Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Aliens, Margaritas, and a One Horse Town

It's hard to believe that the ruins at Casa Grande, Arizona are now over a week ago.  Blogging became a little difficult as we packed and headed back on the road and toward home.  But here's what I missed mentioning.  Big miss - it is one of the largest prehistoric structures built in North America.  What it was used for is still not known, the people who know the secret to this imposing stone structure that stands in the middle of the Arizona desert and that is surrounded by a complex irrigation system, are long gone.

The road we took this year wound through beautiful and slightly terrifying mountain cliffs and valleys in Arizona before hitting New Mexico.

Along the road there were many oddities from the "One Horse Town" that consisted of one house and a fake horse attached to a hitching post, to the sign saying public library with no houses in sight except one house with a library sign tucked into a opening in the hills near the town of Notes, New Mexico.  I wanted to stop in the worst way but we needed to hit Albuquerque before dark.  And it was a good thing was didn't for then we had the "Contact" experience.

Gleaming on the plains of New Mexico some miles out of Socorro there is a Very Large Array or VLA for short.  The VLA consists of 27 dish antennas that have been monitoring the universe and discovering some pretty amazing things.  In fact some of the movie, Contact, was filmed there.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time for the tour, only time to drive up and find out what the heck was going on.  I'll read up on all of it later, when life settles down.

We hit Albuquerque in time for supper at El Pinto.  It's a cavernous yet oddly cosy Mexican restaurant on a dark street that on a first visit, makes one think to keep the doors locked.  It might be a very nice neighbourhood, I don't know, I've only seen it at night, and unlike home - there's not a lot of street lights.  Either way, El Pinto is worth visiting.  Great Mexican food although this time around I was craving vegetables and had a Taco salad.  Of course, there were the margaritas with fresh lime juice that vie with the food for which is best.  When morning arrived, Albuquerque delivered another surprise - hot air balloons, a lot of them.  In fact by the time we left there were over sixty launched and more coming.  While Albuquerque is known for it's fall balloon festival, December is not the month for it.  But apparently the cold weather has hot air balloon enthusiasts gathering.

From there it was on to Wyoming where the land rolls in mountains, hills and plains that for miles seem as untouched as they might have hundreds of years ago.  Wyoming is where we see the most wildlife.  Birds of prey, herds upon herds of antelope, and land that sprawls out in dips and valleys and mountains, in this part at least, seem little bothered by the intrusion of man.

It's strange how a State line seems to change the terrain as if somehow the line was drawn where the topography changed but that's impossible, or is it?  But that what seems to happen as we cross into Montana, I can't tell you what it is exactly but there's a distinct difference between the two States, both beautiful in their own way.

There's nothing like a road trip to give me lots of ideas and locales for stories.  Meantime Christmas is almost here and today, well it's Festivus for the Rest of Us.  How can you forget that hilarious episode of Seinfeld.  I loved George's parents.  They played off each other so well.

Happy Festivus.  Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Bring Cash and Keep Low

It turns out getting published by Harlequin was only the first of my challenges.  After the excitement died down, there were expectations and I met each one except for one - the author picture.  Turns out that uploading an acceptable author picture to the Harlequin site is not as easy as I thought.

It all began with the camera of choice and the fact that the IPhone camera is not particularly fool proof.  It does not take the perfect picture every time, at least it doesn't for me or more specifically, DH.   Picture one I thought was a keeper - not so fast, the size of it was off, mostly I suspect because of DH's penchant for playing with settings.  Another picture was in order but with everything good and bad that has happened late summer through early fall,
This wasn't the pic sent in.
combined with packing for an extended trip, the picture kept falling into the wreckage of preparation.   Finally, picture two was taken, I admit in a bit of a rush, but still I waited to get the thumbs up.

Instead, another rejection.  This time the picture was out of focus.  It's not obviously out of focus or I'd never have sent it - in fact to the amateur eye it looked fine.

So now release date is coming closer and I desperately needed an acceptable photo.  Fearing another rejection, I decided that it was time to take the advise that had been in front of me all along and hire a photographer.  I found one in the San Tan Valley area that was offering a great deal for a half hour shoot.  We connected by e-mail and she told me to meet her at a park, she'd be wearing red, follow the trail and bring cash.

Bring cash?  Follow the trail?  Was I meeting for some sort of shady deal that I hadn't been forewarned about or was this, as advertised, a photo shoot.  Do I come prepared or do I dare show up at all?

Fast forward two days and one cancellation later that made me glad that I was arriving with DH in tow.   On the upside, it turned out the deal wasn't shady, in fact, the photographer was a personable woman who made me laugh the entire half hour.  Ironically though, I thought Arizona would be a unique setting for someone from the prairies, rock - desert etc.  Instead, the pictures were taken in a park with trees in autumn shades behind me, just like September at home!

So now the photos have been taken and I'm waiting to receive them.  It will just be a matter of time to see how well this all turns out.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tripping Along The Road

Recently we took a road trip to the Karchner Caverns not far from Tucson.  It's an interesting drive where the signs warning of dust appear only minutes before the dust.  It rises up in a curtain along the edge of the stark desert mountains and blankets the fields in a fog of dust.  We get past the dust and the scenery seems to flip every ten miles or so from rolling hills to rough foothills and desert cactus to fields of cotton and back again.

Finally we arrive at Karchner Caves.  The caves were discovered not that long ago in what looks to me to be more a large hill than a mountain.  As the tour began outside the caves, I didn't expect much as the tour guide kept encouraging audience participation like you do in grade school but as the tour progressed her off key humour became just part of the entertainment of the tour, and was eclipsed by the cave.  We only had time to see one but it was gorgeous.  The park was adamant at protecting them and we could take nothing in, unfortunately not even a phone or camera, nothing.  So there are no pictures, except this at the entrance, which we took as we were leaving and as you can see, that didn't turn out.  The caves though were well worth the visit.  Unlike the Mulu Caves in Malaysia where my latest book Suspect Witness is set, these caves had a tour guide, a concrete path and lights that worked!  So there was a lot more to see.  The stalagmites and stalactites were gorgeous, and with the inclusion of a guide, we learned a lot.  But with no pictures you'll have to take my word for it.

Then it was off to Tombstone.  We debated going there, we'd rather have gone to Bisbee but it was
already early afternoon.  So knowing that Tombstone would be a tourist attraction that we'd only spend a few hours at, we headed there.  Bisbee is a longer trip, probably a full day and one we'll have to make for another day, or year.  Our vacation time is rapidly running out!

But on to fun stuff.  In Tombstone I got a chance to try to
fire a pistol and plug holes into my target.  It was a messy "kill" as the poor man took six shots to the chest area but none hit the heart.  "Is he dead?" I ask the shop owner who had given me instructions on how to cock and fire.  "Yep," he replies and I smile and hand him his pistol as I glance one more time at my one-dimensional foe.

From there we headed over to Tombstone Cemetery.  The graves are neatly piled with rocks, some
are unknown and others have names and stories behind them.  It's definitely a cemetery built for tourists but they claim it's real, and maybe it is.  It's definitely worth a stroll through.

On the way back we were stopped by a Border Patrol checkpoint.  The author in me was intrigued and was anticipating what they might ask or do - would they search our truck, demand our passports - all of this would be great info for further blogs, stories, who knows.  So we stopped, DH rolled down the window and the questions started:

"Are you American?"  Border Patrol asks.
"No.  Canadian."  DH replies.
"Go ahead."  Border Patrol responds and steps back waving us forward.

"That's it?" I ask as we leave the check point behind.  I suspect only an author would want just a bit more drama in her day.

Meantime it's time to head for home for a well earned Margarita and maybe a hot tub - life isn't so bad here on the road.