Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Finally, England

My first experience experience of England-the Lake District! Wow, what a lovely view that is!

Our morning began in Dove Cottage (Grassmere), the home of William Wordworth...for 8 years. BUT these eight years were when he produced his most famous poetry, such as "The Daffodil." Our tour guide (who's from California) told us how one night, Samuel Taylor Coleridge decided he wanted to visit his dear friend so he walked 16 miles to Dove Cottage, arriving at 1 am and stayed up talking with the Wordsworth's all night. Why does no one do that anymore? They have a beautiful garden filled with wild flowers hat they dug up during their walks in the country. They actually have a notebook for people to leave notes in, and in the home of one of the most popular English poet laureates, someone wrote "Roll Tide." :/ come on, America...

But it's a beautiful little village with old stone cottages and pretty gardens. I sat up on the hill for awhile before venturing into the museum and writing with a quill and ink.

Next, we just went a bit up the road to Hill Top, the partial home and forever inspiration of Beatrix Potter. Our gorgeous Bed and breakfast was right next door to get home, so I got to spend plenty of time to explore her gardens, orchards and home. They had her differ character books placed throughout locations in the house that inspired them. It's also a beautiful home with lovely views from each window. Then I went a bit up the road under the direction of "follow the trail to Mocs Eccles Tam, more inspiration." Well, here's the trouble. The map said nothing about the trail diverging. So I took the path that called to me. Apparently, it called to me wrong because, while it was a beautiful, mossy forest path, it was not I was supposed to be... A logger may or may not have yelled at me to get out. But no worries! I found the right path, had a nice silent, peaceful stare down with a cow, and finally found Mocs Eccles, which is a beautiful large pond beneath a series of big rocks to sit on and observe. A few people were swimming because it was absolutely beautiful weather.  We had dinner across Windermere lake in Bowness at a delicious Indian restaurant.

TODAY I visited the highly anticipated Brontë Parsonage. If I haven't said it before, Jane Eyre is my favorite classic novel, and getting to see the precise table where she wrote it was absolutely wonderful! This year is Branwell Brontë's bicentennial, so they have an expansive exhibit on his...wild life. But the home is filled with antiques, as well as costumes from the recent PBS special, To Walk Invisible. I had a lovely chat with the volunteer about the Brontës as well as my literary tour and even my book! Then, I moved into the unique graveyard with slabs upon slabs of headstones, nearly touching. I then took another path less travelled by in my determined attempts to find the moors and feel like Jane Eyre. And I did find a moor. Just not one that people are normally allowed's fine. My legs are just a tad scratched up haha. But then we found the actual moors on Penistone hill, and they were fantastic! It was easy to imagine walking there, being whipped around by the bitter winds and harsh storms. I could've walked forever.

This afternoon ends in Yorkshire's Thirsk, the home of James Alred Wight, aka James Herriot, author of All Creatures Great and Small, among so many others. They have a charming museum in his home  with tons of props to make it look as it would when he lived there as a veterinarian with his wife and two kids. There was a fun fact: so his writing popularity didn't take off until his books reached America, and he came on a giant signing tour there. One signing line was so long that he temporarily lost use of his hand! That's the goal, folks.

Thirsk is a quaint, sweet little town, mostly outdoor adventures. We're staying a bit out at the White stone Cliffe Inns, which is a series of bungalows right beside a private farm. So naturally, I've made friends with the chunky sheep that likes to lay against our side of the fence. I think I'll name him Welington. Now, we're just sitting in a pub so the stupid American can access wifi and talk to the rest of the world. It's time to people watch.

See you in Stratford-upon-Avon,

Monday, July 17, 2017

Encapsulating Scotland

Ha! That's impossible! I've driven through a lot of it now but not enough to call myself an expert at all--not anything like my amazing tour guide Ivor.
My first day, after being retrieved from the airport, Ivor and I picked up his new trainee and my new friend Aga (who is charming and amazing!), we drove to St. Margaret's Parish, where Ivor and his wife were married 50 years ago in Edinburgh. But it was also the place of many formative people in Scotland/Edinburgh/knight's Templar history. Also, the legends behind it are amazing! I have them all written down if you want to know more.
Then we went on to Pentland Cemetery, which is on the most powerful Ley line in the world (also a Knight's Templar location, which are marked with the skull and crossbones. Pirates stole this symbol from them. And from there, we journeyed to Roslyn Chapel and castle, owned by the Sinclair family, of Scottish royalty and a formative family in the country's history. I can't even begin to describe to you exactly how mind blowing this chapel is. Not because of its overwhelming beauty, though it is astounding, but because of the amount of THOUGHT and detail that went into it. Every image and item has a purpose and reason though we don't know them all. The amount of symbolism in that church is just overwhelming! And the castle-you can just imagine the army clattering around on their horses, guarding the bridge.
We had coffee at Rhymer's Cafe (home of Thomas Rhymer) and drove up to Scott's view, Sir Walter Scott's favorite view of Scotland.
Yesterday, we went to the most magical place on earth-the aisle of Skye, home to the McLeod and McDonald clans but more of the faeries! It was quite a drive but so worth it! We drove through Loch Lomond National park; in the highlands, we drove through Glen Coe, passed the location of Hagrid's hut from HP movies, then we arrived in Mallaig where we caught the ferry to Skye. Guys, this is the most spectacular landscape ever. Rolling hills, flat mountains, dangerous moors, curving streams, blue ocean, low clouds, green everywhere, fields of Heather, strong ferns...just amazing! We did a Skye whiskey tasting, Toured Dunvegan castle, frolicked by the Fairy Bridge, and climbed the hills in the fairy glen with the goats to give offerings to the fairies. The glen is honestly indescribable. For the first time in the longest time, I felt irrevocably happy, completely carefree, like a little girl. I ran and laughed and climbed even though it was cold and drizzling. I didn't stop smiling, and I never wanted to leave. Alas...we did :(
But today was wonderful as well! I had the perfect weather to explore Sir Walter Scott's home of Abbotsford. I loved his library but I loved walking down by the River Tweed even more. I could've sat there for hours, but then it was time for my Harry Potter scavenger hunt in Edinburgh. I had Scottish coffee and wrote in The Elephant Housd, where Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter books. They claim "the birth place of Harry Potter." And that was a dream and took some nerve.but despite all the clamor of people, I could still feel the magic of the place. Or maybe it was just the splash of whiskey...
I moved onto Greyfriar's Graveyard, home to Greyfriar's Bobby (the dog that sat on his owner's grave for years) and several names that inspired HP characters. Like you might recognize a Thomas Riddle...? Then up to Grassmarket, which highly inspired Harry Potter, where you can see the castle, which looks like Hogwartz, and then Maggie Dickinsons Pub, owned by a woman who survived being hung for witchcraft and inspired Nearly Headless Nick. Then up Victoria Street, which was the basis for Diagon Alley. I finished on the Royal Mile, aka tourist circus. It was crazy! I walked around for awhile, seriously considering buying a kilt, listening to bagpipes, watching live statues, before returning to the Elephant House where Ivor and Betty retrieved me. It wasn't enough time to see all of Edinburgh, but definitely a city I need to return to.
And that brings the Scottish portion of this adventure. I ate Haggis, tasted whiskey, danced with fairies, saw a bunch of sheep, and learned how to call people who are horible driver "chucters!" Tomorrow, we head into the Lake District! England here  come! (Please forgive my typos-working off my iPad).


Monday, July 10, 2017

Going Across the Pond

Hello my friends!!

In just a few short days, I will be making the long trek across the pond to the UK for 23 days!!! So basically a month. In case you couldn't tell from my excessive use of exclamation marks, I'm very supremely excited about this trip. I've been blessed to do a lot of traveling in Europe and North America, but I've never made it to England/Scotland, which have always been top of my list. Now it's finally happening!

I'll be starting on a personal literary-inspired tour with VorScot tours. My tour guide Ivor and I will begin in Scotland (Edinburgh, Abbotsford, Rosslyn, and Isle of Sky) then work our way up into the Lake District, Haworth (I'm going to walk on the Moors like Jane Eyre), Thirsk, York, and ending in Stratford Upon Avon. I'm going to be walking in the footsteps of the Greats, writing when I can, and taking in all the inspiration.

The next leg of my journey, I'll be spending a week in London, staying with my cousin, and literally just walking around seeing all that I can. I don't have a set plan yet; I just want to see where my feet and map take me.

THEN I'm taking the train down to Oxford where I'll be taking a week long course entitled Oxford and Fantasy, studying all the great authors who attended the university and made their marks there. I have an Air BnB right in the middle of the city, and I'm so excited--also because Oxford is one of my choices for Grad school, so this will be a nice test for me to see how I'd like it. (Newsflash, I'll love it!)

I'll be posting updates on here, of course, doing my best to keep track of my journey. Does anyone have any suggestions of where I should go?

From the tales of the American Wanderer,

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

June Book Round Up

It's that time of month again, even though it's already the beginning of a new month. Oh well.

The One Memory of Flora Banks 
By Emily Barr

"I do not know what I do not know. I only know that I want to know everything." 

This charming, unique novel was so good and heartbreaking and funny!! I received it as an ARC from Yallfest, and it's been staring at me from my shelf for months.
At the age of 10, Flora Banks is diagnosed with a tumor that damages her memory receptors. She has memories from the past but cannot hold onto anything for more than a few hours now. But then she remembers kissing her best friend's boyfriend on the beach the night before he leaves town and is convinced that he's the solution to her memory problem, the start to a normal life.
At first, I thought I'd get annoyed with the repetition of the story because, well there has to be repetition since the narrator doesn't remember things for more than a few hours. But everything just flowed and worked really well for me. I loved the characters and the adventure of it. Plus, TALK ABOUT ALL THE PLOT TWISTS!
You definitely need to read it.

The Forgetting 
by Sharon Cameron

So every twelve years, a comet passes over Canaan that makes everyone forget who they are, or so they believe. The only way they remember anything is by recording truth in the books that they carry with them everywhere. Except Nadia remembers everything. She watched the horror of The Forgetting and now must live knowing the real truth. She's closed off, keeping to herself, until Gray, the potter's son, takes an interest in her and breaks down her wall. Then, the truth slowly starts seeping out.
Initially, I had a hard time getting into this book. I wasn't very grounded in the location or what exactly was happening, but it definitely became clearer. Apparently, I had a memory motif happening this month. I'd recommend it for the new spin on dystopia.

Worlds of Ink and Shadow 
by Lena Coakley

Basically anything that involves the Bronte family, I'll read. With Jane Eyre being my favorite classic, I love learning more and more about their family. I've read a fictionalized version of Emily and Charlotte's life - Always Emily by Michaela Maccoll, but this book was fantastical and wonderful!
In this world, the oldest Bronte siblings, Charlotte and Branwell, have the ability to jump into their stories, what they call crossing over. The younger siblings, Emily and Anne, are jealous and a little bit bitter that their siblings no longer take them along on their wonderful journeys. However, they are unaware of the price that their brother and sister have paid to be able to do such a magic. And now the time to collect has come.
My favorite part of this book was the little nods that Coakley gave to the later creations of the Bronte family. Especially Charlotte - there were hints to lines like "because I am poor, obscure, plain and little" and running into a dog named Pilot. Ugh, it made my heart happy!

I am currently SO EXCITED to be reading Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo which will be coming out in August. It took me a minute to separate the movie from the book, but now that I'm in, I'm all in. Plus, y'all know how much I love Bardugo.

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Short Story v. Novel

For all of you future collegiate minds who will choose creative writing as a major, know that for a majority of your education, you will learn to write short stories. 99% of the classes are short fiction based, which is great!

I've always written short fiction. I mean, that's what I started with when I was a kid. That's what most of us start with, if we're honest. I wrote them through high school and have continued them in college, though I must say, I'm not as prolific as I used to be. It's different when you have a class grading you on turning in at least a portion of a story every week. But having to get myself inspired to write something other than Ascension is somewhat difficult.

So why am I rambling about this? Well, A) I'm working on beefing up my writing samples for my master's programs applications. B) I actually wrote a story that I'm pretty proud of recently.

So what are the differences between writing short fiction and a novel?

First off, short fiction guessed it...shorter! Which can be good and bad. Bad in that maybe you can't say all that you want to say. Good in that you don't have to answer all the questions that you would in a novel.

Short stories should also be faster paced. Some may contend this. For instance, some of the earlier short fictions published have a very leisurely pace and often ramble on about things that don't necessarily contribute to the forward movement of the story. However, some would argue (me, I would argue) that those are tales. This is not to say that novels aren't fast paced. Ascension is very fast paced. But it doesn't have to be. One of my favorite, most inspiring novels is The Night Circus which has a much slower pace but also allows you to delve further into the very intricate world.

Short stories can have a lot of detail, but they also don't have to. Sometimes leaving the readers with questions is a good thing. It means they are involved in the world. They want to know more. Just don't leave too much up to the imagination. Whereas with a novel, I've learned exactly how many things I have to think about that probably will never actually make it onto the page. For instance, I have short stories that are just memories of Cheyenne's and Lilith's and Eli's. Just to get inside their heads more. It's also fun to write.

Then there's this idea that writing a novel takes a significant more amount of dedication than it does to write a short story. That's true. It does take more dedication and time. However, that being said, that doesn't mean that writing a short story does not take dedication. It does. I honestly wish I had more determination to make my short stories better and revise them more than I do. Sometimes, I just settle. But I think some of the best stories are written several times over.

So whatever you choose to write and/or read, be proud of it and do all that you can to hone your craft!

Gonna Go Write Now,

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Father's Day

My father's day post is delayed. BUT. I haven't technically celebrated Father's Day yet seeing as how my dear dad was returning home from a ten day business trip to China. Let's just say he was not in the celebrating mood after that entirely too long flight and eating nothing but rice and candy bars for ten days because that's all he could recognize.

I actually really love celebrating my parents A) because they always treat me so well on my birthday and the other 364 days out of the year and B) because they don't really celebrate themselves. My mom has dedicated her life to our family and her own work and volunteer work. My dad works his big brain to exhaustion providing for us and kind of making a difference in the world of biofuels (please don't ask me any further questions, I don't fully understand it). So really, they deserve to be celebrated.

I've been trying to think of some of the great literary fathers to compare my dad too, but I realize that there aren't any because Tim Rials is his own kind of dad--hilarious in his weird, witty way; serious when it comes to work; protective when it comes to me and mom; maybe a little overly caring when it comes to our dog Buddy. He taught me how to blast music in the car and not open the door until the song is over. He stopped me from falling in the lake when I caught a rainbow trout that was nearly as big as I was at age 5. He let me ride up in the front seat to get those narrow little bottles of mini M&Ms from the gas station.

Now, he encourages me, sells my book to scientists who otherwise probably wouldn't pick up Ascension, teaches me how to work hard (sometimes a little too hard). From him, I know that alone time is important for personal sanity. Dogs are also key to personal sanity.

Without trying, he gains respect from the people around him. Apparently while in China, he was served Duck Blood soup. I told this to a friend, and he came back with, "Well, they don't serve duck blood soup to just anyone." Maybe it's the grey hair that makes him so distinguished, but I don't think that's it. I think it's his calm, professional manner, his easy smile, his quick jokes and sharp wit, and the humility to never acknowledge any of this.

So happy belated father's day to all the daddio's out there! I can't wait to celebrate with mine this Sunday!

Until the next holiday,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

May Book Round Up

Yes, I'm a few days late, but I'm just going to use Book Expo as an excuse...

1. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (The Diviners Book 2)

"For dreams too, are ghosts, desires chased in sleep, gone by morning." 

    I don't believe I was doing Book Round ups when I read the first in the newest Libba Bray series, The Diviners. Based in 1920s New York following nearly 8 young characters, all with various magical abilities. I don't want to give too much away for this second one in case you haven't read the first one, but I highly recommend this series. It can get a bit muddled following all the different character lines, but it's exciting to see how all of them intersect.
    However, I think the real star of this series is the setting. I mean...I've imagined 1920s New York. Who hasn't? It seems like an exciting place and time to be alive. Libba Bray amazingly pulls readers directly into the heart of this time period. Everything from the clothing, the language, the description of the city, the historical events that Bray works into the story's absolutely spectacular. It's my favorite part of the series. Apart from Theta and Henry. Read it, and you'll figure out who they are.

2. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

     I'm trying to diversify my reading, but that's not the main reason that I picked up this classic novel. When I travel to England this summer, I'll be visiting James Herriot's home in Thirsk. Herriot's collection of books are basically retellings of his experience as a vet in the English countryside. Yes, most of the stories are about the animals he treats, but he's also an impeccable observer of people, especially the unique people of his small town.
     This does not read like a autobiography at all. Herriot recreates his young life in an entertaining way, with his witty humor and crazy stories about birthing calves and foals. Plus, my favorite part was when Herriot comforts a dying woman with the notion that her beloved dogs will follow her into Heaven. That's always been a point of contention, but now I know Mr. Herriot has my back.

3. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

   A debut novel by a promising writer. Based in 1800s London, this story follows Audrey Rose, an unusual girl for her time who's trying to keep her broken family together after her mother's tragic death while also sneaking around to be her uncle's assistant as a medical examiner. However, when a serial killer begins viciously murdering low-class women and harvesting their organs, life becomes even more complicated for Audrey Rose and her messed up family.
     This was not my favorite book. I enjoyed the interesting story line and the strong female character of Audrey Rose. However, much of the novel was a bit melodramatic and the romantic interest seemed just a bit forced.

I'm currently reading The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr while also listening to The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Until Next Time,