And we’re off!

Happy Friday the 13th readers! Do you believe in any superstitions? As a kid I always avoided sidewalk cracks and spilling salt. I also refused to look into a mirror in the dark because an older cousin (not naming names, *cough* Megan) told me Bloody Mary was going to come get me.

I digress.

What an exciting day yesterday was! Lies in the Darkness is now out into the great big world. I’m sure you can imagine, but book releases are a LOT of work! Writing the book might just be the easy part (kidding–sort of). The marketing really begins months before the release day, but it doesn’t stop once you hit the big red publish button. As a small author, it’s critical that you keep up with your social media, keep generating reviews and engaging with your readers, AS WELL AS get moving on the next book!

We had an incredible, super fun, release party yesterday full of goofy games, good discussions, special guests and a few cocktails! And thanks to my wonderful readers, Lies is quickly climbing the Amazon ranks! How cool would it be if we got into the top 100 and became an Amazon best seller!?

The print version is on its way as well–they just take a little longer to come together. I’m hoping we’ll see print copies live on Amazon by the end of next week.

So what’s next? Well, now it’s back to the computer to work on the next project. I very much owe my loyal fans the sequel to Rebel Song. I promise it’s in the works. Thank you for your patience!

Have a great weekend. Get out and enjoy the sunshine. Happy reading everyone!

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Exciting Announcement–Lies in the Darkness Release!

Now that I’m back in the states, it’s time to get back to business! I’m taking a break from travel to release my new book, Lies in the Darkness, a Contemporary New Adult. The expected release date for Kindle is Monday May 9, if all goes according to plan. Print copies will be available for purchase the following week.

Just like with Rebel Song, it’s been an amazing–and challenging–journey. I’m so excited to finally share my work with my readers!

Stay tuned for more information about the Facebook release party, giveaways and more!

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The Land of 1,000 Pubs

Or 751 to be exact. At just 44 square miles, Dublin proudly boasts 17 pubs per square mile. That’s down from 4,000 about 100 years ago. So, feck yeah, the Irish can drink.

Dublin was a perfect place to end my journey. The Irish and Americans have a special kind of bond. Given that the Irish emigrated to the U.S. en masse following the potato famine of 1845 and then in waves throughout the early 20th century in search of a life better than their warn-torn country, they are delighted to have you in their homeland. They are a big fans of the U.S., especially San Francisco. Telling any young bartender I was from SF elicited a starry-eyed longing and a confession of their plans to move there in the near future.

My time in Dublin was an absolute blast. The Irish are warm and welcoming, hilarious and generous. Every local wants to take you under their wing and show you the “real” Dublin–not some kitschy Temple Bar joint. (Temple Bar, although steeped in history, now mimics Bourbon Street). Dubliners are brilliant story tellers known to break out into song or limerick at any moment. Mosey up to any barstool and you’ll have 10 new best friends within the hour. You’ll laugh, tell stories and throw playful jabs like you were old friends. I’ll tell ya though, it takes a tough skin to take an Irish slagging, their word for relentless sh*t talking. They aren’t PC and don’t hold their tongue around the women folk–the rule is that if you’re in a pub, it’s fair game. According to the locals, I did alright. 🙂

A few bold lines that stood out:

“American Football? Oh, ya mean rugby for women?”

“Now, when ya get the chance to dunk a midget in the Prague River, you don’t say no then, do ya?”

(Ok, a little offensive, but I’m just the reporter here)

Dublin isn’t the culture shock as some other places I’ve been. It’s a modern business hub with loads of young professionals, efficient mass transit, upscale dining and every accommodation you’ll need. With 50% of the population under age 30, youthful vibrancy splashes against a proud cultural legacy. But beneath the modernized exterior, there is still a country battling ancient social demons. Fist settled by the Vikings in the 9th Century, Dublin has seen a thousand years of war. Today, the cloud of English oppression still lingers on the horizon, Catholic-Protestant tensions endure, and relations with the North  remain strained. I was fortunate to visit on the 100th anniversary of the infamous Easter Rising of 1916–a bloody rebel uprising that ignited both the Irish War of Independence and the immediately following, horrific, Irish Civil War.  The treaty that gained the Republic of Ireland their independence also annexed the six northern counties to England, the rule under which they remain today. So despite it’s ancient roots and solid tradition, Ireland has only been a sovereign nation for about 100 years.

Dublin is a fascinating juxtaposition of modern life and archaic religious rules. Facebook and Salesforce bring in progressive tech minds but old ways persist. Although much of the younger generation foregoes Sunday Mass, the country is nearly entirely culturally Catholic. 90 percent of public schools are run by the Catholic Church. Public schools. Openly Protestant? You may have to find one of the 10% non-denominational schools, which creates a lot of resentment among Protestant youth.  Protestant-Catholic marriages are frowned upon and divorce takes four years. Abortion remains illegal and Condoms were illegal until 1992.

Dublin is a writer’s dream. Steeped in intense history, it’s birthed countless literary masters–James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats included. I forewent the pilgrimage to the Guinness Factory and Jameson Distillery and sought out museum after museum, the Dublin castles, Ancient Churches, famous pubs and live Irish music. I attended a Literary Pub Crawl, where two Irish literature enthusiasts take you on a tour of watering holes where the likes of Wilde spent their time, preforming scenes from classic works while a bunch of us English geeks giddily sipped Guinness. Oh, happy days!

Speaking of literary dreams, I also set eyes on the 9th century Book of Kells, perhaps the most valuable book in the world, at Trinity College. Trinity, Ireland’s oldest university, was established in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as a Protestant university. Catholics were finally admitted in 1793, however from 1956-1970, the Catholic Church forbade its members from attending. Women were finally admitted in 1904.

I thought a week in Dublin would leave me bored but it felt like not nearly enough time. Every pub and street corner has a story to explore. But I did take time to venture out into the countryside and down to the medieval city of Kilkenny. Dipping in and out of rolling emerald hills dottted with unconcerned sheep, I passed by the landscape of countless movies scenes, including Braveheart and P.S. I love You.  In Kilkenny, I had a pint at the Kyteler’s Inn, where in 1324 the female proprietor, Alice de Kyteler, was sentenced to be burned at the stake for witchcraft (or, you know, being a smart, successful female business owner). Alice managed to escape so they tortured, whipped and burned her maid in her stead. The jolly Irish are not immune to horrific crimes.

Anywhoo, Dublin marked the end of an incredible adventure through Europe filled with excitement, new friends, comic mishaps and a healthy shot of frustration–but mostly absolute fun. The travel bug has solidly taken root somewhere in my core and I’m not sure he’s coming out. But that said, I’m looking forward to my own bed, some peace and quiet, a day of Netflixing and some fresh clothes. So, tomorrow I’ll head home, find my bearings with normal life and plot my next adventure.

Anyone thinking about an adventure of their own, stay tuned for some lessons learned.

Sláinte! (That’s cheers in Gaelic)

 

 

 

 

The City of 1,000 Pubs

Or 751 to be exact. At just 44 square miles, Dublin proudly boasts 17 pubs per square mile. That’s down from 4,000 about 100 years ago. So, feck yeah, the Irish can drink.

Dublin was a perfect place to end my journey. The Irish and Americans have a special kind of bond. Given that the Irish emigrated to the U.S. en masse following the potato famine of 1845 and then in waves throughout the early 20th century in search of a life better than their warn-torn country, they are delighted to have you in their homeland. They are a big fans of the U.S., especially San Francisco. Telling any young bartender I was from SF elicited a starry-eyed longing and a confession of their plans to move there in the near future.

My time in Dublin was an absolute blast. The Irish are warm and welcoming, hilarious and generous. Every local wants to take you under their wing and show you the “real” Dublin–not some kitschy Temple Bar joint. (Temple Bar, although steeped in history, now mimics Bourbon Street). Dubliners are brilliant story tellers known to break out into song or limerick at any moment. Mosey up to any barstool and you’ll have 10 new best friends within the hour. You’ll laugh, tell stories and throw playful jabs like you were old friends. I’ll tell ya though, it takes a tough skin to take an Irish slagging, their word for relentless sh*t talking. They aren’t PC and don’t hold their tongue around the women folk–the rule is that if you’re in a pub, it’s fair game. According to the locals, I did alright. 🙂

Dublin isn’t the culture shock as some other places I’ve been. It’s a modern business hub with loads of young professionals, efficient mass transit, upscale dining and every accommodation you’ll need. With 50% of the population under age 30, youthful vibrancy splashes against a proud cultural legacy. But beneath the modernized exterior, there is still a country battling ancient social demons. Fist settled by the Vikings in the 9th Century, Dublin has seen a thousand years of war. Today, the cloud of English oppression still lingers on the horizon, Catholic-Protestant tensions endure, and relations with the North  remain strained. I was fortunate to visit on the 100th anniversary of the infamous Easter Rising of 1916–a bloody rebel uprising that ignited both the Irish War of Independence and the immediately following, horrific, Irish Civil War.  The treaty that gained the Republic of Ireland their independence also annexed the six northern counties to England, the rule under which they remain today. So despite it’s ancient roots and solid tradition, Ireland has only been a sovereign nation for about 100 years.

Dublin is a fascinating juxtaposition of modern life and archaic religious rules. Facebook and Salesforce bring in progressive tech minds but old ways persist. Although much of the younger generation foregoes Sunday Mass, the country is nearly entirely culturally Catholic. 90 percent of public schools are run by the Catholic Church. Public schools. Openly Protestant? You may have to find one of the 10% non-denominational schools, which creates a lot of resentment among Protestant youth.  Protestant-Catholic marriages are frowned upon and divorce takes four years. Abortion remains illegal and Condoms were illegal until 1992.

Dublin is a writer’s dream. Steeped in intense history, it’s birthed countless literary masters–James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats included. I forewent the pilgrimage to the Guinness Factory and Jameson Distillery and sought out museum after museum, the Dublin castles, Ancient Churches, famous pubs and live Irish music. I attended a Literary Pub Crawl, where two Irish literature enthusiasts take you on a tour of watering holes where the likes of Wilde spent their time, preforming scenes from classic works while a bunch of us English geeks giddily sipped Guinness. Oh, happy days!

Speaking of literary dreams, I also set eyes on the 9th century Book of Kells, perhaps the most valuable book in the world, at Trinity College. Trinity, Ireland’s oldest university, was established in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as a Protestant university. Catholics were finally admitted in 1793, however from 1956-1970, the Catholic Church forbade its members from attending. Women were finally admitted in 1904.

I thought a week in Dublin would leave me bored but it felt like not nearly enough time. Every pub and street corner has a story to explore. But I did take time to venture out into the countryside and down to the medieval city of Kilkenny. Dipping in and out of rolling emerald hills dottted with unconcerned sheep, I passed by the landscape of countless movies scenes, including Braveheart and P.S. I love You.  In Kilkenny, I had a pint at the Kyteler’s Inn, where in 1324 the female proprietor, Alice de Kyteler, was sentenced to be burned at the stake for witchcraft (or, you know, being a smart, successful female business owner). Alice managed to escape so they tortured, whipped and burned her maid in her stead. The jolly Irish are not immune to horrific crimes.

Anywhoo, Dublin marked the end of an incredible adventure through Europe filled with excitement, new friends, comic mishaps and a healthy shot of frustration–but mostly absolute fun. The travel bug has solidly taken root somewhere in my core and I’m not sure he’s coming out. But that said, I’m looking forward to my own bed, some peace and quiet, a day of Netflixing and some fresh clothes. So, tomorrow I’ll head home, find my bearings with normal life and plot my next adventure.

Anyone thinking about an adventure of their own, stay tuned for some lessons learned.

Sláinte! (That’s cheers in Gaelic)

 

   

  

  

  

  

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

When in Rome

Eat gelato! Oh wait, we’ve covered that.

How can one even begin to describe the Eternal City?

Rome is a brilliant exhibition of Western civilization–from its origin of towering ancient ruins to the glitzy modern vibrancy of couture. Rome is a magnificent tangle of beautiful chaos. The Italian capital is also the home of Catholicism and the center of the once expansive and imposing Roman Empire. You could spend a lifetime (or four insane days) peeling through the layers of this complex metropolis of 2.7 million people (and cats). Italy is an enchanting place entirely, but Rome enslaved me with its mystique. It’s haunting, mysterious, magical and avant-garde and is enough to spin your head.

Like most cities, there are two Romes: The tourists’ Rome and the local Rome. I stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood, which is a little more “Roman.” Cozied up to the gushing Tiber River, and nestled in between the Vatican and Ancient Rome, it’s a perfect starting point for sight-seeing, while offering a glimpse of what today’s hipster Rome looks like. A little grittier that the five-language menu areas near the Colosseum, you might have to actually learn a few Italian phrases to get your order right, but it’s a place you’ll find locals happily mingling with backdoor travelers over a pizza. Mmm…pizza. If you’ve never had Roman pizza, you’ve never lived. I’m sorry. That’s not hyperbolic at all, no. 🙂 But it truly is nothing like your standard American pie. Crispy-thin crust made out of unicorn smiles, topped with gooey Buffalo Mozzarella that melts on your tongue. Ingredients are simple and fresh. Order a personal pizza at a Trastavere joint and you’ll get an uncut 8-10 inch round. You can politely cut it into civilized slices, or just tear into it.

Ok, I digress.

I could probably sit here and write all day about the sights to see here, but in my time here I took a journey through western civilization: I strolled through the ancient Colosseum, Pantheon and the Roman Forum; saw the rise of Christianity through ancient temples converted to cathedrals now housing Caravaggio; walked through the magnificent holy doors of the greatest house of Catholicism in the world–St. Peter’s Basilica; saw the pope give his Sunday address to thousands of adoring worshipers below in the square; and gazed upon the greatest piece of art in the world–Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I’ve included photos of what I can, but frankly the overwhelming feats of mankind could never be captured by an iPhone.

Rome has it’s struggles, I shall not lie. It’s hot. It’s crowded. REALLY crowded. Traffic is bananas and tourists are pushy. This is a place where planning and a solid guidebook are critical to avoiding tourism misery. Learning when to see which sights, how to skip the lines, and where to eat to avoid selling a kidney will make your life so much better here. Eating in front of the Colosseum? $10 wines. Just around the corner still with a view? $4 wine. Trying to see St. Peter’s in the morning? Three hour line. Go after four and walk right in. Booking a reservation for the Vatican costs an extra 4 Euros but saves you 2-3 hours in line. No brainer. But even with reservations, once inside be prepared to be ass-to-elbow with hordes of travelers with interesting body odors. Just the way it goes. And you’re going to make mistakes. Ordering coffee in a touristy area will get you $4 diluted cigarette water (still mad about it). Always ask for espresso and you’ll get a strong shot for $1. Don’t order “red wine,” order “house red wine.” Be specific and don’t let your waiter decide. Even a savvy tourist is prey to minor price gouges. 🙂 I’ll be sure to record all my hard-learned tricks and tips at the end of my trip for would-be travelers!

Evenings in Rome are made for magic and romantic strolls. Twitterpated young lovers are out in droves, unabashedly flaunting their affections on monument steps and cafe benches. Street performers with a three-song repertoire walk up-and-down streets serenading diners. Chic gentry peruse designer finery costing more than an average salary. The squares brim with gelato-nibbling locals and tourists alike. There is apparently never a bad time to eat gelato.

Romans aren’t prudish, but they are conservative on some matters. Be careful with short skirts and bare shoulders–I had to use my handy shawl to cover up in a few churches. A single woman alone is perfectly safe–but it’s going to garnish attention from curious males. It’s not as common in Italy as it is in other European areas for females to travel alone and they are both curious and, in a strange machismo way, protective.  Concerned strangers will outwardly ask you why you don’t have a man with you and will you be alright that evening. It can offend you if you let it, or you can just smile and embrace the cultural difference. Italians can seem rude to the demure American. They don’t wait in line well, they will absolutely push you out the way to get to the front of the coffee stand, personal space is not a thing and they really do speak with their hands–sometimes swatting bystanders in the process. Just roll with it and do as the Romans do.

Well, Italy, it’s been incredible. I’m off the the final stretch of my journey–to Dublin!

Ciao!

 

 

Humbled by brilliant minds…and gelato 

My time in Italy comes to an end tomorrow, and that might be a good thing as I think I have actually turned into gelato. Or pasta. I might now be a pasta-gelato mutant. Keeping up the blog while in Italy has been challenging, so please forgive me. There is enough to see here to keep a visitor busy every waking moment. 

What an experience the past 12 days have been. No matter which city you find yourself in, Italy is a cultural masterpiece. From the seductive winding canals of Venice, the thought-provoking masterpieces in Florence, the tranquil beaches of the Cinque Terre or the ruins of the Eternal City of Rome, you would be be stressed not to find your muse.

My time in Italy has been vastly different from the rest of my adventure. The weather has teetered between 75-80 degrees, making for a complete contrast to the icy streets of Poland. There is a challenge in changing climates– I’ve had to lug a snow jacket from place to place! The sultry afternoons call for gelato and chilled wine as you stroll down cobblestone ogling Prada. I’ve officially stepped over into tourist high season and I am experiencing the full force of that implication. Hello selfie sticks. So. Many. Selfie. Sticks. The quest for water and bathrooms has never been so critical. There is an energy to the rambunctious busy time, but you will also find yourself begging for a moment of quiet respite.

In contrast to my usual ways, I feel diving into much history is futile. Italy is a well-known veteran of the world (at least everyone knows a thing or two about her), so I won’t bore you with old news. And although there were naturally a few moments of comedy and travel mishap, my time here went pretty smoothly. For one, the language was less of a barrier. I don’t necessarily speak Italian, but I know a enough survival phrases to navigate the city, find the bathrooms and keep my wine glass full. What else do you need, honestly? 🙂 Ironically, of all the places I’ve been, Italians have spoken the poorest English. Even in busy hotels and restaurants, the English can be choppy. It forces that brain of mine to work on over drive, that’s for sure!

Part of my struggle to update is trying to capture my specific moments during my time here became overwhelming. There is so much to absorb that putting it down into thought is paralyzing. Around every corner lies a fragment of ancient history, a bustling sidewalk cafe, a horde of comical tourists or a pictorial landscape.

I began in Venice, which I managed to capture in words before my mind became over-stimulated. 🙂

My three-days in Florence were a non-stop journey through some of the greatest minds the modern world has known–from artistic genius of Michelangelo to controversial science of Galileo to the plotting, conquering Medici family. A place like Florence is enough to humble anyone. In one day I looked David in the eye, then climbed the brilliant Duomo tower, then fell in love with The Birth of Venus.

Florence can a bit overwhelming. It’s narrow streets are crowded, it’s hot, lines are long and there is so much to see it’s hard to know where to begin. On some great advice, I picked up a Firenze card–an all-inclusive museum pass that let’s you skip the line. A pricey splurge at $70 for three days, but once you skip past the miserable hours-long line at the Uffizi Gallery, it’s all worth it. As in every day life, time is valuable when traveling and it’s important to evaluate where your money is best put to maximize your experience. I might splurge on a way to save hours in line, so I will just grab some take-away street food that night to make up for it.

From the hustle bustle of Florence, I headed to the gateway to the Italian Riviera: The Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is five pristine individual towns along the coast, close enough to hike them all in a day but all with their own unique brand of Italy. I stayed in the quiet, more work-a-day Riomaggiore–a sleepy fishing village free of cruise ships and all-you-can-drink margarita buckets (sadly, the resort mentality has reached the once unsullied shores of the northern towns). My room was 200 steps up a winding corridor of little apartments, lined with lazy cats, chicken coops and vibrant lemon trees. Run by a little local lady, she proudly pointed out her flourishing lemon tree and said I was free to take some. From my window, I could see the vast expanse of the Ligurian Sea, the colorful hillside buildings drunkenly leaning into one another, the emerald mountains east and the unhurried town below. It’s the kind of place where you wake to the rooster and the bustle of the morning fish market as an ocean breeze rustles the lacy curtains. Where you sip limoncello by a lapping shore and both the chef and the fisherman responsible for your dinner sit down with you and light a cigarette, curious as to what brings you to their sleepy town. The kind of place where all time slips away and you might awake in a hundred years.
Part of me was ready to leave the sleepy coastal existence out of fear if I didn’t get on the train, I might simply disappear into the whimsical dreamland. In truth, while sipping time away waiting for my transfer train at the La Spezia station, it was tempting to just turn back around. But the Eternal City awaited, and that is after all one of the crown jewels of my journey.

I’m currently listening to the vibrant streets of Rome below. I’ll have more to stay on that tomorrow, but right now I must complete my transformation into gelato.

Ciao Bella!