Move aside boys...it is all about the girls today at Derby Oaks and fillies' race...supporting breast cancer. I wish my mother had lived to see a race. Cheers to you mom and a cure that will come in time for someone's mother, sister, wife....daughter.
I can't be at Oaks, but will be wearing my Derby Oaks dress and hat, (worn there a few years ago to the Oaks races) to Golden Gate Fields in SF for the Derby. Today, I hope to catch Oaks on t.v. at work....if I am lucky, wine could be involved depending on timing of race. No mint julips to be found. However, tomorrow on Derby Day, since I couldn't be there again.....I found a spot to celebrate at Gold Gate Fields where Four Roses is sponsoring a big Derby Party. Mint Julips, undoubtedly, will be involved. Don't worry, I think 2017 is a great year for me to finally get back to the Derby. I have been four times, how lucky is that. Well, shooting for 2017. Meanwhile, cheers to the girls and tomorrow I will celebrate the Derby in San Francisco....who knew it was possible?
Wearing Derby Oaks shirt today.... to bring a little Kentucky to San Francisco. Hopefully I won't get mugged on BART. Giggles. Here is one for the girls...safe race...lots of fun and cheers to Churchill Downs from San Francisco. Have a mint julip for me.....
Thank you again for visiting my blog. I humbly appreciate it. I’ve so many followers…and I am often reclusive…and more than a bit eccentric and odd in my own way……so to follow me…..I appreciate it…but why would anyone follow me? I am sure I am not worthy. However, thank you so much…thank you with all that I am. I will try to live up to it. I guess that is why I only blog when the moment hits me. …So much pressure…I am not glamorous, pretty or even interesting….but I blog when I feel it….when not busy with day job. When I can put my heart and soul into it. When I feel it from the inside out. Because that is what you my fans deserve. Thank you so much.
Now to get this blog out…finally after two weeks of working on it…you get it unedited….I have a day job that I need to prep for after a weekend in Carmel….for my birthday. I will end with that experience…if you hang in that long for my long winded blog.
Yes…I was waiting for the right evening to write about Keeneland. I have thought of it a thousand times in my mind’s eye. Those who know…KNOW what is Keeneland.
Nobody in my current world even knows anything about Keeneland. Even if they are very lovely and wonderful people. You have to be in Kentucky to know Keeneland. Of course, in my world most of them will never see the green rolling hills of Kentucky (what a loss) and those green pastures…. Those green rolling lanes that lead to the most amazing things..…blue grass…Kentucky calls me every day like it must call the horses…. Like the Princess of Jordan said…..[Who was, by the way, one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen] She said, “When I was growing up and I read stories like Black Beauty I thought, ‘Kentucky must be heaven for horses.’ Then I came here and I am sure…Kentucky is Heaven for horses.”
American Pharaoh has special meaning for me…besides that I picked him out quite by accident…out of a hat….I didn’t know that there were two people at the party in Napa with horses in the race…if you knew you knew me…you’d know just how random it was….how such odd things like that happen to me.
I had to go get out of my purse in the car (Ironically she…my car…from 2002 is named Black Beauty…)…but in Napa, I had a kind friend to take me to a Derby Party…In Napa…she is an amazing friend [as well as a stunning wine maker] and I love her so much….so she took me….they were taking bets….they even had the numbers in jockey hats…I pulled American Pharaoh out of a hat. With my last cash of ten bucks hoping I didn’t have tolls home…giggles.
In God’s world…which includes all of us….All. God… Jesus and Allah…Buddha.. We just occupy sacred space differently….that is all….None of us are wrong or right…and that comes from a girl who was certain she was going to grow up to be a nun….nuns are so amazing…that was how I was going to occupy Sacred Space…I learned about this from, ironically a Priest at St. Mary’s College in a class.
Anyway…. when AP won….in Keeneland..….well…even before that, when I held the ticket with his name…and didn’t know him before….I had been away from Kentucky living my legal life here. I had been to four Kentucky Derbies…I followed the horses closer then. I had and won big money on “I’ll Have Another…” ($130 on a $20 bet!). That is another story….that is the time I obtained Calvin’s autograph.
I was so excited about his name…American Pharaoh….how amazing was that? Not just because of my book The Chosen One…or our son’s time in Afghanistan….and the “hour of the lamps” which is a story in Once Upon a Misty Bluegrass Hill…and by the way my son told me the story almost just like that…that was the inspiration for that line in the book.
Freedom’s front door for my brothers and sisters in the middle east who happen to occupy sacred space in a different way...I am thinking….as I held AP’s name in my hand… so appropriate for me because of my book The Chosen One. I am thinking….”like we could win in the middle east on his name alone.” The combined name as I sat there looking at the screen and saw him the first time! I was like…”dang Rebecca…he is a beautiful black too!” [My favorite color in horses and cars since my 2004 Jag is named Black Beauty]. I am looking at him on the screen and thinking….”I’ve seen those lovelies before….they look beautiful…and he is so beautiful…prancing…Don’t be fooled by a prancing horse Rebecca! He can’t possibly win….you pulled him out of a hat after all…he is a favorite and you love him already….”
He was a favorite….I was doomed….Everyone knows the favorite is unlikely to win….But I didn’t care…I loved his name and the looks of him. Sitting in Napa…to be at a Derby Party? I was surrounded by beautiful green grape vines so the day was already magic. They don’t even know….I mean….most people in California have no idea about beautiful horses and racing. Only, not only did they know….they knew more than me….two of them had horses in the race.
However, I was lucky to have been invited at all…I have missed going to the Derby….[determined to be there in 2016 if I can manage the ticket and time off]….I got lucky that my friend invited me to a Derby party….but I got to live the moment right then…Old American Pharoah on large screen.
In all the races I ever saw at Derby or at Keeneland…or even at Del Mar as I saw those races as a very young girl…. I never saw horse pull away like that. Just sort of pull away at the end…like it was nothing. It was absolutely stunning. I was too excited I didn’t know what to do. By this time I knew others had a horse, literally in the race. It wasn’t my fault. I think they all do deserve to win. When you make it to the Derby….that is everything….that horse is the finest in the world. So what if he is the sixth finest? I mean seriously? It was how he felt that day most times…the horse I mean…
In this case….we all saw a true King. How could he repeat it? Three times? Last race….he just pulled away like it was nothing.
And…he harkens my most favorite horse of all time….Man-O-War. Like Man-O-War AP lost only one race in his entire career. I don’t know the details, but I do know that it was something like Man-O-War…problem at the gate. Admittedly I didn’t like AP being pushed past the Triple Crown. I was worried for him after all he had done….But like Man-O-War they knew him. His owners must have known he had leg left to give and as a King that is what he wanted to do.
Now I can only hope his races will be towards beautiful fillies on a farm near my farm in Kentucky so I might get the chance to meet such a fine King. So, what is Keeneland….? Keeneland is all that is elegant horse racing….
This Pharoah took his last turn on the track at a place close to my heart….Keeneland Track in Lexington, Kentucky…where there is indeed a road named after Man-O-War…it leads you to the airport…and to Keeneland….it is the main road in town. How amazing is that? A town with roads named after horses….The Princess of Jordan was right…Kentucky is Heaven for Horses because even the roads are named after them.
Admittedly….as mentioned previously….I have local friends that argue Secretariat was a finer horse than Man-O-War.
We cannot know for certain. What I do know is this…Man-O-War and Secretariat both inspire me…yet…there is something utterly breathtaking about Man-O-War and the Road that leads to the most elegant race track I know of is called Man-O-War…and he was a Kentucky horse….Secretariat is a side street…but then he was apparently a Virginia horse…who was allegedly stabled also near my home in Kentucky. Still….I could not do anything but give honor to Secretariat as is his due. However AP reminds me of Man-O-War….
Now before I write the scene at Keeneland which is American Phaoah’s last ride….
I wish to talk of other things….to set the scene of Keeneland….and how meaningful all that happened is to me. How I get inspired about things….about being a writer. I also want to give background on the book that has become my best seller in Ibooks. Thank you so much for that.
For the intimate who follow my blog with equal intimacy….I want to give tidbits of the inspiration of that book….because it is pulling ahead…or should I say “steaming ahead?” Bad joke from a nerd author.
I could tell you how in my book Iron Horse King started as “The Train”….I was stuck in it…I knew the book wasn’t what I wanted…I kept trying to find inspiration….and as I drove past the green rolling hills and picket fences on the main road from Lexington to Paris…that book completely changed.
Prior….I could not get the feeling I wanted with that book…the feeling that I knew was….something I had not touched yet…so I played the edges of the book.
However, as I drove past those green hills I suddenly pictured Charles Crocker walking out in a top hat and tail coats…and climbing up on top of the train as he rode into town...after shifting inside the last rail car….insecure about being a boy who had sold newspapers and had somehow miraculously accomplished one of the most amazing feats in history……confronted with what he had done….he had put on that perfect suit, with the top hat...
But with is flamboyance and bold personality…at the last moment he must have…..he must have been impulsive…so he went out…climbed up that ladder….and pulled off his top hat….I felt it.….I saw it…as I drove past those green rolling hills on that road from Lexington to Paris…
…And I just thought in that instant….“Iron Horse King.” The book completely changed then.
But in my book that is Jacob Ramsey. Iron Horse King is a romantic interpretation of one of the most important moments in American history.
Those that know me well know that I often go to Mountain View Cemetery….my husband takes me….the best view…almost…in SF and of SF to be seen at his gravesite….the real Iron Horse King. He who built the transcontinental railroad…nearly singularly in my mind.
I love him because he was so ordinary…and very …much like me....seemingly bafoonish at times to some who could not keep up…but absolutely brilliant. He was a genius. I have flashes of smart but never like that. Born so poor and sold newspapers at 12 years old in the streets of New York…with limited education. Of course too much schooling and he’d never have even attempted to do what he did. He was like me…in that way…. That is why I love him so much and wrote that book.
He said, “I learned as I went.” Wow. I’d said that a thousand times as I tackled new things…That was him. He was me. Uneducated man, but highly gifted. Just solved problems on the rail line like they were nearly nothing. He changed the world. I met him when I was 24….Read about him then…..I mean.
From that moment on….I knew then that anything was possible for me….anything. I was suddenly…like a man who changed not just the United States…but the entire world….because arguably without the transcontinental railroad in the US was not just the end to slavery because of the results….but it changed everything….You see….President Lincoln was a Republican and they fought the Democrats (who were the slave owners…in those days…the Dems were the slave owners). So…President Lincoln wanted a railroad to transport weapons and men to win the civil war for Freedom…to bring Freedom’s front door to all.
Charles Crocker and his side-kicks….giggles….I giggle because as a writer I know…they were going to hang him to dry if he failed…. They sent old Charlie out….with a very little bit of money. If he failed…they were going to take his store…blame it all on him etc. Dumb old Charlie was going to try…and put his heart into it. But Old Charlie was not so dumb.
Charlie outsmarted them not once but twice. The first time…he did the unthinkable task….they [his side kicks] probably were going to probably collect one way or another….but…he knew what he had to do and he used his brilliance and ingenuity to do it. Absolutely a brilliant man. On levels ordinary people would never understand. So they sent him out…I am pretty sure they thought he could not do it and had measured out that very specific possibility in their favor… If he failed they could take his money and store and blame him.
In the end….not only did he do it…built the railroad alone….with them holding money….in case he failed….he left later on when it was all done only to save them again financially….He was a stunning man.
But he sat out there on the rail line….probably not unlike me in many moments…He was probably sitting on the rail line knowing…”Charlie…you have been screwed….but you can see the vision…the light…keep on going.” That is what it is about…seeing the light in the darkest moments.
He saw the vision. He saw the opportunity. He saw capitalism. He saw…what was possible. In the book I read about him, someone asked him how he could have accomplished such a thing and in this book…it was not a flattering book…. He said, “I learned as I went.” Yes, I have certainly speculated on some of the underlying story about the other three of the Big Four...maybe they were a little more supportive than that...and perhaps I was speculating a little on him getting on top of the train car ... even if I did see it perfectly in my mind's eye... but I am an author and I can't help but have a creative mind.
I had said "I learned as I went" many times. A man who died in 1888…inspired a simple and very poor girl. He was even “more poor” than me at any age…. At 12 he sold newspapers in NY….Which is the opening scene of Iron Horse King….I saw him completely….
As a writer you can see the moment. For me….Iron Horse King….well….I think it is amazing that a girl can be inspired by a man who died in 1888…. He was just like me.
Women’s role models don’t need to be skinny models….or women …. militant bra burning women…. with square glasses…teaching us who we are…taught to us in school what it is to be liberated?….we are not permitted admire a man who wore a top hat….and took risks that people said he was crazy for taking…..he was a capitalist and amazing….However, if us girls are to ever get anywhere, we need to see amazing and pattern ourselves in same no matter who he or she is… not just necessarily out of women’s studies programs…but to see the world with possibility and be inspired by anyone and everyone… yes, even men in top hats that died in 1888. He is the singular inspiration of my life besides my husband and son and other very best friends. Whenever I get down I think….well…look at what he had to do…he was as poor as you….he had to even come further from behind….
Yes, and I know my book Chosen One has been cut off from many venues sisters. I have heard from a few of you…the few and bold and brave…. No worries. We must let things be. They come in their own time. Just know we are waiting here...come to the light….to Freedom’s Front Door….but don’t be rash sisters…one must….after all survive to fight another day right? Right…. Let things come in their time.
So back to Keeneland….authors see things in their heads. Tell me a story and I see it. Perfectly.
That day in Keeneland….which was American Pharaoh’s last ride. I could not be there….but I imagine it with perfect clarity….
In Kentucky a mist rises in early morning….in fall and spring….
The last time she rode him was that day when she lay in the grass with Patrick and loved him with all her heart.
Storm was woven into her heart and life carrying both of their bittersweet memories.
He broke through the mist and galloped to the fence tossing his head and neighing in quiet greeting. She laughed softly and petted his nose. He snorted his happy low hum. She giggled and took his head down to hug his big gray nose. "Oh how I have missed you."
She pulled the apple from her coat pocket and served it up to him. He gave her another appreciative snort.”
This is from the pre-derby scene:
They were taking a couple of trailers with everything in them, including her Derby uniform. It was red, gold and white and it bore the coat of arms of the Earl of Meath. Patrick said the title was created in 1627. It was embroidered on the back of her jockey shirt. Patrick had it special made and Jolene was certain she had never worn anything so fine. The coat of arms was red scrolls with a night's helmet on top and three birds across a flag.
At the top of the coat of arms it read Vota Vita Mea. Patrick told her that it meant.
Prayers are my life.
The rain stopped while they were driving but Jolene fretted about Big Storm continuing to prance in his trailer even in the small space he was in.
Jolene had never been so scared in her life. Her fingers shook when she adjusted the radio and her heart pounded the entire trip.
Patrick didn't seem much better though he tried to hide his emotions. He was quiet and serious in a way Jolene had never witnessed.
Bernie and Herbert attempted to lighten things by making jokes in the big Ford SUV. They even resorted to playing some of Patrick's favorite Irish ballads on cd.
Entering Louisville, even this early in the morning with the sun barely coming up beyond the tall white spires, people were already waiving their signs.
"Park here for $20."
Children ran around in their front yards in bare feet excited about Derby day even if they had only ever viewed Churchill Downs from the outside. Its white towers that could be seen for miles like a double church steeple, shadowed the surrounding neighborhoods. Churchill Downs was their lifeblood and the Derby brought in the pretty people in suits, dresses and hats parking and walking by. Those pretty people who came to the Derby were part of another kind of life that was different and spectacular.
Barbeques were smoking and homemade signs were hung with balloons that read "Stop here for barbeque and beer."
Nearly all of the little wooden houses were decorated for the big day. Since Churchill Downs sat in the middle of an older city of residential homes, its tenants were an intricate part of the Derby. Every house had people preparing for the races.
They were poor houses.
But not on Derby day.
Everybody put on their best shine and made their money on Derby Day.
Even this early in the morning the women who sat on the porches or manned the barbeques wore tank tops and shorts, the wardrobe staple of the south. Men wore white tee shirts and jeans sporting their exotic tattoos. Sometimes their arms and shoulders were completely covered in ink with symbols, signs and pictures intermingled in a complex raw beauty to tell a story that only they completely understood.
They watched the scenes of the Derby in individual vicarious positions where they could also dance within the moment with those pretty people who parked and walked past them to the front gate, or rode in hired golf carts, waving and friendly when on other days they might be afraid.
Jolene was always one of them. The one running in bare feet seeing the world vicariously and not truly understanding what it was to live their lives.
Until this moment.
She wasn't just at the Derby.
She was going to be in it.
Riding Big Storm.
Just like her father had dreamed about the day Storm was born.
Jolene turned her face away from the window shaking her mental voyage. She would not take any journey right now except the one to the finish line at Churchill Downs. One thing her father always told her about being a jockey was, "You have to focus and put everything out of your head but the horse. Feel him. Know him. Become him."
If you are distracted Jolene, he will be distracted too. Forget the tank tops and the poor children with short fuzzy red hair running with no shoes. Don't worry about who is going to park on the lawn or whether they will sell barbeque. God takes care of all things big and small.
They had pinned Jolene's wild hair tightly and her head was already smarting from the countless barrettes and pins Mata had nervously poked all over her scalp. She came dressed already in her jockey outfit, not wanting a scene with the other jockeys just in case they shared a locker room.
Besides, she didn't want to talk to any of them anyway unless it was necessary.
It was another distraction she didn't need.
They unloaded Big Storm and sent Jolene off with the other jockeys to the waiting room. In the waiting room no one communicated with her other than eye contact and a nod. But she couldn't blame them after all. They all knew each other. Raced together. It was a club and she was not one of them.
A few smiled and wished her well.
She smiled back and returned the kindness.
She soon took to pacing around the room in her little white pants, thankful she was slender and not very tall for a woman because she was certain she was the biggest one in this room.
Good thing Big Storm was big.”
American Pharaoh’s last official race….after which….he gets to…..now…retire…hopefully to a farm near Finnegan’s Run….racing towards fillies…
Finnegan’s Run is my farm. My family farm….where my perfect son Joseph and my more perfect husband Joe lives….when he is not visiting me or helping with important engineering things in Cincinnati. Very important engineering things.
Someday…. Someday I will make my way back to that country road…..to Finnegan’s Run. I have work to do yet here in California but when my work here is done….I am going to take a long leisurely ride down a country road…..yes, past the “crack” house which is featured in Once Upon a Misty Blue Grass Hill. Back to my farm….
To know the story of Finnegan’s Run is to know me and have wine with me at home. At Finnegan’s run.
Oh…I get lost in the moment…so back to Keeneland….It is the most elegant horse race track on earth. Yes, it beats Churchill Downs…in many ways…and Keeneland is where you find all the pre-derby horses….. Not as noble with the spires…and believe me…I love Churchill Downs…I do….I am hoping and praying that May is going to bring me ten things…that is one of the ten things…..you can only be left to guess the rest of the 9…giggles.
American Pharoah is the stuff of true legends. To pull away like that. And he trumped it then in Keeneland…arguably where it starts for race horses in many ways…and well that it should how elegant that track is.
So…here is the scene…I have been there a number of times….never in a moment like that….
But if I wrote the scene….from being there….
You’d arrive on a crisp morning. The girls from the college would be dressed like pre-derby in hats and dresses…somewhat approaching derby…teetering on their high heels because they didn’t learn to wear them, elegantly….if you are any kind of woman, you can run in heels even when you are old. Flats are flat and lazy….
County girls can run in heels…and wear boots…with equal beauty. But in modern days they are learning to wear heels the first time as they go to Keeneland with the dapper young men who do wear something close to a flamboyant…..cotton suit…I would see them in front of me…the amazing thing coming from California…was that young people actually wanted to take time to look beautiful.’
And one should look beautiful…when coming to a horse race…as to see the Monsieur….they have come with all of their elegance and skill…hard work….it only seems natural to dress in honor….I think that is why there is the true tradition of hats at Derby and before Derby at Keeneland…because if ever…if ever you saw any true race horse run by you…A stallion…..which I have……win or lose…they are gifts of God…..their power and majesty just touches you. It will make you cry and always did make me cry. They deserved you to dress up in your best Sunday clothing and give them honor.
They did and I could have gotten Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale at the race track….I’d have worn red. Blood red….or…maybe all blue with red high heels….I’d not be teetering like the young girls…I’d show them how to walk in red high heels…and run if necessary.
There are no mint juleps that I know of sold in Keeneland….though mint julips are amazing at Derby…they are not Keeneland…..Keeneland is different….Keeneland must be like the proverbial smoke filled room only in racetracks…”he did well in Keenelande.” Etc. Keeneland is utter elegance.
I once saw a horse cut loose and run the course backwards at Keeneland….my Granny saw it too…in her 90s….when we brought her back to find her home in a place called Greenup….which did turn out to be nothing more than one sign and two farm houses….but that was my Granny. [Her stories are found in Moonshine and Mountains].
Anyway….Keeneland serves Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale….and the finest of everything is in Keeneland….. It is the most elegant race track. Kentucky hides so many elegant secrets. I presume to keep out the riff-raff.
It is very inspirational and so touching to me that the Triple Crown Winner ran his last race there at Keeneland….I think there is a back story….
They took him the proverbial last mile to Keeneland…where it all starts….and he just elegantly moved away from the other Kings….. Again.
I can see it in my writer’s mind’s eye. My husband said that soldiers followed him from the field in Keeneland….
Arguably the finest horse of all time….because his field was even more difficult than Man’O’War’s….or Secretariat’s….
Apparently…many soldiers followed American Pharaoh from the field…that big beautiful black horse….
I bet American Pharoah was an arrogant man just then, yet humble….as a horse I have heard he was very humble…but on that day he must have tossed his head back...looking at soldiers following him and not quite knowing…but sensing….and saying…well…. “I may be a horse…but….I have the honor of a King. It must be true because I have all of these human stiffs following me….in fine uniform.”
Because I am a King.
He must have tossed his elegant head back and seen them…soldiers following him and all eyes upon him…and in that moment, he occupied sacred space. He was a King….and I am very certain…he knew it.
Now…he has a home I have heard…someplace near my farm in Kentucky. If I am lucky…I might someday meet a King.
An American Pharaoh.
That final victory concluded Man o'War's race career. He had achieved 20 wins in 21 starts and set a new record of $249,465 in earnings. His owner Riddle decided to retire him at this young age rather than face the crushing weights the handicappers had promised to impose on the red horse to make it fair for his opposition. Man o'War retired to Hinata Farm, north of Lexington, Kentucky which Riddle leased while shopping for a farm of his own. The horse and his retinue of mares and youngstock was relocated to Faraway Farm a couple of years later where Man o'War remained one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state until his death.
I have Kings in my own back yard if home in Kentucky. A farm behind me raises stock from Seattle Slew…
He is a fine man. Loves horses more than him….So who knows what the next Derby brings? Something beautiful born in the blue grass of Kentucky.…or more flamboyantly……perhaps…what does Keeneland bring besides Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale on tap….and green rolling hills where horses are Kings?
I lived and will live again among Kings. Keeneland brought the last elegant ride of a fine King….
If you had been at Keeneland that day…you’d be sitting in history.
“He was the bestist horse ever I did see.”
Remember to support horse retirement organizations like Old Friends and others because the Kings minor and major deserve our honor … always.
Now….this is not a perfect blog because I am not going to edit it much if at all…..I am just back from a rainy day in Carmel. I stayed there this weekend in my most favorite place …. My birthday is this week…so… to celebrate I went to my most favorite place on earth…..
I did some writing….visited art studios for inspiration. I visited one in particular that you have to go down a winding and beautiful path to get to…under trees and lights….it is amazing….I did it…and it is where I came away with a signature version of the Golden Gate [a signature version of my most favorite painting of all time…besides the renaissance paintings] and a painting of a World War II Veteran coming home called….”Homecoming”….oh and a lovely cottage painting. It reminded me to always live in the light. It reminded me of how magic the world is. It reminded me that we all have a special purpose.
Yes, yes….I am working on next book. I am nearly done with first draft…but needs a whole lot of work. So…. Goal was to finish by Christmas and arguably…I am going to finish the first draft if all goes well….. We will see after that. I have many missions just now. Very important missions. All things come in their time.
In Carmel I saw the most beautiful things. I met with old friends…and new friends…had at bottle of my most favorite French Champaign and …. Celebrated life.
I hope all of you are celebrating life and your own sacred space. That you have connection to something beyond this…and that you will walk toward the light. Blessings for the season.
Thank you once again to my fans worldwide. As a simple country girl I am particularly honored to be internationally recognized in my blog by people in places in the furthest reaches of the world. When I see this, I become very emotional. I cannot believe it. I am certain I do not deserve such an honor, but I appreciate more than feeble words can express. Why anyone would follow a socially awkward, little known author with banshee hair….perhaps shows you the magic of life.
Of course, any arrogance I might achieve is quickly narrowed by my humble and necessary work life as an ordinary person. However, in truth it is sort of fun to be ordinary in day life…but have a secret following of some worldwide notability outside of an ordinary job. It makes me feel a little like Batman or something. Or Wonder Woman perhaps…..the only thing missing is my square glasses during the day. However, too many women in SF do that, so I think I am better off without the square glasses. Far too many “wonder women” in SF. I will stick to being the eccentric author with too wild of banshee hair and forget the square glasses..... It is more me. Besides, I don't think I shall ever look smart in any venue and I don't care. Looking smart is not being smart.
However, as a romance writer trying to fit into a day job and not get myself into loads of trouble is not easy. I have not always been successful. However, I enjoy my current work very much and seem to have found a place where I can excel despite my social work deficiencies and oddities and somewhat magical view of the world….at least until I am a best-selling author anyway.
No, I have not kept my promise to blog once a month. My niece even got onto me when I was home to Kentucky. I told her that I would not be half so mysterious if I blogged all the time…giggles. I blog on Sundays when I have time to reflect and something has happened that seems bloggable.
Yes, yes….it is amazing….and a magic story….the horse I pulled out of a hat at the Derby Party in Napa….did turn out to be a Triple Crown Winner. Though I suspect didn’t make me very popular with people there that had horses and I felt bad about that. However, it wasn’t my fault I picked the winning horse out of a hat. I want everyone to win. I didn’t know anyone there had a horse in the race. Yikes. I love people so much and especially anyone who owns and takes care of horses. They are all amazing. It was an honor to stand with anyone who could actually own something so magnificent.
I actually cried that day that the Triple Crown was won. Though I was merely in my apartment alone at the big screen pacing and killing off my anxiety that nobody gets hurt with Charlie and Pam’s (Crocker Starr wine) It has been so long since a Triple Crown winner.
I kept praying that he would be okay. I’ve seen a few horse races. I “ain’t never seen nothing like that.” It was as if….he just decided in a moment… “well, I shall just blow away from them” and his feet took on wings. If you have ever run in a race, which I have, to find that much strength at the end of a race. Plus you have two kinds of runners….short distance sprinters and long distance. Few can do both….
And for him to just pull away pretty far on outside if I recall…I immediately was to call to mind not just Secretariat, who is well known. I have a favorite horse. Though who could not love Secretariat? In Paris, KY where my farm is located (I have no horses) they have “Secretariat Day” where they honor that horse.
My favorite horse, however, is Man O’War. Which is why I featured him in Once Upon Misty Blue Grass Hill. I have local friends that argue that Secretariat had better stats. I am not sure the truth, one cannot make a comparison. However, Man O’War was Kentucky’s horse. There is a main road that runs through Lexington….Man O’War. Secretariat is a side street. Not to take anything from him. However, Man O’War is my favorite. Now I have another favorite. And I believe American Pharoah is a Kentucky horse.....I am pretty sure...my son says he is stabled near our house...can you imagine if magic is on my side, I might actually see him in person someday.
When I saw American Pharaoh in that last race my mind ran to that big red horse and I quote from my book:
“His groom called him "de mostest hoss that ever was". That about sums it up for Man o'War in the eyes of most American racing fans. Man o'War was not just a great racehorse -- he became the standard by which all runners have been compared then and ever since. Everything he did was bigger than life, his accomplishments on the track, his dominance as a stallion, and his tremendous charisma that drew visitors from around the world to see him in life and in death.”
In this day and time with all of the horses now, compared to then, the science, the breeding, the training. It is much harder than in Secretariat’s day and especially in Man O’War’s day. To have a horse pull away like that in the third race of the Triple Crown is simply the stuff of legends.
How lucky was I? Very lucky. Nobody at the party knew I had bet my last ten dollars (having not gone to the bank and worried about having tolls on the way home). Giggles. No tolls but it would not have mattered….that horse had paid my way not just home but lunches after and at least one set of drinks with friends. I am not just an author of minor success, I am a girl that works hard for a living and not ashamed of that.
I love to go to the track in Lexington. Of course now that I can only go home sometimes that doesn’t happen often now. However, arguably it is the finest race track in the country. It is called Keenland. Many Derby horses are seen there before Derby. I have seen many there for very little money but it is a large and elegant experience for just a few dollars (Plus one can get Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale there). It is not a shabby track. It is a place of elegance and many of the college students from UK get dressed up and go there on a weekday as an outing. It is lovely to see.
Whether at Keenland or Churchill Downs I, when I can get to the paddock and close to the track always do this. If you have never seen a horse like that run, I can tell you it is an experience like none other. It makes you realize why so many through the ages honor the horse. In those moments, whether they win or lose, they are magical creatures….elegant, powerful and simply gifts of God to men.
I picked “I’ll Have Another” by seeing him in the paddock. Or perhaps it was because I had many “anothers” while there (Mint Julips at Derby are Amazing). But seriously, I always run back and forth from the paddock to the racetrack (Undoubtedly fueled by the Mint Julips…though I have energy abound anyway) so I can see the horses before the race. I am often overcome with emotion just to see them.
Before I left Kentucky I finished “Once Upon a Misty Bluegrass Hill” and while I could not know what it is like to own a horse like that, or ride it….in this book I did feel it in the moment. It was written in the days when I went to Keenland, to the Derby and walked the endless green of 12 acres…yes, with a Ball Mason jar filled with Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale or Charlie Crocker’s wine, my dogs tagging along.
Perhaps the story I wrote was whispers of all those horses that surround me…all and any could be that horse…I could see them in my back yard, in my side yard….or perhaps it was the green grass of Kentucky where those fine horses have come from. Or it is like the Princess of Jordan once said, “When I was growing up and read Black Beauty, I thought Kentucky must be heaven for horses. I grew up and came to Kentucky….and Kentucky is heaven for horses.”
That book could only be written in Kentucky. As a writer, I am not supposed to give the end of a story. However, in this case, perhaps this part of the story might let anyone who reads it catch the dream of the people who bring legends to life. Also, blogs of authors are to promote books…though typically we give the beginning so people read the book. In this moment, I give the honor of the end of my book to a legend in my time. To all of my fans who follow me. This might have been what some people felt like on that day…on all three of those days. That is the gift of an author. It is not in the writing, it is in the feeling…to see the scene in your head and heart. So that is my gift to you….not just my fans, but for those that make legends for me to write about then see with my own eyes…and pick out of a hat…on some lucky day…on a beautiful winery...in Napa watching the Derby....for a working girl....now how lucky am I to be born as I was...running barefoot all summer....poor...but not spiritless, but to somehow find myself not just with fans all over the world because of my humble gift of writing...but to be in arguably one of the most elegant places on earth...watching my favorite race among such amazing people.... Thank you. God and life have been so good to me and I am so thankful. So, in honor of the winning horse I pulled from a hat and those that I stood with on that day, in honor of the magic of life that gives authors like me the material to write about...thank all of you so much. I am so humbled and grateful....so I give you the ending of my book.
She followed the other horses her heart pounding in her ears and her limbs tingling. Fortunately, she could ride a horse in her sleep. They left the paddock and went toward the tunnel lined with people.
We got here Daddy. Just like you always talked about.
Storm swung his head side to side as they went down the alley that was bricked off from the crowd.
Beautiful ladies in elegant hats were waving from behind the chain link fence.
Men in suits that she only saw in books stood next to them, looking earnestly at the horses, in a final-scene moment to predict which one it would be.
What were Storm's odds? She didn't even know. Did Patrick even tell her?
Did it matter?
She had always known his odds.
They made the walk and Patrick joined them as the owner, holding Storm's reigns. He and Bernie stood on either side of Storm and walked with him to the gate…around the ring, past the crowds.
There were so many people and they were so loud.
Daddy, I don't know if I can.
You can my little girl. He is Dancer's Dream and our dream.
They arrived at the gate.
Big Storm reared up. He pranced and he danced high on his hooves while they pushed the other horses in. She took him on another small circle with Patrick looking on like the world was soon to end. Bernie walked with her and talked in low tones to Big Storm.
Each time they tried to put him in the gate he shied and pranced.
"Don't force him Bernie, let's not force him." It was her voice, but she sounded far away even to her own ears.
The sprinkles came light.
Time was running out.
"Go in Big Storm, go in. We practiced…this is no different."
Several jockey heads turned toward her voice.
When was the last time a girl raced, if ever?
Storm neighed softly and stepped cautiously into the gate on dancing legs. "Now there is my boy."
The gun sounded within seconds of them getting in. The gates opened with a uniform clap.
She wasn't ready.
Something stuck and she felt herself slide to the side of the saddle.
She heard the tear of fabric. Big Storm busted from the gate and Jolene barely missed hitting her head on the pole. She clung to his side.
He looked back with his big round black eyes.
His eyes said…."like get on and ride!"
But she couldn't pull herself up. And they were in the back…really very far in the back.
It was a struggle to climb on his back and get herself back into position. But when she did he lunged forward in a deep jump.
Jolene leaned forward, feeling his burst of power. She closed her eyes for an instant.
It had rained hard that day. Behind her lids, she saw that terrible day in a flash clear picture.
She felt the pain that near cut her in half…and this time she let it hurt. It was time to let it hurt and ride it out as fast as she could.
Jolene didn't take him to the center. He didn't need it. She gave him space to use his full leg span.
They moved to the middle of the pack. She didn't look anywhere but forward…seeing the horses in front of her…the dirt…the hooves.
Hang on tight!
Were they almost all in front of her? Every single one dammit?
Don't cuss Jolene.
Holy Mary, Mother of God…I can't remember the rest…even though I said it a million times.
Stop thinking, press forward.
Big Storm puffed in perfect rhythm like a big steam engine. She followed him in movement caressing his spirit with her own.
She leaned close to his head and whispered to him softly, "It is time."
The lightening cracked and the thunder rolled.
Storm leapt forward and it was all Jolene could do to hold on and keep her seat. That is all one could do with Storm once he decided on something important. The rain deepened.
Rain from Heaven.
Tears of sadness and tears of joy.
Jolene leaned forward and put her head down clinging to Storm with all of her strength. He had lost his head and wouldn't do anything she wanted.
Jolene leaned down as far as she could go…he was passing the other horses now…lots of them…she felt his strides lengthen even more. It was close but he was on the outside and had plenty of space.
"Go," Jolene whispered. He completely took back his head, only letting it go at the same time.
His stride lengthened even more and he gained speed.
The mud was hitting her and Storm. And her new uniform. But what did it matter?
But of course they had run in the rain so many times.
Running away from a memory…but chasing a dream.
There was only one horse in front, the predicted winner. Crazy Sal.
Go Dancer's Dream.
It was all a blur then. They rode right by Crazy Sal as if he was standing still. Jolene saw the finish line just a second before they passed it.
And it was over.
They had done it.
I give when I can to a farm in Kentucky that takes care of retired race horses it is called Old Friends. I urge anyone that loves racing to give to this fine non-profit organization and perhaps go meet some old champions. Thank you.
Since I had a number of really lovely people ask me about my books in Napa yesterday, it reminded me of it being way past time to blog. I spent a most amazing day at my husband and my friend Charlie's winery (Charlie and Pam's winery) Crocker and Starr. It is the best winery in the Valley. One could arguably call it the Iron Horse King's winery...yes a book and yes a connection. Charlie is the great grandson of the Iron Horse King. I was so honored to read about his great grandfather and it simply had to be a book....though romantic interpretation was involved, the history was on target. One of the greatest honors of my life was to know Charlie and have a chance write that book about an utterly amazing man. I find it a particular honor that a girl who spent most of the year without wearing shoes could have such amazing friends. Humble, charming and such a beautiful person with such a rich family history. How lucky am I and my husband? Great honor....anyway......he didn't even get mad about the romantic scenes about his GGF....Iron Horse King wrote itself.....the story was there....one of the most amazing stories in history...how hard could it be to add romantic edges? If I could just convince him to put an old refurbished train engine at the winery...However a train does go by the winery....so that is pretty amazing in of itself....okay...so I got lost in one of my books....
Anyway, back on story...Then Pam took me to a friend's winery for a real Derby Party! As all of you who follow my books know, I have a "coming of age girl jockey story" called Once Upon a Misty Blue Grass Hill.
Those that know me well from long ago days will recognize that this character most resembles me as a child or I believe so anyway the grown up Jolene is most like me too. I really went raw with that book.
I have been to four Kentucky Derbies and believe it should be on every bucket list. As the Princess of Jordan once said in a speech in Kentucky after the World Equestrian Games "When I was a child I used to read the stories about Black Beauty and I thought, Kentucky must be heaven for horses. Then I came here, and Kentucky really is heaven for horses."
I involve myself with so many things and one of them was my husband and I volunteering for the World Equestrian Games and there we saw green technology compliments of Pierce Lyons who does make the best beer in the world Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, of which I cannot get in California. I have written him a number of letters to no avail.
Anyway...yesterday was so much fun. Crocker and Starr had the Spring "pick up" party which was perfect for Derby Day...the view was lovely....the wine, food, staff and everything was simply stunning ...having their wine makes you realize why they call it the Nectar of the Gods. Anyone who has read The Wine Prince - Glass of Obsession and knows me...knows that the opening scene of that book actually was the image in my head of the Carnivus parties that Charlie and Pam have at the winery every year...the canopies and everything. I went there one year and just the amazing scene struck me...I came home and wrote it all out...that was the opening of that book. I have Carnivus to look forward to in a few months.
So, then after that fun we went to a Derby party. Pam was so nice as I could not find a Derby party anywhere in California....of course, I don't have connections. She happened to have friends that had a Derby party! It was truly lovely. The host and hostess the entire group of people which did include...I am pretty sure some horse owners....or at least some people from Louisville were so welcoming I almost felt like I was in Kentucky.
I have not felt that close to Kentucky since I had to move back to SF Bay Area. Don't worry....someday I am going to get to take that country road back home, when the time is right...or at least be able to spend more time there than I can now. I tell my husband I covet the big RVs (because I could transport my puppies back and forth, Oliver and Merlin...though it is doubtful we could get them out of the vehicle....they have only known a hundred acre sheep farm and a 12 acre farm called Finnegan's run....what would they do if they saw a BART wizzing by?). However.....I do sometimes covet those RVs and imagining seeing the country and writing every day....being with my pups and husband on adventures. I could really take writing to the next level if I could travel back and forth....but...alas....one has to keep a day job.
At the party I pulled the winning horse out of a hat! Number 18 was mine, quite by accident. American Pharaoh! What a fantastic name for a horse! I was feeling lucky when I was matching the number I pulled with that beautiful horse! If any know much about Kentucky and horse racing they will know that our middle eastern friends love horses as much as Kentuckians and live there...so...the name really hit a chord with me.
I, however, admit I was doubtful of my number 18 that I pulled by luck because I never pick a favored horse...perhaps I should rethink that strategy! My heart had been won over already (having picked in my heart Calvin's horse that got scratched....because when in doubt or out of the know...pick Calvin's horse). Side story...I met him (Calvin) once at the paddock and wanted his autograph...I thought he was Irish but decided on a whim to say "Please Sir" in French and he stopped on a dime...he signed the only thing I had in my hand...a summons for jury duty! (Let me tell you, jury duty in Paris, Kentucky Bourbon County is a very interesting experience...they pull hundreds into a beautiful old building and it is like a town reunion. Really amazing....Paris Kentucky should be on every bucket list....and stop by Clays and see my son bartending while going to school to be a patent lawyer). Back to Calvin, I still have his autograph on my jury summons. Who knew Calvin was French? Not me...how lucky was that?
Even luckier than pulling the number 18 out of a hat yesterday and winning $130 on a $10 bet! Besides that....if I had been a little earlier to the party I could have had grits in California which is a very rare instance. How cool was that? Very. They totally were in the know of Kentucky. So, after winning I did what my Kentucky/West Virginia Granny would have done (since my purse was locked in my car)....I tucked my winnings away...yes...in my bra. Now my Granny would have pinned it in a handkerchief. I just didn't happen to have one along with a safety pin as she would have. She always told me "Don't go anywhere far without a $100 bill tucked right here."
It was a lovely day and almost Kentucky on Derby Day...almost...because nothing matches Churchill Downs on Derby Day. I admit though different than being at Churchill Downs...there is nothing like looking across vines on a lovely spring day with gracious hosts and watching the Kentucky Derby with such a view, after a fabulous spring party at Charlie and Pam's winery. I am so blessed.
As for writing....I know I have not kept my commitment to blogging each month. Truth be told I got myself into a bit of a pickle at work...how hard would that be to predict....? A Romance Writer in a large law firm? That has the makings of trouble from the start. The kinds of trouble someone like me can find herself getting into is simply endless....and utterly creative. I always find new ways.....and I never really mean to!! Yikes. I should add here for fun....that there is nothing romantic about the trouble I get into.
So....I had to start fresh and I have been busy with trial preps and figuring out my new life. I am enjoying my new life and new adventures.
My editor and friend Liz keeps scolding me for not writing. I write a few words here and there on the next book....but my head is into litigation and it is hard to get back into the book. Trial prep is serious business so I work some on weekends when needed...so...book 7 keeps getting pushed back.....I need to set a goal. I will soon.
No, I reveal nothing about next book. I love the book. It is just slow moving. Maybe it will be like fine wine and it will get better over time.
In the meantime, thank you to all of you who buy my books and enjoy the first six anyway. Maybe lucky number 7 will mean I don't need a day job! Fantasy. If only I could get it written!
I, however, as always am enjoying the adventures of life wherever they take me (even getting into trouble shows us the sharpness of life) and each day is a stitch or a quilt piece for another book someday and at some time if not......I plan a life well lived and feel so grateful for my first six books being done and appreciated by so many all over the world.
I was very astonished at how many people at the party knew I was a writer and clearly were interested in my books. I was a little embarrassed and shy about it. I was honored that people at a party would seek me out to talk about it....I felt humbled and really sort of...unworthy in truth.
How dumb is that? Of course, I am often a bit awkward at parties. I suppose sometimes I do fit the bill of the reclusive eccentric author.
Lucky I am surrounded by such good friends and beautiful people inside and out....especially friends that have such amazing wine....and are generous enough to share wine and the most amazing setting with a simple girl like me.
It was a beautiful day and I hope that to my family, friends and fans that this lovely spring day, the day after the Derby, brings you joy, health, love and so much happiness.
Happy New Year !
Again finishing out an even better year in my book sales. Yes, The Chosen One is still my best seller worldwide. I have explored various new venues for all of my books and it is starting to pay off. More importantly in the new venues my other novels are starting to get notice and traction and I am gaining a little ground there. That is so exciting.
Thank you for being moved by The Chosen One, I was very inspired when I wrote it. My recent website visits vary from Burundi, Madagascar and Macedonia to Serbia and Malaysia and I am so honored that all of you have found something inspirational in The Chosen One. I am humbled beyond words. This was my least likely to succeed book so that is the amazing part.
You just can't stop a story when it is a good one and this one apparently has a worldwide appeal. So thank you to all of my fans, friends and family for believing in me and being there with encouragement. I recently sold a few books in Nigeria and I just couldn't believe it! So a reach out and Happy New Year to my newest fans. It is an odd and amazing thing that bad publicity sells about as many books as good....I guess that is karma for you....good karma when you always play it forward and that is what I always do when I can.
In this new year I am working on the latest book, a follow on to The Wine Prince (friend of Elizabeth has her own adventure). It has not been easy balancing the time with work so this book is going a little slower, but that is the life of an indie writer and we have to get inspiration on the run sometimes.
I hope this New Year brings peace, happiness, inspiration and all good things to all of you. Many, many blessings.