Category Archives: Research

How I Research New Ideas

824Right now I’m working on researching my current project (the vaulting one, yes). This is exactly the same system I used when researching Anderson Stables, too. So I thought I’d share my process for anyone who may be curious.

Usually the first thing I do when I get an idea for a story in a sport I’m not personally experienced with, is to watch as many videos of and about that sport as I can find. For Anderson Stables that involved watching lots and lots of Grand Prix livestreams and Olympic playbacks. For this new book I’m watching as many vaulting videos as I can find on Youtube.

Next, I always go online and find the official rulebook for both national and international competitions. And then, because I enjoy spending lots of money on paper and ink, I print those out so I always have something physical to reference. And then I read them. In their entirety. Usually to help me fall asleep at night.

Not really though. I do read them, and they can be dull and difficult to read at times, but I find it a very informative experience. I want to make sure I know the little details before I start seriously working on a story, even if all those little details don’t make it into the book.

That’s usually my research strategy for anything I decide to write in my equestrian romance genre. For Anderson Stables I also took a trip down to Florida to experience part of the Winter Equestrian Festival, but I don’t expect to do that very often. Full time jobs and money tend to restrict one’s abilities to take a bunch of trips even when it’s technically for work.

Hey everyone, don’t forget that you have until June 15th to get in any questions you would like to ask of the Anderson Stables cast of characters so I can interview them!

Florida, The End

801Normally a vacation story would end with, “Then we went home.” Not for me. Never for me, actually. I seem to always have issues getting home.

I was supposed to go home on Monday, but I couldn’t. There was a lovely snow storm slamming the east coast on Monday. O’Hare was completely shut down, and, of course, that was where my layover was.

They got me on a flight for Tuesday at the same time as my original flight, and my consolation gift was to be moved to First Class. No hotel room or anything. Yeah it was great.

Being stranded in Miami International Airport for 29 hours was not how I really wanted to end my awesome research trip. That first picture was my view for most of that time (I found a nice little sitting area away from the crowds). Upside was that I got to plot all of the third book and start writing it.

818I honestly don’t know how we even landed at O’Hare on Tuesday. We didn’t come out of the clouds until we were practically on the runway. Thank science for radar because I spent the whole time scared that were were going to hit another plane.

Then we were on the runway for an hour trying to get to a gate. That second picture is the snowplow convoy that never stopped.

I have no idea how we got off the ground when we left, either. After we were stuck at the gate for an hour waiting for a chance to push away because of all the backed-up traffic.

824My trip was tons of fun and I loved it, but I have never been happier to see the Kodak building and good old Rochester.

Florida, Part Four

751Notice I labeled it as “Florida” and not “Wellington?” That’s because we drove over two hours from our hotel to the Kennedy Space Center.

Because we are super nerds.

Also I’ve wanted to visit the place for a very long time. I’ve always been a serious space nerd.

To be honest this is where I spent 95% of the money I spent on this trip. Just getting in cost way more than I had expected, but it was worth it.

787I’m sure it would be boring for most of you to hear all the fun and interesting things I learned there (like that Atlantis is hanging at a 43.21 degree angle and that the stars on the painted flag on the iconic building are 6 feet wide), and I’m sure you don’t want to see the hundred pictures I took.

752But a bus tour out to the separate Saturn V building was included and it took an extra long route (that it supposedly doesn’t usually take) by the launch pads. That may have been what cost so much.

And the guy at the Atlantis building was super cool about sneaking us in the exit so we could skip the 10 minute video and just see the shuttle. He got the Coolest Person I Met All Weekend award.

We ended the day by going back to our hotel room and having the wildest Super Bowl party ever. Here’s the picture as proof.

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(I don’t even like football.)

Want more pictures of the weekend?

Warning: WordPress decided to mess with the arrangement of the pictures so they aren’t in any real order.

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Wellington, Part Three

672Saturday was my favorite day at the show, by far. (I’m not sorry at all about the picture spam.)

The first thing we did was check out the rest of the Eventing Showcase that morning. I had never seen a cross country competition in person, and it was pretty badass.

For those who don’t know, eventing competitions take place in three segments: dressage, cross country, and show jumping. Usually, each stage is a separate day (why it’s also known as three day eventing) and they follow that order. Dressage is the “horse dancing” phase, which takes a lot of concentration and focus. The scoring is totally subjective and based on how well horse and rider executed required movements.659

Cross country takes place over an outdoor track with various types of jumps. These jumps are massive (sometimes the flat table jumps are over six feet wide!) and there are also hills, ditches, and water obstacles. Scores are based on speed and whether or not the horse and rider have any problems with any jumps. This is definitely one of the most dangerous equestrian events. Riders wear inflatable vests that are triggered when they disconnect from the saddle too quickly – basically working like airbags to protect the rider in the event of a bad fall. Riders also carry important medical information on them in case they are involved in a serious accident. Horses are subjected to frequent vet inspections and there are rules about reckless riding. 657There is still a lot of fast riding between obstacles, and it’s no surprise that this is a sport where you actually see a large number of ex-racehorses competing internationally.

The show jumping is usually the third day, and the jumps are smaller than in actual show jumping, even at the highest levels. The horses are usually tired from cross country and jumping more huge jumps wouldn’t be fair to horse or rider. It would be pretty discouraging, really. The horse and rider pairs are ranked and placed based on their combined scores from all three stages.

This was just a showcase event, though, so the cross country course 658was much smaller (in huge events the allowed cross country time can be somewhere around ten minutes for each pair – here it was about half that). So they rearranged the schedule a bit and did the show jumping and cross country in the same day, with the show jumping first. The coolest part was that, after the show jumping was over, we the spectators were allowed to walk around the cross country course to check out the obstacles ourselves. While the riders were out there doing the same. Once the competition started, my friend and I stood ourselves in a great spot near the finish where she got some awesome candid shots of riders, horses, and grooms as they went off the field. My shots were not as good.

674There were no falls or major issues, though one rider did pull up after her horse landed awkwardly. The horse seemed fine, but she still called it quits to be safe, which really goes to show that these riders care about their horses.

It was a really great experience, and it took most of the day, despite the course being so short. Definitely made me want to drive to Kentucky and see Rolex live next year (essentially the biggest eventing competition in the United States if I remember correctly – it was just the last weekend of April).

694Our next adventure was to get to the other equestrian center property and find seats before the Grand Prix. Every Saturday is “Saturday Night Lights” where there is some sort of big event under the floodlights – usually a Grand Prix. This one happened to be an even bigger one than usual and I was so glad we got our seats early. It got packed pretty fast.

I’d never seen a Grand Prix in person before, and it w737as lots more exciting than watching one online (which is still fun, but at least the in person picture never freezes or delays).

It was so easy to get caught up in the excitement around me and I loved it. So utterly silent when it needed to be, but damn could we cheer. And the thing that amused me the most was that I was definitely surrounded by other jumper riders. They seemed to be vicariously riding these horses, especially in the jump off. They made clicking and kissing sounds to encourage the horses on, and said “whoa” when the horses seemed too excited.

706One of the coolest things, though, was being so close to such famous people and horses. I narrowly avoided multiple “fangirl” moments when I recognized riders or horses I was used to only seeing online. Especially when we were just walking around and saw riders also just walking around during some downtime.

Overall, It was so much fun that I didn’t want it to be over. But we decided not to go back to the showgrounds on Sunday because there were no big classes then. Instead, we decided to go on a little road trip and embrace our other nerdy side.

Stay tuned for Part Four!

Wellington, Part Two

637One regret from this trip: we forgot sunscreen. We regretted this after only an hour at the showgrounds.

There weren’t really any big classes on Friday. We really just spent the day wandering around and watching some of the lower level and hunter classes. We also looked at some of the overpriced vendors and ate some even more overpriced food. (The girl at the Tito’s Tacos clearly thought I was weird for wanting onions on my nachos.)

We spent much of the day just taking pictures of the pretty ponies we saw. There were some classes in the International Arena, but the big Grand Prix was Saturday. We did get to see some of the big names of the sport in those classes, which I loved.648

And we heard that there was going to be an eventing showcase (a miniature three-day eventing show) at one of the nearby plots of land that was owned by the same people who owned the main area. So we went for an adventurous drive (stupid GPS took us to the wrong spot first) to find that. We missed the dressage portion, though, and gave up for the day.

Driving around there was a little overwhelming. Our rental car was a very new red thing (I’m not a car person, it may have been a Honda?) and it was still the crappiest thing on the road. And we jokingly called chain stores “commoner stores” when we happened to find one. Everything else was so nice and way out of our price range. It would have been comforting to find a Wegman’s but we were definitely too far south.

So Friday wasn’t all that exciting, but it was still super fun to go watch the ponies jump. Saturday was the super fun day.

Ugh, I’m Sorry!

635I’ve been so busy getting the third book in the series ready for submission (and it’s still not) that I completely forgot to schedule a post for this past Saturday! Count me as a failure already.

(Though I admit it, I was also watching the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event all weekend, too. Lots of super impressive off-track thoroughbreds competed, so it was definitely relevant to my writing.)

I think I’ll start telling you about my research trip as an apology. I can break that into a few posts and cover my butt for this week!

So, in January I went to Wellington, Florida to watch one weekend of the Winter Equestrian Festival. It’s a 12-week-long show that takes place there every year. I went because this is where about 98% of the third book takes place. I wanted a feel for the atmosphere and the layout of the place. It was, by far, one of the best experiences I’ve had.636

Leaving cold New York was wonderful. I was really worried about getting there at first, since it was the end of January and my layover was in Newark, New Jersey. But getting there was good. (Getting home was not, but that’s a story for another post.) I’ve never flown into Newark before, so I was impressed to see New York City and the Statue of Liberty from the air. That was pretty cool.

And when we landed in Miami and I could see palm trees? That was super exciting. Especially when the weather was perfect. This was only the second time I had been to Florida. The first time was when I went to Disney for the first time last year. And it was only my third time flying anywhere, period. Flying by myself this time wasn’t exactly fun, but it wasn’t too bad. I met a friend of mine down there, though, and we had so much fun that we talked about making it an annual thing.

How much fun? Stay tuned for Part Two!