Tuesday, March 28, 2017

all the castles in the sky

I had a really long day - it was great and I saw some cool stuff, but I'm totally wiped out. I made a day trip to Lincoln today - it was one of the most important cities in England a thousand or so years ago, but it's faded in prominence quite a bit since then. However, it's home to one of the best-preserved Gothic cathedrals, which was the tallest building in the world for at least a couple of hundred years. It also has a castle, and since I like castles and cathedrals and am also looking for ideas for my young adult book (which I'm planning to get back to asap), I decided to take a day out and explore it.

So I got up early, went to Kings Cross, and caught a train to Lincoln. This was all uneventful, and I wrote some on the train (I took my laptop with me to facilitate this, which means I had to drag it around with me all day - which was a lot of dragging, since fitbit says I took 20000+ steps and climbed 45+ flights of stairs). When I got to Lincoln, I had breakfast before climbing up an appropriately named street called Steep Hill (it is v. steep; also, people weren't always all that creative).

My first stop was the castle. There's a pretty extensive exhibit on Victorian prisons, since part of the castle was turned into a prison at some point - I could write a lot about this, since I actually know some stuff about Victorian prisons, but I'm too tired to write it up right now. The exhibit was interesting, though.

They also have one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta - the Bishop of Lincoln was one of the signatories, and he brought his copy back with him in 1215 and the cathedral held onto it ever since. It's now loaned to the castle, since the castle has a special subterranean vault specifically for the Magna Carta (plus the Charter of the Forest, which was signed in 1217; Lincoln is the only place in the world that has both). So it was pretty cool to see that, especially since I was basically the only person in the vault - I've seen one at the British Library before, and also seen a slightly later copy in DC, and in both cases the crowds were insane. Being almost alone with it was nearly goosebump-inducing.

Then I walked around the medieval wall surrounding the castle grounds. Then I went to the cathedral, which was astonishing - and it helped that it was also mostly empty, unlike similarly impressive cathedrals like Notre Dame. Then I had an amazing gluten free tea in one of the shops below the castle, which made me happy.

But the day went a little downhill from there. I was ready to leave town by four, but my train wasn't until 6:15, so I killed time at a bookstore (and bought a book). But then my train was delayed by half an hour, so I missed my connection to London, so I didn't get back to London until nine. By then I was starving, so I had a late dinner in St Pancras and wrote for an hour while I sat there just so I could get some more stuff done - which means I didn't get back to my hotel until after eleven.

So now it's time to sleep, dream of castles, and hope that I'm recovered so I can write a lot tomorrow - goodnight!

Monday, March 27, 2017

you look as good as the day i met you

I have to go to sleep immediately - I'm going on a day trip tomorrow to look at some medieval shit and daydream about gargoyles when I should be finishing this stupid book. But today was good - I put in some serious work on the stupid book, which made me v. satisfied. So satisfied, in fact, that I felt giddy and had to take a break, so I met up with a visiting friend for dinner and a lot of wine in Soho.

The friend was one of the Roshni Patels from Ritu's wedding - in fact, I wasn't *entirely* sure which Roshni I was meeting, since one Roshni on Facebook has a highly stylized photo that could be anyone, and the other has a photo of a dog. However, I was pretty sure it was Iowa Roshni, and this proved to be true. She's in town for a long girls' weekend, and she and one of the other girls met me for dinner at Balans Soho Society. We had two bottles of wine and a lot of food and a lot of laughter, and it was all highly entertaining.

But now I must sleep, since I need to wake up in 6.5 hours to catch my train to an undisclosed location (the location is Lincoln, England, which is basically the same as undisclosed since no one's heard of it, but it has some medieval stuff that I'm excited to see). Goodnight!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

everything that rises

No blog tonight - I did nothing at all of note today. I didn't leave the house, and I mostly worked, looked at airbnbs, looked at/booked train tickets, and also looked at plane tickets and calendars. I also called my parents, and then I wrote some more.

So, since I was so boring today, there's nothing to say, and a lot of incentive to go to sleep so I can have a more interesting day tomorrow. Goodnight!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

don't love me

Given that I didn't go to bed until after two last night, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that I slept until 10:30. When I woke up, I didn't really want to see people or eat anything, so I made a cup of tea in my room and started rereading my book to work on heavy edits. I was blissfully reading for about an hour, thinking maybe I should just stay in bed all day, when I accidentally spilled my tea in my bed (first time I've ever done that, after years of precarious habits).

So, that put a damper on my lazy day. I stripped the sheets quickly to dry off the mattress protector before the tea could seep through, then took a shower since I was covered in tea as well. At that point I was starting to get hungry, so I went downstairs, made some eggs and toast, and then made some coffee and worked most of the afternoon. This mostly involved reading/editing, along with some desultory chats with Philippa (the film/book agent who I really like a lot).

But around 4:30 I was beginning to think that fresh air would help, so I went outside, wandered around the neighborhood, found an organic grocery store I didn't know about, and stocked up on some stuff. Then I came back, threw it in the fridge, and ordered Thai food instead of cooking. I then spent some time talking to Penny (whom I've mentioned before) and some new guy whose name I don't remember (let's call him Mansplainer...although that's a little harsh, since he was also entertaining). We got into a rather deep conversation about feminism and romance novels, with some delightful (for me to watch) subtext involving Penny and the guy flirting with each other, so that was all fun.

But I abandoned them to their flirtations, came upstairs, and read the rest of what I wanted to get through tonight. I also answered some emails and used some eye mask product under my eyes - on this trip I've gotten repeated astonished comments about my age and how I don't look thirty-five (enough comments that I don't think it's a fluke), and I want to keep it that way. But sleep is probably the better option for revitalizing my face - goodnight!

Friday, March 24, 2017

i know i could stay here all night

Blog is v. v. late tonight (it's 2am in London town) because I had a v. v. fancy dinner with the original Jen Lui. But first, I had to survive my day, which started entirely too early - I had stupidly agreed to go to the community breakfast at 8am, which means I woke up at 7:45am feeling like death and threw on some pants and some mascara in an attempt to look human.

Breakfast was at the Ivy Chelsea Garden, which was entirely delightful. I got the least instagrammable thing on the menu which was some scrambled eggs on top of smoked salmon, but it was the dish that made my heart and stomach happy, so #noregrets. And the community aspect was fun, although I am really not fit company for anyone until I've had caffeine and at least an hour to wake up, so I was perhaps a little too 'real' (or as Penny the Australian documentary filmmaker said at some point, very casually, "You're a hard woman and I like it"...which I think was a compliment, but also could have meant I went too aggressive with the snark. Ymmv.).

Then we came back here, and I worked most of the day with limited actual results but lots of mental exercise. I also took a nap in deference to my tiredness, had some peanut butter toast for lunch while talking to Strong Michael (the Irish personal trainer, who also commented that my claws had come out...perhaps I should ponder all of this tomorrow, although in this case it was definitely a joke), and talked to [censored] for quite awhile, since we were overdue for a catch-up.

And then I showered, made myself more presentable, and went to St Pancras to meet up with Jen before dinner. I was running slightly late, and then she was dealing with work stuff, so we didn't have time to go to a bar before dinner (a 9pm reservation!), but this was probably for the best. We went to the Clove Club, which is as fancy as our usual fanciness (probably fancier, since this restaurant was just named the best in the UK). We started off with a cocktail while waiting for our table, but we didn't have to wait long (we were early, in their defense)...

...and then we ate for well over two hours. Jen had apparently booked the seven course tasting menu, which was pretty spectacular - we decided to split a wine pairing, which means they gave us each a half pour of the wines for all seven courses, which was perfect since neither of us wanted to get drunk (which we certainly would have if we'd had seven glasses of wine each). The wines were all delightful, the food was universally excellent (although my favorite may have been one of the chicken tenders to start, even though it was entirely too posh and presented on top of a bed of fresh evergreen branches), and they gave us a bit of madeira that was laid down in 1908 and kept in a barrel for eighty years before being bottled...

And now I'm dreaming of other stories and other worlds, and a restaurant mostly staffed by ghosts, since many of the servers seemed to be from another time and place.

But we ended the night without them realizing that I was writing a book about them in my head - instead, one of the waiters ended up finding out that I write romance novels, and then he told the bartender, and they all thought that 'Taking the Earl' is a hilarious title, and they wanted me to send them a postcard from Venice. Yes, this is how I roll.

Then Jen and I took an uber to her hotel, and we parted ways after a wonderful evening/week, and then I continued on to my hotel, where I needed a nap before I could contemplate the thought of washing my face and writing the blog. And now I need to sleep - goodnight!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

i really want to come kick it with you

From a productivity standpoint, today was kind of a mess - I crossed a whole bunch of things off my to-do list that I'd been neglecting from a business standpoint, but I didn't get as much writing work done as I'd hoped (yes, you've heard this story before).

But I stopped working at six to take a shower and meet up with Jen for dinner. We're also meeting tomorrow night, but she invited me to have dinner with her and an old coworker of hers tonight - and the entire reason we all said yes was because the friend is a member of Soho House (a private members club with branches in a bunch of cities). This is exactly the kind of place I would be a member of if I a) had a sponsor and b) spent enough time in cities where they're located (and c) wanted to spend the money). It wasn't over the top fancy, but the vibe was nice and I liked the decor and the food, so I was v. pleased with all of it.

However, when Jen and I met up, we were early, so we grabbed a quick drink down the street (note: cheap prosecco out of a mini bottle is an odd way to prep for dinner, but hey, it was fun). Then we had dinner with her friend, who I really liked - she was entertaining and just ridiculous enough even though she was really tired, so we had a good time. And their gluten free pasta was top notch, which made me happy (too happy, since I ate all of it and was stuffed).

Then we parted ways, and Jen and I took an uber back to her hotel, where we wandered around and took pictures - it turns out the grand staircase there has featured in both a Spice Girls video and the recent Taylor Swift/Zayn Malik video, so of course we had to see it. And we went to Kings Cross (next door) and took a photo at Platform 9 and 3/4 (apparently it's packed with tourists during the day, and there's a line and they charge you to take photos, but at 11pm we had it all to ourselves). And then we parted ways, I took the tube back to my hotel, and now I'm desperate for sleep. Goodnight!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

as it you pass it off so cavalier

In case you didn't already assume this, I'm safe in London - it was raining and so I didn't go out today, and even if I had, I probably wouldn't have been at Westminster at exactly the wrong moment. You never know, of course - I spent the morning figuring out part of my schedule for the rest of my time here, and Westminster Abbey (not the Palace of Westminster, which is where the attack was) is on my list. But luckily most of the things I want to see are quite esoteric, and I doubt that anyone is all too keen on attacking the Museum of London (not the main museum - the one about shipping in the Docklands area).

In other words, keep calm and carry on.

I spent most of the day thinking about the story and rearranging puzzle pieces to try to make it coherent. This is of course making me think that maybe I never want to write historical romance again - and while that may be true, I need to also consider that once I'm done with this book and am not in a place of such self-inflicted suffering.

I also took a break to call my parents - it's their anniversary (happy anniversary!), so I broke our usual routine and called them on a Wednesday. They have been together for thirty-seven years despite my dad's unusually high percentage of Neanderthal DNA (this isn't intended as an insult; he told me it was true based on his 23andMe results), and hopefully they have many more good years ahead of them.

And then I stopped working altogether to help Michelle get ready for community dinner (including picking up some gluten free + vegan carrot cake for Penny's birthday - she's vegan, and this carrot cake was somehow amazing despite being vegan, since the cashew cream they used for the frosting was on point), and then I ate community dinner, and then I drank a lot of wine and told a lot of jokes. And I also answered pings/texts/FB messages confirming that I'm alive, so that was fun.

Now, though, I need to sleep - I had another piece of the puzzle fall into place in a blinding moment of clarity (can clarity be blinding?) when I came back to my room tonight, and I furiously took notes so that I could capture the piece before I lost it. Hopefully that means tomorrow goes more smoothly - goodnight!