4

Happy Friday, everyone! How are you doing this week? Anything planned for the weekend?

I’m slowly getting back into a regular writing and blogging routine–and I’ve really missed it. My day job kept my life pretty stressful and chaotic for a while, but I also know it was an utter lack of motivation at the end of the day that contributed. I HAD time, I just chose to be lazy with it, because I was so mentally and emotionally drained from everything else going on. Things are a bit less hectic now, but I know if I want to use the precious free time I have wisely, I’m going to have to make myself do it. My life is not going to go back to the way it was before, at least not for the foreseeable future.

Is it any wonder we escape into fantasy worlds?

Last night I attended the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, which honor works that explore themes of racism and diversity. I went with a friend (the woman who is the subject of the top blog post on that page) and it was such a great experience! It was really interesting listening to the award winners talk about their books and read passages from them. I met Shane McCrae and got an autographed copy of his book of poem and prose¬†In the Language of My Captor. I’m eager to start reading it!

On my personal writing front, I’m awaiting edits on my current in-production book (with tentative, possibly-to-change release in November) and writing the sequel to it. I’m going to do something with my upcoming book that I haven’t done before and see how it turns out–and of course, I’ll make sure I share the experience on here so you guys can learn more. I’m going to use a PR service to promote it. I struggle with self-promotion beyond the obvious outlets (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) and I want to find out if it’s worth the money to hire someone else to promote it. If not, well–lesson learned. However, I feel like I can reach a wider audience (and of course, spend a lot less personal time doing so) than I can by myself. I’ll be sure to blog about the results after. Have any of you used a PR service to promote a book?

Everyone have a great weekend!

10

I must apologize again for the long pause between posts. As I explained in my IWSG post this month, my day job has been putting me through sheer helllllll. However, I finally, FINALLY think there might be a return to normalcy in my life, and while I’m still working a lot I actually get *gasp!* days off now, and a sorta-consistent schedule. I know it sounds awful but it’s also a temporary situation due to several people leaving the company and me being the only one left with the training/knowledge to get us through until the replacements are settled in. This is why they tell you to never be too useful. ūüėČ Hey, at least the pay is good?!

ANYWAY, as you might remember, I DID get a break when I went to Iceland for five wonderful days at the end of July! It was truly a dream vacation and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. It was everything I’d ever expected it to be and so, so much more. There is truly nowhere I’ve ever seen in my life that compares to Iceland–the landscape, the people, the culture, all of it. Would you like to see a whole bunch of pictures? By the way, if you click on any of these pictures you’ll get the full size so you can see all the details!

I went with my best friend, and it was a direct flight from where I live (Cleveland) to Reykjavik. Six LONG, grueling hours on a plane. Oy. It was worth it, though. TRUST me.

WARNING: This post is VERY image-heavy.

I’m on the right. I’m just going to call her BFF for the sake of this post because she’s a private person and doesn’t want to be in the “spotlight” (I promise I’m not so famous she has to worry, though!). So no names.

We arrived in Iceland on Wednesday, July 25th, which was my 43rd birthday! We had this trip quite planned out day by day, so the first thing we did after we landed was go to the Blue Lagoon. On the way there (via bus) I got my first taste of Iceland and was thoroughly dazzled. It’s like another planet.

We got our first glimpse of the Blue Lagoon after this amazing ride through the desolate countryside. You’ll hear people scoffing at the Blue Lagoon for being a “tourist trap” and “not natural” (it’s the result of an industrial accident, not a natural hot spring) but you should tell those people to take the stick out of their behind and enjoy life.

Regardless, we were thrilled to be there! And it was my birthday!

The Blue Lagoon was AMAZING. We got silica and seaweed facials, but I failed to take pictures of it. Still, I’ll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves.

I’m very pale and have a huge overbite. Luckily, I can write! ūüėČ
They had this amazing rosé ale. This is my favorite birthday picture!
We left our handprints on the bridge. Hello, random couple I accidentally caught in the picture!

We spent about three hours in the lagoon, and then had dinner in their AMAZING restaurant, called Lava, which looks out on the lagoon.

Sometimes I clean up okay.

This was only OUR FIRST DAY in Iceland, and we then took a bus trip after the lagoon to Reykjavik where our hotel was. We stayed in a place with apartments that vary in size/amenities based on required length of stay. Ours had a cute little kitchen that we swore we were gonna use to save money but instead we ate out every night. ūüėÄ We saw more amazing landscape on the way:

I was told by a friend I “take very good pictures.” But really I just yell and point my phone at things and click and click and click…there, I saved you money on photography classes!

Our hotel (these are actually pictures from right before we left on the last day (apart from the outside shot) when it was clean and we were packed, because I don’t want you to see what unholy slobs we are with our stuff everywhere:

This picture is also from the next morning but pay no mind to the timeline!

Although it was late in the evening and we’d been awake nearly 24 hours at that point, we simply HAD to go out and explore the city a bit. In the summer there’s no nighttime in Iceland, so this is what midnight looked like (this was also from another day). People asked if we had trouble sleeping. I assure you we did so much stuff every day we had no problem, also as you can see above our hotel room had thick curtains.

This was more around 11pm-ish.

We went out and saw Hallgrímskirkja, which was near our hotel (I even learned how to say it properly before the end of the trip), the tallest structure in Iceland. A few of these pictures are from the next day, because I feel I got much better pictures of it in the full light (also interior pictures).

I think we fell into bed sometime around midnight Reykjavik time, thoroughly exhausted. But my God, it was the BEST birthday of my life, and one I’ll never forget.

We had a tour of Reykjavik planned the next day (we both love cities) but first we walked down to the bay by our hotel. Reykjavik is a VERY small city, by the way. We honestly probably could have walked around it and seen most of the stuff. What it lacks in size it makes up for in majesty, though. The day was bright and sunny and the views were unbelievable.

But first, breakfast!

As I said, we went on our city tour after that and for some reason we were very happy to be on a dock. Also as you can see, the weather was VERY changeable as we started the day with sun and blue skies. It also rained A LOT, every day.

This is Perlan, and old water tower/electric steam station that they’ve turned into a cultural and entertainment center.
This is the President of Iceland’s house, which you can just walk up to (though they ask you to politely not peer in the windows). This was also the only single, solitary cop we saw the entire time we were there (guarding the house there to the left) as there is almost no crime in Iceland. As an American I can’t even begin to comment on how many radically different ideologies are presented in this one picture.

Our tour guide took us to this small, amazing, out-of-the-way park as a treat and it was wonderful!

This is 5000-year old lava!

Elf houses! Icelanders “believe” in elves, though from what I gathered from the locals it’s like “believing” in Santa Claus…
We saw some Viking stuff, but to my surprise our tour guide explained Viking stuff is “for the tourists” and most Icelanders don’t like their culture associated with Vikings, as of course, Vikings were not exactly known for being the best people…
This is the house where Gorbachev and Reagan negotiated an end to the Cold War. That happened in Iceland!
I really wanted to see the Sun Voyager and I was not disappointed!
Let me tell you a thing about this soft-feathered selfie. It’s not a filter. On the first day in Iceland I knocked my phone out of my locker at the Blue Lagoon and cracked the screen. THANKFULLY, it was only the corner, but it was RIGHT over the front-facing camera, so all my selfies have a heavenly halo because of the cracks.

So, after our tour that day, I had plans. I was so excited because one of my FAVORITE Icelandic singers,¬†Hreimur √Ėrn Heimisson, was supposed to play at American Bar that night in downtown Reykjavik (yes, American Bar!) and I thought never in my life would I get to see him play…well, I didn’t, because he couldn’t make it. However, one of his fellow musicians who I ALSO love, Matth√≠as Matth√≠asson, played instead and I was still pretty damn happy about it. Please do listen to his amazing voice in this video (the guy in the hat on the right is the guy I HOPED to see, but that’s okay). He even asked me for a request and I asked him to sing the song in the video–and he did!

They have a strange obsession with American culture there, believe it or not!
Found our plate in the bathroom!
Just like home.
This is Matth√≠as and he’s lovely! He kept apologizing for not being the guy I came to see and I felt bad about it because I really enjoyed him too. He even sang Happy Birthday to me! I made sure to hug him at the end of the night and tell him what a privilege it was to see him play.

The next day was a “free” day for us as we had nothing planned, so we decided to walk around Reykjavik and shop. We were a WEE bit hungover from the American Bar and the strenuous bar tab we rang up (booze in Iceland is outrageously expensive–take my advice and don’t drink there) so we went and had this amazing meat soup in a bread bowl.

I got an authentic handmade Icelandic sweater (as if I hadn’t spent enough money the night before) and several articles from a clothing line you can’t get in the States (Cintamani). I like clothes!
We then had to go indulge in some high, HIGH culture. After all that ratting about Reykjavik, we had to indulge in some refined entertainment!

We then went to the top of Hallgrímskirkja and saw Reykjavik from above!

We then went and had some authentic Icelandic food, including h√°karl, which is an Icelandic delicacy–fermented shark, and supposedly one of the worst things you can put in your mouth, so of course I had to try it. I’m disappointed to say it did not live up to the hype. It has a strong ammonia smell if you put it REALLY close to your nose (like almost up your nostril), but the taste is unremarkable. The server made a big deal of it when she brought it but I suspect she was playing it up for us tourists. I was too polite to tell her we didn’t think much of it, in case she was offended.

It’s the stuff in the middle with the toothpicks. Maybe the small portion made it less potent? The rest of this plate was unbelievably good!

We spent some of the rest of the evening at The Lebowski Bar, which we were already becoming regulars at. Posting these pictures on Facebook made many people on my friends list freak out, but I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen The Big Lebowski. (Remember what I said about their obsession with American culture? They also have a Chuck Norris bar.)

I wore my new clothes there because, while they were appropriate for the temperature there, I won’t be able to wear them here for months!

We managed to become regulars at not one, but two bars while we were there. This place was called Koffin (caffeine) because they also sold coffee and we hung out there several times. Also it’s after 10pm in this picture!

Street hot dogs (pylsur) are very popular there too. They’re usually served with onions but I despise the very existence of onions so I got mine without. They’re not quite like American hot dogs as they’re made of lamb and much heartier.

The next day was hands down the best day of the trip. We took a tour of the Golden Circle and south coast that lasted all day! Incoming is a million pictures (and some video) with explanations:

First stop was √ěingvellir. This is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet and one of two places in the entire world–the other place being Africa and not easily accessible–where you can see the tectonic plates coming together (the rest are under the ocean). It was beautiful. It’s also the site of the first parliament in Iceland.
Part of the (very vast) divide.
Look Ma! I’m on two different continents at once! (This split isn’t as deep as it looks, only about as deep as an average person is tall.)
This is a more accurate depiction of what the divide between the continents looks like. The part I was standing on was a tiny portion blocked off for tourists to take pictures on and the crack was narrow and not very long.

As you see BFF showing off here:

Not that this ISN’T impressive and natural, but a lot of things there are geared toward tourists. This is just a tiny crack people take pictures on.
More impressive scenery! On this tour it sometimes took 2+ hours between sites (we were in a van) but I never felt like sleeping because there was so much to see. Our tour guide gave us “nap breaks” where he didn’t talk but I couldn’t sleep. How could I?! Also he told the most amazing stories about Icelandic folklore.

And then we saw a GLACIER and I’m still so stupidly excited about this. The white bit above the mountains isn’t part of the sky but a glacier (do click on these and look at them in full size!). I also learned something that day when I posted the picture on Facebook and one of my friends asked if there was audio of it. I was like “It’s a glacier, it doesn’t have sound?” Turns out glaciers DO make noise, as they crack and shift. But we weren’t close enough to hear it, sadly. Also they do glacier tours in Iceland where you can hike across them. Reasons to go back…

Another angle.

We visited¬†Go√įafoss next. “Foss” is the Icelandic word for “waterfall” so you’re going to be seeing it come up a lot:

Cause why wouldn’t you do a selfie? Also my attire tells you how cold it was.

Next were the thermal pools and geysers. One of the most awful/hilarious facts about the huge geysers is that one of them is blocked because humans kept throwing rocks in them trying to get it to erupt, and now it’s clogged. Isn’t that just us?

 

Strokkur erupting!

We continued along the south coast and I couldn’t get enough of the scenery.

The top of Eyjafjallajökull (the volcano that stopped air traffic in 2010).

We went to Skogafoss next, which is one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland. You need a video to appreciate it.

My autobiography is going to be called: Waterfalls and Overbites, a Memoir.

Our next stop was¬†Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. It was the #1 thing I went to see and it didn’t disappoint even slightly despite the fact it was raining. I ended up taking a volcanic rock home from the sand. This led to BFF telling me the elves were going to follow me home and demand their rock back.

I look ridiculously happy everywhere. Especially on basalt stacks.

 

The last stop was¬†Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall you can actually walk behind. It was a treacherous climb but–I’ve honestly never had a more amazing experience in my life. It was nearly holy. I can’t even tell you how exhilarating it was.

Just happy to be alive.

On the other side!

It was an AMAZING day. The next day, our last day there, we didn’t do anything too remarkable before going to the airport, but we had some good food:

Me saying goodbye to Iceland as we waited for our ride to the airport!

It was such an astounding trip.

If you have any questions for me about the trip/the culture/what it’s like there, feel free to ask! And thank you for sitting through ALL this!

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This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop.¬†The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer‚Äôs Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.¬†The awesome co-hosts for the¬†August 1 posting of the IWSG are¬†Erika Beebe,¬†Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley,¬†and¬†Lee Lowery!

Hoo boy, this is my first post on the blog in WEEKS and I simply must apologize to my followers and readers. Offline life was wild in July. The good: I went on an AMAZING vacation to Iceland (which I will talk about in another blog post this week). The suck: my ‘day job’ has increased in hours, responsibilities, and the demand for my attention, so I’ve had a hard time being around on here even when I’m not on vacation. Real life bites, doesn’t it? Except when it nibbles.

That’s where my insecurity comes from this month, of course–all the outside demands for my attention means my writing, and certainly my blogging, is suffering. Some nights I literally come home from work, sleep, and go right back in the morning. In theory, this situation is only temporary due to various factors at work, but it leaves me no time or energy for writing right now. I can barely maintain my house and run errands let alone find time to be creative.

But, I’m going to try to fit it in, chaos be damned. Because I have fit it in, all my life, no matter what was happening. I’ve always MADE the time and I’m going to have to do that again until things get smoother. I just have to find the focus. Hey, at least I made it for the IWSG this month!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

One thing that took me a long time to realize is not to rush things. Though it hurts to admit, not everything you write is gold. Especially when you’re a fairly new writer. In fact, you write a lot of crap that you think is brilliant but is really, well, crap. When I was younger I tended to think I was some kind of magician with words and was quick to send all my fine masterpieces off to publishers way ahead of them actually being ready for publication–and I received an ever-growing steaming pile of rejections as a result.

Writing and perfecting a work takes time–a lot of time, and a lot of patience. And even when you do shape and mold it carefully and get it all pretty and shiny, it might still be a dud and never get published. But if us writers are anything, it’s gluttons for punishment. So try, try again!

Thank you to all my readers for sticking around during this time. I’m going to try to get more posts up this month!

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Summer is here in my part of the world! Finally. Summer is my second favorite season, after fall–only because I love the colors so much in fall. Although, spring is pretty too…

Let’s just say I like any season that ISN’T winter, shall we?

I probably like summer so much because we tend to have mild, temperate summers. It can get scorching hot, but only for a few days at a time here and there, usually not until late July and August. Other than that, it’s mostly in the 70’s and low 80’s, which to me is the perfect range of temperatures. Summer is great–it’s a time to open windows, when everything is green, and going outside doesn’t involve 15 minutes of putting on multiple layers like it does here in the winter. Maybe I just need to move somewhere it’s summer all year around. But then I’d miss fall.

Are we just going to talk about the weather all day?

I have a new book coming out Wednesday! I’m excited about it. You can check out the cover reveal I did last week to learn more about it. I have a book out on submission too, this one a paranormal romance–much as I like writing contemporary and will continue to do so, paranormal is my first love. I’m writing the sequel to it and also plotting another Man Catalog book. Between work and other stresses in my life, I’m afraid I might lose my mind this summer if I don’t have writing to keep me busy. So I’m trying to do just that!

How is the weather where you are? Got any plans for the new season, or any writing plans?

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It’s Friday! Which doesn’t mean much to me since I work on the weekends, but I hope some of you get to enjoy it. ūüėČ

Here’s the thought for today: what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m not otherwise creatively inclined, which is strange and unfortunate because I know so many other creative people with multiple talents. But I can’t sing, draw, play an instrument, or do anything remotely creative otherwise. Perhaps I can act, but I haven’t done any of that since high school plays. I guess I’m just happy I can write. If it wasn’t part of my life, I don’t know what I would be doing instead…maybe something in the writing field anyway, like editing or being an agent.

What do you think you’d be doing instead of writing (outside of your current ‘day job’ if you have one, of course)?

This week in my world, my job is settling down a bit, though my schedule is going to change soon. It’s a welcome change, though. I’m eagerly awaiting my vacation in Iceland next month, as well! I’m really going to need it. Writing-wise, I have a new book coming out on June 27th, I just submitted another one, and I’ve started writing a new one, so the writing train is chugging along. One of these days, one of these days…maybe no more day job!

The Marrying Type also got a glowing 5 star review at The Romance Reviews this week, AND they made it a top pick! It was such a nice surprise and I’m totally stoked about it.

Everyone have a great weekend!