From Bucks County to County Galway

I’m finally settling into my new home in Ireland after spending nearly two weeks in a hotel. The sale of the home in Pennsylvania was complicated and as a result delayed the transfer of funds for us to complete the purchase of our house in County Galway. Now that it’s done, I’m putting things slowly in order. As you can imagine, things work a little bit differently here and I’m finding my way by trial and error and by not being too embarrassed to admit when I haven’t a clue. Since I haven’t had either time or inclination to write (thank you stress and worry) I thought I’d try to get back in the routine by sharing some of my experiences in settling into life in a foreign country.

Everything takes 7-10 days. Patience is the word of the day. Americans, let me tell you, we are spoiled with instant gratification. We are so used to getting immediate results that waiting a full week for satisfaction feels like an eternity. But that’s just the way it goes over here and no amount of complaining will change anything. (Not that I’m complaining, I find it rather refreshing actually.) Except for being without internet and TV for that long. And while being disconnected and quiet has an appeal, it’s difficult when you’re trying to take care of business that, these days can only be handled online! Finally we got connected yesterday.

The country is far more ecologically/environmentally responsible than I’m accustomed to. I cannot believe the stuff we are able to recycle, for instance. In the ‘traditional’ recycling bin they will take not just the numbers 1 and 2 plastic that I was restricted to in Pennsylvania, but ALL plastics including plastic bags and shrink wrap! In this bin goes all glass and metal cans, cardboard, chip board and paper, too. I get another bin for COMPOST! All food and kitchen waste goes in here along with paper towels and napkins. Then finally there is a third bin for regular trash that can’t be recycled. I can barely think of what I might throw in it.

Another way the Irish (and possibly all of Europe, I imagine) are conservation-minded is the way the household power is managed. My water heater has an off-switch. No one leaves the water heater on full time. Many homes have them on timers so that they don’t run during hours when hot water isn’t needed. The oil burner is also on a timer so that the heat shuts off over night when you can keep warm under the covers. All the appliances are super energy efficient, most cars are small and hybrids are very popular. They tax fuel very steeply to encourage efficiency and public transportation is readily accessible even out in the hinterland where I live. Thanks to that, we are going to try to get by with one car for now.

Speaking of cars, our car is a Skoda and it’s not only right-hand drive, it’s a manual transmission. Thank goodness I learned on a stick shift and drove one for several decades. I picked up the feel for it again right away.

GMO foods are banned, pesticide use is restricted and many suspicious ingredients like preservatives and dyes are not allowed in foods. The produce is beautiful and plentiful. I feel healthier already. And get this: eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. Naturally, eggs have a coating on the shell which protects against spoilage. In America, chickens are raised in such abhorrent conditions that eggs need to be pasteurized, thus destroying that protective coating and requiring them to be refrigerated for storing. My eggs are sitting on the kitchen counter. Good thing, too. Refrigerators are small!

Stores don’t stay open late. Thinking about shopping in the evening? Forget about it. Grocery and convenience stores might stay open till 11:00 pm but every other store closes at 6:00 or 7:00. I guess having a life trumps getting the extra sales. I find that really refreshing, too. Lot’s of places are closed on Sunday as well. Vacation, weekends and time to spend with family and friends are valued here, not just by workers but by the employers as well. That’s pretty cool.

And finally, my daily walk now takes me along a narrow lane that skirts the old walls of Headford Castle. My view across the road is a farm with sheep and cows. The bank, the supermarket and the pub are all within walking distance. So far everyone has been friendly, kind and helpful. The weather has been lovely but we’re prepared for the inevitable rain and chill. I will build a little peat fire in the fireplace and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. Made with my electric kettle!

My interview with NF Reads

Recently I was contacted by Tony Eames of NF Reads to be interviewed for NF Reads Website which features articles on a wide variety of topics. My interview is one of several featured authors. You can find my interview here.

Thanks in advance for reading!

Trust the Process

Trust the process” is a slogan used by fans of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, though it has since become popular elsewhere in sports and culture. Coined during a rough patch for the team, it basically means “things may look bad now, but we have a plan in place to make it better.” – The Urban Dictionary

So yeah, the Sixers looked bad last night, but this isn’t about basketball.

Writers have rough patches, too. Maybe your work in progress is stalled. A project that started out with great potential fizzled the further you got into it. Perhaps you wrote your plot into a an unfixable mess and have to trash the whole thing and start over. You know what? This is the process. Working through all of the ups and downs, the mistakes and the disasters only makes you a better writer on the other side of it. That is of course, if you stick with it and trust the process.

The other day, a friend of mine who has been reading through all the Bucks County Novels sent me an email. In it he praised the first three books, loved them, in fact. But when he got to the fourth book: Tainted Inheritance, he noticed a change. Sloppy editing, spelling and grammar errors, a plot that dragged. He actually said he was thinking: “C’mon, wrap this up, Meg.” And you know what? He’s absolutely right.

Tainted Inheritance is my NaNoWriMo book. It’s the primary reason I will never, ever write like that again. I was so tired by the end of that marathon of writing that I avoided revision and neglected to have it professionally edited. And the result is a substandard novel. Now to be clear, I do think the overall story is good, great even. I just need to clean it up and pass it along to my man Kevin for editing. But the fact is, I do not have hurt feelings or wounded pride at the critique of my friend and fellow writer. Why?

There are differences between having a reader not like your book because it just isn’t their taste and having them not like it because it was badly written. I am not going to rewrite my story to satisfy someone else’s taste. However, if a reader genuinely points out an inconsistency, a flaw with the concept or some other sort of error, I am more than willing to accept the criticism and revise accordingly or apply the advice to the next project. I try my best to learn from the experience. And ignore the people who are just negative because they are mean.

This is one of those cases where the reader gets it. Valuable criticism and feedback are gold for a writer. It only makes us better if we listen and apply. Trust the process. It always works.