Time and Tide Wait for…

Well, not for me, that’s for sure. In which I reflect on the march of time, our need to think we can control it, and procrastination, without using that word.

Prague's Astronomical Clock
Prague’s Astronomical Clock

How did it get to be the end of August? For whatever reason, the end of July, regardless that it’s my birthday, has always signaled the start of sadness season for me. I don’t know why. I always liked school (Yes, I’m one of those types), and these days, the extreme heat of summer bothers more than it used to (although this summer has been pleasant–I’m betting September will be worse than July was), but August has always felt like a beached whale gasping its last breath (and if you knew how crazy I was for whales, you’d really wonder why I chose such an image) to me. September is worse. It feels like a month that has been tagged onto a year just because we needed more days. I always forget to count September–sorry to all you September birthday people. I mean October has Halloween, November is anticipation for the holiday season, and December reaches levels of hysteria that are fun to observe. And then we have the “new year” (which I don’t really believe in because time is so arbitrary–a man-made concept that we could change anytime we wanted to; okay, maybe not. Can you imagine the uproar if we decided to move to a ten-hour day for ease of calculations? It would be louder than the US finally adopting the metric system.)

I had so many plans and I’ve made such good progress on them all, but I’ve finished none. I have discovered that I just slowed down working on five different things at once. (Wait, I take that back; I have finished one of my important projects) I have read about the studies that prove multitasking doesn’t work (despite anything my students used to tell me), and I believed them, but because all the projects excited me, I didn’t want to focus. Now I have my own proof. I would have been better off concentrating on one thing at a time and getting it done instead of trying to finish five things.

So my vow is to focus on only two for the month of September. I’ve already decided on one of them. When I finish it, maybe September won’t seem so tagged on. See as I mentioned above, I don’t really believe in “new year”. I think you can make resolutions any time of the year.  Lists, if you will. And lists help me focus. I do have daily lists, weekly lists, and monthly lists. Then more general–sometime during the year lists. Nothing truly formal, but making lists helps me get things done. They give me the illusion of controlling time.

Because God knows none of us can. Control time, that is. My need to dye my hair again proves that.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Betting the Rainbow by Jodi Thomas

Beekeeping for Beginners by Laurie R King

“Reality: What a Concept”

…One of my favorite quotes from Robin Williams.  In which I talk about the complexity of human personality and pay my own small tribute to the man.

I have always wanted to be one of those big personality people. You know the kind–the ones whom people gravitate toward at parties, at gatherings, even in the parking lots of schools and grocery stores. They can schmooze, talk, tell a story and entertain. Put them on a panel (like at Bubonicon) and they make every minute educational and exciting and filled with laughter.

I’ve tried to cultivate and work on having such a personality. I can succeed on occasion (rare occasions and usually when I’m on stage, literally or metaphorically, somewhere), but usually I just withdraw into myself, even if I have some modicum of knowledge about the topic at hand. I can write a mean essay, but simply having a conversation frightens me.  I am terrified of making a mistake because when I do, people point it out (Look, Gabi made a mistake!–seriously, this has happened more than once), which just makes me even more afraid to make a mistake and I withdraw further into myself. I love giving presentations or appearing on panels, but a private conversation…>shudder<.

That duality in personality–the outer appearance vs the inner perception–is part of the reason Robin Williams’s death struck me so hard. I thoroughly enjoyed his work and considered him an absolute genius (in every sense of the word), but no one really knew what went on in his head. I can completely relate to it. I know I can project an image of confidence and expertise, but inside, I’m a jellied mass of insecurities. We all wear masks of sorts. We have our parent masks, our work masks, our public masks, our friend masks. You can’t know what going on behind that mask. You can guess, but unless the wearer reveals himself, you can never be sure. So never assume a smile means happiness or that silence means stupidity. Reality is a deceptive term because those masks are a part of reality. They are real, just one aspect of the complex beings we humans are. Just be careful not to look at one and think you’re seeing the whole picture.

So when I lose myself in fiction , whether I am writing it, reading it, or watching it, it’s not because I don’t like my reality. I do happen to like my life, but I make room for the dreams. I like my fiction as big as the personality I described above. I don’t enjoy small, intimate stories as much because I do enough analysis of myself to satisfy my need to explore others. I want the big stories, the ones that couldn’t happen in reality, but when I experience them, they are real to me in that moment and magic exists, as do superheroes and sweeping romance.  And laughter; much much laughter.

RIP Robin Williams

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Cowboy and the Princess by Lori Wilde

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 

The Series Killer

No, not “serial.” That is not an error. In which I show my excitement for the supposed demise of series novels. What ever happened to the stand alone novel?

I heard from a second and totally unrelated source that novel series are losing their appeal (for romances–I can’t apply this info to other genres; please chime in if you’ve heard something). For me, this is good news. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a series (romance) and grew tired of the same setting over and over. Sometimes you can tell the author just didn’t want to write another book in this world. There are exceptions–Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, for example, but each book had a complete story, connected only by family, well, connections–but most of the time, I enjoy a novel and then forget the details. I remember the warm feeling I got while reading it, but when I pick up a second or third novel in a series and am taxed to remember which cousin introduced the oldest brother’s mother-in-law’s grandchild to the American relation, the story loses its punch for me. Series work for me when the story in the series isn’t dependent on previous works; where I don’t have to know that this character is the niece of the neighbor’s second cousin who gave the duke’s half-brother who is now married to the uncle’s sister-in-law’s vicar’s daughter a beating when they were children. In other words, if I can’t pick up a book out of order, read it, and enjoy it, it isn’t the work for me.

I can hear you saying hypocrite right now. I have published two and a half series. The first are tied together by family, but you don’t have to read them in order, they do stand alone, and you don’t have to know the history to understand them. My second series was cut off after the first two books were published (I still have plans to finish that third one, but a few other things have to happen first before I do), but it wasn’t by my choice. And the last series are definitely connected stories that I hope can be read and understood without reading them all, but there is a story line that arcs over all three books, so you’re better off reading all three. These are also fantasies, though, which leads me to my next point.

I don’t mind series in fantasy or sci-fi. Movies or books. Star Wars was fantastic in part because of the ongoing story. But Indiana Jones are all stand alone. I love Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series (book three appears soon this month). My only fear with series like that is that they become successful and the publishing houses want to extend them to more books. If this story doesn’t end in this book, I’ll be pissed (American sense, not British sense). You can write new stories in the series, but finish the stories first. That’s why I like Once Upon a Time. They finish stories, then throw the characters into new situations. That I can get behind. And of course, I’m still waiting for GOT to finish. Two more books to go. Ugh.

So back to me (it’s my blog, I can be narcissistic if I want). Most of my books are single title, stand-alone books. Yes, I could finagle a second book in the series, but the stories would involve different people and a different story. So if you’re tired of series and just want a fun read, try one. (Fantasy romance recommendation: The Falcon and the Wolf; historical recommendation: Temptation’s Warrior, To Tame a Rose, or one I shall be putting up soon called The Sea Eagle–stay tuned; Even Ever Yours is totally stand alone, although technically it’s part of a series, but they’re not connected in the way you think and every story is an individual story and has no effect on the next). I have a couple of manuscripts I’m working on that are totally stand alone.

And if you like series, I have those too. I guess there’s room for both.

What are your thoughts?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

Space, Time, and the Woo-Woo Contingent

. . .or My Experiences Posing as an “Expert” when I feel like a fraud. In which I give a report about Bubonicon 2014, the Albuquerque Sci -Fi and Fantasy convention.

I spent the weekend at a science fiction/fantasy convention here in Albuquerque. It’s called Bubonicon because New Mexico is famous (sort of) for having the most cases of bubonic plague each year. I find the name amusing. The symbol is a rat–Perry Rodent, to be precise. I know this because I wrote the short story that appeared in the program featuring non other. That was my first foray into the world of becoming a con artist. I had to write a sci-fi story featuring a rat. While I love Sci-fi and had written a couple of short stories (now appearing in the Preternatural collection by GS Anderson), this was scary. I chose to do a light-hearted romp filled with allusions to famous sci-fi and fantasy titles and characters. There’s a dog named Kahn, a quote from Star Wars, and a nod to my daughter’s favorite speculative fix series The Power Puff girls. I think sixteen different puns/groaners/ allusions in one thousand words. (I could probably count, but I’m too lazy).

Program, Bubonicon 2014
Program, Bubonicon 2014

While my last books were indeed fantasy (paranormal romances) and I have had a spec fic story collection published and I’ve a complete fantasy novel that we’re starting to shop around, I feel like a fraud. There are so many books I haven’t read, so many shows I haven’t watched (Supernatural to name one), that I felt like Garth and Wayne: “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.”

I appeared on three panels: one on tropes, one on pop culture, and one on urban fantasy vs. paranormal romance. I won the tropes panel. Just kidding. My husband and I have a running joke that I always try to win panels after my experience on a panel in the past where they other participants were so patronizing and dismissive of my knowledge and then I blew them all away. I certainly didn’t win the pop culture panel. I was there with Cherie Priest and Ernie Cline, who have such big personalities that I was as caught up in their stories as the audience. I did get to speak and even get some laughs, but I was content to mostly sit back and listen. It’s awesome to get on a panel with two big names and ride on their brilliance. I highly recommend that strategy. The third panel was a group of women, mostly romance writers whom I know, and we talked about the differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. We came to no real conclusion but took a lot of questions and made many erudite points. I was the moderator of that one, so protocol required I tried not to win and let the others speak.

It was fun. Scary, but fun. I plan to go again next year, if they’ll have a fraud like me. If you were at the book signing, I gave away THE WISH LIST to the first twenty-five people who wanted them.  With luck I’ll have more cred next year, but I guarantee, I will still feel like a fraud. I’ll let you in on a secret: most authors do.

Let me know if you want to read the Perry Rodent story. It’s mine, so I can post it here.

–Gabi

P.S. While it’s not quite the dress up con as others are, I did see a kid dressed up as an awesome Dr. Horrible, and a wonderful Howard Wolowitz. (Pictures, damn it, pictures. I am so bad at remembering to capture cool moments.)

Books I’m reading now:

Holy cow, I finished Serpent of Venice last night and haven’t picked up a new one yet. I have a pile to chose from (from the RWA conference) and I haven’t chosen yet. Stay tuned.