They said I need to go somewhere . . .

I work for an airline, booking flights and helping our guests as they join tens of thousands more guests trekking back and forth across North and Central America every single day.

I hear all about the beautiful weather, the bad weather, the flawless flights and the flawed flights. The beaches and the mountains, cloudless days and star-studded nights. Meeting new friends and rekindling old friendships. You name it, I’ve heard it.

So now, I have eleven days off work. The world is at my fingertips. “Where are you going to go?” my coworkers asked on my last day. After all, the first thing most people who work in the travel industry do when they have a good chunk of time off, is take a trip SOMEWHERE. At the end of March, Calgary still has six weeks of possible, and probable, snow. Cancun, Hawaii, Aruba, St. Maartens. These places do not expect snow.

Yes, it would be fun to take in some of the sights, to dangle my feet in an ocean. But at the destination of each of those flights, there are hotels, restaurants, tours, souvenirs. All these things take money. And money is the last thing I need to be spending frivolously. I looked into the possibilities. If I did go ‘somewhere,’ it would have to be a one day trip (no hotels.) What did I want to do when I got there? That’s easy. Pull out the computer and write. Edit. Rewrite. Find an agent.

So I compromised. I dug through photos of great times past, and came up with the perfect solution.

Budget Beach, AB

Budget Beach, Alberta

The beach scene in the background is Laguna Beach, CA, taken in 1993 on my first trip to Southern California. The trees are in Los Angeles somewhere near City Hall from a 1997 trip, my third trip to Disneyland. The wine glass (yes, it lights up) is from a daughter’s fantastic one-week-to-plan-it backyard wedding in 2007 although the drink pictured was new which my granddaughter enjoyed after I took the picture (I don’t like raspberry ginger ale but it looked nice in the glass with a dash of orange juice and a strawberry. I couldn’t find my little drink umbrellas!) The sand is from our stash on the porch that we use on the icy sidewalks, just to remind me what I’m “missing,” not that we have ice on the sidewalks right now but it’s a symbolic thing. I considered sprinkling sand on my bedroom floor so I could squish my toes in it, but common sense and my daughter both said no. Those are, however, my toes, which you can see have had a virtual pedicure to go with the virtual manicured thumb. To complete my basement beach experience, my space heater blows a nice warm breeze over me while a tranquil nature CD produces the ambience of waves breaking on a beach with seagulls screeching on the wind.

I can even ‘go to the spa’ because my office chair has a massage function.

And now, without spending a dime, I can play on my computer and end up in the same wonderful (albeit imaginary) worlds I would be in if I were, in fact, on a real life beach, without the sun glare on my screen and the worry of salt and sand getting into the ports. Knowing me, though, I probably wouldn’t have even left the air-conditioned and secluded hotel room!

What can I say? I write fiction . . . I make up my own worlds!

Share some of your favorite vacation memories so I can pretend I’m sitting on the beach with you, enjoying a wonderful conversation with a friend!

Cheers!

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.

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.

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!

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.”