Friday, June 27, 2008

Random desert shot--missionary John

(March 2008)

Last March, as William and I were driving down Adobe Road in 29 Palms, we stopped to talk with John A. Dillon of American Missionary Ministries. John walks miles a day a carrying the cross as part of his ministry. William and I held the cross--it was heavy, luckily on wheels. John didn't have a sun hat or water. That's what I call dedication!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


(Sedona 2005)

Sedona is a magical little town in the central Arizona high desert, a few hours drive south of the Grand Canyon. In 1901, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Schnebly made the trek from Missouri and founded the city, named after Theodore's wife, Sedona.

Since Sedona is at an elevation of 4,500 feet, it's cooler than the low desert. Scenic Oak Creek, a shady retreat, runs through the town. An hour's drive away, as you wind into the mountains, is the quaint, historical mining town of Jerome that makes you feel like you're living in the last century.

On our 2005 trip to Sedona we stayed at the beautiful new Amara Resort and Spa. The grounds, nestled next to Oak Creek, are peaceful and ambient. The beds are very comfortable. The staff is friendly and helpful. An elegant restaurant is on site.

The red rock formations around Sedona are spectacular--a hiker's paradise--as well as the pine-covered mountains of the surrounding Cococino National Forest.

Nothing to do with the kids? Visit Slide Rock State Park with natural pools and water slides. Check the conditions first. At times the park is shut down due to high bacteria levels. We didn't encounter that.

Sedona is dramatic, romantic, one of our favorite places. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Desert Institute summer classes

Yes, there is life in the California desert in summer! The Desert Institute, sponsored by the Joshua Tree National Park Association, offers this interesting summer fare:

Joshua Tree Songs

Join John Malcolm Penn for an evening concert under the stars at the Old School House Museum! Penn, an accomplished folksinger and songwriter, will be performing from his "Songs of the Joshua Tree National Park" CD.

Date/Time: Friday, June 13, 7 p.m.

Location: Old Schoolhouse Museum, 6760 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms

Fee: $5 at the door, open to the public.

Native American Ethnography – Reshaping History and Creating the Future

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn firsthand from experts, tribal elders and culture bearers about the history and future of American’s indigenous peoples.

Date/Time: Tuesdays, June 17 – July 22, 1:30 p.m.

Location: Cal State San Bernardino, 37-500 Cook St., Palm Desert

Fee: $100, open to the public

Amazing Desert Insects

Did you know that insects can survive in temperatures of over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade with little to no water? Join Kurt Leuschner to learn about the lives of the largest group of animals in the world.

Date/Time: Monday, July 14, 6:30 p.m.

Location: Palm Springs Public Library, 300 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs

Fee: Free and open to the public

Be Fruitful and Multiply: Insect Lifecycles

There is more to insect life cycles than meets the eye! Join Stefanie Ritter, M.S. zoology, botany, and genetics, to learn about the amazing biological transformation of insects.

Date/Time: Wednesday, July 23 3 p.m.

Location: Palm Springs Public Library, 300 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs

Fee: Free and open to the public

For further information, contact the Desert Institute at (760) 367-5535 or Visit their new, improved website at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Backspace Writers Conference in NYC--August 7-8, 2008

from the California desert to mid-town Manhattan...

I attended the Backspace Conference last year after I was awarded a scholarship based on submitting chapters of my novel manuscript, Edge of the Mirage. Backspace is a wonderful writers organization. Its members include new writers and bestselling authors. The conference is a good place for learning, honing your craft, and networking. Backspace members are a welcoming bunch and a lot of fun! I'll be back in NYC for another conference in the future.

The 2008 Backspace Writers Conference (August 7 & 8, Radisson Martinique, New York City) brings together literary agents, acquisitions editors, best-selling authors, and publishing professionals for a two-day, two-track program of workshops, panels, and networking in the heart of the publishing world.

In addition to keynote talks by Mark Tavani, a senior editor at Random House, and New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, program highlights include a conversation with Simon Lipskar and Mark Tavani on agents and editors working together, a marketing discussion by M.J. Rose, a workshop from independent editor Jerry Gross on finding and working with a reputable book doctor, a role-playing workshop from Jeff Kleinman: “Buy This Book!”, agent and editor panel discussions, and panels on the young adult market, short stories, memoir, nonfiction, crime fiction, children’s picture books, and more.

Attendance is limited to 200. $355 for Backspace members; $395 for non-members. In addition, Mystery Writers of America is offering their members a special discount. Register here.

Literary Agents: Richard Curtis, Simon Lipskar, Jeff Kleinman, Emmanuelle Alspaugh, Paige Wheeler, Laney Katz Becker, Jenny Bent, Maya Rock, Michael Bourret, Scott Hoffman, Ronnie Gramazio, Elisabeth Weed, Stephany Evans, and others

Authors: M.J. Rose, Harry Hunsicker, Jason Pinter, Jackie Kessler, Heather Brewer, Gail Konop Baker, Laurel Corona, Lisa McMann, Jenny Gardiner, Danielle Younge-Ullman, Claudia Gray, Marlys Pearson, Jessica Keener, Elizabeth Letts, A.S. King, Robin Slick, Susan Henderson, Pam Jenoff, Trish Ryan, Leora Skolkin-Smith, Caroline Leavitt, Reed Farrel Coleman, Chris Grabenstein, William Powers

Editors and Other Publishing Professionals: Hilary Rubin Teeman (editor, St. Martin's), Charis Conn (contributing editor, Harper's Magazine), Kristen Weber (senior editor, New American Library), Bella Stander, Jerry Gross, Lauren Cerand, Eileen Winnick

"Backspace is relatively new but it's the real deal - which is amply proved both by the quality of discourse within and the truly amazing hit-rate its members have already achieved."Lee Child, New York Times best-selling author

"I love being associated with you guys. Such a class act. Backspace is the pre-eminent writers organization because you guys have made it so. Always innovating, thinking outside the box, and just generally doing conferences bigger and better than they have been done before. I'm just honored to have been there from the start." – Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency

"I mention Backspace whenever I teach my writers' workshop around the country. The yearly Backspace conference is an invaluable resource. I've taught there and can’t say enough good things about the information, encouragement, and enthusiasm they provide." – David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author

From Attendees:

"I have never had such an excellent time at a conference! The presenters were uniformly accessible and pleasant. The overall mood was also excellent."

"The workshop was so well organized and run. Bravo to all of you who worked to pull together a truly remarkable event, well worth the price of admission!"

"The superlatives just flow whenever I try to describe my experience at the conference. I can't say enough or thank you enough. Superb. As I keep telling folks, it's impossible to convey what I took away from the experience, because the most valuable things are the intangibles."

"It was the best writing conference I've ever attended on all dimensions - the amount of new information, real contact with other writers and people in the industry, and the level of truth-telling made it stand out."

"I thought the conference was absolutely fantastic. The informal atmosphere and seriousness of intent combined into an exciting, very useful, very enjoyable weekend of talks and panels. I learned so much, met so many wonderful people, and got a far stronger handle on how to market my work. Many, many thanks."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

General campsite information--Joshua Tree National Park

Reader Dana asked about camping in JTNP. I've camped at Sheep Pass (a group campsite) and Indian Cove, both great sites. In fact, there's not a bad camping spot in the park.

Here's some general campsite information: Indian Cove and Black Rock are wonderful, scenic campsites located off of Highway 62, outside the main park boundaries. To access the central area of the park you'd need to drive or pack in. Indian Cove and Black Rock are the only campsites in the park that take reservations (for stays between the month of September and Memorial Day).

Cottonwood is a campsite at the south entrance to the park, off the beaten path. In the central part of the park, where most of the rock formations and hiking trails are located, you'll find Ryan, Belle, White Tank, and Sheep Pass. Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley are the largest campsites but may grow congested at times. Anywhere you camp in Joshua Tree National Park, the view and atmosphere will be awesome!

I'd advise making reservations as soon as you can for Black Rock or Indian Cove as the sites can get booked early. Since the rest of the sites operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, plan to arrive before a weekend if possible. Holidays and school vacation weeks are very busy as well as the high season: March through May and October through November.

Plan for the weather. Summer temperatures can rise to over 100 degrees. In winter, nighttime temperatures can drop to freezing. For more information or to book a campsite, check out this website.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

sunsets and desert clouds...

(photos March 2008)

(photos November 2007)

Driving home from the desert... beautiful clouds. Watching the sun set over the Moreno Valley.