Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award

Heehee - that's kind of a complicated blog post name ;-)

image by happy_serendipity via Flickr -> relevance explained in question 10 below ;-)
Nicole Evans was sweet enough to nominate me to answer ten questions about writing and my life. Click here to see her blog, and the questions she answered for the Sibling of the World Blogger Award. 
So, basically, I answer ten questions Nicole gave me, then I ask ten other writers from all over the world ten new questions (Ten nominations is a lot, so I think it's more than fair to reduce this number to 3-10! ;)

Here are my answers to Nicole's lovely questions!

1. Why do you write?
The stories are inside of me anyway, playing in my head when I drive or shower or take a walk. I love seeing the details come to life when I actually write them down.

2. What would be the hardest part about surviving the apocalypse?
Ugh. I like modern comforts, so all of it. But the worst would be the lack of modern medicine.

3. What author has inspired your writing the most?
I can't possibly choose just one, so here are two: I adore Leigh Bardugo's worldbuilding and the relationships between Maggie Stiefvater's characters.

4. Your top five animated films?
Places 1&2 go to Tangled, which is my absolute favorite; 3. Brave; 4. Cars; 5. I don't love Frozen, but I do like the Let It Go moment.

5. Have you ever read any books on craft? If so, which was your favorite and why?
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks really helped me with plotting!

6. Which fictional land would you have to visit and why?
A beautiful island setting in a WIP I read by Carissa Taylor because I love the water and the lush foliage there.

7. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about writing?
Listen to all the "rules," and then see what works best for you. Every suggestion doesn't work for every writer.

8. Which element do you wish you could control?
If I could control air, could I fly? If so, then air.

9. What is your current writing project about and what about it excites you?
I'm currently working on a YA sci-fi novel with a priest-in-training as a main character, and I'm enjoying how deep his faith is, and how it collides with a situation he gets into.

10. Most importantly: favorite type of cheese?
Impossible question, like choosing only one book – gah!  But I'll mention one many people probably haven't heard of: obazda, a spreadable camembert-mixture popular in Germany. Amazing with crusty, dark bread or pretzels. See picture above!

That was fun! In return, I nominate the following amazing writers, and I highly recommend you also follow them on twitter!
Ava Jae: blog  & twitter
Carissa Taylor: blog & twitter 
Caitlin Sinead: blog & twitter 
Mariam Kobras: blog & twitter 
Linda Sienkiewicz: blog & twitter 
Emma Adams: blog & twitter 
Patti Buff: blog & twitter 
Jennifer Austin: blog & twitter
Kimberly Ito: blog & twitter 

My questions for my nominees are:
1. Are you a plotter or pantser (or a combination)?
2. What are your favorite tips for beating writers block?
3. What are your drink-of-choice and snack-of-choice while writing?
4. What are some of the most interesting things you've researched for your writing?
5. Can you recommend a good blog for writers to follow?
6. Which twitter accounts would you recommend writers follow?
7. Which newly released or upcoming book are you most excited to read?
8. What book character would you love to meet?
9. What author has influenced you the most?
10. Name a place - real or fictional - you'd love to travel to and why. 

I look forward to reading your answers!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Drache means Dragon - Drachenfels and Schloss Drachenburg

Previously, I posted about our trip to Bonn and Cologne. The last day of our vacation was spent southeast of Bonn, in Königswinter. It's the home of Drachenfels (Dragon's Rock), fortress ruins from the 12th century which perch 1000 feet up on a rocky hill. One of the legends of Drachenfels is that Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungenlied, killed a dragon then bathed in its blood to become invulnerable. No dragons were killed on our vacation.

I was hoping to hike up the hill, but was outnumbered three to one (sheesh!), so we took the cogwheel train. I'll admit, the train was fun too. For anyone who's been there, there is one change: the old restaurant was torn down, replaced by a fancy new one with panorama windows.

View from the ruins down to the Rhine, 1000 feet below
Halfway down the hill is Schloss Drachenburg. Built in the 1800s, it looks particularly dreary on this cloudy day.

After we descended, the kids played along the shore of the Rhine while my husband and I watched cars get off and on the ferry. There are surprisingly few bridges across the Rhine in this area, so the ferry is the only way to get across. We ended the day by sharing some big, yummy bowls of ice cream before heading back to our hotel.

Bonus: what's wrong with this picture?

Steep hills are steep.

I love mini vacations. Can't wait for the next one!

All pictures taken by me or my family members.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Sweet (wink wink) Day in Cologne

The second day of our vacation, we went to Cologne.

Fun fact: the word "cologne" comes from Cologne. "4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser" has been produced in Cologne since 1799, and it's is still sold today. It's even advertised in the train station.
See the big window for the ad
We arrived by train. As soon as you walk out of the train station - bam - it TOWERS over you: the Cathedral. It's so big, I couldn't manage to get a picture of the entire building.

Sorry. Couldn't get the entire tower in the picture.
Construction platform. Way up there.
Organ. Also way up there.
The Dom, as the cathedral is called in German, has one of my favorite stained glass windows (And yes, I do have several favorite stained glass windows. Thank you for asking.) My picture of the "Pixel Window" didn't turn out, so here's one from someone who knows what they're doing.

image by Daniele Civello via Flickr
As you can see, they're doing some restoration work (I'm pretty sure they're always doing restoration work). Strangely enough, from the time we walked into the cathedral until we wanted to leave twenty minutes later, the door we'd come into was blocked for construction.

After visiting the cathedral, I had the amazing luck* to meet up with a writer friend I hadn't seen in three years. She was traveling from Bremen to Paris and had a one hour wait between trains. So much fun!

Mayken and I in front of the cathedral
After we dropped Mayken and her daughter off at their next train, we wandered along the Rhine to the Chocolate Museum, which may or may not have been the entire reason for us traveling to this neck of the woods.

I found out that there's such a thing as Cocoa Wine.

In the Chocolate Museum, we strolled through an indoor tropical forest and saw a cocoa tree. Then...the smell! A miniature chocolate factory. There were machines for roasting cocoa beans, for mixing, for filling the forms, a robot arm to pick up the little candy bars, another machine for wrapping the chocolate pieces.

Yes, we did get free samples.

With all this chocolate, maybe that's why the train station has chocolate bar steps.

*Bonus screencap! How to spontaneously meet up with a friend who lives in another country. Via twitter. 

Next up, Drachenfels! And in case you missed it, I also wrote about our day in Bonn.

All pictures taken by me or my family unless otherwise noted.

Monday, April 4, 2016

An Extremely Short Trip Down Memory Lane: Bonn

Road trip! During the school break, we drove to the Bonn-Cologne area with the kiddos!

On the first day, we spent a bit of time wandering through Bonn. In keeping with family tradition, we managed to pick a rainy week for our vacation, but we were lucky to have a couple of dry hours when we reached the downtown area.

I was an exchange student many many (seriously many) moons ago in Bonn and used to walk everywhere in the city. So it was pretty horrifying to see how little I remembered. I couldn't even find my way from Münsterplatz to the Hofgarten. Sigh.

Since the day we arrived was a holiday (Easter Monday), the city was quiet and fairly empty. Here's the beautiful post office, where I once sent tons of post cards.

Beethoven (born in Bonn in 1770) stands in front of the post office, his eyes to the Münster, the big church.

Beethoven's looking a bit grouchy.
The Münster
Detail, above a door
Next, we stumbled upon the Sterntor, which is a section of a defensive wall from the 1200s. Now it sits in the middle of a pedestrian zone.

Note the sky growing progressively cloudier
We also swung by the Altes Ratshaus (old city hall), which kind of looks like it should be a wedding cake. One of my foreign study pals called it The "Politics Barbie" City Hall (hi Kevin). I compared our new pictures to some older ones, and it seems the paint has faded a bit since I last saw it. It used to be more baby blue and pale salmon.

I'm sad to say that I didn't get to stroll along the Rhine river like I did with my foreign study friends countless times. I also didn't see the Hofgarten where I once feel asleep in the sun. You see, my too-old-to-act-like-this kids were so exhausted, they couldn't walk more than an hour. Gah. I hope they read this someday when they're older and feel guilty.

Bonus for German speakers: this is a poster from a bakery

Be sure to stop by again. I'll describe Cologne and Drachenfels in the next posts! 

All pictures taken by me or my family members.