Sveiki sugrįžę! Welcome Back!

This is a continuation of last week‘s post regarding our trip and some history of Lithuania. If you missed last week‘s post, stop on by Labas! Mes nuvyko į Lietuvą! (Hi! We went to Lithuania!) to catch up.

Since my husband and I already went on a walking tour, we took our guide’s suggestion and explored the capital of Vilnius, wandering into the city’s nooks and crannies. While I would love to share all of my pictures with you, I’m sparing you from the countless number we took, only highlighting some of the things we did.

During our exploration, we came across the KGB/Genocide museum. My husband and I didn’t want to go in because we knew it would be too depressing. The Museum of Genocide Victims was the former KGB headquarters. Its document collections are a dedication relating to the Soviet occupation, Lithuanian resistance, arrests, deportations, and executions that took place in the building. Between 1944 and early 1960s, the basement became a prison where over 1,000 prisoners were executed. The below pictures are from the outside of the Genocide museum. The first one is from a wall of pictures; I’m assuming residents created them. In the second picture, I took a close-up of one of many engraved blocks with the names of those killed inside.

To take your mind off of the depressing information I just told you, check out this ship made of Amber. If you love Amber, then Lithuania is the place for you. It’s amazing what they make with it. My husband bought me a leather Amber ring. Love it!

On our second day, we started with rain again, but that didn’t stop us. Our very bright raincoats kept us warm and dry. We went to the Gediminas Castle Tower, built in the early 1400s. They built a lift to bring people up to the castle and museum. We bought a one-way and walked down. Walking down wet cobblestones is not fun.

The weather cleared up for a while, so we roamed the streets again. The Literatu Street Project is a unique area in Vilnius. Its name originates from the street that once housed many bookstores and antiquary shops—Literatu meaning writers or authors. This is a memorial for famous Lithuanian writers and those linked to Lithuania. It originally started as a temporary exhibition, but remains with the continuation of new plaques. The walls stretch and branch off the famous Pilies Street. Below are a few pictures of the walls and some of the artwork… and my husband wandering into one picture.

Then we went up the Belfry to take some pictures of Vilnius, which our tour guide claimed has the best views. I would have to agree with him.

And to end the highlights of our trip to Vilnius, Lithuania, here are a few pictures of the Hill of Three Crosses. Legend has it that these crosses, originally wood, were built where friars were beheaded during pagan times in Lithuania. The Soviets destroyed the crosses that replaced the originals.

I have to mention that I haven’t met so many Americans while traveling to other countries as I did in Vilnius. For a country not many people I knew ever heard of, it was amazing to come across them. We met a woman from Napa Valley, two people from Illinois, and a woman from Minnesota.

What were your summer travels? Did you learn anything exciting wherever you went?

Vacations and History,
Baer Necessities

Labas! Mes nuvyko į Lietuvą! (Hi! We went to Lithuania!)

This last weekend, my husband and I went to Lithuania. I’m of Lithuanian and German descent, so experiencing a part of my ancestry was a great experience. My grandfather was born in Lithuania, and my great-grandmother was born and raised in Lithuania. Since we went for a few days, we didn’t have enough time to venture outside of the capital, Vilnius. The weather wasn’t too cooperative, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. Because of the history and the number of pictures I have, I decided to make this a two-post blog. I’ll post the continuation next Wednesday.

When I was around five or six-years old, my mother and aunt sent my brother, sister, three cousins and me to Lithuanian school to learn the language. What a disaster. At the school, Lithuanian was the other children’s first language. My cousin Ann and I just wanted to run around and play. I think after a year, my mom and aunt gave up on the language lessons. The six of us were also involved in Lithuanian dancing, and the five girls were debutantes in the Amber Ball.

Through the years, I found many people never heard of Lithuania, so I thought I’d give you some information about the country. It’s one of the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The first written mention of Lithuania was in 1009. Lithuanian is one of the oldest speaking languages, a form of Sanskrit. To get an idea of how Lithuanian is spoken, you can go to ilanguages and click on the speaker. And here, I thought German was a difficult language.

In the late seventeenth century, after a failed alliance with Poland, Lithuania fell under Russian Rule until 1918. The Russians banned the language and crushed religion. Their 1918 Independence was short lived, and toward the end of WWII, Soviet Occupation began again in Lithuania until 1990.

Tension grew in Europe, so in 1989, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia peacefully demonstrated with the Baltic Way (Chain of Freedom). Around two million people took hold of each other’s hands (all ages) to create a human chain that ran 419 miles across the Baltic States. It was a drive for freedom and unity. In 1990, Lithuania claimed Independence once more. This picture stirs my emotions. People shouldn’t have to do this in the name of Freedom.

Due to so many Soviet years, it left their economy way behind many other countries. Because of these hardships, Lithuanians emigrated, and after Lithuania joined the European Union, around twenty percent of the population moved to other countries. This has left some areas of Vilnius in deprived conditions, and lots of poverty. With all that’s going on with Russia right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lithuanians weren’t a little concerned about their future. I hope Russia doesn’t turn in their direction and leaves their Independence intact.

Instead of just giving you the history of Lithuania, I’ll begin with our ventures and pictures. When we got off the bus from the hotel, the first thing we saw was the writing on the lawn along the Neris River. After crossing the Green Bridge (built in 1536), we saw the other writing in the second picture. The first picture, “Ir aš tave” (I do too), and in the second picture, “Aš tave myliu”( I love you), means I love you and I do too.

Sculptures decorate this bridge, including this one representing the Soviets. The top part of the plaque is in Lithuanian, and the bottom part states: “31/08/1993 – The Soviet Army Withdrew from Lithuania. 1940 – 1941, 1944 – 1991 more than 300,000 residents of Lithuania were exiled, imprisoned, killed.”

At noon on the first day, we took a free walking tour, which lasted around two hours. Our guide, Alexandras (I’m sure spelled wrong) took us down cobblestone streets, showed us unique things of the city, and gave us some history. It was perfect. One of the places we stopped by to see was Užupis, one of the oldest parts of Vilnius, and a “republic” of artists. The Vilna River runs through this place. Below is a picture of a restaurant in Užupis, the locks of love bridge, and a swing.

Užupis has its own everything, including their own Constitution.

After having an idea about the town, my husband and I began to explore. We went into St. Anne’s and St. Bernardine’s Church (built in the fifteenth century). During Soviet rule, they closed and abandoned the building, because they didn’t allow Lithuanian’s to have a religion. You’ll notice in a few pictures how the church suffered from neglect.

 This is the inside of St. Anne’s Church.

This is the inside of St. Bernardine’s Church.

And that wraps up the first post about Vilnius, Lithuania. Please stop by next week for the continuation.

Where did your last travels take you?

Heritage and Travels,
Baer Necessities

A Southern Touch with Janice Olson

Thanks for stopping by for another fabulous look into an Indie Author’s world. Janice Olson, AuthorToday, I’m introducing you to Janice Olson, a southern woman with a love for God and writing. So grab a cup of coffee, or Southern Comfort if that’s your thing, have a seat, and get acquainted with Janice’s southern charm.

1. Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

To describe myself is difficult, but I think I’ll start by saying I’m a dyslexic introvert who, over the years learned to become an outgoing dyslexic extrovert. I’m still reticent to push my books or me; however, I can easily tout other authors, people, or causes I strongly believe in. While writing my novels, I get lost in my own little world. I’m zany, willing to try most things, and love to have fun and laugh. I’m artsy—love to paint, make jewelry, play the piano or organ, sing, make flower arrangements, or just about anything craft-wise. I like things to set at an angle, not straight on. Crooked paintings or pictures on walls drive me crazy. One of my greatest joys is figuring out an intricate plot before the ending and finding out I was completely wrong. I love my husband, family, and God, and I’m a loyal friend.

And there you have it in exactly 150 words, which I couldn’t do again if I tried.

2. Tell us about your published books.

My first book is “Serenity’s Deception,” a romantic suspense in the Texas Sorority Sisters series. BJ Spencer returns to her hometown, Serenity, to unexpectedly find a connection with her past and a love she thought forgotten. Now if she can just stay alive to enjoy the rest of her life, which seems to be an impossibility.

Book 2 is “Lethal Intent.” Madison Fletcher has lost everything to a madman’s gun, and now the killer is after her. After running from Austin to Dallas to a father she never knew, she finds a new life and a new future, or will the killer take it from her?

Book 3 is “Chameleon.” Roni Reeves hasto defend the man she loves even when all signs point to him as the killer. When she gets too close to the answers, the killer comes after her.

Book 4 is “Run … You Can’t Hide.” How far would you run to stay alive? Aimee fled to the piney woods of Texas, but … was it far enough? And can her elusive good-looking neighbor teach her the skills she needs to stay alive?

Book 1 of the Texas Serendipity series is a romance with a twist of humor – “Mr. What’s-His-Name.” When Tiffany gets rear-ended by a handsome executive in a Beamer, she soon becomes the acquisition in a full-blown battle for love.

3. Are you a “jeans, sit at your desk” kind of writer, or a “pajamas, stretched out on the couch” writer?

I’m neither. I am a warm-ups type of writer who loves to wear soft, stretchy comfortable bottoms and a loose shirt or t-shirt. I often sit in my recliner with my lap desk to write. But if I want complete quiet and not be disturbed, I go to my office and shut the door.

4. Did you go the traditional route or did you DIY publish?

I’m indie published by choice. I work full time and write evenings and weekends. I set my own schedule, and don’t have to meet a publisher’s deadline. I have watched my traditionally pubbed author friends with their suicide deadlines and edits and know that with my dyslexic mind that would never work for me. My self-imposed deadlines are bad enough. But each author has to choose which is best for them.

5. If you could meet any character you’ve written, who would it be and what would you say to them?

It would be my heroine from my newest release coming out July 28, 2015, “Run … You Can’t Hide.” I would tell Aimee how proud I was of the work that she does and encourage her to stay the course regardless how tough the challenges.

6. What’s your favorite quote and why?

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” It’s from the Bible, and it sums up how I do my best to live and treat others and would also like to be treated.

7. Which superpowers would you want?

The ability to fly. As a small child I believed I could fly, even tried it one day off of our garage roof. Thankfully, I didn’t break anything. But flying has always fascinated me … to spread my arms and leap from a precipice and soar through the air would be great fun.

8. In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I’m presently working on two books for a November/December release. One, “A Plus-One Christmas” is a romance with a twist of humor. The book two, “’tis the Season for Justice” is a romantic suspense.

9. Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?

Several places: – where everyone can get a free download of my first romantic suspense book “Serenity’s Deception,” or on FaceBook.

Bluebonnets 2I asked Janice to send me a special picture, and she sent me this one. It’s a picture of Texas Bluebonnets, the state flower and Indian Paint Brush (the orange ones). You can’t deny Janice’s love for Texas.

To end this sit down with Janice, she confided in me, ONLY ME, at least that’s how I’m telling the story, that she loves funny movies. Here’s an oldie but goodie favorite of hers.

Southern Writer and Southern Charm,
Baer Necessities

Revision Decisions

I’m a non-traditional writer, who doesn’t follow a specific writing process or has ever declared, “I’d die if I couldn’t write.” My muse is most likely an old, witty, drunken fool, disgruntled about age or lack of funds. Or maybe I’m confusing it with my guardian angel. Anyways, I don’t have a set writing practice; I do what works for me at the time. This probably isn’t the best thing to do, but alas, it’s how I roll.

When I became involved in writing forums, I would get nervous about not having certain “bonds” that supposedly make us writers. I thought if I don’t have these “writerly” traits, then maybe I’m not really a writer. After a while, I realized that we’re all different. Saying I don’t have a muse doesn’t make me less of a writer than those who have one.

Each book I’ve written has gone through different processes. My first book was a mess with no outlines. After writing the first draft of my second book, I created a document with a cast of characters and another with chapter summaries. While I wrote my current manuscript, I created a fact sheet with the main plot, characters, and chapter summaries, highlighting particulars. From one novel to the next, I’ve learned to make things a bit easier when it comes to details. It would be embarrassing if I described a character having blonde hair at the beginning of the book, and somehow s/he turned into a brunette. Heck, the writing process in itself is a learning experience.

A big learning experience for me are the dreaded revisions; they’re THE worst part of writing and the most rewarding. When I started to revise, I found the task grueling, having to figure out what needs improvement. A rewrite here, a slash there, and peppering details on this character or that setting. Sentence dissection. Then I’d rewrite a sentence, only to notice I used that descriptive word fifteen times already. Not only do I have to work on the writing, but move parts of the story from earlier to later or vice versa. It’s exhausting. Nevertheless, witnessing a paragraph, chapter, and eventually the book transform into something beautiful is the ultimate reward. Of course, I will admit that none of my books are error free, but I put in the time and money to shape them into a professional read.

Many non-writers don’t know the extensive steps it takes to get a book from point A to point B. I’ve had several discussions with friends and family about the writing process, and many didn’t know it entailed so many drafts. My sister would even say, “Just publish it.” Because not many understand what’s involved in writing a book, I thought I’d go through a few drafts of my books to demonstrate the changes. It’s actually the first time I visited these drafts since publications.

For fun, I wrote my first novel, Net Switch, in 2008 during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). At the time, I was working full-time, a month to complete it, so the results were disastrous. I struggled with the drafts, because I had no clue what I was doing, working with an editor who kept switching it from first to third POV. Below is a screen capture of the original first few paragraphs in their horrifying state. Just click on the picture to enlarge it and then hit the backspace to return to the main post.ns_origialThis next picture is the first revision of Net Switch. As you can see, it changed a lot from the original. The main change being the narrator. She changes from talking to the reader, to talking to someone in the story. This draft also has more description to set the tone. ns_firstIn the final draft, I added quotes to demonstrate that the narrator is talking to someone, and then I separated those with the narrator’s thoughts. While on writing forums, I remember reading how wrong it was to start a book with a quote. My first publication and I broke one of the rules. ns-finalBy the time I started writing my second novel, Fogged Up Fairy Tale, I had the time and a better grasp of the craft. It began with a chapter called “Punch Drunk Bitch.” fuft_originalAfter working with a critique partner, I moved this chapter further back in the story and the first revision wound up with a new chapter called “Petri Dish.” It gives the reader a better sense of what is going on instead of Punch Drunk Bitch, which starts in a rehab center, cutting out the reason as to how the main character got there. With this book, I happened to shift the chapters back and wrote new chapters. fuft_firstI still felt something was missing, because I didn’t want it to start at chapter one. My story alternates between past and present, so I added a Prologue to catch the reader’s attention and set the stage for the difficulties in the main character’s life. In my opinion, starting at chapter one wouldn’t have had the same impact. Writing forums and literary agents say Prologues are wrong, because chapter one should be the grabber. Again, I made a deadly writing sin. fuft_finalEven though I broke a few rules in the writing community, I’m proud of my publications. Besides, I was never good at following the in-crowd. LOL!

What part of the writing process do you like the least or best? Have you committed a deadly writing sin?

Revisions and Publications,
Baer Necessities

Wishing all the U.S. folks a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July!