Sandworms of Dune

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

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The Other Side of the Deadline

First off, allow me to say with great relief, "Ahhhhhhh."

Late Sunday evening I finished proofreading the pages for SANDWORMS OF DUNE, then consolidated all of my changes and corrections with the 90+ pages faxed by Brian and all the glitches caught by our other proofreader. Then I packaged the whole stack, ready to be FedExed off to Tor Books in the morning.

Now all I had to worry about was the final 300 pages of editing on LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON.

Monday morning my brother-in-law and frequent vigorous hiking partner Tim headed off with me to spend five days in Moab, Utah, about a seven-hour drive from where we live. Moab is the site of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as vast panoramas of gorgeous desert scenery not even within the park boundaries. We have our favorite lodge right on the Colorado River surrounded by towering red cliffs -- a perfect serene place to work, and also a great basecamp for long hikes during the day.

We arrived at the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands at around 2 PM, with plenty of time to do several smaller hikes for a total of eight miles (through deep canyons to an isolated spring, then up a dramatic butte to the ruins of old granaries left by Pueblo Indians, then ascending a striking mound of slickrock called Whale Rock). We ate dinner at our favorite all-you-can-eat pizza place in town, then checked into the lodge. I was able to get several hours of KRYPTON editing done that night.

Next morning, I edited for an hour before we left for the day's nine-mile hike in Canyonlands, from the top of the Island in the Sky mesa, down the sheer cliff wall and out to a major landform called Murphy Hogback, which overlooked even deeper canyons. The Murphy Hogback is one of the most difficult parts on a famous 100+ mile-long 4WD road called the White Rim Road, which Tim and I had driven last April. It was great to hike down to the spot where we had had lunch on that other epic drive. During the hike, I dictated five chapters in "Seven Suns #7". Arriving back at the lodge, I spent four hours in the evening editing KRYPTON. The book was due in two days, and I still had 120 pages left.

Wednesday I spent the morning editing, and Tim and I took a break for a few hours for what should have been a quick hike along Moab's challenging "Slickrock Bike Trail" -- an area I had never seen before in a dozen trips to Moab. This was a breathtaking area of petrified sand dunes for as far as the eye could see, seemingly thousands of acres of swells and canyons and gaps. Mountain bikers (we called them "crazy people") raced up and down impossible slopes and around steep swells, following dotted white lines painted on the rock for miles and miles. We were just hiking, but even that was exhausting. We ate our sandwiches in a cave that looked out like a picture window on the snow-capped La Sal Mountains. Back at the lodge in the afternoon, I worked for more hours, nearing the home stretch. Nothing fancy for dinner, just a can of ravioli, and then back to more editing. By 11 PM I had finished the manuscript, and dutifully e-mailed it off to the editors.

Feeling an immense relief -- at last, elbow room in the deadlines -- I was able to enjoy the much more gruelling hike the next day without feeling that I should be hunched over the computer. For the last epic hike of the trip, Tim and I chose to do the Syncline Loop, walking all the way around a gigantic six-mile-diameter crater at the end of Island in the Sky.

Geologists are still arguing whether the crater was caused by a collapsed salt dome or a meteor impact. It made a great and strenuous hike, eight miles around the steep and jagged rim of the crater, spiraling down the inner wall like a marble going down a big funnel. Once we reached the bottom, we took a 3-mile spur trail that led to the very heart of the crater. There, we sat in the shade under an overhang by a trickling spring, with droplets of water oozing out of the rock, and ate our lunches. By the time we began the second half of the hike, climbing back out of the crater for the next five miles, the heat of the day began to grow oppressive. Climbing up one canyon, we saw a delightful clear stream that left deep and transparent pools, perfect for swimming. Tim suggested we take a dip to cool off; which sounded like a good idea, although the water was still snowmelt runoff with a few chunks of ice and snow upstream. It was breathtakingly cold, and refreshing. We saw only a few other hikers all day long. The last few miles were arduous, but the difficulty was offset by the scenery that seemed to get more breathtaking around every corner -- more trickling waterfalls, immense skyscrapers of tan Navajo sandstone, tamarisk and cottonwood oases, fallen blocks of red rock, sheer canyons, and a perfect blue sky. I managed to dictate another four chapters in "Seven Suns."

Now, in the lodge again, I've caught up on all the e-mail and several smaller outlines and notes. But at last the pressure has eased, and I feel much more relaxed than I have been in some time. The remaining deadlines are manageable!

-- KJA


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