Tag: road tripping

Thursday Things: Dyrhólaey #AtoZChallenge

A to Z challenge 2018 DI went to Iceland over spring break, and let me tell you – four days is NOT enough time there. We spent a day in Reykjavik, a day doing the Golden Circle circuit tour, a day driving along the southern coast, and a morning horseback riding around the volcanic fields before flying out.

I was especially excited to explore the southern coast. We didn’t get a chance to go to the Sólheimasandur plane crash site – it was cold and drizzly, and we didn’t have enough time in our schedule to walk a mile or two each way to the site – but we did get to some other famous places, like several beautiful waterfalls.

Dyrhólaey

We also made it to Dyrhólaey, which is a park overlooking the black sand beaches that show up in Icelandic metal videos, especially Sólstafir’s “Miðaftann.” And I’m pretty sure some clips from their video for “Fjara” were shot around here too.

My short story, “The Beach,” was partially inspired by Solstafir’s “Fjara” (which is Icelandic for beach, by the way). Even though I’d only seen videos and pictures of the area before I wrote the story, I envision it being set here. I imagine Pría, the main character, standing on this beach watching her true love’s funeral barge float out to sea, then walking along it later as she’s about to give birth to their son.

I’m not a fangirl by any stretch, but there was something amazing about standing in the spot where some of my favorite songs’ videos were made, where my story took place too. It’s a feeling that makes me want to go back to Iceland, this time for several weeks, and just wander the countryside. Who knows what kind of stories I’ll come up with?

* * * * * * *

About “The Beach:”

When Pría’s true love is killed before they can marry,
she must decide how to stay true to his memory while moving on with her life.

Available to read for free on Medium,
and it’ll also be included in my upcoming short story collection, Unkept Women

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

 

Resolutions: 2017 review and 2018 goals

gnome

Another form of self-care: crocheting random stuff, which I then list on Etsy because who needs a handful of tiny gnomes?

Every year I set goals for myself.

Let me preface this by saying 2017 sucked. I took on too much academically, especially in light of getting a part-time job that was more stressful than I’d anticipated (emergency shelter residential youth services direct care counselor), and having to revise my comprehensive exam twice set me back too. Throw in a health scare (I’m okay though!) and some personal issues that’ll make for a great book, tentatively called Every Day Is the Worst Day of My Life, and maybe I should be proud about how much I actually did manage to accomplish, rather than frustrated about how many goals I didn’t reach.

Either way, here’s how I did over the past year.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I finished a handful of new stuff, but nowhere near something every month.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything.

I DID THIS!!!!!! I published THIRTEEN stories on Medium, nine of which were previously unpublished works.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

I outlined the book and started the draft, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I had to revise my comprehensive exam twice, which set me back and took away from this project, as has working on my dissertation.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc.

I did several events this year: a local lit fest, a book fair, and a solo reading. I sold an average of one book per event and didn’t give away enough swag to even say I got my name out there. My time is pretty damn valuable right now, so I’m going to hold off on local stuff for awhile because it’s just not worth it.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Other than a couple weeks in India last January, I unfortunately only made it out of the country to Canada – and even then, it was only once (okay, maybe twice because we drove from Seattle to Banff to Glacier National Park back up to Alberta and over to Winnipeg, but it was all the same trip). I got a part-time job starting in the summer, so now I have the money to travel but not the time. I did manage to get several trips in though: Georgia and the Carolinas over spring break, a week solo in a secluded cabin in northern Michigan, that trip to the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies, plus some day trips and weekend trips around the Midwest. And on a happier note, I leave for India again in about a week (spending two weeks there with my kid), then it’s on to Iceland for spring break and a month in Thailand in June, which hopefully will also include some time in Singapore and Bali. And a summer trip to the southwest, that may include a jaunt down to Mexico.

6. Read 100 books.

I started out doing pretty well at staying on pace, but really fell off this fall due to a grueling schedule that left little time for reading. I read a bunch of stories on Medium, but those aren’t trackable or books. I ended up reading 56 books total in 2017.

Overall in 2017

As Armando Christian Pérez says, “Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab them at least you’ll fall on top of the world.” Every year I set myself some Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs), knowing full well that I probably won’t reach them but at least they’ll move me closer to my overarching, long-term goals of becoming a more successful author, expanding my horizons, and achieving within my career field. This year, despite not really doing everything I’d planned, I’m still further along the path than I was a year ago. And next year’s BHAGs will get me further along as well.

2018 goals

  1. Better time management. I’m generally pretty busy with work and school and life, so when I get a moment to breathe I spend it on something like cat videos. While self-care is important, I have a long list of goals with many parts, and I need to focus if I’m going to accomplish everything on my lists. To that end, I’ve made a checklist of 13 things I want to get done every day, including writing tasks, school and career projects, and self-enrichment activities. I plan to track what I do every day, at least until it becomes an ingrained habit.
  2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.
  3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.
  4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.
  5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.
  6. Read 100 books.

Can I do it? Probably not. But I can at least try!

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How do you plan to accomplish them?

The most pointless roadtrip ever?

Alberta has dinosaurs.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I like traveling – especially roadtrips. I take a lot of them, and often for random reasons:

 

  • I went to Detroit for a couple days last month just so I could pop into John King Used Books and eat delicious shawarmas and hummus at my favorite Dearborn Middle Eastern restaurant.
  • For spring break 2016, we detoured through Tulsa, Oklahoma, simply because I wanted to see what was there (answer: the Center of the Universe and nothing else).
  • Last summer, I drove up to Nipigon, Ontario, because I wanted to see the bridge that had collapsed.
  • Summer 2014, we detoured through Medicine Hat, Alberta, because I liked the name.
  • I plan on heading over to Alliance, Nebraska, in the next couple weeks because I need to check out Carhenge.

So, basically, I am the queen of random roadtrips.

sunset

Heaven is watching the sunset on Lake Superior from a secluded cabin in the woods

Yet when I was up in the UP of Michigan last month (different trip from the Detroit one), while I was driving up through Wisconsin I remembered that episode of That 70s Show where the gang drove to Canada for a beer run. From Wisconsin – which doesn’t share a border with Canada (including water ones).

I checked and it’s about 3-5 hours to drive from northern Wisconsin to Canada (either Grand Portage convenience stores north of Duluth or Sault St. Marie). It’s 5+ from southeast Wisconsin (down near Chicago) to Windsor. Regardless of where in the state they live, driving from Wisconsin to Canada just for beer seems like a lot of effort – and this is coming from someone who wants to go to Flin Flon, Manitoba, and Truth and Consequence, New Mexico, simply because of the towns’ names.

Wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper just to bribe someone in their town to buy them beer?

A high mileage odometer is a badge of honor

I like to travel. A lot. And seeing as how I’m kinda poor, being a grad student and all, most of my domestic travel is by car.

That’s why I’m happy to report this milestone I hit this week:

250k miles!

Yep, that’s right – I hit 250,000 miles on my car!

It had about 130,000 when I got it in the spring of 2012, so that’s 120,000 miles in 5 years – an average of 24,000 miles per year.

A lot of it, of course, is due to commuting to my university, driving 125 miles roundtrip 2-4 times a week for the past couple years. But it’s also a couple trips to Canada every year, and California, and the East Coast, and everywhere in between. So far in 2017, for example, I’ve gone to India, San Diego (flying, not driving though), Georgia and the Carolinas, and Michigan – twice. That’s a lot of miles. 🙂

timeline map

Google has a cool feature that plots your adventures on a timeline, and here’s what my US/Canada trips look like, starting in August 2013 (so excluding a roadtrip to New Orleans I took in March 2012). This summer, depending on my work schedule, I’m also heading to the Pacific Northwest and taking several small trips around the Midwest. And I’d love to get down to Mississippi to research the sequel to my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (spoilers: it involves Aida in Andrew’s hometown). No matter where I end up going, though, I’m looking forward to adding more dots!

How’s your odometer looking? Any memorable trips you’ve taken or cool dots you’ve earned?

Thursday Things: Keep on rocking in the free world

thursday thingsI’m not sure if it’s genetic, but I definitely inherited my dad’s wanderlust (he’s currently on a roadtrip to L.A. with an old friend, and I just got back from a random trip to Detroit solely taken to eat hummus and buy used books) and love of music.

As a kid, I remember him cranking his stereo whenever he was home, as well as dragging me and my younger brother to music festivals, like my hometown’s annual Blues Fest. And now I’ve become his concert buddy, accompanying him to a local music venue every couple months to see blues-rock artists that come through.

Sometimes we get people I’ve actually heard of, like Samantha Fish, Will Hoge, and Leon Russell. And most of the time it’s artists I’ve never heard of, but still enjoy.

I’m not musically inclined, nor do I ever want to be on stage performing, so I find it interesting to imagine what it’s like being one of these acts, especially the opening bands, especially when no one’s ever heard of you. And that’s what gave me the inspiration for not only my short story “Not My Thing,” but several other stories about bands and concert goers that I’m about halfway through writing and plan to someday release as a collection.

One of the best compliments I got on “Not My Thing” was from a beta reader who said I nailed the details, from the two free drinks that are included in the contract, to the weird guy who’s a little too close to the stage and a little too involved with the song.

Upcoming stories in this collection include “The Best Night of Herb’s Life,” about an unassuming accountant who stumbles into some action, and “Hunting Johnny Cervantes,” about a washed-up guitar player who’s actually the devil. Stay tuned!

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Not My Thing coverAbout “Not My Thing:”

When The Dancing Freemasons embark on their first major tour, Jeff’s dreams of being a rock star have come true – until he can no longer connect with the music. One night after a show, he meets a woman who might be the one to get the music flowing again, but is the cost worth it?

Available at Amazon

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

Thursday Things: The best book store in North Carolina closed!

thursday thingsOne of the settings in my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside is a bookstore, McKay’s, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It’s where Andrew and Kasey, the two main characters, meet, and several scenes take place in its attached coffee shop.

While Asheville does have a downtown bookstore, I actually modeled McKay’s after the Books-A-Million I worked at while I was in college – not that the specific details of the store actually matter to the story, other than it has coffee, books, tables, and couches. I don’t think its baristas or employees even have names.

I stole the name from my favorite used bookstore, Edward McKay’s in Raleigh, NC. I probably spent way too much money there (is that even possible at a used bookstore?), but they had a wonderful selection of everything – lots of obscure titles that look great sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I was back in the Triangle in March, I may have spent an hour or two there, browsing the shelves and buying a couple bags of books.

AND NOW THEY’RE CLOSED FOREVER!!!!!

About a week or two ago, without any warning, they announced they’d permanently closed that store (although they still have a couple locations around the state).

Good news, however, in that MY McKay’s – my fictional one in Asheville – is still open, and it’ll even have a brief cameo in the sequel to Yours to Keep or Throw Aside that I’m currently plotting out.

RIP, Edward McKay’s. 🙁

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YTKTA coverAbout Yours to Keep or Throw Aside:

After her husband’s infidelities are revealed, Kasey Sanford just wants to rediscover who she is. After an abusive childhood and years as a career soldier, Andrew Adams just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing the right thing with his life. When their paths cross, Kasey and Andrew embark on a tumultuous journey that demonstrates just what they’re willing to do to save the ones they love.

ebook and paperback: Amazon

audiobook: Amazon * Audible

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

 

Thursday Things: random facts about the history of mental hospitals

ThursdayThingsMy short story “Tim and Sara” takes place at Kirkbride, a state hospital. Although the story is fictional, the hospital isn’t.

My Kirkbride is based on the state hospital in Fergus Falls, Minnesota (which is also the building on the story’s cover). What makes this building different than other state hospitals is its design and purpose.

Pre-Civil War, people suffering from mental health issues in the US were treated like criminals: locked up in tiny cells, often shackled and abused.

In the 1840s, Dr. Thomas Kirkbride came to the now obvious conclusion that people suffering mental health issues would do better in airy, light-filled buildings with private rooms, so he designed a bunch of state hospitals that tried to respect patient dignity. The Fergus Falls building was one of these.

As the US has moved to community-based, out-patient treatment for people with mental health issues, many Kirkbride buildings have been torn down or sit empty, like the one in Minnesota.

Fergus Falls state hospital

Fergus Falls state hospital in 2013

I used to drive past it on the interstate, and although no one’s there now, it still makes for a cool story.

* * * * * * *

Tim and SaraAbout “Tim and Sara:”

The victim of debilitating flashbacks, Tim is content to spend the rest of his life at Kirkbride, a state mental hospital. But his friend and fellow resident Sara is concerned that she has to save her soul before it’s too late, and so she devises a plan to break them out of the hospital. Can Tim help his friend while holding onto what’s left of his sanity?

Available for $.99 at Amazon or free through Kindle Unlimited

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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!

Weekend Writing Warrior 9/18/16 #8Sunday

Gunflint Lake on the MN/ON border

Gunflint Lake on the MN/ON border – the Boundary Waters start right across from it.

For September I’ll be pulling from several related short stories I wrote this summer, all dealing with the apocalypse.

Here’s what we have so far:

  • “Special” – a pair of twins with special abilities living in caves due to airstrikes
  • “The Graveyard” – a plague kills off most of a western mining town

This week it’s “E.L.E.” – a woman is out camping in the Minnesota Boundary Waters when disaster strikes. Like last week’s excerpt, this story was inspired by a trip through the setting this spring.

* * * * * * *

My dad used to say that extinction level events happened every 700,000 years or so, and we were more than overdo. Nonetheless, when an earthquake hit while I was out camping in the backcountry, I ignored it as anything more than routine seismic activity. Sure, earthquakes rarely hit northern Minnesota, but I’d come out here to relax, not to increase my anxiety by worrying about stuff I couldn’t do anything about.

The ash came a couple days later. Forest fires weren’t uncommon up here, and even though we were under a burn ban, this wouldn’t have been the first time someone’s campfire took out a few hundred acres. It was enough to send me back to civilization, though, because it wouldn’t be pretty when that blaze caught up to me.

I’d just stowed the last of my gear in my canoe and was preparing to shove off when a man strolled out of the forest. I tensed.

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Post a link to your eight sentences blog entry, or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

And if you’re a writer, sign up to be a Friday Five author, which gets you and your latest work featured on my blog.

Postmodernists, postpositivists, and truth vs Truth

gal7cropped

Found this on a Galveston beach. Is it an alien lifeform? Inflated plastic? Postmodernist storyteller me says both are plausible!

I’m on a quest to take as many research methodology classes as I can while getting my PhD, and this semester one that I’m taking is qualitative. I’m a quantitative person, so this is a major thinking shift.

Qualitative is case studies and interviews and ethnographies and telling the story one person or group at a time, while quantitative is surveys and statistics and applying your findings to larger groups.

One of our first assignments is a position paper, in which we explain which paradigm we follow, relate our history that brought us to that paradigm, and then explore our biases that will affect our qualitative research. I’m stuck between two: postpositivism and postmodernism.

Postpositivists think that the objective Truth is out there, but our methods of seeking it are flawed by our biases.

Postmodernists think everyone has a truth, and your truth isn’t any more valid than mine because it’s all relative.

Basically, the two are on opposite ends of a spectrum (well, positivism and postmodernism are).

(Fun story: I went to a Catholic high school, and my junior year we had to take Apologetics, which we defined as apologizing for your faith but is actually defending it. I routinely argued with our teacher, a poor priest right out of the seminary, that all religions were seeking the same end goal – peace and love and happiness in whatever comes next – but just had different ways of reaching that goal. Kinda like a bunch of people climbing a mountain, but from different sides – they all want to get to the top but are each taking a different route. The teacher strongly encouraged me to sleep or read in class so that I wouldn’t constantly pull apart the course material.)

As a researcher, I want to find Answers. As a social worker and social justice warrior, I want underrepresented voices to be heard so that we can bring about change to unequal systems. As an author, I want to tell my character’s story and make it just as valid as anyone else’s.

My question tonight: If I have my perception of the truth, and you have your perception of the truth, and everyone reading this and in the world has their perceptions of the truth, how do we as researchers decide whose truth is most valid? Applying a postmodern perspective, can we even decide that someone’s truth is invalid, and how does this fit into our role in “mitigating against epistemic injustice in educational research?” When is it okay to judge a culture or individual as “wrong” or “bad” when its members are doing their best according to their beliefs?

Weekend Writing Warrior 9/11/16 #8Sunday

clown-motelFor September I’ll be pulling from several related short stories I wrote this summer, all dealing with the apocalypse.

Today’s story, tentatively called “The Graveyard,” was inspired by a town I passed through while wandering the country this summer: Tonopah, Nevada, home to the “haunted” Clown Motel located right next to an old graveyard filled with plague victims. Fun. 🙂

* * * * * * *

The plague hit quickly and deadly. In the course of just a couple weeks nearly half the town was dead, with those left alive torn between caring for the sick, burying the dead, or fleeing the county before they were struck down too.

With Pa taking the easy route and hightailing it out, and Ma dying right off, that left me the task of looking after the young’uns, and my older brother to bury the dead. Then the plague took him too, and most of the little’uns, until it was just me and baby Nylen after the plague was gone.

Pa had wanted a right proper homestead but there ain’t really any call for farming in the Nevada desert. He’d always talked about moving – west to California or north to Dakota Territory – but Ma’s people were here in Nye County and so she put her foot down. I thought about moving me and Nylen somewhere too, but where does a sixteen-year-old girl even go? So we stuck around, nearly the only folks still in town, determined to make the best of a bad situation.

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Post a link to your eight sentences blog entry, or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

And if you’re a writer, sign up to be a Friday Five author, which gets you and your latest work featured on my blog.

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