A.D.M. Was Here: Italy, Revisited (with Grumpy Law Students)

In the middle of our semester in London, I went with some classmates to Italy. One of our friends set the itinerary, booking all of our lodgings, and telling us where to be on which days. Travel arrangements, for the most part, was the responsibility of each the individual. So, we round up making our way to Venice in smaller cell groups.

Venice

Our first stop was Venice, which was more of the same from my first trip there (minus random, fun hostel people).

Venice Again Venice Again 2 Venice Again 3

Bologna

We stopped in Bologna only because it’s the birthplace of Kappa Sigma, a frat to which one of our classmates belongs to. Emboldened by the spirit of his fraternity’s forefathers, this guy overcame his fear of heights and climbed with the rest of us to the top of the Golden Assay, a tower overlooking the city.

Bologna

The Golden Assay

Before the tower, we went to a restaurant called Da Cesari for lunch and walked around chugging a giant bottle of wine. Da Cesari supposedly has awesome rabbit ravioli, but I made the mistake of ordering some pasta with Bolognese sauce which was rather mediocre.

Florence

Rushing out of Bologna, we got to Florence around sunset. When we were shown to our hostel rooms, I was thoroughly grossed out by my gassy male roommates, particularly since the space was so small. Unable to find lodging elsewhere, I stayed in the other room with my other classmates (yep, I’m that high maintenance).

We had dinner at Da il Latini—easily the best meal of the trip. Once you’re seated, we were given an unlimited amount of food of whatever the kitchen was preparing that day, and unlimited wine. The meal included three or four types of meats, two pastas, and some other stuff. My personal favorite was the chicken liver spread over a slice of toasted baguette-like bread. We asked for an extra plate of those. The meal was capped off with some limoncello (lemon liqueur).

A bit of bad luck the next morning put most of the group in a foul mood—in contrast to the last night, I was super laid-back and relaxed for no explicable reason. The first morale-drainer was our hostel’s lack of hot water. It was winter, and our only bathing option was a cold shower. I was the only one who went ahead and showered anyway. Next, we ventured back to the train station and found there was a labor strike, halting all trains for the day and stranding us in Florence.
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10 Tips for Better Writing!

Advice Dog Writing Tip

After being inspired by a guy who thinks lists of writing tips suck, I decided to create a list of writing tips. Yeah, this post started out as a joke and then it kind of got away from me. 

Enjoy!

1. Learn to spell.

If you can’t spell, your writing’s probably going to suck. Buy a dictionary, chump.

Of course, certain words may be spelled differently depending on the region you’re in. Fun Fact #2 (there is no #1): Some years ago, certain folks decided to deviate from French-influenced phonetics and started to omit the “u” from certain words (e.g., going from “colour” to “color”). It stuck in the United States.

2. Use the hashtag #AmWriting as much as frickin’ possible.

Not only will this seem annoying and pretentious, it will also help you connect with fellow writers with whom you can develop alongside and form a network of support.

Originally, I did think the hashtag was a bit on the lame side. It reminded me of the Family Guy joke poking fun at writers who conspicuously write in public for validation. However, I’ve seen others who have used the hashtag to form a good network of earnest writer-friends and, to be quite honest, I’m jealous.

3. Read more novels and watch more movies.

That way you can rip them off and pretend you thought of it first.

Alternatively, you can learn to improve your craft from observing how successful authors set the pacing for their scenes and overall plot, or how they develop tension and make use of white space. You could also take notes of mistakes of other authors—if they didn’t spend enough time to develop a character’s motives and personalities before expecting the reader to care, or if there’s too much fancy prose in a segment which makes it difficult to keep a fast pace. Maybe you can at least pick up a new vocabulary word.

Oh, and if you’re familiar with other work in your genres, you can also avoid accidentally writing something that’s already been done. Those aren’t so easy to sell.

4. Get critiqued.

A good cry can be nice, sometimes.

Receiving feedback on your writing is an important part of improving your writing chops. However, the key to taking criticism is staying patient and logical. You shouldn’t quickly dismiss advice you don’t like, but you also shouldn’t assume that because one person hates something that everyone else feels the same. Get several opinions and see where they overlap; logically assess whether certain things are problems, and whether certain parts of your writing are truly awesome (at least to the majority of your target audience).

5. Critique others.

Making other people cry can be rather satisfying. Also, there are other, more concrete benefits.

Giving critique helps you learn to take critique: You learn that, as a critic, it’s easy to find the bad bits in another person’s work while forgetting to point out the good ones. As such, when someone gives you your own manuscript marked up in red, you’ll understand he or she may have actually liked more of your work than the quantity of red might indicate.

On top of that, when you see mistakes others make, you might just realize you’re making the same ones.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Scotland and the Republic of Ireland

Other trips I took during my semester in London had me going solo to Scotland and, later, with some classmates to the Republic of Ireland.

Edinburgh

Sometime after the car trip in Southern England with classmates I hardly knew, I booked train tickets for a solo excursion to Scotland.

Most confusing name in the Isles (probably not actually, but close enough)

The entire time I was in Edinburgh, I had no idea how to pronounce its name. It wasn’t my fault, though. I blame the wonky spelling which came from the mixing of old school Celtic and English. For those of you who don’t know how to say Edinburgh, here’s a hint: it’s not “burg” as in burger; it’s more like “bur’ah” (the “gh” has a French quality to it).

Side note: the Scottish Gaelic name for the city, Dùn Èideann, sounds a lot cooler. Particularly because of its similarity to Dúnedain (the fictional race in The Lord of the Rings to which Aragorn belongs, and the reason the character looks to be in his 30’s when he’s actually 88).

The Castle Rock Hostel: a whole lot of awkward (not the hostel’s fault though)

Castle Rock Hostel

The nights I spent in Edinburgh were at Castle Rock Hostel. From the entrance of the hostel, you could see Edinburgh Castle. Inside, there were a lot of common areas where you could sit, chat, drink and eat. Most of the employees were travelers who worked in exchange for lodging (not an uncommon situation for hostels). After my first day of exploring, eating, and drinking, I came back to the hostel and actually tried to work on my novel (I’m not sure if it had a title yet, but it definitely wasn’t called REMNANT OF US yet). Having a beer or two still in me, I didn’t get much work done.

While working, I was invited to join a group of folks from several different countries (France, Spain, and—I dunno, probably Australia ’cause I like to say Aussies are everywhere). The French guy was teaching them to play Settlers of Catan and no one seemed to care. So, unsurprisingly, the French guy won.

Later, I was trying to find a place to watch my stinkin’ Netflix and wound up in a room which was supposed to be a spot for people to sit around and listen to records. However, the Spanish girl from the Catan game showed up with her temporary American love interest. In a misguided attempt to seem sociable and interesting in front of the Spanish girl, the American kid kept talking to me about music and his unorthodox college (rather than ignoring me and letting me sneak away), and then a fourth person showed up and set up camp in the record room.

Don’t feel too bad for the kid, though. Eventually, the young couple found some alone time in the loft above the dining room. I know ’cause I walked in on them making out while finding another Netflix-friendly spot (spring for a hotel, kid!). That wasn’t even the most awkward thing that happened at the hostel.

On another night, some other couple in my co-ed dorm room decided to have sex in the corner while everyone was sleeping. Lucky for me (if you can call it lucky), I was so tired I didn’t care and just passed out.

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Awesome Character #3: Lisa Hayes (Misa Hayase)

Lisa HayesFrom Macross to Robotech

Robotech is a localization of three separate Japanese anime series, pieced together so there would be enough episodes for American television in the 1980s. The first part of Robotech, known as the Macross Saga, was adapted from Super Dimension Fortress Macross (Macross) and is largely the same as its source material. The most significant changes were the names and ethnicity of some characters and removal of what folks deemed to be excessive violence, drinking, and nudity (today, none of that stuff would be cut).

The Japanese characters, Hikaru Ichijyo and Misa Hayase, were made Americans (not through immigration and naturalization) and we wound up with Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes. In terms of personality and action, Lisa and Misa is the same character.

A few years after the release of the TV series, Robotech was adapted into a novel series that expanded upon the story, adding a bit more depth.

By feats alone

Lisa begins the series as a Lieutenant and the First Officer of the SDF-1, making her the second-in-command of the entire ship (the XO, if Robotech used American military designations). She gets promoted a number of times throughout the series. On more than one occasion, Lisa is responsible for saving the asses of thousands of people (e.g., the Daedalus Maneuver, and that time on Mars). By her feats alone, Lisa’s pretty impressive.

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Juggling Writing Projects

As it stands, I’m waiting on two more beta readers to give me feedback on REMNANT OF US before I start working on draft 14 of that manuscript. At the same time, I’ve substantially started two other fiction projects: one concerning a demon protagonist, and the other concerning superheroes.

And, yeah, this is a writing post. You’ve been warned.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Benelux and Strasbourg (and a Mugging!)

Some building in Brussels.

Some building in Brussels.

On some weekends while studying in London, I made excursions out of the UK to go to other parts of Europe. Sometimes, I went on unofficial trips alone or with classmates and, other times, the class would go on a sort of field trip together. These class trips included Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Strasbourg.

King’s Cross and the Eurostar

As I mentioned in an older post, I was staying in a flat near King’s Cross (which I’d only heard of beforehand thanks to Harry Potter). It was about a ten minute walk away, across the street from the local Burger King and McDonald’s (and, I think, a Pret a Manger).

Nearly our entire class of law students were to take a train from London to continental Europe. I lazily assumed that meant we were leaving from King’s Cross and walked there dangerously close to the departure time only to learn that the Eurostar train didn’t leave from King’s Cross, but from St. Pancras. Though the two stations were literally across the street from one another, it feels super far when you’re late for your train.

Hustling over there, I got to the Eurostar security check and saw substantial lines of people waiting to get through. Talking to a Eurostar employee, I told her about my dilemma and she unexpectedly ushered me through security to get me to my train. I essentially cut in front of dozens of people who arrived to the station on time, making me feel both like a jerk and kind of like a boss at the same time (the theme for this post is me feeling like a jerk).

A glimpse of Brusels, then Luxembourg and the American Military Cemetary

Street in Brussels.

Street in Brussels.

An underwater train and a long bus ride later, we arrived in Brussels for a walking tour. The guide told us a bunch of stuff which I no longer remember, though she pointed out some nice places to get chocolate, restaurants specializing in mussels, and government buildings. Then, they packed us back into the bus and shipped us off to Luxembourg.

Judging from the fact that I have this photo of a Luxembourg hotel in the middle of the night, I think we stayed in Luxembourg. I don’t recall anything interesting happening that night, though I assume I drank with some classmates. Actually, this might have been the place where my classmate spilled red wine on the hotel couch.

Ho Hotel in Luxembourg

“Four Star Ho—” Yeah . . . sorry.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg is pretty.

The next day, we were given a tour of the city, and brought to the Luxembourg American Military Cemetary where many World War II U.S. soldiers were buried (if I recall correctly, many of the bodies were eventually moved to the U.S.). It’s always a little heartbreaking seeing the grave of an unknown soldier.

Unknown Soldier Luxembourg

“Here rests in honored glory / a Comrade in arms / known but to God.”

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Help Mah! Looking for Beta Readers for MS #1

Beta Readers Wanted - A.D. MartinUpdate 2/26: Not currently looking for any more beta readers at this time. Feel free to keep in touch, though. I’ll inevitably need more beta readers in the future.

Hello Dorks and Non-dorks (you know who you are),

I’m looking for more beta readers to give me feedback on my novel, Remnant of Us, and help me make draft fourteen as awesome as possible before I send out one last set of query letters. Yeah, I’m finally publicly revealing the title to my manuscript which I’ve had for months, and also releasing a little blurb about it over on my My Novels page (feel free to send me politely worded emails with feedback on the blurb).

Preferably, beta readers are those who: already enjoy the genre; can give me substantial feedback about the plot, pacing, and feasibility in my novel; and has enough free time or reads fast enough to get back to me within two weeks or less (but, I’m flexible on the time).

If you’re interested in beta reading Remnant of Us, let me know by email through admartinwriting[at]gmail.com (replacing the [at] with @), or my twitter account @AD_Martin_ (in which case, you’d have to provide an email for me to correspond with). If you can, please provide a little background information about yourself and the kinds of books, TV shows, or films you enjoy, and how quickly you think you can read a 76,000 word manuscript.

Thanks, A.D. Martin

Just earlier today, I noticed a writer whose blog I follow ask for beta reader volunteers from her blogging/Twitter network and it seemed like a great idea. So, here were are.