Living on hope

The appeal of writing science fiction and/or fantasy is quite simple: you can do anything. Everything is possible. That is amazing.

Tonight I decided to have a glass of wine. Okay, maybe two. I just felt like it. I never really drink by myself, unless I feel like having some Baileys and actually having a bottle of it at home. But that’s usually just a sip for the flavour of it. Nothing to actually get drunk on, because that would be rather sickening. Too sweet. Anyway, it’s red wine today. For once. And I’m watching ‘Interstellar’ to accompany the glasses of wine. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

It’s a fascinating movie. Relativity, time, metaphysics, interstellar travel, wormholes, the end of humanity and our future. It’s a quiet sort of movie, which is perhaps why it is rather a long movie. It’s introspective. It’s better on second viewing, too. It’ll probably be even better on third viewing.

I chose the movie because of Anne Hathaway. I might very well be harbouring a crush on her right about now. She’s quite a gorgeous creature and a pretty good actor, too. Earlier I watched ‘Becoming Jane’, which is a lovely movie and one that appeals to me as a writer. I admittedly have never actually managed to read any of Jane Austen’s novels, though I watched ‘Pride and Prejudice’ ages ago and want to watch it again, especially after reading some of what Emma Thompson wrote about the making of the movie. I might have to read Austen’s novels now, too.

I’m buzzed. Slightly all over the place, which I find quite enjoyable. I wonder what it’d be like if I attempted to actually write whilst being buzzed. I mean, beyond writing a blog. I do feel inspired, mind you. Very much so.

‘Interstellar’ is bleak in many ways. But there’s hope, too. We need hope. I think, fantasy and science fiction is often very much about hope.

This year was pretty hopeless. If the electoral colleges cast their votes for Trump tomorrow, we’ll need a lot more than hope not only for next year, but for the next few years beyond that. I digress, I suppose. When you’re not completely sober your mind scatters.

Still, I’m happy. For no particular reason at all.

And then there’s this:

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

We live on hope.

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1,000,000 words and counting

I wish I could say that I’ve been writing that many words over the last month. But the truth of the matter is that I’ve been reading that many words over the last month. Easily.

I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and it was educational. It was supremely entertaining as well, which was kind of the main point. But I would have been remiss merely to read for the entertainment value of the thing.

Considering that I really should have been writing instead, I wanted to make the most of the experience. I did sign up for NaNoWriMo this year. I had every intention of making it. I had and have plenty to work with. But I could not. I had to read instead.

And what, you may ask, had me so spell bound? I confess it was fanfiction. A guilty pleasure, if you will. But… and this shouldn’t even really be a ‘but’, there’s nothing actually wrong with reading fanfiction. Or writing it, for that matter. I’ve done my share of that.

I have read some excellent and at times stunning writing. And few of the writers would have considered themselves such. I also plowed through some not-so-great writing, because the stories were good enough. They should have been proofread and edited by someone, beta’ed as they say in fanfiction slang. Alas, that was not always the case.

Still, as I said, the experience was educational. And whilst I wrote less than 9,000 words on my NaNo story, I at least collected words. Whenever something struck a cord, I wrote it down for myself. A phrase here, a sentence there.

I also noted an unusual amount of repetitions or phrases, metaphors, analogies some writers were particularly fond of. So much so that I could identify the writers of various stories without knowing their names.

What I realized whilst reading some of the better stories is this: the writers truly cared about their subject, the characters, the source material they based their writing on. And some of them told the story so much better than the original story tellers, pointing out flaws in the characters and their actions that hadn’t occurred to me before. Quite a few stories vastly improved on the source material.

That is the beauty of fanfiction. It is non-commercial and it allows the writers to tackle an aspect of a story that the original author may have treated erroneously or overlooked. The truth is: the characters we create develop a life of their own. And sometimes storytellers are so intent in telling the story instead of honouring their characters that they make them do something that seems rather out of character. Fanfiction writers tend to ‘fix’ those mistakes.

I confess that I’ve never fallen into a reading frenzy such as this one before. I’ve read brilliant books until 4am before, but for the most part I do stop eventually and put the book aside to sleep. Over the last few weeks I’ve been consuming writing voraciously.

I regret nothing.

Especially since it is now time for me to go and write my own stories again. I’m ready. So ready.

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Pandora’s box

The myth goes like this: Pandora was the first woman created. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to make her and so he did, out of earth and water. Athena gave her clothes, Apollo gave her musical ability, Aphrodite beauty and Hermes speech.

But when Prometheus stole fire to give it to humans, Zeus wanted vengeance and thus he gave Pandora a box, knowing that her curiosity would get the better of her and she would open it despite instructions not to do so.

When she did, all the evils in the worlds escaped, including death, sickness, famine and what have you. Pandora hurried to close the box and kept one thing left inside: hope.

Today hope seems to have escaped as well.

When Obama was elected eight years ago, there was a great feeling of elation and hope. Many thought it would be the beginning of a new era. Whilst his presidency did not hold the many promises we had hoped for, he didn’t do a bad job. It could have been a marvellous job and one could argue that it should have been. But with Congress and Senate firmly under Republican rule, it’s hard to do what you want to do.

Still, the Obamas as people, as a family, were the coolest family ever to reside in the White House and Michelle as the First Lady will long be remembered as one of the best and most beloved.

It’s hard to fathom how much people obviously detest Hilary Clinton. She’s deeply flawed as a person and politician. But she is also very accomplished. And at least she was a Democrat and the status quo, as flawed as it is, would not have changed much. At least that’s the theory.

But now the Republicans are in power, as much as they have ever been. They can do as they please and overturn pretty much every piece of progress that has been made during the last eight years. Regardless of any antipathy one might have for Trump as a person, Republican policies and Republican rule in the US are not a good thing. We can expect Planned Parenthood to be defunded. Who knows whether gay marriage will be upheld? Immigration laws will become impossible. Universal healthcare will be overturned.

And that’s just the beginning of it. If ever any of Trumps campaign trail ideas and promises will be made the law of the land, Muslims will not be welcome and black lives won’t matter.

We cannot now foresee what the future holds. If his dangerous insanity, at least the one he spouted everywhere during the last 18 months, will take a foothold and spread further divisiveness, the future will look dire. Perhaps the Republican Party will rein him in, use him as nothing more than a figurehead. God knows he has no political acumen and he’s not even a good business man. But the Republican Party is conservative at best and is now leaning so far to the right that progress is out of the question. Whatever policies they are overturning or adding, the country is likely to be thrown back decades.

Whatever hopes disillusioned voters might have had when they cast their lot for Trump will be sorely disappointed. Trump does not stand for hope and he will not make America great again. Of that I have no doubt.

At the same time I do believe that the DNC has brought this fate upon itself. Constantly underestimating their opposition, fighting dirty and setting their hopes and the fate of the country, even the world, on the shoulders of a woman so hated and vilified, one is inclined to say that they asked for it. How they could not have seen this is beyond me.

Had they nominated Bernie Sanders as their candidate, today would look rather different. I have no doubt that he could and would have won this election. This wasn’t about the lesser of two evils. It was about the establishment. Hilary Clinton is the embodiment of the establishment that people, voters, have become so disillusioned with.

So is Trump, for that matter, though in a very different way. But because he’s not a politician and he speaks without thinking, he gets the popular vote, “because he says it like it is”.

Of course, this is all moot now. The voters have chosen. The establishment deserved to fail. But it is impossible to say what the prize for that will be.

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Nightowlish

I was tired most of today. You could blame it on the weather. Grey, drizzly, typical November, really. Or perhaps it was the insufficient sleep of the last two nights. Always restless, brain never stopping.

It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been obsessively reading fanfiction ever since I ended up watching The Devil Wears Prada a few days ago. It was probably only the second time I’ve seen the movie.

Meryl Streep is exquisite in every role she plays. And whilst I’m not a huge fan of Anne Hathaway, she’s quite alright most of the time. As it happens, reading fanfiction inspired by the movie, you become aware of all the flaws in the story.

Never mind that, though, it’s only served to keep my brain busy constantly… all the reading, I mean. It’s been a bit of an obsession over the last few days, to be perfectly honest. A guilty pleasure I found myself unable to resist.

And now, at nearly 11pm, I have been more awake after darkness descended than during the hours of dim light today. I don’t even feel ready to go to bed, which only promises more tossing and turning.

During my student times I used to be a nightowl. The night is my preferred time of the day. Always has been. The pressures of having a 9 to 5 job of some kind or another over the last few years have changed that. I prefer to get my work done as early in the day as possible so I can have the rest of the day to myself.

That doesn’t go well with being a nightowl at all, of course. Yet, lately, I’ve been drawn back into the night and sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t relent and follow the rhythm that feels more natural to me. I write more at night, too, which is always a good argument for simply flipping.

They say you should eat when you’re hungry. Similarly you should sleep when tired. It doesn’t seem that difficult. Quite natural, really. So why don’t we do that? Because of those 9 to 5 jobs. But if I were to do a few jobs now and schedule them for posting in the morning, I would have done my duty and needn’t worry about once the new day dawns.

It’s worth considering…

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10 years ago today

It’s hard to believe, but on the 6th July 2006 I left Germany on a journey that would take me nearly ten years before I returned.

My brother had taken me to an airport outside Berlin in the early morning hours. He was the last one of my family and friends I said goodbye to. It was the hardest one, too. I boarded a plane to Dresden. It was a small one. Another, smaller plane still, took me to Vienna. And then I was on a big one to Kuala Lumpur, which was followed by one to Sydney and finally I landed in Auckland, New Zealand, for the first time in my life.

It was a trip of nearly 40 hours. I was exhausted. It was after midnight when I landed, but thankfully someone picked me up. We drove two hours north to Whangarei, where my first trip around the world truly began. Though it would take a while before I completed it.

Ten years is a long time. I had left Germany, because I had come to the conclusion that there had to be more to life than studying and working and having friends and being content with everything. At 26 I didn’t find “content” a desirable state of being.

So, instead I went for “uncertainty”. All the safety I had in my life up until the moment I decided to leave meant nothing. A novel by Richard Bach is called “Running from Safety”. It’s among my favourites and it always rang true with me.

I gave up the life I had and left for something new and different. I told my parents that I’d be gone for two, maybe three years. But I had no idea, truth be told.

As an introvert seeking adventures doesn’t come naturally to me. My comfort zone is where I’m usually happy. Or at least content. Yeah, there’s that word again.

But as someone thirsting for knowledge, for experiences, as someone who wants to live vicariously not just through the books she’s reading, I wanted to see things for myself. I needed to.

Ten years on I feel as if I barely scratched the surface.

I sailed from New Zealand to Fiji. I lived and worked a year in Australia, namely Melbourne. I fell in love. I travelled around the world for five months by myself, stopping by at home for Christmas to see my family and friends. I returned to Melbourne and moved to New Zealand with my now ex.

I stayed for nearly three years, fell out of love with my partner, fell in love with the country and my greyhounds and eventually I had to move on.

After more than four years gone from Germany already, I still wasn’t ready to return. So I went to Canada, after a brief interlude in Berlin to arrange for the working holiday visa I needed for Canada.

So, I went to Vancouver and landed myself in Victoria, where I stayed a year and worked. It’s a beautiful part of the world. Next I travelled around the US for two months, staying four weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii.

And then, I thought, perhaps it was time to return to Germany after all. But no, it wasn’t meant to be. Red tape and the job centre chased me out of the country after only three weeks. Never again will I apply for benefits in Germany. I only did it to have health insurance, but it wasn’t worth it going that route.

I moved to London instead.

It took about a year before I knew I wasn’t done travelling. Serves you right working for an international travel company. I did stay another 18 months, however, in order to save enough money for the next big trip. This time it was mostly South America, but some SEA as well and seeing friends in NZ and Melbourne.

I travelled for six months before I returned to Germany and then London once more.

For the past year I’ve worked on my freelance career, which is going well enough that I’ve not had to return to any form of more regular employment. And eventually I decided that, perhaps, it was time to finally give Germany another chance.

I came back three months ago.

My life changed many times during the past ten years; certainly more times than I would have anticipated or have ever believed when I first left. And it became so much more than I could have ever hoped for. Ten years full of seeing new things, meeting new people, making friends for life and finding unexpected joy. I fell in and out of love, I grew up and learned to let go. I found friends and I lost friends.

I figured out what I really wanted in life, what I am capable of and that home is many places.

And, no, not everything was perfect. Not at all. I struggled often and sometimes despaired. I was alone at times and sometimes lonely. But I always had someone to fall back on, whether my family in the distance or friends close at hand. It wasn’t perfect and I do have regrets. Ultimately, however, there are very few things I would change given a chance. And since I won’t get that chance, I’m okay with how things turned out.

I’m here now.

There are many adventures still ahead of me, so many places to see still. So many lessons to learn and new friends to meet. For now I’ve decided to make a home and with any luck, I may even find someone to share those next adventures with me. I love to travel by myself, but some things become all the more enjoyable when shared. That would be a new experience, too.

This scratch map was given to me by friends. I have been able to scratch 30 countries free thus far.

This scratch map was given to me by friends. I have been able to scratch 30 countries free thus far.

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The day that changed the EU and the UK forever

I was woken by a thunderstorm last night. It was a little before 3am. Lighting split the skies every few seconds and the thunder followed suit. It was one of those storms that explain why people of old thought the gods were fighting or exacting some sort of punishment on us.

I couldn’t go back to sleep. But it wasn’t the storm that was at fault. It was the Brexit referendum.

I knew that polls had closed at 10pm GMT, which was 11pm CET. I had gone to bed around that time, knowing that I would likely see the results with everyone else in the morning. But when the storm awoke me, spelling doom, I couldn’t resist and checked the latest results. The Leave votes were about 500K ahead of the Remain votes at that time.

It was worrisome, but there was little I could do and it was way too early still to be certain of anything. So I tried to go back to sleep. The heat and humidity didn’t help and my brain kept wondering “what if the Brexit really happens?”

So, over the next two hours I kept checking the results sporadically and the outlook became worse. The Brexit became a definitive reality.

Eventually I fell back asleep, only mustering up the energy to wake up again around 9am. I immediately checked the final results and there it was: the UK had voted to Leave the EU with nearly 52% of the votes. Not an overwhelming win, but a win for the Leave campaign nonetheless.

Whilst I wasn’t surprised after I had already anticipated that result, I was still shocked. Any hope that reason might prevail was crushed.

I lived in the UK for the better part of 4 years. I love London, I have some wonderful British friends and know many, many people who were from different parts of Europe, who had come to Britain for work and new opportunities.

I left the UK back in April, because the country didn’t have anything to offer any more. Yes, I still love London and I miss my friends. But with the referendum looming I feared for the worst. The two sides have been campaigning for quite some time and the stuff I kept hearing about immigration and whatnot was unappealing. The Leave campaign used some appalling arguments and strategies to advertise for its cause. And people believed it.

I didn’t want to live in a country anymore that wouldn’t open its borders to refugees from war zones.

The European Union is deeply flawed. That more and more people get disillusioned with it is not entirely surprising, even understandable. But the EU is an ideal worth holding onto and it was founded for all the right reasons.

The UK will be much worse off without it and those who left Leave will be given a nasty wakeup call. The Pound Sterling has already plummeted into depths unknown for over 30 years. The stock market is reeling and not just at the London Stock Exchange, but in Europe and the rest of the world.

Leaders in the European Union have said that this should be a wake-up call for the EU. Whilst many continue to support the EU and vow to remain a part of it, many also said that things need to change. It’s not just the British citizens who suffer this disillusionment.

Here is hoping that the EU is getting its act together and lives up to its potential. We’ve come so far and Europe hasn’t seen a war since WWII ended. We did that together. We haven’t built a paradise, but we live in peace. There’s a reason refugees are coming here.

In one fell move the UK managed to isolate itself from the rest of Europe. Historically the Great British Empire has always considered itself apart from mainland Europe. But there is no Great British Empire anymore. Soon there might not even be a UK, should Scotland go for another referendum to leave the UK and remain in the EU. Scotland, after all, voted to Remain – 68% of them, which is a clear majority.

The EU won’t be better off without the UK and the UK will most certainly not be better off without the UK. There will be a steep price to pay. But the EU can recover and will hopefully learn a valuable lesson here – one that results in a new and improved European Union.

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Reading old journals

It messes with your mind. I just read through a notebook I kept in 2009. I lived in New Zealand then.

I wrote some fanfiction. I wrote what are without a doubt writing prompts. Ramblings, mostly. A few journal entries were thrown in the mix.

I feel as if I fell through a whole in time. I recognize my writing, my words, but some of it I don’t remember. How did I conceive of this?

Emerging from this whole in time leaves me reeling. What kind of weird rollercoaster did I just go on? I didn’t sign up for this. Or perhaps I did. When I keep a journal I don’t just want to get rid of the stuff that’s happening at the time. I plan on going back to it eventually; when I don’t clearly remember any of it any more. All the details vanish. What remains are the big things and even those get muddled in our memories.

There was never a time in my life when I didn’t write. Except the time before I learned how to.

Lately I’ve not been writing enough for myself.

I sit at my desk in the morning, work laid out in front of me. But I’m not feeling it. It pays the bills, but it gets harder ever day to get started. Once the first article is written, it gets easier. But I look at my notebook and feel guilty, because that’s where I should put my words down instead.

Thinking of the bills coming up, I know I’m doing the right thing by getting the paid work out of the way first. Later, I think, later I can do my own stuff. Discipline is hard. I keep going back to crunching the numbers. It keeps me on track. Now, long after I finished the paid work I still sit at my desk, feeling better about the things I’m writing now.

This is for me. This is me.

I may not go back to reading old journals. But I have tons of notebooks full of scribbles. Reading those reminds me of what I can do. There are many paths I can go down. I just need to figure out which one works best.

By the way, this is what I’m listening to right now. I find it fitting somehow.

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Word by word

It’s time to get writing again. There’s not a day that I don’t write. But I write for my clients, not for myself. Except for the occasional thought that I scribble into a notebook or jot down using a memo app on my phone. That’s a handy one to have, especially in the middle of the night, when something occurs to you, you can’t be bothered to switch on a light, grab a pen and tediously write it into a notebook. Just blink bleary-eyed at your screen, which is already on the lowest illumination and hope that your swipes across your little keyboard spit out the words you intend to enter.

I’ve done this a few times. Sometimes I re-read what I wrote in the morning and have no idea how I was able to write that or what I could possibly have meant by it. Those tend to be the best notes.

Be that as it may, in my new flat I have a small room, which is the main reason I really wanted the flat. It’s a nice flat, to be sure, bigger than what I could possibly need, though definitely not huge by any standards – except British ones, maybe.

The room I rented the flat for is my home office. In Germany it’s considered a “half” room. In the UK I once rented a room this size (or perhaps even smaller) as a single room. It’s bigger than most so-called “boxrooms” in London.

My desk is standing right in front of the window, facing it.

On my left, a world map is gracing the wall. On my right, a pinboard/whiteboard will soon be hanging. It’ll be an essential tool for my writing. I like to write pen on paper. Longhand. That’s the way to go. Especially with a decent notebook and a decent fountain pen.

I have not done enough of that kind of writing and I fear my penmanship might have suffered. I’m very fast on the keyboard, which is very helpful, especially when working for others. But writing longhand is, to me, part of the craft of writing. The pen is the tool. The paper/notebook is the receptacle.

I write more carefully, more deliberately. It forces me to slow down my words, my thoughts, and to pay closer attention to what I am writing. It’s ideal for writing a first draft.

Now I just have to decide which idea gets to be poured into the notebook at hand. That will require a little bit of sorting, possible lots of flashcards that have yet to be written. It’s a good thing I keep notebooks close at hand to write those fleeting thoughts and ideas down. But a notebook is not useful when trying to put things together. Flashcards are the way to go. One thought. One card.

I need to figure out what it is I have been working on for half my life now.

And then I need to start putting it together. Word by word.

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37

It’s an odd number, I find.

Not a number I associate with my age, but as of today that’s what it is. I’m fine with that. I don’t really care all that much, because I have no real concept of what that is supposed to mean. In the end it means something else for everyone.

When my parents were that age, their kids were 17 and 18 years old. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine having an 18-year old daughter.

In many ways it’s just another day. But on this day something still changes. Whilst we get older every minute of every day, it’s only on our birthday that we become aware of it. I suppose that’s why we pause and take stock – if we’re so inclined.

I’ve just moved countries again. Back home this time, sort of anyway. I’m in a new city and I’m pretty much by myself. I work from home. That’s not ideal to make new friends. But I’m not someone who tends to get lonely. I’m good and I’ll simply have to make an effort to meet people and eventually make new friends. I’m not that much of an introvert that I’m incapable of doing that.

For better or worse this will be a year of new beginnings for me. As far as 2016 goes it already has been.

I’m in a good place. I’m in a writing place, which is always good.

I’m starting to feel at home in my new apartment.

I want a dog again, a greyhound. It’ll be time for that sooner rather than later.

I’ve written so many new chapters of my life and I’m nowhere near done. This is the latest one and I’ll make sure it’ll be worthwhile remembering. When I left home 10 years ago, I embarked on a journey that I could not have imagined. It turned out to be the time of my life. That doesn’t mean the time of my life is over. It’ll just be different from here on in and I’m quite alright with that.

Many happy returns – to me.

And to you.

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Mother Nature

Simply but powerfully narrated by Julia Roberts. And chillingly true.

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