1. #NaNoCastle Exploration pt. 1

    October 27, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner


    Today I went exploring outside the castle with another one of the guests, a girl name Yamile. The weather was beautiful, so we set off early in the day without any sort of plan or goal in mind. We just decided to wander and see what we found, and the grounds here are huge, so it’s really easy to wander aimlessly for ages.

    This little kitty decided to join us, and literally trotted alongside us for over an hour as we clambered over the hillside, ducked under trees and found all sorts of cool old stuff. A few times we were afraid we’d lost her, but she always found her way back to us. To be fair, she lives here, so she probably knows this area like the back of her… paw?


    We’re going to be spending three weeks together, so we decided to give our cat friend a name. We named her Claire. Claire loves us, and always tries to eat our food or sneak into the castle when we aren’t looking. She’s not supposed to go into the castle. This is hugely distressing to Claire.


    Here is Claire warning us, “don’t bother looking inside this seriously ominous and creepy little shack. There’s nothing exciting in there.” We didn’t listen to Claire, as we made it our mission to look inside everything, no matter how creepy.

    She was right though. We only found spider webs and some sort of pressure gauge or water heater or something. I actually have no idea what it was, aside from probably ‘covered in spiders’.

    This whole place is old and sort of decrepit and spooky. I really don’t know how many airbnb-ers they get here, especially since a lot of the amenities on the grounds appear worn out and dusty and like no one has used any of it in awhile. It’s totally got that old “abandoned” vibe, like you should film a horror movie here, or take artsy pictures for a viral Buzzfeed list [10 Haunted Places You Can Actually Rent!].

    I’m sort of glad Claire accompanied us on our exploration, because if a cute happy kitty can live here then so can I.


    This is an old tennis court that I doubt anyone has used in awhile. There was a sign above the opening in the fencing that said “Le Tennis”.


    This is a boarded up old log cabin we found about a 20 minute walk from the castle. If I’ve learned anything from scary movies, it’s that if something is boarded up – it should probably stay that way. However, I desparately want to know what’s inside. Next time, log cabin. Next time.

    There was also a big row of beehives, like legit ones used to collect honey. I wanted ot take a picture, but I was too afraid to get close. Maybe I’ll brave it on a future exploration.


    Here’s an awesome side-view of the castle. I wish we could fly some sort of NaNoWriMo flag from those points on top. Why didn’t we think of this?! I was so unprepared for castle life.


    When we got back, two of Claire’s kittens were waiting to welcome us at the front steps. We really need to name the kittens. “Mom, why were you gone so long?” they mewed at us. “Because,” Claire said, slightly exasperated but still lovingly, “I’m a single mother and I haven’t gone out with the girls in weeks, that’s why.”

    The kittens just chased a bug, already having forgotten they asked a question.


    Now I am inside, working on this blog post by the fire, and the cat family is taking the “no cats in the house” rule quite poorly. “But please,” Claire is mewling, her soft paws tapping the wood of the door. “After everything we shared today?”

    I’m sorry, Claire. I don’t make the rules here.


    Stay tuned for more castle exploration, as well as NaNoWriMo updates as soon as we hit November. I’m having an amazing time on this castle adventure and I love sharing it with all of you! Follow my instagram for more pictures like the ones you see above. 


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  2. The Best Weekend Ever

    October 26, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Three incredible things have happened to me over the last couple of days:

    1. I was reunited with my band The Parselmouths at LeakyCon.
    2. I got engaged to Joe Homes, my best friend and boyfriend of 4 1/2 years.
    3. I flew to France to live in a castle.

    If that makes it sound in any way that my life is unbelievable or the plot of a romcom… well… maybe that will help you understand how I’m feeling right about now.

    Last week, there were only a couple things on my mind. Among those were “make sure you’re packed for LeakyCon”, “make sure you’re packed for France”, “make sure you remember the words to your songs” and “make sure you’ve tied up everything you can before 3 weeks away from work.” I was so immersed in being ready that I didn’t really prepare myself for what everything would feel like. So now, as I sit in the sitting room of a castle by the fire we made with our hands, I will go into detail about the 3 days I will never forget.

    Parselmouths Reunion Show at LeakyCon: Let me just get this out of the way first – I never imagined I would ever perform with the Parselmouths ever again. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t really plan to go to a LeakyCon again either, unless it was in a city close to me. Times change, you know? Good things come to an end, and I was full up with enough amazing memories to last a lifetime.

    But when Brittany (sorry, Elle) and I got together for drinks back in the spring and had a great time, and I realized LeakyCon 2016 would be right in her backyard… the gears started turning. The people at LeakyCon were totally down for a reunion show, and then suddenly… it was happening.

    It was super stressful. Like, really, really stressful. Practicing from different states, getting new shirts made, re-learning all the songs, and doing this amidst also planning a 3 week trip abroad – I literally thought I had been crazy to agree to something like this. And for what. A 30-minute set?


    But I cannot explain how it felt to be on stage again. I’d forgotten the chemistry we have when we perform. How well people know the lyrics to our songs. How much energy courses through you at a place like LeakyCon, onstage. It was incredible, and I was so filled with love and excitement, and it was a part of my life I really never thought I’d get back. I had accepted that some amazing things will only live in the past and was truly okay with that, but this felt… it just felt so real, and so right, and I’m so happy it went as well as it did.


    Which leads me to…

    Joe Proposed at Wizarding World!: So here’s the thing. I was ALREADY on a high when I woke up on Saturday. Our concert had been amazing, and I was so excited to take Joe to the Harry Potter theme park, because he hadn’t been there yet. We spent the morning poking around in shops, had breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron, then rode the Forbidden Journey ride… and as soon as we got out of the ride, Joe started insisting we all needed to take a group picture. It was a little weird honestly, because Joe never cares about pictures. Like at all. I have to force him to take pictures with me all the time. But he wanted a picture, so there you go.

    After the group shot, he said “can someone take one of just the two of us, now?” Which again – weird – but I assumed Joe must be feeling the wizard love this weekend as well, so we smiled brightly with our wands to the sky. I actually hadn’t even looked at this picture yet to be honest; I had kind forgotten about it. It’s really quite nice!


    Then after a moment, I saw him reaching into his pocket out of the corner of my eye. It all happened so fast, guys, but I knew IMMEDIATELY what he was doing and I started freaking out. We were at HOGWARTS. And so many of our friends were there watching, and no one had a clue. AND THEN HE GOT DOWN ON ONE KNEE.


    I was crying and laughing and waiting for him to actually ask me a question to say “YES!” to (we were both nervous, clearly) but it was amazing and magical and my friends were very audibly excited. A lady who was working The Forbidden Journey came and gave us a front-of-line pass. People cheered. I was so shaky and excited and nervous our friends did the only thing they knew how to do – they walked us straight back to the Hogshead and bought us drinks. I can’t think of a better thing to right after getting engaged than drinking spiked butterbeer.

    The rest of the day was pure magic. Joe and I just kept smiling at each other, and he extended his trip so he could stay for the ball. We danced and celebrated and soaked up more of the positive LeakyCon vibes and overall, it was a really solid weekend. I’m just so happy. It was so wonderful.

    But wait! Kristina. Wasn’t there a third thing on your list? Something about living in a mutha-effing castle?

    Oh yes!

    I am now living in a castle: After LeakyCon, I flew home for less than 24 hours. I used this time to unpack, repack, vote, and snuggle with Joe. It was super, super weird to leave him after BECOMING ENGAGED TO EACH OTHER, but he is wonderful and wanted nothing more than for me to go have this adventure. I miss him, but that’s the awesome part about deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone: he’ll be waiting when I get home!

    So, Monday afternoon, I got on a 7 hour flight to Iceland, where I transferred to a 3.5 hour flight to Paris. Then I took a 1 hour bus to Montparnasse station where I got on a 4 hour train to Agen. There Derek, the guy who set this whole #NaNoCastle thing up, picked me up in our big eight-seater van, and we drove the 1 hour to Chateau de Cadrès, where I will be spending the next 3 weeks writing a book. Whew! I am exhausted and I slept for 12 hours after this immense journey, but I made it!


    Honestly though – way to put living in a castle into perspective, Joe. I really thought this would be the most surreal thing that happened to me this week, but nope! Getting engaged still wins I think.

    A lot of people keep asking me how this whole castle thing came about. The short version is, a group of people wanted to do NaNoWriMo in a castle, so we made it happen. It’s really that simple. But the slightly elongated version of the story is that Derek had a dream to gather a bunch of writerly types and rent a castle for a month to work on stuff together in a really incredible setting. He actually hosted a contest almost a year ago for one of the spots (which I won), which is why I am here.

    Over the past year I’ve gotten to help with castle selection, brainstorm ways to use the time productively, and outlined what I hope will be my best novel yet. There are already two other people here with me in addition to Derek and his wife, and I’m already having a blast. In fact, I am writing this blog post by the fire in our sitting room wearing my new slippers, and it’s amazing. We have a few day trips planned, but we’re setting goals we have to accomplish before we can go on the trips. It’s a great system.

    The castle portion of my adventure is really just beginning. I’ll be taking many more pictures, and I’ll try to keep you all very updated on what’s going on out here in the French countryside. Spoilers: it’ll mostly be writing. But I’m sure I’ll have some stories by the time I leave.

    Stay in touch! Follow my adventures on Instagram and also here on this blog. I really don’t know when I’ll ever do anything like this ever again, so it will be well-documented.

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