Planning for Disaster

We don’t get a lot of natural disasters in Upstate New York. Well, we get snow storms. All. The. Time. (In winter, obviously. Which is Thanksgiving to Mother’s Day.)

We do get severe thunderstorms and flood warnings in the summer. Sometimes even a tornado that does very isolated damage and doesn’t last long. Mostly they are EF0, but history says we’ve had EF1s before.

One night this week we had a tornado warning. We chose the “better safe than sorry” route and did go to the basement. It was almost 10:00 at night, so we reasoned that we wouldn’t see it coming if we had one. (And it did happen just down the road from us. More or less destroyed a small cemetery and transplanted a couple of barn silos. Uprooted massive trees, threw little trees across the street, and moved headstones. And that’s an EF0, the weakest kind.)

It made me think, as I grabbed my laptop and the notes for my current writing project, that I really should have all my writing stuff in a to-go case of some kind. Even if we don’t have frequent major tornadoes, and the hurricanes we get are mostly burned out into some rain and a bit of wind, there’s still the possibility that we might need to escape to the basement or leave the house completely. The creek behind our house has never overflowed enough to reach us, but it could. A tornado has never hit our neighborhood, but one could, as we just learned. And fire is always a real possibility. We could lose power in a snowstorm and have to journey to a friend’s house.

You just never know when you’ll need to grab the important stuff in a hurry. It would be good not to forget something in the heat of the moment, either. It’s always good to be prepared.

So I’m going to invest in something very soon. Maybe even just a suitcase. Something that will hold all my notes for my various projects, and my laptop. Something I can grab and go.

Today in History

American Pharoah and Victor Espinoza. (photo from Liberty Unyielding via Google images)

I wanted to hold off on making a post until tonight for one reason: my topic was dependent on a horse race.

I like history and I like horses. The Triple Crown is very interesting to me. It’s the biggest test in American horse racing, and very few horses have won it in nearly 100 years. It’s also relevant to my writing because, in my Anderson Stables series, the star equine is an ex-racehorse, and there are several other off-track thoroughbreds throughout the series. That’s why I decided to talk about it a little bit.

I’ve never really followed horse racing exactly. Like many people, I’m sure, I only really tune in for the Triple Crown every year. The first race is the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. A couple weeks later is the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes on the first Saturday in June.

It’s not easy for one horse to win all three races. They are different lengths, the longest being the Belmont at a mile and a half. And they are pretty close together. It’s easy for a horse to win the Derby then lose one – or both – of the next two races. Before today only 11 horses had won it: Sir Barton in 1919 (though it wasn’t really called the Triple Crown until the 30s), Gallant Fox in 1930, Omaha in 1935, War Admiral in 1937, Whirlaway in 1941, Count Fleet in 1943, Assault in 1946, Citation in 1948, Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, and Affirmed in 1978.

And now, American Pharoah in 2015. (And yes, that is how you spell it.)

It was amazing to see history happen right in front of me. It’s the first Triple Crown win of my lifetime. That’s pretty incredible.

Even if no one else thinks so. I’m excited.

I need to write about it…

And if you want to watch it, the New York Racing Association put the video up on Youtube.

Waiting Game

885I struggled to think of a post to write for this week. I have no news to share and I finished rambling on about my research trip.

So I guess I give a random rambling post. The idea is for you to get to know me, right?

Life is kind of a waiting game in so many ways at the moment.

I submitted the third Anderson Stables book a couple of weeks ago. No guarantees that it’ll be accepted, and it still stresses me out.

I’m on the hunt for a new job and waiting for phone calls is a little depressing.

My pony Alec (pictured) is currently doing a trial with the local equine therapy place. Hopefully they like him and want to lease him for a while.

I’m trying to distract myself from all this by writing a fantasy novel. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it published at some point. Then I’ll have that submission waiting game, too.

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!

Point of View Struggles

108Lately I’ve been pretty frustrated with writing this series. Mainly because I feel weirdly terrible about only telling the story from Vince’s point of view. I feel like I’m neglecting Dustin and his side of the story, even though it’s told through Vince’s point of view. I feel like a mother playing favorites with her children, and I don’t like it.

The problem is that it doesn’t seem right to add a second point of view halfway through the series. And I doubt I’d be able to publish second editions of the first two books to fix the issue.

But I am going to try to fix the issue to the best of my ability.

That’s what many (though not all) of the coming “free reads” will be. I need to tell this story from both points of view somehow. This seems like my best option.

Stay tuned!

Sometimes Creativity Fights Habit

883

And sometimes I have a writing buddy.

I’ve noticed that I go through weird phases with my writing habits.

Sometimes I’ll go for several days wanting to do my writing on my main computer, which is a desktop at a standing desk.

Other times I want to sit on my bed with my laptop to write, which is all I usually use that computer for.

I even have days where I want to get whole scenes written using the app on my iPhone called iA Writer, which lets me save documents to my Dropbox. I don’t know why I like this option so much because it involves extra work. I have to copy and paste from one document to my main manuscript document. It must be the convenience of using my phone.

Sometimes I like listening to the playlist I have for my current project, and sometimes I’d rather have the background noise of the TV or a loud box fan. Or nothing at all.

And sometimes I don’t want to write until night, while other times I want to write all day.

It’s kind of odd how my brain never wants me to work the same way all the time. Maybe the mild disorder is part of the creative process?