Nearly there…

So, you’d think a professional writer would do a better job of keeping their website up to date, wouldn’t you?!

Especially as I’ve ticked off 5 letters since my last post (where I miscounted and thought I had 6 left, rather than 7)! That’s right, 2017 turned into the year of travel. 5 countries, 5 new chapters (not all finished, I’ll admit), and plenty of amazing memories. Portugal, Latvia, Hong Kong, Qatar, and Tenerife.

What that also means is that I’m within touching distance of the holy grail – the completion of mine and dad’s quest. I can’t quite believe it. But believe it I must, because in less than 2 weeks, I shall be jetting off to the penultimate destination – Oman.

 

Milestone

It’s been far too long since I last wrote here – I guess there are only so many words in me, and I’ve been using them all for the book!

I’ve reached just over 70,000 words now, which feels like another great milestone. That combined with a trip to Portugal to collect the letter P (and eat a lot of custard tarts), and I feel really good about progress.

Now, I do realise that 50,000 words in a year isn’t a hell of a lot in the scheme of things. I could say that I’ve run a business and got a full time job, but there are lots of people who do those things and crack out many more words.

But I still have 6 letters left – 6 more countries I need to visit before I can finish the alphabet. And writing the book helps me keep my travels alive in my head while I dream of finishing. So there’s possibly a little bit of a lack of motivation to finish what I’ve already got.

That said, I only have 3 countries left to write (two already started) before I am done with what I have. That’s an exciting and scary prospect!

 

Out of Context

In my last post about my book it was kinda fun to boil down a lot of what I’d been working on to bullet points – obviously they’re a lot more expanded in the book but I wanted to give a flavour of what you can expect.

So I thought it would be amusing to pick out some quotes, and leave them completely without context:

“Gritting my teeth, I told myself that I was supposed to be having an adventure, and I was damn well going to have one.”

“I have to say, pouring cocktails into my mouth from a shiny teapot was extremely fun, and I drank rather a lot.”

“As mum always said, “what goes up, must come down”, and I had visions of what coming down was going to look like.”

“So that’s how I found myself on stage in a Toronto hotel, miming the words to a Backstreet Boys song that I wasn’t even sure I’d ever heard before…”

“For dinner one evening I’d ordered pork chops. I got 4. Lamb chops? Seven.”

“If there’s one thing that my hangovers do not enjoy, it’s blazing sun and relentless heat.”

“It was loud, bright, colourful and utterly inexplicable. And it was fabulous.”

So, that’s what you’ve got to look forward to!

 

 

 

 

My first competition

I recently entered a writing competition, held by my local writing group.

The brief was to write a ghost story of 1,000 words. I must admit, short stories are not my forte, and I’ve never written (or indeed read) a ghost story. But an idea popped unbidden into my head, and I thought, “what’s the harm in entering”? I’d never entered a writing competition before but writing to a brief was good fun.

Last night was our Christmas Social, where the winners were announced. And I’m extremely proud to reveal that I came in second. There were 15 entries, I believe, and the judge commended the high quality of the writing across the board.

I wanted to share the feedback I got, because I’m extremely excited to have placed in the competition, and to have received such positive comments from the judge.

“Very different to the winner, and only very narrowly placed second, ‘Nine’ gives us a dark little glimpse into the aftermath of a serial killer’s actions.  This original and deeply unsettling story forces us to pay attention, to pick up on the clues scattered throughout and to piece together what’s happening, and is extremely cleverly constructed. 

“I particularly liked the opening line, and it missed out on first place only because in places the language could have been tighter and more polished, which would have had the effect of throwing the ending into even sharper focus.”

I’m delighted with the feedback and have already gone back to the story to see where I can apply it, to learn and improve my skills as a writer.

Making Progress

I’ve been quiet on here of late because I’ve been hard at work increasing my book’s wordcount.

I’m now up to over 61,000 words, which feels like a lot but I know I still have a long way to go before I finish – especially as I still haven’t finished the travelling I need to do!

I still have a couple of countries to write before I reach the end of the trips I’ve taken so far, and a lot further to go with my 3-month expedition to Australia, but here are some of the sections I’ve written of late:

  • Watching whales off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia before spending the evening stargazing with a Celestial Navigator
  • Escaping from cockroaches in Venezuela (ok, it was only one cockroach, but it was huge)
  • My dad getting drunk in Menorca and instigating a Pied-Piper Conga situation to the delight of children and irritation of adults
  • Unexpectedly swimming with a giant sea turtle in Egypt while out for a quiet snorkel
  • Kayaking in the Norwegian Fjords and being surprised by how cold the water was, because sometimes I haven’t got as much common sense as I’d like to think.

Starting this book has given me the opportunity to reminisce with friends and family about some wonderful memories, as well as the chance to reflect on how lucky I am to have seen so much of the world already.

I can’t wait to plan my next trip, but first, back to the keyboard…

Brown Ben’s Travels

It’s been just over 3 years since I first self-published my children’s book, The Adventures of Brown Ben – I can’t quite believe how time has flown!

Like me, Brown Ben loves to travel. It’s part of his special kind of magic. He travels the world to find children who need a friend, a companion, a confidante… Once he was even found on a plane, ready to be picked up and taken home to a little girl who needed a cuddle.

Unlike me, Brown Ben understands the language of every country he visits – and he’s visited every letter of the alphabet countless times. If only I had magical powers, it would make my quest much easier!

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Here he is at Niagara Falls – somewhere I have recently finished writing up for my book!

Pins in the Map

Every travel quest needs a map behind it – I find looking at maps so inspiring. All the wonderful, unusual, exotic places just sitting there waiting to be discovered. You may not be surprised to know my house has many globes dotted around… Let’s see, I can spot at least 4 from where I’m sitting!

The map in this post is actually not in my house, though; it’s in the office at my mum’s house. Each different coloured pin represents a different member of the family, or combination of members – I’m the black pin (chosen mainly because it stood out in the pale expanse of Australia).

Whenever I visit mum, I go and gaze at the map. I plot which countries to visit based on which areas of the map have few pins (in the full picture below you can see a lot clustered around Europe and the Mediterranean, while the Far East and South America have almost nothing).

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Trying to choose countries that not only fit my remaining alphabet but also add a pin to an underrepresented area can be a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. It’s always exciting to add a new pin to the map.

I also love the way the map looks now – it’s faded a lot since we first put it up, thanks to being opposite a window, and I love the aged, vintage vibe it gives off. It looks like it has been charting the travels of our family for decades, which, I suppose it has really.

Dream Travel Experiences

When my book is finished, if you read it (and I really, really hope you will!) you’ll find out why I so desperately want to travel to Antarctica. I don’t need it for the A-Z, I already have Austria and Australia for A, but I do have an excellent reason beyond that. I just need to finish the alphabet first!

And that does raise a good point. I have 8 letters left, and obviously I’m in the midst of writing the book, so my travel choices tend to be centred around getting to those letters. Which does cut out a whole lot of places I’d still love to see.

So, once the book is finished (or, at least, the necessary letters are collected), here are some of the experiences that will still be on my Bucket List:

Iceland

I’d love to see the Northern Lights, volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, and geysers. It’s such an ecologically interesting country (and seriously, volcanoes!)

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Galapagos Islands

I would love to visit the islands – I know it’s somewhere my dad was desperate to dive, and it just looks like an amazing experience in general. The variety of wildlife is amazing, and the scenery looks stunning.

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Vietnam

Vietnam may not be the first tourist destination that springs to people’s minds, but I’ve wanted to visit this beautiful country for a long time. The remote places, mountain passes and landscape are all wonderfully different, there are some amazing architectural sights, and by all accounts, it’s a welcoming and delightful place to stay.

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Cuba

From pictures, it always looks like stepping back in time – the gorgeous old cars giving this particular resonance! That’s clearly not the only reason to go; I’d hate to narrow a country down to one feature, but it’s always the first thing that springs to mind (well, and cigars of course)!

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Costa Rica

I’ve never properly experienced the Rainforest – I did get to spend an afternoon in one in Queensland, Australia, but it doesn’t really count to me. I would have to psyche myself up to deal with all the insects, arachnids, and other creepy crawlies, but would be rewarded by sloths and colourful birds and plenty of other beauty – a fair trade, I think!

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Your Turn…

Ok, so tell me, what and where do you have on your bucket list?!

Top 5 Ancient Monuments

As I work through writing my travel adventures (here’s some more information about my project, if you haven’t read that yet), I get to reminisce about the amazing things I’ve seen and done. So I thought I’d share some of those here too – to give you a flavour of what will be in the book.

Here are my Top 5 Ancient Monuments – hopefully I’ll get chance to visit some more before my travels are over, but these are my favourites so far!

The Pyramids and Sphinx

The first time I visited Egypt, we were actually in Cyprus (and I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the book for the full story behind that)! We travelled to Cairo to see the Pyramids and Sphinx. Aside from being most confused that they’re not in the middle of the desert, but actually right on the edge of the city, we were blown away to be standing at the base of one of the 7 wonders of the world.

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Ancient Rome

I was initially going to say The Colosseum, but ancient Rome is more than that. Sure, the Colosseum is the biggest, most prominent monument on the landscape, but I loved seeing the Circus Maximus and the Forum too. Especially when much of that sightseeing was done from the comfort of a Segway (more on that another time!)

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Olympia

My most recent ancient visit, one of my favourite things about seeing the site of the first Olympics was knowing that I was walking on the same ground as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. That’s so cool! Standing on the starting line of the stadium, and sitting on one of the winners’ plinths was pretty awesome too, of course.

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Petra

It may have been hotter than the surface of the sun that day (probably an exaggeration, but that’s how it felt), but walking through a canyon before being confronted by the Treasury at Petra was a spectacular experience.

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Abu Simbel

Back to Egypt, the temples built for Ramses II and his main wife are truly monuments to behold. Carved into the mountain, engineered to the nth degree, filled with carving after carving… As a writer, I wish I could do a better job of explaining just how awe-inspiring these temples are.

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Like I said, I do hope to visit many more ancient ruins – after all, I do want to get to the rest of the 7 wonders, and Machu Pichu is on my Bucket List too…

7 Wonders

When dad and I were daydreaming about our grand travel plans, one of the things we had a lot of fun with was seeing how many extra achievements we could throw into the mix – like my plan to have visited every continent.

One of the extra ideas we had was to see if we could visit each of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World:

  • The Pyramids of Giza
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • The Colossus of Rhodes
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria
  • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

We’d already visited the Pyramids at this stage, and dad had been to the Temple of Artemis. After he died, mum and I went to Rhodes, and saw the site of the Colossus (sadly no longer there – it would have been incredible).

Well, I’ve just come back from a week in Zakynthos (that’s Z sorted now), and took a day trip to Olympia where I saw the Temple of Zeus, or at least the remains of it – it’s another one where the statue is long gone, but still.

So I’m on 3 of 7, and I’ve just realised that 2 of the others are in Turkey and I don’t yet have a T… Well, isn’t that interesting?!