Monday, November 26, 2012

Got My Kicks on Route 66

I took a trip with the family to Arizona for Thanksgiving. Those who read this blog or who know me know that I love to travel, first because I am a nomad at heart, and second because of all the great ideas and material I get from visiting new places.

One of the things that stood out for me on this trip were the people. We went to Phoenix and spent some time in Tempe, Scottsdale, and various other Phoenix area neighborhoods. I spent much of the time with a dear friend, and as both of us are avid people watchers, we pointed things out to one another.

She spoke about how people dress so differently this time of year in Phoenix (it was in the low 80's while we were there). There are those who dress according to the weather. No matter what time of year, they're wearing flip flops and shorts if it's warm. Then there are those who dress according to the season, whether it's evident or not, and they were roaming around in long sleeves or sweaters.

Then there were the individuals I spotted. There was the woman wearing jeans that were way too small for her and showing the top of her butt crack. As she crossed the street and stepped up onto the sidewalk, she pulled out a cigarette. Some random guy on a bike coming from the other direction offered to light it for her. Afterwards, she spoke with him animatedly, waving around her cigarette and her coffee cup. She'd either lean way forward to make a point or lean way back. My theory is her jeans allowed her only a handful of movements, otherwise they'd either fall off, or they'd cut off her circulation. Either way, I wondered exactly what she had in that cup because I had a feeling it wasn't 100% coffee.

On our way back home, we went through the Petrified Forest National Park. We stopped at an overlook to take pictures and take in the view, and another car pulled up, letting out a couple who looked dressed for Sunday brunch rather than a modest hike in a park. They had a California license plate on their car, but they didn't really look like they were from California. They left me scratching my head, wondering who they were and where they were from. My best guess was that the car was a rental (it was too clean and neat) and they were from a place where sneakers and casual pants were a no-no.

Speaking of the Petrified Forest, it was quite a treat. There is petrified wood, of course, as the name suggests, like this piece:

But then you go a little farther into the park and find teepee shaped rocks with blue and gray striations, like this:

And that's pretty cool, but then you're toodling along the road, and all of a sudden it curves and you come across this:

I don't think this picture really does it justice. At any rate, I imagined people traveling this way ages ago, way before cars, and coming upon this huge, beautiful, pink canyon and thinking both, "Wow, this is gorgeous!" and, "How the heck are we going to get across it?"

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo Mid-Month-Ish Report

I just finished the second draft of a novel in October, so I decided to do something different for NaNoWriMo this year and write short stories. I'd been having a hard time this year finishing any short story that I began. I'm not sure if I felt pressured to 'get it right' on the first draft, or I caved in to the internal editor too much, but something was getting in the way, and I needed to get a few more written, seeing as how I've sold a few. It's a good problem to have.

In the week prior to NaNo I wrote out a few outlines for various stories. Some were detailed, others consist of only a line or two. I'm happy to say that I've complete four short stories so far. Four! And I'm working happily on the fifth. I've written a straight-up fantasy set in the world of my novel Shards of History, another fantasy that is set in the historical Middle East in a caravanserai, a horror story set in the contemporary US, and a steampunk/sf mash-up set on another planet. I've been having fun so far, and although the stories have run a little long, I've also been making notes to myself on where to cut and what to add on the next go-round, which seems to have silenced whatever was keeping me from finishing short stories earlier this year.

This month I gave myself permission to try new types of stories and to just go ahead and screw up and fix things later, and I've been having loads of fun. I'm writing about all types of characters, and settings I haven't tried before. I haven't done NaNo in years, and this has been a great way to get back into it. In fact, this might become my new tradition every year.