Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Little Joyful Things—These are a Few of My Favorite Things




Little things in life can give great joy. Some are free. Some have moderate cost. All seem hidden, unnoticed, and under-appreciated. This is a list of some of my favorite moderately-priced things this year. If they make me happy, maybe they'll work for you too.


Clothes and Accessories


A cute dress WITH POCKETS. My extra large phone fits in these pockets. They're not the shallow kind. If you don't have time to quest for a dress with pockets, because it is a bit of a Holy Grail thing, Amazon has them in many colors, patterns, and sleeve lengths. This one has over 2,000 four-star-plus reviews.

These are knee-high boots that can deal with my super-strong Thor calves. They're a thing, even if no one has informed the TSA and they ALWAYS pause everything to pat down my calves. 

They're real.


Everyone's a critic.

You can find all types of groovy boots at Famous Footwear right now. These are Bare Traps. If they're out of your size, they'll send them to your house. This sounds like a commercial. It's not. I just get excited when I find obscure things that work, like a dress with pockets or boots that come in my size.



Writerly Delights




Another delight is a lined-embossed-dragon journal. 

It has silver gilt pages.

Barnes and Noble has this particular one. They carry a great selection of unique journals. If you don't have a store near you, they're available at Barnes and Noble online





When I visited Stonehenge, I discovered this little artist's journal embossed with a trilithon, that's the two vertical stones supporting a lintel that make up those impressive stone doorways at Stonehenge. I like writing in journals from places I've been, BUT you don't have to go there to get one. 

English Heritage has an online gift shop. You can order all sorts of lovely things from jams, biscuits, humbugs, and knights in armor, to jewelry made from the same stone quarry as the stones at Stonehenge. Check it out! It's a great place to pick up some special holiday gifts.


Plain Old Wonderful 



Aloe-infused socks. Oh, baby. These things will make you happy gasp when you slide them on. If you don't think socks make a good gift, you haven't gotten these. They're silkier than silk and a treat to lounge in. They come in many colors and some styles are extra-warm bulky socks with an aloe-infused lining. I found the latter at Famous Footwear. But you can get these socks at Bed Bath and Beyond, TJ Maxx, or Kohls. Wash them in a lingerie bag for a longer shelf life.

EO Soothing lavender hand soap. If you follow my Instagram you
probably know I can be obsessive about lavender. But it has to smell like lavender—the kind they have on the Greek Island of Alonissos in June to be precise. Not that I'm picky. In this case it works for you though. 

This stuff is amazing. A guest mocked me as he washed his hands, "Will I be soothed? Hahaha—uh—wait—this stuff smells great—uh, I think I actually am soothed. Where'd you get this?" TJMaxx. And it's amazeballs.


Lip balm is one of those things that I buy several of and then search frantically for that one that really works. Young Living Lavender Lip Balm is infused with essential oil and goes on smooth and heavenly. It's not just for the ladies either. I've seen big burly guys using it too. It's just that good. 

I discovered this at Namaste a local spa here in the shire. If you google Young Living Essential Oils, you can probably find a distributor anywhere in your section of Middle Earth.


Picture frames almost always disappoint me. I don't want to fool around with them. Unfortunately I have three seconds of patience
between inserting the photo and putting the picture on display. Having to trim a photo or mess with matting and puzzle out how to open the back of a frame and then keep the photo from sliding around inside, and I've already lost interest in the whole thing. 

That's why I love these magnetic acrylic block frames. You pop them open, slap the photo down, and bam. You're done. They're standing frames, and they look great in any decor. They're a bit pricey for cheap-seats me, but they're excellent gifts. This is what you're getting if I'm giving you a gift. You'll love it. 

Sometimes TJMaxx has them. Sometimes Kohls, Walmart, Crate and Barrel, or Amazon. Shop around for the best price.



A wireless mouse is a marvelous invention. It's a game changer. I never have to slam my mouse wires shut in my desk again. Likely I'm late to this party and you know this. Feel free to tell me about it and ask where I've been the last decade. Writing by the way. In my hermit writer cave.

Now if only my phone charger cord didn't get rolled over by my desk chair regularly—although there are now magnetic chargers. Maybe that will be on my next favorite things list.


You'll laugh but I think that Sonicare toothbrushes are the best invention. In  Bitch Witch Sarah Archer states that if her house were on fire that's what she'd grab. Well. I was writing what I know there. I love the hell out of mine. It feels like you've been to the hygienist to have your teeth cleaned every day. 

The one I have now I got from the dentist's office. You can find them everywhere.


Booky Things


The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has an online gift shop. You can get a replica of the diary Anne wrote her story in while her family hid from the Nazi's in the attic of a jam factory. It's supercool to get that package delivered from Amsterdam. I went there but still ordered it because I try to do that when I buy books. That extra weight in luggage is killer. 


You might be interested to know that her book was re-released with information that had been edited out of the original version. At the time The Diary of a Young Girl was released, her father and publisher didn't think it was appropriate to include some things, like details about her mother, Peter, and her own budding sexuality. 

The book is worth a reread. There are more pages now and now more than ever the book underscores what a clever, brilliant young woman Anne was becoming. 

Another favorite thing is books signed by the authors. Autographed books are still a big thing to me. Did you know that on Black Friday that Barnes and Noble offers a large selection of popular and bestselling autographed books? 

Last year I had a book signing that day and went a bit berserk buying Christmas gifts signed by favorite present day authors. I scored a copy of The Hate U Give, The Kite Runner, and the newest John Grisham book. I couldn't resist shopping in my favorite "one for you one for me" fashion and I still have room on my autographed shelf for this year.

Make sure you get there early because sometimes there's only one of the most popular authors, and us canny reader writers are waiting at the door at dawn. 


Souvenirs


Now we get to the excess. When I travel I tend to come
home with everything from Rosetta Stone socks from the British Museum to hand-painted papyrus/vintage photos from Egypt, to a hefty pile of blank journals from the Acropolis Museum in Athens. It's fun to remember, and your sandals from Greece will remind you of your trip for a long time. 

This year I may have gotten carried away. I have a small pile of tiny treasures from my travels leftover. 
Be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter if you'd like a chance to win some of my souvenir loot. You can sign up here or from my author website

Details will be coming as soon as I heal up from a slight medical problem entailing another one of my favorite things—antibiotics when you really need them. 

I think antibiotics need a new marketing tag line—something like, ANTIBIOTICS, BETTER THAN DEATH, BARELY, BUT STILL! Or maybe, ANTIBIOTICS, THE SIDE EFFECTS ARE WORSE THAN YOUR ILLNESS, BUT YOU GET TO LIVE! (PROBABLY.)

None of my favorite things here are expensive. Not even my gut-devouring, super-cheap $10 co-pay antibiotics. These things all make great gifts, except the meds, for all occasions. Your favorite things should probably be in the running too. Leave a comment below and tell me what you'd add to my list, and remember to enjoy the little things in life. Sometimes that's the best part of the day, especially if antibiotics is on your list too. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

HEARTSTONE Author Releases New Dragon Book—DRAGONSHADOW—by ELLE KATHERINE WHITE

dragon book, dragon book author, Elle Katherine White


Elle Katharine White joins us in The Glitter Globe today to share exciting news. Her second book in the Heartstone series releases November 20th. (The first in the series, Heartstone, is a sort of Pride and Prejudice with dragons.) The story continues with the happy couple Aliza Bentaine and Alastair Daired, NOT Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.




This is a story I've been looking forward to reading. I lucked in to an early version of the novel and the story just gets better. Elle writes adventure and dragons so you won't soon forget them. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to read Elle, you're in for a treat!




Elle, thanks to some insider information I happen to know that you really do martial arts and sword fighting. How has that helped your writing?

I do! I've been studying Japanese swordsmanship (swordswomanship?) for about a year. And boy oh boy, it's been quite the adventure. Before this I never fully appreciated how many muscles are in the arm, or how they work together, or all the hundred little ways they can hurt. Training with the sword has given me a new understanding of human kinetics and the kind of effort it takes to achieve any level of competence with a weapon. (Spoiler: It's a lot. The answer is a lot.) 

So those heroes who pick up that legendary sword and master a martial art in one long weekend? That's not how it works. Natural talent is great, but it's no replacement for hard work, discipline, and practice. I wrote a scene in Dragonshadow in which one character, who has very little experience with weapons, receives a brief training session from her husband, who's been studying swordplay his whole life. And she's terrible. Really, truly, hilariously bad. It was so much fun turning that trope on its head. 



It's been a whirlwind year since your first book released. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you since the release of your first novel?

Two things: Realizing that Alastair and Aliza's story wasn't going to end with Heartstone, and overcoming the most painful spell of writer's block I've ever had. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite stories of all time, and I loved re-imagining it in a fantasy world. Once that world was established, though, I wanted to explore more of it, and the structure I'd set for the retelling wouldn't let me do that. Dragonshadow and its sequel allowed me to branch out, and that was so much fun.

Fun—until writer's block struck. For ten solid months I couldn't write a thing. It was painful. Paralyzing. Scary. And it didn't end in a day. Writing, just like swordsmanship, is both an art and a craft, and like any craft you have to practice it. Falling out of the habit means a lot of hard work and discipline to get back into it. I'm still not totally free of writer's block, but I was able to finish the third book in the Heartstone saga in spite of it, and that felt incredible.



What does a writing day look like for you?

Willingly or unwillingly, my day usually starts around 4:45am with a trip to the gym, where the plot bunnies and character rabbits and other literary woodland creatures start running sleepy circles inside my head. Then it's breakfast, an hour or so of writing (or sometimes staring blankly at the screen in despair) until I have to go to work. After work I try to snatch another hour or two of writing before passing out. A 500+ word day is a good day. 

Your bio mentions your yearning to travel the world. What are your top three picks, and why?

Goodness gracious, where to begin? First: Kyoto, Japan, and for so many reasons. The cuisine, the culture, the language, the scenery, everything. Second: Zermatt, Switzerland. I'd like to see the sunset on the Matterhorn sometime before I die. Third: The Outer Hebrides, UK. Something about the wildness, the coldness, the sheer inhospitableness of it . . . I don't know why, but that draws me.

If you had to pick somewhere on earth where this dragon world might fit, where would it be?

Hm. Since Heartstone was based on Pride and Prejudice, I built my maps of Arle with Great Britain in mind. I'd have to go with that. A storm-tossed island in the middle of the North Atlantic.

You're a tea drinker. What kind and is it going to be loose leaf or in a bag? And what kind of teacup or mug would we see sitting on your desk?

I drink absurd amounts of tea, it's true. Lapsang souchong is my favorite, and you've got to brew that loose leaf. One of my favorite mugs is large, earthenware, and has a rather splendid dragon sprawled across the side. It's the perfect writing companion.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about Dragonshadow?

Dragonshadow picks up where the first book left off, but for those of you expecting another Jane Austen retelling, beware! You're in for a wholly original tale. It's darker, grittier, the stakes are higher, and as Aliza soon discovers, the road to happily ever after is longer and more dangerous than she could possibly imagine.

Thanks for having me on The Glitter Globe!



DRAGONSHADOW 


Elle K. White, White, Dragon books


The Greater Lindworm is dead, its monstrous armies have
fled, and the Battle of North Fields is over—or at least that’s what Aliza Bentaine, now a Daired, fervently wants to believe.

With memories of the blood-soaked battleground behind them, she and Alastair are happy to escape the aftermath within the walls of the Daired family fortress, safe from the Tekari bent on destroying them. There, gods willing, they can begin to enjoy their well earned happily ever after.

Unfortunately, the gods have other plans. Rumors are spreading of a new monster creeping across Arle, something leaving the mutilated bodies of both humans and Oldkind creatures in its wake. When the plea for aid arrives from the remote Castle Selwyn on the northern border of the kingdom, Alastair and his dragon Akarra prepare once more for the hunt.

And if Aliza has anything to say about it, they won’t be hunting alone.

Torn between the world she was born to and the high calling of the Riders, Aliza nevertheless refuses to stay at House Pendragon, determined to do her part to protect those she loves. But their journey through the Old Wilds proves more perilous than she can imagine, for she is not the only one following her husband north. Shadowing the Daireds is an ancient evil, a harbinger of a threat of which the Worm was only a foretaste, and all too soon Aliza realizes the terrible truth. The Battle of North Fields may be over, but the real war is just beginning. 



Elle Katherine White

Dragon book, White, Dragonshadow, Dragon, Shadow

A textbook introvert who likes to throw out the textbook every once in a while just to see what happens. Elle grew up in Buffalo, NY, where she learned valuable life skills like how to clear a snowy driveway in under twenty minutes and how to cheer for the perennial underdog. When she’s not writing, she spends her time drinking tea, loitering in libraries and secondhand bookshops, and dreaming of world travel.





















Attachments area

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Holding onto my Vacation Joy in the Real World


Alonissos, Home, Reality, Kindness, Happiness
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe




HOME SWEET HOME 

That should read Home Sweet Chaos. You know what it's like to leave your real life to travel a few months out of the year? It's like you're now hopelessly behind in everything. 

You will never catch up. Not unless reincarnation is a thing. Accept that you need to downsize your life in order to travel. Take a deep breath. Dig up some patience that connecting flights and the TSA hasn't already stolen from you. There you go. Now start going through everything and getting rid of all the stuff you don't need and while you're at it clean off and organize your computers too.

Have some nice family gatherings and take the time to cook real food at least once a year. Also, order a magic wand off Amazon. Check reviews because you're gonna need a real one this time.


GREECE HIGHLIGHTS AND LOW-LIGHTS

Highlights. A monk seal on the public beach. Why is seeing a wild animal up close and personal out in the world so amazing? Maybe it's because their eyes are not sad and they look right into yours. A night swim under the dark moon. The Aegean was so cold I froze. The locals ran into the sea and immediately back out. It was perfection just the same. Nights I sat on my balcony and wrote by candlelight. My nose nearly touched the page I leaned so close to see my scribbled words. But I loved sitting there in the warm night breeze and listening to the sounds in the port.

Even low-lights were highlights. While taking a meandering walk in Skiathos I wound up at the edge of an airport runway when a jet was taking off. I learned all about jet blasts. I'm happy to report I didn't die. I'm sure it will be useful in a novel someday. AGAIN getting tagged by the TSA as a person of interest. Now I know what it feels like to be profiled, AGAIN. Searched. Slowed-down. Felt-up. It's annoying, but once more it's good novel fodder. Let's pretend I mean that last bit. 



GLUTEN-FREE

Sofitel Hotel Restaurants make their own freshly baked gluten-free bread. In a month of traveling I only stayed at one. I easily ate my month's allotment of bread there. It was so good.

Eating gluten-free is a pain. It turns you into a difficult customer as soon as you walk into a restaurant. 

I'm pretty sure I've heard the wait-staff's eyes rolling when I say I have to eat gluten-free. I sympathize. But since they're not the ones who have to pee blood if I get gluten, I'm wildly and annoyingly cautious.

Eating out isn't appealing to me anymore. In Greece I cooked my own meals as much as possible. I even skipped my free breakfasts most of the time. Mostly I ate salad without dressing, yogurt, fresh fruit, or vegetables and grilled fish. Also gelato, because balance. 

If you contact airlines ahead of time they offer gluten-free meals via their websites. Trying to find a simple banana between planes became a quest. Rome's Fiumicino Airport is one of those airports crossed with a high-end mega-mall. Who the hell decided to splice the stress of airport travel with the labyrinth torment of a galleria? Ugh.

I never did find any fresh fruit but I only had FOUR HOURS to look. They definitely didn't have any in the Gucci, Prada, or Billionaire stores. Nor in the gluten-packed pasta shops. Can you hear the creak of my eyeballs rolling? To be fair I did purchase an excellent Leonardo da Vinci Vitruvian Man notebook there and a seven euro bottle of what I think was water. It tasted a lot like it, so there's that. 


BOOKS I READ

Am writing, books to read, karfelt

At the last minute I had to toss my hardcover copy of The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu out of my suitcase. I should have also tossed out my laptop because not only did I not use it in Greece, but it almost cost me all of my toes as I dragged two roller-bags onto a wildly rocking ferry. 

books, books to read, writing, reviews, recommendations
Instead I read The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Thanks to a kind stranger I even had all my toes intact while I did it. At the advice of my editor I'd put it on my kindle app, and I read it in stolen moments here and there. Mostly while eating breakfast yogurt and drinking Greek Mountain Tea. It's about female spies in WWI and WWII, but it's also about not fitting in and being yourself. I'd rate it four stars and recommend it. It's a good read. 

Books to read, Books, Reviews, Blog

A friend on Alonissos loaned me a copy of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I finally at long last became a Gaiman fan. It's about a man revisiting his family home while on his way to a funeral and discovering long-forgotten secrets and well-hidden memories. For me this book held the kind of magic I found years ago in Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Many Waters. I loved it. If you've ever enjoyed any Fantasy book, read it.
book reviews, the glitter globe, reading, writing
On my flight home I couldn't settle on a single movie and shelled out for in-flight WiFi, but even that didn't do it. So I looked through my Kindle App books and ignoring all my high-brow selections like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy I went with a little Urban Fantasy book called Protecting His Witch by Zoe Forward. I can be a real snoot about editing and was in a persnickety and tired traveler mood and nearly shut it down early on, but then the story grabbed me. It's about a veterinarian dimension-hopping witch who turns out to be one of the seven Pleiades and her hot druid-sentry born to tend to her needs. I kinda need one of those myself. If he knows Excel and can also sort my Outlook email mess that is. I liked it.


WRITERLY STATUS

Back to reality. I'm writing my vampire book and talking to a story
editor. I'm also in need of a Personal Assistant a few hours a week and think I may have found someone. The help would be welcome. Writing is my dream job, but it is a lot of work, especially with research and traveling.

My attic is mostly cleaned up. The mice who have secretly been living there have been evicted. I've sorted through decades of stuff and sworn off buying things. It was a tough job for me. Giving away so many books felt like saying goodbye to old friends. Cleaning out stuff from when my kids were little or papers I wrote ages ago hurt. But I did it. I lost at least a dump-truck sized pile of excess. I feel lighter already. Hanging onto your happiness takes real work, have you noticed that? It's so worth it. 




















Monday, October 8, 2018

Greece to Egypt and Back—Traveling Safely and Staying Alive in this Great Big Beautiful World


Karfelt, Egypt, Greece, Alonissos, Writer's life, safe, travel-safety
S.R. Karfelt/The Glitter Globe


"I'd like to visit America," said my driver, the guy the restaurant employs to run customers—free of charge—from the popular port area of Skiathos, up to the restaurant with a stunning view of the sea (Olive Thea), "but it's too dangerous."

"No, it's not," I said.

"Yes," he said, "it is."

My European friends in the backseat are cracking up. 

It's not the first time I've heard this. In fact it's the most common refrain I've gotten from people when they realize I'm American.

"America's not safe," said the young Englishman with alcohol-glazed eyes, so intoxicated he can barely stand. So intoxicated he's stumbled out of a pub near the London Eye to join the crowd of evacuated hotel guests at 3:00 a.m. The fire alarm had gone off because someone lit a cigarette in an adjoining hotel. "I'd go there, but I don't want to get shot."

"We love Americans," said a souvenir vendor at the pyramids in Egypt. "Tell your friends to come here. It's safe here, no one shoots you like in America."

"Tell me," said a Greek taxi driver, "Does America want to take over the world? Do they want to shoot everyone?"



It's ironic, isn't it? Because the first thing people in America say to me when they hear about my travels is, "Is it safe?"

While I was in Egypt this past March I read Rick Steve's book Travel as a Political Act. It's a fascinating and informative read. I loved the statistics, the cold hard facts about travel. How twelve million people a year go to Europe. How we're twice as likely to be killed by a toddler playing with a gun than by a terrorist when traveling.

It shocked me that a 747's worth of people die on American highways each WEEK. 33,000 die on our roads each year. Reducing highway speed by 20 MPH would save thousands of lives, but are we willing to do that? You know we aren't. We take our chances.

Then why are so many of us who wish to visit places we've dreamed of not doing it?


It's because we're afraid. The question is are our fears legitimate? I don't think they are.

What has happened to us? Are we mixing up movies with reality? Do we hear the same horrifying news story again and again, embellishing it with each retelling? Do we stop and think how each and every horrid story we hear hashed and rehashed over and over on the news really only happened once. 

Terrible things happen everywhere. Do you really want to hunker down and live safe and sound and terrified all of your days?


Egypt is the first place I've visited that's very different than where I come from. I loved it. I loved the people. I loved the slower pace. I loved the pyramids and tombs and food. But was I afraid?

Admittedly there were times I was nervous. The first week I had culture shock. The traffic, especially in Cairo, scared the hell out of me. (But so did Boston when I lived there.) 

I'd never been in a predominantly Muslim country before. There I was in cargo trousers and my Agatha Christie linen shirt with all my blond hair riding a camel. Several times a day Adhan sounded the Muslim call to prayer. Do you know how many people harassed me for not being Muslim? None. Nobody cared. I can't wait to go back!

A friend I hung around with during some of my time in Egypt likes to announce she's Jewish. She travels often and likes to see how people react. The majority of her family died in the holocaust. Even though she's a secular person she makes a point of sharing her heritage. In order, she says, to defy stereotypes. 

Not a single person cared who was Christian or Jew. 


In Egypt there's a greater police presence than I'm used to. I was often with a group of Egyptologists, some of who've been traveling there for well over thirty years. It's always like this, they told me. It's safe, they insisted. This is how they employ so many young men. 

After a few days I noticed the friendly smiles of those police and of people greeting me on the streets. I felt the Adhan deep in my bones. It reminds me of the chants I've heard in so many monasteries. Kids and adults hurried to greet me in English. "Hello, beautiful." "Welcome to Egypt." "Welcome, this is your home now." 

But was I afraid? No. Sometimes I was nervous. 


What woman doesn't know that feeling? It's been years since I've been approached by young men on the street. Especially men young enough to be my son. "You look worried," said one who would not go. "Don't be worried."

"Where I come from," I said, "Strange men don't approach women they don't know on the street for any good reason."

"Where I come from," he said, "Women don't walk alone on the street. I'm offering to be your escort so you don't have to walk alone."

The reply startled me, but of course it's the truth. Although I saw plenty of young women walking alone. Most had their hair covered. That's simply how women dress there. Some wore the exact same types of clothes young women wear in the west. Some wore burkas. 

But the fact is I was the stranger who didn't know or follow the rules. I still felt as safe, if not safer, than I feel when traipsing the streets of large cities in America. Maybe it's due to the police presence or maybe it's due to the always polite populace, but I didn't worry about being robbed or pick-pocketed as much. 

In Greece I'm more comfortable traveling solo than I am in the United States.


Not that I'm afraid here, just smartly cautious especially in cities. Greece feels like home to me. Especially in the smaller islands where everyone seems to know everyone else. 

That driver who told me of the dangers of America also teased me for not being Greek, while kindly helping me with my limited and sad attempts at speaking his language. 

"Do not take this wrong," he said, "I do not mean to be rude, but I can tell by the way you sit in that seat that you are a closed and cold-hearted person. You are dead inside."

By now my European friends in the backseat are really enjoying this.

"We Greeks," he said, "We do not talk just with the words. We speak with our hands, with our bodies, with all of us! You come here, every year, and you go to that little boring island where nothing ever happens. Why you go there?"

"Well. It's the perfect place to go when you're dead inside," I said.

"Oh! OH! You cut me! You cut me!" He's using his hands and entire body to show me just how deeply. But we're both laughing and this is the kind of communication I strive for when I travel. I will remind him next year that I'm the cold-hearted writer again. 

S.R. Karfelt
Maybe by then my Greek will be good enough to tell him I've written an entire series of books about heart, or maybe, just maybe I'll keep it all at the bitch witch level. I mean that book did come straight from my cold heart too.

When I travel I find it's important to carry my inner Kahtar warrior, my open-hearted Covenant Keeper, and always, always, Sarah Archer—that witch genetically predisposed to manipulate dark matter in her favor. Above all, I take my pragmatic writer self and remember every day is a story and life isn't about being safe. Life is about living, or did I miss another memo? 















Thursday, August 23, 2018

Here We Go Again—A Traveling Writer


Traveling to Greece, solo travel, writers


This Week


Social Media seems full of pumpkin spice lattes and laments for summer to end. Has everyone lost their minds? This summer has had its share of fire and floods, but on the other side of October lies blizzards and cold.

While I stood in line purchasing a couple last minute items for my workshop in Greece, everyone else was making back-to-school purchases. I didn't make eye contact and kept my big mouth shut because Nobody Wants to Hear About My Upcoming Trip to Greece! 

Packing Tips

How do regular mortals pack without needing eight hours and weeks of preparation? Since I'll have to haul my own bags on and off flights out on the blistering hot tarmac, up and down crowded ferry steps, and up flight after flight of wide steps in ancient hillsides, I have plenty of inspiration to pack light. Its the implementation that's the trouble. 

A Mental Floss blog had the best tip I've read in a long time. It said that we pack our fears. What if I need this? What if it gets cold? Who doesn't do that? I take a small suitcase and a carry-on stuffed with the things I absolutely have to have when (if) the airline loses my luggage. That fear cautions me as I pack. Carry on those adapters! Carry on your glasses! Carry on that bottle of Prelief

Even though I'll be gone for a month, I'm taking only four lightweight dresses and three other outfits. That's it. Everything is versatile and can be changed up. I feel like I've earned a Girl Scout badge for it.

Books I've Read Lately


PERSUASION by Jane Austen. Somehow I never read this before. Austen books are thinking books, but in a fun and entertaining way. They're fluff on the outside. This one is an old maid (27) dealing with the man she wanted to marry in her youth (21) coming back into her life. It's not written like books are now—like a movie—it's written in what's commonly referred to as "telling", but it allows the writer to put real depth and commentary into the story. It was good, if you like deep stories.

GHOSTED by Rosie Walsh. California girl Sarah meets Eddie while visiting her parents in England. They have seven days together and learn more about each other than people with seven years. Eddie disappears. As Sarah tries to find him she realizes she doesn't know as much as she thought. This book surprised me, and as a writer myself I have to say not many books surprise me. Nice summer read.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. This is possibly the best book I've ever read. I listened to it on Audiobook and went right out and bought a hardcover copy. I can tell you it's about a little blind girl in France during WWII. I can tell you it's about a German orphan boy who becomes a Nazi soldier. That doesn't go far enough. This book shows you how small people matter, and how good people can do unspeakable things. It is brilliant. It won a well-deserved Pulitzer. Boerr is a brilliant writer and a lot of work went into this novel. Read it. It's going to be a movie, but that will be akin to someone telling you what Van Gogh's Starry Night looks like. Some things you have to put your eyes on yourself.

Starry Night by Van Gogh

Today I put The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate on my Kindle for my trip. I'm still debating what paperback to take, but I'm leaning toward The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. 

Gluten-Free


The truth is I thought GF was a fad. Despite having had an autoimmune disease for over a decade now, I didn't pay attention to gluten free until my symptoms became downright miserable. This has been a game changer for me. I cannot believe the difference. All symptoms have lessened by about half.

It's more than not eating bread. Gluten is in everything. It's in salad dressing. It's in your hibachi dinner. It's in miso and soy sauce. Cutting it out takes effort. It's worth it if you have a problem. 

As far as sugar-free, I'm working on it I swear. 

Flying


If you're on a flight that has meal service, you can request a gluten-free meal (or another special meal). Order it ahead of time on the website (at least 24 hours ahead). It's usually under Special Service Requests. According to the Delta website (which I'm flying this trip), you're to mention it to the gate agent and again to a flight attendant when you board. I think they'll all be annoyed if you do. I'll just take a banana and apple in case it gets messed up. 

Since I'm flying out of a small airport in New York State I have several connections. I leave New York for Greece early in the morning. First I fly to Detroit. Yes. That's the wrong direction, but I don't make the flights. Then I fly BACK TO NEW YORK. HAHAHAHAHA. It's a different airport though. After that I fly to Athens, Greece. 

Once in Athens I'll stay a couple of days. I'm debating if I can walk up to the Acropolis in full-on ninety plus degree weather to visit the Caryatids again. I love those ladies. 

Next stop after Athens is a flight to Skiathos. If you watch this video of tourists standing beneath landing/taking-off airplanes in Skiathos, well, you'll get a real taste of Greece tourism. 

Greece


Skiathos is a touristy island. It has great beaches and a lot to do. Normally I get out of there fast. This year I'm hanging around a bit to do some writerly things. I'm a really bad liar because I can't even think of a single example. Fine. I'm meeting a couple friends and we're going to eat olives and talk books 24/7. When I leave Skiathos it will be by ferry.




My destination is Alonissos and my writing workshop there. It's quieter and I mean it as a compliment if I call it old-fashioned. It's my blue heaven after all. 


Author, S.R. Karfelt
For the next month I won't be on social media other than to post photos to Instagram and, if I can get blogger to trust me from Greece (and not to go into Greek which I cannot read), I'll post some blogs. 

If you're going back to school while I'm there, or if your kids are, I want you to know that eventually you'll get out of school (and so will your kids) and Greece will be right there waiting for you too, like it did for me. Enjoy summer while you can. It's so very fleeting.

So it's okay if you stop with the pumpkin spice crap already, okay?






Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Nobody Wants to Hear About My Upcoming Trip to Greece—But I Can't STFU About It


skiathos, skopelos, athens, karfelt, the shire, writing, finding your voice
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt 



Sometimes dolphins follow the ferry.



In a bit more than two weeks I leave for my annual trip to Alonissos. Currently I'm annoying the stuffing out of my husband with it. Since I stay a month, everything that I won't be here to do must be done NOW. Right. Now. 

When I return we're having much-needed work done on our house. That means getting all of that organized and ready NOW too.

With vacation approaching like the ping of an ice-cream truck, you can probably imagine how organized and together I am with preparations and scheduling. I can imagine it too. If only it were anywhere near the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants truth. 


At night I can hear the sound of free-range cats and dance parties drifting up from the port. 


My office now looks like the inside of a fairly clean dumpster that's been stuffed with the contents of a library. To expect that to ever change is delusional. It's my method (she says with a straight face without blinking), but I need to organize all the books I'm writing, update everything and get it all in portable and travel mode. Chargers and adapters and flash drives need fished out and readied. Bills paid. Contractors contracted. Schedules prepped. Flights, hotels, and ferries arranged. All the things in order NOW.


I never even knew I liked olives in a seaside cafe beneath a full moon.


It's quite a journey from here in the shire to that quiet island in the Aegean. Each click of the mouse prepping travel plans brings back memories of the place. The race to prep for vacation always makes me long to be there and done with hectic preparations. 

Do you ever stop in the middle of vacation prep and wonder if it is even worth the effort? Alonissos is. 


Sometimes I dream I'm floating around the island. In the air.


Vacation float is why we all go through the hassle of going. It takes time to achieve vacation float. I wish everybody could feel it. The world would be a better place. All the hassle and prep to get to Alonissos is why I stay so long. It takes me three days of travel to get there, but keep in mind I live in the shire and we don't have high-tech things like direct flights. It once took me three days to fly home from Nashville. I think I can drive there in half a day. 

Most people here will decide between flying and driving based on which is faster. DC, Portland, Boston, heck—Orlando, you weigh flying time against driving effort. Driving often wins. There are always connecting flights here. Connections are uncooperative slippery bastards. 


Retsina is an insidious Greek wine with a pine flavor that will bind you to this land. 


There are usually only two airports that connect to the shire's. When you get to your gate coming home, you often know half the people there. It's a small town. Not only do I recognize faces but I could make an educated guess whether they've been to China on business or visiting a grown child in Colorado. I adore that about living here, and I'm a transplant. But when it comes to travel, small town life requires patience.

I'll leave here on a Friday morning and get to Athens on Saturday morning more than twenty-four hours later. That's if all goes according to plan, best case scenario. I spend that Saturday in Athens because I'll be exhausted and I can't get a flight to Skiathos until late anyway. 


In Athens I can walk up to the Acropolis and visit the Caryatids.


Sunday I'll catch a flight to Skiathos. It's a short flight on Olympic Air. I saw Skiathos listed on one of those scariest airports to fly into sites. By scary what they mean is awesome. 


Watch planes land from the rooftop seating of Sofia's Family Restaurant in Skiathos, as the sun sets.


You can eat anything you like at Sofia's because you burned all those calories climbing the steep winding steps of the alleys to get there. Sometimes I don't linger in Skiathos until after my workshop ends. If I'm running behind schedule I share a taxi with strangers from the Skiathos airport and we race straight for the port to catch a ferry. 

There are different kinds of ferries. The hydrofoil skims over the water and the trip is fast. I prefer to take the giant slow one. Its so big the hull is full of trucks and cars. There are several decks. It takes hours of gliding through the sea and stops on Skopelos first. 

Skopelos is where the Mama Mia island is located. It's absolutely gorgeous. The first time I went to my workshop in Greece I couldn't believe my luck. Skopelos makes a cameo appearance in my book HEARTLESS. What were the odds that I'd be next door to it at a writing workshop the year it came out?


Water foams white and arctic blue like peppermint breath mints as the ferry slices the Aegean. I sip cherry juice wearing a straw hat.


The reason I like my slow approach is it's my transition time from busy me to human being. Sometimes I'll meet other writers with the same destination on the ferry. We'll know each other even if we're strangers. A few times I've made friends with other solo female travelers also shunning the more popular islands, in search of the stillness of the Old World that lingers in hidden lavender patches and olive groves of Alonissos.

If I'm very lucky I'll find my float somewhere in the long hours of introspective writing time that's coming. Occasionally I'll sense its approach as my shoulders relax, my breath deepens, and words evaporate from my lips to nest in my fingertips. 


Sure I write all the time, but on Alonissos I write with paper, pencils and magic. It's delicious.


This will be my fourth year attending the WRA workshop. I know the shape of the island from a distance. The ferry will curve outward before turning to approach the big dock. Around me people will hurry to gather their belongings. We'll all lumber down two or three floors into the bowels of the ferry to gather bigger luggage. 

Docking is quick. Trucks and cars disembark alongside people, flooding the Hellenic Seaways dock with chaos. The woman who runs the pansion I stay at meets me at the ferry. She's clever and quick and looks like movie star. Her voice is accented with the strong undertones of hard Greek, "Kali-sperra, Steph-an-ie. Welcome, welcome home." Beside her is the powerhouse who runs WRA. It feels like coming home, and in a way it is—it's my writer home. Like a turtle I carry my writer home on my back at all times, but also like a turtle I remember where I discovered it and long to return every year. 

The beaches are white with salty stones from the sea. I melt into them.  


I get why nobody wants to hear about my trip. Life isn't fair. Holidays are a luxury, especially Greek holidays. My husband has to stay here and work. My kids have nothing to say about a trip their mother takes that is more epic than their young adult vacations. That just goes against the natural order doesn't it? Even writing friends who've attended the workshop in the past don't want to hear about it. No one can go every year. Eventually the pilgrimage ends. 

We pack up our float and hope the airline doesn't ruin it before we get home. I strongly suspect I harbor quite a bit of float within. It just takes quiet to find, and I can't quite find quiet in the chaos of my busy home life. 


Cicadas blast eardrums as we lean knee to knee reading aloud. We talk faster, racing the ferry before it docks and drowns all other sound.

finding your voice, writer's voice, travel, WRA, women reading aloud
S.R. Karfelt

Yet I've had the privilege of being in this place and the honor of meeting some of the most amazing women I've ever known as we write together. Each year we raise each other up. Each year my writing voice grows stronger. Bitch Witch. Nobody Told Me. Each year my speaking voice grows stronger too. 

Perhaps I've now given you a glimpse of why I can't shut up about my amazing float story. Perhaps you have one of your own? I hope you do. If so I don't think you should STFU about it. I think you should share it too, don't you? As a wise woman once told me, don't be afraid to speak even if your voice shakes.