Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vegas, Hoover Dam: Some Road Trip Leftovers

on Hoover Dam
Nigel hanging out on top of Hoover Dam

I strongly suspect I was not selected for Pitch Wars, which is not terribly surprising. From the looks of it, a lot of the mentors had over 100 applicants each. However, I am currently focusing on the positive, which is the last of my cool photos from my road trip to the Grand Canyon and beyond. (Actually, as this post got a little long, I decided to string this out one more post worth for Sedona, AZ).

I sure have managed to milk these suckers.

Because Nigel and I were running a bit ahead of schedule, and it was so very nearby, we decided to stop off in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Strip
Lit Lady Liberty

We did not gamble, but we saw some of the spectacle that was the Vegas Strip. Those casinos get pretty crazy. Our fav was The Venetian. Inside, the ceiling was painted like sky, there was a bright blue canal that ran through the shopping area, and all the shops had fronts that were done up like cool old Italian buildings.

Nigel said, "It's like being in Venice, only cleaner!"

We had an amazing, relaxed Italian dinner, which was freaking delicious and then we headed off to see the ginormous ~5 min music video at the Fremont Street Experience:

Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas
This is an outdoor street with this enormous TV screen covering it.
There's also a zip line that goes from one end of the street to the other.
There were also a lot of people wearing very . . . interesting outfits.

Like, I said, we didn't do the normal Vegas stuff, but we did really enjoy our visit.

Next stop: Hoover Dam

We got there around noon and had to wait until 3 if we wanted the full Dam Tour (there were a lot of cheesy jokes about damn dam tours; we laughed).

I made Nigel wait around for the full tour. He even admitted I was right afterwards.

Hoover Dam Intake Tower
One of the intake towers that pulls in water for the generators.

Hoover Dam Turbines
The Generators!

inside Hoover Dam
A view of the river from inside the Dam itself.

The heat was melt-your-face-off hot, but we mostly stayed inside and went through the Hoover Dam museum while we waited. We did take a little stroll out over the Dam itself. It's surprisingly gorgeous.

Timeline wise, we actually did this before we hit the Grand Canyon, but I did think I was going to fit all my non-national park stops into one post. Turns out I've got more to say than I thought.

Next week: Sedona, AZ

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Draft Complete!

treacherous jungle
My story involves an overgrown forest, 
populated by half-human mutants and robotic animals.

My YA sci-fi is complete! Or at least it will be once I take this completed draft, revise once or twice, send to CPs, revise a few more times,  and struggle to write a semi-compelling query letter that I will subsequently realize sucks and have to write about twenty more times or so.

domed city
Photo by Mike Mozart
The lush forest surrounds a domed city with a militant commander.
Our two heros live in very different parts of this city.

Anyway, new book on the way! A new book is always reason for celebration. You get to that last page of that last chapter and realize the work you've been putting in for the past few months has actually paid off, and you can write, "The End!"

robot cat
Photo by Ozzy Delaney
My favorite character: a sarcastic, robotic cat
who sometimes helps and sometimes hinders.

Of course, it doesn't take me long to start thinking about revisions and just how much I still need to do, but that's partly why I'm writing this blog post. To sit back, smile, and say, "Whoo!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Our Grand Destination: The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, orange Globemallow flower
Surprise, surprise. I've got a flower photo for you.

I've been showcasing photos from Utah, but the reason we started planning this whole road trip was because neither my husband nor I had ever seen the Grand Canyon.

South Rim, Grand Canyon
Nigel looking handsome on a hot and sunny hike down.

In writing news, I am waiting to find out if my query got my book into Pitch Wars, but given that it sounds like each mentor got over 100 entries and can only pick one mentee and one backup, I know the odds are grim. I won't know for sure until Aug. 25 but I'm mentally preparing for the worst.

Misty Grand Canyon
One of my fav photos.
The daylight was winding down over all the layers out in the Grand Canyon.

We camped outside the park in a state park. Thank goodness the nights got somewhat cool because the days were a recipe for heat stroke. We stayed well hydrated, but after a misguided middle of the day 110 hike down (down, down) 3 miles and back up, we were wiped for most of the rest of the visit.

sunset silhouette, Grand Canyon
Nigel again.

But we still made sure to capture a few awesome sunset photos.

watching the sun set, grand canyon national park
Nigel appreciating the sun as it set.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Zion National Park Highlights

Zion National Park, the narrows
Nigel hiking against the current.

In continuation of the Sarah's Roadtrip series of blog posts (TM), today I bring you photos from Zion National Park in Utah.

This is probably my most stunning photo from the hike.
And, to be honest, it doesn't do the place full justice.

The particularly intriguing hike at Zion was literally through a river. Apparently there was also a crazy, high-up-on-a-mountain hike, but after exhausting ourselves wading several miles against a current, we decided death defying heights weren't on the agenda.

Virgin River, Narrows, Zion National Park
In real life, the river was a very green color, and the rocks were quite red.
Photos really can't capture what the eye can see.
But I keep trying anyway.

There were, of course, other nice enough parts of Zion that we also saw, but none really compare to the hike through "The Narrows" aka the slot canyon that the Virgin River carved through the rock surrounding it.

Columbine, Zion National Park
A columbine by the river.

Although, I did have one of those moments where I realized that if we hadn't been told that it was awesome to hike THROUGH an ice cold river against a fairly strong current, we'd never have thought, "Man, that sounds like a good idea!" all on our own. I got wet up past my waist on this hike.

Nigel embraces sunlight, Zion National Park
Nigel, embracing the warmth of sunlight.

We were some of the first hikers to get to the river (we set out early to avoid crowds), which meant that we did get some awesome photos of the river without tons of hikers about, but also meant that we were in the shade most of the hike, and it was cold as (insert your own creative expression here).

bluebell, zion national park

I did look to see whether I had photos that weren't from this hike that I could throw in just for a little variety, but, honestly, it wasn't worth it.

One last story from this trip. A story of a treacherous waterfall. You see, when I'm in major pain, I pass out. I've passed out maybe 10-15 times in my life, which is a bit above average (but it's not like it's ever other day or anything). Anyway, there was this waist high little waterfall. I was quite frozen through and ready to get onto dry land, and I wasn't into waiting for my Nigel to get his butt over the middle part (where he attempted to climb up). So I decided to try to climb up the lowest part, aka, right through the waterfall.

waterfall, narrows, zion national park
The treacherous waterfall itself - the part off to the right.
Also, it's taller than it looks, I swear.

Turns out waterfalls are a bit slick, quite cold, and surrounded by very hard rock. I smashed my knee into the rock, ended up getting boosted through by Nigel (after I called out for help), and proceeded to pass out for a few minutes. Poor Nigel was scared I'd get hypothermia or not be able to hike back out, but, in the end I made it out alive, no rescue helicopter necessary.

My takeaway from all this: waterfalls may look nice and pretty, but they'll stab you in the back (or knee) if they get the chance.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Forgotten Blog

I forgot my Wednesday post!

To tide my dear readership (I've been watching Emma) over until the next post (which I promise to remember and everything), here is a gorgeous sunrise from New Zealand:

New Zealand sun rise

I've been busy prepping my query for Pitch Wars and writing my YA SF, and I forgot all about my blog!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bryce Canyon Highlights

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Nigel at Bryce Canyon National Park

I worked on the query I'd mentioned last week and sent out a few letters. My current plan is to leave those be, and if I don't have any requests, enter this year's Pitch Wars, which is an awesome competition hosted by Brenda Drake. For those who don't know, Brenda is a newer author who, prior to being published, started a blog from which she hosts writing competitions (among other things; I'm sure there's much more to her, but that is the relevant part here).

Bryce Canyon National Park, shadows
You can see me and Nigel in the shadows.

And, with that writing update out of the way, I am going to keep showing off my favorite photos from Bryce Canyon, which was actually our favorite of the Utah National Parks.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Nigel
Nigel strolling. I'm the shadow off to the left.

Nigel and I got up very early to take a stroll through the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. The tall, column-like rocks are hoodoos, and according to the legends of the Native American people of the land, these rock columns used to be people who were turned to stone by the Coyote god because of their greed.

Bryce Canyon National Park, hoodoos
Some of these hoodoos were massive!
(That's Nigel in front.)

We took our walk just after sun rise, which is why I have some very cool shadows in my photos.

Bryce Canyon National Park, alien landscape
This landscape looked like it was straight out of science fiction.

And one more:

Bryce Canyon National Park, sunrise
Nigel walking into the sunshine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Utah Flowers and Yet Another Query

evening primrose, bryce canyon national park, utah
Howard's Evening Primrose
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

This weekend was busy. My husband discovered the joy of Pokemon Go, and we wandered all around, chasing down Drowzees and Weedles. I always enjoy walking around with Nigel, so it was a win for me.

pink cactus flower, sedona, arizona
I lied. This is not a Utah flower. This is an Arizona pink cactus flower.
Sedona, Arizona

Up til now, I've been working on my YA scifi, but being out and about on a Pokemon hunt didn't leave as much time for writing, so I revisited my query yet again. I have six queries out in the wild, and haven't heard back from any of them, which isn't promising, so revisiting felt called for.

sego lily, arches national park, utah
Sego Lily
Arches National Park, Utah

Also, have I mentioned I have a thing for flower photos? Because I have a thing for flower photos.

globemallow, wildflower, utah
Globemallow (Weird name, right?)
Arches National Park, Utah

Anyway, without further ado, here is the query I've been working on for the upper MG contemporary fantasy I recently renamed THE STORM SUMMONER:

Twelve year old Eric Ortega is sick of the slimy gush of mayonnaise as he chews on week-old, school cafeteria coleslaw. Why couldn’t the wind demon that took over his body like pizza instead? Worse than the coleslaw is the creeping fear that Nikias, the creature inside him, has plans for Eric’s protective, big sister.
Eric is kidnapped and freed by Nikias’ enemies. Fighting for control over his own life, Eric is drawn into a world of magical creatures and mythical beasts in the stunning, secret parts of the Italian mountains.
Now Nikias has his sister. Nikias can bring down storms and force his will on others; Eric’s sister doesn’t stand a chance. Eric must convince his only friend, a whip-smart winged girl, to defy her people, help him escape, and let Eric challenge a centuries old demon. There’s no way this could go wrong.

And one last Globemallow photo, this time from the Grand Canyon in Arizona:

globemallow, wildflower, grand canyon, arizona