1. What’s Different About NaNoWriMo 2017

    October 16, 2017 ♥ Posted in: News, Writing by Kristina Horner

    NaNoWriMo is still a half a month away, but I can feel it looming in the distance, creeping in and causing stress and anxiety and a little bit of excitement but mostly anxiety. And listen – this is year twelve. I’ve finished NaNoWriMo while in college and working a job and running a YouTube channel all at the same time. I’ve finished NaNoWriMo when I missed an entire week to the flu. I’ve finished NaNoWriMo while dealing with breakups, while moving out of my parents’ house for the first time, while taking trips that stole my attention, while working on big projects at work, and more.

    But this year feels different.

    I’m nervous.

    Yes, I’m planning a wedding. Yes, I’ve taken on a lot more responsibility at work and it eats up a lot more of my time. But I can deal with those things. I’m very good at finding time to do NaNoWriMo. I can wake up early. I can lock myself in a room. I can turn down social plans, or stay up late, or bribe myself with pictures of kittens.

    The one thing I can’t work around is myself, and I haven’t exactly been able to rely on my ability to focus these days.

    I’ve never had to worry before that a hurricane or a shooting or a wildfire or a new piece of terrible legislation will be the reason I might not finish NaNoWriMo. And I realize being able to say these things puts me in a place of privelege, and I acknowledge that. But I’m paying attention now. And while I can sing from the rooftops how important art is in times of chaos, that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to create it myself every single day because these things have been terrible – are terrible – and they’re happening with alarming frequency, and there’s no one leading this country doing a damn thing about any of it. I feel helpless, and sad, and scared – pretty much every day.

    So my biggest fear this year is that I won’t finish. That my streak will end at 11, and year 12 will be the year I just can’t.

    The only way I know how to work through this fear is to talk about it.

    Honestly, I’m not sure I know how to mitigate this, except to wake up every day and face it. There genuinely might be more important things to do in November than work on my novel. Those things might be going to a protest, or using my 1667 words that day to write a letter to someone in congress, or crying in the bathtub. And that’s okay.

    But I’m going to wake up every day and try.

    And when I can, I’m going to try to remind others that creating art when you’re hurting can be therapeutic. And that some of the best works come out of trying to resist, so we should pour our anger into the things we create. And that even more important than making great art is making safe spaces for each other, and checking in with each other, and coping.

    I believe we can all do it, together. But if we can’t, that’s okay too.

    Leave a comment!
  2. Life Update and Wordbound #28

    September 18, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    LIFE UPDATE:

    I keep re-inventing new ways to be busy. I’m not trying to wear that as a badge of honor, it’s just true.

    This summer Joe and I ended up doing way more traveling than we had planned, which was incredible, but also made the time feel like it flew by. On top of that, I’ve been ramping into a somewhat larger role at work, and on top of that, I’m still planning that pesky wedding.

    Momentum on my book has… slowed, but I’m still squeaking out whatever progress I can make in the cracks of the madness that has been this whole summer. It finally, finally rained today and I breathed this sigh of relief I hadn’t realized I’d been building up – shorter days and crummy weather means I might finally be able to hide away in coffee shops and get back into a good rhythm of writing. And of course, it also means NaNoWriMo is right around the corner…

    Other things that have been going on with me…

    • Joe and I did a really adult thing and bought a new dining room table. Then at the last moment we decided to put it in our living room with the board games instead of in the dining room, so we’re not quite full-fledged adults yet. We’re now eating off our older table, and have had TWO epic game nights since the new one was delivered. #noregrets
    • I went to PAX and didn’t do any cosplay, which is the first con I’ve been to in probably 3 years where I didn’t cosplay at all (aside from LeakyCon, but I was a bit busy there, ha). I’m here to report that it actually felt great.
    • That being said, I will be cosplaying at GeekGirlCon at the end of this month, but just one day.
    • I haven’t made a video in over two months and the jury is still out on how I feel about that.

    I don’t have that much to report on. I’ve been letting myself do a lot more relaxing and non-productive stuff than usual, which has meant watching TV, reading books, and saying yes to things like game nights spontaneous hang-outs.

    For the longest time I really tried to cut out as many consumptive hobbies as I could, to maximize the time I spent on creative ones. Reading books was just about the only one I let slide, since reading is nearly as important for a writer as writing is. But… guys, it was exhausting. I still wish I could make all the things, but you have to give yourself a break sometimes. So that’s what I am working on.

    WORDBOUND:

    I haven’t shared a #wordbound prompt response in awhile, so I decided to work on one tonight.

    Write a scene where a character lets something go, figuratively or literally.

    No service.

    The phone said the same thing every time Allison checked it, no matter how strongly she willed the WiFi signal to find something – anything. She held it up in the air, hoping it might catch some rogue stream of Internet hovering in the sky, by chance. No service. She heaved the old wooden dresser closer to the window and climbed on top, legs dangling over the side, trying to get the phone even higher up. No service. She shoved the window open with her foot and held the phone right out the window, dancing with disaster as she gave it one last effort. Even though her grip was snug, the ground two stories below was jagged with rocks.

    Still no service, loser! she felt like it was mocking her. Allison yanked her arm back inside and slammed the window shut.

    It had been four days since her parents had dropped she and Riley off at their Great Aunt’s house. Four days since any texts had been able to come through, since getting any pictures from her friends, since updating any of her social media. She could only imagine what might happen in four whole days at summer camp. She imagined her friends had not only met boys, but were married off and starting careers by now. They’d surely have families and houses and grandchildren by the end of the summer. She’d be hopelessly behind and never catch up and might as well not even bother going to high school at all – and to top it off, she couldn’t even complain about any of this on social media.

    Allison heaved a sigh and threw herself back on her hard, patchwork bed, the useless phone still clutched in her hand.

    Maybe she’d just move in with her weird aunt permanently. They could ceremoniously burn all their electronics, live off the land, swear off all boys forever. It seemed her Great Aunt had done most of these things already anyway, so Allison was sure she’d be all for it. Cabin buddies. Out in the woods. In the middle of nowhere. Forever. Someone could make a sitcom about them.

    High school seemed hard anyway. Maybe she’d just skip it. Her friends probably wouldn’t even miss her, after all the fun they were likely having at camp without her.

    Allison tucked the phone under her pillow and vowed to not check it again until the end of the summer.

    Well, maybe the end of the day.

    Okay, she definitely wouldn’t check it until at least after lunch.

    Well, at the last minute it appears my main character decided not to let it go at all, but what can you do. Sometimes your characters are just more stubborn than you are. Hope you enjoyed this little tidbit – now to decide if it will actually make it into the book!

     

    Leave a comment!
  3. Unwritten Story Ideas! (Wordbound, Week #25)

    August 21, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Hey everyone! In case you missed it, #wordbound is back as of this past week! We’re officially on Week #25 after a bit of a summer break, and I couldn’t be more excited about getting back into the regular swing of writing with you guys.

    This week’s prompt was a blogging specific one, and it was: What’s something you’ve always considered writing but haven’t yet?

    The interesting thing about #NaNoWriMo (and having done it 11 times) is that most of my really big ideas I’ve at least attempted a first NaNo draft of. And while most of those projects I would probably entirely rewrite rather than attempt any sort of editing pass… it does help me sleep at night knowing that at least one version of many of my favorite ideas exist in some workable form.

    There are a few things I’ve always wanted to try my hand at but haven’t, but I’d say those are much more of idea fragments, rather than full-fledged projects. Anything that gets past the fragment stage usually ends up just getting written in November.

    Here are some ideas I’ve had and may come back to some time:

    1. I’ve been wanting to write a series of weird short stories, ones that don’t have much to do with each other but still feel somewhat like they go together. I’ve maybe already written some things that would work with this idea, but I haven’t come up with any kind of defining thread so it’s a perpetual back burner project.
    2. I talked about this in a blog post recently, but I’ve wanted to write something that involves North Dakota and my family heritage and the midwest for many years now. I’m still working out exactly what that project might look like, and how best to incorporate real history and traditions into a fictional story.
    3. A few years ago Joe and I got in a car wreck which left us stranded in a snowy highway town in Montana, and I’ve had it in my head since then to write a paranormal version of that experience. I imagine that could be a short story. I really want to write it.
    4. I’ve also been sitting on a non-fiction road trip idea in which I would write a series of blog posts about the various stops along the way. I first had the idea for the road trip a few years ago, and mapped out all the stops and how long it would take me, but then I never actually went on the trip. This is still something I would love to do.

    I can’t think of anything else specific to share! Right now I am very focused on trying to actually finish a project that I haven’t let my mind drift too far into the realm of new ideas, because new ideas are attractive and shiny and distracting.

    So many of the books I’d love to share with you guys someday are half-realized NaNoWriMo drafts in desperate need of more work, so I’m just trying to learn the focus needed to take first drafts to the next level. Taking writing classes and studying novel-writing as a craft has both armed me with the tools to hopefully do this, but also the additional self-doubt of realizing my story’s flaws more clearly. One step forward, two steps back. But I am trying to write every day. Even when it’s hard. Even when I walk through a bookstore and feel that crushing knowledge that thousands of amazing books are already out there… but possibly there are people who’d want mine too?

    My goal is to finish the first draft of my current project by November 1st, in which case I’m hoping I can pick up one of these other ideas as a nice palate cleanser.

    We’ll see, though. November creeps closer every day and I have a ton of work ahead of me.

    Leave a comment!
  4. Haunted Port Townsend – Manresa Castle

    August 20, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Bucket List, Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    I’ve always loved ghosts. When I was in about middle school, I discovered this show called “Real Scary Stories”, which was a show where (if I remember correctly) each episode would discuss the history of a known haunted location and then would let locals share their own stories about weird things that had happened there. I looked it up while researching for this blog post and apparently the show only ran from 2000-2001, which is a real shame.

    Watching ‘Real Scary Stories’ was the first time I had really thought about haunted places existing in real life, and being able to personally visit such haunted places. This was especially made clear when one episode happened to take place at a hotel relatively near to where I grew up. Manresa Castle is located in Port Townsend, Washington (about 2 hours away including a ferry ride), and I was so excited by the idea of this place that I begged my parents to take me there.

    manresa castle port townsend haunted

    This is not a blog post about how my parents didn’t take me there, even though they ended up staying at the castle themselves at least twice between then and this past weekend. Mom and Dad, I would not throw you under the bus like that. This is instead a blog post about how when, nearly twenty years later, my mom suggested we take a family trip to Port Townsend, little twelve-year-old ghost hunting Kristina burst from within and insisted we stay at the castle.

    And finally – finally – it happened.

    Joe is expertly blocking an ugly truck that was really cramping my castle-photo vibe.

    On Saturday (after copious amounts of wine-tasting with my parents) we arrived at Manresa Castle. It’s a full-fledged castle, it’s old and creepy, and I was super ready to get my spook on.

    Look at this excellent carpeting. They just don’t put carpeting like this in places without ghosts.

    The first order of business was exploring. We hadn’t thought to request either of the known haunted rooms (drat!), but we sure as heck were going to go find them. We wandered the hallways, discovered a creepy old laundry shoot (a maid told me it was still in use), and found both the room where a girl apparently jumped from a window when she found out her love was lost at sea (Room 306) and the room right beneath the spot where a Monk allegedly hung himself (Room 302). We even snuck out an open door we found that led to a very sketchy fire escape.

    And after a thorough investigation, I deduced that the place was scary because it was old, and creaky, and because we wanted it to be scary – but ultimately we couldn’t find anything that made it scarier than any other creaky old building. Even with the weird carpet. Even with the dusty sitting room. I had been hoping for weird sensations or noises, or things moving on their own, but you just can’t make that stuff happen on command. You can’t summon a weird experience just because you drove two hours and rode a ferry, or because you’ve waited for it for nearly twenty years, or because they charge $200 a night for a room.

    It’s a beautiful castle, don’t get me wrong. It’s excellently renovated, each room is uniquely layed out and decorated, and it’s always a delight to stay in a place rich with history. but it didn’t make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. It didn’t make my skin tingle. I wasn’t afraid to be alone in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and no floating apparition woke me up in the middle of the night demanding I pay some sort of blood debt. It was sort of a letdown.

    However, that evening after my family had dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant called Lanza’s Ristorante, we gathered at a fountain in town to meet our tour guide for a rousing evening of Twisted History. Let me preface this by saying – if it’s not already abundantly clear by this blog post – I love ghost stories. But even more so, I love learning about the dark history of towns, the seedy underbelly of their society, the unexplained horrors of the past. Whenever I visit a new place and have time to spare, I look for ghost tours, or some kind of underground to explore, or anything that will show the darker side of history. I’m fascinated by it. And Port Townsend is apparently one of the top 20 most haunted cities in the country.

    I had no idea! I just knew they had a castle!

    The tour was amazing. We learned about how Port Townsend is called the “City of Dreams” because of the early view that it would become the largest harbor on the west coast of the US. We learned about how that dream died when the depression hit, and the Northern Pacific railroad didn’t end up connecting Port Townsend to the ports on the eastern side of Puget Sound. You’ve probably not heard of Port Townsend if you’re not from around here, but have you heard of Tacoma? Or a little place called Seattle?

    We also learned about the boom of the 1870s to 1890s, when the dream was still alive. We learned about the impressive and horrifying shanghai-ing racket, the brothels, the drinking. We learned about some particularly shady men notorious for the ways they behaved in town (looking at you Captain Tibbels and Mr. Waterman), and a lot of people whose solution to their problems was to burn down the buildings of the people they didn’t like. We learned about a woman whose throat was slit for trying to shut down prostitution. We learned about a young girl who was accidentally shot in a duel between her own father and her lover. We learned about a woman who was burned alive because she owned a hotel after her husband died and the opposing male hotel owners in town didn’t want to compete with a woman.

    Port Townsend has the most colorful history, full of tragic and unexplained stories. Nearly every story we heard was darker and more interesting than those of Manresa Castle, which led me to question how that’s the one that makes it into the ghost anthologies. Manresa Castle was built by Charles Eisenbeis, one of the only well-known men in Port Townsend who doesn’t have a laundry list of horrible things he did to build his wealth. Along the tour, I found at least two other hotels way creepier than the Manresa, one of which I’m dying to stay at next time and one I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (respectively).

    Left: The Palace Hotel, a former brothel, now historic hotel. Right: The Bishop Hotel, another creepy and restored hotel. The owner collects dresses widowers wore to their husband’s funerals.

    Suffice to say, the trip was exceptionally fun and interesting, even more so than I could have prepared myself for. I arrived in Port Townsend with very Manresa Castle specific dreams, but I left with an expanded love for the whole city. Everyone I met and talked to was delightful. The food was delicious. The shop owners kind. The man who loves and collects brass bowls enthralled us with his story for nearly an hour. The town was packed with more history than I ever could have hoped for, and with the weekend being so quick, it left me with many more things I want to come back and discover on a future trip.

    I’ve even got a few of my own story ideas spinning around in my head, dying to get out. Can you imagine renting a creepy little room in a brothel turned hotel to write a ghost story? I have shivers, thinking about it.

    So thank you, Real Scary Stories. Your show may have only run for two years, but the episode on Manresa Castle was a great pathway into a town I have completely fallen in love with, and granted me more ghost stories than I know what to do with.

    Leave a comment!
  5. The Summer Challenge TRIPLE THREAT

    July 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Geek Events, Journal, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Booktubeathon is upon us yet again, and I fear I have made a grave mistake this year. Actually, let’s take a step back.

    So, as you all likely know, I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I set a modest goal for myself, but writing 20,000 words in a month (arguably the busiest of the summer months) is still nothing to shake a stick at. I knew that attempting Booktubeathon and Camp NaNo in the same month would be a stretch, but I’ve never been one to look in the face of a challenge and back away. I welcome challenge. I thrive on challenge.

    This was all well and good – totally doable – until I found out about the Marauder’s Marathon. This is a month long virtual Harry Potter themed marathon, which I, of course, signed up for because you can absolutely trick me into exercising if you disguise it as a fun Harry Potter fandom activity. Plus I am trying to be more active, so why not apply a NaNoWriMo-esque filter to running, to make it more exciting? 26.2 miles in a month? A whole month? No problem!

    Problem is, it started on the 17th of July. While I was in New York, in oppressively hot weather. Listen, I’m as committed to pretending to be a wizard while I run as the next person, but I’m not going to start my running adventure in 90 degree weather. So here I am, finally home from NY, 5 days behind. But still determined.

    Okay. Okay Kristina. Three marathon style events in one month. All overlapping for one chaotic week starting on Monday. Is this possible? You can listen to audiobooks and run at the same time. You can get up early to write. This is doable.

    You can listen to audiobooks and run at the same time. You can get up early to write. This is doable.

    Oh wait. Your friends invited you on a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas for one of their birthdays starting on the Saturday of your Week of Madness, and you can’t turn down a spontaneous adventure? AND your best friend gets married on August 9th and you’re not only in the wedding, you’re also planning the bachelorette party, which happens right in the midst of all of this?

    Guys, nothing can save me now. I um… I may have over-committed.

    BUT! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter over the next couple weeks to see if I survive, and in the mean time… here’s my Booktubeathon TBR:

    The challenges:

    1/ Read a book with a person on the cover: PAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughan
    2/ Read a hyped book: MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur
    3/ Finish a book in one day: DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    4/ Read about a character that is very different from you: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
    5/ Finish a book completely outdoors: MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME by Rebecca Solnit
    6/ Read a book you bought because of the cover: THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown
    7/ Read seven books: THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by Emily Barr

    I forgot to mention… it would be so nice to have this weekend, this glorious Saturday and Sunday, to get ahead in writing, to do some solid running, cleanse my reading palate with some television, do laundry and relax and prepare for the insanity ahead – but I’m got another wedding tonight and won’t be back until tomorrow. *falls over and dies*

    Wish me luck, and please let me know if you’re participating in any of the above challenges. Bonus points if anyone out there is crazy enough to do all three, like I am!

    Leave a comment!
  6. Discovery Park – Hike #2

    July 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Travel, Wedding by Kristina Horner

    We were supposed to go on our second hike sooner than this, but we had to skip our next planned outing because Jenn’s ankle hadn’t properly healed yet and then we had a couple of busy weekends. But then our friend Ariana was in town, and she’s all about that hiking life as well, so this past Saturday was the perfect time to (literally) hit the dusty trail.

    The Hike: Discovery Park
    Description: Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park, located next to the peninsular Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle. It overlooks Puget Sound, with views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains. The park is built on the historic grounds of Fort Lawton, which was originally a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Within the park is two miles of protected tidal beaches, a lighthouse, open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves and more. While it’s advertised as a 3.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail, all the branching paths and trails can leave a person wandering for hours.
    Length: Advertised as 3.9 miles, but that’s just for the loop trail.
    Elevation Gain: 570 feet
    How long it took us: We switched roads/trails at least six times, so we probably spent at least 3.5 to 4 hours walking around. No concept of how far we actually walked.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    So originally we had planned on checking out a different hike, and wanted to make more of a day trip out of it. Ariana had mentioned Lake 22 (which is on my list for sure) – but when the time came, Discovery Park made more sense.

    I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. As a new hiker I am very eager to try out exciting hikes, ones a bit further away from home, with exceptional views promised to me for the effort. Discovery Park is right here in Seattle, and while I’ve never actually been there for hiking, I couldn’t imagine a trail so close to where I live being anything to write home about. I live by a lake with a well-known walking trail – I imagined it was going to be of that caliber. I left my cool hiking backpack at home. I prepared myself for a nice little walk.

    Let me take a moment to admit I was wrong.

    Discover Park is probably one of the most incredible things about my city, and I’ve lived here almost thirty years without knowing.

    How have I gone about my day to day life, folding laundry and running errands and eating sandwiches and trimming my fingernails with a view like this just twenty minutes away? Literally, how does that happen to a person? How is this not some sort of mandatory Seattle resident onboarding information, like “welcome to the city – there’s a Starbucks on every corner and also this view will take your breath away, make sure you check it out as soon as possible.”

    The thing about Discovery Park is that there are a million little trails and paths. If I went back right this second, I don’t think I could retrace my steps. There are little paper maps offered at the trailhead of the north parking lot, and we tried to follow along with where we were going, but mostly our strategy was to go a new direction every time the path diverged. We walked on classic trails, dirt roads, paved paths, old wooden stairs, and spent a significant amount of time following the beach trail around the tip of the peninsula. We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    I saw a lot of different amazing things on this hike, but for some reason I only took pictures of this incredible view. I think this is the point at which I realized how wrong I’d been about Discovery Park. That even though you’ve lived in a place nearly your entire life, you can never really know all there is to know about a place. It will find ways to keep surprising you.

    The main reason we stuck to our neighborhood in terms of hiking on Saturday was actually that we planned to come back on Sunday, and wanted to kill two birds with one stone and use this day’s hike for a bit of location scouting. Ariana had offered to take some engagement photos for Joe and I, and thought this park would be the perfect backdrop for our very Pacific Northwest relationship.

    Here’s the thing I realized about engagement shoots that had never occurred to me before. On Saturday, we hiked in workout clothes, ponytails and hiking boots. We sweat a lot and got dirty. On Sunday, we dressed for pictures. I wore a skirt and a cute sweater. Joe wore his nice new jeans. I wore little velvet black flats.

    But we walked on the same dirty trails. I stepped in the same mud.

    I’ve seen hundreds of engagement and wedding photos taken in the woods, in front of a waterfall, on the edge of a mountain. I’ve seen people in high heels, wedding dresses, suits, and with immaculate hair and makeup.

    And it has never once occurred to me how those people got out there.

    The obvious answer is that they probably brought a change of clothes. But that doesn’t explain the perfectly curled hair, the beautiful makeup, the fact that hiking with a garment bag isn’t much easier than trying not to get black velvet shoes dirty on a path made of literal dirt.

    It wasn’t actually a very pleasant experience if I’m being honest, between the rocks in my shoes and the constant worry that I’d accumulated some kind of nature in my hair. I now have a renewed appreciation for my hiking gear for all future hikes. I also have so much respect for the people who look flawless in their very extreme wedding and engagement photos. Unless they were somehow helicopter dropped into their location, those people are intense. Those people worked way harder for that picture than I ever stopped to consider before. And while taking pictures with Ariana was a delight on the interpersonal level, and I’m sure they’re going to turn out lovely, I so wished I’d brought a pair of sneakers. Or a mirror to check how I looked.

    On the other hand though, Joe and I aren’t the kind of people who’d think to bring a mirror on a hike, so maybe it’s a more accurate representation this way. Just like how I told Ariana I’d probably mostly keep the photos others would deem mess ups, the ones where we’re laughing or making silly faces, I probably wouldn’t like our pictures quite as much if Joe’s shirt wasn’t a bit wrinkled, or if you couldn’t see any dirt on my shoes.

    That’s just us.

    Leave a comment!
  7. June 2017 Life Update: North Dakota and Writing

    July 5, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Family, Travel by Kristina Horner

    I recently got back from a little family trip to North Dakota, the purpose of which was to visit relatives and introduce Joe to future in-laws.

    North Dakota is a really special place for me – it’s the state in which I was born, it’s where some of my relatives still live, it’s where my parents grew up, where my dad’s farm was, where our relatives settled when they came to the US… it’s also filled with food, language, traditions, and history that’s unique to my family, things that I fear will slowly fade away as people grow old, move away, or move on. As we grow more reliant on computers and chain restaurants and the internet and brands and phones, it’s natural that old traditions and habits slowly slip away, and it can be a very sad thing.

    One of my dreams is to write a book that captures and preserves some of this stuff. I don’t live in North Dakota. I’m not personally making the big life choices to help keep these small towns alive. I don’t cook North Dakota-German food as much as I could and I definitely am aware that each generation in my family knows significantly less of the low German language my family used to speak out on the prairie.

    So my way to contribute, my way to give back, is to collect stories. To collect anecdotes, and recipes, and ideas; to capture the lifestyle and write it into a book. Someday. Every time I visit I come back even more fired up about this plan, so I decided to finally tell someone, maybe as a way to hold myself accountable. It will happen. I owe it to myself.

    I’m obviously waist deep in a different book right now, but this one is always on the back burner. It’s in the back of my mind and I keep collecting notes and ideas and stories and recipes so that when I am ready to sit down and write it, I’ve already started doing the work. My future self will thank me.

    My future self will thank me.

    Side note: here’s the necklace I am wearing as I write this blog post about my birth state.

    Rather than spoil anyone on my unwritten future book, I’m just going to share a couple of pictures from my trip. It was a trip on the quieter side for my usually loud and rambunctious family – but we didn’t come during a holiday, so not as many people were around. I missed my other relatives, but it was nice to have quality time with my two grandmas, the two remaining grandparents I have. They both live in North Dakota, about an hour apart.

    This is my mom’s mom, the biggest firecracker of a lady you’ll ever meet. She’s taken to coloring lately to keep her mind and hands busy in her nursing home, so we made sure to stop in to color with her, among other things.

    My aunt had a little BBQ at her beautiful home, and was happy to share with us her collection of hammocks. This was probably the part of our trip that felt the most like a vacation.

    These are two of my cousins’ cute kids. They gave me a tour of the entire property and even taught me how to pick asparagus from the garden. I’m not sure we were supposed to, but they seemed to think it was fine, ha.

    My dad’s cousins have a ton of property on which they keep a huge amount of the world’s remaining Nokota horses. It’s a pretty amazing story, actually. These horses are completely wild, and were on the brink of extinction before our relatives moved them here. It’s always such a treasure to get to go out and see them in person.

    I always love taking pictures by cool old stuff when I’m in North Dakota – in fact my dad likes to tell people the drive out to his old town takes “twice as long if Kristina is with, because she always makes us stop to take pictures of all the old barns that have fallen down”.

    Joe and I had to take an obligatory vacation photo by this old buggy, which is the very same one my great aunt and uncle used to give tourists rides on in a town about two hours away. They’ve both since passed away, but I fondly remember many rides in this buggy as a child. I’m pretty sure my parents used to give them $20 to drive my brother and I around in circles until they were done at the bar, haha.

    Playing card games at Grandma and Grandpa’s house has always been a staple of trips to ND. It’s very sad Grandpa isn’t around to play with us anymore, but we still always play in his honor.

    Our little trips to North Dakota don’t always look like much, but they mean everything to me. I’m so happy I get to share them with Joe now, and I’m excited to accompany his family to New York in a couple weeks to share the same kind of experience with him.

     

     

     

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  8. #READINGBINGO

    June 15, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Nerd Topics by Kristina Horner

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me – I get an idea in my head and I can’t let it go until it comes out as a real, living thing that people can experience. This is exactly what happened with #readingbingo.

    What is #readingbingo? It’s a readathon, one that I have invented. It’s going to be low key. I’m saying that more to myself than as part of this announcement.

    A little backstory: Probably at least a year ago, I had this idea that it would be fun to pick reading challenges off a bingo board. It gives the participant some agency in deciding what they read, but they’re still within the constraints of picking the challenges that make a bingo together. I also love that there are varying degrees of difficulty, depending on if the participant decides to make one bingo, two bingos, or go for a whole blackout. Bingo boards could also be reused by bringing in other types of bingos as well, like 4 corners or the L shape or whatever.

    Essentially I couldn’t get this idea out of my head, so it’s happening. It’s happening the week before Camp NaNo July, which in hindsight wasn’t the best plan, but HERE WE GO ANYWAY!

    So there you go! If you’d like to participate in the first ever #readingbingo, it’s happening from June 19-25. The best way to keep up is to follow the channel on Instagram. The bingo board of reading challenges is live now, and there will be daily Instagram challenges and other fun surprises over the course of the week. My intention for this readathon is for it to grow and change over time, so this first one is more of a test, and I’d love your feedback!

    My intention for this readathon is for it to grow and evolve over time, so this first one is more of a test, and I’d love your feedback! Happy reading, and thanks for always being down to try out my crazy ideas. Let me know in the comments of this blog post or over on the Instagram account if you have any questions.

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  9. Writing Confessions (Wordbound, Week #22)

    June 14, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Books, Wordbound, Writing by Kristina Horner

    This week was a “blogging prompt” week on #wordbound, and there’s really no excuse not to participate on those weeks (for me at least). It’s just so much easier than writing fiction, haha. So here I am! Being productive! Doing #wordbound!

    The prompt is: Make 3 writing related confessions.

    1. There are maybe 3 people on this planet who have ever read one of my book drafts in their entirety, and none of those people are family members or close friends. None of them is even Joe. One is an established and successful YA author I look up to, one lead a company that was thinking of publishing books written by YouTubers back before everyone decided to write an autobiography, and one was the then-girlfriend of a friend I only knew from online that lived in Australia. This is a very, very strange assortment of people and I really can’t tell you how each one came to read my writing. They all read the same book too, which is actually the one I recently dusted off and decided to work on again. I can say with certainty that what they read was not ready for external eyes, but you live and you learn. And then you don’t show anyone else your writing for many, many years. Haha.
    2. I definitely worry that I’ve hyped up my writing and my NaNoWriMo wins for so many years now (a decade!!) that by the time I actually publish something, people will expect something much better than I am actually capable of. I hear all the time that to be actually pro level at something, you have to practice for 10,000 hours. It applies to anything – musical instruments, crafting, cooking, sports, etc. 10,000 is a long time – it’s a lot of hours. 10 NaNoWriMos is also a long time, but I chalk most of those years up to “practice”. I think it’s okay that I haven’t been ready to share yet, but the fear of not meeting expectations is real.
    3. One of my biggest regrets, though, is not being one of the first people to write and publish a book about internet friendships, or fanfiction, or fandom, or cons. I’ve been practicing writing books about these types of topics for years, and they were still pretty novel even just a couple years ago. But now I feel like books about fandom are the new dystopian YA or vampire books, and so many of them are so obviously written by people who are jumping on a trend and not writing their personal truth. These types of books are so pervasive now days that I almost don’t want to write one anymore, even though I know I could definitely write something from a very unique perspective. Maybe I’m just bring a brat, but with the ever-constant desire to write something ‘different’, I feel like that experience has gotten a bit oversaturated in the YA book world.

    What are your writing confessions? I’d love to read them!

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  10. Cherry Creek Falls – Hike #1

    June 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Seattle by Kristina Horner

    For the last year or so, I’ve had this inkling that I wanted to start hiking. Which is funny, because when I was young I hated when my parents would make me go hiking (“why would we just want to walk around in the woods when there are books to read?”), and I also distinctly remember in college making fun of the fact that the very first thing you’ll see on anyone’s dating profile here in the Pacific Northwest is that they “enjoy hiking”, like there is nothing more stereotypically Seattle than a loud and proud love of hiking.

    But… I mean. I work at Microsoft and graduated from the UW and started hiking and even recently bought my first The North Face jacket, so honestly… maybe I just need to admit that I’m pretty stereotypically Seattle. Maybe I should just embrace it.

    Anyhow, my friend Jenn and I decided to start hiking. We’ve both been trying to be more active lately, including signing up for (and actually going to!) a gym, and signing up for a 5k (The Bubble Run!) at the end of the summer. And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    25 foot cherry creek falls hike seattle

    The Hike: Cherry Creek Falls Trail
    Description: A hike along old logging roads to a 25 foot tall waterfall on Cherry Creek just outside of Duvall, WA.
    Length: 5 miles (out and back)
    Elevation Gain: 718 feet
    How long it took us: About 4 hours round trip, with about a 30 minute stop for lunch and pictures at the falls, and Jenn struggling with a hurt ankle on the walk back.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    This was a fantastic first hike! The trail itself was moderate to easy, with a few tricky mud puddles to cross here and there. There’s also a point about 2/3 of the way in where you have to cross a literal creek, which added to the challenge and excitement. I’m not sure if it’s because we went early in the season, but there’s also about a half-mile stretch in the middle where the trail is really thin and a bit overgrown, so you spend a bit of time pushing through bushes and shielding your face, which was just a little bit annoying but overall not too bad.

    When you get to the end of the trail, there’s this beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the falls from above, but the real magic happens when you hike down the last steep stretch to find yourself at the base of the little body of water that forms at the bottom of the falls. We were disappointed it wasn’t warmer, because what a place that would be to take your shoes off and splash around in the water. We made due just eating the sandwiches, carrot sticks and chocolate chip cookies we’d brought along which enjoying the view.

    The people we encountered on this hike were friendly and had cute dogs, and even offered Jenn a beer after we passed each other multiple times during her ankle-hurting saga. We respectfully declined, because as savvy new-hikers, we’d already brought our own tiny wine bottles. Because we’re classy.

    The only strange thing that happened on the hike was near the most treacherous mud puddle – Jenn and I were cautiously making our way over when we heard a phone alarm go off. Jenn wasn’t too concerned right away, because she assumed it was mine, but I don’t use a phone alarm. I use the silent vibrate alarm feature on my Fitbit. I assumed it was HER phone, but it quickly became clear it wasn’t coming from her direction. In a few seconds time, I was certain either someone had dropped their phone on the trail, or there was someone waiting just off the path, ready to kill us.

    Once we’d cleared the mud, we walked a few more paces, and a man was just standing at the top of the next hill, by himself. It was his phone. He was holding it in his hands. And he obviously had been able to hear us saying “where is that alarm coming from? Whose phone is that? This is creepy!” from just around the bend but chose to say nothing!

    He was friendly as we passed, and we all laughed about it, but I was still pretty creeped out. I might have to write a scene in a book sometime where characters find out they’re not alone in the woods by hearing someone else’s phone go off loud and clear. Probably at night. Probably when their flashlights have gone out.

    For the record, I packed extra batteries for my flashlight, so this fictional horror scenario would not happen to me. Always be prepared.

    We’ve got our next hike planned for next weekend, and I’m so excited to make this a regular thing! Stay tuned for more blog post updates/reviews of the hikes I go on.

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