My Trip to Atlanta – Part One

September 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

IMG_1269.JPGMy trip to Atlanta was exhilarating. I navigated two airports, a train system, and bus routes – all things I have not done in a long, long time.  I learned about five square miles of a city I’d never been to by walking.  Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because I was hopelessly lost.  Traveling with a flip phone in a smart phone society is a whole different ball game than traveling an unknown city in the days of payphones and paper maps. People saw me holding a real map and not utilizing GPS and there was much commentary, and confusion by others on how to read it as it doesn’t flip itself around and identify your location for you.  Even now, the word processor is telling me that the word payphone can not be pluralized.  (When did that become a thing?)  But I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to describe more than one.

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My Pet Rock. I patted it every day on my walk to the AmericasMart.

I was pretty excited about the MARTA rail system.  I’ve missed riding the rail since I moved from Dallas. Public transportation, once the stop points are identified and times committed to memory, are so much more relaxing than driving.  I like being able to read on daily commutes, I like the safety of not risking car crashes.  I like knowing that if I begin my journey at such-n-such time I am guaranteed to arrive at my destination at another specific time – down to the minute.  Atlanta excels at this. The bus route, however, is a whole other ballgame that got me pretty flustered.  The buses sort of arrive when they feel like it, the stops are relative, and the entire route based on the driver’s mood.

Everyone is very polite, though, even when they are offering you drugs.  I thought, as a Texan, that I understood southern hospitality.  When it comes to Good Mornings, sweet smiles, and a general attitude of helpfulness – we’ve got nothing on Georgia.  Any half puzzled look on your face will immediately result in someone stopping to help.  Stand at a stop too long and someone will inevitably ask you which bus you’re trying to catch and inform you, “Oh sometimes that driver likes to stop on that side of the street, be sure you check over there too or you might miss it.”  Smiles abound, even in the early morning pre-coffee grog.

I went to Atlanta to work the Wordfire Press booth at DragonCon. Convention people are exactly what I expected, after doing Comicpalooza and OwlCon in Houston, it’s pretty much the same routine, just bigger and takes up the whole downtown area instead of one convention center.  But outside the realm of the Con, everything was incredibly foreign.  I felt like I had stepped into how I imagine the 1950’s in a lot of ways, and once three blocks away from the convention hotels and gathering areas, I’ve never been reminded so often of how white I am. Politely, but with bafflement.

Houston is a melting pot. Our segregation occurs on the socioeconomic level, rather than a race level.  Latinos, Blacks, and Rednecks all live next to each other as long as they belong in the same tax bracket.  I didn’t see a lot of Atlanta, but I got the sense that things aren’t that way there.  So many times I was asked, “What’s a white girl doing on this street? You lost?” Or, the most bizarre, “Why you so comfortable talking to a black man? Is your husband black?”  At that question I retorted, “Should I be scared of you?”  “No, but these other niggers around here are cut-throat. You need to watch yourself.”  I felt like a child being reprimanded for not knowing the rules, especially when literally everyone I talked to was so very kind.  Yet, there I was a block the other side of Five Points, getting questioning glances from people who thought I was too pale to tread on their turf.  “You lost, baby? You don’t belong here.”  Or when I went to The Underground below the wrong CVS: “No, honey, you shouldn’t be down here, go up and get back to Peachtree as quick as you can, that’s where your people are,” before I even mentioned I was trying to meet anyone.

The whole experience was eye-opening and disheartening.  I enjoyed every conversation I had, even the fellow who offered me crack was very polite and concerned, keeping his distance when addressing me.  Is all of Atlanta that way, or just those neighborhoods?  Why was everyone so separate?

In my perfect world, I want to notice how much darker your skin is than mine. I want to acknowledge that freckles on you look entirely different than freckles on me. Deep, dark skin catches my eye, as a prisma color artist I am enthralled by skin tones that involve so many undertones of purple.  I want to listen to deep, milky voices bellow soul music, and that be ok. I don’t mind you calling me “white girl” but if I describe you as a black man or woman, I would like for you to not be offended.  We are different in so many beautiful ways.  To say we don’t see color is a disservice to the amazing people God created, like not noticing the difference between a sapphire and an emerald.  But we are also both human, we have troubles and trials, we have cultures we sometimes share and sometimes don’t.  I’ve never been so grateful to have grown up in Houston, where we all live side by side, work together, grow together, and learn together.  Houston has its own problems for sure, but I think we all have a cohesive love for our city and for Texas that keeps us pretty united.

I hope to visit Atlanta again.  I hope to branch out farther and see what the city as a whole is truly like, as opposed to the downtown areas I was restricted to for the duration of my stay. It has so many lovely parts and many beautiful people.

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Houston Pow Wow 2014

November 17, 2014 at 12:11 am (Education, Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Already in the mere four years I’ve been a homeschool mom, with my child not even “school age,” homeschooling in general has proven to be as much an education for me as it is for her.  When you homeschool, field trips feel imperative.  Not only do you want your kid to interact in the world, but even the most extreme homebody, if not an agoraphobe, gets a touch of cabin fever now and again.

Pow Wow 2012 017In 2012, we discovered that Houston has an annual Pow Wow and attended.  I documented that trip here. The kiddo loved it. We studied everything a two year old could “study” about Native Americans at that time and watched a lot of Pocahontas after the event. The culture, the dancing, the drums, the music, the food, I tried to dip my very pasty child in the whole experience. She came away desperately wanting an out fit just like the girl’s she took a picture with in my previous blog post (see left).

Life happened and we missed the 2013 gathering, though we do intend to attend every year.

Grant ForemanThis year, though kiddo didn’t do much in the way of pre- Pow Wow “research,” I felt the need to grab a book. On my lunch breaks I’ve been perusing The Five Civilized Tribes. I was most interested in the segment on the Choctaw since that is the tribe our rumored ancestor was supposed to have been. (I’m convinced everyone claims a tie to the Native Americans, I’m not convinced everyone has one… I’m not convinced I even have one. But from a geographical standpoint, Choctaw makes good sense.)

I’m not done reading, so a full review cannot commence.  Currently, I’ve read through the Choctaw segment and now am knee deep in the Creeks.  The book, however, is thorough and enjoyable though – as the Christian Science Monitor reported – “pure history, sober, and fully documented.”  One would assume that it would read dry, but it’s not.  Sober and dry should not be used interchangeably when speaking of history, but often it is.  Especially when dealing with the history of the Native American Indian tribes.  Their cultures are too colorful and their history too rich to ever be considered dry.

My favorite bit about the Choctaw is how thoroughly devoted to educating their children they were.  Building school houses and hiring teachers was a huge deal for them.  They built educational requests into their treaties.  Although I don’t agree with institutionalizing, I do find it interesting how much they wanted to learn about those infiltrating their land.  Some would say that it was an effort to assimilate, but I don’t think so.  I think it was more of an effort to understand.  Understanding and knowledge is important to me, though, so perhaps that is always how I will interpret those sorts of actions.

P1000571We don’t speak with the competitors at the Pow Wows much.  I’d like to know what tribes they are affiliated with, who their ancestors are, whether they live next door or on a reservation.  I’d like to talk to them all, interview them all, watch them all more closely.  But they are there for a competition and seem to be far more in the public eye than what could possibly be comfortable.  Instead we politely nod, smile, purchase raffle tickets for Indian Blankets, donate money to musicians, and try not to take too many invasive pictures of the dancers.  Instead, my child makes friends with their children for the day and blows bubbles, and desperately contains herself from touching their bead work and feathers, lest a fiercely intense father of a playmate scowl at all his hard work being undone.

The event is beautiful.  It’s all so beautiful.

Today, however, it was rainy and cold.  The Pow Wow had to be moved from the arena to a pavilion.  The show must go on, though, rain or shine, and despite the cold and the wet, they danced, and they were brilliant and kind.  Kind – even when my daughter said quite boldly during their prayer time, “But Indians DON’T PRAY!”  I promise I didn’t teach her that.  I popped her little butt and said, “Everyone prays, now bow your head.”

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Interview with Jason Kristopher

June 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P10200191. Your books (The Dying of the Light) are a series of zombie apocalypse novels. What do you think your stories have that set them apart from the rest of the zombie genre?

First, a realistic and scientifically-vetted reason for zombies, as in it’s not just supernatural or science fiction ‘hand-waving.’ Second, and this is the key difference, the books aren’t about the zombies. Yes, they have zombies in them, and action and blood and guts and gore, but at its core, The Dying of the Light is a story about people. I always tell potential readers that it could’ve been anything that ended the world: aliens, earthquakes, global warming… none of that matters. This series is about the end of these people’s own personal worlds, and how they deal with what happens during and after, and more importantly, with each other. That’s the real story – the rest is just window-dressing.

2. What inspired you to write zombie novels? Did the characters come to you as products of the apocalypse, or did you drop them into that setting after their inception?

The idea for the story was a mash-up of two different dreams, actually. One about a lone zombie survivor on an island, the other about the end of the world (though I didn’t know at the time what had done it). My writer’s brain smashed them together, and suddenly, there was a zombie apocalypse trilogy. It makes me a bit nervous about the other connections my mind makes, actually…

3. Stephen King says people who don’t read don’t have the tools to write. Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you to write? Who do you read to gain more writing energy?

on-writing-coverWould it be trite to say Stephen King? His book On Writing is the single best treatise on the craft of authorship that I’ve ever read. As for other fun favorites, I have a ton, but a few that come to mind: Isaac Asimov, Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Donaldson, Jordan, Koontz, Niven, Pratchett… see what I mean? For inspiration, I look at some of my friends, like George Wright Padgett (Spindown), who wrote one of my personal Top 5 sci-fi books. That is inspiring, to me. I like to re-read some books if I’m having trouble with a book I’m writing, too. For example, I’ll revisit The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series if I’m stumbling over dialogue – even though it’s English slang, Douglas Adams was a master of dialogue.

4. Do you have play lists of mood music you write to? If so, which artists/songs generally make the cut?

If I have music on, it’s generally instrumental – tuneful background noise, basically. The soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, or Last of the Mohicans, that sort of thing. If I’m struggling with a particular type of scene, I’ll find some music that fits that ambiance. For example, my “Car Chase” playlist has Guns N’ Roses, Project Pitchfork, Rihanna, and even Motley Crue. But usually, I like it quiet or very low music when I’m writing; it keeps me focused.

grey gecko press5. You are not just an author, but the owner of a publishing company: Grey Gecko Press. Tell me a little about that. What made you decide to open such a venture and what are your goals for the company?

I’ve always been business-minded, and when I published my first book, I knew there would be business expenses involved. Originally, I never planned to publish anyone else’s work, but then a friend (author Wayne Basta) asked if I could help him, and Aristeia: Revolutionary Right became the second book published under the Grey Gecko imprint. I found I really enjoyed working with other authors to share great stories, even if they weren’t mine, and I had the ability to do it… so why not? From the beginning, the company has been about treating authors fairly, publishing great books, and doing things the right way, even if that bucks centuries of tradition.

As far as goals… well, I’ve long said that I’d like for Grey Gecko to be ‘the Google of publishing.’ Most people interpret that to mean I want to be rich, when that’s not at all my goal. I want Grey Gecko Press to be huge because it would mean that every author would have a chance at the same kind of success that only a few get now with traditional publishing. Every struggling writer, pounding away at their keyboard (or typewriter, I’m not judging) would know that at least one company would look at their work when it was done, regardless of their past publishing experience – because, at the end of the day, Grey Gecko isn’t about making money: it’s about publishing great books and putting authors first. As you can tell, I’m quite passionate about this endeavor.

6. You’re quite an entrepreneur. What other projects do you have up your sleeve?

I think it’d be grP1020027eat to have a Grey Gecko bookstore, for one thing. For another, we haven’t been able to focus on as much as I’d like with Grey Gecko is giving back to our community. I’ve got some ideas for creating local resources and ‘maker-spaces’ for writers of all types and kinds. When we’re ready, I’d like to take our business model into other fields, as well, including movies, film, and even music. So yeah, a few projects on the horizon!

7. How would you feel about having your books made into a television show or series of movies? Would you want to write your own screenplays? Who would be your ideal director?

One of the comments I have most about my books are that they’re very visual, very cinematic, and I agree! I think they’d make great movies/TV shows, mainly because that’s what I see in my head when I write them. I’m not sure about writing the screenplays myself, although I’d give it a try. There’s a lot about the behind-the-camera part of the film industry that I don’t know, so I’d at least listen to some experts… though naturally I’d want final say. I’d rather not have it made at all than made badly. I’m not sure of all the director’s names on The Walking Dead, but they do such a masterful job with a show that’s so similar in tone, that I’d likely pick one of them, given the choice.

Jason and rene8. You’ve had booths at Comicpalooza and done numerous book signings with local bookstores. What were those experiences like for you? What are your favorite parts? What are your least favorite parts?

Despite what I may say on Sunday afternoon at a convention, I actually enjoy talking to people about our books. Helping people discover a new book they haven’t heard about, or seeing their excitement at the next volume in a series, or seeing the light of wonder shine in a child’s eyes as I hand them a copy of Greystone Valley is why I do what I do. As far as book signings go, I enjoy them for many of the same reasons; talking to people about my books and getting tP1020015hem excited about reading is a blast. What it really comes down to for me, though, is that I’m a storyteller at heart; however I can tell you a story, I’m going to do it. My least favorite part of all these things would be the setup, teardown, and logistics that go into planning them… mainly because I’m lazy! I’d love to show up with a cup of coffee and find everything set and ready to go, but that’s the price you pay for being your own boss, I guess!

9. What other published work have you been a part of? And what can we expect to see from you in the future?

Aside from The Dying of the Light, I’ve also published several short stories, some of which are based in my zombie series, some not. I also contributed one of my favorite short pieces, The Art of Steaming, to the horror anthology A Fancy Dinner Party, along with 9 other Grey Gecko Press authors, and it was also featured in the collection Penny Dreadfuls: Halloween Special. For future work… boy, have I got some ideas for you!

First, I’m finishing The Dying of the Light with the third book, Beginning, due out this winter. Then there’s Under a Cloud-covered Moon, the first in a series about an irascible, anti-hero detective who works for the Seattle Metahuman Crimes Unit, solving crimes by and against ‘metas’ – non-supernatural mutants who’ve been called ‘vampires’ and ‘werewolves’ for centuries by those who had no idea of their true nature. I’ve also got a middle-grade/YA story in mind about a Teddy Bear (because it’s a job, not a toy) named Freddy McPhane, as well as my epic fantasy series of 30 books (no joke), not to mention the 150+ other ideas I have written down. I’m going to be busy!

10. If there is one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be? If you had one request of your readers and fans, what would it be?

I want all my fans and readers to know that I love hearing from them! Whether it’s a quick note, or a detailed letter, I’m always excited to connect with my readers, which is best done through email at jason@jasonkristopher.com.

For a request, I’d request everyone who enjoys the books they read, especially indie books, to leave a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or elsewhere. Short of buying more books, a review is the best way to support indie authors and small press. That and telling all your friends, of course! To find out why reviews are so important, visit my blog: On the Importance of Reviews, or, It’s Just 21 Words!

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Texas Tour Interview with S. Smith

May 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

1. You came to Texas for the first time for an Earth Day celebration book signing tour. Let’s recap, what stores and schools did you visit?

P1010693Bookstores:
Good Books in the Woods, Spring TX

Half Price Books in Houston at these locations:
Clear Lake
Humble
Montrose

Half Price Books in San Antonio at these locations:
Broadway
North Central
Huebner
Bandera

Half Price Books Austin area:
Round Rock
South Lamar
Southpark Meadows
North Lamar

Half Price Books in Dallas area:
Lewisville
Mesquite
Flagship (hpb.com/001)

Schools:
Claughton Middle School in Houston
Austin Jewish Academy in Austin

2. Did you meet any memorable customers you’d like to send a shout out to?

P1010713Oh my gosh—so many! The young woman from Spain studying in the futures program, sorry I can’t remember the name of the program and don’t know if I got hers. What a long, great conversation. There was Rob who was interested in knowing more about publishing. Marie Senter, “Viva la Fiesta!” in San Antonio who blessed me with my own pair of cowboy boot earrings. Lots of excited and, alternately, very shy kids. I met kindred spirits in the food movement who were very encouraging about the theme of my books. Answering these questions is helping me remember all the good times. 🙂

3. Where did you visit when you weren’t at bookstores and schools?
Unfortunately, my husband and I did not get to do too much touristy stuff, but we got in a little. Of course, first, I got to meet my number one fan in Texas and her family, and visit her woods—you! We also got to visit Old Spring. In San Antonio we ran into a spring festival called Fiesta that we hadn’t a clue was happening! We also were staying in an old part of town with historic homes, many included on the “walking tour.” We met the owner of one of those homes (shout out to Victoria!), who gave us an inside tour of the home. I also got to have dinner with an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in 30 years! And of course we did the Riverwalk and had dinner there the first night. Unfortunately, in Austin and Dallas it was just busy, busy, busy. On the way home we got in a quick visit to Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico and the Grand Canyon. We were sort of on a deadline to get back.

4. Do you have a favorite city or region, now that you’ve been here?san-antonio-visitor-bureau
I think we both enjoyed San Antonio the most. But it might have been because we were staying at a very good location. Close to downtown and in a cool, older neighborhood.

5. Did you learn anything new on your tour?
Sure. I learned how cool Half Price Books bookstores are, for one. Besides books, records, etc., they have lots of very nice stationery products which I am a sucker for. I also learned what the sky looks like when it’s full of dust. I got to see a lot of new terrain. We drove through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and a touch of Utah. Some of those were for the first time. And the Hoover dam is huge.

6. Did you try any new foods?
No, I don’t think so. Unless you count McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Burger. Although there were a different kind of beans being served with the Mexican meals than we usually have here. Charro beans?

8. Your trip ran into the Easter weekend. How did celebrating Easter on the road differ than how you celebrate it at home?

DSC00844Normally at home we would go to church in the morning and in the afternoon my family would get together, have a traditional meal where I would bring my homemade egg noodles, my sister-in-law would bring her fried rice, and five or six layer jello, my sister would bring her green or pink creamy salads, mom a pie or two, and whoever is hosting filling in with the rest (ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetable, more pies…). Then the kids would do an Easter egg hunt until nobody wanted to hunt anymore and everyone wanted to hide the eggs. Sometimes we use plastic eggs, but I like to use the real boiled and colored ones. It would be a lot like the scene in Heirloom where it is Easter. This year we drove from Houston to San Antonio on Easter. We managed to get to a church service late and then we were offered some food that they had eaten in the morning before the service. Since we were on the road we ate some. So I had two tamales and an orange for Easter noon dinner this year. But I guess the Riverwalk dinner at night was also on Easter. It just didn’t seem like Easter, but periodically someone would wish us a happy Easter.

9. What would you tell non-Texans to expect from a visit to Texas?

Texas_FlagIt’s hot, there are a lot of big roads around the major cities, lots of Texas flags flying, Houston people drive too fast, but folks are friendly.

10. In the third installment of the series, the story takes readers to Florida. Do you see a Florida trip in your future?

Well, I have been to Florida, just not out and about much. A reader in Florida recently invited me down, so you never know….:)

 

Even if you missed the tour, don’t miss out on the books:

seed savers book marketing

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Road Trippin’ with a Comic

December 22, 2013 at 9:09 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

road trippinTitle: Road Trippin’

Author: Jeff Hodge

When you’re reading about the life and times of a comic on the run, you get a lot of information you’d probably rather not – unless you’re a dude.  This is definitely a dude’s memoir!

It’s good! Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying getting to know Jeff Hodge.  I’m enjoying reading up on all the little adventures that made up his life.  But more than his adventures and sexcapades, I love his bits about growing up in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands and then in Houston.  Those are my favorite parts.

I’m preemptively writing this review.  I’ve had the book in my possession for awhile now (longer than I usually do when I am sent a review copy) and I’ve been picking it up and reading it leisurely.  I do this with memoirs sometimes, and Hodge’s is a memoir to take in over a long time, because I want to actually become acquainted.  I want to hang out once a week, as you would with an old friend, and absorb his life story – not just read the book in a day and forget about him like a one night stand.

Maybe it’s because he’s sort of wonderful.  Maybe it’s because going into it, his one night stand stories made me sad before I even heard them.  Call me a judgmental Christian homeschool mom, but tromping around with your pants down in bars all the time doesn’t sound like a happy life to me.  The fact that he seems to innocently stumble into these situations is both endearing and frustrating as hell.  But  I do love that Hodge has way more going on than that in his memoir.  So rather than dismiss getting to know him through his book after reading about his rendezvous with a married woman (for shame!), I calmly set it aside, and pick it up another day when my irritation has worn off – curious to see what he learned from the experience.  Exactly how I would be if I was hearing this story in person.

Road Trippin’ belongs on the shelf with Dave Barry and alongside I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.  A little more than halfway through his book, with full intentions of finishing, I’m curious to see one of his acts.  Next time Hodge is in Houston, I plan to pay him a visit.  But as a true fan – for the record – not as a skanky hoe (and no matter how pretty you dress these girls up, I think for the most part, they were skanky hoes).

I’ll keep you posted how it all turns out in the end.  Or, you could download the 99 cent ebook and read it yourself.

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When I Am Not Reading – Comicpalooza 2013 Day Two

May 26, 2013 at 3:08 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

DSC03563Started the day with the most awesome family ever!

DSC03571Fantastic costume!

DSC03584DSC03585DSC03586Alessandra Torresani is such a sweet person… and I think maybe a little in love with our David.  Click the last picture to “like” the Father of Dragons facebook page.

DSC03609My kiddo will be so jealous that Ms. Frizzle came to see ME!  Well, she came to stop by the HPB booth and see Erika… but I still got a picture with her rocking a near River Song look.

DSC03610I really love the Ood.

DSC03613Alan Dean Foster

DSC03614Gary Russell

DSC03615Kevin J. Anderson I told him I was one of those annoying book bloggers and he said book bloggers are never annoying – unless they recommend that you never read his books.  I like him, very personable.  Hope he’s there tomorrow, I might go back and get something signed.

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Bitch Factor

April 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

bitch factorTitle:Bitch Factor

Author: Chris Rogers

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Publisher: Bantam

Length: 293 page

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t normally pick a up a book called ‘Bitch Factor’ or even a book with bitch in the title.  I’m not morally opposed or anything, it’s just generally not my cup of tea.  Past my middle school years (when I was completely enthralled with all things John Grisham), I haven’t really been into many mysteries out side of cozy foodie/bookshop/coffeehouse kinds or the kind that aren’t always shelved in mystery like Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Kate Morton… literary awesomeness built in mysterious layers.

To be fair, Chris Rogers sucked me in with the cover of Slice of Life and her sparkling personality.  She is a fantastic lady, and I really enjoyed talking with her at the latest Half Price Books Humble book signing.  Getting a copy of Slice of Life made me a little leery, it’s a ways into the Dixie Flannigan series, and last time I did that was the Elizabeth George review for Believing the Lie and I felt like a fish out of water.  So I began Bitch Factor, the first of the series.

I DEVOURED IT.

I’ll put that in regular font so it’s easier to quote, if anyone is feeling quotey: Chris Rogers’ storytelling is so riveting that when I read her book, I devoured it.

Dixie Flannigan is a bad ass.  She’s a believable bad ass.  As a female black belt Kung Fu instructor, I get a little frustrated with women who think they can handle more than they can.  Be confident.  Be awesome.  Stay fit, stay trained.  But sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that at 120 pounds and five feet tall, there are some limitations you may face when dealing with 180-200 pound men – like size and strength.  In those situations, you have to think your way through.  You have to be careful, aware, and plan in numerous contingencies.  Dixie Flannigan is awesome because, for once, she does just that… without whining.  Whiny, helpless heroines are worse than over confident unrealistic ones.  Dixie is perfectly balanced.

Rogers took a story of a female bounty hunter, inspired by a chat she had with a taxi cab driver, and ran with it.  Often compared to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, there are two things about Chris Rogers and Dixie Flannigan you should know: 1. Dixie actually knows what she’s doing, where (at least in the first installment) Plum seems to flail around until something happens. 2. Rogers’ writing isn’t tainted by a history of writing romance novels, it’s higher quality work.  Oh, and, now I shall add a third… I have nothing against Evanovich or Stephanie Plum, I’m just deeply surprised it’s the more popular series right now.

On top of that, Dixie Flannigan (like her creator) is from the Houston area.  It’s so refreshing to have someone write Houston well.  Dixie Flannigan isn’t just kick ass, she’s kick ass from my home town.  She pops in and out of Spring Branch, she visits The Heights, she drives down 59.  The familiarity of it all is a lovely break from all the many, many mysteries set in Detroit,  New York City, and Chicago… places I’ve never been.  Even if you don’t read mysteries, if you’re from Texas – this book is for you.

I have it on good authority that you don’t have to read these stories in order, so I plan to skip onto Slice of Life since it’s sitting on my nightstand (that’s typically a cardinal sin in my house).  I do plan to collect and read the whole series though, it’s too fantastic not to.

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When We’re Not Reading – Critical Mass (1.25.13)

January 27, 2013 at 1:51 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , )

CMJan2013photo2

Photo uploaded to Facebook by Jeremy M. Caballero

I finally made it to another one! Critical Mass Houston is amazing and I’m working on making it happen every month.  Having a two year old can put a damper in these kinds of plans, but once it’s worked out, it’s worth it.

Last night was the first time we went without a “chaperone.”  My bestie’s brother, Desmond, is a bicycle extraordinaire and we rode in a little pack with him last time.  This time it was just me and the bestie… and a crowd of cyclists en masse.

The first ride I ever did was the Halloween 2012 ride… see here: https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/when-were-not-reading-critical-mass/. There’s links and info about CM.  After that ride, I purchased lights for my bike, both out of necessity and a reward system for myself.  This time, I only did 15 miles of the ride because we had to go home early, but I think I’ve earned myself a bell.

CriticalMass ArtWhat do I love about CM? Well, what don’t I love? I love the large group of people who seemingly have nothing in common except their desire to be on wheels.  I love when one thing can bring an entire community together like that.  It’s beautiful and exciting.  This will sound cheesy, but I totally love the wind in my hair and against my face.  Even if it’s cold, I think it’s heavenly to have a bit of a breeze that you’re creating yourself through motion.  (But it wasn’t cold last night, last night the weather was perfect.)  I love my sore legs the next day, reminding me that I did something fun, productive, and good for me.  I love my  bike.  I love other peoples’ bikes.  I love the road.  I love the city at night.

DSC02437And despite my efforts last night to find out where we were headed in advance, I usually love the mystery and adventure of it all.  After all, I’m a reader, so mystery and adventure and not knowing what comes next absolutely thrills me.

Last night, though, I had an old school mate trying to meet up with us part way in.  So before the ride began, I was asking people who I thought looked like they might be in the know… “you know where we might end up tonight?” Of course, I got a wide variety of answers:

“Wherever our legs and wheels carry us.”  I know, I know, how very zen of you.  But tonight I’m actually trying to find out a real answer.  Just tonight.  I’ll never ask again, I promise.

“My house!”…. Ok I totally opened myself up for that one, come on man, really?  Really.  It turned out, the guy was supposedly actually planning an after party.  Something I would have gone to in college before I was married and had a baby!

DSC02457Later, at first break when I was trying to determine where exactly Foodarama and Speedee Mart (the buildings I was standing in between) were located, I started asking around.  Sorry, people, it’s not that I’m helpless, it’s just that I don’t have one of those fancy phones with all the map apps.  Frankly, I was too lazy to walk out in the middle of the street and hunt down a street sign.  So I tried to convince my bestie that sometimes it’s ok to talk to strangers.  At which point the guy telling me we were at Ella and West 18th grinned and offered me candy.  He dug out a cough drop from the bottom of his pack.  Funny.  Very funny.  Also, kiddo, when you’re old enough to read, if you stumble across this blog post your mama wrote – DON’T talk to strangers.  Although I thought Candy Man was kinda adorable for being a smart ass.

If you were at CM last night – or any night for that matter – leave me a story in the comment section.  I’d like to compile them sometime.

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P.S. Thanks again to everyone who complimented my bike.  It makes my night every time.  See you next month!

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Photo by Heather Vidrine

 

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When We’re Not Reading… We’re Happy in the Heights!

January 7, 2013 at 3:03 am (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , )

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A short car ride to a friend’s house and the kiddo and I find we have all of the Heights at our fingertips… or our toes, rather, as we don’t walk with our hands.  My favorite part of the drive is passing those town homes pictured above – they remind me of Full House.

January 2013 046I love the Heights.  There’s always something new to discover, and today we stumbled across Sparrow and the Nest, a little art boutique off Studewood.

Undaunted by a two year old waltzing in amongst their treasures, the people (Andrew and Stephanie) are really nice and took the kiddo to the back and let her play with markers while my best friend browsed the shop. I came away with a priceless masterpiece from my offspring, while the bestie picked out a gorgeous bookmark. We were on our way to get coffee at Antidote, so we didn’t stay long.

As their website says, Sparrow and the Nest is really best experienced in person, there’s so much to see that I just couldn’t capture on camera.  Lots of tiny origami in frames and on pins, teensy handcrafted things you won’t find anywhere else, and all of it so beautiful.  Cool pieces of furniture, paintings, quilts… the shop is as good as visiting an art museum, better actually because you can take the stuff home if you’ve got the cash.

I’m not the best photographer, but I took some pictures to share anyway.

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When We’re Not Reading – Critical Mass

October 28, 2012 at 12:54 am (Events) (, , , , , )

As much as I love to read and review books, I’ve really been enjoying finding things to add to my When We’re Not Reading segments.  It has forced me to be bold and adventurous in the Houston area, re-visit my attitude from my college years.  Which went something like this: It could be fun, Its free, Why not?

This month my best friend invited me to a not-so-little shin dig called Critical Mass.  Cyclists all over the world get together in their home cities and take to the streets on the last Friday of the month every month.  Hundreds, easily nearly a thousand, people on bikes trekking through downtown together for 20+ miles.  It was nothing short of amazing.

I’m not the biggest fan of getting info from Wikipedia, but they do have some interesting tidbits on what Critical Mass is all about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass.

For some people this event is an agenda to gain respect on the road for cyclists, make a statement, and more.  From my bike seat, it was a fantastic rolling party.  It was a blast that still managed to create a new appreciation for the world of cyclists, and for my need for headlights, tail-lights, and a helmet.  I would also like a bell and basket.

One of the guys taking lots of pictures got one of me!

Last night’s ride was a Halloween ride.  There were costumes and all sorts of excitement.  In advance, my friend and I had agreed that if we lost each other to simply look for “the hat and the tutu” (two costumed people that were easy to spot and part of our collective mini-group).  This is a good plan.  If you ride a Critical Mass, whatever you do, don’t stop to look for someone… just keep on rolling and catch up to each other when you catch up to each other.

Many motorists cheered, took pictures, and had a general blast right along with us.  However, there were the occasional drivers that got really pissed off that 600 people were holding up traffic as we had to roll through the red lights.  I understand that this is technically illegal, and with an individual or a crowd of 2-30, very ill-advised.  But with 600 riders, stopping at the red light is far more dangerous than holding up traffic.  You wouldn’t ask the Macy’s Day parade to stop at all the red lights, and it is obvious that an event is happening.  So if you happen across this group on a Friday night, please be patient and don’t hate; 99% of the people involved in this ride are trying to be as safe and friendly as possible.

Check out this awesome crowd:

Photo taken by of one of the members of the Facebook group for Houston’s Critical Mass during the October 2012 ride as well.

Initially, I was under the impression that it was a 10 mile ride. My husband was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to do it, as owning a bike is something that has only been a part of my recent adult life. I’d never taken the thing farther than around the block a few times (most likely about a mile, 3 miles at best but that could be stretching the truth of reality). Come to find out, it is actually about a 20 mile ride. Someone gps-ed it as we went and came up with this map after the fact: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/149370997. Include our ride to the event and back to the house when we were done and I can safely say without exaggeration that I rode 22 miles.

Needless to say, I’m quite proud of myself. Here we are at the first break… 10.2 miles into the evening:

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