A brief update…life, the universe, and everything.

Since the last time I wrote was 6 months ago, I figured I should give you an update on my life. Who knew these past several months would be so crazy? I mean, well, I guess I should have realized this would be the case. When has life never been full of surprises?

Since November I’ve…

  • written a novel
  • graduated with a master’s degree
  • traveled to Europe
  • traveled to California
  • lost beloved family members
  • watched my sister move to Japan
  • met award-winning authors
  • been published
  • picked up a freelance gig
  • accepted a summer publishing internship
  • seen dear friends wed
  • seen dear friends graduate and move away

Really, it’s been quite a year. And of course, I have loads of pictures.

This was one of the interior courtyards of a building in Budapest. It looked perfectly ordinary from the outside, but once we went inside to visit one of the agencies we were greeted with this view. The only downside I can think is having to carry groceries up several flights of stairs. I would live here in a heartbeat.

This was one of the interior courtyards of a building in Budapest. It looked perfectly ordinary from the outside, but once we went inside to visit one of the agencies we were greeted with this view. The only downside I can think is having to carry groceries up several flights of stairs. I would live here in a heartbeat.

We walked across the famous Chain Bridge that separates the Buda side from the Pest side of Budapest. We traveled up the stairs to Buda Castle. I'm fairly certain I left part of my heart in this city.

We walked across the famous Chain Bridge that separates the Buda side from the Pest side of Budapest. We traveled up the stairs to Buda Castle. I’m fairly certain I left part of my heart in this city.

The Széchenyi Baths in Budapest. Absolutely beautiful. Open 365 days a week. I learned that some men come every day when the baths open and they sit in the water and play chess against one another for hours. You can see the smallest glimpse of those men in the bottom right hand corner of this picture.

The Széchenyi Baths in Budapest. Absolutely beautiful. Open 365 days a week. I learned that some men come every day when the baths open and they sit in the water and play chess against one another for hours. You can see the smallest glimpse of those men in the bottom right hand corner of this picture.

Amsterdam. This place had special significance because I was able to visit the Anne Frank House and it was also featured in The Fault in Our Stars (which is coming out in theaters this June). It's crazy that I visited Indianapolis AND Amsterdam within a year of reading John Green's book.

Amsterdam. This place had special significance because I was able to visit the Anne Frank House and it was also featured in The Fault in Our Stars (which is coming out in theaters this June). It’s crazy that I visited Indianapolis AND Amsterdam within a year of reading John Green’s book.

We saw Wicked in London. It was quite spectacular and I loved it.

We saw Wicked in London. It was quite spectacular and I loved it.

Overlooking London from the very top of St. Paul's Cathedral. My mother had warned me that it would be a lot of stairs...and it was A. LOT. OF. STAIRS. It was quite a work out. But the view was more than worth it. SO worth it.

Overlooking London from the very top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. My mother had warned me that it would be a lot of stairs…and it was A. LOT. OF. STAIRS. It was quite a work out. But the view was more than worth it. SO worth it.

I've been fascinated with this building ever since my first visit to London. The Gherkin (as it's fondly known) is such a glorious structure. I got to the base and toured the art installations that were placed around this area for the 2013-2014 year.

I’ve been fascinated with this building ever since my first visit to London. The Gherkin (as it’s fondly known) is such a glorious structure. I got to the base and toured the art installations that were placed around this area for the 2013-2014 year.

We took a bus ride around the city to see some of the sights. Unfortunately, I had desperately wanted to ride the London Eye, but it was closed for construction the entire time we were in London. I was still able to admire it from afar though.

We took a bus ride around the city to see some of the sights. Unfortunately, I had desperately wanted to ride the London Eye, but it was closed for construction the entire time we were in London. I was still able to admire it from afar though.

One of the best museums I've been to. Such a glorious set of buildings and gardens. Every angle was interesting and engaging. I could have spent days at the Getty Center. So. Good.

One of the best museums I’ve been to. Such a glorious set of buildings and gardens. Every angle was interesting and engaging. I could have spent days at the Getty Center. So. Good.

I loved seeing Frank Gehry's design. He's a fabulous architect and I enjoyed exploring the exterior of this building.

I loved seeing Frank Gehry’s design. He’s a fabulous architect and I enjoyed exploring the exterior of this building.

This was absolutely the BEST FRENCH TOAST I have ever had. It was some sort of egg brioche that was then covered in frosted flakes and came with a vanilla bean sauce that was heavenly. The fruit was also a fantastic touch.

This was absolutely the BEST FRENCH TOAST I have ever had. It was some sort of egg brioche that was then covered in frosted flakes and came with a vanilla bean sauce that was heavenly. The fruit was also a fantastic touch.

My friend took me to this lights exhibit outside the LACMA. It was fantastically cool and I loved it.

My friend took me to this lights exhibit outside the LACMA. It was fantastically cool and I loved it.

One of my loves: the ocean. Even though the water was a little bit chilly, I couldn't help strolling in the water.

One of my loves: the ocean. Even though the water was a little bit chilly, I couldn’t help strolling in the water.

This was on my journey up the California coast, I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and got to this beach just in time to watch the sunset. The view was glorious.

This was on my journey up the California coast, I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and got to this beach just in time to watch the sunset. The view was glorious.

Chinatown in San Francisco. I wandered down the streets before most places were open and it was nice to walk down the streets without very many other people. The emptiness was strangely soothing.

Chinatown in San Francisco. I wandered down the streets before most places were open and it was nice to walk down the streets without very many other people. The emptiness was strangely soothing.

Yes, I am a tourist. And it was my first time seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person. How could I not take pictures from every angle? I also walked halfway across before getting cold and tired and heading back (I had been up since 5:15am and it was already around 3-4pm when I got to the bridge. I was ready to rest.)

Yes, I am a tourist. And it was my first time seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person. How could I not take pictures from every angle? I also walked halfway across before getting cold and tired and heading back (I had been up since 5:15am and it was already around 3-4pm when I got to the bridge. I was ready to rest.)

Andrés Neuman was the featured guest of the 2014 Puterbaugh Festival sponsored by World Literature Today. I got the chance to photograph the events and I was also invited to the photoshoot for the magazine cover. It was so cool.

Andrés Neuman was the featured guest of the 2014 Puterbaugh Festival sponsored by World Literature Today. I got the chance to photograph the events and I was also invited to the photoshoot for the magazine cover. It was so cool.

Graduated from the University of Oklahoma with my masters in Professional Writing. Next step: NYC and getting a job in publishing.

Graduated from the University of Oklahoma with my masters in Professional Writing. Next step: NYC and getting a job in publishing.

A Conversation With a Three-Year-Old

“What’s this? It looks like a chocolate sprinkle, is it a sprinkle?” He said.

I extended my hand and he dropped the small black speck into my outstretched palm. I had to peer down close and determine the strange substance. What would a chocolate sprinkle be doing in a gym?

“No, sorry, it’s not a sprinkle. It’s just a piece of black plastic,” I said.

“Oh,” He said. He took the speck back and held it in his hand for a moment more, scrunching up his face and pondering.

“So does that mean we shouldn’t eat it?” He finally asked.

Laughing: “No, definitely don’t eat it,” I said.

Whoops, I’m behind again…

So, it’s the halfway point with National Novel Writing Month. You’re supposed to be at the sweet spot of 25,000 words and feeling pretty good about yourself.

But I’m behind. I’m only at 14,000. Which is still a decent word count and all, but I’m determined to catch up.

That’s why I just sat down and did a marathon sprint of writing. 3,100 words in 45 minutes! That’s pretty crazy, but it actually went by really fast because I got a lot of my plot hammered out. I hadn’t really known where I was going and so this is a great development.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo right now, how are you faring? Good? Bad? Don’t want to talk about it?

NaNoWriMo – who’s with me?!

So a lot of you have probably heard about National Novel Writing Month. If not, you should definitely check out this link. Basically you write a novel in 30 days. The whole point is to get 50,000 words written and at the end of November you’ll have “won” Nanowrimo. And even though that sounds like a huge number it’s only a measly 1,667 words a day! Anyone can do that!

I love it! I actually did it in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and won each year. (AKA, I have over 150,000 words in 3 random novels that would need heavy amounts of editing to actually be worth reading.)

But that’s not the point of nanowrimo. The point is to get words down on paper. To get the story out of your system. To jump over that terrifying hurdle of “what can I possibly be thinking – there’s no way I can get this down, I’ll mess it up!” It’s about quantity versus quality. Because, let’s face it folks, you’ve got 1 month to write a novel and then 11 other months to edit and revise it.

So, I’ve always been the kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-let’s-write-about-whatever-today nanowrimo kinda girl. Meaning I’ve never had a plot or any foggy idea what my novel was about. This year I prepared a little. I seriously thought about what I was going to write about beforehand. I didn’t really make any leeway with my thoughts, but I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about before I started typing. And that’s more than can be said for previous years.

Also, if you’re doing nanowrimo – feel free to add me! I’m under LauraRaquel! I’d love to watch your progress as we embark on this adventure of literary abandon.

So here’s to the start of November and all the other participants writing a novel! You’ll probably be hearing some nanowrimo rants on this blog as well during the month.

Please don’t psychoanalyze my dreams

For most of my life I’ve had crazy dreams. Dreams that really don’t make sense and are often more confusing than a mashup of Shel Silverstein poetry and Dr. Seuss characters.

For instance, I’ll give you an example from a weird dream I can STILL remember from a couple of years ago. I don’t know what I was doing in the dream, but I woke up being deathly terrified of an orange pool noodle shaped like an otherwise cute animal (seriously, it was like a sea-horse or something) and I vividly remember thinking that if that pool noodle found me I’d be dead. Weird.

Pool animals — Not nearly as scary when becoming conscious again.

Also, another freakish example of my late night brain shenanigans: I was on a cruise with my family and before I could go ashore I had to buy all new clothes from the cruise ship mall and eat my biscuits before the deflated shark on the pool deck got to them first. Yeah, like I said, kind of strange.

And these dream musings lead me to think about a few things…

  1. Haven’t I always heard that people dream in black & white?
  2. Is there some possible way I can harvest the creativity in my dreams and use them in my writing?
  3. Do I have such strange dreams because I’m a freak?

So I did some internet probing to figure out what was up with my preconceived notion about B&W dreams. And this is what I found. (Actually, I found a lot of things, but most were hokey-looking sites, and this seemed  kinda/sorta/hopefully legit.) It’s an interesting snippet saying that people used to think they dreamed in B&W, but that may have been strongly influenced by their B&W media. Now they think the majority of people dream in color. I know I dream in color because it’s usually a central part of my dreams…like that orange pool noodle, or that pink floral & denim dress I had to buy from the cruise ship mall.

Also, I’ve heard about some authors who are directly influenced by their dreams and use some of that material for their writing. And I’m always so jealous. This seemed like such a cool idea. But if you’ll kindly recall the two snippets of dreams I described for you…you can see why this would just make all my novels awkward.

It’s a little strange, because I’ve often had dreams that are super epic when I’m asleep and the back of my mind is making comments like: “When you wake this up, you should write this down, it’d make a great story.” or “Make sure you remember this, it’d be a super duper fantastic plot twist!” and other happy thoughts. But when I wake up and actually remember my dream it’s not super epic, it’s usually horribly lackluster. I really wish I could use this fountain of creativity for my writing…but it’s too bizarre to filter out anything worthwhile.

Also, have you ever been so caught up in a dream that when you finally wake up your mind has trouble distinguishing what’s reality and what’s fantasy? Because I’ve done that. And it’s kind of annoying because it leaves me with this cryptic sense of deja vu for the rest of the day.

So what about you? Strange dreams? Creepy dreams? Funny dreams? No dreams?