My latest novel is out and available. MYSTIC is the story of skeptical novelist who has to help a psychic find sanctuary. Although it has romance, MYSTIC is more of an urban fantasy with lots of action. I’d love it if you read it. And, yes, the cat on the cover is relevant.
Books I’m reading now:
THe Secret, Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams
We’ve all done it—played the mental game “Will I survive the Zombie Apocalypse?” or other variations of that game (What if I had to go on the run? Would I survive the Nazis? What if Armageddon happened today? What if the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupts? What if Aliens destroy the world? And so many more). I do have rudimentary survival skills—fire building, camping, trapping, etc.; they’re rusty, but I’m sure they would come back—but that’s not the reason I wouldn’t survive. Here are five reasons I would be among the first to go.
I need to floss my teeth.
I just read a sentence somewhere that said, “We’ve all fallen asleep without brushing our teeth.” Nope. I can’t. Not only that, I have to floss. Have to. I’d be a month into survival, when the floss would run out, and I’d hang it up. It’s over.
I need to wash my hands.
I can hear you saying, “What’s so bad about that? It’s hygienic.” Nope. I can’t stand the feeling of having dirt or other things on my hands. It’s why I don’t garden. I can’t have the dirt on my hands for any length of time. And don’t tell me to wear gloves. The sweat and lint from the glove is just as bad. I have to wash my hands after I pet my dogs, after I touch dough or vegetables or meat (Cooking is a nightmare and please don’t make me decorate cookies), after filling the gas tank, after loading the washing machine and after doing dishes.
I need to sleep.
I love to sleep. I don’t do it well, but I do like my 8.5-9 hours in bed. After a couple of days without that much sleep, you’d want to shoot me yourself.
I am not in the best shape.
Yes, I play a mean game of volleyball. For my age, I am an outstanding player and even strike fear into the hearts of many younger players. But even though I play well and often, I’m not in great shape. Yes, I’m not a slug, but I couldn’t imagine being on the run for several days in a row. Or even running. I can do the quick bursts of speed needed to play VB, but I don’t run. My knees are shot after forty plus years of volleyball. I can ignore it on the court, but you should see me get up in the morning.
I don’t play well with others.
There’s a reason I write books. I create them, I set the plot, I can do it alone. As soon as I disagreed with the group, I’d want to set off alone, and I’m smart enough to know that’s dumb. I don’t take orders well. You won’t catch me doing the wave at a stadium. No one can tell me what to do. When I do play with others, as in games, I play to win. I love games, but I’m not a nice player. I’m ruthless. Heck, I never even let my kids win at Candyland when they were little. If they won, it was on their own merit.
My novel MYSTIC (coming soon, real soon) is about a cross-country chase where my protagonists had to leave their lives behind and survive. They don’t floss.
I am shy. There you have it. I am shy. Put me at a party where I don’t know people, and I’m in my living nightmare (happened just recently to me–I barely kept it together). Trying to initiate conversation with someone I don’t know is absolutely excruciating.
But that’s not the whole story. When I tell my friends (and volleyball teammates) that I am shy, they don’t believe me. That’s because I don’t have any issues with speaking one on one, or telling anecdotes to a group of friends, or even giving talks in front of people. I can give a talk to room full of strangers and feel fine. Put those strangers in a party setting, and I won’t say a word. I was in a situation where I stood beside a good friend (a well-known author) and soon we were in a circle of other authors I didn’t know. I said nothing. A few minutes later, George RR Martin (name-dropping here) joined the circle for a little bit (a couple of his best friends were in the circle). I literally froze inside (Yes, literally. I was cold, I didn’t move, I was barely breathing). The worst part is that I’m tall, and I stuck out. So I remained nameless and voiceless for the entire time. I am way too self-conscious for my own good.
Here’s what I’m trying to get at. As an author, we’re supposed to get out there and network. I die a little inside when I have to introduce myself to someone. Conversely, if a stranger initiates the conversation with me, then I have no problem speaking to them. So I’m begging you, if you ever see me, or have the opportunity to talk to me, or you want to write to me, by all means, stop me and talk to me. I DO love to meet new people, but I can’t do it myself, and I enjoy the opportunity to meet new people. Drop me an email (or tweet or facebook me). I’m trying to overcome my paralyzing irrational fear of initiating contacts, but it’s not an easy task.
You’re not human if you’re not filled with contradictions.
Do you remember how you felt the first time you saw Star Wars (we’re talking original series here)? The elation at the end of the first movie, the agony at the end of the second (don’t get me started on cliffhanger endings), and the satisfaction at the end of the third? The cheesiness never mattered. I loved the experience of it (except the cliffhanger ending, don’t get me started). The same thing happened at the end of Indiana Jones (the first, and while I liked the second and third ones, they weren’t the first. I’ll just ignore number four.), and Jurassic Park, and Shawshank Redemption, and Notting Hill. Movies that left me optimistic about mankind, that justice will prevail, that love triumphs (hey, there are all kinds of love: romantic love, the love between friends, the love of a T-Rex for its dinner) . It’s that feeling that I crave and search for in my entertainment, and that I seek to create in my books.
That type of ending is harder to find in books. Harry Potter did it. So did Ready Player One. So did the Ryria Revelations. Some books have absolutely the ending they deserve and need to have to make the story work. The Mistborn series had a brilliant ending. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom ended just as they should have. I enjoyed those books too, but they don’t leave me with that ebullient sensation I got from the other works mentioned. I can even recommend those books and analyze them and point out their strengths and show how deep and complex they are. They are satisfying in their own way. And therein lies the rub for me. They are satisfying in their own way. I loved the ending of Rogue One. That’s how that story needed to finish. But I adore the cheese.
I know there are people out there who didn’t like Star Wars (my mother being one of them), and that’s fine. Their opinions are valid. But for me, leave me the cheering for the good guy. Let the bad guys be defeated, let justice prevail, let love triumph, let the heroes win and survive. Those are the endings I seek. They are all too few in the real world. Let me embrace and escape into the fantasy. Just for a little while.
One of the dangers of aging is losing touch with modern language. We bought an electric car last week (Bear with me; it all ties together). Robot Guy’s old car was dying, and we knew we had to replace it. Since we installed solar panels, electric made the most sense. It’s a pretty little thing–metallic blue with black accents, and it’s perfect for his commute to work. So what about language? Well, as the car genius was taking us through the functions of the car he said, “XXX (something; I don’t remember; I am so not made for complicated gadgets.) won’t work unless the gas pedal is pressed down.” He paused and said, “I guess it’s not a gas pedal, is it?” Granted English has another word for it, accelerator, but who uses that word? But it’s no longer a gas pedal either. I guess accelerator will have to become de rigueur.
There are lots of changes happening in language because of the rapid acceleration (there’s that word again) of technology. I had to revise a book before publishing it because when I wrote it a few years ago, I had the hero place a CD in his car for music. Revised version? He engaged the bluetooth and played the song from his phone. A record skip no longer exists, nor can we slam down the phone. We don’t rent movies; we stream them (I admit I still get Netflix to send DVDs, and I still have a machine that plays VHS tapes). How long have we googled things? And the only time you need a fax machine these days is when you’re dealing with some kind of bureaucracy (Something I had to acquire because I have to deal with one regularly). “They” is now accepted as a singular pronoun, and I applaud it in the use of the LGBTQ community (and others, but if you use it in an academic essay, I will look down on you).
I actually find it exciting to witness the changes. Language is fluid, especially English, and it’s part of the reason for my hypothesis that English is a simple language to be understood in, but almost impossible to master. Who knows how language will change in the future, but I for one will look forward to learning it. Gotta keep up my reputation as a language master. (Yes, “gotta” was on purpose.)
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.
Books I’m reading now:
Harry Potter und die Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)