London Trip Part 1: Sightseeing

For my first wedding anniversary, Rob took me to Maine, and he pulled together the most fantastic present for me–the Box of Awesome.

For our second anniversary, we celebrated Mom’s birthday.


Statue in the lobby. There were sheep, too.

For our third anniversary, we went to Iceland and London.  Iceland was gorgeous, though our hotel had some weird wooden statues that kept making me do a double-take because I thought they were real people.

We slept most of the day in Iceland–jet lag.  But we did get across the street to The Pearl for lunch and lovely views of Reykjavik.








We arrived in London at night, and we had a car service to get us from Heathrow to our hotel–we did not want to spend an hour and a half, with luggage, on the Tube.  We used Blackberry Cars, and they were so fantastic, we booked another car to get back to the hotel.

Rob’s first exposure to London, aside from looking out the plane’s window, was driving through the middle of the city at night.  We passed Harrod’s, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, the London Eye, and so much more.

Our hotel room was small, with a window that barely opened, so it was stifling, even though the temp was nice outside.  That was remedied by getting a fan.  It wasn’t a great hotel, but it wasn’t the worst we’ve stayed in.


Just before the downpour.

The first day went a little sideways.  We went to the British Museum, and my camera’s battery was dead.  And I discovered that when I tried to take a picture of the clouds over the building.  Then the sky opened up with a deluge, while I was trying to put away my camera, and everybody ran for the door.


The Rosetta Stone is there, behind that crowd, somewhere.



We tried to see the Rosetta Stone.  I saw the back.  That was the closest I could get. We circled back around after going through, and, well, that —>

I got postcards, since we didn’t get close.  Plus, I have photos from my previous trip.

On our trip to the Tower of London, we got to see the poppy display, which I wasn’t sure would still be out. It was both lovely, and sobering.  Each poppy represents a British fatality from World War I.




We didn’t get into the Bloody Tower, by the time we came around to it, the line was massive, and neither of us had enough interest in the Crown Jewels to stand in that line.  So we went through the armory.  The best part of that was the dragon.


His name is Keeper. It says so on one of the barrels.

It was fantastic! The dragon was made of different things from the armory–pistols for the claws, banners for the wings, axes for the spines along the back, and so much more.

From there, we went to Tower Bridge, and I got to really test out my new camera and zoom lens. (Oh, yeah, I got a new DSLR and a new lens.) Also, Tower Bridge has lovely architecture.  And during the tour, there’s a film thingie about the building of the bridge that reminded me of the portraits and photos in Harry Potter.


Tower Bridge



The zoom lens is pretty awesome. I took a picture with the Shard, and then I took another from one of the bridge’s walkways and zoomed in on the top of the Shard. (I don’t remember if I took these both from the same spot or not.)


Holy crap did that look fantastic.


View from the bridge


The top of the Shard


Isn’t that great?





Rob had hoped to see the giant dead parrot, but I think it got moved the weekend we got to London, or the weekend before.  It would’ve been hard to miss if it were still there.

We rode the London Eye, though Rob wasn’t too sure about that.  He’s not that good with heights, and the London Eye is pretty huge and high.  Afterward, he said it wasn’t that bad.


Looking up from underneath.

The views are gorgeous, and this time I recognized so much more than last time. I think.  If so, it’s likely because I started watching Doctor Who.

Plus, Rob bought a little map/guide thingie for me that points out the different points of interest, and recognizable buildings, and such.


View from near the top.


We walked from the London Eye to Westminster Abbey.  The Abbey was lovely, but no photos were allowed inside it.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral was going to be the next stop, but we weren’t able to get there before last entry.  I did get a few good photos of the exterior, which was mostly what I wanted.  I’d looked up the cathedral beforehand and knew their policy was the same as Westminster–no cameras allowed inside.


Westminster Abbey

There was a planned trip to go to the London Zoo, but we scrapped that to stay in the room and let our feet recover before LonCon 3.

Some of the things we, or at least I, noticed in London.  People miss a lot because they don’t look up.  London was nowhere near as ornamented as Rome, but there were still lots of interesting pieces of architecture and art on the ceilings and upper portions of buildings.  Another thing–tourists suck.  This trip reinforces my dislike of traveling in summers.  Rob and I try not to be the stereotypical tourist that can’t get out of their own way and stick out like an Ent among hobbits.

The London Underground might be confusing when looking at maps, but it’s so much easier to navigate than any of the other subway systems I’ve been on.  Which is a feat, as NYC is pretty much just straight lines up- and downtown.  The main reason the Tube is so much easier is because signs.  When there were branching tunnels, signs would indicate which branch to take for which line and which stops.  And even once you got out onto the platform, the facing wall usually had a sign indicating which stops the train would make.

This is probably a good place to stop, since this went a whole lot longer than I’d actually intended.  I’ll get to another one soon, about LonCon 3.  That one will probably be a bit shorter.

And because I know people want to see–all the photos from London sightseeing.

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A bit about the past month, and my birthday

This morning, my phone buzzed at 7:13 a.m.–6 minutes before the alarm on my FitBit was supposed to buzz, and 7 minutes before the alarm clock would go off.  It woke me up, and I’d normally have ignored it, but once I figured out it was the phone and not an alarm, I saw that it was my sister calling.  It’s my birthday (although it’s now after midnight, so technically not), and my computer’s calendar reminder said I turned 35. And yeah, just ask Rob, that reminder is actually kinda necessary.

But anyway.  She called to wish me a happy birthday, and she wanted to check on me because I’ve apparently not been on facebook in a while, and hadn’t responded to a text the other day.

And she was right–partially.  I haven’t posted anything on facebook in over a month, though I check it every day.  In part, I’ve been preoccupied most of September.  A couple weekends were spent doing things with a friend who visited from Scotland–we had dinner with M.L. Brennan, who writes a fantastic vampire series, and the next day we went to Medieval Times in New Jersey.  There was a lot of cleaning–we had a bulk pickup early in the month and wanted to get rid of stuff, and it was just necessary–and I binge watched a lot of tv to catch up with a couple of shows before the new seasons.


This room desperately needed cleaning. It’s slightly cleaner now.


Plus, I’ve been getting a lot of writing done, and now that the weather’s cooler, I’ve been able to get back into exercising.  Which is a good thing, because I had a checkup last week, and my triglycerides went from 257 in March to 430.  Yeah. That’s not a good thing.  There were a variety of factors, and I’m pretty aware of all of them, and I’m doing something about it.

So, I’ve been pretty busy, and it never crossed my mind that I hadn’t been active online anywhere but Twitter.

I often get a bit melancholy at the beginning of October; my birthday makes me miss friends I haven’t talked to in a while. That melancholy makes me a bit depressed, and less likely to notice I’m withdrawing from most everything.  And it’s a little deeper now that October starts with memories of my mom’s passing a couple days before my birthday.

Often, I end up being very introspective, and a lot of what’s going through my head finds its way out in my writing.  Right now I’m working on a short story-type thing, and it’s very much influenced by these feelings. I’m not certain if it’s something that’ll end up getting read by anyone, but it’s how I work through a lot of my issues.

The downside is that I lose track of almost everything around me, and I plan on getting to stuff, like responding to messages, later on.  And sometimes, I end up sitting and staring at the screen, overthinking what I’m trying to write, so I set it aside until later and end up forgetting it.

But my birthday was a good day. I’ve got a phone that’s fully functional, and blue cupcakes with chocolate icing and star-shaped sprinkles. Still being awake at 4 a.m. is probably not all that great, though, so sleep is likely what I should be doing.

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Stickers and Words

Previously, I wrote a post about finding a process that worked for getting me writing every day. And it did work, for a while. Until I finished a draft. And until life happened, but that’s inevitable.  I still use my whiteboard to set daily goals, and sometimes I even pay attention.  But even more life happened last year, and I got off track again.


Then in the last few months, I’d been following Victoria Schwab on Twitter, and saw her talking about using a calendar trick to get her word count.  I looked that up and found her vlog about it, and I decided to try it.

But me being me, I went beyond simply using stickers to keep track of word count, because I know I’m fickle.  If I weren’t, the whiteboard would’ve been enough.

So, I figured out a list of what all I’d give myself stickers for. I have two columns for that because I couldn’t figure out if I should count pages written longhand (1 page front and back) or words typed up (500). I’d previously bought a dayplanner, so that’s where I keep track of pages written longhand. And I have a calendar where I keep track of word count, once the pages are typed up.  Then I wrote out rewards for hitting word count goals, or finishing a draft, or various other stepstones.


This week, I even wrote on Sunday! That’s usually my day off.

The main reason I wrote all this down was to give a copy to Rob, so that he could keep me accountable.  He hasn’t needed to, so far.

Actually putting stickers on the calendar makes me very aware of when I don’t get words written, or get no research or revisions done.  And I will not let myself sleep if I type in the pages I wrote, and the word count doesn’t quite reach my goal.

January ended up being a pretty good month. Most of the stickers are for research and worldbuilding, because I’ve really needed to get that done, but I managed around 9,500 words out of a goal of 13,000. And I wasn’t counting words written for revisions, so it’s entirely possible I might’ve written enough. Though I kinda doubt that.


January’s calendar. So pretty.

There are two stickers on there that were for special things.  The Mystique sticker was for finishing the first draft of my sci-fi flash fiction, and the dark oval–it’s a Star Wars symbol–was for the revision good enough to send out to beta readers.

Soon, I’ll be adding a sticker for submitting my flash fiction.  That’ll be my first sticker for February, and I’ve really got to write words.  I don’t like the blank calendar anymore than I like a blank pages when starting a story.


**I wrote the above portion of this post on February 1st. Then I got distracted and never posted it.  But, since I haven’t posted this, I figured I’d add in February’s calendar, since it’s now March 1st.

The February calendar doesn’t look as good as January, because there were some days where I wrote no words.  In some of those instances, like the 13-17, there was a snowstorm, a friend coming up from NJ, and then a trip to Boston for Boskone. And this year, we actually ended up with a pretty full schedule at Boskone and very little downtime just sitting in the hotel room. Then the Monday after, I had a dentist appointment.  The rest of the empty spaces, I just couldn’t get my mind to think words right.  Except the 28th. Rob and I drove up to a bookstore in Providence for M.L. Brennan’s signing for Iron Night.


Doesn’t look as pretty, but more words were written.

And I found writing at work difficult.

But when I added up all the words I did write, it was better than January.  10,800. Also, my first short story submission, and my first short story rejection.  Which, I expected that, and now I’m debating whether I want to continue to submit the short or start really fleshing out that world and writing more to the story.

Now, I turn the page to a clean calendar for March. This one will be interesting. Rob and I will be going to three cons this month. Either my writing will really suffer, or I’ll figure out how to move my mindset back into writing between cons. I’m hoping the latter.  I’ve got a week to get started on the wordcount, starting today.

(Ohhh…posting this will give me my first sticker of the month.)

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About that submission

While it might look like I’m sitting at my desk, staring out the window at the snow, I’m actually working.  I’m going that writing in my head thing that I do all the time.  I don’t know if it’s something I can turn off or not.  Most of the time, it just doesn’t get written down.

But because of that, and being tired to the point of not being able to focus, I figured I’d write this in an attempt to get my mind to the point I can get more than a few short paragraphs of worldbuilding done.

So, that submission I posted about.  I did submit it; it was going to get done, no matter how I waffled about it, but it took me a while.  It was around 2 a.m. when I pushed the submit button.

Now, I wait.  The submission guidelines said the response time is 45 days, so I’m going to guess that to be 45 days from the submission deadline of February 14.  I could be wrong, and if so, then I’ll find out sooner.

I expect a rejection.  Not because I don’t think the story is good, or because I did anything stupid enough to warrant a rejection.  I expect it because I’m pretty sure this issue will get a lot of interest and a lot of submissions.  That’s part of the reason I submitted a flash fiction piece.  I figured I might have a better chance at selling it.  Short stories are hard for some people to write–they’re definitely difficult for me–and some people have even more trouble with flash fiction.

It’s not easy telling a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and an end in less than 1499 words.  That’s one of the things I took away from my high school writing class, though–the knowledge that I can write a pretty good story in under 2000 words.  It’s when I try to go longer that it doesn’t like to stop.

The downside is that because it’s under 1500 words, it won’t be considered for a regular issue of Lightspeed.  But Analog and Asimov don’t have a minimum word count, at least nothing listed on their website, so I can submit to one of them if it’s rejected.  Then if they reject it, well, I can always figure out something else.

And there’s always the option of playing around in the world and expanding the story.

I think I can focus on my other world, now.

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Hitting the submit button

“Writing is hard.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve read this phrase or heard somebody or other say it. And it’s true; writing is hard.

But even harder for me? Hitting the submit button.

I wrote a flash fiction piece with the intention of submitting to the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed magazine. The deadline is February 14, but my intention is to submit before then. Before I go to sleep tonight.

But, as I said on Twitter, I’m not just second-guessing myself, I’m third- and fourth-guessing myself.

Because yeah, three of the people who did a beta read wanted to read more. Rob thinks it’s good, and so does another beta reader, who is also a professional copyeditor and SFWA member.

Yet, these are all people that I’ve known for several years. It’s not quite the same as a family member reading it and saying “This is good!”, but it’s close enough that I’m doubting.

It’s entirely possible that this is all in my head, that it’s the writer neurosis and impostor syndrome.  Probably is just that.

But I can’t shake the feeling that I need someone to say “Yes, it’s finished, and it’s good.  You can submit the story.”

Hell, it’s easier to hit publish on this thing because I don’t expect more than family and close friends to read it. I need to just expect that I won’t be able to think of a good title (I’m crap at titles), and submit the story already.

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