Sunday, April 29, 2012

Being a Writer in the Age of eBooks

This is the weekend of the Malice Domestic Conference for readers and writers of the traditional mystery. I've gone to Malice twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times, mostly because I met up with other Guppies there.

The first time was not too long after I started writing my own mysteries. I knew very little about writing at that point and soaked up all the information like the proverbial sponge. I was impressed at meeting actual published writers in person. I was also overwhelmed because I was new and it is a large conference.

The second time was when my friend Sheila Connolly, writing as Sarah Atwell, was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel in 2008. Sheila and I were in the same Guppies critique group before she got her first book contract. I knew from the start that she was the best writer in the group and it wouldn't be long before she'd be published. Oddly enough, her first contract was a work-for-hire series for Berkley Prime Crime set in Tucson, Arizona. Now, I had just moved to Tucson then and Sheila had never been here. (I don't think she'll mind my writing that in public at this point.) She peppered me with questions for the book and I turned to my newly-met coworkers and asked them for information so she could describe the setting accurately.

Both times I imagined that one day I'd be on the new authors panel or going from table to table at Malice-Go-Round pitching my book(s) to readers or accepting an Agatha teapot. I envied those who would be having dinner with their agent or editor. They were part of the club.

Four years later, I doubt that I'll ever join that club. It's not that I no longer aspire to be a published writer. It's just that I have no desire to join the ranks of the traditionally published.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Yellow Season

Recently I went on the wildflower walk at Tohono Chul Park. I was looking forward to it this year because the combination of copious early winter rain and a warmer than normal winter promised an early and lovely wildflower season. According to the docent, the Tohono O'odham called this time of year The Yellow Season because of all the beautiful yellow wildflowers.

 Above you can see a section of the park with the numerous yellow flowered plants. In addition to those above, there are sundrops:


 Prickly pear cactus:

And desert marigolds:




Not all of the flowers are yellow. In among the yellow flowers, we also have the red of Baja fairydusters, popular with hummingbirds:



And there's also this gorgeous purple plant, whose name I don't remember:



After the walk, we noticed many of the flowers we'd seen at the park along the roadside as we drove home. The Sonoran Desert is beautiful this time of year, surprising me frequently with the lovely flowers that pop up as weeds. Every day there seems to be something new.

I saw some lovely white flowers growing by the roadside as I drove to church this morning. And I'm watching the saguaro cactus and eagerly awaiting the blooms that should soon appear. I've seen a touch of purple on the Texas Rangers, a promise that they, too, will join the party.

I don't have any more to say about the wildflowers. I'll just let the desert speak for itself today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Old Tucson Studios

One of the bonuses of having out of town visitors is that I get to go see places that are uniquely Tucson either for the first time or for a return visit. That happened this week with a trip to Old Tucson Studios. Back in my childhood, westerns, both movies and television shows, were extremely popular. America had a love affair with the Old West. Many of these films and television shows were shot in whole or in part at Old Tucson. As the popularity of westerns faded, so did the movie studio on the west side of Tucson. But recently the owners have done some refurbishing with the hopes of attracting more filmmakers and I was curious to see what it looked like now.

We arrived early and took the first tour of the day, led by the cowboy you see here. His knowledge of the history of the studio and western movies was amazing. He's had small parts in several of the movies made at Old Tucson and met many of the major stars over his years there.

In the background you can see a mountain (and a saguaro cactus, but this isn't about cactus). According to the guide, this is the signature mountain of Old Tucson Studios and appears in every film made there. And there have been a lot of them.

The western town was built in 1939 for the movie Arizona, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. It was five years before the set was used for another movie. The Bells of Saint Mary's in 1945 brought new awareness of the location and it became popular for filming. Some of the films made during its heyday were Broken Arrow, Winchester 73, the original 3:10 to Yuma, Gunfight at the OK Corral, Cimarron, Rio Bravo, McClintock, Hombre, Rio Lobo, The Outlaw Josie Wales, and Three Amigos.

As you can tell by the titles, John Wayne filmed several movies at Old Tucson. James Stewart, Glenn Ford, and Paul Newman have walked its streets.

In addition to movies, several popular television shows have shot at Old Tucson Studios. Michael Landon donated props from Little House on the Prairie, some of which are inside the house shown at right.

The High Chaparral ranch is still there. Other television shows that used the set are Gunsmoke and Wagon Train.

It's pretty amazing to stand in the streets where some of your childhood heroes have stood. Sometimes it felt as if at any moment John Wayne would ride down the street or Jimmy Stewart might come out of the doors to the courthouse.

There's been some resurgence in the popularity of Westerns lately. Our guide mentioned some recent filmings at the studio, including a Russian music video. Yeah, it struck us as weird, too.

As I've said before, I love cowboys and the Old West. If you do, too, a visit to Old Tucson Studios is well worth your time.