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.


Books I’m reading now:

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

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.


What I’m reading now:

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (a re-read)

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett


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.


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.”)


Nicole Winters–Debut YA Author

Today I’m thrilled to have Nicole Winters here with her new book The Jock and the Fat Chick. It comes out today!JockFatChick Best QualityThis YA Romance sounds funny and fantastic. Just look at this summary:

No one ever said high school was easy. In this hilarious and heartwarming debut, one high school senior has to ask himself how much he’s willing to give up in order to fit in. Kevin seems to have it all: he’s popular, good looking, and on his way to scoring a college hockey scholarship. However, he’s keeping two big secrets. The first is that he failed an assignment and is now forced to take the most embarrassing course ever–domestic tech. The second is that he is falling for his domestic tech classmate, Claire. As far as Kevin is concerned, Claire does have it all: she’s funny, smart, beautiful, and confident. But she’s off-limits. Because Kevin knows what happens when someone in his group dares to date a girl who isn’t a cheerleader, and there’s no way he is going to put himself—or Claire—through that. But steering clear of the girl of his dreams is a lot harder than Kevin thought…especially when a cooking project they are paired together for provides the perfect opportunity for things to heat up between them outside the classroom….

To help you get to know Nicole better, I’ve asked her some questions. She even included some links to some of the things she mentions in her answers.

Do you have any must-haves while writing?

Nicole: I suffer from chilblains so I must have heat, otherwise, it’s like typing with frostbitten fingers—very painful. Also, a good cuppa tea. Top Choice: Yorkshire Gold, orange pekoe with a splash of 2%. “Let’s have a proper brew”

About your title: yours or the editor’s?

Nicole: Coming up with titles is weird for me, it’s like playing darts. Either I miss the board completely, or it’s a bullseye. In this case, the title was mine.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Nicole: I liked writing Claire and Kevin equally. Kevin, because he transforms from being physically and emotionally starved to nurturing himself and standing in his truth. Claire was fun because she knows who she is, where she is going, and loves the skin she’s in. They’re also two characters who love to laugh, so writing scenes with them together were pretty fun.

How did you celebrate “getting the call?”

Nicole: It was one of those beautiful winter days — no snow, no wind, the sun was shining — and after telling close friends and family, I shoveled off the balcony, grabbed a few blankets, my cat, a cup of tea, and enjoyed a gourmet cookie from The Chocolateria.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Nicole: Non-writer, huh? Hmm… I like Marie Forlio ( for her videos and practical advice. I love her tagline: “Stay on your game; because the world needs that special gift that only you have.” I also like British illusionist and mentalist, Derren Brown.( What a showman, I’d love to see him perform live.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors (who would not appear in zombie form, but in their whole body selves), whom would you invite to the table?


Nicole: Dorothy Parker, Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolf, Lucy Maud Montgomery, David Foster Wallace

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?


What is in your To Read Pile that you are dying to start or upcoming release you can’t wait for?

Nicole: Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’; Ron Rash’s ABOVE THE WATERFALL; Tommy Hays’ WHAT I CAME TO TELL YOU; John Dufresne’s NO REGRETS, COYOTE; Amy Willoughby-Buke’s OUT ACROSS THE NOWHERE; Gale Deitch’s A FINE FIX (And the list goes on; not enough time!)

If you could choose a superpower what would it be and why?

Nicole: It’d be the ability to stop time. I could read all those books on the stack, and I’d write all those stories piling up in my head. Hmm… maybe this is how James Patterson cranks out so many books in a year?

What’s next for you?

Nicole: Going back and polishing other novels (I hope to break into the middle-grade market) and I am delving into the world of magicians and magic (close-up, parlor, stage, illusions) for my next YA adventure, working title, THE CONJURER.


Nicole Winters Photo
Nicole Winters

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a brief bio:

As a C average student with a learning disability, Nicole was herself a reluctant reader. That changed when, at the age of twelve, she was assigned S. E. Hinton’s classic YA novel The Outsiders. After devouring the book in a single sitting, Nicole came to understand how the right story can capture the imagination and enthusiasm of anyone – reluctant reader or otherwise. From there, Nicole gravitated towards tales of adventure, suspense, romance and horror. Her works focus on human relationships and the personal journeys of the characters, creating stories she hopes will excite and inspire readers. Nicole enjoys traveling the world, but calls Toronto home. She is the author of TT Full Throttle (a YA road racing novel) and is currently at work on her third novel, The Conjurer.


Twitter: @nicolewintersya

Facebook: The Jock and the Fat Chick

Facebook: Nicole Author Page

I thank Nicole for appearing here, and wish her much success with her career. May the debut strike the imagination of readers everywhere.


Books I’m reading now:

How to Get Lucky: 13 techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks by Max Gunther

Ten Quick Tips About Writing Fantasy . . .

. . . In which I examine my own thoughts about writing fantasy.

I am trying to switch genres from Romance (though I still love it and am currently working on one) to fantasy (Although my next manuscript will be more science fiction–it’s the process of “throw everything out there and see what sticks”). I love fantasy and have since I was a child. I am currently shopping a fantasy romance (which I love!) and a straight fantasy (which I also love–two books of the heart) So here are my top ten quick tips about writing fantasy.FalconAndWolfLatestSmall

  1. Read in the genre–there are all kinds of fantasy. Read, read, read. (That’s true for any genre)
  2. You can’t just throw in a dragon– although dragons are great, right?
  3. You must build a world–as the author, you have to know the rules of the world and stick to them.
  4. Logic must still prevail–just because you’re making up a world, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to make sense. (Almost the same thing as 3, but not quite)
  5. The characters are more important than the flash and decoration– a reader still wants and needs to identify with at least some of your characters.
  6. Writing rules still apply–If you’re going to be wordy, you’d better have a good reason to be so. (Like not using contractions–works great as a characteristic for Data, but not so good for other characters)
  7. Know where you’re going–especially if you plan several books. You have to know the destination.
  8. Avoid story clichés–they’ve been done to death.
  9. Actions have consequences– don’t forget to show them. Rarely is anything black and white. Gray can be a much more interesting shade.
  10. Research is essential–yes, even for a fantasy, you must do your research.

So, you know anyone interested in a fantasy?


Books I’m reading now:

Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Names–or–A Little Known Fact About . . .

Temptation’s Warrior

TemptationsWarriorCoverLatestSmallNames can be trouble. When I had finished writing Temptiation’s Warrior and was getting ready to send it out for possible publication, I came across a review of a medieval set novel (like Temptation’s) by a big name author whose main characters were names Elf and Ranulf. I almost screamed. Those were the names of my hero and heroine too. My characters were Elfrieda and Ranulf. Hers were Eleanor and Ranulf. It wasn’t fair. Elf isn’t even a nickname for Eleanor. My Elf was also a running joke because Elf was freakishly tall for a woman. So I decided I had to change one name. I couldn’t change Elf (running joke and all that), but I did decide to find a new name for a hero.

Usually when you write a book you start thinking about those characters with those names and somehow they become those people. Stormy (in Wishful Thinking) was a silly name, but that’s how she introduced herself in my sub conscious and the name stuck. I even joked about it in the text. But she was  Stormy. Changing a name can be traumatic. A rose by any other name is NOT as sweet. I thought changing Ranulf would be just painful. (Ooo, a pun. You’ll see why.)

I did research on medieval names and discovered that the name Payne was fairly common. And when I found that name, suddenly I forgot all about Ranulf and discovered the hero’s real name was Payne. It sounds like TW Mollysuch a modern name, but it isn’t. So instead of being painful (Ha!) the name change made me like this book even more. And I really like this medieval romp that I wrote. It won a prestigious contest before it was published (The Molly).



Books I’m reading now:

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch


…thy name is author. In which I look at the crazy ways being a writer is, well, nuts.

If you sit down to think about it, being a writer is truly absurd. Gone is any hope of a sensible view of the world. In which other occupation can the words “good rejection” make sense? Who else but a writer would read the names of two towns on a billboard–Sylvana and Arlington–and think, “Aha. The names of my next protagonists” ?  And whatever happened to the guilt you’re supposed to feel at eavesdropping rather than the frantic search for a scrap of paper on which to write that perfect turn of phrase  overheard in line at the supermarket or to record the plot point that jumped into your head?

Despite the turn to technology, I still have reams of paper sitting around my house, some blank, some filled with hundreds of thousands of words (that is NOT an exaggeration) that have either made me giddy or filled me with despair. I have more pens in my purse than a receptionists desk at a medical clinic, more empty journals than lifetimes to fill them. I have a huge dictionary that I keep close by my side for reference, and more bookshelves than a classroom and they are still too full to fit all the books I own, so I have huge plastic containers in the garage also filled with books.

And don’t think I’m lacking in the technology either. I have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smart phone, more writing programs than fingers, an e-reader, headphones, microphone, cameras, and yet I still like doing my first drafts in long hand.

TheSeaEagleSmallEverything I watch or hear is possible source of inspiration. True story. I saw a segment on TV about a man who found an injured owl. One of the owl’s wings had to be amputated. The man cared for the owl as best he could and the owl recovered, but, of course, couldn’t fly. When the man realized that the owl missed flight, he strapped on roller blades, perched the owl on his shoulder, and skated along the lakefront in Chicago. The owl would lean into the wind and pretend he was flying again. The man lost fifty pounds too. This story became THE SEA EAGLE, except for the fifty pounds. I don’t do diet books.

FalconAndWolfLatestSmallFamily is inspiration too. Robot Guy once said, “Engineers are never heroes in romance novels. Why don’t you write one with an engineer as a hero?” So I did: THE FALCON AND THE WOLF. Okay, so there’s also magic in that story, but why quibble over the details. And having a child with special needs became the inspiration for two special characters in AS YOU WISH. That one has magic too, but, hey, I’m writing fiction, not memoir.StevensAsYouWish

Once I was out walking with Robot Guy and a plane flew overhead. I looked up and my immediate thought was, “If it blew up right now, could I run away from the debris field?” So I asked him. He just looked at me and said, “Is that really what goes through your head?”

Yup. It really is.


Books I’m reading now:

Still can’t tell you, but when I get back to regular reading, you’ll find my choices here.

Brick Walls and Critical Mass

In which I look at my method of writing. . . if you can call it a method.

I usually start a book with a general idea of character and plot. I don’t make notes or do character interviews. I have an idea of where the story starts, where it’s going and how it will end. Everything else I just let happen. It’s not the most efficient way to write, but it works for me. Especially once I’ve passed the brick wall and hit critical mass.

Brick wall? It’s my term for that part of your novel that is so awful to get through that you don’t think you can continue at all. I’ve hit the wall in every one of my books.[term]=brick%20wall&filters[primary]=images
Photo by just-in-sane at Photobucket (Click to find)
The wall is too tall to climb over, too wide to go around, and its foundation extends too deeply to tunnel under. The only way to get past the brick wall is through it, brick by brick, prying and chiseling out  each individual stone until your fingers are bloody, your skin is raw, and you can’t catch your breath any longer. You’re sweaty, and dirty, and exhausted. You can’t see the other side, all the progress you’ve made until this point has been futile, and your soul is crying for you to give up. Well, that’s my metaphor anyway. There is always some point in the book where I just want to throw it away and never look at it again, but I keep going. You have to keep going.

Because by now I know that just beyond that brick wall is the critical mass. It’s that point in my novel where enough of the story is done that the weight of what’s written overpowers what’s yet to write, and the novel won’t stop writing itself. Just like a boulder rolling downhill. It starts slowly, sometimes seeming to falter, then suddenly it gathers enough speed that nothing will stop it until it reaches the bottom and comes to a rest.

Reaching critical mass is my favorite part of writing. I reach a point where I want to see how it ends. Okay, I know how it ends since I’m the author, but it’s more fun to see it on paper than in my head. There’s something so concrete, so uplifting, about finishing a manuscript. I don’t care if the novel is dreck; the dang thing is finished. It doesn’t mean the writing is done. Oh, no, for then comes revising and polishing and fixing, but in my opinion, which I’m allowed to express here because this is my blog, working on something that already exists is easier than fixing an empty page.

A completed manuscript in any form is an accomplishment. It’s an amazing feat, whether it’s your first book or your thirty-first. You wrote a book. You just have to get keep going, especially when you hit that wall.


Books I’m reading now:

Obsession by Jennifer Armentrout

Eyes Turned Skyward by Rebecca Yarros


Work is a Four-Letter Word…

…no matter how much you claim to love it. So is “book.” In which I explore the idea of working on a passion.

Have you ever considered your writing career as work? Most people thinks of work as a four-letter word(I know my father did), but the truth is writing is work. The secret is loving the aspects of it. If you’re truly lucky, your avocation can be your vocation.

I don’t believe anyone who tells me they love every aspect of writing. There’s plenty about it that resembles work the four-letter word. You have to plan and schedule your time; you have to get supplies; do research; you have to deal with outside forces passing judgment on your efforts; you have to deal with the empty page that can be daunting; you have overcome the self-doubts that plague you. You have deadlines, carpal tunnel syndrome, and isolation from those who don’t understand what you’re doing and just what it entails. Frustration and pain go hand in hand with writing. So don’t tell me it’s not work.

So why do we keep at it? Because our work gives us joy and satisfaction, and fulfills our creative needs. We tend to forget the pain when the joy is upon us (kind of like going through a second–or more– childbirth) because the joy is so much more powerfmargaritaul.

So in this new year, I’m telling you to get back to work, and may your joys outweigh the pains this year. And any to follow.  Work hard and reap the joys.

And when you’re done with work…


Books I’m reading now:

The Mean Vet by MC Beaton

Obsession by Jennifer Armentrout

“Ride, Boldly Ride…If You Seek for Eldorado”

In which I explore the nobility of following a dream with the aid of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

 An English teacher told me once I would never be a writer. At the time I didn’t listen because I thought I was going to be an actress, but those words stuck with me. When I finally realized that I had stories inside me (I had just been acting them out instead of writing them), I remembered what that teacher had said, and ignored her. I had a dream to pursue.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.25.06 AMAll artists have much in common. We pursue dreams. We aren’t always successful, depending on your definition of success (yes, that’s one of those words where the definition can mean different things to different people despite having an entry in the dictionary). Many of us don’t make money, many of us have day jobs because we can’t support ourselves with our art, many of us have other responsibilities. So we worry about being real artists, but if you valiantly make the effort, don’t worry. The pursuit of the dream is as noble as the dream itself.

Think about it. If you dream about being a writer or whatever, and you do nothing to achieve that dream, then it’s a nice fantasy, but little else. But if you are actively writing (or whatever), and learning, and trying, and submitting, then you are as valid a writer as Ms. Bestseller whose 400th book comes out next week (there is that propensity for hyperbole again). The pursuit of the dream is as noble as the dream itself.

I’ve put Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Eldorado” here, because it embodies this ideal. A knight spends his whole life searching for Eldorado, but in vain. It’s a poem about perseverance. Yes, he fails, but look at that last stanza. As the knight is dying, he meets a ghost, and the ghost tells him to keep on. “Ride, boldly ride.” That doesn’t sound to me as if the ghost is trying to dissuade him from his quest.

So go on. Ride.


Books I’m reading now:

Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy

Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens by JK Rowling