Okay, this miiight become a once-a-fortnight thing or once every month, because college class comes cracking down this Monday and I don't see myself doing anything terribly fascinating that would translate well to a post. HOWEVER, this week I
*learned the ABJECT HORRORS OF SHIPPING
*got to fulfill a forgotten childhood dream of FEELING LIKE AN ABSOLUTE PRINCESS
*realized that the answer to anything in Nottingham is most likely "ROBIN HOOD"
DHL shipping: a haiku
Wha--where's my stuff?
Angry enough to set whole
cities up in flame.
For those who don't know, DHL is when you pay a ton of money for your stuff to get shipped extra fast and extra securely. Japanese poetry set jokingly aside--I realized it sucks to know some of your most personal possessions are in transit, especially so when they were supposed to arrive nearly a week beforehand. It became clear that my packages were sent to the wrong place and I had to haul them myself, in my arms...and still have the bruises to show it. Customs tore open my stuff, and so did a different UK border control. Though they have every right and it was surely a routine check, I don't know why some plates, a coffee maker, scarves, hats, coats, and bed brickabrack warranted such treatment. And whoa, when I had to carry it all the way to my dorm...my full hell-hath-no-fury-like-an-exchange-student-scorned, I'll-kill-you-just-by-making-eye-contact anger strut propelled me like someone possessed. However, when I popped open the boxes and made my teeny tiny bed with my own quilts and fired up my coffee maker, I was incredibly relieved.
Speaking of coffee maker, I'm always kindly vocal about tea. I mean Boston Harbor, 1776, leaf water...I could pee myself teasing about tea. When I was younger, though, I was the girl who had her own china tea service, who practiced how to pour just so, to ask, "Cream, or sugar? One cube, or two?" in the perfectly hospitable hostess tone. Or I was a princess entertaining guests; my cousin and I would hold tea parties with water and fish crackers, my dolls would make plans over tea...you get the idea. So, ever since my emotional clinginess to all things related to the coffee bean, tea fell into a new category. For one thing, I'd tried some and hadn't expected the bitterness compared to a cup of joe (it sounds wrong, I know. But coffee isn't bitter. It's...intense). Really...it tasted like hot water; like someone had scraped some leaves off the ground and thrown them in a pot.
Today I went into a tea house called the White Rabbit; a shop with spectacularly nice workers and an atmosphere I can only describe as adorable. Everything was cute: the colorful fabric flags hanging from the ceiling, a hand-sponged rabbit/garden wallpaper, the teacups painted with yellow roses....goodness, I was in heaven. If a princess had stopped in, no surprise would've shot through me. Even the tables and chairs were small, to invite close company, I'm guessing. Ordering 'afternoon tea,' I drank white tea with rose and pomegranate and yes, it tasted like fragrantly boiling water until I gulped down the dregs and winced at the bitter, leafy tang. But it was the experience: I felt so happy to be in a cheery tea house, eating scones with clotted cream and jam, macaroons, and nibbling prawn sandwiches. I've never had scones before (yo, God bless whoever thought up scones); where I come from people drink tea out of mugs and only in the mornings or after a very hard day. It was a pocket-size and fluffy place and I think I'm in love. I might order a cappuccino next time, but I'm in love.
On to Nottingham. Robin hood's home turf. Holy green tights, he's everywhere here! Inescapable in a good way. If I got stopped by any rogue on the street heading home from the tram, I could probably spit "Robin Hood!" and they'd let me go and rear back at the sacred name. He graced statues, plaques, advertisements, pub names, museum exhibits, artwork, bus lines--I even saw kids wearing his trademark cap and wielding those arrows with the suction cups at the ends that always end up stuck on someone's forehead on TV. So now I really want to watch something Sherwood-related.
Scratch that--I want to throw on a tunic and scramble up a tree to join the Merry Men. Let's be serious, now. Ever since I saw the Nottingham Castle walls I've kind of been preoccupied with sword fight scenarios and sneaking into places.
What about you? :) Have any of you been to Nottingham? Do you love tea houses? Never been to one? Tea or coffee?
Well helloooo!! Obviously this is not a Round Robin, which is basically the only thing I've been doing on here since I MADE my website. So I'm trying out something I made up called "This Week in Progress." I've been doing a lot of new things lately, including temporarily moving to Great Britain AND signing contracts for two novels and a novella. But back to Britain--WHUH? MOVING?!
Normally I live in New York, USA, where there are beautiful swaying cornfields and country music with twang, and go to college at a SUNY college (which I'm having withdrawals from, ahhh!). BUT since December I wrote 12,458 emails and stressed enough to give myself permanent under-eye moons, and now am currently sitting just off campus of the University of Nottingham. Yeah, like the Sheriff of Nottingham? Sworn enemy of Robin Hood? I watched the movie with Kevin Costner when I was applying, and royally freaked out. Yes, there is jet lag, and confusing product names, and ACCENTS I have no prayer of understanding, and nobody knew what I was saying when I asked were the "carts" were at the grocery store, but I saw a castle today AND have had insane ideas and insights for writing.
In an art-historical-con-adventure WIP I'm editing, Monet Evanesce, the MC goes from Switzerland to NYC on a moment's notice and bums it in an abandoned apartment (ARGH, I almost wrote 'flat.' MY BRITISH METAMORPHOSIS HAS BEGUN)--I took three flights to get to Heathrow, London, and arrived with five hours of sleep from twenty-four-plus hours of travelling, all my clocks were wrong, I missed my bus and I was starving, but one of my main thoughts was "Oh yeah, I totally had his emotions down for that scene!"
Jet lag is weird; it's been two full days and I'm JUST pulling out of it. Before, I wasn't hungry and was extremely exhausted, lonely, and overall messed up. I couldn't draw, write, or even open Monet Evanesce to edit. It's like I was empty. THEN I started walking around, and signed up for a Ghost Walk underneath the city, and today a new friend from Seattle and I found Nottingham Castle, stopping afterward to eat at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, reputed to be the oldest pub in the England. I'm still majorly weirded out that I'm allowed to buy/drink alcohol here and classes don't start until next week, so this week is party week (ugh, no thank you, really), movie festivals, tours, fiestas, buying school supplies, registering for class, getting our lives together, etc.,etc.
Coffee shops here, thank God, are pretty abundant. I hate tea (tell no one this). All my bedding, mug/plate/bowl, cold-weather-gear and *sheds tear* coffee machine got held up in customs and SHOULD be here by tomorrow, but I'd found a place nearby called Bean that makes a mean cappuccino and looks like the sort of place I'd love to do homework and maybe even write.
My mind has been compartmentalizing all these interesting things I've been told or have overheard, just cultural things I didn't get back in New York:
*there are bird that LOOK like crows but have white bellies and wing tips; they are very pretty but apparently are magpies and attack bikers/walkers. Sometimes environmental ignorance can be really dangerous...?
*people will assume things based on your religion such as alcohol drinking/swearing. I wasn't using any profanity with this boy I just met, because it's rude to swear in front of someone when you don't know their preference where I come from. The boy patted me on the shoulder and went, "Look at you, not swearing. Good honest Catholic." I took the compliment, then explained I wasn't nearly as strictly religious as I seemed.
*"A CROW NAMED SINCLAIR": Doesn't that sound like a book title? The girl I rode to Nottingham with worked at a zoo for five years and knew a lady who'd befriended a crow. She'd put food out for him and so he'd come right up to her every time because they have facial recognition. Just a quirky thing that would go well in a story.
DOWN STEREOTYPES: a boy I met was born in Canada, has white-blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skin and a very Brit-European accent, almost American at times, but he's lived in Hong Kong and grew up in Shanghai, China, and loves to speak Cantonese. Like, wow. That made me realize people from the other continents travel a lot easier than Americans can. Two New Zealand boys on our coach bus to the University came up through Vienna/Germany and Prague before getting to the UK. One of them warned, "No! Remember what happened in Prague!" to the other when we got dropped off at the wrong place and he started to wander off.
I still don't know what happened in Prague.*
*(It did make me think of The Avengers, though.)
*KIND-OF-TRUE STEREOTYPES: Uh, yeah, lots of British people do say "You alright/okay?" instead of "what's up" or "How are you?" which was kind of jarring because I wanted to say, "Fine, thanks!" but that doesn't make sense unless I say "I'M fine, thanks." They also say "love," "bless," "brilliant," and are generally very polite. I missed my stop on the tram and had to stand in the dark with a man fixing the ticket kiosk, and he asked if I was alright, if I was a student, where I was from, and chatted with me so I wasn't awkwardly standing by myself. And the tea section in the grocery store? HUMONGOUS. The smell of tea leaves smacked me full in the face, and it was all packaged!
Basically, it's really nice because I'M doing the adventuring for once instead of writing it...and it's almost as exciting! Luckily my edits for my contracted books won't come for a bit so I can handle the culture shock, soak up Europe and MAYBE even edit while I'm here, but we'll see. I'm sort of learning to say "yes" more and so far it's led me to seeing pretty sunsets over boating lakes and wandering outside a castle. :)
Being in college opens you up to a lot of things, whether they're being taught to you by a professor or you read it on the national newspaper while passing the Starbucks in your student Union. Stuff you can't even understand, in countries you would have no confidence pointing out on a globe, dealing with traditions or beliefs you had no clue even existed. Or, you notice them right on your own campus. In your hometown. In your group of friends.
September's Round Robin:
What current issues are important to you? How often do modern social or global issues take place in your stories no matter what era or genre you write?
Class systems/racism grace everywhere from international news to local newspapers to those two old ladies gossiping right behind you: they also worm their way through several of my manuscripts.
In The Christmas Lights, my main character Louis has a hard time living in 1800s Pennsylvania because he's handicapped; stricken with severe myopia, he can barely see. He also lives in poverty, a big no-no when he wants to court one of the wealthier girls in town. Townspeople think him stupid, pitiful, a subject to whisper about. When he goes abroad to seek his fortune, Europeans look down on him because he's American and Americans are obviously brash and stupid.
Actual racism applies to a book coming out tentatively in 2017, Serpents and Flame: both of my main characters are of low blood status. Celeste is the daughter of a mortal and a Gorgon: one of the three sisters from Greek mythology who were cursed into having snake tails, tusks, bronze fingernails, and snakes for hair just because one of the sisters loved Poseidon. She lives in current day but is forced to live on a secluded island for her own safety; self-hatred consumes her. Andro, my second MC, is a Not-Quite: the son of a demigod and a mortal woman, he only has the barest of advantages over a simple mortal like you or me. He's a little quicker, maybe, perhaps a bit more skilled in sight and hearing, etc., but he's nothing in a world of heroes, enchantresses, and gods. Both characters are treated, at turns, as if they are worthless, simply marionettes to be played with by higher forces.
In another book I just finished writing and am editing, Monet Evanesce, a Polish immigrant in Paris simply wants to be an artist. He is ridiculed for his financial status, his ethnicity, his age, his learning background--even his last name. That's more of social class, and sort of has a personal twinge behind it--my last name is Kosinski. I'm a quarter Polish. Polish people are stereotyped as stupid, fat, and short--when have you ever read an exciting book where the hero hails from Poland? What even happens in Poland? Well, Jos Roszak is from Poland, and I made him the most talented forger in the twentieth century.
Lastly, feminism/sexism is something I am both wary and excited to talk about. I mean equal-rights-for-men-and-women. I mean women not making .70 for every dollar a guy makes doing the exact same job. What I don't mean is every-man-is-a-pig-and-let's-burn-down-the-patriarchy. I want a woman president if she's the best choice out of all the candidates, not just because she sports a uterus. Celeste, that MC from that book maybe coming out two years from now, does hate men in the beginning, but that's only because of the whole Gorgon curse thing and how her own father sort of tried to kill her mother after he realized she was a monster...it has nothing to do with feminism, promise. She is equal to my male MC in terms of saving the day and figuring stuff out, and you'll never find her tripping on a root and just lying there, waiting for the bad thing to come. In Monet Evanesce, woman AND men play in positions of authority and are treated with equal respect. In Nicholas, a novella tentatively coming out next winter, a very young woman rises to rule 18th-century-ish Britain with a firm hand, refusing to back down over things like murderous male plottings.
Alright. I'm going to back off the current issues now. What are you currently carrying a torch for? Animal rights? An end to terrorism? Free tofu for all? :)
Other authors slip on their activist robes at the links below; discover current issues you maybe didn't even know had to be addressed!