Archive for October 16, 2018

writing life

Real-Life Research Adventures

This was supposed to be yesterday’s blog post, but my Internet was down all day (apparently, there was a lightning strike and a fire at an AT&T facility that took out their primary power and their backup, so no Internet or phone for me for about twelve hours), so here it is today:

I had quite the adventure this weekend. The Writers in the Field event was taking place. It’s a sort of writing conference focusing on research, with various experts in things writers need to research giving presentations and available for questions. And because it really is in a field (more of a farm that’s been turned into an event venue, like a mini Renaissance Festival grounds), some of these things can really get hands-on. There’s archery, where you can learn about different kinds of bows and arrows and actually get to shoot some. There are various kinds of weapons demonstrations, from swords to guns. There are martial arts demonstrations. People from the forensics lab had set up a crime scene. Historical re-enactors set up camps. It’s all very cool and the kind of stuff you can’t get anywhere else.

However, since this is on a farm, weather can become an issue. We’ve had record-breaking amounts of rain this fall, so the ground has been soaked already. It rained a lot last week. Then the remnants of a tropical storm hit us on Friday and Saturday.

I almost didn’t go on Saturday because it was raining pretty hard, but on the news that morning they said it would clear out by afternoon, so I headed out. On my way there, my tire pressure warning light came on, so I pulled off the road, looked up the nearest Discount Tire on my phone, and got them to check my tires. It turns out it was just the change in weather affecting pressure, and by the time they were done airing up my tires, the rain had eased, so I decided to keep going. They were directing us to park at some harder surface lots nearby, and I was just in time for them to start that warning, so I got a good space. And then I was very glad I’d worn my waterproof hiking boots because it seems like all the runoff in the area ran through this site. Not only was there a great deal of mud, but there were a few inches of water on top of the mud. I went through a couple of the demonstrations and learned how a weaving loom works, but then decided I was done with wading and went to one of the indoor sessions. Midway through that session (on avoiding common mistakes of depicting medicine in fiction), people started pouring into the building. It turned out that there was a tornado warning, so they were bringing everyone inside. That turned into a networking session, where they pointed out the experts and you could go talk to them. I ended up hanging out with some friends who were there and chatting about writing. We got the all-clear and the rain stopped, so I went to a few more things and then decided to head home. The “waterproof” in my boots wasn’t up to a day of wading and my feet were cold and wet. Fortunately, I had a different pair of shoes for driving (since my boots were covered in mud) and I’d brought a pair of dry socks. It was nice to get home and heat up some beef stew and be warm and dry.

Sunday morning, I had to direct the kindergarten choir in the early service, and then I headed out again. It was dry — as in not raining, but there was still mud. They’d filled up the alternative parking, so they had me park on the grounds and said they could get me out if I got stuck. The ground wasn’t so bad without all the standing water, but the mud was epic. I got to go to all the sessions I wanted, though, which meant I got a couple of plot points for something I’m working on. I also got a couple of resource book recommendations, got to shoot some arrows (and learn which muscles I need to work on if I really want to do that), and learned some basics of lock picking and got to try it (let’s just say that a criminal career is not in the cards for me). Then it took three guys pushing to get my car out of the parking swamp and onto the drive. A Ford Focus is not your best bet for off-roading, it seems. I went through a drive-through car wash on the way home to clear off the worst of the mud, and I got home just as a new front was drastically dropping temperatures.

Now it may take a day or so for the mud on my boots to dry so I can chisel it off. I may invest in a pair of galoshes in case I ever do anything like this again. I’ve learned that walking through mud is excellent exercise. When a storm woke me during the night, I ended up lying awake for a while because all the muscles in my legs were suddenly aching, and I feel the archery in my back and shoulders. But it was all a great experience. There’s something about seeing something in real life that looking things up on the Internet or reading a book can’t replicate.