Up, Up, and Away

Or Why the Hassle of Air Travel Really Isn’t. In which I muse about travel, history, human nature, and complaining (And why complaining is actually good for us, in my opinion)

 

Having just returned from San Antonio and the annual RWA conference, I was thinking about travel and other miracles. That’s right; I called it a miracle. Think about it. I went from Albuquerque to San Antonio in four hours, plus a couple more because of check-in, security, and my own paranoia about being late. A day of travel to go 616 miles (that’s 991.5 km for those of you who are sensible and use the metric system). And then back within a week’s time.

 

We complain about the hassle of travel: the late flights, the delays, the bus-like feel of those crammed flights. We don’t like paying baggage fees (thank you, Southwest Airlines, for not being one of those), so people shove their stuff into oversized carry-ons, then fight to close the overhead bins, and that doesn’t even talk about the people who think one personal item is a backpack the size of a Newfoundland, that hits everyone on the head as they’re trying to force their carry-on into a space that it clearly wasn’t meant for. We grow angry when weather (WEATHER!) cancels flights and spoils our plans. What an inconvenience! We grudgingly accept the security checkpoints and rail at the examples of stupidity they generate (Hey, you can’t underestimate the levels of ineptitude when you combine blind rules with the human factor. Mass hilarity ensues.).

 

We’ve become so blasé about travel that we complain about it. We are traveling better and faster than our ancestors could ever imagine. I can get to Europe to visit relatives in a day. It took Mark Twain months. St Louis to Oregon took three months by Conestoga wagon. Now you can drive it comfortably in two days. My parents took five days to cross the Atlantic when they came to this country on a ship. Phileas Fogg took eighty days around the world.

 

Today, my daughters went to school on the other side of the country and we kept in touch by phone or Skype, and they came home for the holidays. In the past, when a family member moved West because of lack of jobs or opportunities, they often said goodbye for forever.

 

So, yes, we are spoiled, but I’m not going to ask you to stop complaining. Mind you, we should continue. Complaining pushes us to new innovations, inventions, and industry. Complaints make us identify what can be enhanced and inspire us to search for better ways of doing things. Airlines should strive to improve performance, service, etc., but sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and think about just how good we actually have it. And here’s a chuckle to make that point.

 

 

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now:

Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

Forbidden Kiss by Shannon Leigh

As Churchill said…

“Never Give Up”…or How to Beat the Fear of Failure

In which I talk about the power of persistence without actually using the word.

One of the driving forces that keeps me writings embarrassment.  Everyone knows me as a writer, and if I run into someone I know after a gap of time, the first question they always ask me is, “Are you still writing?”

Ballons a group of readers surprised me with yesterday. The blu one says "Make a Wish"
Ballons a group of readers surprised me with yesterday. The blu one says “Make a Wish”

How do you answer that?

Well, since I haven’t achieved all I have wanted to achieve in my writing career, I am still writing. But what keeps me writing is fear of seeing a hint of pity in their eyes. I don’t want to be known as that friend who wrote a few books but she doesn’t now. I want to be known as  their writer friend. So my answer to the question is truly, “Yes, always.”

Picking yourself up is hard. Sometimes the effects are lingering. But often, after a good night’s sleep, you realize that the world didn’t end, the sun came up (even if it’s behind a rain cloud),  you didn’t die, and it’s a new day. And you choose to continue.

Basically, I’ve found the one thing I cling to through any discouragements. Find that one thing that will keep you going. Money is a valid goal; awards are a valid goal; grades are a valid goal (if you’re in that world); and avoiding embarrassment is a valid goal.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

A quick post

I’ve been slow posting lately because life has intruded. Nothing bad, but just a lot of it. I’m leaving for the RWA National Convention next week (no, the house will not be empty, you pissant thieves–get a job), and we’re counting down to the Senior Olympics, which means I’ve been playing more volleyball than I have in a while (My knees hate me right now). One dog had a raging ear infection, which requires much bribing with treats to administer meds, then the other dog actually had a small one, which requires even more treats and makes the first dog seem downright cooperative.  Also, just for fun, I snagged tickets to the Antiques Roadshow that was filming in Albuquerque (No, I’m not rich. The stuff I brought had little value). I’ve been judging in a contest (see previous post) and taking care of the annual booby smash (PSA: Women, get yourselves checked), and just juggling the little details of life.

It’s all good. Nothing tragic is going on (I’m not speaking of the world news here, just my own little corner), we’re all healthy, happy, working at jobs we love or exploring new ventures. Doesn’t seem too exciting. But if you know me, you know I think excitement is overrated, just like adventure is overrated. Excitement can mean bad things too.

margaritaSo in these lazy, hot, slow days of summer (at least for me), I’m just taking the time to enjoy all the experiences coming to me and taking the time to breathe.

It really is all good.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore  (And now you know why I was re-reading Merchant of Venice a few weeks ago)

To Err is Human; to Correct Divine?

In which I  confess to the guilt I feel about correcting grammar and other errors in manuscripts I’ve been asked to look at. How much input is too much? Or am I doing the author a favor? Grammar is important, folks.

So I’m in the midst of judging a contest for unpublished authors. I love judging, editing and helping writers learn their craft, but I’ve hit a dilemma: what to do with terrible entries. I can spend hours on a single entry. For the most part, their ideas are fine and they have a grasp on their story. However, the execution is, for the most part, weak. Major grammar errors, word choice errors, punctuation errors, structure errors, inconsistencies, characters out of character, contradictions, etc. Because of who I am (former English teacher, self-proclaimed grammar aficionado—but not spelling; never spelling), I can’t help but line edit as I judge.

 

Having entered many contests in the past, I do have experience with being ripped apart. I never took it badly. Yes, sometimes I dismissed what the judges said because it was ridiculous (“Cartegena? What’s that?”—yes, this was a comment on one of my entries a long time ago and it made everything the judge said suspect; in that same contest, I received a very low score from this judge and a near perfect score from the other; it happens more often than you think.), but mostly when the judges wrote something, I mulled it over and absorbed it. More than once a judge has caught something that made me say, “Oh my God, she’s right. How could I have done that?” In one particular instance a judge pointed out that one of my characters needed a bath. She was so right, so in went a quick bath scene. In most every circumstance, I’ve learned from entering contests and always appreciated the effort given to my entry.

 

Which leads me to my dilemma. I don’t want to be discouraging, but in these entries from rank beginners, the writing itself is getting in the way of the story. The entries are difficult to get through because of the grammar and punctuation errors.

My friends and I call this massive dictionary “The Herniator.”

They are nowhere close to submission to an editor or agent, or even being ready for a contest. These are basic writing concepts that they don’t understand. It makes me think that they don’t have anyone with ability to read their manuscripts. Many people enter contests for the feedback because they have no one else. Maybe no one has told them you don’t punctuate actions tags the same as speech tags. Maybe no one has told them that speech tags should be limited mostly to “said” and “asked”, that you can’t gasp or laugh or urge or smile a sentence. Maybe no one has pointed out the humorous mistakes that dangling participles make, or that run-ons are annoying, or that too many fragments reduce their impact.

 

Worse. Maybe they do have readers they trust and think they know what they are doing, but they don’t.

 

Worst. Maybe when they see all the markings I’ve left, they’ll be devastated.

 

I always find something that they do well and leave notes to the effect that I admire that they’re writing, that they have great ideas, but they need to work on the fundamentals first. But that still leaves the actual manuscript with all the “red marks.”  Is that part of growing a thick skin?

 

I mean well, but I can’t help myself from correcting. What do you think?

(And, really, we’re talking about major errors here, not the occasional missing or misplaced comma.)

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now:

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Sale . . . or the Long Versus the Short

In which I discuss voice and tone in the novels I enjoy (Yes, I mention Harry Potter again) and write, Edgar Allan Poe, Asimov, King, and my short story collection. It’s on sale now.

Smaller Preternatural High Res FINAL REV copyWhen I write my novels, my tone and voice are light, despite the possible high body count in the plots. I just don’t like dark, dark, hit-me-over-the-head-with-pain novels. I want my novels to have laughter, characters who don’t dwell on events until they are crippled, that end with the reader cheering for the protagonists. If you think about it, the Harry Potter books had high body counts (growing larger with each year), even episodes of sobbing (at least on my part), but I never felt my soul being dragged down as I read. I always felt uplifted (Yes, even through the tears—SPOILER [really, you haven’t read the books or at least watched the movies yet?]—When Snape killed Dumbledore I knew there was a reason, and even though my heart broke with Dumbledore’s death and funeral, I trusted JK Rowling to give me my answers in the next book. I was right. Book Seven was a killer, yet with every death I recognized the fight for good and that sacrifices had to be made.  Geez, a long enough aside for you?)

So why bring this up? Because I like my short stories twisted. Think Edgar Allan Poe. His “Cask of Amontillado” is my all time favorite short story, but I also like his others (“Tell-tale Heart,” “Hop-Frog,” “The Black Cat”). My favorite story in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot is “Liar!”, and while I love “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” (and the movie too), “The Breathing Method” is the novella that made the biggest impression on me when I read Stephen King’s Different Seasons.

So, again, why bring this up? Well, Preternatural is a collection of short stories I wrote that are entirely different from my novel voice (Well, sort of. I’d argue that “April Fools’” is long enough to have that light tone but just wait until the ending.). These stories are twisted, sharp (not as in smart, although I hope that too), dark, surprising, and well, different from my normal stuff. Thus the name GS Anderson on the cover. After Robot Guy read them, he turned to me and said, “I’m scared of you.”

 

They are short. Very short. The longest one is just under three thousand words. The shortest is a fable of forty-four words, but the average is around one thousand. Twelve in all, they entertain. If you like twisted.

 

And Preternatural (ebook only) is on sale now at Amazon and Nook for $.99 today through Sunday.

 

Please pick up a copy. Read them. Then think about writing a review of the book. Seriously, it’s only a buck.

 

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now:

The Resurrectionist by Sierra Woods

Wimbledon

Today was the men’s finals of the annual  tennis event known as Wimbledon. Djokovic won over Federer in what has been called a classic match–five sets. I don’t know if it really earned the title of classic because I didn’t watch, but just saying the word “Wimbledon” brings warm feelings to my soul.

See, I grew up in a Tennis household. My parents were jocks when they lived in Hungary. My father played volleyball and my mother was a beast in European Handball, which my father also played.  When they arrived in the USA, they looked for a sport that poor immigrants could play–something that didn’t coast a lot of money. Tennis, with free courts in almost every park, was it. They took to it with a passion. They played in leagues and tournaments, won trophies, and had more tennis parties than I can remember. They made my sister and me play as well. I had lessons for years, and I remember my feelings of triumph when my mixed doubles partner and I beat my parents in a tournament. It was amazing.

But neither my sister or I were ever jocks. Sports, while fun, was an afterthought to me and certainly not what I wanted to spend my free time doing. It just wasn’t in me. I remember my mother criticizing me once (as mothers do) saying she and my father didn’t know how to handle us because we just didn’t care about sports and this fact was their great disappointment in life. At the time I thought it funny since I have played volleyball regularly for decades, and am prepping to participate in my first Senior Olympics this year in the sport.  But she was right. I don’t look at myself as a jock by any means. I have a huge competitive streak in me and I love winning games, so you’d think I would have been more into sports, but I just wasn’t.

While other families watched baseball, or football, or basketball, our TV was on for every tennis match ever broadcast. We really had no interest in the Superbowl or the world series., but Wimbledon was the event of the year. My parents would sit glued to the television for days while it played, yelling at bad calls, criticizing the play (as if they could do better) and enjoying the matches with their whole hearts. It was pronounced Wim-bleh-done in my parents accent and to this day I say Wim-bleh-done in my head.

But these days I don’t even watch that much sports on TV. I tune in to the Olympics with a passion because it brings back memories of my father,  and while I can enjoy the occasional Padres game, I’m not much of a baseball fan. I watch the Superbowl for the commercials, and I rooted for Germany over France the other day in the World Cup, but I didn’t watch a minute. I sometimes think it’s a shame that I can’t get as excited about sports as I can, say, over a Dr. Who rewatch, but there you have it. Robot Guy will have to wait until he has a son-in-law who might like sports to have a viewing buddy someday.

But Wim-bleh-done will forever bring me wonderful memories of sitting around our house to the boisterous comments of my parents. By the way, congratulations, Djokovic.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase