Pilgrimage to Flagstaff Part 3

Reluctantly I cleared my head of the initial shock of walking in the footsteps of Caleb and Ana and left the McDonalds and Starbuck area.

Without a map, I followed Milton and the Historic Route 66 signs toward my next goal, Crystal Magic, the bookstore I’d only seen from my stalking mode and fell in love with the name! It’s right on the corner of the street I was on and San Francisco Street.

Sacred Rites and Crystal Magic

Turning at at the lights, I grinned like the Cheshire Cat because I was about to go into that shop as soon I parked. I pulled into an empty spot across the narrow San Francisco Street (I’d always thought it was wider! I obviously don’t know how to tell these things about Google street view) and discovered I had parked right in front of a new age store called Sacred Rites, the perfect companion store in the scene where my characters mention shopping for incense and ritual drums.

my souvenir saguaro

I didn’t take a picture, as traffic was quite heavy and there were too many people (I didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy) but I did get a little souvenir.

I then drove down the street on which I had assigned to Ana and her grandmother, recognized it as if I had walked that street hundreds of times as Ana had done. Very surreal. I knew that road.

A few turns later, and I was on the campus of Northern Arizona University. I just drove, experiencing something I had never known existed there. The campus is on some pretty hilly ground. So the hills really surprised me and explained the number of kids on skateboards. I found the Walkup Dome, where Louie the Lumberjack stands proudly.

Campus Shuttle

In the parking lot there, I discovered something else that Ana most likely used but never once told me about. There are shuttles that go around the campus. Ana seems to like walking everywhere, but I’m sure in the middle of Flagstaff’s winter snows, she probably used them. They might never be mentioned, but then again, they may crop up time or two.

I parked in a parkade that isn’t on any of the maps (it’s new, but it was finished in time to have been there.)

First stop as I explore the campus on foot . . . the bookstore around the corner. I immersed myself in all things university and Lumberjacks and bought a souvenir. Then “just follow the walkway around to the other side of that building” and I was at the Food Court in Union Hall. I had totally gotten it wrong. Well, not totally, but I never realized it faced east. In my mind, it had faced west. That’s important. Also, no revolving doors. Oops. No parking lot in the immediate vicinity, all important facts. Inside, I bought a muffin and sat at a table Ana may well have been sitting at when Caleb spotted her and made his bold move to meet her. I closed my eyes and listened. This was something I had never been able to stalk. Yes, I could go to any food court and listen, but this was the food court and the sounds they would have heard. I was a little disappointed that Caleb didn’t make an appearance.

Sadly, I left the food court but cheered up as I made my way to the library. The Cline Library is in Scene One, Chapter One. It’s hard to imagine the layout of a real place unless someone else has taken a picture of exactly what you need to see and posted it online for all to see. The Cline Library is such a place. A lot of pictures, but none that tie them together. The key spot where Caleb first saw Ana was completely wrong in the story. I have it now. It is believable now. I had to charge my phone so I had a great reason to just sit at a table and take it all in. More sounds (I had envisioned a quiet library – how outdated am I?) and a distinct lack of books. Computers everywhere, study pods, group tables. Wow.

Cline Library

 

So much more conducive to three guys studying together, making jokes, being a little louder than quiet, and then passing the reading room, and noticing a girl studying alone in that quiet area. I am now complete.

 

Unfortunately, the sun was quickly falling toward the San Francisco Peaks and I had a two hour drive back to Phoenix. I grabbed some dinner to go, and headed south.

Flagstaff Sunset

Not far out of town, I pulled over at a rest area/view point to take in my second Arizona sunset.

Absolutely phenomenal.

 

The next day, in Phoenix, Pat and I went on a tour which included Cosanti and Taliesin, both architectural wonders in completely different ways. I was able to grab a few tidbits about architects (Caleb is such a creature) and strange looking structures, perfect for inspiration on other worlds.

My poor sister also discovered first hand the truth behind this warning sign . . .warning-novelist_at_work

I plan on going back. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my trip diaries, I am in love. Not with someone, or some thing. Just in love and it’s calling me back to Arizona.

 

Pilgrimage to Flagstaff Part 2

Pat had already gone to her classes the next morning when I got up. As I dressed, I got nervous. Today was the day I was going to be entering a world which, up to that point, had been to me an imaginary world.

They gave me a pamphlet about Sedona anyway, in case I got there.

They gave me a pamphlet about Sedona anyway, in case I got there.

 

The car rental company dropped the car off at the hotel, and the concierge and bell captain gave me some touristy pamphlets and a state map. “You must see Sedona,” they both agreed. “But on the way back,” Manny, the bell captain, added. “It’s more scenic that way.” Knowing I wouldn’t have time for a side trip, I told them I’d try.

 

 

This is where the Arizona Coyotes play HOCKEY.

This is where the Arizona Coyotes play HOCKEY.

 

First on my agenda, a quick trip to the far western edge of civilization in neighboring Glendale to grab a quick shot of the Arizona Coyotes’ hockey arena for the hockey fans in the family.

 

 

So tall and majestic, the saguaro can only be found in the Sonoran desert.

So tall and majestic, the saguaro can only be found in the Sonoran desert

After an easy entrance onto the bypass next to the arena, I headed out for I-17, which goes through the northern edge of the beautiful Sonoran Desert, full of cacti varieties ranging from the squat barrel cactus to the majestic saguaros, along with many other unknown types (to this author, at least) of strange trees and bushes, all inspiration for alien flora on my desert-ish planets.

 

Having memorized the basic how-to-get-to-the-arena-from-the-hotel route (go north then turn left on Northern and go straight on until the end of the world and the bypass is right there), I was well out of town when I discovered I’d left my map of Flagstaff, marked with all the points I wanted to see, back in my hotel room.
Oh well, I can always get a map when I get there.

Steep grades all along the way.

Steep grades all along the way.

 

Along the road heading north, signs declare every 1000 ft rise in elevation. Phoenix is nearly 1100 ft above sea level. Flagstaff, only 140 miles away, is 7000 ft, taking us abruptly through three distinct climatic zones. That makes for some pretty steep grades all along the way. You go up, then down, but never as far down as you had gone up, then repeat as you cross yet another range of mountains. Along one particularly long unbroken stretch, something like 18 miles of going uphill, and of course, downhill coming back, the Highway Department has posted signs along the way, mostly for truckers, saying things like “Only 11 miles to go!”

Prickly Pear cactus and Mesquite trees in Sonora Desert

Prickly Pear cactus and Mesquite trees in Sonora Desert

 

The ubiquitous saguaro suddenly disappears at around 3000 ft, although there were still other varieties of cacti and other desert flora, such as mesquite trees and flowering brambly bushes.

 

 

And suddenly it was autumn.

And suddenly it was autumn.

 

At 4000 ft, I followed the road around a bend and it became autumn, complete with golden deciduous trees, then at 5000 ft, tall long needle pines (a type of ponderosa pine) and much cooler temperatures.

 

 

 

Cyber stalking is nothing compared to seeing the real thing.

Cyber stalking is nothing compared to seeing the real thing.

Then, before I was emotionally prepared, before I realized that I’d put nearly 140 miles behind me, I rounded a corner and saw Devil’s Chair mountain looming in the distance.
Devil’s Chair mountain is north of Flagstaff. Before I could even read the fast approaching green highway signs, I knew I was there.
Between me and that mountain lay Flagstaff, Arizona.

 

Following the highway into town and keeping on the main road, I saw the Golden Arches. THE Golden Arches where Caleb and Ana had their first ‘non-date,’ where she flirted with the spoon from his sundae and where he lost his heart.
I didn’t need a map. After all, I’d lived in that town for years.

Two doors north of McDs, I saw the Starbucks where Caleb saw—oops, almost spoiled it there! But it’s monumental to the story and for some reason I had to go there first. Okay, I admit it. I’m hooked and was in need of a hot drink by then!

Kasey & Alicia, coolest baristas around!

Kasey & Alicia, coolest baristas around!

I drove straight to Starbucks and went inside.
I stood there for a moment.
I’ve stepped into the reality of my imagination, half expecting to see Caleb and Ana sitting at a table.
A friendly barista greeted me, asking what I would like. I smiled and told her, “I’ve travelled from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to stand right here in this very Starbucks.” She probably thought I was nuts. Then I laughed and explained briefly about my mission.

Personalized Starbucks Cup from Milton Street in Flagstaff

Personalized Starbucks Cups from Milton Street in Flagstaff

I asked if they had any mugs with Flagstaff on them. No, they didn’t. Personally, I think that every Starbucks should have mugs with their city names on them. Or at least the state / province. Oh well, I found a great mug from there anyway. She took my order, then took a second cup and wrote Flagstaff Starbucks on Milton, with my name on it and handed it to me.
The mug I bought has white words on the white cup. It says:
“Fresh brewed inspiration for the day ahead.”
Perfect for me!

 

Caleb wasn't around to eat his sundae so I did!

Caleb wasn’t around to eat his sundae so I did!

On to the McDonalds.
Chronologically, Caleb and Ana went there first, but I wasn’t trying to actually relive the story. But, yes, I ordered a sundae because the scene centers around the sundae.
I sat in a booth near the back, where he sat with Ana, each learning about the other, trying so hard not to let down their guards, and failing miserably.
And so I sat there, drinking in the atmosphere, hearing the sounds they heard, seeing what they saw, feeling the hardness of the booth seat under me but imagining the soft emotions as the scene played through in my imagination, and I slowly ate Caleb’s sundae.

It was truly magical.

Just like Hollywood, I’m breaking this adventure into multiple parts.
Part 3 will reveal more discoveries I made about myself and my characters while immersing myself in their world.

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?

 

Time for a Little Literary Yard Work

Lately, I’ve been sending queries off to agents and spending a lot of time waiting. Not idle time, mind you, but it’s given me some time to go through, over and again, my writing and tidy it up a lot.

You know . . . fixing typos and spelling, ensuring punctuation is not only correct but consistent, making sure grammar is spot on.

No surprises here!

No surprises here!

The path through my literary landscape was well balanced and esthetically pleasing. The gate at the beginning told you this was the beginning. There was just enough color and diversity to even things out. I had little labels on all the unusual things to explain where that came from, how this grew, and even why and something exotic and seemingly out-of-place was included in my garden of words. Everything was nicely labelled and laid out so anyone viewing it would know exactly what was planted there.

A garden is a wonderful place to go and just sit on the bench and take in the surroundings. A place to relax and just look (from that ubiquitous ornate wrought-iron bench) and see everything as it is. Sometimes, that exactly what you need. You see everything from your comfortable seat and since you know it all just from that one sitting so that when you close the gate at the end of the path, you have no reason to go back.

What kind I find here?

What can I find here?

Then, yesterday morning, as I was walking down to fetch the trash containers from the alley, I looked down at the path I knew so well, and found some late blooms on the wild rose bush, and a toy that had disguised itself as one of those blooms. A rustling noise near the fence brought me to a breathless standstill. What was there? A mouse? A mole? A rabbit? Just the wind? I looked for clues but the mystery remains. Back on the pathway, the moss binds the stonework yet there was a single dandelion and I wondered at its lone presence. Why not more? Why one at all? A few steps later, the soft moss disappeared, leaving the pavers bare. Again, I ask why? What happened here that left the stones bereft of the gentle moss? Would it make a difference if I move some of the plants around so the sunlight hits the garden differently?

And I realized immediately what I needed to do.

“Show me—Don’t tell me.” Who among writers hasn’t heard that time and time again?

I don’t want just tell you what you need to focus on moment by moment. I want you to wonder what’s under that rock, what made that noise. I want you sitting on the edge of that uncomfortable metal bench, wondering what’s going to happen next. Then I want you to jump up and dig around; I want you to find out what’s happening.

I want you to ask, “How did I miss that? Was it there in the background all along”?

Of course it was there, but I want you to come back again and again to discover things you missed the first or second or third time!

So I’m pulling out the deleting hoe and weeding out not only the unnecessary words, but I’m chopping out entire scenes if that’s what it takes. I’m taking out my copy, cut, and paste shovel to rearrange events and scenes to make a more exciting and interactive garden.

There are many types of gardens and needs for every type: Neatly labelled, or motivating, or secretive and compelling.

Woodward Park, Tulsa OK

Woodward Park, Tulsa OK. Alluring beauty.

The garden path in my backyard in late September is nothing compared to the magnificence of Woodard Park in Tulsa in April but both have exciting secrets to be discovered. You may never find even find all of them.

The fun is all in the search!

Why I Chose to Write Science Fiction

sometimes I dream of living in another star system like this

Because this is what I see when I star gaze during the day.

Yes, I did enhance the picture a little, but not a lot.

But consider this. That is what writers do. They take real life and work a little magic to make it a little more interesting, enticing, enchanting, while leaving it real, believable.

The truth is there, the sundog was real, the clouds really were in the shape of Saturn’s rings but with a little imagination…

Picture yourself living in the Earth colony on a planet in star system a thousand light years from Sol, accessible only by portal travel. Your home planet twirls and dances through the dusty lanes and rings of your star, a yellow dwarf similar to Sol. The planet lying within your orbit is cloud covered, like Sol’s own Venus. Even in its current last quarter phase, its perpetual canopy of clouds reflects the light of your sun, sending brilliant polychromatic rays through space.

You live in the northern half of your planet, which is currently in the middle of what would be a twelve year winter, if one were using Earth reckoning. Yet, you find yourself looking up from the dirty frozen ground beneath your feet to behold the beauty stretching out in the heavens above you, and even though the splendid rays from your cosmic neighbor warm nothing but the cockles of your heart, the awesome beauty of the universe inspires you and you know that you can survive until the thawing times.

Beautiful snowy days 2013Until such visions no longer inspire me, I will continue to write with the conviction that one day, our kind will travel the stars.

The End of Another Summer…

August-2013-Calendar-BIRD

Wow…Where has the time gone? This is the last single digit day of the summer of 2013. The kids still have three weeks left, but I don’t.

Next week, I head off to Kansas City to watch the graduation ceremony which will turn my SIL into Doctor Dan. Then it’s a quick turnaround and back to Calgary by Monday. And then, a week later, I start a new job.

Intense training ahead. I’m looking forward to it…sort of. I mean, it sounds like an exciting job, but let’s face it, I was a SAHM for too many years to really appreciate the career aspect of life. And there’s the books…

I’ve been off work for four months which has given me lots and lots of time to work on the manuscripts. In fact, I’ve just discovered that there is a whole new book in-between numbers 3 and 4. OMG. Really? This isn’t a manuscript that I’m splitting like when I chopped the first manuscript into two separate books and had the opportunity to fine tune the story. This is a completely new story. Granted, it incorporates the backstory told in the “4th” book and it will change the beginning of said book, but it goes oh-so-much deeper, really pulling out what happened in the space between 3 and 4. I am so excited about incorporating the ideas that suddenly started cramming into my head!

I was wondering how I would ever have enough material to make another book using the same characters. But there it was. I just had to ask the right questions, look under the right rock, and listen to those small voices that keep me entertained.

Are you reading the diaries? Here’s the link again…triquetra00

Someone dropped the Ball!

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything for a month! It’s not like I haven’t been on the computer every single day! I have been!

I got really involved with a new project on a new Twitter account…not quite ready for the public yet. These are entries from the diaries of Ana and Caleb.
Sorry. It’s Ana’s diary and Caleb’s journal (because guys don’t do diaries!)

I’ve had lots of fun creating the images for the site, and the growing list of entries! It’ll be fun to see what’s going on in the day-to-day lives of these two people. It’s helping me to learn more about these characters and who they really are.

diary avatar

 

 

 

One of these days, I’ll leak them out. Just trying right now to keep my writing from being “previously published.”