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16 Miles on the Colorado Trail, Lake City to Silverton

Published July 30, 2013 in Writing - 4 Comments

I’m sitting in the quaint “Handlebars Saloon” in Silverton, Colorado, with a pint of “Handlebar Amber” in front of me, tired muscles, sore feet, and waiting for my green chile cheeseburger.  It’s a great way to cap a great day.

I just completed the 16-mile Segment 23 of the Colorado Trail, one of the most remote segments of this spectacular trail, and I hiked from the quaint historic town of Lake City (where I stayed last night) to the other end in the equally quaint town of Silverton. I hike each segment with my brother-in-law Tim, and this time we had complex logistics to do, because a rough mountain range stands between the two towns.  The drive from Lake City to Silverton takes about five hours, so we decided to stay in separate hotels on opposite ends.

I left Sunday morning to drive from Colorado Springs to Lake City, about a six-hour drive. Tim left to head to Silverton (which is a couple of hours farther away).  I had my writing notes and my digital recorder, and I was mentally geared up to start writing HELLHOLE INFERNO. Brian Herbert and I had iterated our outline about ten times until we were both happy with our chapters. I was anxious to get started—and there’s nothing like a long drive for concentration time.  I wrote my first two chapters on the drive to Lake City.

I had reserved a room in the “overquaint” Matterhorn Motel, torn from the pages of a 1950s magazine.  (This is the type of motel I like to call “Neil Peart Approved” because he loves places like this.)  It was a nice room, though missing a refrigerator to keep my cans of Pikes Peak Elephant Rock IPA cold…fortunately, a good hoppy India Pale Ale doesn’t need to be all that cold.

Tim got to his room in Silverton and called to tell me everything was set for the next morning.  I ate dinner at Southern Vittles (friend chicken and fried okra, naturally), then settled into the room to finish my last read and polish of MENTATS OF DUNE (not many pages left).

Next morning, the phone alarm buzzed at 6 AM. I took a quick shower, used my travel Keurig to brew a cup of coffee, and pulled on my hiking clothes. I filled the camelback with water, tossed everything into the car. Tim texted me when he headed out—and we were off to our respective trailheads.

I had my big green Ford Expedition 4X4, lovingly named Hulk, while Tim drove a smaller Ford Escape SUV (“Clark,” as in Kent). I needed all the four-wheel-drive muscles of Hulk to get up the road on my end of the trail, a ferociously difficult 4WD mess that the guidebook charmingly calls “not a road for the squeamish”—and it wasn’t. I white-knuckled up steep grades, snot-slippery mud, big rocks, deep gullies…it took me 35 minutes to go 5 miles.  But how else do you get to the trailhead?

I parked Hulk up in the wide open 12,366-ft Carson Summit, where I would start my hike—and headed off into 16 miles of wilderness.

When J. Robert Oppenheimer was tasked with putting together the Manhattan Project, bringing the greatest physicists in the free world together to do the impossible—to create the first atomic bomb before Hitler’s team designed one—Oppenheimer suggested that all the physicists should be taken a spectacular mesa in northern New Mexico, Los Alamos.  He thought the grand vistas, the wide-open landscape, and the sheer natural beauty would inspire them, open their imagination, and let them think outside the box.

I understand exactly what he was thinking.

Such expansive vistas, the limitless wilderness, and the breathtaking beauty around every corner—it’s all good for the mind, for the imagination, and for the soul.  I hadn’t managed a big hike yet this year, and as soon as I set off from the car, heading into the jaw-dropping Lost Trail Creek drainage, I could feel the energy and the beauty. I hauled out my digital recorder, my notes, and started dictating another chapter in HELLHOLE INFERNO as I hiked along.

The day’s hike was a long succession of traveling down a drainage, up to another saddle, down into the next drainage. Repeat.  I saw almost no people all day, a couple of through-hikers, some campers at high mountain lakes, and a lot of scenery.  I ran out of adjectives sometime in the first hour. At no point in this entire segment did I drop below 12,000 feet elevation—so I was much too high up for trees, just lots of streams and wildflowers, and incredible vistas.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

At about the halfway point, I met Tim coming the opposite direction, and we pulled up a rock to have lunch as clouds built in the sky.  Off and on all day I’d been sprinkled upon, but nothing serious (though I did get tired of pulling the windbreaker on and off).  Tim raved about the scenery in his half of the segment so far, I raved about the scenery in mine.  The forecast called for a 40% chance of rain, which was no surprise. We were prepared.  We exchanged car keys, as well as hotel room keys, and we were all set for reaching the other end.  Since we each had another eight miles to go, we set off in opposite directions, Tim heading toward Lake City, me heading toward Silverton.

I finished one chapter in HELLHOLE INFERNO, then another, and needed a break. Normally I just hike with silence around me, but this time I pulled out my iPod and started playing the last part of an audiobook, Robin Hobb’s BLOOD OF DRAGONS. The grand fantasy battle seemed an appropriate backdrop to the vast scenery around me.  I finished the book, then skimmed the notes for my next chapter, and started to write.

But the early afternoon clouds were closing in, and the guidebook said I was ascending toward the top of a ridge, a high point in today’s trail. I looked ahead toward the ridge and saw nasty thunderclouds gathering, then a dramatic lightning strike right about where the trail would take me.  Not a heartening sight. But as I watched, I saw that the clouds were moving away, and by the time I made it to the top of the ridge, the storm was harassing an entirely different valley.

Then I turned around to see a much more ominous storm heading my way from behind.  It looked ugly.

I decided not to do any more writing just then, so I put the recorder and notes in my pocket, and hauled out my warmest clothes, getting prepared. I was out in the wide open high country, with no shelter, just a few rocks here and there.  I was going to get drenched, and it’s much better to put the extra layers on when you’re already warm and dry.

I set off, trying to pick up speed—but by this point I had already hiked eleven rugged miles and my legs were exhausted (did I mention that I had not done any other big hikes yet this season?).  “Picking up speed” was not a viable option. The wind began to howl, rain started sprinkling, then spattering.  Then hail.  It had all the “sturm and drang” of a German opera.  At least there was no thunder and lightning.

The hailstorm was probably the worst I’d ever been in.  With high winds driving the nasty ice pellets right at me like buckshot, I felt stinging impacts on my legs, my neck, my cheeks.  The wind shoved me sideways, and the hail increased.  I couldn’t see any shelter around, and I was being blasted.  That’s when I started thinking WWBGD?  What would Bear Grylls do?

I finally found a low rock outcropping about three feet off the ground, and I hurried around to the back side, in the lee of the wind for minimal protection.  I had to lie on my back, flat on the ground with my backpack on my chest and my spare windbreaker pulled over my head like a tent. I just lay there for about fifteen minutes listening to the firecracker popcorn sound of hail pummeling my windbreaker shelter. It would have been an appropriate place to think of a few more details about Hellhole.

The rain continued, but the merciless pounding of hail diminished. I wasn’t getting any dryer just lying there, so I got back to my feet, bundled up as much as possible, and trudged on for another mile before the storm finally let up—and opened the sky to astonishing blue and rays of golden sunshine.

It seemed like an apology from the storm. By now I was only two miles from where Tim had parked Clark.  After a storm in the mountains, and the warm sun comes out, clouds of mist rise from the ground and cling to the cliffs. Melting hail crystals sparkle, the sunshine is breathtaking. The colors have an incomparable intensity, the greens are so intense the eyes hurt, the colors in the cliffs are denser, brighter, and as I walked through even more astonishing landscape, I decided this was one of the most beautiful parts of the Colorado Trail.  (But I was utterly drenched, my hiking boots squishing as I walked, and I felt miserable so … weather-apology not entirely accepted.)

I met up with a woman coming the opposite direction who was biking the trail—which in this segment with its narrow, winding, and rocky track, meant she was pushing her bike most of the way.  As we came within earshot, I said “Did you get hit by the storm?”  She saw it coming and had bundled up with very warm piece of clothing she had.  By now it was 4:30 in the afternoon and she didn’t know how much farther she could go before having to set up camp. She had seen Clark parked on the Stony Pass Road trailhead, and gave me the great news that I was less than an hour away.  I squished on, glad for my high-tech hiking pants that dried out quickly.  But my chapter notes in the pocket were a sodden unreadable mess, so no more writing that day.

When I finally came around a bend in the trail to see the blue SUV parked there, I felt great joy.  I shucked off the backpack, opened the car, stripped out of my drenched clothes and changed into the dry ones I had cleverly stashed in the back, then drove off down the Stony Pass Road, another steep and rugged 4WD road that led down into Silverton.

Tim had given me his room key, so I could go right in, hit the warm shower, then put on clean clothes. Tim texted me to let me know he had also made it to his hotel in Lake City (and to agree that that awful road coming back down was “not a road for the squeamish.”)

Starving, I walked down Main Street to look for a place for dinner. Most of the Silverton restaurants are incomprehensibly closed for “Monday.”  I found that peculiar, since in my experience people like to eat every single day of the week, even when they’re on vacation.  On a side street I did find the Handlebar Saloon, and now I’ve had a nice filling meal and good beer as I write this on my laptop.  It’s time to go back to the hotel, stretch out, and finish those last 20 pages in MENTATS OF DUNE. (Meanwhile, Rebecca is back home in a quiet house doing her detailed line edit of the first part of the manuscript.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be driving home…with a side trip to the Ouray Hot Springs on the way for a wonderful soak surrounded by more mountains.  My muscles are bound to be sore.

 

 

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25 Years as a Published Novelist

Published July 25, 2013 in Writing - 2 Comments

It’s my anniversary, of sorts.  Twenty-five years ago this month, my first novel was published, Resurrection, Inc., a paperback original from Signet Books.  Since then, I’ve had over 120 novels published, 23 million copies in print, but nothing could match the excitement of that first acceptance.

While trying to get my fiction published, I paid the bills by working as a technical writer for a large research laboratory, spending my days editing scientific papers and safety manuals, ushering documents through the publication process.  Everybody knew I wanted to be a fiction writer, and I worked on my novels in the evenings and weekends.  I never stopped submitting stories to magazines, working away at my novel (titled Gamearth, the first book in a fantasy trilogy, which was the thing to do).  Based on my short fiction sales, I managed to land an agent, who submitted the manuscript to various New York editors.

While Book 1 in my trilogy was making the rounds, I was ready to dive in and write Book 2, but my agent gave me some good advice: “If I can’t sell the trilogy, then you’d be better off writing something completely different.”

So I did. The next novel I wrote was Resurrection, Inc.—a science fiction gothic horror murder mystery, inspired by the new Rush album “Grace Under Pressure.”  (Yeah, another one of those!)  My agent hadn’t found a home yet for the fantasy trilogy, but he put Resurrection, Inc. on the market.

I was still working my full-time job as a tech writer. I came back to my office one day to find a message on my answering machine (that’s an archaic term for “voicemail”), which used an actual cassette tape.  When I rewound the tape and pushed the Play button, my agent’s voice said, “Good news—I just sold your first novel to Signet Books.  This is the start of a great career. Mazel tov!”

I did what any normal person would have done; I ran out of the office and yelled up and down the hall, “I sold my first novel, I sold my first novel!” I went from office to office, gushing to all my coworkers, walking on air. My lifelong dream at last!

A little while later I realized that I had the announcement recorded on cassette tape, my first novel sale. I decided I’d better keep that. Real history! So I went back to my office, only to find that in the meantime somebody had recorded over my agent’s message to say that I had a photo order ready to pick up.

After buying Resurrection, Inc., my new editor—John Silbersack—asked my agent what else I was working on . . . and that led to a sale on my Gamearth fantasy trilogy. So, within a four-week period, I went from having no novels sold to four novels sold, including two that were not yet written.

That was a good month.

Resurrection, Inc. was published as a Signet paperback, then sold to Great Britain for a UK paperback edition. Overlook Press released a special hardcover Tenth Anniversary edition, and two years ago WordFire Press released a new eBook and print edition.

It’s been an exciting quarter century, and I’ve written a lot of other books, but this one remains one of my favorites.

 

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San Diego Comic Con 2013 wrapup

Published July 23, 2013 in Writing - 0 Comments

We’ve been going to San Diego Comic Con for close to twenty years now, and it’s always a whirlwind of sights and sounds, friends, celebrities, crowds, freebies, costumes, crowds, and more crowds. In short, a madhouse, but in a good way.  Since the San Diego Convention Center is filled with pros and fans, I called it a “sea of ProFanity.”  And did I mention the crowds?

I have a couple of graphic novels coming out, so it was good to do a little promotion, to sign books, meet fans, but most of the time I was on panels or in meetings. Rebecca and I are both in the middle of big deadlines (so what else is new, you ask? These are even crazier than usual for us.)  I am doing my final read on MENTATS OF DUNE while Rebecca is reading the manuscript of THE DRAGON BUSINESS—noise cancelling headphones on the plane leads to good concentration time for a couple of hours!

We landed at noon on Thursday, got to our hotel, the Sheraton Symphony Hall (more than a mile from the convention center, but it was the closest we could get even though we logged on and hammered the signup pages within one minute of when the rooms opened!)  We found a wonderful middle-eastern restaurant only a block away and had a nice meal before we plunged into the crowds to get our badges and hit the show floor.  My first panel was at 3:30—the Delphic Oracle, hosted by Todd McCaffrey, a fun improv-style game where the whole panel answered questions from the audience, one word at a time. I was one of the oracular voices, along with Craig Miller, Dani Kollin, Mallory Reeves, and Jon Del Arroz. I can’t promise all the answers made sense.

That night we met up with Adrienne Lombardo, my former audio rights agent and now my editor at Brilliance Audio. Adrienne is also a not-so-secret fangirl who participates in her own Jedi troupe. On the way down to the Kansas City Barbecue (the wonderful dive across from the convention center, best known as the place where part of Top Gun was filmed), we bumped into Christopher Paolini on the sidewalk (among 160,000 other people!)  Knowing we had a long weekend ahead,  Reb and I went back to the hotel early and even did a little editing before crashing.

Next morning we had an early lunch with my editor from BOOM! studios to go over exciting details for a really cool, really big new graphic novel project (actually, that should be in caps, Really Cool, Really Big). I’ll announce soon. Then a late lunch with Claude Sandoz from ASI (he’s been with us to Ecuador, Frankfurt, Dubai, and Qatar…and San Diego.), after bumping into fellow writers Kevin Dilmore and Andy Briggs.  At 6 PM we went to the Scribe Awards Ceremony, where CLOCKWORK ANGELS won in the category of Best Adapted Novel. This is my second Scribe (first was for ENEMIES & ALLIES), as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award last year.  Scribes are given by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. Max Allan Collins presented me with the award.

with Max Allan Collins and the Scribe Award for CLOCKWORK ANGELS

After the Scribe Awards, Rebecca and I had to hurry to be on another panel, “Publishing SF/F in the Digital Age,” hosted by Tim Travaglini from Open Road Media, with Cory Doctorow, Andy Briggs, Sherri L. Smith, and Nick Cole—the room was packed, 500 people. Afterward, we had dinner for Harry Kloor’s 50th birthday party, with Harry and Rayna, Len McLeod, Rantz Hosely, Kevin Sorbo, and a long table of other friends.

Saturday morning we got up early for our annual breakfast with John Goodwin from Galaxy Press and Writers of the Future, after which I was on a panel “Urban Fantasy: Myth and Magic in the City” with Jim Butcher, Richard Kadrey, Max Gladstone, Kevin Hearne, and Liesel Schwartz, moderated by Diana Gill. Another packed room, 500 or so people, after which we did a signing in the Sails Pavilion, lunch to discuss WordFire Press and ePublishing with Tim Travaglini from Open Road Media. While Rebecca went back to the room to rest, I walked the floor a little, met up with friend R.H. Stavis, whose novel DANIEL’S VEIL we’ll be re-publishing at WordFire. Then I bumped into Steven L. Sears (co-exec producer of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS…who also happens to be my coauthor on STALAG-X) and our long-time friend Pat Tallman. Steve took this great shot of the two of us:

A great seafood dinner with Christopher Paolini, Robin Hobb, Peter Orullian, Eldon Thompson, and other great friends (then back to the room for a little more editing).

Sunday started with a meeting with Steve Sears at Gestalt Comics with our publisher Wolfgang Bylsma and Art Director Skye Ogden to discuss the main launch of our graphic novel (we’re just about to start writing the last script, of 6). Rebecca had a signing at Mysterious Galaxy Books, and then we went off to lunch with Duane Wilkins from University Books and Brandon Sanderson. Another afternoon meeting with Gestalt, an interview for a podcast, a quick meet-up with Denise and Dave Dorman, and then back to the hotel for a quick shower before going out to dinner with a bunch of buddies we met in Australia at Supanova—Neil and Sharon Kaplan, Tom Taylor, and the gang from Gestalt. We went to our traditional Karl Strauss Brewery.

We slept in Monday morning, ate lunch again at that great middle-eastern restaurant, then went off to the airport (Christopher Paolini was on the same flight)—and spent more hours with noise-cancelling headphones, reading and editing manuscripts. Now, back home and back to the routine.  My next trip will be a long wilderness trip and a 16 mile hike on the Colorado Trail near Silverton—quite a break from the crowds!

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New edition of HOPSCOTCH

Published July 17, 2013 in Writing - 2 Comments

I just opened the front door and found a package on the porch—at last my copies of the new WordFire Press reissue of my novel HOPSCOTCH. This is one of my favorite novels, out of print for many years, although WordFire made it available as an eBook last year.  Now, those of you who prefer bound and printed editions can get your own copies.

And RUSH fans may be interested—much like my first novel RESURRECTION, INC, the story behind HOPSCOTCH also has a Rush connection, in that this was the first story Neil Peart and I started discussing as a crossover novel/album project.  Even though circumstances cancelled those plans, Neil is still acknowledged (and Rush fans may find a few details in the story, too…)

Print edition
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Suppose you could switch bodies with another person. What exciting new experiences would you choose to explore? What forbidden desires would you indulge? Suppose someone stole your life? Stole your body? How far would you go to get it back?

HOPSCOTCH is a pure adrenaline thriller of hijacked identities, elusive motives, and deeply buried secrets. Four friends on a journey through a futuristic world where body-swapping is commonplace  and the very definition of humanity has been changed: one an artist who wants to experience every aspect of life, one a seeker looking for her soul, one an inadvertent murderer who has to swap from body to body, always on the run … and one the friend who must hunt him down.

“Ingenious SF Fantasy”—Kirkus Reviews

HOPSCOTCH is cracking good—swift, sure storytelling, with more plot twists than a snake and twice the bite.”—Gregory Benford, Nebula-award-winning author of Timescape.

“Anderson delivers a taut, imaginative tale of SF acxtion and intrigue that blends a noir atmosphere with personal heroism and courage”—Library Journal

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