Utah is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. From barren deserts to looming granite mountains that scratch the sky, from the majesty that is Arches National Park to the bizarre formations of Goblin valley. During the stay at home order, my family has been doing more exploring of the wild to stave off cabin fever.
The goal of many hikes in Utah is to reach a summit or stunning outlook. The hike itself is usually uphill and starts in one of the many valleys or canyon floors. From the canyon floor your view is limited to the walls of the canyon itself, which can be quite dramatic, but isn’t what you’re there for. You’re there for the view at the top of the hill.
These trails can range from sun baked expanses to tree choked narrow pathways. They can rise up and over huge distances or climb jagged rock. Often they snake back and forth up the side of a hill too steep to climb otherwise.
While on the trail, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the trail itself. This is especially true when the trail is less than lovely or too hot. Countless feet of the people who came before you keep the dirt beneath your feet bare. Sometimes the sun beats down on your back and your legs burn with the effort to keep stepping forward on an unending uphill climb. Sometimes there are people you are traveling with that aren’t thrilled to be there.
But, when you get to the top it’s everything you wanted and more. Even more so, it’s better because you worked hard to get there.
Dearest readers, this situation we’re in is very much like climbing a steep uphill trail. We are in a narrow canyon between two mountains and it’s hard to see where we are going and how long it will take to get there. We aren’t sure if the lookout will be worth it. The trail is difficult with plenty of switchbacks and rocks to stumble over.
Let me encourage you to find beauty in the trail itself. Since we don’t know how long we might be on this journey or how many miles we have to go, it’s a good time to find ways to find joy along the path.
And if you can, get out somewhere beautiful while you do it. Let this be a time of self discovery.
Mornings are cold in the desert, and in the early months of the year, they try to hold to that coolness until the sun wins. Visiting Goblin Valley is an experience in extremes. There is soft sand and hard sculpted rock, hot sun and cool shade, energetic kids and tired parents, really tired parents.
The most unique draw of the park is its alien-like “goblins” called hoodoos which result from the uneven erosion of the sandstone by wind and water. Down in the valley, these hoodoos form sculptures and mazes, as you approach the far edges, the hoodoos get larger and combine into a wall that stretches into a butte.
Fun fact, part of Galaxy Quest was filmed there. The whole business with retrieving the Kryllion sphere from the alien planet and the battle with the rock monster? Totally been there. Be jealous.
If you want to visit Goblin Valley, keep the following in mind:
It’s a desert. No really. See all that dirt, sand, and sky? You’ll fry here if you’re not prepared. Bring lots of water and a big hat. I prefer a water backpack because having my hands free is super important. I’d rather not end up flat on my face if I trip. Wear sunscreen, even if you’re that random person who never burns, do it anyway. Blame it on me if you have to.
Early spring and late fall are best. I prefer early spring because the sharp weeds aren’t thorny yet and the temperatures are nicer. Dress in layers. It might be a brisk 55 when you start and well over 100 when you leave. Also, it takes a few hours, if not half the day, to haul a family to the other side and back. Pack food, bandaids, and all the patience you can muster.
All said, it’s truly an incredible place. I might set a story here …
For every single person the path leading to fulfillment and success looks different. Some prefer small consistent goals, some crave the big marathon push, and then there’s Jared Quan. Known around the Utah writing community as the guy who gets stuff done (and never sleeps), he often shares his favorite quote:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Jared is the champion of volunteering. Every year he donates countless hours, well into the hundreds, giving his time, his ideas, and his drive to the organizations he loves. Today, he shares his story with us.
I Rolled a Life Changing 20 and You Can Too.
By: Jared Quan
Four years ago, my second book “Changing Wax” was published.
I had accomplished my lifelong dream, and no one had any idea who I was.
Getting published was a massive struggle that took nine years to happen, and I
was exhausted. Antsy to do something, but not ready to take on another book, I
had an epiphany. I would use my knowledge and experience to make it my mission
to help people achieve their dreams. I had no idea what that single decision
would lead to.
After talking it through with my wife and we figured out
that I could volunteer a couple hours a week. I went out looking for ways to get
involved. Which was not nearly as easy as it sounded. I stumbled into my first
opportunity after taking a shot in the dark and emailing the Mayor of West
Jordan. Mayor Rolfe recommend that I join the West Jordan Arts Council. Shortly
after I was appointed to the West Jordan Arts Council by the West Jordan city
council. Serving on the Literary Committee under an amazing Literary Arts Chair
John Pulver, I started to learn the ropes on how to do more in the community.
At the exact same time this was happening I met Johnny
Worthen who recommend that I check out the League of Utah Writers. During my
very first meeting with the Oquirrh Chapter it was announced by Chapter
President Eliza Crosby that they needed a new Vice President, after a massive
internal debate (and texts from my wife encouraging me to volunteer), I
volunteered. Under Eliza, I was starting to learn about how the League worked
and what things I could do to help.
I worked on a few projects with the Arts Council and the
League which embolden me to find some additional small projects. I volunteered
to help author David Armstrong at the Davis County Fair, volunteered to help acclaimed
artist Roger Whiting at the DIY Festival, helped staff the League table at LTUE
and Storymakers. I started to figure out how much time I could spend on
projects and started to figure out how to better utilize the resources I have
Fast forward to today, after dozens and dozens of projects,
and events, I am now on five non-profit boards (League of Utah Writers,
Storymakers, Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan, Eagle Mountain Arts
Alliance, and Big World Network), I work four jobs (VLCM, Lyft, Real Salt Lake,
and being an author), and spend time with my wife and five kids. My mission
transformed into a passion, and then into a dream. I get to help people every
day reach their dreams.
As you can see, I didn’t get into volunteering to gain
position or rewards other than seeing people succeed. However, I discovered
that volunteering selflessly was like rolling a 20-sided dice over and over.
The number would randomly throw unexpected rewards. The key being that the service
had to be selfless.
Like a waking dream I found myself sitting in front of
hundreds of people at the LTUE conference 2019. I was sitting off to the side
waiting for my turn to be a special guest with the Writing Excuses Podcast. I
had rolled a 20, and I was being honored with a tremendous opportunity. I knew
however, that even in this moment, it wasn’t about me, it was an opportunity to
help others find ways to figure out what I had found out.
I watch as special guest Natasha Ence and Rosalyn Collings
Eves, do an amazing job on the podcast. Then it was my turn to sit with the
amazing team of Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard
Tayler. We talked about volunteering and ways to find opportunities to
volunteer. It was amazing.
When people had found out that I had selected to be on
Writing Excuses, everyone asked how I had accomplished such a thing. I told
people that I wasn’t sure, but I was honored to have such an opportunity, and
talk about selflessly volunteering.
Everyday I wake up and live my dream of helping people. If you add the goal, mission or passion of helping people by volunteering (not just in the writing community), you will be rolling a 20 side dice that will change your life. It will help you accomplish amazing things and give you opportunities beyond your imagination. I have to thank all the amazing people for giving me the chance to volunteer and taking a chance on me. You just have to take a chance on yourself and volunteer. I would love to see you out there.
About today’s guest –
Jared Quan is a video game addict and writer published in genres from Spy-Thriller to Horror/Supernatural, to Fantasy-Comedy. His work includes Ezekial’s Gun, Changing Wax, Classified, Pathological Passion, (Futuristic/Romance/Steampunk, which he co-wrote with his wife), Unclassified, and Prepped (a story in the Apocalypse Utah anthology).
He has extensively served the community in roles from the President for the League of Utah Writers, Board Member of the Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan, Grants Director of the Eagle Mountain Arts Alliance, Executive Director of Big World Network, Chair of the West Jordan Arts Council, serving on the Utah Poet Laureate Selection Committee, Recruiting Chair of the Association of IT Professional Utah Chapter, as well as serving as a general volunteer for countless events and organizations.
Jared was given the Gold Volunteer Service Award by the President of the United States for his over 1,500 hours of service to the writing community from 2015 to 2017. He has also received recognition and awards from the Governor and Lt. Governor of Utah for his volunteering.
He lives in Eagle Mountain with his supportive wife and five children.
Changing Wax is an action adventure comedy, taking place in the fantasy world of Wax, which resides just seven hundred sixty-two thousand, five hundred twenty-two million and five light years from Earth (give or take half a light year depending on Earth’s rotation). Wax revolves around rules established in the ancient Master Book of Magic, rules that don’t always follow basic logic or sanity. The story follows three adventurers: Gorath the misfortunate monk who can’t seem to get anything right, Odd Drip the Imp who is too smart for his own good, and Thomas Twostead, a teenage girl born on the wrong side of Wax’s never-ending war between Light and Dark. In the end, their teaming up might decide the fate of the world, while seemingly defying the will of the Master Book of Magic. Or are they…?
Tales of wise, ancient dragons hoarding treasure, terrorizing villages, and doing battle with noble heroes have long fascinated us. But dragons were not born old and wise, nor were heroes born brave and noble.Wings of Change gathers tales of young dragons growing into their scales and claws, and human youths making choices that shape their destinies – destinies that will be forever changed by their interaction with the dragons that share their world.
My story “Saffron Dragon” is about a blind Bangladeshi girl who discovers a dragon lives in her dreams. She must learn to both trust herself and the dragon to find her place in the world.
Tonight is the launch party for Stonebearer’s Betrtayal and I can think of no better way to celebrate than to have family, friends, and fantasy lovers come and enjoy food and fun together.
At 7pm, I will be reading a selection from Stonebearer’s Betrayal followed by time for those attending to ask questions. The signing will begin immediately afterwards. Books are available on site for purchase. There will also be a sword display courtesy of Wasatch Historical European Martial Arts, and prizes.
Come join Us!
Tonight, Friday November 16, 2018 from 7-9pm at:
The Printed Garden
9445 S Union Sq, Ste A, Sandy, Utah 84070
(closest intersection: 700 E and 9400 S)
5×7″ Leather journal with rosewood pen
4×6″ Leather journal with rosewood pen
Earthenware mug with patterned cloth wall hanging and custom pendant
Earthenware mug with patterned cloth wall hanging and custom pendant
Having a creative outlet in today’s busy modern life is a wonderful way to relieve stress, find greater fulfillment, and meet new people. Today we are talking to author Rachel Huffmire about how writing has influenced her life for the better.
Rachel and I met because of our mutually shared passion for the written word. We both are Immortal Works authors and we both have books coming out soon. In addition, we both are moms who work hard to find an ideal balance between filling our creative wells and spending time with our families.
Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu on Unsplash
My big question for Rachel is:
How has writing influenced you to be a better person?
Learning to write is a great form of self-discovery! One of the first books I read about the craft was called “If you want to write” by Brenda Ueland. Ueland taught me I didn’t need to go to extraordinary lengths to be a good writer—I don’t have to spend a summer abroad, I don’t have to try Thai food (though that was a happy discovery)… I merely had to be honest about the way I saw my immediate world. So, I started to look deeper into the things I found commonplace. I realized how cool my life actually was! I grew up as a homeschooler in Utah, surrounded by wheat fields, raising a pet duck named Penelope… To me that was normal. To others, apparently, it was super interesting!
Writing also taught me to appreciate living in a whole new way. When you decide to become a creator of any kind, you absolutely must be deliberate about the way you observe, interact, and sense the world around you. In “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, she talks about filling up a creative well to draw from by engaging your senses while seeking out a spectrum of emotions and details around you – not just the pleasant or comfortable ones. I learned to write three daily pages of subconscious jabber to get all the inhibitions, fears, and tasks out of my way so I can produce stories without being blocked by inner negativity. In an online interview, Liz Lemon Swindle recounted how her mentor told her she could become a professional artist in ten years. Liz said she would push herself and get there in a year, but her mentor replied with “It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of life.” I’ve been writing consistently for seven years now, and am so grateful for the struggles, joys, and experiences that have stretched me over that time. All of it. The good, the bad, and the new.
Writing also teaches me to live life deliberately. I’m a homeschool mom to two little boys and I make sure that writing always comes second to them. If I want to be as prolific as I hope I can be, I have to be very careful not to spend too much time engaged in things that don’t matter. And finally, writing has led me to some wonderful friendships that have shaped and changed my life for the better. Writers are some of the most friendly and encouraging bunch of people you’ll ever meet. Basically, writing taught me to embrace the life around me and savor every little piece of it, then figure out how to write it down in a way that others can enjoy it too.
Rachel Huffmire works as a novelist and acquisitions editor for Immortal Works Press. You can find her in Southern California where she enjoys sand at its finest: the beach and the desert. She homeschools her two little boys, writes science fiction and fantasy novels, and reads bedtime stories to her husband every night. Her first novel, Shattered Snow, will be released on January 8, 2019.
More about Rachel’s upcoming debut novel, Shattered Snow
In 2069, time-travel is restricted to observation and research. But Keltson Grammar doesn’t mind breaking a few laws. Known only as “The Mirror”, Keltson runs an underground empire that rescues unfortunate souls throughout history. However, a single misstep could send an entire agency to reinstate his clients to their original dismal fates.
Lilia Vaschenko is a Russian mechanic surrounded by cinderblock towers, ladders she cannot climb, and a glass ceiling that holds her down like a casket. She’ll do anything to escape— even work for the world’s most wanted renegade.
Margaretha is a young countess, destined to be poisoned at twenty-one. But when she discovers a mysterious mirror in the woods that transforms the world into shadows and ice, her future shatters. Chased from her familiar home, will she ever find where she truly belongs?
Shattered Snow is a YA science-fiction retelling of Snow White. It is based on the real-life history of Margaretha von Waldeck, a sixteenth-century countess that may have inspired the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale.
Release Day for Stonebearer’s Betrayal is coming up next week! I can’t tell you how exciting it is for this day to finally come. For those of you (wonderful people!) who preordered, your copies will be shipped to you or delivered to your e-readers on Nov 13th.
Want your own copy? Head on over to Amazon or your favorite online book retailer today!
Want a signed copy? Head over to my online store!
Utah locals! Come celebrate with me at the Stonebearer’s Betrayal Launch Party next Friday, November 16th, from 7-9pm at The Printed Garden in Sandy (9445 S Union Sq, Ste A, Sandy, Utah 84070). There will be fun, food, and prizes!
It’s FanX weekend and the streets of downtown Salt Lake have transformed from uptight and respectable to downright weird. This season’s characters are heavily from the Marvel universe. Everywhere you look there’s a Gamora or Peter Quill. Dozens of Tenth Doctor are mixed in with a healthy assortment of stormtroopers wander through the food courts.
And I’m all for it.
In 2015 you would find me wandering the con as a snooty General Kala accompanying the fabulous Emperor Ming. Probably one of our most ambitions costumes of all time. We spent many weekends sewing and piecing together the intricate designs. We even entered the costume contest and were invited to the stage show as finalists in the group division. By the way, if you haven’t watched the 1980 Flash Gordon, you’re missing out.
In 2016, we took out cosplay in a different direction and tried out large-scale puppetry, with a Miyazaki character affectionately known as No Face. The perk of a puppet is that hubby and I could trade who wore the puppet and who acted as the handler to make sure No Face didn’t accidentally walk into a wall or trip on anything on the floor. We designed him to grow, so at random he’d jump up to over 12 feet tall and startle anyone we happened to be nearby. He could also shrink down to about 3 feet and interact with kids.
Tall No Face
Mini No Face
This year we will be bringing No Face again on Friday only as he is a crowd favorite. We would have loved creating a new costume but this year has been super crazy with the kids getting older, huge projects coming to fruition, and, well, life.
If you are at FanX this weekend, give a shout out in the comments. Even better, if you are cosplaying this weekend, tell me all about it! I’d love to hear what your favorite characters are.
Brief writing update –
We finalized the cover for my book this week, stay tuned for the big reveal!
Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. I’ll follow back. Pick your favorite platform, either here on WordPress, or you can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Look closely at this sign, see if you notice anything strange or out of the ordinary. There, you see it? Yes, that’s a T-rex on the sign, which is apparently yet another traffic hazard here in the Western US along with traffic cones and rattlesnakes. I have yet to spot one in my travels, I hear they are shy, and tend to only come out to feed. Some say they are more afraid of us than we are of them, although with the size difference it’s hard to say. I’d personally avoid them, too many teeth and man eating tendencies for me.
I found this sign outside of the new Natural History Museum of Utah, nestled up in the foothills of the Wasatch range of the Rocky Mountains. The museum is located right next to the Bonneville Shoreline trail, which contrary to its name doesn’t actually run along a body of water, but refers to the ancient and long gone Lake Bonneville which used to cover a good part of the state of Utah. Instead, the trail offers terrific views of the valley floor and is a favorite among trail walkers and bikers alike.
The museum itself is a must see with huge dynamic exhibits that cover the full spectrum of life on earth from the dinosaurs all the way up to modern biology. My kids love the hands on exhibits and the onsite paleontology lab where they can watch real scientists work on real dinosaur bones. I love the ease and accessibility of the different exhibits and how they flow from one to the next, bringing the visitor from the darkest recesses of prehistory all the way to the present day. That, and the dinosaur exhibit is pretty awesome.
If you plan on coming, prepare to spend several hours – there’s plenty to see and do for everyone. Just watch out for those pesky T- Rexes, they tend to take a bite out of your day!