luck..." well, you get the picture. I decided that this particular novel, that caters to a smaller market, Chick Lit readers, which can sometimes be known as Irritating Lit--would have to wait to be placed in the hands of my readers. For some reason the idea that my first published novel would have been Chick Lit, had I gotten it published, was somewhat embarrassing... (I still love you Bridget Jones!)

It was back to the drawing board. So I rolled up my sleeves, threw the last crumpled, tear-filled tissues over my latest rejection, and picked up a notebook and began jotting down my recent interest--post-apocalyptic, dystopic society, with an unlikely hero. The wheels turned and my pen frantically scribbled across the pages as I began to create my new world.

So, here I am, nine chapters into my second biggest work ever...committing hundreds of hours and months after months of rehashing details, screaming at my computer, crying over spilled coffee, and dodging my very own gym where my brand new treadmill has collected a sad amount of dust...but I'm still at it.

There were so many lessons learned over my first work and I would do it all over again, if not for the sheer pleasure the adventure brought. My second work is benefiting from my having recently joined a writer's group in Willow Glen--where 5 of the most eccentric bunch have gathered to share their most intimate works, argue over coffee and danish, and where I'm learning to grow thicker skin. Because let's be honest, I'm a very sensitive soul...which really just means that I have a hard time with tough criticism (and not because I think I'm right and that you're wrong because I'm brilliant and you're just an idiot who doesn't know what they're talking about. It's not that at all!).

As for the traveling piece of what my blog had originally began as...well, imagine me smiling as I tell you that it's definitely not over yet...

-------------

Inspirational quote of the day, "If we want to make a difference in the world, we must take risks, and loving something is enough reason to do it..." - Gloria Kempton, Writer's Digest

A special thanks to everyone who believes so much in me...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coronary Death Caused by...Anxiety

Okay, so maybe I won't die from a coronary heart attack. I haven't eaten enough McDonald's chicken nuggets just yet. But maybe I can suffer from severe hair loss, caused by my having pulled my hair out handful by agonizing handful, or perhaps from suffering a fatal concussion as I ram my head for the hundredth time against my keyboard.

Have I described the pain of my anxiety enough that you understand the depth of my misery?

Oh dear God...the waiting is horridly painful.

The waiting and hearing nothing but utter silence is where as a writer, your patience, your courage, your faith are tested with the passing of each excruciating day.

Two weeks since I last sent my first queries (a query is simply a pitch) to 45+ agents...only to find out yesterday that my query had a typo! YES! A TYPO in the FIRST sentence!

Oh. My. God. was my first reaction. Followed by the irrational desire to stab myself in the face. Morbid, yes I know.

Perhaps this is why my inbox holds 19 - yes I repeat 19!! - rejection letters! Emails with messages like, "Not for me, thx", "I'm not the right agent to represent you", or "keep trying"...

Still...I hold hope. As it is, one agent has requested the reading of my full manuscript while another asked for the first three chapters. I anxiously await even more...for their feedback, hoping that by then, I may still have a full head of hair or to at least not have a swollen forehead from all the head-bashing, or even not to be so fully bloated as I have consumed my entire weight in coffee, chocolates, and ice cream.

On top of that, I've finally received some feedback after waiting patiently for my busy friends and family. I've managed to get bits and pieces of it...and pushing aside all the fantastic praises, I've uncovered the real truth...that my work is not even close to being finished. In fact, it seems that I really shouldn't have sent my manuscript out to possibly the only agent who might ask to read it because apparently, it's not yet perfect.

I know, one might say, "Well, you can't get something absolutely perfect on the first try." Well, for those of you who might say this, I figure I truly only have one shot to get this right on the first try...so damn it all if I don't give something perfect!

So I spent the entire day singing the "shit" song. You know...something like..."ohhh...shit, shit, shit...OMigod...shiiiiiiitttt!!!"

Breathe...

Alright. So, what to do...what to do. Pushing aside the massive amount of rejections and what is sure to be plenty more to come, I decided to rework the project. Originally it's written in past tense, you know..."he said", "she cried, murdered, punched, etc". Today I began reworking the first chapter only to discover..."Hmm...This would all read so much better if it was written in present tense." You know..."he says", "she cries, murders, punches, etc".

Well, crap.

I have 487 pgs to revise.

I don't think my hair will survive the end of this week, nor will my keyboard and hopefully not my brain so that I may be lucky enough put myself out of misery. Maybe I just might suffer a coronary attack. I don't know, how much ice cream do I need to eat to get there?

Okay...well...shit.

Breathe...

Anyway, thank you for being an outlet for my deranged rantings. If you don't hear from me in the next couple of weeks. Well...

I'm sure everything will be just fine...I'm putting the ice cream away right now, I swear!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Start Your Own Adventure! Part II

Alright, so now you've had the time to check out the previous sites I recently posted. Have I gotten you excited yet? Doesn't it seem possible that you too could travel and trek the world for an entire month or more on as little as $1500 (this includes your souvenir splurging)? Note that most of the cost - for those living in the U.S. - is spent on the airfare. Anticipate anywhere between $400 - $900 for one way to round trip tickets.

I found that the hardest part in all of this was getting the information about all the ways one could travel and how to do it on a budget. I could've watched the Travel Channel all day or surfed the web for ages, filling myself with too much information and still not have gotten everything I am now aware of. All I wanted was to have my options laid out for me as clearly and simply as I had done in my previous blog. I know I would've done things differently had I known as much as I do now, especially after talking with lots of other travelers during my journey. My goal is to share what I know with you so that you too can find the chance of a lifetime to travel. Stop letting the worries of affordability and the terrifying thoughts of the unknown prevent you from going where you've always dreamed of.

Please feel free to share with me anything you may have heard about that I haven't included in the previous blog.

One thing that I hadn't considered until another traveler in San Sebastian told me about, was the services of Bus About (see previous comment in Start Your Own Adventure Part I) and the option of continuing your education abroad. You can spend a semester abroad or get your Masters in as little as a year. You'll need to spend the time to look around and find the program right for you. Something that I considered, was learning an entirely new skill and gaining experience in the area of publication in Barcelona around 3 - 6 months with a cost of $2500 to $3000 that included boarding and visa requirements.

Anyway, in this blog let's talk about what you'll need to keep in mind now that you have a budget in mind and the length of time you've reserved for your adventure.

Let's delve deeper into the option of Backpacking abroad.

Some people prefer having a detailed map of all the places/cities they want to visit and some would like to see where the thrill and the fun take them with no more information than what city they'd like to start at. No matter which adventure you choose you'll never forget your experience, the various cultures you'll be immersed in or the amazing people you'll cross paths with.

First things first. What is Backpacking exactly?

Well, there's not much too it...it's the type of travel where you pack super light, you're very mobile, and you've packed your stuff in a Backpack...pretty self explanatory.
For this blog, I'll be focusing on Europe - a top destination with the best value for your buck. Here are some of the primary topics I'll be covering in this blog:

1. Packing - choosing a backpack, packing tips, travel clothing, travel necessities and more
2. Hostels - more about hostels, camping vs. bed & breakfasts vs. hostels, other places to stay
3. Transportation - lots of ways to get around by air, car, bus, bikes, trains, ferries, subways/metros, motorcycles, walking, and tours

So let's get started.

1. Packing

  • Choosing the right backpack for you: You've only got one backpack...what the hell should you pack? Well first you've got to pick your backpack and understand your weight limitations. Visit stores like REI (www.rei.com) to test out backpacks that suit your body height & weight. The sales person can assist you in adding weights to give you the most realistic view of what you'll be lugging around and exactly how much you'll need to restrict in your packing. Expect to carry somewhere around 20 - 30 lbs. You want to be comfortable walking around with this amount weight without exhausting yourself too quickly. Also, consider getting a backpack that you won't have to check in at the airport. Check out http://www.backpackeurope.com/packing/choosebackpack.html for more information
  • I actually did not - in the traditional sense - walk around with a backpack in my month long trip abroad. My luggage was able to convert into a backpack but I couldn't go far with the kind of weight I'd managed to pack :/ Lesson learned...pack light.
  • Packing Tips: Take it from me, Pack light! I know how hard this is, especially for women. But trust me in this. You will have a much more pleasurable experience without all the extra crap you would probably only be tempted to throw away because of all the extra weight and space it takes up. Consider the season for which you will be traveling. Pack the most comforatable and versatile clothes that can be paired with anything and everything. Expect to bring no more than 2 pairs of pants, a couple shorts, a few shirts, and underwear. "Wait, I'm going to be gone for a month...what do you mean I should only bring a couple pairs of underwear?" Want to know the solution? Bring some laundry detergent and hand wash your tighty-whitey's. Plus, most hostels offer laundry services for pennies on the dollar.
  • Travel Necissities: toiletries (for those not checking in their bags at the airport- remember the 3 oz. restriction!), small towel (you can also rent from the hostels - but I prefer bringing my own), small first aid kit, camera and film, netbook (most computers can weigh a lot. Netbooks are a great alternative at around $200 to staying in touch with your family and friends, checking your FB or posting up blogs...sound like someone you know? ;), sewing kit, money belt, daypack (so that you can take your essentials and leave your backpack at the hostel), pins and clothes line, travel alarm clock or phone (that works abroad), and guidebooks and maps (most places have tourist maps so make sure to grab one at the hostel or the train station and several tourist info booths). There's always other stuff you could bring...but remember the mantra is, Pack Light!
2. Hostels
  • So you know your options when it comes to where you can hit the sack after a long day of exploring. There are hotels, hostels, bed & breakfasts, and the option of going native and spending the night outside in a tent. Just remember, if you decide to go native...someone's going to have to carry the tent. You're looking at lugging around 20 - 30 lbs just with the camping gear itself - so this option is best for those who are traveling with friends who can share the load.
  • For the cheapest options - make some friends who live abroad and reaquaint yourself...if you don't have any friends (abroad, that is) the next budget friendly option is of course a Hostel. Some are as cheap as $10 - $25 per night, with the option to stay in female only rooms, or a two or more person room if you're traveling with friends. For some hostels, the price you pay includes WiFi and breakfast!
  • Hostels provide the chance to speak to other travelers, learn about the destinations they've visited, hostels they recommend for the best experience and the best prices, as well as companions to venture the city with.
  • Look around Hostelworld.com to get an idea for what kinds of hostels are out there in the destination you want to visit most. When booking at Hostelworld they'll send you a detailed guide to how to get to the hostel via bus/walking/and other alternatives. Definitely a mental reassurance that you'll know how to get to where you need to go. You can also view pictures, traveler ratings, and the list of their amenities and costs.
3. Transportation
  • Want to know how you can get around? Check out http://www.backpackeurope.com/trans/index.html with an amazing amount of information on how to get around without breaking your budget.
  • When I traveled abroad, I utilized the Metro systems, trains, ferries, and buses for the best value. Most cities have transportation programs you can participate to get the best value for your money. For example: city cards that can give you 14 rides for a low cost. I would spend a minimum of 3 nights in one location and go on day trips to other cities using their local transportation. This saves time and money and allows me to be mobile while being able to visit nearby, must-see cities without having to pack up all of my things.
  • You can even go on Backpacking Tours. This includes bus tours like Bus About (Europe), Ze Bus (France), Check out http://www.backpackeurope.com/trans/tours/ for more information. It includes specific tours around Scotland and England.
That's it for now. Hope you've gotten an even broader sense of what you can expect as you prepare (mentally and physically) for your adventure abroad.

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Start Your Own Adventure! Part I


I'll never forget stepping off the plane at Athens International Airport. I remember feeling the thrill of excitement even though the journey there bordered almost 14 hours and I'd had little more than a couple hours of sleep. Here's what went through my mind those first few seconds.

First things first...wait...what was the first thing I had to do? Money...yeah money...where was I going to get money? Wait...where do I pick up my bags? Okay, one thing at a time. Just follow where everyone else is headed...and I'm sure that's where you'll need to go to.
Oh my God.
What the hell was I thinking. I don't even know a lick of Greek. And I'm here all by myself. IDIOT!
Okay, don't hyperventilate. Predators and thieves can smell fear. Don't you DARE act like a victim.

So as you can tell, I wasn't really mentally prepared. I'd never traveled on my own before - let alone ever gone to another country whose language I'd never spoken in my life. This was going to be the challenge of a lifetime. Luckily, I'd chosen to have a travel agent book everything for me which included transportation to and from the airports and ferries. This wasn't the cheapest - so it's not something I recommend for those who want to travel on a small budget.

I remembered realizing as we drove down the highways and I stared at all the signs, billboards, and buildings...that I was very, very far from home. People in Greece drove like they raced for a living and the humidity (or complete fear) was choking. It wasn't until I arrived at the hotel that I felt the overwhelming sense of...loneliness and severe homesickness.

Before I get carried away, I want to let you know that I overcame those feelings and had the adventure of my life. It was addicting...Leading me to want to explore more. So I planned my next trip as a backpacking expedition - once again deciding to travel alone.

In the next few blogs you'll get a variety of information to help you plan and prepare for your own affordable travels. Some do's and don'ts and additional things to consider, best sites to get more information and everything else I happened to pick up on the way.

The first thing to consider is of course, the length of time you can get away. Then plan a budget. To get an idea on how much you'll need to save (or beg your family to gift you with) plan a budget ahead of time. Consider the following: Airfare and intercity/country transportation, for the cheapest stays consider Hostels (or go native and camp out!), and Food (you can save a lot of money purchasing fresh foods and cooking your own meals at the hostels).

Here's some sites you should visit to plan your stays and purchase the best ticket prices.

1. Airfare: Kayak.com & TruFares.com
- When traveling between countries you can check out RyanAir.com (traveling by plane - where you can pay as little as $10 - $15 depending on the flight fees) or when traveling by train, EuroStar/Rail Europe, Renfe (Spain) etc. (check sites like RickSteves.com - for more info on ways to travel). Train travel can take a couple hours and you don't have to deal with the hassles of Airport security. A train ride from London to Paris can take just a little over 2 hours!
2. For Hostels you can check out the following websites to book your next hostel stay. You can book as late as next day stay if your plans change.
Hostelworld.com - shows rates, customer ratings, locations, pictures, booking availabilities etc.
Hostelbookers.com
You can consider camping at specified camp sites but remember that camp gear can get heavy, so if you're traveling alone, best leave the tent at home and stay at a hostel.
3. Food: Plan to eat at least one meal out. Somewhere around $10 - $20/meal. To save money, consider hitting the grocery store and stocking up ingredients to make your meals at the hostel. Even pack a ton of Cliff bars or ready to cook instant noodles. They have everything you need (make sure to read that the Hostel you'll be staying at has a full kitchen). You can cook simple meals like pasta, sandwiches, and easy grillers.

I never thought I'd stay at hostels, especially with the fears I had about traveling alone as a single woman. But after my experience in London and San Sebastian, I decided to cancel the rest of my Hotel stays and opt for the cheaper and more lively stays at the local Hostels. They've definitely come a long way. Most have WiFi, a fully equiped kitchen to store and cook your food, events planned to mingle with other hosteliers, and an opportunity to make new friends. The beds are clean and many have a youthful and fun atmosphere with the sense of security that most paranoid travelers like me need. And thanks to sites like HostelWorld, they're easy to book, easy to get to - with a detailed list of ways to get there, and most are located in prime locations that make it easy to visit the must see sights.

For women considering traveling alone, there are options in many hostels to book "women only" rooms, which is something I chose to do.

Of course, backpacking isn't the only way to get your travel fix for a low cost. Something I seriously considered was volunteering abroad. It comes with a fee of course and you'll have to pay for your own airfare. "A Fee? To Volunteer?" you ask. Well, the fees cover your night stays and meals. You can volunteer at orphanages in Cambodia, teach English in Greece (on an island), save sea turtles in Galapagos, or be a part of the forest preservation activities in Costa Rica. There are many, many options. If this is the kind of traveling adventure you're interested in, check out the following sites I used.

1. RealGap.com
2. UnitedPlanet.org

Both sites also offer opportunities to Work abroad and Teach Abroad with options to combine various types of excursions from volunteering to cultural immersions, and working for pay.

There are plenty of ways to get your travel fix. Whether by trekking on your own backpacking to the top countries you've always dreamed of visiting, or making an impact by volunteering and working with the locals, or even just giving yourself the relaxing vacation your work-a-holic ego needs - there's plenty of ways to travel even on a small budget.

In my next blog, I'll give you some tips on how to make your backpacking trip (or other forms of travel) go smoothly.

Thanks for stopping by!
<3 Anna
Here are the images from Greece that made me hunger for more!

This...is...SPARTA!! Okay..just kidding. Totally not Sparta but I had this momentary delusion that I had stepped onto the movie set for 300.

So I decided to drive like the Greeks do...For the day I got to experience the thrill of a NASCAR driver. I'd like to see the one police car on the island of Mykonos try and pull me over.

Complete with gladiator style sandals...hahaha

No words can express the emotions that go through you when you're seeing something as beautiful as this for the first time.

Once again, thanks for visiting! Feel free to ask any specific questions to the points addressed above. Otherwise, stay tuned! I'll get you traveling in no time! :)

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