Pilgrimage to Flagstaff Part 1

Last week definitely produced some high points of my literary experience.

On Monday, I hopped on a plane taking me from Calgary, Alberta, to Phoenix, Arizona.

The original reason for the trip was to visit with my sister. She lives in West Texas but was attending a convention in Phoenix. And WestJet flies to Phoenix so I could easily get there on a three hour direct flight vs a five hour flight with a one to three hour layover in Dallas or Houston. While she was busy in classes and meetings during the day, I was planning to have some time to myself. I would have loads of time to write, write, and perhaps get in a little writing.

Then it dawned on me . . .

I was going to be a mere 2-½ hours drive from Flagstaff, Arizona, the starting point (as it stands now) for my series. I’ve stalked the town and the university for years, seeking information, images, and maps on the internet. I had a sketchy memory of Flagstaff from a quick visit in 1986, but that was a long time ago and I was not paying attention to the university back then.

Old Main - 1899 NAU

Old Main – 1899 NAU

I’m sure my brother-in-law was pointing out things since he went to NAU waaaaaaaay before that trip. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not really that old.

The school was founded in 1899 so it was sometime after that. The campus may have looked like this when he went there. I don’t know.

6 miles above the Grand Canyon, maybe 7 since it’s a mile deep! (Click all pictures for the full image.)

The thought also crossed my mind that if I go to Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon is only 2 or 3 hours further north, but decided I wouldn’t want to rush seeing the Canyon, so I put that idea aside. (The man sitting next to me on the plane told me that we would be flying over the Grand Canyon, which lasted maybe two minutes, so I ended up rushing that trip anyway, but it was pretty cool to see from six miles up!)

Suddenly, I realized my trip to Arizona was not going to be a touristy type of writing retreat after all. I was going to be doing research! This is where it all began. Caleb met Ana there! My dear sister doesn’t understand why this got me all excited and she was going to see first hand how crazy life is when everything around you inspires scenes in your imaginary world. (In retrospect, I’m not sure she gets it yet. She may just think I’m crazy.)

I became enchanted with the palms, and the cacti, and the jagged hills rising in sharp contract from the flat valley floor on which rests the sprawling city of Phoenix.

Stunning sunset from the veranda on the top floor of the hotel.

Stunning sunset from the veranda on the top floor of the hotel.

The very first evening in Phoenix, I saw something that made me change a part of the story. Okay, Karen and Caralee, don’t panic. I’m only moving one scene from LA to Phoenix, because 1) I’ve never actually SEEN the place in LA except on street view maps, and 2) This is what I saw . . .

When I witnessed this sunset, I fell in love. Not with someone. I just fell in Love. I would not have been surprised if Zorro landed on the veranda to whisk Elena away. I knew at that moment, this was where the LA scene had to take place. I have to research and rewrite a few things, maybe a chapter or two at most, but since I now have the intense emotional attachment to this, it will be phenomenal.

And so ends my first night in Phoenix. Tomorrow, the trip to Flagstaff!

Stay tuned for Part 2, the next leg of my journey in Arizona.

Wigs in the Garden

Sunday was Wig Day. No. Not like Funny Hat Day, or Pajama Day, but it was a day filled with wigs from sun-up to sun-down. If you ever want to see a lot of curly bouncy wigs, go to an Irish Dance Feis (pronounced fesh), which is a competition and has solo dances as well as team dances. We were at such an event on Sunday, from 9:00am until 3:30pm, and everywhere you looked, it was curly bouncy wigs, bouncing on stage, or bouncing on the girls waiting to perform.

At the lunch break, I had the privilege to go with three young 9-year old dancers on a walk along Calgary’s Stephen Avenue Mall a few blocks to the Devonian Gardens, a fantastic year round garden on the third floor of one of the indoor malls right in downtown Calgary. After lunch, the girls explored some of the garden before we returned to the hotel where the competition was being held. They were just a little conspicuous, three little girls in their black and hot pink team track pants and jackets. They jigged everywhere they walked. The bouncy wigs may have turned a few heads as well.

Wigs in the Garden

Wigs in the Garden


There were walls covered in climbing and clinging plants, exotic trees making mini-jungles and the girls tried to hide from us. Sorry, girls, your wigs don’t look like those plants.

The fish-less fish pond.

The fish-less fish pond.



The fish pond had no fish in it. Hmmm . . . Maybe the fish saw the wigs and hid!


Please don't bounce the elevator, girls.

Please don’t bounce in the elevator, girls.


It was time to make our way back the two blocks.
So they bounced while waiting for the elevator,




These guys have been talking for years!

These guys have been talking for years!


and stopped to chat with some very quiet men . . .


They even danced for some homeless people sitting on a bench nearby and made those people smile and laugh, with Irish music playing from a phone.


Waiting by the stage.

Waiting patiently by the stage.

Back at the hotel, they all danced their best and had to wait patiently, without bouncing, for the results.

They all made their families very proud.




Thank you, Kim Asman, for the idea of the title, Wigs in the Garden. I love it!

By the way, Irish dancers made their way into one of my books. I love it that much!

Do you?


My Friends

I was checking out one of those ubiquitous lists on the internet. You know. The ones that start off something like “15 Reasons You Don’t Want To _______” (fill in the missing word with just about anything.)

This time, it was “22 Signs a Book Is Taking Over Your Life” (click here for the whole list which opens in another window to read later.)

I've got a new friendThis a picture was made for me. I swear. Thank you to whoever it was that created it! You were truly inspired!

I mean, my protagonist, Caleb, is modeled after Jake Gyllenhaal, and here’s Jake, being my spokesperson! (If you click on the picture, you’ll see it bigger and in motion but you have to backspace to get back to this page.)

The three of you that are actually reading this probably know that I am a loner. Always have been, Am, Always will be. True, I have my village, and it’s a large-ish village of people who affect my life, with family and friends and neighbors and tourists, but it is also a fact that the village living in my head has far more inhabitants than the one living outside my head.

Hold off calling the men in white coats. I don’t see this as a problem. I mean, today you have virtual stores vs brick and mortar stores. They serve the same functions: you provide them with sustenance, and they provide you with the pleasure of interacting with the outside world without having to leave your hermit-hole. I have my imaginary friends and I have my flesh and bones friends. My corporeal friends know more about my imaginary friends than the other way around, but…my imaginary friends are more similar in personalities to the earthly ones than either of them are aware.

Take that village I mentioned. There are the peripherals, those people I barely know that come and go and don’t usually return. The tourists. I get hints about them but I never know their story for sure. They don’t know each other. Just inside that ring is that group that knows a lot about me and maybe each other. There’s another group that knows most of the others and a lot more about me, but not as much as the central core. This core group are the people that know every other person, and we all share our inner most thoughts, our secrets, our hopes, fears, experiences, amusing anecdotes. In my real life, this is maybe three people.

My imaginary friends accomplish the exact same thing. The difference is that I don’t write down, verbatim, the secrets, experiences, fears, etc., my earthly friends tell me…or do I?

And, let’s be honest here. We all come across people in our lives that piss us off.  Some are considered friends, others are just passing acquaintances. I am polite—generally—to these people, but they aren’t my go-to friends. But with imaginary friends and acquaintances in an imaginary village, if they get on my bad side, I can insult them, or make them look like idiots, or toss them out of a scene, or if I really want to get rid of the jerks, I can kill them off in a way which suits me at the time. You just can’t do that with flesh and bones people. Society frowns on such actions. But if you pretend to do it, it’s no holds barred. Why, I could just leave them stranded on one of the planets in my pretend universe or have them torn to shreds and eaten by a purple polka dotted three legged beast with no eyes and no one would be any the wiser since I may or may not write that into the books.

Very cathartic, to say the least.