A New Beginning–Changes in the Air

In which I look at rebranding, revitalizing, and renewal. Perhaps a fitting post for the day after Easter?

I promised that you’d be seeing changes in me. Well. they are arriving. First, my website is being overhauled. Right now (today) if you visit my website, this, as in this blog, is what you will find. More is coming, but we’re not there yet.

Second, I’ve decided not to let the Gabi Stevens name die. After my three  WISH books, it looked like Gabi Stevens was through. Not true anymore. Gabi Stevens writes paranormal (a lighter tone with heavy subjects–the kind of book and stories I like to read) and the voice that I love. I have big plans for her. Starting with …

…(Third) a reboot of THE FALCON AND THE WOLF.

Falcon  500
The Falcon and the Wolf

I had released it under Gabi Anderson, but it didn’t fit with the non-magical historicals I’d written under that name.  It is now available from Amazon and –this is the biggie–CreateSpace. That’s right! You can order it as a print book. Here is the link (I always find it wierd to create a link with the declaration of a link–it’s so meta.). A bit more expensive than the ebook, but what can you do?  The link to the ebook is the caption. And I’m giving you a heads up–the listing hasn’t quite caught up with the changes yet; while, the author is now Gabi Stevens, it still is linked to Gabi Anderson, but you can find it on the Gabi Stevens author page, not the Gabi Anderson author page, but if you look up Gabi Anderson, it will still list it there too (Lots of buts). I figure it will take a little while to catch up. Maybe a few more emails.

And there’s a new cover. Looks much more fantasy, huh?

So keep watching. There will be another Gabi Stevens book before the end of April. Brand new, never seen before. I’m excited about this one.

–Gabi

What I’m reading now:

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (a re-read)

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

 

In which I give a summary of my vacation to California and how it ties into life and writing.

When Robot Guy gets restless, he wants to head to California and revisit our roots. Both of us were raised there (he was born in Michigan, but grew up in San Diego) and big parts of our families still live there. So we left home just before Labor Day to make the long drive to California. It’s about 11-13 hours in the car, depending on where and how often we stop.

Mind you I like California, but for me it’s not a vacation. Okay, I get a break from cooking (my mother or sister insist on doing all that, or we go to restaurants when we’re out), it’s definitely a chance of venue, and we always try to do a vacationy thing while we’re out there, but California is familiar. To me, a vacation is something new, and California is not that. It’s visiting relatives. We had planned on staying for eight days, and had something planned for everyday.

First was reconnecting with my family. We spent our first full day at my sister’s, in her pool, and in front of the TV. The TV is always on at her house (not a judgment, just a statement of fact). Besides which it was US Open time and my mother, who was also there, is a HUGE tennis fan. Next day was reconnecting with old friends,the man who served as Robot Guy’s Best Man and family. We walked around Hermosa Beach at the end of their weekend festival. Now if you know me, crowds are not my thing, and there was a crowd. But Robot Guy was able to play sand volleyball (just a little) and go body surfing before the lifeguards chased them out of the waves (The big surf caused by a passing hurricane was just coming to its end).

Tuesday was my daughter’s choice of Universal Studios Hollywood. IMG_0636I hadn’t been in decades–the last time I was there, I posed with a life-sized cardboard display of Tom Selleck in Magnum. It’s very different now. Oh, the tour of the studio still exists, but all the details that made it so interesting for movie buffs like I used to be are gone. They don’t point out Lucille Ball’s dressing room anymore (or just barely) and Hitchcock’s old cabana is now an office for some production company. I suppose young people today don’t know Hitchcock. I know I showed my kids PSYCHO and TO CATCH A THIEF as part of their education. But it was fun. The Jurassic Park Ride is a (wet) blast, the Mummy roller coaster is a lot of fun, and the Despicable Me ride is loads of 3D fun. They have some fine shows too. I had visited Universal in Orlando for Harry Potter World before the new expansion and enjoyed it, but was a little underwhelmed. I was raised on Disneyland, you know. I felt the same about Universal Studios Hollywood. They had limited hours now that “summer” is over, but it was the perfect amount of time. And I will have to go back. Why? Harry Potter World is being furiously built in California as I type this.

We drove down to San Diego to visit my father-in-law. Robot Guy and his dad drove around to see the old homesteads, while youngest and I caught a movie–Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (all I can say is it is definitely a Michael Bay film).

But the highlight of our trip was whale watching. We took a catamaran (I say “we”, but “we” did none of the sailing) from Dana Point for three hours on the ocean. I can think of a few words to describe the experience without hyperbole–incredible, amazing, awesome (in its try sense), inspirational, breathtaking. Blue whales have been spotted with some frequency off the coast, and we saw three. BLUE WHALES!

Blue Whale Fluke!
Blue Whale Fluke!

I never thought I’d see them in my lifetime. As a kid I was sure they’d be extinct by the time I reached adulthood. They’re making a comeback, folks.

Back of a blue whale.
Back of a blue whale.

It’s too soon to be complacent, but it does give one hope for the future (Maybe. A little). We also sailed among a huge pod of common dolphins. Watching them frolic in the water, you have to believe they are consciously having fun.  What a day.

We came home from our trip a day early to mow the lawn and do laundry. Besides, the dogs missed us. I got little writing done despite my best intentions (My dear agent: ignore the last sentence. I wrote so much!), and it took us that day to get back into the groove. So now it’s off to the mundane and comfortable. That’s not so bad either.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Cuisine of Hungary by George Lang

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.

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

Family

The things we do for family. Yesterday Daughter #1 was due home to start a temporary job here in New Mexico. I arranged for a flight (yes, she’s an adult and independent, but when we can help out, we do. She isn’t rich.) for her to come visit before she got the new job. The new job meant we had to change the ticket, which isn’t a problem, but the flight changed from a month from now to next week. Needless to say, no flights were available without a fee. But what can you do? We paid and changed the flight. I”m not complaining. It beats two days of driving or three months in a Conestoga wagon.

She was due in at 11:00 PM. As I implied, we had limited options, and this was the best flight. Unfortunately, the rest of the country doesn’t have wether like New Mexico. Her flight was delayed arriving to her airport from Tampa. Four hours. Which meant that she took off at the time she should have been arriving here. Because of flight trackers on the Internet (thank goodness) we knew about the delay. I went to bed at 9:30 to sleep until I needed to wake up to get her. 1:00AM my alarm went off and I drove to the airport to retrieve her.

I’ve always loved the night. I like the lack of crowds (see my previous post), the relative silence, and I love to imagine for what reason the few people on the road are up at this hour. I actually saw a motorcycle with a man and a woman speeding (without helmets), and I do mean speeding, on the freeway. Her head was thrown back as if she was enjoying the thrill. I was torn between the appreciation of the abandon and the idiocy of riding in such a manner (the idiocy won, by the way–it may look good in movies, but this is real life and I prefer keeping mine). I saw a “nurse” driving home after a long shift waiting to jump into bed (that was for you, Brenda), two sneak thieves making their way from a “job” with their loot, and a man fleeing the house of a woman he  had made the mistake of sleeping with.

Two AM isn’t a time I would normally sacrifice my sleep for even if I do love the night. Society has regulated me into accepting their boundaries, not the ones I would have chosen for myself. But for my kid, I was more than willing. I was eager. Funny. For the right people you’ll do anything and not consider it a sacrifice at all.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy

Time Capsule

I thinking of creating a personal time capsule to be opened when my first great-grandchild is born or one hundred years from now, whichever is first. I don’t really know why. I never met my great grandparents—heck I barely met my grandparents. They lived in Hungary while I lived in California. I met one grandmother when I was four and then I never saw her again. I have three fleeting memories of her, the most vivid one being my first sighting of her. A scarf covered her head, and I was afraid of her because I thought she was a witch. Hey, I was four. Too bad because everyone says she was a wonderful, loving woman. The other grandparents I only saw one time after that when I was eleven.

 

I don’t really have many memories of extended family, and I don’t set store in the importance of genealogy. In the first place, I’m not a royal and stand in no line for any throne. Second, I read an article once that anyone alive today with a European background can claim to be a direct descendent from Charlemagne. Same holds true for Julius Caesar. At some point we all have shared ancestors. Name a famous person of the far past, and I’m descended from him/her. Go back to ancient times, and I can claim Nefertiti. So really, who you are descended from makes no difference.

 

So why the time capsule? Well, Mark Twain has no direct descendents (although he and I are cousins very far removed through Charlemagne), but he is and will be remembered. While I would prefer to enjoy my celebrity while I live, a part of me thinks it wouldn’t be bad to be remembered after (even if I’m not around to enjoy the fruits of my accomplishments). But at least I would like my family to remember me. I can’t even tell my children stories about my grandparents (except the witch one), and my father died before they were born, so they have no memories about him either. Thus the time capsule.

 

Here are the items I would include in my time capsule:

  • A copy of every one of my books—I’d put them on a flash drive, but who knows if they’d be able to access them. It would be worse than trying to find something today to play a Beta videotape (and if you’re young enough, you’re asking what’s a videotape.).
  • Pictures of me throughout my life—this would be hard because I have a real problem with pictures of me. I don’t like to take pictures.
  • My engagement ring—it’s not worth much monetarily, and I don’t wear it. Suffice it to say that graduate students don’t have a lot of money and neither Robot Guy or I think/thought going into debt for a hunk of metal and a rock was worth it. We went to Europe instead. Much better. Whatever. The ring seems to have worked.

 

Wait? That’s all? Hmm, having thought about a time capsule, I think I’m depressed. I don’t have many things I would want to pass down to my descendents. I have tons of books I would include, but that would no longer be a time capsule but a time storage unit. I would love to share my thoughts with them, but I don’t keep a journal (Gasp! A writer who doesn’t journal? For shame. Yeah, yeah, yeah.), so I don’t have my philosophies to pass along. I have a gazillion knickknacks around my house that all hold meaning and value to me, but really they’re kind of silly. Things have no real value to me. If I lost everything tomorrow (not people or pets), it would be inconvenient, and I’d be angry and sad, but, eh, I can collect more. Home is people not a place. (One of the many reoccurring themes in my novels.) Experiences are more important than possessions.

 

So I guess I’m stuck chasing after celebrity in this life again. Gotta go write some more books. What would you put in a time capsule?

 

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now.

A Dance with Dragons (I know, I know you’re sick of reading this one)

A Merchant of Venice (Ditto)

Contests

In the romance world a writer has ample opportunity to enter contests. I confess I haven’t looked into contests for other genres much. Of course I’ve heard of the big ones–the Hugo, the Nebula, the Edgar, etc–but in the romance world there are contests for published and unpublished authors in every sub-genre you can imagine. I’ve entered several, finaled in most, won a few, so here is my take.

On the plus side:

  • A contest can give you validation. It feels good to win or final in a contest. It lets you know your work is appreciated by others who have nothing at stake in judging you. It ain’t your family telling you you’re good. Sometimes you need that validation. (Let me tell you though, the feeling doesn’t last. Why are we humans so quick to forget the good stuff and obsess on the bad? Or is that just me?)
  • A second perk is getting your work in front of an editor or agent who might be interested in buying your manuscript. While I never received any offers from my contest wins, I do know a couple a of people who sold directly because of winning a contest.
  • If your writing isn’t at the level of winning or publishing yet, a contest can give you valuable feedback on your work from readers who again have nothing at stake in critiquing you. One of the most helpful things a beginner can receive is unbiased feedback. It can hurt, but the learning curve is huge with an honest critique.
  • A contest can help build your thick skin. You need it in this business. Losing a few contests, or being ripped apart, can teach you that you can survive a harsh review in the future.  Lastly, for you already published authors, a contest win can give you bragging rights, something to stick on your covers. You will often see Hugo Award winging author on a cover.

On the minus side:

  • Most contests cost money, and some are very expensive. Sometimes entry fees are out of reach.
  • You might be judged by thoroughly incompetent judges, people who aren’t qualified to judge writing. I’ve always laughed when someone criticized my grammar. Yeah, I rarely make grammar mistakes. If I have often it’s a typo, not a grammar error. (Mind you, if you’re judging my grammar by this blog, just stop. I’m talking about my manuscripts, not the thoughts I randomly post here. This is casual. My writing is anything but, and if dialog or writing is casual in my manuscripts, you can bet I did it on purpose). My favorite judging error was when a judge had no idea what Cartagena was. Really? And there have been several others. I’ve even had judges mark up a manuscript for using passed instead of past, when passed was correct. Anyone who has entered contests can tell you stories about judges’ errors.
  • You might end up with a judge who just doesn’t like your work. No matter how objective a judge tries to be, judging is subjective, and if you write vampires and they abhor vampires, it will reflect in your score.  A contest is often a crap shoot. Your manuscript/book may be incredible, but it won’t get the recognition it rightly deserves. You get judges who hate your voice or plot or theme. Or not finaling may be as simple as getting a judge who doesn’t believe in giving out top scores because nothing is perfect. So, it’s a crapshoot.
  • You can get addicted to contests and winning. I knew of a writer who had three perfect starting chapters and won contest after contest, but never finished the manuscript. The danger of polishing the beginning (usually what is asked for in a contest) is never giving the rest of the manuscript the attention it deserves.
  • If you don’t get the results you hope for and you haven’t developed that thick skin, you might find yourself so discouraged that you quit.

I know I listed more cons than pros, but I personally like contests. I can claim I am an award winning novelist. Almost every one of my novels has been recognized in one way or another. And besides, I’ve always loved competition. (Never play a board game with me unless you play by the rules and play to win. I don’t mind losing as long as it was a worthy battle. But I play to win.)

So vet your contests. Examine why you are entering and what your goal is. Choose wisely. Contests can be fun or helpful or none of the above. Entering is something you have to decide for yourself.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

See previous posts. (Yes, I’m reading slowly now; or I’m blogging too quickly.)