Learnings from my Travels (April Update)

March and April have been busy months. It’s springtime, so everything is growing and changing in the garden, the sun is rising up earlier (God does that make the drive to work easier), and there is just a feeling of newness in the air that is not felt in any other month.

I love springtime because of that newness. It’s a new year, full of possibilities, ending the coldness of winter and drawing up new plans of places to visit, things to see and things to do. It’s the delightful uncertainty of the future, that can be shaped into anything.

It’s been a busy couple of months for me too, because not only did I marry my darling fiancé (now husband!), I got to then travel Asia for three weeks with him. Which has been nothing short of a magical and eye-opening experience.

Writing on the WIP

My current “WIP” is dutifully titled ‘Assassins 1’, and currently sits at 130k words on Scrivener. It’s still got a lot of work to get somewhere that looks vaguely like a book so my husband can actually read the damn thing to give Inital Comments on What Doesn’t Make Sense.

It’s set in a tropical climate, so there is a lot that I’ve now got to change having actually visited a tropical climate for the first time in my life. Namely, the heat (the hottest and sweatiest I’ve ever been), the humidity that presses against your skin and the absolutely awesome thunderstorms. To the point that mid-thunderstorm in Malaysia, I decided to re-write my magic system in the back of a taxi as the rain hammered down on the roof like it was being hit by hammers. Now it’s a weather -based magic system with added magic tattoos and some religious interfering goddesses and gods to boot. (I cannot resist making up religions for books, it’s one of my favourite parts of world building).

I’ve also got a handle on how to make the plot driven by the characters and not the plot driving the characters. It’s going to mean stripping out some lengthy scenes, but it will be worth it. I want to focus on the main character’s story arc instead of trying to introduce all the world in the first few chapters, in order to make her story more concrete and the real central piece to the story.

I’m excited to start some real work on the WIP now i’m home. I’ve made some fantastic progress with it so far (and I’m really proud of it!) but it’s going to take some doing to get it to a readable first draft. Still, out of all my stories it’s the longest by a country mile, and even though I tried to keep it simple it has grown to become a good old Epic Fantasy monster. But hey, those are my favourite kind of books, so that was expected.

Learnings from my Travels

I’ve never been away from home for more than 2 weeks before, and I’ve never travelled to the ‘East’. Our honeymoon holiday was just as much of a challenge holiday as a relaxing one, shoving me as far out of my comfort zone as possible and really challenging my preconceptions of the world.

I’ve been given a deeper appreciation for the complexities of world politics thanks to visiting Cambodia and Vietnam. You can’t escape the impact that the politics had (and still has) on the way the people live and the structure of the country itself. Both countries have been through significant upheaval that is still very visible today, but it was humbling to talk to our guides about their stories and how they lived. Everyone was kind, the jokes hilarious, and I could not help but be humbled by their stoic drive and pride in their livelihoods and country. I didn’t really know what to expect from either of these countries, but I was completely blown away by them. I’d definitely visit again.

The most haunting part of our trip has to be the part where we were taken by our Cambodian guide to one of the Killing Fields that lay en route to the Ankor temple complex. I don’t think I could ever properly describe the feeling of staring at the skulls of the victims of genocide as our guide pointed out the holes in the skulls that was the killing blow. Or the fact that each skull was nameless – an unknown victim. Or of the horrific nature of the displacement that went on at the time as a method of control. Afterwards, I had to just cry in our hotel from the sheer unjust and indescribable horror of it all.

Coming away from something like that has shown me that the world isn’t always kind. It’s one thing to see the news, it’s another to stare it in the face and talk to people who did lose their relatives. I know I suffered from the egotism of living in a country that has a relatively stable democracy, that has not suffered such an atrocity, that I can live and work freely. Yes, my country has it’s issues (as all do), but it did make me reflect what I do have.

There is stuff I can do. Not just finding a charity to support, but thinking twice where I get my clothes from. My goods. Do my research. And try to give a little bit of kindness back into the world, however I can do so. If there are things I cannot control, then I can simply focus on what I can control and what I can try to give to the world in return. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll make it a slightly better place for everyone.

It’s also given me new experiences to talk about (Singapore Hawker markets! KL food courts!) and it’s given me new confidence in myself. And new foods I want to make (because my world revolves around food, can you tell?)  Also, being away from work for three weeks (and not having to do any more blasted wedding planning), has re-ignited my drive to do something creative. To try and make a concrete proof of my writing.

Gardening Times

Yes, this is predominately a website and blog for my writing. But making more flowers out of current flowers and planting plants and watching them grow is as much a part of my psyche as writing. It’s a cure for my mental thoughts, it’s a small delight to see a tiny splinter of life poke it’s way out of a tiny cutting.

After the wedding, before we came on holiday, I spent about four hours dismantling my beautiful bouquet and centrepieces to take cuttings of them. I know that I left them for three weeks in a greenhouse (so chance of survival was minimal) but I wanted to try. It’s a way of keeping my flowers alive after the wedding, but also meant I didn’t have to throw them all in the bin (because they certainly wouldn’t have lasted three weeks in the house!).

I’ve also got some herbs on our new little herb border growing – the chives and coriander have managed to survive their moving from the original overgrown herb border. The Rosemary bush took a bit of a hit when we moved it last year thanks to the cold winter, but it’s growing back good and strong. I’m glad, there is nothing better than fresh herbs to add to a meal.

Next step is to try and grow some chillies or other spices (if I can, somehow, in the UK’s temperate climate!) and to try and get some orchids to grow. I’ve also got hundreds of seed packets to plant that I’ve accumulated over the years, and pots to clear out from cuttings experiments that didn’t take.

Goals for May

Can you believe it’s May already? That’s almost the end of spring and into summer time! Time for mojitos and daquaries, and time to work out what I want to achieve from my writing. Without a huge thing called a ‘wedding’ taking up our time, we’re free to do more day trips, I’m free to do more writing (and oh boy, I need to do a lot of it), and get back to our own sort of ‘normal’.

Expect some more teacup stories, some more 100 word stories, and some more updates on my WIP.

(And then build a house. But that’s an update for another day).

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