Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Epic Mother Daughter Cross Country Road Trip: December

You know what I recommend?

Doing something you've wanted to do for years and years.

I've wanted to drive across the country since reading American Gods in college. I love traveling, but driving someplace is a lot less convenient and a lot more expensive than flying these days. But if you always wait for things to be convenient and cheap, you'll miss out on most of life's awesomeness.

Mom came with me, because she's full of awesome herself - and because she didn't want me driving all that way solo.

Anyway, here's our route:

I know. It's definitely not the shortest route. It's not even a straight line.

It took 12 days: 5 days before Christmas and 7 days after. (I left my car in Albuquerque for three weeks to spend the holidays with my family.)

Truth: there's something wonderful in taking it slow across the country. You see how the landscape changes, state-by-state. You see the cultural differences, the different ways of life, minute shifts you can't see when you fly overhead.

BOOK MATERIAL, people. I took notes in my brain - and also, pictures.

Sadly, I took no pictures of the South. I've lived there my whole life. I needed no pictures to remember it.

In fact, the most important stop I made before Christmas was in San Antonio, Texas - that's where my great grandmother lives. I freaked her out a little, because I didn't tell her I was coming. I just arrived on her doorstep, Christmas presents under my arm.

No pictures of this event. I'll give you a picture of my great-grandmother, though:

No idea how old she is here.
But isn't she preeeeetty?

Next stop, though?

New Mexico
Land of A Thousand Pictures

The Santa Fe area is probably my mom's favorite place in the world. We spent a lot of time there. Long enough for me to stop spelling it "Sante Fe."

Shelby Street was the first place we parked in Santa Fe!!
This is actually the front of a store called Pinkoyote. I found a great wallet there.

Also cool in Sante Fe: The Miraculous Staircase of Loretta Chapel.
Nobody knows how it stays standing. It has no supports.
That's probably why they don't let people climb it anymore.

The Bandelier National Monument

I have a thing for old stuff. I realized this when I was studying abroad in England: if it's more than five centuries old, I'll probably want to take a million pictures of it. Doesn't matter if it's a church, a fort, a tree, or an ancient road, I'm fascinated.

So, when I had a free day to myself in Santa Fe (Mom went home to spend her birthday with Dad), I took myself off to Bandelier National Monument. Basically, people have lived there for 11,000 years.

The mind literally reels. SO OLD. *happy sigh*

It was epically pretty, by the way.
Even on the drive up.

It was also quite lovely OUT of the car.

Doesn't it kind of look like a place where people have lived for thousands of years??
I mean, apart from the fact there are no houses.

Now, we get to the good stuff. I mean, the OLD stuff.
This was like the village town hall - spiritual AND practical.

Built somewhere between the twelfth and sixteenth century! OLD!! :-D
This was the living area.

You can see the whole structure better from up here!

I took a ton of pictures like this, by the way. Tree, stone, and sky.
There's obviously a Georgia O'Keefe influence involved.
I'm limiting myself to one in this post, so I don't bore you.

Anyway, so then, you walk up these steps.

And you see more apartments! With ladders!

And they have views!!
The apartments in the valley were occupied at the same time. I wonder if there was a reason some people lived in the cliffs and some on the valley floor. Like, were these penthouse apartments?

Not for the Acrophobic!
Or maybe the valley apartments were for the people who didn't like heights?

And then more apartments!
You can't see them on the cliff face, but there are markings up there.

Called Long House, because it was looong.
Each row of holes denotes a floor.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Also, awesome. But not quite as old.
(Constructed in the late 19th century.)

Love the entrance.

And the inside's not too shabby either.

Stay tuned later this week - for pictures from the January portion of the Epic Mother Daughter Cross Country Road Trip!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Larkstorm, by Dawn Rae Miller

Okay, I finished Larkstorm this week, and I can't stop thinking about it.

Seriously, y'all - it's Matched meets Hex Hall. In other words, dystopia AND witches. What's not to love?


I can't actually review it, though - considering that I know the author. See more about my review policy here.

Book Description:

In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s
looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember.

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives:

She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first.

Actually, this was the first book I read on my brand new Kindle, and I'm so glad it was one I loooooved.

In other news, for those of you who may worry, I spent a long weekend in San Francisco, hanging out with friends and doing some research for another project. Now, I'm currently in Sacramento, working on Ever Afters 2 (I need to send it to Courtney by Feb 2).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'll take a huge plate of Life, with a side of Enjoyment and lots of Awesome, please.

Have you noticed that I've been kind of...quiet lately? Online, I mean.

Well, two major items have filled my waking hours this month:
  1. I moved. I'm in California's Bay area now, like the place I've been talking about relocating to since I started this blog. My mom and I actually drove out here from North Carolina. It was pretty epic. (I'll blog about it later, mainly because it will give me an excuse to post some awesome pictures.)

  2. I've owed Joanna a new draft of Ever After 2 since Christmas. I did part of my revision when I was in Montana for Christmas, part of it on the road, and part of it when I arrived here in Berkeley.
This is Red Rocks Park in Arizona, pic taken in car.
Ten points if you can spot the ghost of the ms literally looming over this scene!
(It was on the dashboard.)

Yesterday, I finally finished and sent it back in.

My immediate thoughts were: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!! I have free time again! I can sleep in! Read books! Explore the area!! Do research for my next project!!!

Less than an hour later, when the euphoria ebbed slightly, a few other facts sank in:
  1. I just moved. To someplace far, far away from everything familiar in my life.
  2. I only have one job. (But it's an awesome job. So awesome that I was tempted to write I don't have a job - it seems too cool to be work.)
  3. I don't have a plan.
  4. I don't have a long term apartment.
  5. I don't even have a place to stay past next Tuesday.
Some people might call this "reality," but I tend not to like those people.

Anyway, I had a brief freak out. That's natural when you realize you've made a change you can't back out of. You second guess yourself no matter how long you've been talking about taking the action you just took.

But I realized something. - This is exactly what my 2012 resolution is all about.

Have I mentioned my New Year's resolution yet? I don't think so. It's not really a typical one. It's more like a mental habit I want to work on - something that will make my brain a more enjoyable place to be. I did a similar thing last year, which actually made my brain a more comfortable place.

Here my resolution for 2012:

Life is a journey.
You can't control where you are. You can only control what direction you're heading.
Enjoy the whole trip.

Yeah, I know. It's a long one. And also the kind of thing you would see embroidered on your favorite grandma's pillow amidst cute thread-stitched kittens.

2011, for me, was marked with impatience and frustration. Most of it stemmed from me being dissatisfied with where I was - whether that be how far I was in a revision/draft, how much blogging I'd accomplished, the place I was living, and being impatient to move onto the next stage.

Here's the underlying belief that caused both the impatience and frustration: that if I reached --insert some sort of achievement here--, then I would finally be happy.

Here's the truth: I will always be able to freak out about something, to be dissatisfied with something.

True Story: I found this in Books-a-Million last October.
It made me laugh and send it to my best friend.
Great book too - The House of Spirits sparked an Isabel Allende reading frenzy for a whole semester in high school.

But honestly, I have a great life. I'm reasonably healthy (although I would appreciate not being allergic to half the planet). I drive my favorite car in the entire universe - past, present, and probably future. I have my dream job.

Also, I only get one life. Okay, unless I'm reincarnated, which might be cool. But definitely, only one life as Shelby Bach. I need to enjoy it RIGHT NOW. I need to appreciate even the stuff that scares me, because the only constant thing about life is change. I won't always have this.

So, this move - It's something I want. This is something I've wanted for a long time.

Exhibit A, evidence that I've wanted this for a while:
This map has been hanging in my bedroom for the past year,
reminding me where I want to go.
(It was a gift from a very dear friend.)

I am going to enjoy it.

Because it will only happen once.

And I've basically decided to just have an awesome life. :-)