How’s the Weather?


Cold air stings my face. I think about conversations we have with taxi drivers about the most cliche of subjects, the weather. Is it not the topic that makes us all scoff? But when you’re from a different hemisphere, the weather becomes interesting.

We hear people in Peru talk of how cold it is outside, and it makes us smile. I think of our winters at home where the streets are coated with layers of snow and it’s difficult to crawl out of bed.

I find the Peruvian winter, at least in Lima, like the colder months of autumn—minus pumpkin spice fever. It’s a pleasant time when you can walk around with a scarf and think of carving pumpkins…but you don’t see any.

It’s disconcerting to feel this temperature and not see a pumpkin patch. You don’t think about such details at home, things so mundane as a pile of fat pumpkins in front of the grocery store.

Friends, you learn unexpected when you travel; apparently, pumpkins are a bigger part of my life than I thought.

When we describe winter at home, people smile and seem to give thanks they do not live somewhere so frosty. It’s as if, all of a sudden, the weather isn’t so cold.

They then ask where we live. Idaho, we respond, to confusion. Where is that? Did you say Ohio? Iowa? Where is Idaho? It’s up northwest. Is it near Arizona? Is it near Canada? Yes, it’s near Canada.

Sometimes, after these vague directions, the person gets an idea of where we are. Sometimes they remember having heard of Idaho at some point. Most of the time we leave the taxi feeling like tourists from Wonderland or Oz.

The taxi driver zooms away picturing us as living in a place like Monet’s Snow at Argenteuil. Sometimes Boise does look like that.

Claude Monet, Snow at Argenteuil

Traveling, you learn that the weather isn’t simple after all. What Peru lacks in snow is made up for with humidity. The hostel where we’ve been staying for three weeks is next to the ocean; if you open the window and lean outside, you smell it.

We breathe in seawater, and though it does not feel terribly cold on the outside, the body becomes cold. I had bronchitis the first week here. At home, I have never had such a bad cold, even in years when the snow has been terrifying. Perhaps it’s not impossible, but it’s never happened to me.

Travel helps you learn about the place where you live; you unearth gems of your tradition, habits you didn’t know had gotten under your skin, like choosing pumpkins when the weather is cool. Life is a painting, and you have to look for the contrasts.

Colors of Travel


What have I learned visiting a different hemisphere for two weeks? I could go on about the cliches. In a different country we discover new cultures, cities, customs. We encounter things of the past, ruins and cathedrals built centuries ago, structures with such detail few today can mimic them.

To be honest, I haven’t seen this trip with the eyes of a tourist. Cultures, cities, customs–these are things anyone can learn when they visit a different country. They can be learned online, as well, through a quick Google search.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustave Flaubert

What do we learn about ourselves? Every human spirit is a castle with undiscovered rooms. Doors must be opened, and when they are, the traveler will find in themselves a stranger. If travel is done correctly, we should not be able to recognize ourselves.

We are all made of divine colors visible to ourselves and God. He is all-knowing, so the heavenly shades cannot surprise Him; the same cannot be said for ourselves. We become frightened running into a contrast we consider too bold, or a shade too soft for our comfort. It’s like asking a stranger what they are doing inside of our skin.

Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal

When forced to relearn things such as how to cross the street, you face the patterns of your soul. There is nothing so foreign to us as the gradients that make us. See how they merge so mysteriously! Ask yourself, What is going on here? Why does the person in the looking-glass resemble me but not feel like me? It is thrilling and terrifying.

After two weeks in Peru (and another because of the hurricane), I looked in the mirror. What I saw resembled the person who had gone to the airport, but she was not the same. She could smile and mean it. She liked the light in her eyes, and could converse with strangers in a different language.

Her soul was foreign, but it was her.

Other things came as a surprise, such as how I like pastels. In the past I was faithful to forest colors or shades of blue, but now I am drawn to lavender, yellow, shades that remind me of the ballerinas in an Edgar Degas painting. I do not like loud shades of pink, but soft ones, those that could almost be called white. You see it if you know how to look.

Is it color I like in myself, or what the color reminds me of? In Degas paintings I see color in motion, coming alive. That flash of yellow is doing a pirouette, the pink is securing a bow; they are alive and breathing. I believe that travel done correctly makes you see your own colors.

How sweet to feel colors in me that promise I am alive, a painting like every other soul. Travel done right uncovers them so that life is never the same.

The Book Inspired by Peru


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It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

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The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!

Being a Traveling Pantser


DSCN9349.JPGI will always be a pantser, no matter where in the world I’m writing.

I had a loose outline for the third book of my series. I even made index cards by taking a notebook and cutting its pages into rectangles – I guess it’s easier for me to use index cards that aren’t real and not be afraid I’m wasting money?

Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t spend money on index cards, because the outline I made on these makeshift cards turned out to be a waste. I’m 20k into the first draft, and it’s nothing like I’d planned. At least for the Fallen Faery Tales, I will always be a pantser.

The story is coming along so easily! Words are spilling onto the page (or into the document) and I’m resisting the urge to edit, meaning I make faster progress. I think it’s the different location that keeps my Muse busy, making her feel generous.

dscn9350I’ve been trying to start a bullet journal, and though it isn’t pretty (certainly not Pinterest worthy!) my favorite feature is a writing goal tracker. At the end of the day, I fill in a box with the daily word count goal. I keep the goal small, just 2k a day, and have been able to fill in all of the little boxes since January 1. I hope to finish a new draft by the end of January, and if it winds up longer than the first two books, I’ll still be filling in little boxes come February.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading (The Count of Monte Cristo is quite a feat!) or enjoying the Peruvian summer (if it’s not too hot to enjoy.) We’ve gone to the beach and seen different parts of the city. All this helps with my projects.

Travel is a great for any artist. If you can get somewhere new, just for a little while, do it. Your story will thank you, your Muse will love you, and even if you don’t write during the vacation, there’ll be plenty of material to work with at home!