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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Utah in HD

Bryce Canyon sunset
I posted my untreated version of this photo and the next one last week.
I honestly think this is a more accurate representation of what we saw.
And so gorgeous.

You know what drove me nuts? Nigel (my husband) would take a photo on his phone, and it would look way better than the photo I took on my point and shoot camera. I had a whole device devoted just to photo taking, and Nigel's stupid phone did a better job!

Isn't that dramatic pink gorgeous?

I think part of that was just that his phone had a bigger screen, so you could see the image better, but cameras just cannot see what the eye can see, and I think his phone did a little more to treat the photo so it looked more like what our eyes see.

Zion National Park, the Narrows
The photo was so dark, but this program really pulled out the detail.
Honestly, though, it was even better in real life.

So last week, I downloaded Nik, Google's free photo processing software. Take that, stupid phone!

Zion National Park, Narrows, before

Zion National Park, Narrows, after
You can actually see the rocks and trees!

So here I am, showing off a few of my favorite, processed photos. Especially because I've been spending a decent chunk of my writing time obsessing over photos.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Driving through Utah: Sunrise, Sunset

Sarah and Nigel, Arches National Park
This was actually still in Arches.
It's where I took that panorama from last week's post.
But I like to start off with a little human interest: Me & Nigel.

I took about a million photos on my road trip out West. But people ain't got time for that. (Before I deleted any, I did have over a thousand photos. Because I'm crazy. I'm "only" planning to print about 250, and only intend to subject my dear blog readers to about 30 or so.)

My photo posting solution: break up my photos over a few week's worth of blog. That way I get to show off all my most favorite photos without being too annoying. I'm brilliant! ;)

Nigel and I only spent half a day in Canyonlands National Park because, well, Arches was kinda cooler. But it did have a few gorgeous sites:

Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch

Canyonlands was also where my one other panorama from the trip was taken:

Canyonlands National Park panorama
I thought it turned out very cool.
Cool enough that I'll pretend the fact it's hanging off the page doesn't bother me.
Not the least little bit.

This was our first night camping on the trip. Because tents aren't the most comfortable thing ever, we were up super early and did manage to get this shot on the way out of the park:

Utah sunrise

I'd say a the lack of sleep was worth it.

The road to Bryce Canyon was quite beautiful, but our favorite part was a quick stop off at the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Sarah Hipple
I look a bit dorky, but, well, I kinda am.

petrified wood
The colors in the petrified wood were gorgeous.
I'm trying to cut back to only my most favorite photos, 
but I couldn't leave this one out!

We arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park pretty late, but not too late to catch the sunset:

sunset, Bryce Canyon National Park
I love this photo for the two beams of light on the mountain tops.

sun set, Bryce Canyon National Park
But then I love how pink and mystical the background mountain is.

I'd say eight photos for one blog post just about does it. Next week: Bryce Canyon. Nigel and I went on a hike just as the sun was rising, and the shadows (and rock formations) are quite gorgeous. I know I'm using that word pretty often in these posts, but, as the photos show, I think it's warranted.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Roadtrippin' Out West: Arches National Park

driving out west
First sights of Utah!

My husband and I decided we were brave adventurers, ready for a trip to Utah and beyond. We did slightly regret not stopping in Colorado, but there was only so much time, and so much to see.

Arches national park
Nigel at Arches National Park

There was actually more green than I imagined there'd be. I mean, it was a shrubby sort of green, but still, it was there. I love the photo above because of the crazy red rock structures that were just plopped down on the plains and the snow capped mountains in the background. Plus, I'm a sucker for dramatic skies.

Double Arch, Arches National Park
Double Arch at Arches National Park

Nigel's one of those people in the foreground. My photo doesn't do the thing full justice. It was quite gorgeously red.

sky and red rock
Inside the double arches.

Nigel went climbing all around on the double arch. I, however, laid down and took a few photos of the sky through the arches. I think I win.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

One of Utah's most famous landmarks: the Delicate Arch. It really is quite cool. There was a whole line of people waiting to stand inside the arch so they could get a photo of themselves in the middle. You can see one of the tiny people in the middle off in the background. Nigel and I figured the photos from a distance would suffice.

flower, Arches National Park

And, because I couldn't resist, I'm ending this post with one of my (multitude of) flower photos. Nigel always makes fun of me for my obsession, but I think this one turned out cool. You can even see a little spider web clinging to the edges.

Alright, just one more: a panorama from one of our Arches hikes:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Reddest of Rocks

Bryce Canyon

I spent the last two and a half weeks traveling through Utah, to Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon.

Here's one photo as a teaser of what I saw.

But that's all you get because boy is all that travel exhausting. Plus, I've got to do some laundry.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Your Title Matters

And these photos are from the DC zoo. Birds are cool, yo.
This guy in particular.

For me, one of the most interesting things that Kristin Nelson and her team had to say about queries was that a great title can give you a real edge.

This vulture and his friend were chillin', wings out, catchin' some sun.

Great Titles = Query Magic

First they said that if a book has an awesome title, it will catch their eye, and they're more likely to give the query a shot. Obviously you still need a decent pitch, but I think getting their attention is half the battle.

Here's both vultures, catching some rays.

Funny Title Trends

Apparently, titles follow trends. One year, the title "Second Chances" was so popular that they started keeping track of the number of queries they got for different books titled "Second Chances."

Nowadays, the YA trend is a title with the form [Noun] & [Noun] and apparently the nouns are usually one of the following (in any order): ash, bone, shadow, etc. (Sadly, I didn't write down the full list. Those are the only three words I got, but I think it paints a picture.)  I imagine Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor are the reason for this trend.

Following the title trend is going to do you no favors. Which is sad because you are supposed to know what books are trendy and how your book fits into the books that are selling like hot cakes (mmmmmmm, cake), but your book shouldn't fit in so much that it starts to blur into all the others.

Ah, the wonderful world of queries and writing. If any of you have any awesome title suggestions, lemme know.