Friday, August 25, 2017

Ireland: Most Peaceful Ruins

The tower was ahead of a me--a medieval round tower, the sign next to it said, built of gray stone. Coming up the rather rocky path and the higgledy-piggledy headstones ahead of us, the tower was the tallest structure around, the first of these medieval ruins my cousin Liz and I could see.

The round tower was built between 900 and 1100, the sign said. 900 to 1100. My country was founded in 1776. We don't have manmade structures from the years 900 to 1100. This tower was older than my country.

I reached out a hand to touch the tower's rough stone, placed my palm flat on it. I'm a history nerd and though I didn't know the history of this site we were visiting or of the tower, I knew it was likely to be the oldest thing I'd ever get to touch.

"Watch," Liz said. "You touched it. Now it's going to fall down."

I side-eyed her. The snark is strong with this cousin.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Art in Georgian/Regency England

The Exhibition room, Royal Academy of Arts

My heroine, Jane, is in London in 1804. She likes to paint and draw, but hasn't done either in the year since her husband died. Also, I need her to re-meet and fall in love with Miles Keegan, in order for this story to have the necessary genre romantic elements.

While I was in Ireland, away from my laptop, I brought a notebook with all of my notes for anything related to my fictional Georgian/Regency Keegan universe in it and told myself that I was going to figure out how Jane and Miles run into each other in London and what, exactly, Jane is doing while she's in London besides "figuring out what she wants to do with her life after her year of mourning is up."

Because that's vague.

I had an idea that maybe Jane, unable to resist art, goes to see the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The summer exhibition at the gallery was a staple of the London Season; it was even featured, briefly, in Downton Abbey.

Or as I told my cousin Liz one night in Limerick, "I need them to get together and I had this idea that either she runs into him after buying a lot of art supplies--I wonder if they had art supply stores back then?"

"Nah, I don't think so. Can't they run into each other somewhere else? It's London, right? What is he doing in London? How long is he there for? What's she doing in London? What do they like to do?"

"Maybe something like the portrait gallery? She likes art, he's sort of attending those kinds of snooty events."

And Liz nodded. This is why brainstorming things with other writers (Liz writes Castle fanfiction) is supremely helpful.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ireland: Best Alcohol Related Tour

The Jameson chandelier!
In fairness, my cousin Liz and I only went on two alcohol-related tours on this trip to Ireland, so to proclaim one "the best alcohol related tour" isn't quite right. They were both good--if anyone reading this goes to Ireland, Guinness and Jameson are must-gos.

The stereotype is that Irish people like to drink, yeah? And they do, for the most part. But that's not the whole story, which is why it grates on my nerves when St. Patrick's Day is used as an excuse to get sloshed.

But Ireland is known for several brands of alcohol and they're quite proud of them (and being Irish-American, Liz and I encounter Irish alcohol at home and at family gatherings), so on our first day in Ireland, Liz and I were taken on a tour to the Guinness Storehouse in St. James's Gate, Dublin.

Basically, as you walk through the building, you see the ingredients that go into making beer, you learn some of the history of Arthur Guinness and his beer (and his yeast), you see some of what the brewery used to look like. There are advertisements that Guinness has put out over the years--a lot of it in audio-visual form.

The ads are amusing; there's a display of all the animals Guinness has used in its ads over the years, like the toucan, seals, bears, lions, turtles...

Guinness has a bar where you can pull your own pint of stout, but it was super crowded (the entire building was extremely crowded that day), so Liz and I opted to go up to the Gravity Bar, where you can see 360-degree views of Dublin and get a complimentary pint of Guinness poured to perfection.

I finished half the pint, which, considering the size of a pint and the size of, well, me, I think I did pretty well. It's definitely the best Guinness I've had.

Gravity Bar, Guinness Storehouse

(You get the complimentary drink ticket upon the admission into the Guinness Storehouse, I think. Our tour company handled all that.)

But actually, I liked the other alcohol-related tour we went on better. We went to the Jameson Old Distillery in Midleton, County Cork, where we went to learn all about the process of making Jameson triple distilled Irish whiskey--mostly how they did it in the old days.

Jameson's tours are done in smaller groups with a tour guide, so our tour group of twenty was its own group with our own Jameson guide. She took us through the nineteenth century Jameson buildings, where they used to malt the barley and mix it with water and let the malt ferment.
A very large water wheel at Jameson's

She went through the entire process of how the whiskey is made, how the whiskey is barreled (Jameson buys a lot of its barrels from American bourbon makers and lets the whiskey age in them). It was really fascinating and the old equipment, machinery, and the barrels (I swear, I was getting buzzed from smelling them) enhanced the experience.
Whiskey at different stages. The second one from the left is 3 years.

Irish whiskey has to legally age three years to be an Irish whiskey, though Jameson tends to age theirs until six years before bottling them.

At the end, our guide took volunteers to try three different whiskeys as a comparison test. After that, we were let loose in the Jameson bar to drink plain Ginger Ale for the under-agers and non-drinkers, straight Jameson for the brave, and Jameson and Ginger Ale with a wedge of lime cocktail for the rest of us.

The cocktail's quite good, btw.

I think, for me, the difference in crowd size contributed to my overall experience, though I'm more likely to drink Guinness than whiskey. (My father is slightly incredulous at this: "Guinness is like drinking a meal." Guinness, however, does not give me the hangovers that whiskey does.)

Also, because we'd arrived early on the morning of the Guinness visit, Liz and I were both slightly out of it by that time of the afternoon, which may have contributed to overall enjoyment levels. I enjoyed Guinness, but I was way more energetic at Jameson.

That may have been because I ate an entire bar of mint chocolate before Jameson, bought from the Blarney Chocolate Factory.

Both gift stores were cool. There was a lot of Guinness-infused food at Guinness Storehouse. Liz bought some Guinness fudge things, which we snacked on for the next few days. Pretty darn good.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ireland Trip: Best Scenery: The Ring of Kerry

On Wednesday, August 9th, my cousin Liz and I and the rest of the merry band of twenty people who made up our tour group set off from Limerick for County Kerry because we were going to see the Ring of Kerry.

The Ring of Kerry is a circular scenic route on the Iveragh peninsula in southwest Ireland. A lot of the roads are quite narrow, which reminded me of visits to Japan as a kid--tour buses do the route in counter-clockwise fashion and cars in clockwise. It keeps buses from bumping into each other and clogging up roads.

The Ring of Kerry easily wins best scenery of the trip. I think you'll be able to see why.

With Charlie Chaplin in Waterville, Co. Kerry

The Blind Piper pub in Caherdaniel

Village of Sneem, Co. Kerry

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Accurately Titled Novels and a travel notice

First order of business: I came across a really funny writing-related album on the Facebook: Accurately Titled Novels.

While giggling in glee at the titles (Especially the one about winning the Booker Prize, but no one's actually read the ending), I came across this one, which I think is related to my general aesthetic:

From Writers' HQ
So, I actually wouldn't mind finding this particular stock photo for the draft I'm writing now, since it's a historical mainly focused around a woman who happens to have red hair.


Second order of business: I'm going away for a few days with my only girl cousin (Girl trip!). I've no need to be cryptic about this trip, but you know, they say not to post stuff about trips on social media, which seems pretty sound advice to me. We're going to Ireland!

We won't be gone very long though, so behave yourselves!

But I shall come back with pictures and I hope, lots of anecdotes and factoids and stories--and I'm taking a notebook with me so I can jot things down (and outline the rest of the current draft, so I can hit the ground running when I'm back). I'm going to persuade my cousin, who dabbles in writing, to help me come up with a fun series of trip-related blog posts. Maybe she'll agree to guest post! 

See ya!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

IWSG: Pet Peeves

It's the first Wednesday in August, which means it's time for IWSG! Do check out the IWSG here.

I can report that the novel is plugging along. I restarted the draft in a way--there's an inciting incident in the other copy of the draft which has now happened further in the past, to make way for more action in this copy of the draft. That sounds confusing. Anyway, on to the monthly question:

What are your pet peeves when writing/reading/editing?

Writing pet peeves: people who quote writing rules constantly. "No prologues! Too much description! (Not enough description!) Where's the action--shouldn't you have action? That dialogue doesn't ring true. That dialogue is too much like how real people speak to each other."

Go. Away. Yes, knowing creative writing rules is very useful and you should totally learn them! And once you learn them, you can pick and choose which ones to ignore based on your particular stories.

Pet peeves when reading...well, it's annoying if the book turns out to be boring or far too detailed or preachy, of course. I don't like contrived plots, characters who are Too Stupid To Live, romance heroes who are just...the worst human beings (fictionally) alive, or events that don't jive with the rest of the story.

On the other hand, I've been sucked in by many a book that contained contrived plots and characters and go completely whack-a-doodle and loved them--and only really recognized the flaws later. Or sometimes I've realized as I'm reading them: "Seriously? There's a shipwreck and they're holding onto wreckage and there might be a shark or something? After everything else in this book? Are you nuts?"

Also, I really don't like being told what to read. Don't even try.