Save the London Book Barge! and NaNoWriMo whatever; I’ve lost track now

Remember this?

The book barge, Word on the Water.  Step inside (watch your head) and discover a nice selection of used books. 

The London book barge, Word on the Water.  Step inside (watch your head) and discover a nice selection of used books.

Word on the Water needs our help!  They put in for a permanent tender at Paddington Station, and the Canal and River Trust of London awarded the place instead to a large corporation who wanted to put a coffee boat there.  Seriously.  Like there aren’t any coffee shops anywhere near Paddington (there are a zillion coffee shops in London).

Matt Zitron has written an impassioned plea in a HuffPo article about it.  Read it; I’ll wait.

Done?  Please consider signing the petition, even if you’re not a Londoner.  If you are, don’t let big business kill the little places that give London its charm. Bookshops are in the business of selling dreams, and we all need a little of that.  Plus, a floating bookstore is the height of cool and these people are very nice.  Thank you.


Okay, now that I’m off my soapbox, I have completely lost track of NaNoWriMo.  I’m hanging on by a thread here!

Secret Book is coming along; however, there is NO way I’m going to be finished by the end of the month.  I expect to reach the NaNo 50,000-word goal, but it is not going to be done until I’m done.  Probably not until Christmas, actually.

And I still have a metric ton of research to do.  It’s not a problem.  I have time.  Right now, all I want to do is finish the damn thing.

In Tunerville news, I sent off a submission copy.  Since that will take approximately three months for them to review it (if they do), and I forgot to enclose the SASE for my rejection (sigh), I’ll probably never know if they even looked at it.  So back to the queries.

In Rose’s Hostage news, there is no news.  Sorry to disappoint you (and me!).  Brian did say he was putting a manuscript in the mail; let’s hope it was mine.

Now I must leave you, as I need to finish one scene and begin another that I didn’t have time to do at lunch today.  Go read a book (and sign that petition!).

The Saga of Secret Book Begins!

It’s been a week since I returned from invading the U.K.  I finally took the British money out of my purse, but I left my Oyster card and tube map in it.  I’m not removing them.  Nope, not gonna do it.  You see, I’m planning to go back in April for a London meetup of my online community, so I will need these things.  Plus, I like to take them out and look at them from time to time; makes me feel less angsty about leaving.

I miss it.  :(

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I still hear the tube announcements in my head.  “The next station is…Turnham Green.  Change here for the District line train to Richmond.”  “The next station is…Earl’s Court.  Change for the Piccadilly line train to Cockfosters.”  (That will always and forever be funny.)

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.    

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.

Image:  Lillo Montalto Monella /

Now that I’m back, I have three things to do:

  1. Continue working out to maintain weight loss caused by traipsing around Cardiff and London. In fact, ramp it up; I can’t walk outside much longer before it turns nasty.
  2. Work.  (The bills didn’t go on holiday, more’s the pity.)
  3. Finish Secret Book.

In fact, to finish it, I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo concept again, just as I did with Tunerville.  I won’t formally join in, since I’ve already started it (and that is against the rules), but doing it got me through the book last time.  I’ve completely outlined Secret Book and I think what I have is workable, so there won’t be any plot deconstruction.

Just building…building…and more building. 

Just building…building…and more building.

Image:  Worakit Sirijinda/

As for the research, I can finish it later.  The main thing I want to do now is get the story down.  There will doubtless be tons of rewriting anyway, so it can wait.  I’d like to build in a few days for more scouting around in London anyway.

If I don’t post much, don’t be surprised–I might blog intermittently during this book, because it will take more concentration than Tunerville.  I had that one in my head so long that it just kind of fell out.  This one is different.

  • It’s more literary than the others.
  • It tackles some settings and time periods I know little about.
  • The timeline is longer.

I can’t talk about it yet, but bear with me.  You know I will, when the time is right.

Britain 2014–Home and Reflections

Photographs © Elizabeth West unless otherwise indicated

After the Airport Saga From Hell, I’m home.

Someone had a medical emergency on the plane whilst we were boarding, and we left Heathrow an hour late.  By the time I got to Atlanta, went through Immigration (they have kiosks now; it’s brilliant.  So much easier.), collected my checked bag (WTF, they don’t even look at it again—why can’t it just go on through?  It’s already been accepted at Heathrow!), turned in the bag again, and ran to my gate, my connection was gone.  There were no other flights to my dinky airport on any other airline that night.

That’s what I get for living in Mayberry. 

That’s what I get for living in Mayberry.


Delta gave me a hotel voucher.  I had to drag my overstuffed carry-ons through Hartsfeld-Jackson Airport in search of the ground transportation and the hotel shuttle.  I was so tired of carrying my souvenir duffel and my shoulders were so screamingly painful that I ended up dragging it behind me on the floor like a dog on a leash.

Yeah, my bag didn’t want to go for a walk either.


I finally found ground transport, and I spent the night at Country Inn.  The next morning, I got to the gate for the plane to my city.  We had to wait ten minutes for maintenance.  Then we boarded.  We sat there for fifteen minutes before the pilot came on the intercom:  “Folks, we’re having a mechanical issue and you’re all going to have to return to the terminal while we try to find another plane.”

Everybody groaned.

After another hour in the terminal, we re-boarded and took off.  FINALLY!  I figured my bag, which probably had gone on without me, might be lost, but I had to wait until I got to MyCity Airport to know for sure.  It turned out that they had held it back and it was on the plane with me.  One cab ride later and I was home.

Then I went to work for three hours.  Then I went home again and crashed.

Now here we are.  My hotly anticipated holiday is over, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  I debated somewhat whether to post this or not.  It almost sounds like I’m whinging (whining), but I suppose it’s valuable to remember that things aren’t always perfect.

Some of this I wrote before I left, and corrections are in brackets (parentheses).

Things that have changed since the last time I was in the U.K.:

  • The red phone booths. I saw two of them the day I went to BBC.  That was it.  I did see a black one, but I was afraid to step into it, in case it went down to Knockturn Alley.
  • Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a red post box either. Dammit!  (Correction:  I did see one in Kingston.)
  • The iconic sound of British sirens (warning: turn down sound before clicking). They sound like American ones now.  I only heard one like this.  How sad.  It doesn’t sound like London without them, just a city.
But some things still look the same. 

But some things still look the same.

Things I wish had been different:

  • I wish I’d met someone. I didn’t.  I wonder if I ever will.  Even traveling 4,000 miles from where I live, I can’t get it right.
  • I wish I had had more time. Or didn’t have to leave.
  • I wish I hadn’t started packing so early. I ended up OVER-packing and had to lug all that crap back.  It was tempting to donate all my clothes, including the gorgeous black dress I got at Macy’s and packed just in case and never wore, and just take back what I bought.  In the end, I left a few things behind to donate and some stuff my family member will ship to me.
  • I wish I’d gone out at night by myself. In the U.S., I’ve done it and either been shunned or harassed.  I just don’t do it anymore, and I dislike sitting by myself in a room full of people who are with their friends.

It might have been different—but it might not have.  Maybe I was afraid it wouldn’t.  Nothing is worse than going out and sitting at the bar alone and feeling like a blowsy hag and getting hit on by fat old rummies.

Things I’ll especially remember:

  • The moment Welsh appeared on the signs when I approached Cardiff on the train.
  • How good Welsh cakes are, especially when you eat them in the deserted remains of a medieval abbey.
Really—just look at it. 

Really—just look at it.

  • Gazing down from the top deck of the bus.
  • The excitement of using your Oyster for the first time and knowing that you can go anywhere in London.
  • Smooshing up next to strangers on the tube at peak time–and everyone just does it.  Without even thinking about it.  Now you know why no one likes to make eye contact there.  No personal space equals an expansion of mental space.

It didn’t bother me to do this, nor did it bother me to share tables at crowded pubs and restaurants with strangers.  You just sit and eat your meal and don’t look at each other.  I’m so used to being ignored everywhere I go that London was absolutely no different.

  • How easy it was to assimilate.  At first, I found it amusing that people read the paper (an actual paper!) on the tube or the bus.  By the end of my holiday, I was swooping down on abandoned copies of the Metro and the Evening Standard on the carriage.

And the day I went to BBC, I got off the tube at Warren Street Station, looked at the sky, and got my brolly (umbrella) out of my purse automatically without even thinking about it.  Twenty seconds later, it rained.

  • Tying my scarf in a knot or doing the European loop to keep the wind from blowing it off me.
  • Wearing a scarf in the first place.  I don’t normally do that, though I will probably continue after this holiday, especially since I have a couple of new ones I really like.  (Yep; I’m wearing one of my Primark scarves right now.)

My online community is having a meetup in London in the spring, and I’m itching to go back.  Despite some disappointment, I can’t stay away.

Can you blame me?  Ah, London.  You’re silly, sophisticated, noisy, quiet, crowded, lonely, happy, melancholy, old, new, ugly, beautiful, backward, and progressive.  And I love you.

See you soon.

Pretty tree--Hammersmith, London

The Tower of London and A River of Blood

All photographs in this post © Elizabeth West unless otherwise indicated

9 October

2014 marks one hundred years since the British involvement in World War I.  Historic Royal Palaces and the Tower of London are commemorating this with an art installation at the Tower, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.  Ceramic poppies will be placed in the Tower’s moat each day until 11 November, Armistice Day.

I went to Tower Hill today to see this poignant reminder of the cost of war.  As you exit the Tower Hill tube station, you go round the corner to your left and pass under a subway (pedestrian underpass) to reach the Tower.  The first sight of this leaves you awestruck.

Tower of London-poppies 3

Thousands of poppies, one for every British casualty of World War I, glow red in the sunshine.  They lap against the base of the tower like a bloody river.  The thought that there were enough casualties to fill the moat is a sobering one.  There were 888,246 of them.

Here is a Telegraph article about the installation.

Poppies spill from the Tower as though it were bleeding. 

Poppies spill from the Tower as though it were bleeding.

I didn’t go into the Tower, as I’d been there before the last time, and I had other things I wanted to do today.  But I wanted to see the poppies, and I promised my mum I’d get pictures of them.

After this, I got on the RV1 bus from Tower Gateway and went to the Fashion and Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street.  One thing about London–the streets are NOT laid out in a grid fashion as many American cities are, and it’s extremely easy to walk right by the road you want and not even see it.  Especially when it’s raining and blowing on you.

When you walk back from the museum under the bridge on Bermondsey Street, this is what you see.  Pretty neat, huh? 

When you walk back from the museum under the bridge on Bermondsey Street, this is what you see.  Pretty neat, huh?

The museum had a knitwear exhibition on right now.  Though it mainly showcased designer clothing that influenced the fashion, it was still easy to see where the trickle-down to the common closet came from.

As I walked through the 1970s part of the exhibit, I remembered some of the things I’d forgotten about what we wore back then.  Secret Book is set in the 1970s, so I took plenty of notes.  Now that I’ve done some actual research, if I sell it maybe I can write off this trip, ha ha.

A taste of the exhibit.  Though small, it was really interesting. 

A taste of the exhibit.  Though small, it was really interesting.


After I saw the exhibit, I walked back through the rain and caught the bus back to Tower Gateway.  I stood in the subway for a moment to look something up on my map, and I heard thunder!  Just once–at first I heard a bus go over the roadway, but then it actually thundered.  London has had plenty of storms this summer, but I guess that caught everyone by surprise. For the last couple of days, it’s been raining on and off, but nothing growly until today.

My final stop for today was Forbidden Planet, a geek store on Shaftsbury Avenue near (okay, not so near) Leicester Square.  The Square is a tourist area packed with crap that you do not need.

Two of the most hilarious doormen at a nearby venue (they were seriously funny) gave me directions, but unfortunately, I went the wrong way and had to backtrack.  But on the way, I passed by Chinatown, which smelled absolutely terrific.  I was tempted to go down Wardour Street a short way, and I saw this:

There were spring rolls.  Om nom nom.

There were spring rolls. Om nom nom.

It smelled great, so I peeked in the window.  A number of Asian customers were inside, which in Chinatown would be a good sign, and a few tourist-looking ones.  I made a mental note of the location and walked back along the avenue until I found the shop.

Forbidden Planet is Nerdvana.  It’s full of all kinds of geek, nerd, gamer, comic lover, and fan gear of all persuasions–Star Wars, Doctor Who, Adventure Time, and more.  They have book signings all the time and ship all over the place.

This guy must like it too. 

This guy must like it too.

I bought some Doctor Who loot.  Clockwise from left:  a Tenth Doctor sonic screwdriver (it extends, according to Mike who works there), a t-shirt that says “Keep Calm Don’t Regenerate,” tiny Doctors in a pack, and a travel pass holder with Daleks on it.

Not pictured:  the Gryffindor travel pass holder I bought for my Oyster card.  Sadly, I only have a couple more days to use it, but I’ll save it for next time. 

Not pictured:  the Gryffindor travel pass holder I bought for my Oyster card.  Sadly, I only have a couple more days to use it, but I’ll save it for next time.

Before I went home, I retraced my steps to Chinatown and had a delicious dinner at Young Cheng Restaurant.  It’s a chain, apparently, but the food was good and the service was polite and fast.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a good, filling buffet and you can eat as much as you like.  For a tenner, I had a very decent dinner.  I think it would be a great place for lunch if you worked in the area.

Then I walked along the Chinatown street and bought a Korean pear at a small market.  I love those–they’re very crunchy and good.  I discovered them at the Japanese market in my city.

A cool giant lantern.  

A cool giant lantern.

A view down the Chinatown street.  

A view down the Chinatown street.

Tomorrow, I tour the BBC.  With any luck, I’ll have time to cram a pub or restaurant visit in afterward.  I still have a lot bookmarked on my London map.  There’s no telling what I’ll see and I may only have a few photo opportunities at the studio, but I’ll try to tell you as much as I can.

London – Shopping and Buses

8 October

Today was a shopping day.  I was on a mission.  I’ve lost a little weight, and the jeans I’ve been wearing are too loose.  Like falling-down-loose.

I’m not exactly skinny, but I finally felt comfortable enough recently to buy some skinny jeans/jeggings before I left.  Unfortunately, I’m a tall woman and clothing off the rack from most stores doesn’t fit me well.  So the jeggings fit, but they bag in the seat.  That kind of defeats the purpose of skinny trousers!  Not to mention, it’s not fun running for the bus and hiking up your britches at the same time.

There’s a store called Long Tall Sally from whom I ordered some black leggings.  They fit–in fact, they were too long because I had no clue what my inseam measurement was.  They have a store in London, on Chiltern Street north of Oxford Street.  So that’s where I went today.

First, I stopped at 187 Piccadilly, at Hatchards Bookshop, which I found on Buzzfeed just last night.  Founded in 1797, Hatchards is the oldest bookshop in London.  I’m sure its proximity to Fortnum and Mason (next door) has helped it, but it’s also one of the most lovely bookshops I’ve ever been in.

Green carpet, lots of wood, this beautiful old Chesterfield sofa, and spiral stairs.  I think I’ve found my new favorite bookstore in the world.

Green carpet, lots of wood, this beautiful old Chesterfield sofa, and spiral stairs.  I think I’ve found my new favorite bookstore in the world.

Image:  robchilver/ via Buzzfeed

Next, I went to Fortnum and Mason, at 181 Piccadilly.  This department store has been there since 1707.  It has lovely china, food hampers, a food section, things for the home, and everything tea.  I wish someone would buy me one of the hampers for Christmas.  They are amazing.

It’s quite a posh store.  But they are nice–they don’t snoot at you.  If you dress up a bit when you go to places like this, you’ll feel like you fit in.

It's all about your attitude.  Also, don't break anything.

It’s all about your attitude. Also, don’t break anything.


I bought two tea cozies (a thing you put over the teapot to keep it hot), one for me and one for my mum.  I also got some Earl Grey in one of their beautiful signature tins.  In addition to that, I had some of the Earl Grey and scones in a very nice upstairs ice cream eatery called The Parlour.

Look at the cute little teapot.  The scones and clotted cream and jam were very good, too. 

Look at the cute little teapot.  The scones and clotted cream and jam were very good, too.

Photo:  Elizabeth West           

From Wikipedia:

Fortnum & Mason is famed for its loose-leaf tea and its world-renowned luxury picnic hampers, which the store first distributed to Victorian High Society for events such as the Henley Regatta and Ascot Races. These hampers – which contain luxury items such as Stilton cheese, champagne, quails’ eggs and smoked salmon – remain popular today, especially at Christmas time and can cost (as of 2008) from £35 to £25,000.

I wish someone would buy me one of those food hampers.  They are magnificent.

Speaking of post and quails’ eggs, while trying to find Long Tall Sally, I walked up Bond Street and past some of the most expensive stores in the universe.  Prada, Hermès, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and more.  One place had emeralds the size of quails’ eggs in the window.  I tried not to fog up the glass.

After walking for what seemed like forever, I found it!  An hour and an ungodly amount of money later, I had two black and one blue pairs of skinny jeans–THAT ACTUALLY FIT.  No more worrying about my trousers falling down, and I look good in them.

Also, a scarf.  I love this scarf. 

Also, a scarf.  I love this scarf.


It looked like rain (and it did, later), so I decided to go home for the evening even though there were things I still wanted to do.  Plus my feet were killing me from walking so much down Oxford Street.   Which, by the way, is a zoo.

I’ve talked about the tube and trains, so today I’ll talk about London buses.  They’re red, and many of them are double-decker.  It’s easy to ride them–you just touch your Oyster card on the button when you get on.  You don’t have to touch out like you do on the tube when you get off–it’s a flat rate.  Not only are they much cheaper than the tube, but if you sit up top, you can see a lot.

Like this--these are in Ham, at a private residence.  You can only see them from the top of the number 65 bus.  I tried to take a picture myself, but the bus goes too fast.

Like this–these are in Ham, at a private residence.  You can only see them from the top of the number 65 bus.  I tried to take a picture myself, but the bus goes too fast.

Image:  Matthew Rees /

The bus announces what bus it is repeatedly, and there is a digital screen where the upcoming stops appear.  It’s quite modern.  If you know what stop you’re getting off at, when you see it or hear the announcement, just press the red Stop button on the pole and the bus will let you off there.

Some of the stops have red backgrounds on them and some have white:

Image:  Antalope /

At the white ones, the bus will usually stop automatically (if someone is waiting or presses the button), but at the red, you have to flag them down.  The drivers will sometimes stop anyway if they see you, but if you stand up and hold your arm out, you’ll guarantee it.  You don’t have to wave frantically, or hang it out there for an hour; just stand near the curb and raise it.  The driver will see you.

It’s not hard to figure out where the bus you need goes.  And you can always ask someone, or ask the drivers.  They’re used to questions.

Like the tube, the buses can get crowded at rush hour.  Both conveyances have priority seats for older or pregnant passengers, or people who have trouble standing.  At peak time, you have to play human Tetris as everyone tries to squeeze in.

It’s the best way to see London–up close and the way a Londoner would.  I’m desolate that my holiday is almost over.  I’m going to have to come back and just ride around for a week or so, seeing what I can and feeling my pulse sync with that of the city.  Going home is going to be hard.

Britain Day 3–To Cardiff!

I’m a day behind and I’m sorry–I just don’t have time to post every day because I’m having fun, dammit.  Below is my post for 27 September.


I’m on the First Great Western train from Paddington Station in London to Swansea, Wales, stopping off at points west, including Cardiff Central, which is my destination.  For the journey out, I booked a first class seat and I’m sitting here typing on a table, with my laptop plugged into an outlet in the wall, and it’s VERY VERY QUIET in this carriage.

First class on First Great Western train to Cardiff 9-27-14

Spiffy. I like first class. :)

Photo: Elizabeth West

Going back, I’ll be on standard class *sigh*.  Returns are more expensive — silly, as it’s the same route, so I chose not to go first class going back to London.  I’m sure there is some reason for it, but I haven’t figured out what it is yet.  It’s not a long ride so it’s not a big deal.

Out the train window, there’s not much to see.  When you get to a station, all you see is the station, and most of them are located in industrial districts.  We’re heading toward Reading.  My seat is facing backward, which isn’t what I thought I booked, but the carriage is practically empty.  If I’m in the wrong seat (it was hard to tell), I’ll just switch when/if someone kicks me out of it.

England is green 9-27-14

England from a train. It is very green this time of year.

Photo: Elizabeth West

This is not the first time I’ve ridden the British rail system–a relative took me to Brighton the last time I was here.  The trains used to be run by the government but they’ve all been privatized now.  It’s clean, it’s nice, and I wish to hell the toilets on airplanes were as large as the one in this carriage.  Maybe first class is on planes–that’s out of my budget and experience (someday).

It’s cloudy but the sun is peeking through, which is making it very difficult to see my screen.  I’m going to stop writing this soon and just look out the window and take snapshots if I can.  I haven’t worked much on Secret Book, but then I’ve only been here for two days.

More impressions:

  • It’s hard to type on a moving train.
  • When you go through a tunnel, your ears pop as if you’re going down or uphill (I’m guessing it’s the air pressure).
  • The bacon butty, the most British of all sandwiches, is delicious.
Bacon butty on train to Cardiff 9-27-14 GOOD

With HP sauce, of course. (Americans–HP is like A-1 but tangier and more delicious.)

Photo: Elizabeth West

We just passed a freight train near Newport, which was on an adjacent track.  I’m seeing signs in Welsh now.  It’s my understanding that U.S. passenger trains have to defer to freight trains.  The U.S. is something like 39 times the size of the U.K., and why the hell didn’t we get trains like this set up before it got so expensive to do so?  I’d gladly pay extra tax to get something like this.

Trains rock.

 Photo:  Vermatt / Wikimedia Commons

  • The people in London are as nice as I remember them. I had to ask a couple of people where to go from Richmond Station and at Earl’s Court.  They were very helpful.  The whole tube/train thing is starting to come back to me now.
  • First impressions of Cardiff? BUSY.  Busy traffic, busy people, tiny buildings all smooshed together. But it looks pretty lively, and I think I’ll like it.


I just got back from the Llandaff Ghost Walk.  Here is the trailer for this unique tour.

There’s an option to purchase a walk plus a twilight supper.  I did this, but I was the ONLY one who did. So I got treated to a lovely meal at the Mulberry Street Restaurant on High Street in Llandaff, just down the road from the Llandaff Cathedral where the Walk begins.

Carmelized onion and goat cheese tart on a bed of rocket. Almost too pretty to eat. Tiny, but richly delicious.

Carmelized onion and goat cheese tart on a bed of rocket. Almost too pretty to eat. Tiny, but richly delicious.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

The staff at Mulberry Street was lovely; they took very good care of me.  Tom in particular recommended a place for Welsh cakes.  I’ll try his suggestion.

Then, it was on to the Ghost Walk.  This tour takes you around the district of Llandaff, a village that occupied the site before Cardiff was built around it, near the Llandaff Cathedral.  Author Roald Dahl was born there.

This tower looming over you in the dark of night, against a cloudy sky faintly glowing from the lights of the city, is seriously spooky.


Our fabulously entertaining guide John Hutch and his trusty steward Pete Simmons (who brought up the rear and was available to help if anyone had to leave the tour) took us down past the Cathedral and around by the River Taff near the weir.  He showed us where the river used to run, which corresponded to one of the more pathetic ghosts.

John told us thrilling stories of the Welsh equivalent of a banshee, tales of ghostly horses galloping up the old Celtic trade road, and another that I won’t reveal because it’s seriously creepy and I don’t want to spoil the Walk for you.  I wasn’t scared (it’s extremely difficult to scare me with stuff like this), but I really loved hearing about all the history and the spooky stuff.  I’m not a horror fan for nothing.

The walk is a bit strenuous coming back up beside the Cathedral, and there’s a lot of standing around while you listen to the tales, so you want to make sure you’re in good form before you go.

My favorite part was the old Llandaff graveyard.  To get to it, you had to make a U-turn through a gate that only admitted one person at a time (like a stile, kind of).  I think I smacked the poor person behind me with it.

I like cemeteries–they’re quiet and peaceful, most of the time.  This one was covered in brush and weeds.  Here and there, the leaning tombstones pop up at you out of the dark when your torch (flashlight) hits them. They dot the land around a huge yew tree that grows in a stone circle, where you can sit and rest your feet.  It’s the last stop on the Walk, which then ends where it began, in the shadow of the great Cathedral.

Personally, I experienced no ghostly phenomena, but plenty of people have.  If you do, make sure you tell the steward because Cardiff History and Hauntings will document your experience.  Your story might even end up being told on the Walk.