Ready for the Open!

This week, all eyes will be turned toward the 81st playing of the Phoenix Open, beginning Thursday, February 4th for the First Round at the TPC Scottsdale, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

If you are a golfer (or golf fan), this is the event for you!  Attendance last year set a record at 564,368 people.  Tickets for the special events happening Monday and Tuesday are free; Wednesday and Thursday (First and Second Rounds) are $30; Friday and Saturday (Third and Fourth Rounds) are $40.

Many of the local businesses house “tents” at choice locations along the course where customers/clients are invited to watch the golfers play through.  The law firm where I work hosts one at the 16th Hole — a popular location because of its amphitheater effect.  It’s an easy hole, so not doing well draws instant “boos” from the crowd; whereas, great shots receive loud and long cheers!

The event is a prestigious one, with roots dating back to 1937 when a group known as “The Thunderbirds” came together to promote the Valley of the Sun through sports.  Today, this group has 55 “active” members and 250 “life” members.

Besides the business of playing golf, what few know is The Thunderbirds raised $9,060,731 for local charities at last year’s event — the highest single-year charitable donation in tournament history!  Since 2010, this outstanding group has raised more than $36,372,368 for charities.  It is staggering (and  sobering) to think of how many lives have been not just touched, but profoundly changed, by the work of these dedicated people.

The roster’s not yet complete, but look for well-knowns like Zach Johnson and Jan Poulter — and this year a special waiver allows Florida State junior, Jack McGuire, to play.  All of them will be in the hunt for the $6.5 million-dollar purse.

We should be looking good, with weather forecasted at 6 to 9 mph wind, zero chance of rain, clear skies and the temperatures ranging from 56 to 58 degrees.  Doesn’t get any better than that for great golf.

So, see you there, or see you later, at the end-of-each-day celebration tent called “The Bird’s Nest.”  Should be fun either way!

A Walk In … Space

I thought I’d check in with the International Space Station’s news blog to see how things were going for our #yearinspace travelers.  I found that two of the six astronauts on board (Tim Kopra and Tim Peake) will take their next space walk this coming Friday to repair a voltage regulator and conduct some other maintenance-related tasks.

That got me thinking — I cannot imagine what one must feel like floating in space, outside of the safety of the space station, looking down on our big, beautifully-blue planet.  How difficult it must be to concentrate on the tasks at hand!

Commander Kelly has taken the most beautiful pictures that document his time on the ISS.  If you haven’t seen them, check them out on Twitter #amazingspacee or at https://blogs.nasa.gov.  They will mesmerize you!  The colors alone, especially Egypt and Africa, took my breath away.

Scott Kelly and his counterpart, Mikhail Kornienko, are on the count-down phase of #yearinspace.  While it seems they have been kept quite busy during their stay, perhaps the most important study they are participating in is the Fluid Shift study.  It is an attempt to understand how microgravity increases brain pressure which causes abnormal pressure on the back of the eye.  Fifty percent of returning astronauts report vision changes shortly after fulfilling their missions and returning to Earth.  (That’s a pretty large number!)  If this is, indeed, our “New Frontier,” we owe it to all of our future travelers to understand how and why this happens — and what we can do to prevent it.

After his return, Commander Kelly’s biological changes will also be compared to that of his twin brother, Mark, in an effort to document other effects of long-term space travel.  Additional stresses on bones?  Accelerated aging?  Reduction in muscle mass?  Maybe there will be no significant changes.  The results promise to be quite interesting.

So, now I will step outside and look up at the stars and realize the ISS is among them, moving at speeds of 17,150 miles per hour, hurtling around our beautifully-blue planet in an endless orbit.

I will leave you with Commander Kelly’s tweet today:

“Tell-tale sign I live on a #spaceship.  Cygnus outside my window & Africa below. #HappySunday from @space_station!”

Goodnight, Commander …. until we meet again ….

Character Development and Historical Fiction

As I have begun my research for my fifth book (aptly entitled Five), I was reminded of a question a friend recently had about writing.

The question was:  How do you develop your characters?

The answer to that is a bit complicated.

First, for those who haven’t read my book series, they fall into the category of historical fiction — that means a ton of research about the times my existing characters are living in.  What is the state of the world?  What does it mean to them?  How does it impact what they do for a living?  What about their work, friends and families?

There’s countless snippets of time here and there when I’m just thinking about the story, which characters will impact it and when and why they do.  I spend a ton of time just thinking about my stories.

Finally, when I feel like my characters have spoken to me, I begin to write.  That is the just the beginning, because I will read, and re-read my story for what seems like endless times, making changes here and there — just trying to say it the best way possible.

And when I bring in new characters, it is always for a reason.  The reason helps me develop the character, but how that character interacts with the other characters — and therefore the story — also speaks to me along the way.  I have always allowed my instincts to guide me.  I’d like to think they’ve been right so far.

But in the end, I honestly feel as though I am simply a scribe.

It is all of my characters who tell the story — their story …