Violence

Since my last post was about sex, I thought I’d follow up with violence.

It’s funny to analyze where we’ve drawn our lines of acceptable fare. Again, I maintain it’s a matter of taste. What one person declares wonderful and gripping, another person will close their eyes and refuse to watch or read. The issue arises when you are faced with an unfamiliar author or work and you have nothing to gauge your personal reactions on. Vague descriptions on the back of the book don’t always give you an accurate picture of what’s inside. For example, in my WISH trilogy, the back cover copy doesn’t indicate that I write with a lot of humor in my stories (at least, I think they’re humorous) and that I have a light touch. The cover of the first book, The Wish List, gives an indication, but the covers of the second two absolutely do not. And yet, there’s violence and even death in the stories. My current work in progress (WIP) has a really high body count, but because I end up writing with a light touch, it isn’t as noticeable.

Because that’s how I like my violence. Cartoonish. I can handle the Roadrunner vs Wile E. Coyote, but I cringe and wince when I watch nature shows (and yes, have cried as well–never watch how barnacle goslings leave the nest). I can handle the violence in the Marvel movies and even cheer when the bad guys get “theirs,” but Breaking Bad is not my thing. I watched every episode and acknowledge the brilliant writing and acting, but it makes me uncomfortable. I won’t and can’t watch boxing or MFA fighting, but I can handle wrestling (Not that I watch it, but it’s a perfectly valid form of entertainment. Just not my taste. And I’m not saying they pro wrestlers aren’t athletes, because they are, but it is scripted.) KINGSMAN was one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, but it was cartoonish, so it didn’t bother me. I thoroughly enjoyed that movie. Paranormal violence doesn’t bother me much because by definition it isn’t real, but movies like Black Hawk Down are too realistic. DUNKIRK, a brilliant movie,  is excruciating to watch, and should be, so that we never do such things to one another again.

Let me live in my bubble, which in today’s world is getting harder and harder to do. Reality is rapping at our doors right now. I hope it doesn’t start pounding, but I have no control over it. In the meantime, I don’t enjoy realistic violence in my entertainment. If I do watch or read such things, it’s for a purpose other than entertainment.

And one last note… Have you ever noticed how people get more upset with sex than violence? As if sex and expressions of love are somehow more offensive than the brutality that humans can show.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und die Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

 

 

 

Gratuitous Sex

I love a good story, so when my friends talk about a new TV show that is wonderful, I listen. And when I have time, I will watch it. But I am leery because many times the show, especially on the “premium” channels, will suddenly lose the story in order to show two people having sex.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written romances, and mine all include sex scenes. I have no problems with sex scenes…when they are appropriate to the story. But too often the scenes on the TV shows are gratuitous. They’re there for throwing sex on the screen, not for advancing the story. They’re there because sex sells, not because it helps characterization, or plot, or conflict, all of which are good reasons for sex scenes. It’s a writing issue, not a moral judgment.

I stopped watching a certain paranormal series for that reason. I was on the fence about the show, but was interested enough to continue. Then came the gratuitous sex scene. There was no reason for it except titillation. I stopped watching. It happened again yesterday. I was watching a show about colonial America, and two characters have sex. They have completed a dangerous assignment, and they are angry with each other because of how they had to behave. One of these characters has just learned her husband is dead, and the other has a wife. I get it. It’s the release, it’s the sudden revelry in success after danger, it’s a celebration of being alive. Except. Except the concept of honor and decorum which has been portrayed as huge elements of both their characters has been conveniently forgotten and thus undermined. I might have bought it if they were so caught up in the emotions of their success that they tear the clothes off each other and do the act without thinking, but it was a slow, relishing of each other. For me, it didn’t support what the writers have established.

The same is true for nudity. First of all it’s not a big deal. I have long thought we make too much of showing the human body. We all have one set of parts or another (generally speaking), and while we can enjoy those parts, parts are thrown on the screen just for the shock effect. Sorry. If I wanted to see a pair of boobs, I can look down my shirt. Does that sound hypocritical? First I say we make too much of it, then I say TV shouldn’t show parts. No, what I’m saying is that using body parts for shock effect is wrong. I believe it perpetuates the drooling culture, which should have disappeared long ago. When a show like Games of Thrones, an intricate, political, and gripping drama, can be reduced to nudity jokes by comedians, it’s a sign of gratuitous nudity.

Look, sex is boring unless you’re doing it (Of course, I have the same opinion of viewing sports). The act itself looks rather funny too. In writing there are only so many ways to describe a fairly basic act. It’s the reason I don’t read many romances any more. The sex is the least interesting part of the book and now there is an emphasis on the sex instead of the why. (That and the emotional baggage characters carry these days, so I can’t believe in a happy ending unless these people go through serous psychoanalysis.)

Maybe I’m a prude.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Crying at Commercials

I can’t watch TV any more without a box of tissues by my side. I cry at everything these days. My emotion button is so big and so easy to punch that I feel as if I’m leaking. I used to cry like this when I was a kid until my parents kept telling me to stop, so I did. It’s taken decades to let myself cry at anything again. And I love it. They’re not usually tears of sadness, just tears of emotion (Except at those dog videos on FB. Why are people posting those?). And it feels great. And then I laugh at myself and I feel even better. Here are a bunch of holiday ones to start you off.

It’s the same with movies. I just saw Moana. I cried through half of it. Not because it’s sad, but because it’s so . And because I realized that I need to hear the voice of my soul again, which is the key message of the movie. I haven’t heard it for a while and it’s time for me to listen again. I think all the crying I’ve been doing (good crying) will help clear away the muck that’s been dampening the song.

Time to sing again.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

And the point is ….

I have been frozen. Figuratively, not literally. I can’t bring myself to write because of the explosive and uncertain times we now live in. As a student of history (yes, I have a history degree), I can’t bring myself to think that my puny little career can change anything. As a student of literature (I have two lit degrees), I know that fiction doesn’t change the world. Few, very few, books have had an effect on bringing about social progress. Yes, I know that reading fiction encourages empathy, but I don’t have enough readers to make much of a difference anyway (That is not a whine; it is a statement of fact. I write because I like to tell stories; I have long since given up the delusion that I will have enough influence to affect a difference.)

Right now I’m trying to figure out what I can do.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Rereading for escape: The Ryria Chronicles by Michael J Sullivan

Games, Puzzles, and Play

In which I look at one of my favorite pastimes.

I love games. This is my games closet.

My games closet. Probably could use some organization.
My games closet. Probably could use some organization.

I would rather stay home and play games than go out anywhere. Even when we went to Costa Rica, I brought two decks of cards, and on two separate extremely rainy nights, we played canasta. That’s right. I’m forcing my children back into the dark ages. We spend many an evening playing games like Ticket to Ride, Seven Wonders, Settlers of Catan, and the latest ones I’ve tried were Carcassonne and Pandemic. And don’t forget the old stand-bys like Scattergories, Balderdash, Pictionary, and Cranium. I have one game that I love that most people haven’t heard of called Scrutinize. I don’t know why that game didn’t become a classic. It’s great.

We play card games and board games. We even play sports games, e.g., volleyball and golf. Robot Guy and I like competition so much that we used to play crazy eights in bed to see who would have to turn out the lights.

When I’m alone, I love puzzles. Sudoku, crossword, logic (especially logic), jigsaw; I love them all. My favorite video games are the ones where you solve puzzles. Just recently I subscribed to the Mystery Experience Company and they send a mystery to solve every month. I’ve only done one so far, but it was well done and of high quality. Just my sort of thing. Games Magazine has been an on-again-off-again subscription for me for years. And, yes, I am the person that does the puzzles in the back of the airline magazines.

I have yet to try one of the escape room puzzles, but they require a group and that brings up a problem. With the kids out of the house and being such a homebody, it’s basically just me and Robot Guy. In fact many games require more than two people. I’d love suggestions for two person games.

My next move is to watch a few of Wil Wheaton’s Table Top videos. I really can’t understand why I haven’t seen those yet.

–Gabi

 

Books I’m reading now:

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

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

 

The Whole Truth?

In which I look at how much is too much and what to share.

I follow some authors on social media who put their political and social viewpoints out there for the world to see without qualms. I admire them for that. Many of them are popular, successful in their careers, and have continued success after airing controversial opinions. I have strong opinions about politics and society, but I’ve limited my sharing to clicking the “like” button and the occasional link to Snopes to counter sheer stupidity. I’ve never been comfortable sharing information about many aspects of my life or my views. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had security in my chosen career–I can’t afford to offend potential readers. Of course that hasn’t garnered me best-selling status either. Maybe it’s because I don’t do confrontation well. Of course, who does, and that really is a ridiculous excuse. Maybe it’s because I can’t express my thoughts clearly, and one can’t do rebuttals well on social media (comment sections aren’t conducive to civilized debate or discourse). The world is not made of sound bites. Of course, I do enjoy the sound bites and memes that make the rounds and reflect my views.

So I struggle between the what to tell you and what to keep hidden. In person I am very open about what I believe and what is happening in my life. That’s because I once heard a wise woman (Jennifer Crusie) tell a roomful of people at a conference the reason she doesn’t let her workshops be taped: (paraphrasing here) If it isn’t recorded, I can claim you all were high on mushrooms and don’t remember correctly what I said . (She is welcome to deny she ever said this). I’ve used that line more than once in teaching (toned down for my eighth graders to omit the drug reference) and also at our local sci-fi, fantasy conference, Bubonicon. If I say something and you don’t have it recorded, you can’t prove I said it.microphone-626618_640

Which leads me to this blog and social media. Here, I am writing down my words. Here the words are etched in stone (figuratively). Here, I can’t escape what I’ve said, and I have been smacked down more than once for something I’ve written and I don’t have the power or influence to combat negative repercussions. I still want to attract readers; I still want to be “popular”. I mean, they still invite Mel Gibson to the Golden Globes after some of the things he’s said. Brad Pitt is still listed as one of the world’s sexiest men and his social leanings are out there for the world to see.

So I don’t know whether I’m a chicken or if I’m cautious. What do you think?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Ryria Chronicles by Michael J Sullivan (I mention this one again because it’s spoiled me for other books at the moment. I loved this series. Which is the reason I’m reading …)

Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Azkaban by JK Rowling (rereading an old favorite, albeit in a different language, because I know its good and won’t disappoint me after the above series.)

Diversions, Wrong Turns, and Road Blocks

In which I examine the way life turns out …and not.

When I started college, I was a drama major. I have always loved to act. I put on plays as a kid, performed wherever I could (although I would take back that dance thing I did in junior high), and was even paid once for acting in a play in Los Angeles. Acting excited me. My professors in college told me I had real talent. So why didn’t I continue> I changed colleges more than once, and I had no real support from home. So I did the practical thing and became a German lit major. (Yes, I can hear your laughter from here.

I have always loved language–the way it works, the way you can play with it. It helps that I grew up bilingual–Hungarian and English. I took Latin in high school and won the foreign language award my senior year (and the drama award–see the first paragraph). German I started in college and spent my junior year in Göttingen. I started Japanese as a senior in college. My plan was to go to Japan to teach English there. Enter the love life.

Met my husband who asked me to go to grad school with him. So I did. Ended up getting a teaching German degree. He ended up with a PhD in robotics. So we moved to New Mexico where he could pursue his career. And since there is a high demand for German teachers in New Mexico (sarcasm font here) I stayed home with the twins.

But I needed to do something. That’s when I remembered stories. I have always loved reading and I’ve always had stories in my head. Now was the time to write them. So I did. Even was published by major NY publishing houses.

But now? The road has taken me somewhere I didn’t expect to be. Those “falling rock” signs? They’re true. The choice is either to backtrack a little and take the other way, or go around and see what’s ahead. Either way, it wasn’t what I expected and both paths are scary. But it’s also exciting, liberating, and freeing.You can’t see down the road, but you sure can get excited about it.

But stopping is not an option.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Writing tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark (Okay, so I’m not learning anything new from it, but sometimes it just feels good to read something and say, “Yup, I’m doing that.”)

 

Unexpected Moments…

In which I look at the moments that touch us, reach us, or change us.

The other night I was lying in bed in the dark and letting my mind wander. I had just received my high school’s alumni bulletin, so naturally my mind went to special memories of that time. And then I was struck by the one-time-ness of the memories I recalled. What do I mean? For example, I was in a lot of plays during high school. While rehearsing for Cabaret (the high-school version), I was sitting in the day student break room (you know I went to boarding school, right?) with a group of fellow cast members when someone pulled out a guitar and we all improvised with the music. We harmonized, laughed, sang some more, hit wrong notes, hit amazing notes, soloed, dueted, etc. It was a special moment of no real significance, except that it was rare and unrelivable. We tried to recreate that moment again on a different day, but the same mood, attitude, atmosphere wasn’t there. So the one episode remains a special memory tucked away in my mind that I retrieve every now and again to prove to myself that I was once there and a singer and performer.

Sage Hall Dorm at FVS

For me, the same thing happens with people. I will on occasion have a conversation with someone and make a real connection for just one time, never to be repeated. I went to high school with a man who is now a famous actor. We also attended college together for one year. After a rehearsal of a play we were in together (yes, again, a play–The World is Round by Armand Salacrou), we were walking back to our dorms, when we started to talk. Now keep in mind I had known this guy for four years by this point, and while I had a crush on him for a short time in high school, I was never a close friend of his. Definitely acquaintances, but never close friends despite the small population of the school (everybody knew everybody), being in at least eight shows together and several classes. But that night we talked for about an hour, hour and a half, about life. How he was transferring colleges, how I was transferring college too, about dreams, hopes, goals, etc. I wonder if he remembers that night. Nothing happened. It was just a connection between two people who were fond of each other, but it makes me think of him in an entirely positive light to this day.

Just recently I met an author who is definitely up and coming. I expect to hear great things about him soon. We spent at least an hour and a half laughing, chatting, interrupting each other and generally just having a good time. It was a a very small writers’ retreat, but for that hour and a half, it was just two people making a connection. I will treasure that moment forever, and when he’s huge, and I truly believe he will be, I’ll have that moment to say, yeah, I once touched him.

These pearls are unique. I have copious memories of the people closest to me, but they are often conglomerations of several hours/days spent in one anothers’ company–my husband, my kids, my family. Other memories are mere moments, like the time my cousin slammed my grandmother’s hand in the door of our car in Hungary (I was four, and one of the two memories I have of my grandmother. The other one is the first time I ever saw her. It was that same summer in Hungary–her hair was covered by a scarf, she wore black, and I was scared because I thought she was a witch. She died before we visited Hungary again.)I expect to have and make memories with them. But the ones where I felt a real connection to someone unexpected, those are rare and fun to pull out every once in a while to assure ourselves that we existed.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted by Regina Berreca

Storms

In which I examine power and control.

Yesterday at around 3:00 PM, a sudden downpour hit my neighborhood. I happened to be in my car taking the Youngest to work. The sky was gray, and the drops of rain left marks the size of quarters on the windshield . The sky was nearly black by the time we reached the parking lot of her workplace a mile away. Then the  torrent hit. I pulled up to the door of her workplace so she could dash the final five feet into the safety of the building. The flag that flies outside the store was whipping in the wind and rain and hail. The space between the edge of the flag and the line it was hooked to looked like the letter D. I don’t know why that detail sticks out in my memory, but it does. Visibility was down to just a few feet. And I had to drive home.

It’s only a mile, but the road was covered in water, and cars were lined up on the side to wait out the worst.  I slid back the covering of the sun roof so I could enjoy it better. Because I did. Enjoy it, I mean. It was a glorious display of nature and how puny we are in comparison. I was exhilarated. I was smiling and laughing at the amazing rain.  I have a four-wheel drive (No, I wasn’t driving through any rushing water and I experienced no hydroplaning–I might have enjoyed the storm, but I’m not stupid) and I drove slowly and carefully. I happened to be behind two police vehicles that had been dispatched a few minutes before to make sure there was no trouble on the streets. I followed their taillights (they didn’t have on the flashers) for about half a mile then turned into my neighborhood (It really is only a mile from the Youngest’s work to home.). The sky was dark,  the mountains that rise just off the east side of the road were invisible,  and the rain came in discernible waves across the windshield.

A completely different kind of storm
A completely different kind of storm

Twenty minutes later, the deluge was over. My backyard had a two-inch lake in it (One dog went to explore it, the other wouldn’t step outside). Parts of the city were flooded, the arroyos that run through Albuquerque were full and dangerous, trees had toppled, and according to one news source, my neighborhood had received 1.52 inches of water in the space of an hour–that’s more than we usually get in the entire month.

Despite the danger, I loved it. I marvel at the unbridled, uncontrollable power of the storm and from the safety of my car and house, I watched with pleasure and glee. I’m sure I would feel different if I were exposed to the it, but I wasn’t. Today the sun is shining; they are predicting a possible rain for the afternoon, but I can’t imagine it might be like the one yesterday. Those are one in a million. During those storms the best you can do is find shelter and let it happen.

We have little actual control over much in life. We like to delude ourselves and think we are powerful, but in so many ways we aren’t. I’m not saying that’s bad. What I’m trying to say in a verbose and wordy manner is that you should learn to recognize where your decisions actually make a difference. That’s what you should worry about. (And no, I’m not advocating neglecting your duties like voting in elections or doing your job.)

In the case of writing (yes, it always comes back to writing with me), pretty much the only thing we have control over is the writing itself. Then we hand our work over to agents or editors or the public, and we lose control. Not complete control, but you can’t make an agent like your work, you can’t make an editor throw her support behind you, and you can’t make the public buy your book no matter how hard you beg. So I try to concentrate on the writing. And I try not to let the things I can’t command defeat me. I can’t say I enjoy the lack of control as I did the storm, but I try to keep myself safe and secure and focus on the stories I still have inside me. And, yes, I know I used the word “try” a lot because, let’s face it, I fail sometimes, but the storm always passes, and the sun comes out again.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (a re-read, but oh, so, good)