Monday, April 27, 2009

And--We're Off!

The new book is started, the subplots are coming together, the suspense is building . . . and then there's all this detailed horse stuff I need to write in that I don't know a thing about. What's a girl to do? Road Trip--to the horse capital of the nation--Lexington, Kentucky!

Oh-my-gosh! Can I just say that I love my job? This past weekend I drove down to the Rolex 3-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park, and stepped into a world I've never seen. I'm not talking horse racing--I'm talking competition riding where the horses sport braided manes and tails, and the international riders wear their whitest breeches, stately jackets and top hats. Dressage is the word of the day, working the horses through their steps and turns without so much as a clue that the riders are doing anything to command them. And how lucky could I be to sit next to a lady that trains riders and horses? You can bet I was writing down every comment she made.

Later in the day, I walked out to the cross-country track, where riders would race the next day through a course of obstacles, up to 22 mph over 6200 meters to beat the 11-minute optimum time. Again, luck was with me as I was invited to join a small group of women from North Carolina, two of which were to judge the next day's competition. When they learned I was writing a book, they told me every story they had from their years of judging the race, and answered every question I could think to ask. Thanks Barbie and Laura!

By the time the Cross-Country competition started, everyone and their dog was at the Horse Park. I'm not kidding. The Humane Society was sponsoring a Doggie Daycare on-site. I've never seen so many dogs at a public event--or horses. The riders were on horses, the police were on horses, elegant stewards were on horses, answering questions and whistling warnings before the racers galloped through. What a wonderful sight to see such magnificent animals in their prime, muscling through jumps with leaps and bounds I wouldn't think possible. Stunning. I can't believe I was there to see it.

Those two beautiful days in Lexington were spot on perfect for the research I needed and will fit seamlessly in my novel, right where I need them to.

And with luck ever with me, I found the perfect prototype for my hero in this handsome Argentine rider. Not that I was looking for a dark, handsome stranger in the crowd--he just appeared out of nowhere trying graciously to escape the crowd of teenage girls begging for autographs.
Am I just too lucky, or what?

I Love My Job!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Police Academy I (For Writers)

Look at me in the police car! I got to turn on all the lights and sirens and say, "Pull over at the next exit," into the radio. It was so exciting. Who knew you could have so much fun at a writer's conference?

Friday I drove down near Cincinnati to attend the Police Academy for Writers. I had a blast! Where else can a civilian spend two days talking with SWAT and ATF agents, street officers, detectives, and vice cops? We had instruction on interrogation, hostage negotiations, fingerprinting, handguns, writing fight scenes, high-risk traffic stops (all demo class), arrest techniques and handcuffing (hands-on). I have a new respect for cops and the work they do on behalf of the public. They really do put their lives at risk everyday, and if you've ever lifted a 40-lb SWAT flak jacket you can appreciate the heavy burden they shoulder. (Groaning at puns is not allowed)

Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when they come for you?

Surprisingly, my mother joined me for the first day, which was all tours. She's not a writer but when she heard the words "morgue tour" she was dying to come. Now that's a bonding experience I won't soon forget. Seriously. Who else's mom would look around an autopsy room and say, "Bekah, did you get a picture of this?" Our morbid curiousity will be the end of us some day. Anyway, I think she has a small idea of what writing research is like now, plus we had a great time. We started with a short presentation on murder and police procedure, moved on to a K-9 demonstration, went to the morgue and picked the coroner's brain, toured a police station, got a fire truck presentation, then finished up with presentations from a prosecuting attorney and a defense lawyer. All good stuff.

We managed to sneak in some shopping and dinner before the Night Owl session, Murder and Mayhem, a presentation on the research of two brutal murders in the Cincinnati area, and the forensics and police work used to solve them. So much discussion followed that we didn't leave until after midnight, forcing us to go to sleep with crime scene photos in our minds. Yuck. They were so interesting though . . . .

Hey, the brain in that one bucket belonged to Abby Normal. Remember her?

As yesterday came to a close, I got to meet with an agent to pitch my book. That's author lingo for, "Sell your soul in 10 minutes flat". I must have done something right. The agent looked over my submission of the first two chapters of my book and told me to email her the full manuscript. Wow. From her profile I didn't think she was a good fit for my novel. I was planning to get her advice on query letters and go home thankful for her comments. I mean, sometimes agents ask for a partial manuscript (I've sent two of those out already), but she wants to see the whole book. Holy Cow! She wants the whole book! This is great. This is rare. I am ecstatic. It couldn't have been a better weekend unless the poor 5-part man in the morgue stood up and lived again. But he got hit by a train and probably doesn't have a leg to stand on. Bummer for him. But what luck for me (?) :)

Qualifying statement: Mom and I learned first hand that those who work in high-stress, life-or-death situations develop a terrible, off-color sense of humor in order to deal with the things they encounter. It was bound to rub off on somebody. Calm down. You're allowed to laugh.

Sign on the outside of the morgue freezer door. Just imagine how many terrified medical examiners had heart attacks inside the freezer before this was posted. Keep that in mind the next time April Fool's Day comes around.

Stay tuned for next week's blog. You just never know where I'll go next.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Belated Easter

There must have been a connection between my getting home late last weekend (I was only home for two hours Saturday) and the Easter Bunny leaving strange offerings in our baskets this year. Come to think of it, the baskets barely made it out of the basement in time to be filled.

When the kids woke up Sunday morning and searched for their baskets, they were surprised to find things like brownie mixes, soft drinks and the same candy they've been snacking on all week. Jason looked over his loot carefully and then gave me a look. "I guess now I know there's no Easter Bunny," he said. Yeah, well, why should we all go around pretending forever? It made a good excuse to re-emphasize the true meaning of Easter.

We finally got around to dying eggs on Tuesday afternoon. You know what? Egg salad sandwiches taste the same on Tuesday as they do on Easter Sunday. Amazing.

Wednesday night Bryce was inducted into the National Honor Society. It was a nice ceremony, but imagine our surprise when we flipped the program over and saw Mykell's name listed as a past inductee. Hmm. So that's what that certificate and pin were for that we received in the mail last year. None of us knows how we missed this for Mykell, not even Mykell.

Erik and I went out to lunch this week and had some good Chinese. At the end of our meal we opened our fortune cookies anxious to see what they would say. We have a big bag of fortune cookies at home and Erik has been getting less than fortunate results lately. This cookie was no different.

Erik's: For better luck you have to wait till spring.
Mine: Sing and rejoice, fortune is smiling.

I couldn't help it; I busted out laughing. Have you had any surprises this week?

Cookie Quote: You will blog about this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Roadtrip

We're back! Did you miss us? Chances are you didn't, but Mykell and I had a great time checking out the University of Iowa over the weekend. While there, we joined about 800 other parents and prospective students for tours, chats, panels, and more tours. Beautiful weather, fun campus and lots of talk, talk, talking. Yep, that was our weekend. Lots of tough college choices ahead, that's for sure. Here's Mykell (and her new Iowa T-shirt) with Clara Bell the cow, supporting a local dairy.

The best part of the trip was the drive. I'm lying. After 900 miles there and back, looking at farm after farm, I started thinking that Mykell can go to school right here and not miss a thing. :)

I know some of you have never visited the lovely, peaceful, serene Midwest, so here is a photo tour of some of the places you've missed. Can you tell the difference between Iowa and Indiana? The first few pics are taken at a location about 400 miles from home, then there's the Mississippi, and the last are all within 50 miles of home. We didn't take pictures in Illinois because they were busy burning in their fields. And give me a break on the picture quality. We were driving on the freeway, for heaven's sake!


The day after we arrived home, we drove into Ohio to have Easter dinner with Grandma and Grandpa. You would never know from these pictures that they live just outside Cincinnati, or that we live in a small city. Check out these farm pictures, again, within fifty miles. Now you see why it makes no sense to drive anywhere for Spring Break. You could drive hundreds of miles in any direction and it would still look the same. I'm calling it "quaint". But there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that we live so close to so much food. If there were a national emergency, I'm convinced that those of us in the Midwest would still eat well, while those in New York or Los Angeles would probably eat each other. Shudder, shudder. Enjoy the cute farm scenery. Most of these are corn fields so they haven't started planting yet, but the saying for corn when we lived in California went, "Knee high by the 4th of July." Then you know you've got a good crop.

The white bundles are huge rolls of hay wrapped in plastic.

Ahhh, nice to be home again. No picture necessary.