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

Costa Rica Part Three

…or sloths, sloths, sloths, and monkeys.

Day Six started with a drive down the mountain on its unpaved road and a trek to Manuel Antonio National Park. The hotel we booked was the nicest of our trip. The Costa Verde Hotel. They are the place with the 727 that’s been converted into a hotel casita. No, we didn’t stay in it, although that would have been interesting. It sure was pretty.

There was one event on the way to Manuel Antonio that I have to mention. Years ago, while doing the college tours, we took an airboat ride on the Louisiana bayou and had a close encounter with an alligator. It was about ten feet long and very frightening. I mention this because in Costa Rica, the crocodiles made that beast look puny. There is a bridge over a river just outside of Jaco, where crocs sun themselves on the banks. There was a monster there that must have been 16 feet long (the picture doesn’t do it justice) and there were at least 25 large crocs just hanging out. One of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen.

DSCN4764
The big guy
DSCN4766
This wasn’t all of them

Anyway, back to Manuel Antonio. This place was amazing. When we parked at the hotel the trees were full of squirrel monkeys, the cutest little golden creatures with cute little whistles. Our hike through the national park showed us three sloths, three bats, two raccoons, two coati, lots of capuchin monkeys, an agouti, and a fer de lance. It was amazing. The beaches within the park were beautiful. They were open that day. Sometimes they are closed because crocs sometimes swim in the waters there. The monkeys, raccoons and one coati came onto the beach to steal food. We watched a raccoon steal an entire bag of chips despite the human playing tug of war with the tote that held the snack and using a slipper to discourage the theft. The monkeys came begging for food too.

DSCN4799
Yes, it was that close.

The afternoon, as we swam in the pool, an agouti casually took a stroll right by, and then later the most amazing thunderstorm and torrential downpour cooled us off(Hey, it is a rain forest). The next morning, we saw the sloth that makes the hotel its home. Just hanging around, right by the rooms.DSCN4830

All in all Costa Rica wasn’t a relaxing vacation, but we chose not to do the resort thing. We went for the jungles and the wildlife. Okay, so we didn’t see as much as a Nature special, nor did we rough it like true wilderness experts—hey, there is a limit to how many comforts I’m willing to forgo—but it was great. No tan, a few mosquito bites, wonderful people, and an experience unlike anything I’ve done before. The jungle is almost a cliché, but it was wonderful to experience it outside of Disneyland (“This is the rarely seen other side of water.”). I must say the humidity made me appreciate our dry New Mexico weather.

I’ve always said that adventure is overrated. Adventure usually means something’s gone wrong and you have to deal with it. So this was a perfect trip, the kind of adventure that means everything goes smoothly, the kind that gives you the chance to learn new things about the world and yourself.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

 

Costa Rica Part Two

…or a feat of determination that still amazes me.

DSCN4707Our tour of Tortuguero (see part one) over, we flew back into San Jose on Sansa Airlines, picked up a rental car (after receiving a long lecture on everything that might go wrong on Costa Rican highways and byways and making all of us nervous as butterflies), we hopped in the car and made the interesting drive up to Monteverde. Why interesting? Because the last 20km or so of winding road up the mountain isn’t paved. It’s gravel, and we saw evidence of several small landslides (very small—not blocking the road…okay maybe half the road in one place only) because of the rainstorms in the area.

DSCN4729
The cloudy view from our cottage

We had rented a rustic (very rustic) cottage a couple of kilometers outside of Monteverde proper, settled in after the long drive (see paved road above plus a stop at a local sustainability and conservation center from which we were renting the cottage) and enjoyed another torrential downpour. But coming from New Mexico, we love the rain. It was downright chilly, but felt so cozy.

The next morning, sunshine. We hopped into our rental car (four-wheel drive Nissan Pathfinder), and then promptly jumped out again as Robot Guy had a little trouble navigating the steep, steep driveway, and, frankly, I was terrified (We’ll get back to terrified later). The three sprouts also abandoned the vehicle, but we were able to find a better path for the wheels and successfully left the cottage.

DSCN4734
Monteverde National Park (and yes, I took this picture)

We drove to the entrance of the national park, and joined an early morning tour. Monteverde has become a major tourist destination in Costa Rica (yet they haven’t paved the roads), and the early morning tour allowed us to enjoy the park with fewer tourists. But that wasn’t the highlight. We hadn’t hiked more than a couple dozen steps into the park, when our guide stopped, set up his scope and said, “Quetzal.” That’s right. The pinnacle of any birdwatcher’s list is the quetzal, and I’ve seen one in the wild. It doesn’t look real. Bright red and green, with white, it’s part of the reason Monteverde has become a tourist mecca. We hiked several of the trails in this beautiful cloud forest. And the number and variety of hummingbirds we saw was breathtaking.

DSCN4750
Haven’t identified this guy yet, but I don’t think it’s a violet sabrewing. I might be wrong.

Back to the terrifying part. Youngest daughter was a trooper and never complained once, but we knew she wanted a different kind of experience. We found Sky Adventures, a local, well, not amusement park, but extreme activity center. Zip lining. But this wasn’t your glide over the canopy at a decent height zipping. Oh, no. These were eight zip lines, the longest of which was over half a mile long and the highest was 328 ft. (http://skyadventures.travel/skytrek/  ; Apparently they have an even longer and higher one at Arenal, but we didn’t go there, thank God. If you want to watch someone else’s video of the zip lines here you go. Yes, it was that loud, and it was a lot windier when we went. At 5:35 is where you really get a sense of the height.  My daughter filmed her rides, but I don’t have that footage yet.)  I closed my eyes for the first two lines that crisscrossed the canyon we flew over. I did peek for the third. When I finished the hour and a quarter session, I distinctly felt that I had accomplished something and was downright proud of myself. Youngest patted me on the back and said, “You conquered your fears. Good job.” She, by the way, had a blast.

Day six started with the drive down the mountain and onto our next adventure, which is the next blog.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik