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

The Name Dropping Blog

In which I drop the famous names I saw this weekend.

This past weekend I attended Bubonicon. Bubonicon is exactly what it sounds like—the local SF/Fantasy con here in Albuquerque named after something New Mexico is famous for—the bubonic plague (we still have it fairly regularly here). I was honored to be on three panels and participate in the massive book signing they have. I always give away my books for NM tax reasons, unless someone has already bought my books at a bookstore (on site, so it’s easy to buy).

First let me just say it’s always nice to speak to and answer questions from people interested in my work—even if they come to hear someone way more famous than I. I was on a panel on Villains with SM Stirling, Caroline Spector, Joe Lansdale and Andy Kuhn. I love writing villains (which I’ve posted about here), and it listening and adding to the conversation showed me a few things as well. By the way, for me the most interesting book with villains is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Read it and find out why.

I then was on a panel on self-publishing and sat next to Rachel Caine (!). The panel also featured Emily Mah, Pari Noskin, Robert Vardeman, and David Summers. An interesting give-and-take here. My biggest take is that I have absolutely failed in creating a newsletter and email list, mostly because I hate those things myself so I don’t want to subject anyone else to them. Besides, I’m not so interesting.

The last panel I was on was called Good Writing: I Know What I Like. We spoke about what makes a story, what makes them good, and what our processes comprise. Big names here: Stephen Donaldson, John Maddox Roberts, Ben Bova, and Pari again.

My big name drop of the weekend though has to be that I stood in a conversation circle with Connie Willis, Melinda Snodgrass, Jeffe Kennedy, and Darynda Jones, and we were joined by George RR Martin (It pays to be friends with Darynda). Not that I said a word (I’ve also posted about my shyness here). He likes to laugh. I like that in a person. And he wouldn’t recognize me again. Not only did I not say a word, I had forgotten my name tag at home so nobody had a clue who I was.

The name tag I forgot with the cool lanyard donated by Rachel Caine.
The name tag I forgot with the cool lanyard donated by Rachel Caine.

But the absolutely highlights of my weekend were two tiny incidents. The first was Pari Noskin, who came up to me and said that she was so happy to be on panels with me because she loves my work and respects me so much. What an absolutely beautiful thing to say and I don’t think I can even express how much those words meant to me especially coming from a colleague. The second was at the book signing. A couple came up to me, having bought my book, and they told me that my words on the panel on writing helped them so much, and they thanked me for appearing. They had gone out to buy THE WISH LIST, which I gladly signed for them, but I also gave them a copy of THE STONE KEY. To have total strangers admire oneself is such a joy.

So that was my name-dropping weekend. No, I can’t tell you when George will be finished with his series.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch by JK Rowling (That’s right; German, baby)

The BIG Reveal

In which I introduce my newest book available April 26.

Ta-da. I could probably hook up some sort of music file here to produce a fanfare, but music erupting from a web site can be pretty obnoxious, so I will refrain. However, you can help me. Right now, imagine a trio of horns blasting a triumphant fanfare as I introduce …

 

Stone Key 1000

 

The Stone Key is my latest book, and it will be available April 26 as both an ebook and a print book. You can preorder it now at Amazon. (Or if not at this moment, any second now)

If you can’t tell from the cover, The Stone Key is a time travel novel.

Sworn to protect a powerful artifact, Arden of Throckmorton is reluctant to carry out her duty until the relic whisks her nearly eight hundred years into the future. Her only way home is to find it. Modern England is no place for a medieval maid.

Hawkins Arlington is a prominent medievalist and just the man to help her, once he gets over the whole time travel and magic nonsense. Besides, the chance to study a real medieval woman is too brilliant to pass up.

But when a villain from the past appears, Arden and Hawk race to find the artifact first, risking their lives, their homes, and their reputations. And if they find it, can Arden discover what her heart wants and will Hawk be able to let her go?

I hope you will check out this newest adventure of mine. More inside stories will follow.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

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

 

What I do wrong. . .

In which I look at bucking the trends and its consequences, especially when it comes to series.

My career took a twist when my agent left me. I took stock of my career, regrouped, and have decided to take the direction I was pointed in. But I still don’t “follow the rules” in a lot of ways. I will be releasing a new book soon (stay tuned–I’m not giving information now because I want to give it a big send off, but here’s a hint: Daylight Saving Time has nothing on this book) and unlike everything they tell you when one self-publishes, it is NOT part of a series. It is a stand-alone novel. A complete story in one book.

I have a lot of stand alone books. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of series–I do. I’ve written three trilogies myselfTriSet (although one only has two books in it because the third book was never optioned. Someday I will write that third.) It seems nowadays every book is the starting point for a series. Heck I have a fantasy making the rounds right now that is the start of a series. But it’s a planned three books and it’s done. I suppose I could continue in that world if it takes off, but this story is three books. I was prepared to continue all my series if they took off, but they wouldn’t have been the same characters, just the same world. And I wrote stand-alones too.

Look, a series is great, but frankly after about three books, I’m bored with reading them. I want to get to the end. Harry Potter is an exception. I loved every one of those seven books and couldn’t wait for the next one to come out when they were, shall we say, fresh (although an argument can be made for Order of the Phoenix as being a bridge book). But, and perhaps this is blasphemy to the Potterheads, I’m glad the series is over. I loved every minute of it, but the story is now told. I would happily read (and have) other works by the author, but Harry Potter has an end and I’m glad for it. It’s wonderful for what it is and more would just ruin the experience (for me, but this is my blog). Frankly, I made it through Chronicles of Narnia only once (re-reading is my metric for excellence) because I didn’t care after about book three. The same is true for many of the ongoing romance series. Love the first few, but then I’d had enough. In fact, sometimes I resent having to read several books to finish a series just because I want to know what happens. I usually end up skimming.

When I make a list of my favorite books, many are stand-alone : Ready Player One, To Kill a Mockingbird (look at the controversy its sequel started–I ignore the sequel), And Then There Were None, Dandelion Wine (although there is a sequel, but it’s not as good, so I ignore it as well).  Some are part of a series: Huckleberry Finn (but it is so different from the first book in the series, and nobody reads the Tom Sawyer Detective novels), Bewitching (but the second book didn’t make nearly the impact). I would say the one area where I am willing to read more than three or so books is mystery. Agatha Christie is wonderful, and although she hated Poirot , I enjoyed the character, but each story was its own and there wasn’t a never-ending story arc.

There is a famous fantasy series that I have never started because it’s too long–too many books. I’m sure they’re fun, but really, I want a story to end, and then I want to move on to something new.

But that’s me, and that’s what I write. I complete a story and move on. If I like an author I will try their other books. It’s the voice that draws me in, and the voice will appear throughout the author’s body of work. I don’t need the same story dragged out. And if stand-alone books is the reason I don’t become huge, I can live with that.

I break other rules too–like being almost impossible to market (look at the covers of my last series)–but not writing in one series is the biggie.

–Gabi

What I am reading now:

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Mast Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

 

 

 

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.)

NaNoWriMo

Don’t know how much I’ll be updating here since I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but stay tuned.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Martian by Andy Weir

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)

 

Use Your Senses

No, not common sense, although you should be using that one too. In which I talk about the two hardest senses to convey in books–taste and smell.

They say (whoever they are) smell is the strongest trigger for memories. I could look this up, but I don’t want to right now. I’d say they’re right. The smell of diesel fuel in the rain—sounds gross, I know—takes me back to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and when I traveled there as a kid with my family. Corn meal takes me back even further. When I was a toddler, my parents owned and ran a chicken farm in Los Angeles. Corn meal was used to feed the chicks. The smell makes me feel safe, warm, and loved. (Yes, I had a good childhood. No traumas to draw on for my writing.)

plums
Black plums (And can you tell I’m not a food photographer?)

Taste is another powerful trigger. Just this week I bit into a black plum and was transported to my childhood backyard. We had five fruit trees—apricot, peach, tangelo, quince apple, and, yes, black plum. We would have so many plums we’d walk around the neighborhood and sell them by the bag. Forget lemonade stands. The plum tree was “mine,” and my sister had the apricot tree. My mother would make so many jars of plum and apricot preserves. That bite produced such a vivid memory I almost forgot to breathe.

And that’s why you want to include all the senses in your reading (and writing), not just touch, sight, and sound. It’s the visceral feeling readers crave.

So, do you have any memories associated with smell or taste?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

One True Heart by Jodi Thomas

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

To Kill a Mockingbird (No, not the book…

…well, yes, the book, but this is my opinion on the “sequel”) In which I give you my take on Go Set A Watchman.

You may read whatever you like. Let me just put that out there. If you are waiting to read Go Set A Watchman, go right ahead. I will not be joining you. First, from everything I’ve read, it’s not clear that Harper Lee actually wants this book published. She’s in a nursing home. Her older sister/lawyer/caretaker/protector died, and SUDDENLY (bad writing form) they’ve found the long lost novel. I don’t trust that version of the story. Second, from what I’ve read, this “second book” is actually the first rejected version or rough draft where you are still figuring out who your characters are, where the story is going and what your theme is. I don’t want to read my own first drafts. They’re that bad. Third, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorites. I don’t want to ruin it.

It might be too late.

Whether I read GSAW or not, I know it’s out there and spoils the image of Atticus. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist when it does. I know, not through first hand knowledge but from critiques and reviews that hero Atticus is no longer a hero. I can’t get that fact out of my head.It’s sort of like the reason I didn’t like the first three (as in episodes, I, II and III) of Star Wars. I already knew that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.* Totally spoiled the whole premise for me. It made me not respect Obi Wan as much, and I couldn’t root for Anakin because I knew he was evil (yes, yes, he gets redeemed at the end**, but it took the joy of discovery out of the whole story. I’m not even talking about the whole “too much backstory” aspect. If the book was put out there as an academic study of the evolution of TKAM (which I’m told many people are taking it as), I might have accepted it better, but it’s being marketed as a sequel, so that’s  that.

 

Mockingbird
My dog chewed up this copy of TKAM.

I understand where the publishers are coming from. They’re all about the bottom line. GSAW will earn them a boatload of money. I’ve faced that unforgiving bottom line in my own career (maybe “butted heads against” is a better term than “faced”) and while I don’t agree with the decisions that follow looking only at the unforgiving bottom line, I do understand it. Maybe corporations should put a line in their charters about serving the public good instead of profits, but I get it.

So I’m not reading it. And I’m not sure I can go back to TKAM without prejudice either. I taught that book and it was so lovely. Now it has a bad stench associated with. At least for me. But then again, this is my blog and my opinion. I hope the rest of you aren’t as neurotic as I.

–Gabi

*First, if this was a spoiler, too bad. It’s been common knowledge for decades. Catch up. And second, I misspelled Anakin and didn’t capitalize Darth on the first attempt at typing. They were flagged as incorrect words by spell check. Once I corrected them, they weren’t flagged at all. What does that say about the integration of Star Wars into out culture? Pretty cool, I’d say.

**Really? Watch the damn movies.

Books I’m reading now:

The Lost Key by Catherine Coulter And JT Ellison