Sunday, July 31, 2005

Driving with One Shoe

Today I scouted the Rock Springs location, and it's lucky I did. Having never been here before, the maps gave me the wrong impression, and I tried to put a secret base smack dab in the middle of a recreation area. Not totally impossible, but not very believable either. When I drove into the BLM lands (that's Bureau of Land Management), I realized something was wrong -- there wasn't a building of any kind in the whole area. Then the flying rock from a passing pickup gave my windshield a brand new star, about five inches by seven.

So, I drove around a bit and located a couple of candidates, and chose the location that best fit the events in the outline.

Then on down the road. Although, being within striking distance of Yellowstone made it very hard to drive west instead of north. I could have done it, but visiting my favorite places would have used up all the slack time in this trip, and I've already done the 'visit Yellowstone for five hours' thing, but that's a story already in the archives, check 9/6/2000.

A couple of times today, I almost looked over to the passenger seat to point out a national wildlife refuge, or the wild horses tour, to Mary Ann, but of course, she isn't with me on this trip. While I enjoy my home in Hutto, and while I need these trips alone for tactical and emotional reasons, I'm happiest on the road with Mary Ann.

But finally we get to the title. While driving on interstate 80, I suddenly realized my left shoe had gotten tangled up with the clutch. The shoelace had looped over the pedal. I could no longer move my foot around on top of the clutch. I've been driving long enough I had confident that I could get out of gear and coast to a stop if I needed to, but I wasn't comfortable. There could be an emergency, and I wasn't about the reach down to try to untangle the shoelace while driving. Remind me to tell you about the Post Office Crash some time.

So I slipped out of the shoe and pushed it to the side until I could reach the next Rest Area. It was a hot time for the stocking foot, but everything worked out as planned. Time to re-tie that shoelace a little tighter. It's never worked right since that kitten got her teeth into it.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Scouting Northward

Today's job was scouting. Starting at Las Vegas, NM, I headed north following in the footsteps of the characters in the novel. Just as they did, I made many miles.

From Las Vegas, I had to locate the Hermit's Peak trailhead. This location, in addition to being in the outline, had some personal meaning for me. When I was young, maybe 12, I dug up the entire front yard to earn the $40 dollars it took for the camp registration. (Growing grass in that yard was a long time goal of my father, and it took many years to improve the soil enough so that real grass would grow.) If there was a high point to the camp session, it was the hike to the top of Hermit's peak. We took a big yellow school bus from the camp to the trailhead and hiked the ten miles or so to the top. I know I was ready to give up several times, but I made it. When it came time to send my own kids to Blue Haven, I scouted the area, looking for that trailhead, but never found it. Only while researching for this novel did I locate enough clues to identify it, and to visit it again. No hike today, though. That will have to wait for another trip.

I did locate a couple of new datapoints, however. One, my character will have to find a different telephone, that pay phone I imagined doesn't exist. Two, there's a large distinctive building visible from the road that the characters might mention. If it was there when I was 12, then I missed it.

Heading north out of Las Vegas, I located and photographed the perfect place for the automobile accident, not more than a mile or so from the location I chose using topo maps.

Eagles Nest, Angelfire and Taos were as I remembered, but unrelated to the novel, I saw again the strange community of buried homes on the far side of the Rio Grande. In an area of several square miles, there exist a dozen or more houses. These must have either been built by the same designer or share inspiration. Half-buried, these adobe structures bristle with windmills, solar panels and what have to be metal sculptures, and there isn't a straight line anywhere in the design. Some day when I'm not on a quest, I'd like to find out more about them.

In the San Luis valley, I'll either have to change the character's route, or change the dialog, because sticking to 285 will NOT get you close enough to the Great Sand Dunes to cause comment.

From there to Frisco is home territory to me, but once I headed north on 9 out of Silverthorn, I realized this was an unfamiliar route. I then joined US 40 and as sunset approached, I pulled off on a dirt road into the forest. I had brought a sleeping bag and whenever possible, I intend to avoid the motel bills.

Waiting in the light rain, I had to write this blog while the memory was fresh, but I'll have to wait to send it -- no Sprint PCS signal to connect to the net. Maybe in the morning, but I'll adjust the timestamp to match when I wrote it.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Validating the Internet

Although I have been in New Mexico so many times I'd never be able to count them, I had plotted and outlined my latest novel project using my memories of the locations, and fresh looks through internet mapping services such as Google Maps and Terraserver. I located all of the important locations that way. I would often pick a location based on travel times or old memories, and then refine my choices, once I had a satellite photo of the place. I located lots of interesting locales that way, such as the roundhouse in Las Vegas, New Mexico, or the road side park about 40 miles north of Roswell.

But when the opportunity came to make this trip and eyeball the locations first hand, in the back of my mind, I wondered just how good the internet mapping was. After all, some of the aerial photos and topo maps are twenty years old. A lot can happen in that time.

So today, when I saw the roundhouse come into view here in Las Vegas, I was gleeful. (People who know me may try to imagine what that was like. Anyone ever see me gleeful? Anyone?)

There it was, right where the satellite photo said it was, in just the exact condition I had expected ( and had counted on while outlining the novel). I snapped a few photos and located my motel, one that looked just like I had imagined.

Tomorrow, I have more scouting to do in this town, but for now, everything looks great.

Solomon Gallery

This morning, my sister Mary Solomon took me over to see her gallery. It was very nice, several rooms, tastefully decorated, with the walls filled with her paintings. She's selling quite a few of them, too. My understanding is that Sunset Center, in Amarillo, had lost most of its businesses and had become run down. The owner is attempting to create an art center by leasing galleries for a number of artists. There are quite a few galleries in this one location. Of course, My Sister's gallery is the best one. Brother-in-law, Walter, in addition to being a powerhouse at renovating the place, also has some of his artwork in the place as well -- a number of copper sculptures. Several years ago, I did some lobbying and got one of those myself, a miniature windmill.

Mary is becoming quite successful as an artist, and it sounds like she's got quite a number of jobs already scheduled. Be sure and browse around her web site and take a look at her work.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lake Tanglewood

While it is a little bit out of the way, I decided to make the first leg of the journey to my parents home in Lake Tanglewood, a little place just south of Amarillo. I could have come by at the end of the trip, but lately, my excursions have not followed the original plans. So, just to be safe, I came here first.

The folks were just finishing the cleanup from some home repairs. There had been a hailstorm, which demanded a new roof, and some interior work due to water leaks.

I had a nice talk with my sister Mary Solomon, who is an artist. Tomorrow I hope to see her new gallery. It looks like she'll be busy for a while with all the new projects she has scheduled.

The Last of the Laundry

When the dryer stops tumbling, I'll be able to finish packing for the trip and click that item off the to do list. I hope to be on the road before noon. Until I get a few hundred miles away, anything could interfere with the trip. Indeed, since the moment I decided to take this excursion and committed a few hundred dollars to convention registration and hotel reservations, I've had several potential disasters crop up. For one thing, while my son Thomas was on a business trip, his house burned and we had to rush up to Carrollton to see what could be salvaged and to get the insurance ball rolling. Mary Ann is still up there. (I got lucky and had a couple of semi-resonable excuses to come back home -- like returning four still-sooty cats to their new residence.)

I feel guilty about leaving Mary Ann there, and gave her several chances to talk me out of this trip, but she was supportive every time and told me to continue.

Ah, there was the beep. Time to finish packing.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Upcoming Events: SCBWI LA

I had been delaying my registration for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators summer conference in Los Angelos because I wasn't sure whether I would attend or not. It isn't cheap. But today, Mary Ann pushed again, and brought up the idea that I could make it a Jeep trip. That was the final piece that convinced me.

Originally, we were going to begin a big RV trip with this conference as the first lap destination, but when Debra finished school this year instead of next, all that planning changed. We considered flying there, but I have lost a lot of interest in flying trips over the past few years. Airlines are great for places on the other side of oceans, but I would prefer to drive if I can. Air trips have a lot of paperwork and tight deadlines and rental cars.

But this way, I can turn a conference trip into a multi-purpose event. I have just finished the outline for my current book. Most of the events happen during a 2000 mile plus road trip. I had wanted to re-visit those locations prior to finishing the book, and now I can do just that.

An hour ago, I registered for the conference and made the hotel reservation. Now I can start filling in the targets for the trip itself.

And yes, the conference ought to be interesting too.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Traveling even when I'm not

Writing a novel, for me, isn't a process of starting at the beginning and continuing until the end. I start out with an idea, like a few words scribbled on a sheet of paper. This takes weeks. I think about it while, and the words become something like a drawing, with stick-figures in pencil. Somewhile later, after a little research, I begin the outline, and by then, my new world shifts again, over the course of a month or so, becoming like a charcoal sketch. With more research, and more outline, it stretches and fills. Color is added. By the time the outline is done, my new world is a pastel or a impressionist painting, with the subject and the background easily recognized. The actual first draft changes everything. Impression becomes photorealistic. The landscape stretches around me, becoming a wrap-around panorama. I can see the sky overhead and the dirt below. I can smell the flowers and feel the hot sunlight. And the characters, who were just stick-figures before, are people with fears and hurts, with love and hope. They stay with me, years after the story is done.

These past few weeks, I've been outlining, and as the story progresses, I've been traveling from New Mexico, through Colorado and Wyoming with my characters. I know that land. I've been there quite a few times. Just today, they are traveling down Interstate 15, through Utah. We just went through the canyon where I-15 cuts across the north-western corner of Arizona. The lights of Las Vegas, Nevada are up ahead, not more than a few outline bullets to go.