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More Miles on the Trail, More Chapters

Published October 20, 2010 in Dune , Travel & Appearances , Writing - 0 Comments

Catching up on last month’s trip.  In late September, the weather was turning cold and crisp, and we knew that the hiking season would soon draw to a close.  Time enough, though, for one last overnight expedition to hike a section in the Colorado Trail.  I was nearly finished with dictating my chapters in The Sisterhood of Dune, and I looked forward to a long drive and plenty of hours on the trail so that I could have some real creative time to finish my writing.

The Colorado Trail is 483 miles long, divided into 28 segments, and runs from Denver to Durango through some of the most spectacular scenery in the state.  With my brother- and sister-in-law Tim and Diane, I have so far hiked 367 miles, 21 sections.  We take two vehicles—generally, I park at one end of a segment, they park at the other, and we hike in opposite directions, then drive the other car home.

Our next target was Segment 20, which runs from Gunnison to Creede over the La Garita Mountains.  Even though the trail segment is only fourteen miles long, the *road distance* from one trailhead to the other is 160 miles, thanks to the rugged mountain range in the way.  Obviously, this required some significant logistical planning.

We drove both vehicles to Gunnison (in pouring rain and miserable weather), then down a 19-mile dirt road to reach the northern end of the trail segment.  At the trailhead, I parked my car, then ran through the rain to throw my pack, trekking pole, suitcase, and laptop in the back of Tim and Diane’s car, and climbed aboard.  We drove back out the 19-mile dirt (mud) road—an hour each way—then reached the highway and drove 140 miles around the mountains to the small, historic mining town of Creede, where we had lodging reservations.  We arrived long after nightfall, and much of the sleepy town was dark and empty; after checking into our rooms we found a small bar/barbecue place for dinner, then went to bed for an early hike.

Next morning, the sky was clear, no sign of clouds; the temperature was chilly, but we had warm clothes.  We drove out of town up a box canyon filled with mining ruins, winding higher up the 4WD road above treeline.  Still more mining ruins, and then within a mile of the southern trailhead at 11,500 ft, the sky suddenly thickened with clouds.  We parked.  It snowed.  It snowed a lot, nearly white-out conditions.

This was very discouraging, but we had spent eleven hours the previous day just getting the cars into position, and we weren’t going to turn back now.  In the back of the vehicle, we pulled on extra jackets, fleeces, gloves, stocking caps…and within fifteen minutes the storm had passed, leaving the mountains and trail covered with more than an inch of fresh snow.

Time to go.  We headed out, following the path, which was like a line of white high-lighter, and climbed up to breathtaking San Luis Pass, then over the mountains.  Clouds came and went; the wind picked up, then faded.  We reached the high-point (and coldest point) of the trail and began to descend on the Gunnison side of the La Garita range.

The trail was well marked and made for excellent hiking—i.e., excellent writing and concentration time.  I walked a few minutes ahead of Tim and Diane, so I could talk to myself.  Over the eight-hours, I pulled out my notes for Sisterhood of Dune chapters, completing a total of five chapters during the hike.  Hour by hour, I took off the gloves and stocking cap, then fleece, then sweatshirt.  The aspens were amazing, at the peak of their color.  Off in the forest nearby, we heard a bull elk bugling—a very distinctive call that sounds more like a rusty hinge than a mating call (but I guess the female elks like it).

Finally, in late afternoon, we reached my car, which had been sitting overnight at the northern trailhead.  Then the 19-mile drive down the dirt road (again) to Gunnison, where we ate a large dinner at a steak house, aptly named The Trough, and drove nearly three hours back to Creede and our hotel.  I edited some chapters on my laptop before going to sleep.

Next day, Tim and I drove up past the mining ruins again to retrieve the other car (which was covered with frost and ice after sitting overnight at 11,500 ft).  For a lighter hiking day, we decided to try a nearby trail, Shallow Creek, up into the aspen-covered hills, during which I dictated two more Sisterhood chapters.  That afternoon we also spent some time exploring Creede, a very quaint town with a lot of history.

Now that we had our separate vehicles back, we drove home the next morning on our own schedules.

This was only our second Colorado Trail segment for the season, but it’s not likely we’ll get a chance to do another before next summer.  It was a marvelous trip, one of the most beautiful sections we had seen so far, and on the drive home I did finish dictating my last chapters in Sisterhood of Dune, ten total during the hiking trip.  And I had done a great deal of mental recharging—that’s the best benefit of the trail.

All photos by T. Durren Jones or Kevin J. Anderson

Happy Birthday, Frank Herbert

Published October 8, 2010 in Dune , Writing - 1 Comment

Today, October 8, is Frank Herbert’s birthday.  He would have turned 90 years old.

photo provided by Byron Merritt

Though he is best known for the Dune Chronicles (and, in my opinion, the novel Dune is the greatest SF novel ever written), Frank Herbert left a legacy of many seminal novels, excellent works that bear reading (and rereading)—particularly The White Plague, Hellstrom’s Hive, The Dosadi Experiment, Under Pressure/Dragon in the Sea, The Green Brain, and The Pandora Sequence with Bill Ransom (The Jesus Incident [sequel to Herbert’s Destination:Void], The Lazarus Effect, and the posthumous Ascension Factor).

Frank Herbert passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1986.  His Dune novels have remained steadily popular, but in recent years many of his long out-of-print titles have been republished due to a resurgence in readers.  If you haven’t read any of Frank’s work besides Dune, you should take a look.

Thanks to Frank Herbert for providing us with so many complex and thought-provoking works.

St Louis—ARCHON

This past weekend, Rebecca and I were guests of honor at Archon in St Louis.  The final panels and parties have just finished, we’ve packed up our books and suitcases, and are winding down for the evening (and a departure at 6:15 AM tomorrow).

I have been to St Louis only once before, during the Paul of Dune book-signing tour, but I hadn’t been able to see any of the city.  (I landed after lunch, and the publisher’s rep took me to several bookstores to sign the stock, then the evening book signing, a late dinner, then to the hotel for an early-morning departure.)  This time, Rebecca and I hoped for a chance to see more of St Louis before the con festivities began.

On Thursday night, before the convention began, Reb and I had dinner with Laurell K Hamilton, her husband Jon, and assistant Carri—so our first meal in St Louis was sushi…but good sushi, so we enjoyed it.

The following day, the Archon staff worked above-and-beyond to arrange for Rebecca, her sister Diane (who came along to watch the dealer’s room table), and me to go see the gateway Arch and the Mississippi River.  One  of the staff members, Jim Garrison, picked us up early in the morning to go to downtown St Louis to see the Arch.  Alan DeVaughn, the guest relations rep for the con, made some calls, and also arranged for one of his friends (who worked for the National Parks service) to help us get a tour.

We’ve seen a lot of things in a lot of different states and countries; we were looking forward to the Arch, and I have to say it was even more impressive than we had hoped.  The skies were clear and blue, and the sun reflected on the amazing, perfect stainless-steel arch.  The waning moon hovered in the sky (just a dot in the photos), framed by the Arch.

We walked around the base of the Arch, then entered the museum and exhibits below.  The Park Ranger friend of the con helped us to get into the small tram that crawled up the inside of the arch to a tiny, cramped observation chamber at the apex.

Enough sightseeing.  We got back to the hotel by lunch, so that we could meet up with Dan Barstow, President of the Challenger Centers for Space Science Education, which was the chosen charity for Archon.  The St Louis area Challenger Learning Center also sent representatives and exhibited in the dealer’s room alongside our table.  We had lunch with the Challenger Center people, then set up our tables, and went off to Opening Ceremonies.  Rebecca and I gave our popular workshop on “Things I Wish Some Pro Had Told Me,” then went to an open Q&A fireside chat, before going to dinner with game writer Matt Forbeck, then attended some of the fan parties.

On Saturday, after spending some time at our table in the dealer’s room, we all attended an hour-long panel about the Challenger Centers and helped with the charity auction, where proceeds benefited the Challenger Centers.  Country singer Lee Greenwood had donated some amazing items—the cowboy boots he had worn when he performed at the White House, the American flag that flew in front of his house.  Rebecca and I contributed the original first-draft manuscript of Star Challengers #1, and I also gave some advance reading copies of two of my novels.  All together, the Challenger Center received about $2000 from the charity auction.

At my Saturday evening reading, I read the first chapter of Hellhole as well as my short story “Dark Carbuncle” from Blood Lite II.  Then we went to dinner with fellow writers Mark Tiedemann and Carolyn Ives Gilman, before hurrying back for the masquerade.  While relaxing before bed, I read the last of the Star Challengers #2 manuscript, scribbling my comments in the margins for Rebecca’s next revision.

Sunday, Rebecca and I served as “victims” at the Star Wars trivia challenge, then joined the pizza party to thank the volunteers who had worked at Archon.  We spent the last few hours with Diane in the dealer’s room, met more fans, signed more books, then packed up the remainders (at least two suitcases less than we had brought).  After the closing of the con, with the rest of the afternoon available, I grabbed my recorder and walked around the hotel area and ponds, dictating half of a short story for a new Chris Golden horror anthology.  Then, while Rebecca wanted to relax in the room, I went for a quick, quiet dinner next door (and a good Goose Island IPA), where I read a couple of submissions for Blood Lite III.

We leave tomorrow early.  A nice weekend all around and a very enjoyable con.

US Cover for HELLHOLE (Tor Books)

Published September 29, 2010 in Business , Dune , Novels , Publicity , Writing - 0 Comments

This February, Brian Herbert and I will introduce our first non-Dune novel, Hellhole, the start of a new epic SF trilogy to be published by Tor Books.  We just received the final US cover, with a painting by Stephen Youll.

The following text will appear on the book’s dust jacket:

Hellhole—an epic original science fiction series from the stunning imaginations of bestsellers Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have spent the past decade writing the brilliant, ambitious novels that expanded and explored Frank Herbert’s Dune universe.  Every one of their Dune novels has been an international bestseller, garnering critical acclaim, awards, and the respect of fans around the world.

Now they have created the first novel in an original three-book series—Hellhole—an epic, panoramic story on a galactic scale packed with non-stop adventure, fascinating characters, and wondrous concepts.  Set on a compelling and unique planet in the aftermath of a titanic cataclysm, Hellhole is built upon the timeless themes of politics, religion, and the struggle for liberty, with elements borrowed from the French and American Revolutions, as well as the opening of the American West.

The human interstellar government, the Constellation, consists of 20 allied “old guard” worlds, centered on the lush capital planet of Sonjeera.  The society is wealthy with a feuding, decadent upper class, ruled by the dowager Diadem Michella Duchenet—a tyrant with a sweet face, charming public disposition, and a shriveled, blackened heart—who has been on the throne for decades.  But as the population of the core worlds has grown and noble families divided their profitable holdings into smaller and smaller pieces, pressures increase for change, for new territory.  After the failure of a devastating revolution, the Diadem Michella realizes she must open the wild frontier of unexplored planets.

“I am more determined than ever that all planets must be utterly dependent on the Constellation—on Sonjeera.  It’s simple logic:  If they have no options, there will never be another significant uprising.”

Thus began a sudden large-scale expansion as dreamers, pioneers, and ambitious risk-takers rushed out to claim 54 newly opened planets in the Deep Zone.  By far the most infamous of the new planets is Hallholme, named “Hellhole” by the miserable, hardscrabble settlers.  Only the most desperate colonists dare to make a new home on Hellhole—“the place to go when there’s nowhere else to go.”  Reeling from a recent asteroid impact, tortured with horrific storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and churning volcanic eruptions, the planet is a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits, and charlatans…but also a haven for dreamers and independent pioneers.  Hellhole is ruled by an exiled military leader, General Adolphus, who was defeated in the abortive revolution, but he still harbors the grand dreams of a visionary and liberator.

“Better to rule on Hellhole than to serve on Sonjeera.”

Not only has the hardened, embittered General made Hellhole his home, he has also turned the harsh world into a place of real opportunity for those who come there.  Under his guidance, colonists are extracting resources, building cities, and planting large areas of Earth crops; the General has financed mines, roads, shelters, schools, factories and power plants.

Though he is forbidden from leaving his place of exile, General Adolphus secretly builds alliances with the leaders of the other Deep Zone worlds, many of whom are also critics of the tyrannical, fossilized Constellation.  Hellhole is supposed to be the General’s Elba, but he is fiercely determined to turn his prison into the center of a new coalition of planets free of the Diadem’s iron grip. The determined pioneers in the Deep Zone feel like second-class citizens, tossed into the wilderness and left to fend for themselves, struggling under heavy taxes to feed the old-guard nobles.

Surrounded by corruption, consumed by the plots and feuds of those around her, Diadem Michella is confident that the General has been neutralized.  She has no idea of the revolt growing in the Deep Zone…or does she?

What no one knows is that the planet Hellhole, though damaged and volatile, hides an amazing secret: the remnants of an obliterated alien civilization and the buried memories of its unrecorded past that could tear apart human civilization once they are unearthed.

Astonishing, fascinating, and intense, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have used their superb creative talents once again to create a novel with a true sense of awe and wonder. Hellhole is Science Fiction at its best—accessible, classic…and timeless.

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