Happy Birthday, Star Wars

Forty years ago today, Star Wars came out and, dare I say, changed the world. Here’s my own Star Wars story.

I didn’t get to see it in May when it first came out. I was in boarding school, and we were having finals and packing to go home for the summer. It was good bye to my friends and teachers for a few months and getting used to the idea of having parents hovering around me all the time. And I was turning sixteen–that magic age when you get your driver’s license (Had I known what a non-even that was, I wouldn’t have cared at all). I went back home to California and signed up for summer school driver’s ed and driver’s training to get that all-important license by the end of summer.

While in summer school (don’t ask me to remember even one of my fellow students from that summer), I kept hearing about this movie that was fantastic. My mother wanted to spend  some time with me, so I told her about this film everyone was talking about, so we decided to go to Westwood to see Star Wars. Remember, my mother was (is) a Hungarian immigrant who lived through WWII bombs and major poverty and hunger as a child. Then Hungary went communist. Not the most stable of childhoods, although she had a loving family. She was almost twenty when she and my father escaped and lived in refugee camp for two years in Austria before coming to the US.

I remember the day well. A line snaked around the block and we took our place in it, waited a while, got our seats. Then the lights dimmed and and the now famous, but then revolutionary, scroll rolled out over the screen. I didn’t come back to this planet for the next two hours. To say I was blown away is understatement. The movie encompassed and portrayed everything a naive, yet intelligent dreamer believes in. I walked out with my insides cheering, energy bubbling through my veins, and a huge grin on my face.

Darth Vader Balloon–ABQ Balloon Fiesta

My mother, on the other hand, said, “I didn’t like it.”

I was incredulous. How could she not like it? It had good guys and bad guys, and the good guys win. The action was incredible, the effects amazing. It carried you off to a different world. Nope. She didn’t like it and didn’t understand it.

We’ve had many a conversation since then, and a few things have become clear to me. As my mother claims, she doesn’t understand fantasy or imagination. She doesn’t understand how escapism helps anything, and she views the world as it is. Her favorite reading is non-fiction, and if she reads fiction, it had better have a deep, deep serious meaning. And yes, she has admitted that she doesn’t understand how I can write books or come up with stories. She doesn’t have stories in her head. The world is as it is. She believes that’s because of her childhood and experiences.

Me? Well, I went on to see Star Wars five more times that summer, and countless since then. I took my sister the next few times and for the all the sequels. Star Wars spoke to the morally rigid, naive sixteen-year-old I was, and in many ways still am. I believe in the good guy and the good fight, wish the world could be more black and white (although really the shades of gray–not 50–give more interest to the world), and believe that deep down most people are good. Sometimes we just have to remind them of it. Loudly.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Redshirts by John Scalzi

The Librarians and the Lost Lamp by Greg Cox

Food

I recently traveled to Boston to visit the younger twin. We did a couple of tourist things–the Stewart Gardener Museum, the Aquarium, and does the science march count?–mostly it was about seeing each other. We had to eat however, and I must say the food left a lasting impression on me. While New Mexico has its own special place in delicious cuisine, I am used to it, and it doesn’t excite me. In Boston I was able to have a couple of gastronomic experiences that were different from any I’ve experienced at home.

First was the Asian Fusion sandwich I had at Foumami. It was steamed chicken on Shao Bing bread.

From Foumami’s website

Flavors of cilantro and greens melted throughout every bite (which if you don’t like cilantro is a problem, but for me, I can’t have enough.). I would have loved some Nuoc Cham to dip in, but that’s a minor quibble and I’m mixing countries and cultures. But it was different and new. At my age, that’s saying something. I would definitely go back if I could.

Second was the special prex fixe lunch we shared at the museum cafe, a very nice place to eat (Not museum food). The theme running through out the meal was nasturtiums. Every dish had them. The best course was the soup opener–a green gazpacho made from cucumber and other freshness with a yogurt foam on top. And nasturtiums. Incredible. I could drink it as an energizer every day. (If anyone reading this has access to the recipe, pass it on.) Second course was rooibos encrusted cod on celery root and nasturtium purees. With teff. First time I’ve every eaten celery root, nasturtiums and teff. Absolutely delicious. The dessert was a nasturtium cake with whipped cream, mango sherbet, and a delightful salted caramel sauce.

Third was the sushi meal I had. I love sushi and eat it fairly often, but I do live in a land locked state, and although I know delivery methods are quick, I’m still a little wary of eating sushi in New Mexico. Let’s just say you don’t come to Albuquerque for the fish. This sushi was fantastic. And at the end of the meal, they gave us Mochi ice cream, which I’ve never had before.

My mother hates eating out, even when she travels, but for me travel is all about eating out and trying new foods, so I rate this trip a success. And yes, the reconnection with Twin #2 was awesome as well. As was the march (#Resist) and the museum and the aquarium. But I don’t like to cook and unfortunately, I like to eat. Traveling gives me the ability to eat without cooking. And, no, I didn’t take pictures. I don’t do that.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (Can you believe I didn’t pick this up before now?)

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Spring has Sprung…

…and that means I wake up each morning deciding if this day will be a breathing day or a mouth-breathing day. Ugh. Allergies. My eyes itch, my nose itches, my lips are chapped, my nose tingles,  and I sneeze often. I am not a dainty sneezer. Yup, I am at my most attractive in springtime.

The only time I don’t feel allergies this time of year is in the shower, in the bath (at least I can read in the bath) and on the volleyball court. Been playing a lot of volleyball lately. I even traveled to Arizona for their senior tournament and we won the gold for our age division. Yeah, yeah, I know, but senior games start at age 50. Get back to me when you reach that age and tell me how you feel.

Age sucks. When you’re a child you want to be older. When you’re older you don’t necessarily want to be younger, because you feel young on the inside, but you could do without the body aches. In all seriousness, you really don’t think you’re old until you move. In fact I believe I am more true to myself now because I’m too old to care what others think about my taste in movies and books. And inside, I am still the neurotic young adult I was back then. With bad knees.

Duckies!

So the whole rebirth/renewal theme. Bah, humbug. Spring is just a time for me to get through until the allergies stop. I am just as likely to re-examine my life, restart a project, renew my goals, etc., in the middle of winter as I am right now. So now it’s on to the ongoing projects started last fall (Like the book I’m co-writing with my daughter.)

But I do like the flowers.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Three Men in a Boat  by Jerome K Jerome

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

New Shocking Revelations!

Did I lure you in?  Because I am about to share some shocking revelations. Or maybe not so shocking. Whatever. >shrug<

I like pineapple on pizza. Especially with ham (or Canadian bacon).

Mmmmm, pineapple pizza.

It’s about the only pizza I like. I don’t like thick crust (it’s never cooked all the way through); I like thin crust. ChicagoStyle is a nightmare. I will eat veggie pizza, preferably with alfredo or garlic sauce, not tomato. And I love tomatoes. Pizza has never been my go to food. I’d rather eat a burger.

I don’t like wine. I have tried to like wine, but I just don’t. I spent a day on my last vacation touring vineyards. I loved learning about the process. I loved the smell of the fermentation, and even the smell of the wine, but every time I tasted it, I was sorely disappointed. So I’ve given up.

I don’t like coffee. Just as with wine, I love the smell of coffee. I love to walk by the grinder at the store and inhale deeply. I love coffee ice cream. But coffee itself…yuck. The taste is awful. And the newest research shows that coffee is good for you.

Why this post? Because recently I’ve started revealing my political leanings on my other social network sites. Up until this year, I’ve never done that. I was always afraid I might alienate a potential reader. But, heck, my readership hasn’t launched me into a stellar career, so screw it. There are some actors I can no longer watch because of who they are or what they stand for. And if there was ever a time to stand up and be brave, it’s now.  So I’m joining their ranks and standing up because I fear for the future.

And if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a flaming liberal. I have important LGBTQ people whom I love in my life, I am the child of immigrants, I have a special needs child, and we just hooked up solar to our house.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

 

A little succor…

I did start a small, tiny, little (Yes, I know those words all mean the same thing) movement yesterday. @ActualEPAfacts was giving away a cup of Starbucks coffee ($5 gift card) to the first 20 people who responded. I was the first, but I responded with, “Don’t send me a gift card; donate it to someone in need.” The next guy responded with, “Give mine to the lawyers at Dulles.” Out of the first 20, 17 of us were gave coffee to the lawyers working pro bono for the immigrants held at Dulles.
Okay, so the lawyers probably could probably get their own coffee, but they were fighting the good fight and wouldn’t leave their stations. I admire what they did and I was proud to be able to support them in this way.
Do small gestures really help? I would argue they do. Maybe not to change the world, but to change one person’s life. No, even that might be too big. Maybe just to let someone know that they are supported and aren’t standing alone. It gives me strength when someone compliments my writing, and helps me through the next brick wall I hit in my writing. It lets me breathe better to know someone out there cares.
In these trying times, I do my small part and hope it isn’t ineffectual. Do my phone calls make a difference? Maybe not, but at least I tried. Do my posts make anyone change their mind? Probably not, but at least I stated my position and someone might take comfort that they aren’t alone in their thinking.
So here’s a cup of coffee for you, friend. Fight on. #Resist.
–Gabi
Books I’m reading now:
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

When you can’t think of anything to blog about…

 

Random list of favorite movies (in no particular order):

Notting Hill

Shawshank Redemption

Star Wars

Harry Potter (Including Fantastic Beasts)

Almost anything Pixar

Almost anything Marvel

To Catch a Thief

Casablanca

Singing in the Rain

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

The Green Mile

Ghostbusters

Indiana Jones

Now You See Me

Second Hand Lions

The Dirty Dozen

And I’m sure several more that slip my mind at this moment.

This…because I’m still deciding whether to hide my head in the sand or be brave.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Well of Ascension by Brian Sanderson

Mistborn by Brian Sanderson

 

 

 

Binges

In which I examine TV.

I have glommed every show I was really interested in watching on Netflix, and have now moved onto my second tier, the ones that look okay, but aren’t exactly my thing. I have a rule: if it doesn’t capture my attention in three episodes, I won’t watch again. So what shows did capture my attention? Number one is Leverage. It had the perfect blend of suspense and humor and good old-fashioned justice to keep me riveted. I aim to write stories that capture the feel of Leverage. I also enjoyed White Collar, The IT crowd, Silicon Valley, Psych, The Detectorists, and Dr. Who. I also enjoy some grittier fare: Person of Interest, Burn Notice, Midsommer Murders, Foyle’s War, and yes, even NCIS and Criminal Minds. I thought there weren’t enough episodes of Lie to Me, and The Finder, and I’ve stopped watching The Glades because I know the series ended on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved. I don’t need any more unfinished stories to haunt me the rest of my life. Get any grittier than that, and I won’t watch (Criminal Minds is right on that line).

This is Tonks. Tonks watches TV too. Especially animal shows.
This is Tonks. Tonks watches TV too. Especially animal shows.

There are a lot of other shows I like, but these are the ones that I watched on binges. I’ve tried watching other shows that people binge on and talk about, but I just didn’t get into them. I did watch BReaking Bad, but it wasn’t really binging because it took a while to watch. Robot Guy and I watched together and he isn’t a binge watcher, so I had to wait. It isn’t my kind of thing. I can recognize the great writing and the terrific acting, but I watched for two reasons: one, it’s Albuquerque, and two, everyone said I had to. No, I don’t always do what everyone tells me to, but as a member of the popular culture community, I need to be familiar with phenomena. I’ve read a few books because of that too. (shudder)

Still, Leverage stands out. I like to laugh; I like the light touch in storytelling; I like justice in an unjust world. Leverage does that perfectly. It hits the same notes I try to hit in my stories.

I don’t really have a point to this blog. It’s more like emptying my brain of extraneous thoughts, like a pensieve. Maybe it’s just to show you my taste and hope you’ll try some of my books to see if I’m spot on or completely insane to think that’s what I write. Maybe it’s because I’m so effing disgusted with the state of the world and real news right now, I just want to escape.

By the way, Game of Thrones has gone from binge to regular watching, so it didn’t make this list.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

 

Oh what a beautiful morning…

…Not. Okay mornings are beautiful, but that doesn’t mean I like them.

I am not a morning person. I do like the empty streets of predawn, the color of the sky as the sun opens onto it, the coolness of the air, but waking up for it is hell. I know what morning is like because I spent several years waking up at 4:45 AM to begin my morning routine for teaching, so I could be at work by 7:30 AM. Even at writers’ conferences, where a number of us are late night people, the workshops and meetings start at 8:00AM. I also have bouts of insomnia, like yesterday, when I wake up too, too early and my brain won’t shut up and let me sleep again. But let me be clear–only because the world seems to think that morning is somehow more morally upstanding do I even try to open my eyes before 10:00 AM. Those damn robo calls start at 8:30AM. (As an aside, who the hell thinks those things work anyway? I can tell you right now that I will never buy or sign up for anything if you call me first. I make the calls in such instances. And I don’t believe your lies either. Neither that you are from Windows Computers, or that “this call is returning your request about the back brace you saw on TV.” I got that one this morning. Guess what? I didn’t watch some commercial about a back brace, nor do I need one. Perhaps someday, but if I do, I will call first!)

Tell me this night view isn't lovely. I dare you.
Tell me this night view isn’t lovely. I dare you.

If I had my druthers,  I would stay up until 2:00 AM or later and then wake up accordingly. But the world doesn’t work that way, and I am a lone, insignificant individual who has no power to change it, so wake I must.  Crueler still is that I must drive The Youngest to work and her shifts often start at 6:00AM. This morning for example. As I was driving home from dropping her off, I noticed how many people were up taking advantage of the cool air. They were jogging, strolling, or walking their dogs. Good God. Even my dogs aren’t morning people. When I left the house, they were both still sleeping in their spots.

Worse, my mother is an early riser. I don’t care how old you are, your mother can do a guilt trip better than anyone, and she is firmly of the belief that anyone who sleeps in is lazy. I’ve tried to explain (since I was a teenager) that I work or do things into the night, so I’m not sleeping more than the early birds; my schedule has just shifted, but she doesn’t accept that.

So as long as the world insists that mornings are superior to the rest of the day, I will rise and grumble (as opposed to shine).

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The High Ground by Melinda Snodgrass

Of Magic and the Sea by Addison Kayne

Movies

…or why I like to be alone

I saw Ghostbusters (the new one) today, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it funny and sassy with enough nods to the original that I felt like I was part of an inside joke. But it’s also two weeks after its release and it’s no longer number one at the box office. The new Star Trek is. Which I will see in about two weeks.

I don’t often see movies the day they come out for one main reason–I don’t like crowds (which is a bit hypocritical since I love Disneyland.)

Harry Potter World  soon after it opened--I had definite crowd anxiety, but Harry Potter! Need I say more?
Harry Potter World soon after it opened–I had definite crowd anxiety, but Harry Potter! Need I say more?

I know what you’re thinking: I should pick smaller movies, the independents, and then I wouldn’t face the crowds. Yeah, the problem with that is I like the big movies. I would rather wait a week or two and see a blockbuster than watch a critically acclaimed independent. (Heck, if you follow me at all you know my taste is the same in books).

There are drawbacks, of course, the first being that watching with a crowd is a more visceral experience. Especially with a comedy. When you’re in a group, you will laugh more, gasp more, and maybe even cry more because you feed off of what others are doing. In many ways we are herd animals. But I have also sat in relatively crowded theaters and been the only one laughing at a joke. When I watched Zootopia, (and I will claim that I had to take my daughter to it even if that is a lie. Well, I did have to take her, but I wanted to see it.) in Albuquerque, I was the only one who laughed at the Walter and Jesse joke. In Albuquerque (I know I said that already.) The lack of the crowd experience doesn’t ruin it for me. I still laugh out loud even if I am the only one laughing.

The other drawback is, of course, spoilers. I have discussed that here in another post. I don’t care about spoilers. I love spoilers. In no way is my experience diminished if I know the ending or the secrets of a plot. In fact I often look up spoilers before deciding to see a movie. I hear you gasping in horror, but there have been studies done on spoilers and they show that knowing the ending lets you take in more of the nuances and depth of the story.

I watched every season of Game of Thrones except this last one one year after they came out. I have glommed onto several shows after they have finished their run, or I’m several years behind (“Paging Dr. Who. Dr. Who, will you please pick up a white courtesy telephone?”). I have this behavior less with books. I was there at midnight for Harry Potter from book three on (Again, I’ll blame my kids, but we both know I’m not fooling anyone), and I’ve reread the Lightbringer series in anticipation for the fourth installment of the trilogy (that is not an error). There will be a fifth too. Sigh.

One of my father’s favorite things to do was to go to downtown L.A. I never understood why. I hated it. I don’t even go to downtown Albuquerque unless I absolutely have to. I become nervous, twitchy, and anxious. This crowd discomfort has been going on a long, long time. Worst part is, I am not made for a rural life either. I need my civilization. So I will continue to see my movies about two weeks late. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan

I Love Villains

Can we talk villains for a moment? I love villains. I mean I love a good villain to root against. I love the anger they rouse in me while I read, I love the sense of righteousness I can feel when I am against them, I love the comeuppance or repentance at the end. Come on. Who didn’t like it when Umbrage gets taken by the centaurs? Who didn’t like Darth Vader saving his son (but, of course, having to die for all the evil he did)? Who didn’t like the take down of Hydra, even if it meant that the good guys had to go into hiding?

I love having villains in my books. I love writing them. There is something so delicious about writing a twisted, evil character. My villain scenes have always been easy for me to write. They flow out of me. I can picture their mannerisms, their postures, and hear their words with little effort. I do like the “black and white” because the world isn’t.

Which brings me to a small rant. One of the criticisms I’ve received about THE WISH LIST was that the villain was easy to figure out. WishListnewFolks, I never tried to hide who the villain was. Honestly, it never occurred to me to hide from the reader who the bad guy was. I did keep it from my characters for a bit, but not the readers. It isn’t brain surgery. There are only nine bigger players in the book, and it was a romance. The villain wasn’t going to be the heroine or the hero; there is a child in the book—he wasn’t going to be the villain. There are the three godmothers—it’s not them. Now, I could have been tricky and made the hero’s best friend the villain, but it’s not that kind of book. That leaves two characters. One is the love interest of the best friend. Again, this is a lighter book. It wasn’t her. That leaves the villain. I didn’t hide it.

Okay, maybe I was unoriginal; maybe my books could have had more depth by choosing one of the other characters to be the villain, but I wanted a romp. Besides, the villain had to last through three books. You know who the villain is in the next two books in the series, so why hide it in the first?

I love mysteries, but I rarely write them. My villains are out there in the spotlight, and you know they are villains from the start. (Okay, in YOURS ALWAYS and THE SEA EAGLE under my Gabi Anderson name the villains are more hidden).

In my latest book, THE STONE KEY, the villain is the villain from the moment he appears at the beginning of the story, and when he shows up again in the novel, you know. And once again, he was so easy to write. Stone Key 750

Hmmm, maybe I should investigate how a goody two-shoes, unassuming, rule-follower like me finds villains so easy to write. On the other hand, my short stories seem to explore nothing but that side of my psyche.
–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:
Wild Cards edited by Geroge RR Martin
Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan