About a month ago, I promised a few words about our cruise through the Panama Canal. The words that come to mind are fabulous, amazing, incredible, etc., but that’s not very helpful is it?
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First, let’s bust a few myth-conceptions about the Canal. From San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale, you’d think we’d be traveling west to east, right? Wrong. Because of the way the isthmus loops back on itself, we actually entered southeast of our exit. There are three locks on the Pacific side (southeast) and three on the Atlantic or Caribbean side (northwest), with a long channel and an artificial lake between. This is because the route crosses the Continental Divide, so ships are raised going in and lowered going out. The current Canal–and yes, it is being enlarged, and yes, there is serious talk of a second canal through Nicaragua–has two lanes of traffic so ships can pass in the night, as it were, although frequently both lanes run the same direction: in at dawn and out at dusk. To traverse the Canal is an 8-hour proposition.
We woke the morning of our transit to find the ship already passing under the Bridge of the Americas into the harbor. Cruise ships pay an extra fee to make their transit at a set time; others must wait in queue. Our ship, the Celebrity Century, is one of the largest that can traverse the current Canal; when we had eased into the first lock, there was about 12 inches of clearance on each side. To prevent the ship from drifting up against the walls, small locomotives called mules (yeah, yeah, “I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal, 15 miles on the Erie Canal) fasten cables to the ship from each side and draw them tight. These locomotive don’t pull the ship–the ship’s engine does that–put they keep it in place as it waits for the lock to fill/empty, and then guide it through to the next lock.
The whole process was fascinating to watch. I sat up on Deck 10 in the gym, looking through the bow windows and watching water gush through pipes into the lock to raise us. Not far away, a loud-mouthed individual kept harping on how “inefficient” the process was. “Why isn’t the lock filling?” he asked. “They should be filling it the minute the gates are closed.” His wife tried to tell him that they were, and I could see the water level rising at an astounding rate by the lines on the lock gates. Despite this evidence, the man insisted the locks were not filling. “Inefficient!” he kept saying. “Wasteful!” It took about 15 or 20 minutes to raise a ship with 1800 passengers and 1200 crew, and still he howled, “Inefficient!”
All I could think was, And this is the kind of person who thinks he should run the government…
My dad passed away last week. It was not unexpected; he was 97 and had been in hospice for a couple of months. I was prepared for his passing, and when it finally came, I made reservations to fly back to North Dakota where, not only would the Clan gather, but dozens of neighbors and friends would join us to celebrate a life richly lived by one of the kindest, most humble souls any of us has ever known. On Friday morning my husband and I drove 120 miles to a regional airport to catch a flight on a low-cost carrier, one of the few airlines that serves cities in North Dakota.
Now, I have flown this carrier before and not been pleased. Like most low-cost airlines, they treat you like cattle and tack on extra fees until the cost savings is minimal. But it was a direct flight from Phoenix to Fargo, three hours, no chance of lost luggage. We arrived at the airport an hour and a quarter before the scheduled departure, and my husband went to check our flight on the status board.
It said Canceled.
He checked his email–no message of cancellation. He checked the Allegiant website–it still said On Time. But as we waited in line to check in, the message came back, relayed from passenger to passenger: yes, the flight was canceled. Why? No one knew. The ground crew were contractors, and they had no information except that the flight would go out the following morning at 9:00 am. My dad’s funeral was at 10:30.
We frantically drove to the major airport, Sky Harbor, and found a Frontier flight through Denver to Fargo. As we booked it, an email finally arrived from Allegiant saying their flight was canceled. Then the Frontier flight was delayed and we learned there was no chance of making our connection. If we went to Denver, they couldn’t get us to Fargo until Sunday or Monday. We canceled off that flight (fully refunded), but it was too late to get our bag off.
No bag, no flight, no way to make the funeral. When I recovered from my emotional meltdown, we drove home–120 miles–packed another bag, slept in our own bed, and drove back the following morning to take the rescheduled Allegiant flight. I reached my brother’s house at 3:00 pm, four hours after 150 people, including friends I had not seen in years, gathered to offer their condolences and support. By the time I got there, all but family had gone home.
Later we learned Allegiant had no pilot for the Friday flight. They have trouble keeping pilots; I guess they don’t treat them any better than they do their customers.
So here’s the lesson from my experience: Never trust an airline. Though I hated their poor service and money-gouging practices, I still trusted Allegiant to get me where I needed to be. They failed me. I will never trust an airline again. I most certainly will never fly Allegiant, and I’m not alone. If you own Allegiant stock, you might want to think about that.
Whew! Just got back from a cruise through the Panama Canal–more on that later–and guess what? My short story “Into the Desolation” is out in the January issue of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show! It’s an ezine, so don’t look for it in stores. It’s here: http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=issue&vol=i37&article=_006
And you can read my comments on its creation on their blog here: http://sideshowfreaks.blogspot.com/2014/02/into-desolation-by-catherine-wells.html
I was a theatre major way back in the day, and my first writing success was as a playwright. I drifted away from it when I found out novels pay better, but now and then I get the urge to go back. It’s usually sparked by attending a live performance. So last week I saw Winding Road Theatre’s dynamic production of “Cabaret.” Forget the film version–the stage show will send chills up your spine when done right, and believe me, this was done right.
No, I don’t have any plans to sit down and write another play. I’ve just started a new novel, and I have two musicals sitting on the shelf because they are so blasted hard to market. The only way to sell a play is to get it produced, and I refuse to produce my own stuff. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m a lousy producer, and my plays deserve someone better. But seeing that kind of energy, that kind of artistry, up on the stage…it did bring back memories. One of these days…
Got a wonderful surprise on my birthday: several hardcopies of “The Earth Is All That Lasts” showed up from my publisher. Thanks, Shahid! I like ebooks, I read them all the time, but there really is nothing like the trill of seeing your name on the glossy cover of a beautiful, thick, honest-to-goodness paper book. Whee!
And they are so much easier to autograph than the digital version! <smirk>
It’s Nov. 8-10, and I’ll be there, bragging about my latest short story sale to the e-zine “Intergalactic Medicine Show.” It’s a near-future SF piece called “Into the Desolation.” It will run sometime next spring, probably the March issue, but I’ll post when I have the definite info. It takes place in a small desert town on the edge of The Time Wastes, where time has fractured and you never know when you’ll wind up.
TusCon is a great little con, not huge so you get a more intimate experience, a chance to visit with the pros, take part in the costume competition, etc. Find out more here:
I’ll be on a two-part panel on time travel–very apropos, considering the story I just sold! Oh–and Part II is on Friday, while Part I is on Sunday. Should be interesting.
I’m also tickled that my trilogy will be coming back into print early next year. “The Earth Is All That Lasts” is in process, and I’m proofing the galley for “Children of the Earth” now. Again, no definite pub dates yet, but I’ll post when I have them.
See you at TusCon!
It was 60 degrees when I woke up this morning, the first time the temperatures in Tucson have dropped that low since last May. Ahhh! I don’t care if it gets up to 90 today, autumn is coming. We’re on the cusp.
I’ve been semi-retired–not from writing, of course–since last November, and although it wasn’t my idea, I have to say I like these 5-day weekends. And now that the weather is moderating, I’m looking forward to spending more time outside. There’s not much yard space in my 10-per-acre lot, but I’ve acquired a new outdoor hobby: walking the neighborhood picking up trash. Really. I take a grocery bag, wear a rubber glove, and get a bit of bending and stretching to go with my heel-strikes. (Woman over 30, pay attention–you need load-bearing exercise and heel-strikes to preserve your bones.) I read somewhere that neighborhoods that are well-kept and show pride of place have less trouble with litter, so I think of it as creating a milieu that breeds a better milieu, but that’s not why I do it. Truth be known, I’m something of a compulsive personality. A place for everything and everything in its place. (My mother would laugh–she remembers my bedroom when I was growing up. I was *not* a neat freak.)
So with this extra time on my hands, am I writing more books? Tons of short stories? Not really. I have a stockpile I’m trying to sell, so I spend a lot of time editing existing works and sending out queries. And waiting. I hate waiting. Waiting is not my strong suit.
But I have a new book idea germinating, an SF/Fantasy novel that has reminded me of the second most important question in writing fiction. The first, of course, is: What if…? The second is: Why? Why do the characters do what they do? Why does the action take place here and not there? And why should the reader care?
Much to ponder.
I cut 16,000 words out of the novel I’m editing, and now I need to let it sit for a while. I also just got the digital galley for “The Earth Is All That Lasts,” which is coming out as an ebook from Phoenix Pick, and I’m…stalling before I start on it. Just don’t feel like getting my head into that today. And I’m still fiddling with the ending of a short story and have to let that rest again, too. So what better time to post on my blog?
But let’s skip the writing topics and talk family for a minute. Our younger daughter and her husband are opening a brewpub in Prescott Valley, AZ–exciting times! More news when I have it. And our other son-in-law is applying for a position in the same town. Wouldn’t it be nice to have them all so close by? My husband retires soon. We’ll be able to travel more, spend a little time helping the kids with their exciting projects.
Writers never really retire. Sometimes I get discouraged and think I should, but then I get back into a novel or short story I’m working on and I get all wrapped up in it again. Then I know I’ll never quit. Now, if I could just find an agent who believed in me who didn’t retired, die, or leave the agency…. Yeah, I know, helps if I put queries in the mail. Another thing on my to-do list, right after proofing “The Earth Is All That Lasts.”
I made it till almost 8:30 this morning with all the windows open. Then I could feel the house getting warmer, so I closed everything and turned on the AC. Welcome to Tucson.
I’ve been editing a novel I wrote in 1997. It’s amazing how things have changed in the past 15 years. The Internet was new, and the characters use a dial-up connection. People think one of the characters looks like Antonio Banderas because he has a ponytail. Another character makes a joke about Loni Anderson. Do readers today even know who Loni Anderson is? I think they’ll remember the A Team, but I’m not sure.
Back to work.
I’ve had a request for more information on “Mother Grimm.” It was a finalist for the Phillips K. Dick Award in 1997 (that’s right, folks, I didn’t win Dick), and you’ll find a brief write-up on my web site under Publications. Or you can check it out at amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Grimm-Catherine-Wells/dp/1612421156/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364068599&sr=1-1&keywords=mother+grimm