Risks and rewards - the day I was chased by 10 hunters through Los Angeles

2015 is my year for risks. I have risked speaking up  I have risked grappling in a tournament with people who were 20-40 years younger than me. And last week I took an Urban Escape and Evasion class in Los Angeles. It was amazing/scary/fun.

The first day, we learned how to get out of duct tape, zip ties, rope, and even handcuffs.




If you're duct-taped, hold your arms close together, then bring your hands high over head and and hit your elbows hard across your own ribs.  I learned the hard way that if your arms are too far apart, this doesn't work. This trick also works for zip ties, although it can hurt your wrists (which is why the instructor made "Wonder Woman" bracelets out of duct tape first).  If that fails, try rubbing your bound hands on a sharp edge like a door. Above, author Hannah Jayne demonstrates the correct technique for breaking duct tape, as well as how you can use paracord (a lot of preppers replace their shoelaces with paracord, or wear it as a bracelet) to saw through paracord by looping it over your feet and bicycling madly in the air. Later, we practiced shimming or picking our handcuffs using bobby pins or broken off barrettes with pillow cases over our heads.



Here's what happens if you get handcuffs/duct tape/zip ties etc. wrong:



We also learned how to pick locks and steal cars, although we didn't practice that last one.



We learned how to figure out if you are being followed and how to weaponize anything.  We learned that most people think they are in a survival situation if they miss lunch.

The last day, we were kidnapped, hooded, stun gunned (I still have marks!), and then your captors go for a “smoke break” and you have to use everything you just learned to make your way to a certain point, collecting information and photos along the way.

We learned that if you are full of adrenaline, you dont feel as much.  At the start of the exercise, we got caught in a parking lot surrounded by 10 or 11 foot high chain link fences.  And we were being chased by a real-life security guard.  Hannah started climbing the fence, which meant I had to, too.  At the top, the chain links had been cut off, forming a pointy barrier.  I have some crazy bruises, one for each point, on one leg.

But we made it. We had been to GoodWill the night before and cached some outfits. (It is very hard to cache anything in Los Angeles and then go back and find it the next day. You always have eyes on you, and cacheing arouses curiosity).  First I was a nurse (I even looked like a nurse even though it was just a plain pink Tshirt layered over a white Tshirt, and Hannah was a goth girl.  Then Hannah was pregnant with some of her previous clothes, and I was her churchy-looking mom.  Finally, we were both tourists.



Even though we were hunted by 10 people who had our picture, and we had to stay with proscribed boundaries, we were not caught!

I'm so glad I took this risk.  I turn 56 in two weeks and I'm pretty pround of myself.

Haven't I seen you before? Dueling covers of ladies with suitcases

Just saw the cover for the first one, but it reminded me of so many other books.  And Jennie Shortridge's book shows a guitar, but I believe it was originally the exact same image as the one on Jennifer Lauck's book - until she pointed out that her character says she has never owned a suitcase. (Edited to add Illegally Blonde - looks like all they changed was the color of the suitcase and oddly the bows on her shoulders. Note that Leaving Unknown shows the exact same road.)
Unknown-9images-1
leaving unknownthe best of times
Unknown-1the girl she used to be
Unknown-11Unknown-10

A distinctive voice: The County of Ice Cream Star and The Bullet

I am an excellent plotter. I'm pretty good with characters. But voice? I never really feel like I have one.

Two new books have recently come to my attention that are excellent examples of voice.

AR-AI698_ICECRE_DV_20150203133630One is The County of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman. It's post apocolyptic and begins:
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My Trouble Its Beginning: Tober 2
My name be Ice Cream Fifteen Star. My brother be Driver Eighteen Star, and my ghost brother Mo-Jacques Five Star, dead when I myself was only six years old. Still my heart is rain for him, my brother dead of posies little.

My mother and my grands and my great-grands been Sengle pure. Our people be a tarry night sort, and we skinny and long. My brother Driver climb a tree with only hands, because our bones so light, our muscles fortey strong. We flee like a dragonfly over water, we fight like ten guns, and we be bell to see. Other children go deranged and unpredictable for our love.
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Beautiful use of langugage, but also a bit of a struggle to understand. You have to decide if you are willing to read that for 400-plus pages. It helps once you translate a few of her basic words, such as bell = beautiful.

I decided it was worth it and am really liking the book.

UnknownThe other is The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly (a name you may recognize if you are a long-time NPR listener).
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The Bullet
One

My name is Caroline Cashion, and I am the unlikely heroine of this story. Given all the violence to come, you were probably expecting someone different. A Lara Croft type. Young and gorgeous, sporting taut biceps and a thigh holster, right? Admit it.

Yes, all right, fine, I am pretty enough. I have long, dark hair and liquid, chocolate eyes and hourglass hips. I see the way men stare. But there’s no holster strapped to these thighs. For starters, I am thirty-seven years old. Not old, not yet, but old enough to know better.

Then there is the matter of how I spend my days. That would be in the library, studying the work of dead white men. I am an academic, a professor on Georgetown University’s Faculty of Languages and Linguistics. My specialty is nineteenth-century France: Balzac, Flaubert, Sten­dhal, Zola. The university is generous enough to fly me to Paris every year or so, but most of the time you’ll find me in the main campus library, glasses sliding down my nose, buried in old books. Every few hours I’ll stir, cross the quad to deliver a lecture, scold a student requesting extra time for an assignment—and then I return to my books. I read with my legs tucked beneath me, in a soft, blue armchair in a sunny corner of my office nook on the fourth floor. Most nights you will also find me there, sipping tea, typing away, grading papers. Are you getting a sense for the rhythm of my days? I lead as stodgy a life as you can imagine.
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Hm, not sure the voice works as well as this one.  "I have long, dark hair and liquid, chocolate eyes and hourglass hips." It's hard for me to imagine liking anyone who would describe themselves like that. On the other hand, good reviews, including a star from PW, and I love a good thriller.

Have you read a book lately with an interesting voice?
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Two months into 2015: my year of risk

My resolution for 2015 is a single word: risk. I'll be turning 56 this year. The opportunities I will have to take physical risks are narrowing.  I also want to take social risks, and emotional risks, and risks with my writing - all kinds of risks.

So far, I've had a frank conversation with someone I respect but who also used an exaggerated campy "gay" voice to make some points.  I think it was eye-opening for both of us.

And in three weeks, I'm signed up to do that Urban Escape and Evasion class, which includes a day spent trying to elude pursuers after you are "kidnapped."

This past weekend, I competed in a Brazilian Jiujitsu (grappling tournament).  In this tournament, we were split up by gender, but in my grappling classes I grapple with men, usually only with men since none of the other women in my school regularly take BJJ class.  One of my regular partners is 228 pounds, which let me tell you is a lot of weight when someone centers it and pins you.

For a long, long time, I said there was no way I would grapple past what I needed to do for whatever color of sash I was working on in kung fu. It felt too ob-gyn-y. Too rape-y. You couldn't tell me that one of the best positions was on your back with your legs wrapped around some guy's waist.  It seemed too vulnerable and weird.

Guys will often grow up wrestling with their friends.  None of the girls I know ever did that.

But then my kung fu school started offering BJJ classes four times a week and I started going to them. I am still don't have a very good offense. And at  my gender and my age and my weight compared to many of my partners, I mostly play defense.  But I have a damn good defense.
BJJ Tournament april looks dominant
BJJ Tournament April refuses tap
BJJ tournament better back of gi
BJJ Tournament Syd
Bjj Tournament Syd 2