Rocking Horse Ranch – My Happy Place

In Highland, NY, there’s an all inclusive dude ranch called Rocking Horse Ranch and I dream of having a second career as a RHR wrangler.

(Stops to admire that sentence.)

When I was in my early teens in the 1980s, my family went to RHR one summer on vacation. Now that I have kids of my own, we’ve gone ~a handful of times with the kids. It’s not a cheap place–you could go on a cruise for the same cost–but my parents have taken us there for the last four+ years. My mom and dad, my sister, her husband, and their two kids, and my family of five spend 3 nights in what I consider a little bit of heaven.

One of my co-workers loves to hear about RHR and she decided it sounds like Dirty Dancing with horses. And without the dancing. She’s kind of right. There’s all-included food of all varieties; an outside pool and an inside pool, both with water slides; a lake with kayaks, waterskiing, and the banana boat; the fun barn; a playground; archery & bb gun range; other stuff; and MOST IMPORTANTLY the horses.

I. Love. Horses. When I was young, I had a t-shirt that said this:

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in those fuzzy, iron-on letters and a picture of a running horse. I had another that said, “Nuzzle My Muzzle” with two horses nosing each other.

I haven’t grown out of it. I’m just sadly unable to ride very often–something that I must remedy–so when we’re at RHR, I make the most of it and go on several trail rides a day. The kids ride some, too, but I’m the one who could hang out at the stable all day long.

Two years ago, one of the RHR wranglers told me I had a really nice seat on a horse. It was just about the nicest compliment anyone has ever given me.

Sometimes if I’m having a bad day, I think about the fact that some parallel universe contains a Sarah who works at RHR as a wrangler. Hard job: they arrive at 6 am and leave at 5:30 pm, care for the horses, clean the barn, and ride 6 hours a day. But there are days when that sounds like sheer heaven. RHR is one of my happy places.

If you ever go, my favorite horse is Calamity. She’s a feisty smallish mare who LOVES to run and will get away with anything you allow her. But she’s also super responsive, listens when you set boundaries, and she’s beautiful. I love a saucy mare; they’ve always tended to be my favorites, even when I was young. I used to love this horse named Skag who I rode at Watching Stables. She was a kind of ugly-cute horse with an attitude.

Anyway. If you happen to be near NY State and you’re looking for a vacation place with your family, think about Rocking Horse Ranch. I think you’d like it! ūüôā

Tomorrow, back to a post about writing! (Riding, writing, whatever!)

 

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War for the Planet of the Apes – Um. Well.

So….if you’re a die-hard fan of this movie and you want to hear no ill of it, this is your moment to click politely away from my blog.

Gary and I were really excited to see this one, after loving the first in the reboot (and not much liking the second). It’s gotten good reviews! It has 93% on Rotten Tomatoes! People have said it’s the best of the three!

I’m not sure who those people are. Seriously. It was horrible. Like. Ludicrously horrible. In fact, I enjoyed it immensely, because it was¬†so bad that it was really humorous. I would love to see an MST3K of this one.

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The CGI and the motion capture were amazing, mind you. But the plot holes were big enough that the entire Redwood forest could have fallen into them.

Let’s start with something that’s kind of minor, but I couldn’t stop thinking about. The movie had a huge gorilla named Luca galloping around on a horse. Not a draft horse. Not a huge horse. A regular-sized horse. I googled after the movie and gorillas average about 350 lbs, which would be a hell of a burden for a smallish Thoroughbred-type horse. And in one scene, the gorilla grabbed another large ape and pulled him up behind him to ride double on this poor horse…this horse that in real life would have collapsed or struggled to gallop along with like 500+ lbs of ape on its back. I was all OMG, THAT HORSE, WTF, NO WAY.

We also have this idea that the Simian flu virus has mutated in a way that turns humans mute, which is somehow equated to turning bestial and losing all humanity in the movie? Even though the only character we see whose had the virus and been turned c81685d65334d304c9ba898b52b659bc-cotton-throws-emojimute does¬†not seem like she’s become bestial? In fact, she seems to have kept all her intelligence and bravery and caring. (Well. Except for when her father is shot to death and she doesn’t seem to care much or shed a tear or hold his death against his killers. You know. Not¬†that much caring.) Anyway, I kept wondering why the lack of speech = bestial, as if vocal speech is the¬†only thing that separates humans from animals, when we’ve already seen the importance of sign language, writing, etc. Like…I am pretty sure that mute human beings are still human beings. If there was supposed to be some other transformation that took place, we sure didn’t see it in the movie.

This movie had more Moses, Jesus, God, and Caesar archetypal references and cliches shoved into it that if it were a boat, it would sink. At one point, the Colonel literally said, “I had to sacrifice my only son to save humanity.” Like. He literally said that. I know, because that was the moment when I pulled out a bit of paper and started taking notes, so I wouldn’t forget some of this stuff.

Neither the apes nor the humans–both groups involved in WAR, mind you–seem to know how to post a guard. People basically saunter in and out of the apes hideout and a little girl walks right into the¬†human militia compound without any guards ever seeming to notice. Also: the humans apparently haven’t noticed that there’s some random network of tunnels literally under their compound, with apparently like 3 inches of dirt the only barrier to apes popping up and down. So. That’s special.

I also think it is an awesome strategic choice to¬†know your military compound will be attacked by missiles, helicopters, and gunfire, but to have¬†no qualms about building your major defensive site¬†right next to an immense tanker that is literally marked “DANGER FLAMMABLE LIQUID.” Like. What’s the worst that could happen, right? It’ll be fine!!

This movie has all the tropes: the villain bringing the hero in to talk at length and expose their plans; the bad guys deciding not to kill the hero who’s leading a revolt of his people (Why should we kill him? Let’s keep him around!); the angel-like white, blond girl with the largest blue eyes in the world; and much, much more.

For some reason, both apes we know are female also wear jewelry or have long “hair”/fur framing their face. Does that mean literally every other ape we see is male? Like. What is up with that? Is the director just super concerned we might not realize they are female? I’m frankly shocked they didn’t have unnaturally long eyelashes, lipstick, and pink circles on their cheeks like female animals in kids cartoons.

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So…let’s go there. Let’s talk about gender for just a moment. We did have two female apes: the mate of Caesar and the mate of his oldest son. They signed, so they were characters with lines. We had the little angel blue-eyed girl who mostly looked around with her blue eyes, gave an ape a flower, held a doll, and walked right into the military compound to bring Caesar food and water. Maurice the orangoutang said that she was very brave…either that or stupid, right? That’s the entire list of our female cast. OH, I saw one female extra who was in the military. There might have been more, but I only saw one. That makes literally 4 characters who were visibly female and only one–angel child Nova–who had much of a role to play.

The movie is really heavy on Sons, Sons, Sons. Like. And more sons. And fathers and sons. I started wondering if Matt Reeves, the director, has some unresolved father-son issues? Or insecurity about passing his legacy down through his son? Or something? Because Caesar has three kids, all sons. Two of whom die and one of whom, frankly, Caesar pretty much deserts. And the Colonel talks on and on about his son, his only son, who he had to kill. Yes. We get it. Fathers and sons and more sons. Does no one have a daughter? Does everyone have to be male?

Speaking of. Okay. I’m not asking for the movie to go full on¬†Pom Poko¬†(do NOT click that link unless you want to watch a lot of magic tanuki testicles, yes I’m serious). But we have three whole movies with naked apes and there’s really no indication that any of them have any type of genitalia. I get it–ratings. I bet they can’t show any ape genitalia and have it rated PG-13. And I’m probably bizarre for thinking about it–and perhaps I’ve seen¬†Pom Poko too many times–but I thought I’d just throw that in here as an interesting side note.

By the way, you should totally watch¬†Pom Poko. The tanuki (Japanese raccoon-dogs) and their magic testicles are worth it! MUCH better than¬†War for the Planet of the Apes. I’ll take any Studio Ghibli movie over that, any day.

(Below, the absolute mildest image of the tanuki.)

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Yin, Yang, and Werewolves

Anyone who’s read¬†Dark Moon Wolf knows that my Werewolves are pretty different than the traditional Weres in most movies & fiction.

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While conceptualizing my Weres, I found myself thinking deeply about the cultural connotations of the moon. What do we attribute to the moon? If Werewolves draw their powers from the moon, what types of things might they be able to do? What if they are more than just shape-changers? These are all the questions that informed Dark Moon Wolf and my Werewolf culture.

In Waxing Moon, I explore a different question. If Werewolves take their powers from the moon, is there another race of paranormal beings who take powers from the sun? What would these creatures be? How would they exist alongside Weres? How uneasy is their relationship?

I really love my race of paranormal sun-creatures and I hope you do, too. As far as I know, they are my creation–something that hasn’t been written about before in other works.

I’m really excited to hear what you all think of¬†Waxing Moon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: http://dudemansam.deviantart.com/art/Yin-Yang-City-2-365872372

 

 

When Characters Revolt

Kind of like “When Animals Attack,” but different.¬†when-animals-attack-with-lightsabers

All right. Attempting no spoilers here, but I want you to be on the look-out for something as you read Waxing Moon.

I know everyone’s writing process is different, but here’s mine. I start the book knowing the general plot–the beginning, some of the points in the middle, and where it needs to end. And I know the arc of character development that happens through the story.

But I don’t always know exactly how everything moves from point A to point J to point Z.

While writing¬†Waxing Moon, I experienced a moment when one of my characters did something utterly unanticipated. I don’t think telling you¬†who will be a spoiler. Eliza. My Eliza–character born from my own head and heart–all of a sudden did something that left me in shock, even as my fingers flew over the keyboard. I was writing and at the same time thinking, “OMG, did she really do that? Holy crap, that’s what she’s doing? What does this mean? What happens now? How does this change everything?”

When I caught my breath, I sat back and saw it clearly.¬†Of course that’s what Eliza would do. She made the only possible choice. She did exactly what she would do. And yet….and yet until I wrote it, I hadn’t realized that’s what needed to happen. I hadn’t realized that’s what her character demanded.

Her choice makes all the difference in the book. And I love that she wrote herself in those moments.

There’s nothing better than the moment you realize your characters are, in a sense, alive with their own demands, needs, and constraints.

Okay. So now when you read¬†Waxing Moon, you’ll have to tell me (in private, no spoilers!) which moment you think Eliza surprised me!

Planet of the Apes

Yes, I’m really posting about Planet of the Apes. Gary and I wanted to see the new POTA movie, but neither of us had seen either of the reboots:¬†Rise of the Planet of the Apes and¬†Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.¬†apes

This weekend, we had a bit of a movie marathon (is two a marathon?) and watched them both in preparation.

First: we both LOVED¬†Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Now, I did have a few suspension of belief issues (Really? A laboratory of scientists and no one notices Bright Eyes is pregnant? And after she dies, the lab guy extracts the baby with no one noticing that¬†either? And Will just raises this chimp for¬†years at his house and the neighbors and others know, but that’s not a legal issue?). But I can forgive the movie all of that, because it did such a damned fine job engendering empathy for the apes. I loved the apes! I hated the humans! I imagine every person in the movie theater rooting for the apes to completely overthrow humankind. We deserve it.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, though? Blah. Different director and producer. Fighting, fighting, fighting, and some more fighting, and did I mention there’s a lot of fighting? And very static characters–almost character templates–who you don’t really care about one way or the other. Yeah, some are obviously “good” and some are “evil” and I nominally liked the “good” ones better. But I didn’t really care. Even Caesar, who I¬†loved in the first move, turned kind of meh in the second.

And here’s the other thing. The second movie was so fighting blah blah flat fighting meh fighting that it really highlighted something true of¬†both movies:

Where are the women? Like…do we need to fill out a missing person report? In¬†Rise, we missing_person_flyer_two_pictureshave the love interest, who’s also a veterinarian (one point for STEM field). I believe she might be the only woman with a speaking role in the entire movie. No–WAIT. There’s the two women/sex interests with beers in the zoo/prison. I think they say a few words.

That’s literally it. None of the scientists or lab workers are women. None of the military or police people are women. There might be some other women floating decoratively in the background, but…

In¬†Dawn, we have the nurse/mom-figure/wife–who, by the way, I couldn’t stop thinking of as Elizabeth from¬†The Americans and I kept wondering why she didn’t just go solve the whole problem by herself, because Elizabeth is BAD ASS. We have Caesar’s wife, who might have a name? And might have signed a couple of things?, but primarily gave birth, got sick, and then got better. None of the human leaders are women. None of the human fighters with speaking roles are women. None of the human tech/science people are women.

Lack of gender inclusion and representation doesn’t mean a movie has no value. Look–I said I loved¬†Rise. But it does make me wonder: How can directors and producers be so blind to the fact that they’re producing something that ignores the actions/subjecthood of half the population? What’s up with that? Why is the male the norm, still, in 2017?

We’re going to see the new movie soon. I’ll let you know what we think.

T-13 days until Waxing Moon releases!

The summer has flown by and¬†Waxing Moon‘s release date is imminent! I’m pretty excited, because I love this book even more than¬†Dark Moon Wolf.¬†

Writing the second book in a series allows you to dig even deeper into world-building and character development.

For the next two weeks, I’m going to have daily short blog posts that highlight things about¬†Waxing Moon, the writing process, and my characters. And, well, I’ll probably throw some other topics in the mix. Like finger amputations. And GenCon.

For now, let me leave the buy link for¬†Waxing Moon! The e-book’s up for pre-order now! The physical book will be up soon.

Choose Your Own Adventure?

Remember those books from when you were young? The ones that had you searching forDEs4lFYWAAUkvRI rainbow dragons or buried treasure? You’d read eagerly until you got to the decision point: Do you try to steal the opal? Or give it to the witch like she asks?

Well, do I have a surprise for you!!

I’m teaming up with eight other writers at my press to write stories on a brand new blog called Novel Concepts. Our tag line says it all:¬†“where you’re heard until the final word.”

Novel Concepts is a tag-team, short story blog. Each Monday, one of us will post a portion of a short story. At the end of the segment, we’ll offer YOU, the reader, two options for what might happen next. You post a comment with your vote! The majority rules and the next writer will take that choice and move forward.

The other authors I’m working with are romance authors, so I’ll dabble my hand in this new-to-me genre and see how it goes.

If you go to website, you can follow our blog so you never miss a post! That way, your vote will always count!¬†http://novelconcepts1.blogspot.com/p/what-is-novel-concepts.html¬†And while you‚Äôre waiting, you can go to the ‚ÄúAbout Us‚ÄĚ page to check out all the authors participating in this crazy endeavor.

Our first story starts TOMORROW!! Squee! Are you excited?? I am!