Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: A Helping Hand

Hello, lovely blogosphere! Sorry it's been a little while, I've been readjusting to life in America. (I think I'll talk about that at length on Thursday.) For now, though, I have been writing! I've reinstated my "200 words a day ABSOLUTE MINIMUM" rule. I've found that a lot of the time the hardest part for me is just getting started if I don't feel like sitting down and churning out words. So forcing myself to start sometimes leads me to continue. I would really like to finish drafting this project this summer. We'll see how that goes.

At any rate, I have a teaser for you today! This comes at the end of Maire's first day working on the farm. She's completely exhausted and extremely frustrated. And then she's presented with real food for the first time in months and months, but, well, yeah.



She had been cursed, hadn’t she? Shaking hands with the Secrets Man had cursed her. That was the only explanation she could find for why she was now hiding in the garden, grinding dirt into her hands and knees and heaving up the contents of a perfectly good meal. She had been granted a miracle but her greedy acceptance of it meant that she would never profit from it. She would starve here, just as she would have done at home, but here, she was totally alone. This was all that she was going to get for her rash action. Stupid, that she had thought that there was any good to be had in this world. Stupid to think that it was within her grasp.

It wasn’t fair, she thought, shaking in the cold, alone and afraid and desperate for some kind of answer. It simply was not fair.

“Are you all right?”

Maire fair jumped out of her skin at the sound of a voice. She turned, slowly, and saw the boy with blue eyes staring down at her, concern written all over his face.

“I am fine,” she said, turning away and wiping her mouth with a dirt covered hand.

“No, you are not,” the boy insisted.

Maire said nothing. She was too tired, for once, to fight his insistence, too tired to argue. Maybe he would simply walk away.

“The kitchen has cleared out now,” he said.

He was not leaving. He was still talking. In fact, he was moving towards her, crouching down beside her.

Why wouldn’t he just go away?

“Everyone else is gone. So is Agnes, she’ll have gone off to bed. It’s her one and only weakness, turning in early.”

Maire heard him chuckle, but still she said nothing. The boy paused, but then he kept on talking.

“I’ve seen this before, you know,” he said, and Maire curled her shoulders further inward. She was ashamed of herself, she did not want him to talk about it. But he did. “It’s all right. This happens to folk. There have been a few like you who stumbled in here, nothing left but angry skeletons. They usually lost their first meal too. Sometimes their second and their third, even.”

Maire groaned involuntarily, ducking her head down and shutting her eyes. So this was going to continue?

“You will be all right though…” he trailed off. “I did not ask your name.”

Maire did not answer.

“My name is Caleb,” the boy continued. She could hear the hope in his voice then. It sounded like he was trying to coax a wounded animal into submission.

“Maire,” she finally muttered. “My name is Maire.”

“Maire,” he repeated, almost gleefully. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh at it or if she wanted to punch him for it. “Well, Maire, if you will follow me back to the kitchen, I’ve asked Elizabeth to make you some tea. It will make you feel better.”

Maire finally turned to look at him then. He was much closer than she had expected him to be, and she flinched backwards before daring to speak.

“Why are you helping me?”

Caleb looked surprised; his blue eyes grew even wider at her statement.

“Because you need helping,” he answered matter-of-factly. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Some Lists on Leaving

So. I'm going home tomorrow.

Things I Am Looking Forward To:
1.     Seeing my family
2.    Seeing my friends
3.      CAT
4.      Sleeping in my own bed
5.      Having that bed be in my own room (so sick of hostels…)
6.      My summer internship at a literary agency in NYC
7.      My summer sewing project
8.      My summer reading list (SO MANY BOOKS, GUYS)
9.      Normal ketchup
10.  Knowing which side of the street I’m supposed to walk on
11.  My dad’s cooking
12.  Having my athletically inclined friend teach me to run (eep)
13.  My iTunes library

Things I Definitely Will Not Miss
1.      The “stupid American” look
2.      This: 
3.      “Due to planned engineering works, there is no service on [whatever line it was you actually needed]”
4.      London traffic. Which way am I supposed to look? Why do I never have the right of way?!
5.      Airplanes
6.      Hostels (not that the hostels I’ve stayed in have been bad – I just miss personal space!)
7.      Mushy peas
8.      The exchange rate

Things I Will Miss More Than I Care to Admit:
1.      The London Centre
2.      My professors and the staff at the ICLC
3.      My flat in Earl’s Court
4.      Having my walk to class every day look like this: 
5.      The row houses in Kensington
6.      Cadbury chocolate
7.      Pub food
8.      The Tyburn
9.      Eating dinner in a pub older than my country (the Cheshire Cheese is made of win)
10.  Being within visiting distance of my awesome English beta reader
11.  The Tube
12.  The District and Piccadilly Lines
13.  Hyde Park
14.  Free museums!!
15.  The Wallace Collection
16.  The Victoria and Albert Museum
17.  Having people think that I’m French (I think I’m flattered? Mostly I just find it hilarious)
18.  So. Much. History.
19.  My internship here
20.  The maps at the Barclay bike stations
21.  British accents (and the zillion other languages one hears in London)
22.  Cheap live theatre
23.  The South Bank walk along the Thames
24.  Ceilidhs 
25.  Adventure Time with Caitlin and Lisa (and also all my other ICLC friends)

I'm sure that there is a lot more I can add to that last list especially, but you get the gist. See you back in America, blog! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Being Watched

Hello, all! It's been such a long time since my last teaser, and this one's pretty short; I'm only just getting back into the swing of writing. Bad Caitlin.

Just before this bit, Maire was being her usual lovely self, certainly endearing herself to all her new coworkers. Silly girl. She's starting to learn, though, I think.

Now, I am back to work on this! It's going somewhere - not exactly sure where half the time, but somewhere!



“Now. If you’ve a mind to be civil, I’ll give you your task for the day.”

Maire nodded and got to her feet, glancing back at the other two girls as she followed Agnes out of the room. Neither of them were looking at her. Oh, but this was certainly a grand start to it all.

“Familiar with farm-work at all, or just fish?” Agnes asked as they walked back out of the house and towards the fields.

“Yes,” Maire answered. “Potatoes.”


They fell silent again. Maire felt that her answer, while certainly not excusing her rudeness, perhaps explained it a bit. It certainly explained her filthy, tattered, skeleton-like figure, and her sudden appearance on that farm. She hoped it explained her association with the Secrets Man.

Maire turned suddenly, stumbling over her own feet, to look at the ridge at the top of the farm. There was no one there, especially not an unfathomable stranger or his demon horse, but she could not shake the feeling that that man, with that smile of his sliding across his face, was watching her.

Agnes had gotten several yards ahead then, so Maire shook her head and hurried along after her, trying to remind herself not to think or talk back or cause trouble. Just follow. Just do. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mind the Gap: Tourist vs. Townie

Once again, the crowd in front of me had come to an inexplicable standstill encompassing the whole of the sidewalk. "God, I hate tourists," I would mutter to myself as I wove my way through or dodged around or shoved past whatever people had decided to stop directly in front of me.

While it is true that no one in London knows how to walk, I'm not really sure that it's fair for me to be so incredibly frustrated with the people unknowingly blocking my way. Especially considering that I encountered these people while trying to do the same touristy things they were doing - exiting the Tube at Westminster, and later watching the Changing of the Guard.

I seem to be in the middle of a weird dichotomy. I both am and am not a Londoner - I have been here since January, and this city feels more like home to me than the town where I have gone to college for the past three years. I've learned a lot in the past five months, enough to feel incredibly comfortable navigating these old streets on my own, enough to be able to give directions when asked, but not enough to keep from turned around coming out of the Tube and having to backtrack. I certainly haven't got encyclopedic knowledge of all of London's many streets and corners, and there's still quite a lot I haven't seen, but there are certain areas that I consider to be mine. The street where I lived, the journey from the flat to school, the South Bank walk - all these are places that feel like they belong, at least in some part, to me. I know them well, and they have seen me come and go many a time.

I live here. Or rather, I will be living here for another few days. And yet, at the same time, I'm doing many touristy things this week - the Changing of the Guards, for one. Camden Market, the parks, the museums... all of these are places that the locals might visit, of course, but certainly not as often as the tourists do. And I should think that a Londoner going to the Changing of the Guards happens with the same frequency that New Yorkers visit the Empire State Building - only when they have guests from out of town!

So where does that leave me? Am I a Londoner, or am I a tourist? Am I both? Neither? Does it really matter? Probably not. I've just been struck by this strange mixture of belonging and not belonging over the past few days. I've had a very strange reception here - just about everyone I meet seems to think I'm French until I start to talk, and then my accent automatically pegs me as an American (and then, sometimes, the automatic exasperation will start to appear by degrees).

I think I'm simply wrestling with the dualities of my last week here. Am I a Londoner or am I a foreigner? How much am I looking forward to going home, versus how much do I wish I could stay? And perhaps the biggest question - how do I go about leaving one home in favor of another?

But those questions don't need to be answered just yet. So for the time being, I will simply enjoy this city that I have come to think of as home, and I will make the most of those tourist attractions, even if I will curse the crowds and the queues like the most savvy of locals.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gorgeous Scenery Galore!

I'm back off to London tomorrow, after quite a lot of time on buses and a short period of time on a plane. My time here has been really grand - lots of fun, very relaxing, amazingly beautiful.

Yesterday, it was really quite gross out, so I stayed in all morning writing (the most writing I've done in quite a long time!), and then I ventured into the library. The library wasn't so much disappointing as unenlightening; I found some books and took some notes, and maybe I'll look those books up again via the magic of interlibrary loan, but I didn't find any of the local history I'd been hoping to. Maybe I just wasn't looking in the right places. After that, though, I went to a cafe and had some tea and a delicious cupcake (eating cupcakes with a fork seems so civilized!!) in a cafe called Beile le Cheile, which the server told me how to pronounce and I have promptly forgotten, but she also taught me how to pronounce An Daingean, which is the name of this town in Gaelic and also its official name (the English version isn't recognized in terms of government anymore). It sounds something like "ahnDEYNGin." How that got Anglicized to Dingle I shall never know.

Today, though, I spent the morning doing a bit of writing and a lot of scrolling through all the pictures from this semester (I've taken over 1,000 photos this semester. Sheesh!!), and then after lunch I followed the recommendation of one of the guys who works at the hostel and walked out to the Dingle lighthouse.

The trail out wasn't so much a trail as it was a walk along the edge of the harbor through various cow pastures, but that's okay. The weather was cooperating, and I took tons of great pictures and met a very nice Canadian woman along the way.

And then I was rewarded for ducking around cows by this view:

 Oh man, but it is gorgeous here. I just love the way the clouds look, the different shades of yellow and green and brown on the hills, the light on the water, the way the blue of the harbor fades into the grey of the distant mountains. The way the sheep and cow pastures creep right to the edge, and then the land falls away, the grass disappears into jagged rocks that shoot down into the bay. It looks very different than how I imagined it to look. Everyone here is so friendly and helpful, and this tiny town is such a vibrant one. I am so lucky that I got to come here and see this for myself; hopefully I can do this place justice in my book!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"So me mind is inclined for to ramble and roam"

Guys. I am currently staying in a (surprisingly busy) hostel in a small town in County Kerry, Ireland.

That small town is the setting for my current work in progress, The Long Road Home.

*cue ALL the geeking out*

For someone who has never (successfully) written anything set in contemporary America, being in Europe has been especially amazing. I'm getting to actually see the places I'm writing about and reading about and studying, and there really are no words to explain how perfect that has been. (I think my reaction to being in Paris was something like ASKJLWREKJZS;CLJWERFSDFKJQWER. In other words, completely incoherent joy.)

It's something else again to be in the place that is so integral to the story I haven't yet finished. I get to shape the story around being here now, around actual experience. When I go home, I'll be able to pull out the photos I've taken and say "right, that's what that looks like." This is the ultimate research; it isn't multiple maps and books and internet sources woven together with a little bit of guesswork and embroidery. It's real. I'm here.

It's also really nice to be in a new place and yet be relaxed about it. I have absolutely loved all the running around and sightseeing I've done this semester, and I would do it all over again and then some, but I'm getting tired. It's nice to spend the day walking around, nonchalantly exploring a new town for several hours, and then heading back to the hostel to poke at your Word document and talk to your friends online. Today, I went for a trail ride (somewhat recreating Maire's wild ride with the Secrets Man, although nowhere near that fast!! Fittingly, I don't think my horse was very fond of me, although she wasn't a demon horse, she was just a bit cross with the world I think) which was great fun. I made friends with a really adorable barn cat and saw the town and the surrounding country from the top of the mountain (well, more like a veeery large hill, but still); plus, it's been so long since I've ridden a horse, and it was quite nice to be back in the saddle, even if, like I said, Dubai didn't like me very much. I am now completely worn out, though, but that's okay, because I can absolutely spend the rest of the evening in the hostel, drinking tea and writing and interneting. It's really nice to have that sort of freedom to do whatever the heck it is you want to do - even if that something is nothing much at all.

The other people in this hostel might think I'm a bit strange though. It's really quite busy - the internet works best in the common room downstairs, so I've been spending a lot of time there and seeing an awful lot of people come and go. There are a lot of very outdoorsy types - which makes sense considering there isn't too much to do here if you're not inclined to go hiking or boating or riding - so they must think it odd that I spend so much time with my laptop. But oh well. I have claimed a chair in the common room (the one next to the outlets, heh) and I shall continue my wonderful stay here with a mix of wandering, adventuring, sleeping, and just sitting around.

I should really get to work on that writing thing then, shouldn't I? :)

*The title of this blog post, by the way, is a line from this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG2hW-Ax3TU

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gosh it's been a while...

Hello, blogosphere! I'm sorry I've been so silent for so long; first there was the debacle that was my computer, and then my family came to visit me and finals happened, so... yeah. I've been away so long that Blogger has completely changed its posting format without me noticing! Weird! Well, I am back, and I should have internet access for the duration of my last two weeks in Europe. (Trying not to think too much about that: two weeks from today, I will be getting on a plane and going back to America. Hopefully this will be a plane that I don't get sick on, at least.) Currently, I'm mooching off the wifi in a cafe (I should probably buy something else, actually, I've been sitting here long enough...) in London; I'm here for the night before I set off on an adventure to Dingle, Ireland (the setting of The Long Road Home) and then one last week in good old London town.

 The last two weeks have been kind of strange and awesome and sad, all at once. My family came to visit me (during the world's easiest finals week) and it was so much fun getting to show them around the place that has become my home over the last four months, in spite of the fact that it rained and was miserably cold almost the entire time they were here. Oh, England. You're in drought for months, and then the skies open the one week I don't want them to? Gee, thanks. On the one nice day, I took them on the South Bank walk that was my introduction to the city - it's the walk along the Thames from Westminster to Tower Hill, and it's a really great way to see just about every London landmark all in one go.

 But by the end of the week, it turned into a festival of leaving. My mom and my sister left on Friday to go back to work and school (my dad stuck around; more on that in a bit), and then one by one my flatmates started to leave. Lisa moved out first, although she was still in London until yesterday; even though I still got to see her until it was my turn to leave, it was really strange to be in our room without her things there, or not see her huddling next to the heater in the kitchen. Matt left next, and with him most of my other friends, as the London Center's group flight was on Monday, and then Tory left the next morning, off for some adventures in Morocco with her sister. Then it was my turn to do the leaving - I had my last day of work and my last London pub dinner with Lisa. The next morning, it was time for my dad and I to set off on some adventures. I was really excited to go see Florence with him, but at the same time I was really quite sad to hand over my keys to my landlady, shut the door on my flat, and walk down my dimly lit three flights of stairs for the last time. It really punctuated the fact that this amazing experience that I am having is really coming to an end... and I don't want it to!

 I just arrived back in London after a few days in Florence with my dad. It was a lot of fun! We climbed up an awful lot of things (the terraces in the Boboli Gardens, the Cupola of the Santa Maria Del Fiore cathedral (aka the Duomo), the Bell Tower of the Duomo...), saw some pretty stunning views from the top of those things, learned a lot about the Medicis, and, of course, ate a lot of really good food and lots of fantastic gelato! It was great to spend some time with my dad and to see some sunshine for a change!

 I'm here on my own for another two weeks. Navigating European travel alone (granted, it's just to Ireland and then back to London, so I'll be in English-speaking places the whole time, not too bad) is both a scary and daunting prospect and... kind of liberating. I intend to stay in this cafe until the internet kicks me off (can it do that?) or until the place closes and they kick me out, and then I'm going back to my hostel and I'm going to bed. It's pretty early in the day to be thinking that, but I'm exhausted and currently, I have no one to please but myself, no plans but my own, no place to be but the airport in the morning. It's nice - I suspect that by the time the two weeks are up, I'll really want some friendly faces around me and I'll actually be ready to go home, but for now I'm quite ready for another adventure.