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Saturday, October 31, 2009

HalloWriMo

The time is nigh.

Today marks the beginning of two big things.

1) It's Halloween. In Australia we don't really do Halloween. And I'm not a huge fan of wearing costumes so that suits me just fine. But here in England. Oh, they do Halloween. And COSTUMES? You can't even go on a pub crawl without dressing like a super hero - or a man-baby as I've mentioned once before.

So tonight is Halloween with all the clubs having big parties, kids will be out trick or treating, and I wanna join in. I wanna do SOMETHING. So I am. I'm joining in with LSTV and hitting one of the club parties and filming it for the Halloween show. But we need COSTUMES.

Also I have this SHORT short film idea for the Halloween episode, but I need 2 kid trick or treaters and 2 adults. And access to a house. Being a foreigner, I know none of the above around here, I just know Uni students. So maybe I'll find some willing actors out tonight.

ALSO, I've never used fireworks before! I think they're illegal in Australia, I don't know for sure but I THINK they are. Yet you can buy some doozies of fireworks here in THE SUPERMARKET. So I figure that'd be fun. To you know, be an inexperienced fireworker and light one up and set fire to the entire neighbourhood. I could totally do that. Yay!

So I'm costume hunting today. Oh the joys.

AFTER costume hunting and BEFORE Halloween festivities kick in, I have another engagement.

The Leeds National Novel Writers Month kick off party! It will be great to meet other writers in the area embarking on this mental challenge. I can't believe it starts TOMORROW. At present I'm really not in the right frame of mind to be writing 1667 words a day. I'm freaking out. I have 3 assignments due this month. Plus I'm going away to Wales for a weekend. And if I film stuff I have to EDIT stuff and boy does that take time.

So I'm thinking I probably won't reach 50,000 words in the month. But whatever word count I DO reach, will be great cos it's a start!

Speaking of editing stuff (which I was just a second ago) something ELSE I'm filming, which will ALSO be perfect for the Halloween episode (I know, it's gonna be all Sarah Sarah Sarah this week, right?) is Manchester's ZOMBIE-AID!

Zombie Aid is a Zombie march that will look like this:


I know. How awesome. So I'm going to that with some friends and will see if we can pull something together to air on Wednesday. Eeep!

That's all from me for now. Okay, step 1 - COSTUME HUNT!

Sairz

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gay Paree

Bonjour dear friends!

It is I, I have just returned from a whirlwind weekend (minus actual whirlwinds) in the fair city of Paris, France, Europe, THE WORLD.

It was fast, and I honestly didn't think we'd see and do as much as we saw and did. But we did see and do a LOT.

Firstly I had to travel 5 hours down to London on Thursday to be picked up at 5:45am (ee gads!) Friday morning. I stayed in a hostel and let me tell ya, their charms have not been lost on me this trip. I was in an 8 person room on the top floor with no elevator (puff, pant, wheeze) with the door being opened and slammed, phone and in person conversations being held until after 3am. Tres fun. But you get what you pay for. I had a discount card for last night's hostel stay, and that involved trekking up to the top floor again with my backpack (puff pant wheeze) PLUS a girl in one of the other beds throwing up into the rubbish bin several times during the night.

Anyhoo, we took a coach to the ferry at Dover and then back onto the coach and arrived in Paris at 4pm. Being a trip with an odd number of people, I somehow was given a private hotel room when I didn't pay for the upgrade. SCORE! Half an hour after check in, we were back on the bus for a quick tour around in which we saw the Arc de Triomphe, Opera (where the Phantom was known to hang out) and, gosh, a whole lot of other places until we stopped outside the Eiffel Tower. That's when you know you're really in Paris. We took a one hour boat cruise down the Seine, taking photos of pretty buildings - including the Louvre which looks like it stretches down for a couple of blocks, and arrived back at the Eiffel Tower to do as we wished for the rest of the evening. Well. I was going UP the tower, wasn't I? I had previously decided I wasn't going to bother, but since I was there, hell, you only live once, right? So a group of us hung around taking photos and ooh-ing and aah-ing as it got dark and the tower was lit up with sparkly lights. And we were harrassed by Gypsies. You'd say "No I don't want any keyrings thank you" to one and then be joined by another, asking you the same question. At one point, we were standing in a group, waiting for people to order their crepes before going up, and we were literally surrounded on all sides by 5 gypsies trying to sell us crap.
Some people bought said crap.

The queue to get UP to the tower surprisingly, wasn't that long. To get from floor to floor was a bit harder, but getting back DOWN is what took forever. It's funny, the staff there, I reckon their friends would be like "oh that's so cool! You work in the Eiffel Tower!" but some of them have the most boring job ever. Opening the elevator. Letting tourists in. Pressing a button and riding to the observation deck. Letting tourists out. Let tourists in going down the tower, let them out at the bottom and repeat. For eight hours. Yeah. Working in the Eiffel Tower. "Good times". :)

Next time I travel I'm totally investing in a good solid, dependable camera. My camera was $75 and it's a little shy in the night time. It doesn't do its best work, so my photos aren't exactly awe inspiring, which is what happened when I went up the Empire State Building as well. Anyhoo. Live and learn.

In the crowd up on the tower - there must come a point
when they stop letting people up until some come down, right? - the group got separated and after letting someone know, I headed back to the hotel on the Metro on my lonesome.

One reason I've never really traveled before is because a big fear of mine is being lost in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I can't communicate with anyone.
Luckily, most French people I came across knew at least some English, and my wildly waving hand gestures made up for the English they didn't understand.

The next day we went to Notre Damm, alas, I didn't spot any hunchbacks in the tower. We went to Sacre Coure - another church - and were warned about the gypsies there who would put a piece of coloured string around your wrist and then charge
you 10 euros for it. And they'd hold you up so you lost your group as well. WELL. On the way up the steps (huff, puff, wheeze) I saw others in my group getting around them, they weren't being bothered. And then one Gypsy stepped right in my path, and as I tried to step around him he kept stepping in my path, trying to take my wrist, saying he had a present for me.
At the time, I was wearing my extremely comfy University of Leeds jumper (on the Eiffel Tower I'd learnt just how cold it can get during the evening in Paris, - BELIEVE me) and quite clearly, I was screaming "I'm a tourist, I'm a tourist! Me me me
!!" What an easy mark. But nooooo. I wasn't having a bar of that blue string on my wrist thank you very much. I wanted to KEEP my ten euros.

Sacre Coure was very pretty, the views of Paris wonderful and ther
e was a little shopping area and lots of people drawing portraits. It was very Parisienne. I am a big fan of art deco artwork, and snapped up some prints of old French advertisements. I was being good and only got a couple but regret it now, cos really - I can't exactly get them anywhere else! That I know of...and certainly not at THAT price! We went for a bit more of a walking tour which included the cafe that Amelie worked in, in Amelie and the Moulin Rouge which is in what is essentially the red light district of Paris. Actually, I take it back. It IS the red light district. Next to the classy burlesque of Moulin Rouge was a strip club advertising lap and table top dances. The rest of the street was like that. And I was planning on coming back here at night??

My plan for the afternoon was to go to the Catacombs


Creepy, right? But apparently in September they were vandalised and have been closed for the forseeable future. I. Could. Not. Believe. It. This was one of THE things I wanted to do in Paris. That's okay. The other one was go to a show of the Moulin Rouge.

Instead of the catacombs, I went on the optional trip to Chateau de Versaille.


Erm. Chateau my arse. It's a seriously impressive palace, let me tell ya. There's Gold everywhere, the wallpaper is made of felt, the ceilings are painted like the sistene chapel, the gardens are GORGEOUS... wow. And the town of Versailles is really pretty too! Not a wasted afternoon.
When we got back to Paris I caught the metro (had to change twice) back to the Moulin Rouge and made it EXACTLY on time. To find out it was booked out. Both shows. Come back tomorrow. I COULDN'T come back tomorrow. We were going HOME tomorrow. It was kind of tragic. The two things I wanted to do in Paris fell through. But it just means I'll have to go back some day, doesn't it. And everything else was amazing.

The following morning, yesterday, we went to the Louvre as our last stop of the trip before heading back to the ferry at Calais, and back to England.

The Louvre was really amazing. I'm not all that into art, usually, but I must be becoming cultured. :) Because I have more of an appreciation for art than I used to. How much work goes into it. Those marble statues! Oh my god! The delicate folds of lace that they have created out of MARBLE. I mean HowTF. I get quite gobsmacked at that.

I saw the Mona Lisa too! You just had to follow the people. It was pretty funny actually, that everyone came to take photos of, and with this fairly small portrait of a woman, and then you turn around and no one is paying any attention (slight exaggeration alert) to the MASSIVE painting that takes up the ENTIRE wall opposite. How is it that this one small painting has captivated the world as it has?

Anyway, that was Paris. I made some great friends on the trip as well. Two from Prince Edward Island in Canada (where Anne of Green Gables lived!) who I will totally be visiting because they say it's beautiful and I believe them because I have proof. Anne of Green Gables. And also another from upstate New York. Who woulda thunk that New York has like, FARM LAND and countryside, you know? I'll be seeing you there also! And my new Texas buds, expect to be seeing me sometime in the future! And I hope to see you all in Australia one day as well. But you know, probably not until I get back. To Australia.

Jeez Louise, yet another epic blog. Sorry 'bout that. You still reading this?

Sairz

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Studying


That is all I have to say.

Love

Sairz

Monday, October 19, 2009

Revision happy dances and Vikings

I fiiiiiinished, I fiiiiinished, tra la la la la!

Yes, it feels GOOD to finish revisions. I actually finished it 2 weeks ago but I'd been going over and over the book and was so close to it that I couldn't differentiate between one draft and another, and should this be in the new version or is it better without it? Am I making the book worse or better? I'm making the book worse...I hate this book!
That my wonderful agent suggested I put it aside for 2 weeks. Stop looking at the ruddy thing and think about something else.

So I did, and it turns out that I wasn't making it worse. I was making it pretty darn good, actually. I'm happy. So I pressed send and now it is in my agent's hands, awaiting her seal of approval. Or she'll suggest I do some more revisions. :) I'm not ACTUALLY smiling at that idea, but I'm sure it'll happen. Hopefully only some tweaks.
But anyhoo. I feel good right now!

Yesterday I met some other past and present students from my exchange University here in England who are doing National Novel Writers Month as well. Which starts November 1st. Eep! The count down is on!

I have my plot. I think it's a pretty good plot. And I know what happens for about the first 3rd of the novel. And I know what happens at the end. But about a week and a half in to NaNoWriMo I'm going to hit a snag. In that I don't actually know what comes next. Hopefully by then I'll have an inkling.

Just over a week in to NaNo I'm going on a weekend trip to Wales which is exciting. (and in 4 days I'm off to Paris! But that's beside the point) And 2 and a bit weeks in, I have an(other) assignment due. So I'm not SURE how I'm gonna go keeping on track but we'll find out. Last year I discovered I was pretty good at waking up, turning on the computer and cranking out at least a thousand words before I'd even gotten out of bed. I was in the zone! So hopefully I can do that again.

So anyway, I'm tra la la la la'ing at the moment cos I'm between manuscripts.

If only I can stop procrastinating on my Vikings essay.
I don't understand this frame of mind. All students have it, I KNOW I'm not alone. I think the Vikings are interesting. That's why I chose THAT essay topic. But there's something about the word ESSAY that makes it much less appealing. I'm lacking the will to read about a topic I find interesting. Because the writing side of it is going to be BO-RING. So if I don't read about it, the less I know about it so I can't possibly start writing.

I'll start freaking out soon as the deadline looms and I WILL get it done. This is how I roll. But as well as tra la la la'ing I'm also plugging my ears with my fingers, squinching my eyes closed and nyah nyah nyah I can't hear you, you don't exist nyah nyah'ing at the word Vikings.
Let's see how well that works out for me. :)

Tra la nyah nyah!

Sairz

Friday, October 16, 2009

National Novel Writers Month

NaNoWriMo is upon us!

I'm looking forward to it, kicking me back into writing mode. I say this alot, unfortunately. But sometimes I find it hard to do myself. A couple of posts ago, when I was going to do the 500 word a day challenge? Too soon. It was totally too soon. I had been travelling for awhile and hadn't had the opportunity to write and I was just itching to write SOMETHING. ANYTHING. But declaring you are going to write a novel, when you haven't actually thought much about said novel, well, there's a recipe for disaster.
I have an idea which I got in N'Orleans while in the swamps there actually, about a boy who lives in a shack on the edge of a swamp and though he's very quiet and a sweet boy really, he and his rather large family are considered freaks and outsiders. And he practices voodoo. We all know I've had a bit of experience with voodoo. But I did some reading up on it - granted, not a whole lot as yet - and there are animal sacrifices and orgies etc and I just couldn't see this boy getting into all that. It wouldn't make him a very sympathetic character if he was to slit a goat's throat, for instance.
So yeah, if that idea is going to go anywhere, it needs a bit more time.

But this OTHER idea. Yep. This one's a go. I've been plotting it and a bit of mind mapping and I think it'll work. I just need a couple of names. The main character's current name has to go, and her best friend is currently referred to as bf. Which is NOT her name. :) The problem with traveling is I don't have all of my writerly books around me. Like my baby name books and surname book.
I've never seen another surname book. My mother gave it to me, she'd had it for 20 years, it's like the Penguin Book of Surnames or something like that. It's great, works just like a baby name book, with the meaning of each surname. Unfortunately they're very english surnames. So if I want anyone who is NOT anglo-saxon in ethnicity, then I think I'll be having a browse through the phone book.
How do you find good surnames for your characters? Do you have any tips, or is the phone book a good idea?

Sairz

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New York and some more recent stuff


WELL.

I am way behind in telling you all about my trip, aren't I? If you follow me on twitter, however http://twitter.com/SairzBillington
or are my bud on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SarahBillington
then you have probably been inundated with the randomness of goings on in my neck of the woods of late.

Like walking past a guy wearing a tee shirt, sneakers, and a BABY'S NAPPY. And then when I crossed the road I discovered I was walking behind a dude wearing a grown-up sized baby's one piece. With the poo flap and everything. It was baby blue. The whole one piece I mean. Not just the poo flap.

And the other day, just sitting outside the student union at my university here in Leeds who walked past? Just a bunch of about 15 young men wearing nun's habits. And some of them were wearing the ones from costume shops, you know, the SEXY nun type. I'm talking about really short skirts.
It really is quite random here. But awfully entertaining.

Ooh! And my History tutor/professor (I think he's also a DOCTOR) is the exact stereotype of a History Professor. The older gentleman with white hair, tweed suits (I think he might be missing the patches on the elbows though) and a briefcase. And of course a posh british accent, but considering I'm in Britain that shouldn't be THAT surprising.

But back to New York!

Okay, so Boston had been a total bust and I was still wearing the cursed voodoo bracelet and my flight was delayed, and then I had to wait an hour and a half for the shuttle bus to FINALLY arrive at JFK to take me to the hostel. I got to the hostel at 11:30pm and they were changing shifts and I had to sit and wait for half an hour while the chick counted her till and left, and the guy taking over (who I didn't realise was the guy taking over when he was just hanging out talking to people) finally finished his can of coke and came over to count HIS till and check me in. They were not helpful people at this hostel. I was bloody exhausted and emotional cos all of my communication devices had been possessed by the devil whilst in America, and were not allowing me to call anyone nor text them. I couldn't call Eleanor and tell her I was going to be late. I couldn't call the hostel to find out where exactly they were (Eleanor had those details) and I couldn't even call home to my family to just vent about what a sucky time I was having.

So I got into the room which was maybe 2 metres wide with 2 bunk beds in it, and 3 sleeping people. With nowhere to put my luggage and nowhere to put my feet that wasn't extremely painful to get up to the top bunk, I was clearly not in love with this hostel. And apparently, we were in the wrong room (hadn't heard THAT one before) and would have to check out the next morning and be put into the correct room we had booked. Which was one of us in a mixed dorm and the other of us in a female dorm. Why, WHY would we have split ourselves up?

After taking our luggage down to the storage room (cos we were "Checking out") The next morning Eleanor went for a walk in Central Park bright and early, we both HAD to get out of there, and I scoured the internet for some other accomodation. I found a Boutique B&B on 22nd Street that had a room. It was going to be more expensive but I did. not. care.

I went out too - with no way of contacting Eleanor - and discovered just how awesome the NYC subway is.

In general, New York City is as you expect:


(Yes I took that photo) and even though it's a city and a pretty intense one at that, and I've become a bit of a country loving girl - I really liked NYC!

I went on an NBC Studios tour (Cos I knew Eleanor wouldn't be interested in that) and saw Rockefella Centre. NBC was interesting. Jimmy Fallon's studio is really small. Bummer he was one 2 week hiatus. And Saturday Night Live - there are SO many lights hanging from the ceiling. And audience sizes for these shows are itty bitty. Really cool to be there though. And in the news room, they don't have air conditioning but refrigerated a
ir because air conditioning is moist and that would damage the wicked expensive camera equipment. Interesting stuff, huh? Anyway, I got back in the afternoon, to pick up my luggage. Eleanor had already checked back in. But I was not going to. So that is when we went our separate ways, the end of our journey together which came a couple of days earlier than anticipated, but we were both happy enough with the situation. It took another half an hour and about 5 times of asking to have the luggage store unlocked so I could get my stuff, but FINALLY I was OUT of there and headed down to 22nd.
It was really cute, I think you call them Brownstones?


And the staff were really friendly and helpful unlike SOME I had come across. I had a room with a double bed, a fridge and a sink all to myself (mind you there was about 30cm between the bed and the wall on both sides, but since it was just me it was fine) and I had AIR CONDITIONING as well. A bathroom right outside which was shared but I never saw anyone else on the same floor so essentially it was miney mine mine.

That night is when I took off the voodoo bracelet.

And BECAUSE of taking off the bracelet, New York was great. I did the whole sight seeing thing solo, but I was happy enough to do that. I went on a ferry out to the Statue of Liberty, went up the Empire State Building at night time, I did a bus tour around the island and out to Brooklyn, went to the Natural History Museum, Times Square and Broadway. It was a toss up between Billy Elliot and In the Heights, but I saw In the Heights, which is SUCH an awesome show. And I love HalfTix or whatever they call it, which get you great tickets but way cheaper than if you bought them at the box office.

I bought the soundtrack to the show of In The Heights because that is how awesome it was.

I became a seasoned pro at using the subway, and even took it, my massive suitcase (which I picked up at the greyhound station, where it had been waiting for me for 3 weeks after I sent it on its way from San Francisco) and bulging backpack back to JFK, heading to London via Zurich. Oh - and the people in New York are really nice, too! When getting my suitcase from the Greyhound to the B&B, and when getting EVERYTHING to the airport to the subway which meant up and down flights of stairs, EACH TIME I had a lovely gentleman help me. I didn't have to heave and haul my suitcase. I was offered assistance, thanked them profusely and they went on their way, having done their good dead, and wanting nothing in return for it. I heart New Yorkers. They are amazingly wondersome people.

So yes. The moral of the story is unless you want to live in a world of SUCK do not buy a good luck bracelet from an honest to God voodoo shop in New Orleans unless you are in fact voodoo.
I still have the voodoo bracelet and am actually looking to make an enemy so that I can give them a gift - "wow, pretty bracelet!" and test out the theory. Do YOU hate anyone you'd like me to give the bracelet to?

The end.
For now. Next comes Bath, Reading and London, UK! And after that is Various places in Italy, then Leeds, Scarborough and York, UK and what has not yet happened but is definitely on the cards includes Paris, The Lake District, Wales and Edinburgh!

And I totally think I'm attending Zombie-Aid in Manchester. I would LOVE to watch 1000 zombies go on a zombie walk. Sweet. I really wanted to go to The Battle of Hastings in Hastings this weekend (which clashes with the Lake District Trip, and is also a 7 hour trip each way which made me think twice). Don't know what the Battle of Hastings is? Just a couple of hundred men and women in medieval attire reenact the battle of hastings. Bring on sword fights and armour!
Alas.

Love,

Me