Edinburgh Fringe!

So I went on a trip. Almost an impulse trip, really; my sister Alena and our friend Mark were going to Fringe and asked if I wanted to come.

Edinburgh is home to the original Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a theater arts event that has been running annually for three-quarters of a century. All those Fringe theater events around the world are spinoffs of this OG. It is the largest arts event in the world, and possibly the third largest ticket event in the world (after the Olympics and the World Cup). In the words of the festival itself, it features “theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.”

Also street food!

This year there were over 2200 official ticketed events (and more unofficial). The Fringe program is literally larger than the phone books of some places I’ve lived (back when phone books were a thing). The entire city becomes a city of theaters, with over 300 official venues comprised of existing theatrical facilities, rented rooms, churches, pubs, classrooms and lecture halls, temporary structures, and converted spaces. There are also unofficial venues, which can be even a gap left in a crowd or a nook between food trucks. An acrobatics performance broke out during our lunch one day.

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I’m Giving Birthday Presents Like a Hobbit ?

I’m having a crHappy Birthday, so I’m fixing it by giving books away.

Your to-do list today:

  1. Get a free story as a birthday present for you
  2. Vote for Kin & Kind, please and thank you

Happy Birthday…?

So here’s the very short version: Today is my birthday, and I was supposed to be traveling through Italy this week, visiting archaeological sites and gathering research vibes.

Instead, I am spending my birthday as day 9 in isolation in a single room with a positive COVID test.

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2020 Part Deux, Vacation Edition

My husband and I (along with family and friend) are on a cruise. It’s been much fun, and our daily update included the fact that we had no known cases of COVID-19 on board in either passengers or crew. That made sense, as we were all vaccinated and everyone tested negative to board. Yay!

Then Jon had a runny nose for a day and a half. Just a runny nose, nothing bad. But he did a COVID test and turned up positive. The cruise ship machine kicked into gear — he was the first known positive — and they escorted him out among disposable scrubs, masks, shields, and a guy following him with a Ghostbusters backpack that misted disinfectant everywhere he walked.

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Field Trip: Death in Floreana (To Write and Have Written)

For today’s field trip, we travel to Isla Floreana to explore the murders which may or may not have taken place. Another real life story to inspire you!

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Field Trip! Ice & Steam (& Penguins) (To Write and Have Written)

We take our first Field Trip to explore Iguazú Falls, Ushuaia, Antarctica, the Falklands, and the amazing journey of Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance expedition.

Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires
Ushuaia
Cape Horn
Ice
Penguins

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Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha (shrine)

The iconic red gates mark the entrance to a shrine, defining a sacred space, but to many outside Japan they are most associated with Fushimi Inari Taisha, the famous shrine at Kyoto. While there are many fascinating aspects to explore here, the seemingly-endless red torii are a captivating visual and immediately recognizable all over the world.

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was founded in 711, on Inariyama (Mt. Inari) outside Kyoto. The main structure today dates to 1499 (but is regularly reconstructed, per tradition). Inari Ōkami is the Shinto spirit of rice and its related themes of sake and prosperity. For this reason, you will see donated sake near the shrines.

Throughout Shinto’s long history, Inari has been variously depicted as both male and female. While Susan Spann graciously guided me on my first visit to Fushimi Inari Taisha, we were amused by our distinct references in conversation—I kept referring to Inari as she, and Susan kept saying he, but really that makes sense when you remember that we write in different historical periods.

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Kuro-Tamago (Black Eggs)

I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan lately. Just over a year ago I was on a dream trip through the country, visiting historic sites both famous and less touristy, and I am anxiously waiting for 2020 to play through to see if I can make my scheduled trip this fall, where I plan to hike the Kumano Kodō (熊野古道), a network of millennium-old pilgrimage trails through the south.

But while I wait, I’ve been reminiscing.

Author and Tōkyō resident Susan Spann was my guide to the best of Hakone, from the hotel where we were personally greeted to the little Italian restaurant where the owner brought in a wood-burning pizza oven. (Fair warning: I’m going to be talking up her books, both her historical mysteries about the murder-solving ninja/Catholic priest duo and her upcoming memoir about climbing 100 Japanese peaks in a year to change her inner and outer life.)

But today, let’s just talk about Ōwakudani.

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Area 51: Aliens & Exercise

After I left When Words Collide in Calgary, I drove south and followed the Extraterrestrial Highway (NV SR 375) to tiny Rachel, Nevada (population 54).

I’d signed up for the ET Marathon — the half, actually, because I’m not cool enough to do a full marathon. I’d booked the race and my room long before #StormArea51 was born. I arrived early and holed up in a mobile home to work on Blood & Bond.

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GeyserCon Report & Rotorua

After our backpacking trip, Jon and I traveled to Rotorua to get ready for GeyserCon, New Zealand’s 2019 national science fiction and fantasy convention.

We got into town a little early, so we stayed at a tourist cottage with Grace Bridges, con chair. Grace booked us into one of her regular favorite places, where we had hot pools and a hot beach and a steaming stream and warning signs all over the yard about the ground potentially burning your feet, be sure to wear shoes.

Rotorua is one of a very few (countable on one hand with fingers left over) communities in the world built on an active geothermal site.

Lake Rotorua, on whose shore our cottages sat, is a water-filled caldera, still active. You can walk along the beach and find little hot springs bubbling up through the sand and lake. This is a good place to wriggle your toes in — but be careful, because it’s easy to find one that’s too hot.

Note the bubbles coming up between my toes.

Remember those chilly wades we had in Abel Tasman? This was the opposite. Even though we were less than a week from the official start of winter, I waded into Lake Rotorua and, with chilly lake water biting at my legs, pushed my toes into the sand to find the heat. My ankles were cold, but my feet were warm.

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The Abel Tasman Track: A Great Walk of New Zealand

I’ve just completed a four-day trek through Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand, along the stunning Abel Tasman Track. I wasn’t going to go all the way to New Zealand for GeyserCon, where I was an author guest, and not fit in some tramping!

We flew into Auckland, sent our convention luggage (books, costumes, normal clothing, etc.) on to Rotorua, and immediately caught a flight for Nelson, where we stayed in a cozy studio (referral link to save $25 anywhere) hosted by the delightful Kate. It was just upon our arrival to Nelson that Jon informed me our cookstove, meant to give us hot food over our four days of late autumn hiking and chilly wading, had also gone on to Rotorua. Oops. Kate was kind enough to give us a 7 am ride to a local store to pick up a cheapo model before our trailhead pickup.

We got a ride into Marahau, a town at the southern edge of the national park, from Abel Tasman Aquataxi. We confirmed the time and location of our next pickup four days later and crossed the street to pick up a local walkway that would lead to the national park entrance.

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