Today, I got my passport. And there was much rejoicing!

It came while we were away so I hit the Royal Mail delivery office at 7 AM this morning and picked it up, along with all my supporting documents. My BRP (biometric residence permit)–the actual visa–is on its way today. All because I read from a fellow applicant online about how to request your own applicant passport back “for ID purposes only”. They returned it but also processed the visa before returning it, so thank goodness that’s over with. Another 2 years until the fun starts again!

Thank you, God! I cannot tell you how relieved I am. And it “only” took 3 months, but I know that if I hadn’t taken that guy’s advice I’d be among the masses who are waiting 6-12 months in limbo, with neither ability to travel nor certainty of their legal status as migrants.



I’ve done lousy this month. So lousy, in fact, that I can’t even bring myself to re-list my stated goals.

On the flip side, I’m nearly done with one MAJOR goal that I didn’t even know I had until this month began: revising my first story from top to bottom. Again. For real.

I’ve opened a new doc for each chapter in Scrivener, and re-written every single word. Even the sentences I’m merely copying across because I’m still happy with them. Everything’s being retyped so that my fingers and my brain are engaged, and a decision is made with each keystroke how to better this story. I’m nearly done, and will be finishing one of my goals within 1-2 weeks.

I may not have written another 20k on my WIP, or finished all my beta reading yet (which, to be fair, more than doubled since I set those goals!), but I am about a thousand times happier with my first story. So I’m in no way regretting how this month went. Unexpected can be a good thing 🙂

We were here. Tintagel, Cornwall, supposed birthplace of King Arthur.

Sorry for being late this time around but my husband’s birthday coincided with a trip with some friends down to North Devon and we were away for 5.5 days. I didn’t bring my laptop because I didn’t think there’d be wifi. There was wifi. Whoops. I will be doing a last check around some blogs and hope to see them ALL before Monday! Hope you did well if you were participating this month!



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A Love Letter to Allegany

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

-Frodo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring

Dear Allegany,

I’m so sorry I didn’t get to see you this year. I got married and some of my family and dear friends flew all the way to Scotland to see us tie the knot. I wanted to share it with you, but we just didn’t have the means. But we had perfect weather and a day I’ll never forget, followed by a week in Corfu. It was the best time of my life.

But I’ve had lots of “best times”. Last year, the best time I’d ever had was the week I spent with you. My husband-to-be and I rented one of the same cabins that my family and I always rented when visiting you on the Ryan Trail. Every summer from when I was a baby, we rented a cabin on that trail or sometimes others, and stayed a week or more. Playing in the creek, at the beach, on the playgrounds, visiting the A-building museum and gift shop, hiking the trails, fishing at Red House or Science Lake, exploring woods, spotting animals, roasting marshmallows, playing board games on the screened porch with the glorious scent of the falling rains, smelling of campfire, looking for salamanders post-rain, climbing Thunder Rocks. The list is endless and some of the best memories of my thirty-four years are with you.

As I got older, my sisters and I would bring a tent and camp. Then it got to be short visits, a day here or there, when I lived away from home, but I’ve only missed a very small handful of summers with you. In recent years I’ve made sure I came back. Last year topped them all: the first time I’d stayed in one of your ash-scented green cabins since childhood. Opening that creaking, battered screen door, the smell I hadn’t thought of since I was ten hit me like a nostalgic tidal wave, washing memory after memory over me.

My parents came down with us to help us set up. I’d never stayed in a cabin there as an adult, so Mom had a long list of everything she remembered she always packed. An axe, matches, antibacterial gel, buckets, dish soap and pan, tons and tons of newspaper, citronella candles, Trivial Pursuit, a mirror, a nightlight, a lantern, a kitchen full of food . . . a car’s worth of supplies.

It was a beautiful week. Every evening, we walked around Red House Lake with the setting sun, looking for the animals that came out at dusk. I showed my future husband the place most important to me that feels like part of why I am who I am. One of my sisters and her family came to visit for a day. I loved seeing the kids’ faces enjoying everything the way I enjoyed it, hopefully making memories like the ones I’ll always cherish.

You’ve always been my favorite place on Earth. You remind me of all that was good and fun and exciting in my childhood, and when I go back, it’s like I’m 6 years old again, without a care in the world.

This year, I missed you. After our amazing week last year, I swore I’d never miss you again, even if we were reunited for only one day in a summer’s visit home. Life has other plans sometimes. My passport has been in the hands of the UK Border Agency for several months now, stuck in their backlog of visa applications, and I missed seeing you this summer. And as the summers disappear quicker than a blink, I realize how precious my time is, and what I do with it counts more than ever.

Next year, we’ll be back. We’ll rent a cabin and I won’t spend a second of my time with you thinking about anything else. But knowing that you’re there, even when I can’t be, that other people are enjoying you— that makes my heart happy. 

Thank you for a lifetime of memories, and the rest of my lifetime for even more. I can’t put a value on the amount you ignited my imagination as a child, and how much joy you always bring me. Maybe someday I’ll introduce my own kids to you. Please don’t let anyone change you, and I’ll see you next summer.


P.S. I could do without the hanging caterpillars, though.

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The waiting game

I’ve not posted in awhile but with this month being another #Writemotivation goal month, I’ll be fixing that! And if you’re a writer and not familiar with K.T. Hanna’s #Writemotivation group, please check it out! 🙂 It’s the friendliest group of writers I’ve met, and am so grateful for their welcoming zombie stripper t-rexes waving pom poms and bearing cookies. Or something like that.

We had a 4-day weekend last weekend so I was all excited for that and basically got nothing done for the week before, or this past week (sad, I know). Other stuff has kept me busy, too, though. I finally landed a work experience placement with a publisher, after the one I was asked to interview for was cancelled AFTER I booked £160 train tickets for (which Royal Mail has now lost, and Virgin Trains refuses to refund me despite proof that I sent the tickets to them and therefore didn’t take the journey, but don’t get me started on Virgin. I will definitely never, ever, ever use their services again. Appalling customer service. And am pretty darn glad they lost the bid for the West Coast franchise!!! But I digress…). I’m excited for the placement I was offered at another publisher in Edinburgh, and will begin that the second week of October for 4 weeks. As we’re planning to buy a house and settle in Scotland, this might help open some doors for meeting people and getting the experience I’ll need to land a job up there. But it also means being away from my husband for awhile, and since we just got married in May, I’m not thrilled about this. But after 2 years of trying to find work down here, you can bet I’m taking this opportunity when I can.

Our weekend was a blast. We played beach volleyball on Saturday, and Sunday hiked along the Brecon Beacon ridges around Pen-y-Fan and had beautiful weather.

I’m throwin’ up all kinds of photos to make up for not posting for awhile. People like photos, right? 😀

Then we got a train into Paddington early Monday morning and spent 2 very full days on one of my favourite activities: traipsing around London. I love to traipse, especially there. The museums are endlessly fascinating, even when I’ve visited them 10 times already. I always see new things, and now that I’m dabbling in historical fiction (to a degree ;)), it’s even more interesting to see some of the artefacts from the time period I’m writing about.

I feel a bit like this guy right now, waiting for my passport & visa.

I had my 4th or 5th visit to the British Museum, and the above is one of the Lewis Chessmen, a chess set dug up on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. These chaps are made of walrus ivory and whales’ teeth and date back to 1150 AD. Not among the oldest items in the collection by a long shot, but fascinating nonetheless.

Then, the major event of the weekend was seeing Les Miserables in the West End for my third time. The first time was on my 30th birthday, second time was just this past May when my sisters visited from the U.S. and got us front row seats (nothing could beat that!) and this time was courtesy of a friend’s wedding gift, so we had 7th row and it was, once again, the most moving show I’ve ever seen. I cry pretty easily normally, but this show pushes me over the edge. I’ve been a musical fanatic since I was a kid. Phantom was my long-standing favourite, replaced by RENT. I still love both, but nothing beats Les Mis for me now.

And it always makes me giggle when Marius sings, “Hey Eponine, what’s up today?” Anyone else? *crickets*

Best show ever! Even when Gavroche’s ammo bag doesn’t quite make it up to the top of the barricade…

I made the mistake of wearing some crap shoes, though. It was ironic. My first ever day in the UK was spent walking around London, and I bought a pair of sparkly flats from Faith on Oxford Street because they were more comfortable than what I had on, and plus I just wanted to buy shoes from Oxford Street (because, c’mon, who travels to London and doesn’t buy shoes?). And now, 5 years later, I wore those same shoes both days on our trip to London, and my feet were *screaming*. So I bought a new pair of shoes on Oxford Street to replace the sparkly flats and save my toe from needing blister-related amputation. Someday, I’ll learn!

I never tire of London’s sights, and the crowds are good exercise for my elbows.

Despite having a wonderful fun-filled time away, next week was meant to be my belated birthday trip to Paris so I’m a wee bit down. I’ve not been to Paris yet, (Euro Disney doesn’t count!) and my husband booked us a 4-day trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t realise I’d need to apply for my new visa so soon because we weren’t aware of the immigration law changes that came into effect 9 July until just beforehand. I’d originally planned to apply for my new visa in September. The UK Border Agency is hideously backlogged–they say, due to the Olympics and to cutting staff–and some people are waiting over 9 months to have their passports back and their visa decisions. This means no travel. These people (including myself) are effectively stuck here, future uncertain, unable to travel or visit family, until the UKBA pulls our applications out of the towering pile and decide to process them. There is no way to communicate with them as their website says you may call after 6 MONTHS, but those in online forums who’ve reported calling the day after their 6-month mark have been told, simply, “You have to wait. We have no information.”

All this for £561. That’s $890. As others have pointed out, you can track a pizza ordered from Domino’s for a tenner, but for nearly $900, you are given no information whatsoever about the process, and have to just let go of all thought of your future, because it’s utterly out of your control. No proof of who you are, why you’re here, whether you can work or not. It’s shocking, disheartening, and borderline inhumane, in my opinion, but that’s how they do things.

So next week, it’s likely my husband is taking our trip to Paris alone. At least one of us can make use of the nonrefundable trip. To say I’m frustrated is putting it lightly, but obviously God’s got other plans. Who am I to argue? This has all been a tremendous lesson in letting go for my control-freak nature. In a week’s time when it’s come and gone, I’ll let you know how I’ve fared.

Apologies as I like my blog posts to be a bit more focused than this, but it’s representative of how scattered I’ve felt since the waiting game of visa, moving, jobs, and settling down began. I have to keep telling myself (as does my husband) that this is life – life always has “the next thing” you’re waiting for, or working towards, and there will always be something you can try to worry into being the way you want it. I just want so badly to learn to get my head down, do the work today’s given me, and make the most of whatever enjoyment I can get right now. Stressing about the future’s never done me any good before, but as any other control freak can tell you, it’s really hard to break the life-long pattern of thinking, If I’m worrying about it, that means I’m doing something.”

I believe that’s completely untrue. So why do I find it so hard to shut that voice down?

In any case, thanks for reading, and I hope anything you’re progressing towards and waiting for is teaching you to make the most of today in the mean time!

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Writing in a zig-zag

I feel like I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster since early May, right before my wedding, and it’s just carried right on through. Lots of good mixed with lots of… challenges (I refuse to say “bad”).

Taken at Alton Towers last year, when I realised I might be entering the stage of life where I’m better off on the ground.

Admittedly, it’s hard to follow up a dream-come-true wedding and lush, relaxing “minimoon” with any act at all, so I’m not sure why this surprised me.

Nothing outrageously terrible has happened! So thank God for that. It’s just been a lot of stressful things, ranging from my visa application (which is in the hands of the imminently-striking UKBA and their work-to-rule summer, on top of a backlog spanning months, no idea when my passport might be returned to me) being the major one. Family stuff I can’t do anything about, due to the visa thing, and other kinda big “life” things. I’ve found it really hard to strike a balance between learning to rise to these challenges, and face my writing (and work) goals. So sadly not only is this post late as it should’ve been yesterday, but I’ve been missing out on commenting on my fellow writers’ blogs, encouraging and cheerleading, and beta/CP reading. I’m trying to get back on track, but sometimes the track moves and I’m hoping this is my chance to learn how to keep up.

My July #writemotivation goals:

1. Finish new round of edits to MS #1.  Done.

2. MS #1 x5. Done and then some.

3. Finish edits to WIP to Chapter 9. See 4.

4. Write 10k in WIP. Just before sending my first few chapters off to a CP, I had a few days of inspiration. I decided to change back from third to first (good grief), change my MC’s age form 17 to 19 (kinda major), and add an entirely new dimension to the possible genre-confusion that will happen with this story. But I’ve been making notes, plotting more than ever, and I feel like I’m finding my way to where this story was meant to go all along. It means killing a few chapters further on that I’d drafted and felt proud of, but I may save those for a future story. Or see if I can salvage. In any case, “finish edits” has become zig-zagging my way through a whole set of changes that I didn’t expect. I thought I had this story nailed down (at least, the first 9 chapters). But maybe that’s part of my training to become a Jedi warrior harness the power of the Deathly Hallows master carrying the Ring learn to keep up with the changing track.

To summarise, I’ve been investing in research material, researching, brainstorming, outlining, and writing future scenes. No idea of the equivalent word count of that though!

5. Balance job hunting with writing, CP/Beta work, and blogging. Be realistic! I read B’s ms and am working on M’s and also L’s. Loving reading others’ work and seeing their strengths and learning from them. Just wish I had about 15 more hours per day! Job hunting – I’m not slowing down, despite aforementioned identity paperwork issues. 

I’ve had a few breakdowns this week. One involved mouldy blueberries and coffee grounds. Another, an empty mailbox. But it’s going to be okay because no matter what, I have people who love me, near and far, I can rearrange plans and make even BETTER ones for later, and I’ve got my writing and passion for telling great (hopefully, someday, by golly) stories. 

Things rarely go the way we plan, but they’re never as bad as we imagine (and I don’t want to be giving any more time than I already have to imagining the bad). Sometimes much better. Perspective. Though these days, I know I sometimes need to have that perspective from the ground rather than way up in the sky where everything’s one big sleigh-ride into awesome.

I hope your July goals – if you have them – are going well, no matter whether you’re ticking them off or adjusting for change. Enjoy the weather (if you’re in the UK where we finally have sun and blue in the sky), and if you’re in the States I hope you get a big fat rainstorm! Thanks for reading.

P.S. An “up” from the past week: I queried two agencies that I already queried 2+ years ago (with an absolutely tragic query letter), and have since rewritten the entire manuscript of MS#1. I thought I’d take a chance, and both requested pages! One sent a very kind rejection (keep trying, it only takes one, etc.) and the other is in the air but kindly said she’s “looking for fresh voices”. That’s me! I’m fresh! 🙂

Even if … well, it’s been so encouraging to hear back from these kind people who’ve given me a second shot.

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