Tag Archive for: The MisFit

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and All Things Social Media

By AB Plum

Thanks to the wonders of technology, I can write this blog a week ahead of its due date, schedule it, and take off tomorrow for a fun-and-frolic vacation in San Francisco. 

I’m writing the day before the Comey Testimony. (I capitalize testimony b/c it’s almost as if Mr. Comey’s appearance is a TV program or movie or book title).

I am also writing before President Trump tweets about the upcoming testimony or during the testimony itself.

Either the testimony or tweet content could provide enough commentary for dozens of riveting blogs. But. I’m going to take advantage of the scheduling feature on this blog and leave posting the excitement/amazement/disgust/disbelief/etc. following the event to others to wax on about.

I am going to SF without my laptop or any other handheld devices. Except for one. Because I have kids (adults, true) in other cities and a friend watching over the home front, the need to take my cell phone will win out. But … no calling or tweeting or texting except in an emergency.

Admittedly, sending a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge will be tempting, but I hope to resist. My grown kids have walked across the span many times. Some of my relatives, like my house sitter, have never taken a single step on this engineering marvel. 

Here’s my rationale: Even if I send my relatives or the house sitter a picture, they’ll probably all be too busy watching The Testimony. Or the analyses of The Testimony. Or the late-night panning of The Testimony. 

Whatever …. I’ll catch up when I return home. Until then, I’m about to retreat to Luddite Land.

How about you? When was the last time you “unhooked” from your electronic wonders? Do you remember a time when we didn’t text? Didn’t tweet? Didn’t share pictures of our vacations via Facebook?

AB Plum lives off the fast lane in Silicon Valley, where she writes about mayhem and murder in her psychological suspense series, The MisFit. If she doesn’t overstay her vacation, she plans a late summer release of The Lost Days and The In-Between Years, Books 2 and 3 in the series.


By AB Plum
“If you travel in space for three years and come back, four hundred years will have passed on Earth,” says Anna in Jodi Picoult’s wonderful novel, My Sister’s Keeper.

This quote reflects some of my feelings over the past five weeks as my husband recuperates from brain surgery. 

Specifically, he had a ventriculoperitoneal shunt implanted to relieve pressure in his brain caused by fluid build-up.

As surgeries go, the procedure took a little over sixty-minutes. Total prep time for the entry into the OR required 3 hours. Nurses monitored him every 15 minutes for another three hours following the procedure. The night quickly (slowly) got chewed up with checks of his vitals, inquiries for his well-being, and offers of pain meds. Pain, came the repeated warning, could make each second feel excruciating.

Time during that overnight-hospital stay collapsed, expanded, collapsed in a blur. The morning hours disappeared in consultations with a physical therapist, a social worker, and the surgeon’s assistant. A successful walk around the hospital wing provided proof he could go home. We arrived at our front step thirty hours after we left—though we both admitted to feeling as if we’d traveled in space for at least a year.

Pain management ate up the first couple of days. Sleep gobbled up much of the rest of “normal” awake-time. Night hours for sleeping fogged over as I helped him out of bed about every ninety minutes. A walker helped navigate the steps from bed to bathroom. Early-March nights felt as if we’d taken a detour to Juno.
Unlike with a baby, no need to feed or soothe back to sleep. Our consciousness crashed—until the next ninety-minute interval.

We returned to the surgeon at the end of the first week for a tweak to the shunt. This helped regulate gait and reduce the persistent headaches. Time became more defined, taking on a rhythm similar to the before-surgery pattern of our lives.

Today, exactly five weeks since I sat in the waiting room, my husband and I feel as if four hundred years have passed. Walking without a cane is no longer a challenge. Sleeping through the night is a given. All pain has disappeared. Dèjà vu—back on Planet Earth.

Looking forward—we have the insight to recognize the five weeks spent in ‘coming back’ pale compared to the several decades of quality life we hope lie ahead. I won’t claim we’ll never take time for granted again, but I will say we have a new appreciation for the minutes, hours, and weeks of each day. 

On Hold . . . for Unspecified Time

I’ve uploaded The Lost Days to Amazon, but need a bit more time to revisit my launch plan. First things, first. In the meantime, I’m hoping to carve out time to finish Book 3, The In-Between Years in the next month.

Entering a Time Capsule

By AB Plum
Remember those long summer nights as a kid when you lay outside and stared at the stars and moon moving across the velvet sky?

Tracking the moon’s movement, I felt some vague, inexpressible awareness of time passing. Not much, though. My aunt and uncle’s farm in the back hills and hollers of Southern Missouri existed in a time warp. Sunset marked the end of day. Darkness meant night. Morning came with birds twittering just before sunrise.

The Rhythm of Each Day

Daily chores: caring for the animals, tending the huge vegetable garden, preparing meals, cleaning the house, washing clothes, ironing . . . and more filled every day with its own rhythm. 

During “free” time, my aunt and mother would take us kids to wade in the nearby creek—always on the lookout for copperheads. Saturdays, we went “to town” with produce and fresh berry pies with the flakiest-ever crusts baked by my aunt the day before.

Sundays, we attended church, then came home to fry chicken for dinner with half a dozen invited relatives. Of course the day of rest began with caring for the animals. Bringing in the cows for the afternoon milking and closing the chicken house marked the beginning of night’s approach.

This summer life seemed idyllic and lasted until my eleventh birthday when my aunt and uncle moved off the farm to work in the city. By then I’d pretty much stopped lying outside to count the stars or marvel at the moon. I had a better grasp of time and place—though I never imagined setting a book in Finland during summer when the sun never really sets.

Time Is All About Perception

In my novels, time often presents a challenge. What details get left out may be as important as those left in the story. What happened in the past plays a big part in the present time of the story. Ideally, scenes give sensory clues to the passage of real time. In The Lost Days, the two young boys can’t rely on the sun and moon rising to mark how long they’ve been lost.

The challenge was to convey the sense of time dragging without writing scenes that went on and on and on with nothing happening. Time didn’t stop, but it certainly crawled. That crawling passage of time increased, I hope, the tension of a struggle to survive in a hostile environment.

Ironically, I drew on memories of those long, endless, and happy days on that isolated farm. I recalled time was more fluid, but spotting a copperhead slinking off the creek bank could send my heart racing and time flying.

Reading Bends Time

For me, storytelling and reading bend time. I can escape from the here and now just as I did watching the night sky, long, long ago.

What speeds up your day? Do you read to slow down the frenzy? What unexpected circumstance affect your perception of time?

AB Plum lives and writes in Silicon Valley, where time runs at a break-neck pace. Her latest book The Lost Years becomes available on Amazon on March 17–which will be here before she blinks.

in the past plays a big part in 


By A B Plum

What’s the big deal about alternate facts?


Now, before you send me “hate mail” rubbing my nose in the error of my ways, let me attempt one view on my response. (Misguided, shallow, inane, naïve, etc., etc., etc., though that view may be). 

Read on. Please.

We writers of fiction deal with alternate facts every day. Alternate facts have provided the drama, the comedy, the romance in fiction since . . . forever.

Take the story of Adam and Eve. Is it a fact that a serpent tempted Eve to succumb to that apple? Have you ever met a snake—other than maybe a two-legged one—who communicated with you? Tempted you to do anything but scream and run the other direction?

In the story of David and Goliath, is it a fact—or thinly veiled political propaganda, aka an alternate fact—that helped establish David’s rep as a formidable foe in battle?

Snow White ends up in a glass coffin waiting for her true Prince to waken her with a kiss. How many of us believe a talking mirror landed her there? C’mon, that’s just a bit of a jump from a speaking serpent.

How about the superheroes of comics? Is a guy who “leaps tall buildings at a single bound” a symbol of symbol against evil—even if he wears a red cape, tights, and funny boots? Certainly, he’s a product of several writers’ gluing together disparate alternate facts (a mild-mannered newspaper reporter steps into a phone booth and shoots into the sky—not to be confused with a bird or a plane).

Wonder Woman came on the American scene from ancient Greece in December 1941—a time of prolific alternate facts spouted by dictators in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the politicos in the U.S. Here comes Wonder Woman, another alternate fact embodied as an emblem of hope during the very real good-vs-evil-battle raging across the civilized world.

The term alternate fact will, I suspect, become a buzzword and a meme. The phrase may even get included in the 2017 list of new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ll undoubtedly see/hear thousands of rebuttals, defenses, satires, gibberish, and rationale about the political impact of alternate facts ad nauseam.

Personally, I like the discussion.

At the same time, I wonder why the big deal? Readers, movie fans, TV viewers, video-game aficionados, Wall Street movers and shakers, and all the rest of us come up against alternate facts every day. Every day. Often they’re even passed off as facts.
We don’t need a writer to point out, tongue in cheek, that some of us have more critical genes than others. Or may it’s more synapses synapsing. Or whatever.

Those of us who write fiction certainly know about trying to persuade fans that alternate facts are the truth. Readers let us know pretty quickly when we underestimate their intelligence. Many of them go so far as refusing to buy our next books. Ouch.

Bring on the alternate facts. I imagine them galvanizing us across party lines and ideological platforms. We’ve already seen the demonstrations and discounted the fake news accounts that no one showed up.

Fake news, like alternate facts, fools no one.

The fact is, people—not just readers of fiction—dislike being underestimated.

We can clearly see that army of snakes slinking through the underbrush from miles away.

And if we can’t see ’em, we can smell them. 

Here are the straight facts:  AB Plum works and writes dark, psychological thrillers in Silicon Valley. The Lost Days, her second book in The MisFit Series should hit the shelves in mid-March.

Foresight and Hindsight

Aunt Edie was a hypochondriac.

The wife of my father’s older brother, Aunt Edie earned her reputation in my large, extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, first cousins, in-laws and outlaws. No matter the clan-gathering occasion, no one asked her how she was. Because . . .

Because she could bore you to death with her aches and pains in two minutes flat. 

Like a spider, she never let her victim escape in less than half an hour’s recitation about her medications, her insomnia, her indigestion, her aching feet, her hair loss, an undiagnosed medical condition so rare it belonged in medical books.  

A hang nail, so the gossip went, would send her to the hospital in a flash.

In my nuclear family, my parents and five siblings rarely admitted to feeling unwell. Going to the doctor cost money we didn’t have, so we went for required vaccinations and for visits to treat the scary convulsions my youngest brother began having in early infancy—and outgrew by the time he was toddling. (This condition was not one mentioned outside the immediate family. We were not Aunt Edie. We kept stiff upper lips).

When my two children were diagnosed as adolescents with Type I Diabetes, I  fought the instinct to keep the disease a secret. But because I didn’t want my kids to feel ashamed or guilty—or succumb to the temptation to deny their diagnosis—I tried to speak openly with them, friends, and family about their treatment.

Sometimes my stiff upper lip wobbled, but I figured crying was allowed.

My husband grew up in a family not too dissimilar from mine regarding illness and admitting illnesses. So, for the first thirty years of our marriage, he rarely acknowledged even a sniffle. When he was diagnosed with TIAs, we consulted a good neurologist, followed his common sense and adjusted, taking in stride fifteen years later the need for three cardiac stents.

Now, we’re facing the likelihood of a cranial shunt to rebalance the fluid surrounding my husband’s brain. At first, like Aunt Edie, my husband told everyone he met—or so it seemed—about NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus). Friends and family listened, asked intelligent questions, and offered support. I feel very grateful that we live in an age when opening up about health concerns has become more “normal.”

hindsight, I wish I’d had the foresight to benefit from current insights:


  • Not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy good health throughout life.
  • Listen to others whose misfortunate is to be sick for short or long periods.
  • Aunt Edie, we ‘done’ you wrong!

How—about you? Are you a parent who doesn’t want to worry the kids? Do your adult kids let you know after the fact about a serious illness affecting them or their spouse and kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

A Fix for Your Post-Halloween Fog

By AB Plum

Late, late morning after Halloween, the doorbell rings.

You’re still recovering from handing out candy to eleven-ninety kids (including teenagers who should’ve been too embarrassed to show up with their hands out). You shamble to the door. Despite repeated vows last night, you sneaked a chocolate treat here and there. Fog encircles your brain. Bracing yourself, you crack the door open and peer out.

No one yells, “Trick or Treat!”

Not a single Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump plasticized mask in sight. No Star Wars Jedis with drawn light sabers that cost $100 and up. No Cinderellas in gowns rivalling Disney’s creations with tiaras sparkling more brightly than many diamond engagement rings.

“Take this.” Your neighbor, dressed for jogging in the light mist, shoves a paper bag at you and pivots away, calling over her shoulder, “I bought way too much Halloween candy. Save me from myself.”

She speeds away before you can protest.

You close the door and open the bag. It’s brimming with the good stuff: M&Ms, Kit Kats, Snickers and Reese’s miniatures. Small means you can eat more, right? 

The mist pings off the window. Fortunately, you aren’t working today. Jogging’s a drag. What a great day to crawl back into bed. You’re an adult. You don’t need permission.

You succumb to temptation, candy sack on your chest, and open your ereader to the psychological thriller you downloaded last night as your own treat.

But you didn’t count on the doorbell interrupting—
from dusk right up until your bedtime.

Thunder rumbles. You shiver, pop a Snickers bar, and start reading the blurb . . .

An eleven-year-old prodigy morphs into a monster far scarier than any vampire or zombie or other paranormal misfit. Bullied by his older brother, rejected by his icy mother, and ignored by his absent father, Michael Romanov retaliates with the canniness of a budding psychopath.

You nod and fish around in the paper bag and read the first page . . . lost for the day.

In case you missed downloading your own Halloween treat? The Early Years is free now through November 3 at
Coming next Tuesday: A sneak peek from my late-November release of Book 2, The Lost Years, in The MisFit Series.

AB claims scary comic books ruined her for reading Dick and Jane. (She started reading at age four). Lots of other authors have left their imprint as well. She lives in Silicon Valley, where in 2016, she read at least one novel by Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Rachel Abbott, Kimberley McCreight, Stephen King, Jonathan Kellerman, Chelsea Cain, MJ Rose, Scott Nicholson, AB Plum, Jenny Shortridge, Katherine Howe, Jodi Picoult, Garth Stein, Emma Donoghue, C.B. Kline, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Paula Hawkins, and Dot Hutchison, M.L. Stedman among other great reads.

Delusional Logic Behind New Psychological Thriller

Remember when you were little and had your first tough argument with your BFF?

No matter what insults or barbs you hurled at each other, none hurt like being told she no longer liked you. One of you undoubtedly twisted the knife deeper by adding, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore. I don’t like you.”

Ouch! As children, we lived to be liked. Being liked—by teachers, adults, acquaintances, other kids, and even strangers mattered. If we were lucky, we could take parental and family love for granted. Being liked—not at all.

Recently, during the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, I heard the political pundits throw around the concept of the candidates’ likability quotient. From time to time, I heard both 2016 presidential candidates were the ‘least-likeable . . .  ever.’

Is there a road back from the label unlikeable?

Writing my psychological suspense series, The MisFit, I extended the above question: Can stories entertain and grab readers’ attention with a major unlikeable character?

I certainly hope the answer is yes. Because I’ve invested two years and more than a thousand words developing such a character. Michael Romanov is Einstein-smart, Olympic-star confident, fearless, driven, and a psychopath from birth if he listens to his mother. Conflicts with his parents and older brother convince him, by the time he’s eleven, that he’s unlovable. Unlikeable, too, since he has no school friends among the students and faculty. He finds a way to claim justice . . . which is where the story begins.

Arguments hurt our feelings. Leave us feeling vulnerable. Often goad us to over-react. This is certainly the case with Michael. As I wrote his opening scene, flashes of that quarrel with my BFF flickered at the edge of my mind. 

Wow! Writing opened a door to reframing that long-ago memory into a novel of psychological suspense.

What about you? How’d you deal with the hurt from that first BFF-argument? Shoot me a note:  ab@abplum.com. I’ll respond. Who knows, maybe there’s another story lurking in your reply. 

AB Plum writes dark, chilling psychological suspense just off the fast lane in Silicon Valley–where the sun shines nearly every day. Coming soon, The Early Years, the first MisFit Series installment.

Unexpected Consequences of Reading Too Well

By AB Plum

Summertime and the reading was easy. For the three lazy months before I entered first grade, I read and read and read. I finished Little Women for the fourth time. Whizzed through the first three books in the Black Stallion series. Devoured the first two volumes of Anne of Green Gables. Ramona kept me out of my mother’s hair for several more weeks. In addition, I read dozens of my cousins’ comicsallowed because my mother “couldn’t walk me to the library every other day.”

So, imagine that first reading group. After recess. My excitement stoked to sugar-high levels. Yet, a secret fear nagged. What if I mispronounced a word? What if I didn’t know all the words?

Miss Martin—my mother’s first-grade teacher—sat in the circle between the lucky girls. (I sat at the opposite end). Miss Martin passed out individual copies of Dick and Jane with the reverence of passing out tickets to enter heaven.  She kept her closed copy on her lap and extolled the adventures reading would open up.

Open stuck in my ears. When she turned to speak to one of the lucky girls, I slid my finger between the covers and cracked the first page. Miss Martin looked up immediately. I shifted in my little chair, and the book slalomed to the floor. 

Seven pairs of eyes stared. Miss Martin glared. I flushed a color I could feel was crimson—the shade of guilt. I lowered my eyes. My insides trembled, and my hands slicked the spine of Dick and Jane with sweat. Time stood still until Miss Martin resumed explaining that reading in a circle followed a protocol—at least in her first-grade class. She paused.

My hand shot up. “Do us listeners have to drag our fingers under the words and read along, too, Miss Martin?”

“Of course, AB.” Her tone froze my toenails. She continued, “Without speaking, of course. Without helping if the reader stumbles.”

Not a word about reading ahead.

In the time half the readers had finished their turns, I could’ve read Little Women again. Involuntarily, I yawned. Surely, Sally, Spot, Dick and Jane could not run one more time. Surely, their vocabulary would increase by the middle of the book. Surely . . .

Silence brought my head up.

Do you know the first word, AB? It’s your turn. 

My turn to die a thousand deaths. I swallowed. No idea of the first word since I’d long since finished the primer. Heart pounding, I croaked, “I’ve lost the place, Miss Martin.”

“Because you read ahead?”

Guilty. “Yes, Miss Martin.”

“Please stand, AB. Leave your book. Come with me.”

No. No. No. Please. Not  the principal. Not on the first day. My legs wobbled so hard my knees knocked. I passed the lucky girl on the right. She put her hand over her mouth and rolled her eyes. I didn’t know about Marie Antoinette at that moment, but I raised my head and followed Miss Martin like a condemned queen.

At the cloak room, she opened the door and took me inside. Hot air squeezed my lungs. She pointed to a chair—which I collapsed on.

“You will sit here, think about your rude behavior, AB, and tell me later if you deserve a place in the advanced reading circle.”

She left me there with the sweaters and art supplies and thoughts about never reading in her circle again. I’d never come back to school, either. I’d run away with the three books I owned—Little Women, Peter Pan, and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. I’d find a teacher like Anne and . . .

I cried . . . until I heard Miss Martin’s footsteps.

How about you? Have you ever sat alone in the cloak room waiting for your sentencing to Hell? Did you laugh it off? Or cry? Contact me at ab@abplum about your experience. I’d love to hear from you. I will answer.

Go here for a look at DJSS.  https://www.amazon.com/Dick-Jane-Reading-Collection-Volumes/dp/0448437104

3 Lessons Learned about Fitness from a Recent Novel

By AB Plum
On my January 5th
morning walk, I dodged an oncoming car. I banged into a cement barrier, broke 4
toes, sprained my ankle, and bruised a tendon. During the slow recovery—no
weight-bearing exercise—I read a lot. The book I was looking forward to the
most proved the most disappointing.
Maybe I was grumpy from
being confined to a wheelchair for a month and wanted some vicarious exercise.
I could’ve chosen from an array of main female characters who swim, row, box,
jog, hike, climb rock walls, practice Tai’chi, and a myriad of other physical
Instead, I selected a
bestseller in which one of the main characters exercised by eating too many
potato chips and pizza.  She played
basketball as a teenager, but Life 101 intervened and    . . .
okay, I got it. I was, after all,  reading her story because of Life 101.
But here’s one lesson I
learned:  Authors should avoid putting a
woman with the fitness level of 0 in a series of scenes where she’s drugged,
kept in a car trunk unconscious, breaks her collarbone, fights mano a mano with
the bad guy, and wins. Compared to this character, I’d suffered no physical
impairment—yet I could barely walk after weeks of taking care of my
injuries.  Did the Author really want me
to suspend logic?
Yes, adrenaline propels
us to lift cars and other Herculean feats in emergencies, but c’mon.
Second lesson
learned:  Authors lose the hard-earned
loyalty of their fans with this kind of character portrayal.  I’ve read everything this author has
published, but I’ll think twice about buying her next book.
There’s at least one
other lesson here:  The big-time critics
gave this book rave reviews. Across the board. I should’ve read the reader
reviews.  No matter what, we writers
cannot fool our audience.
By the way, I think the
same lessons apply to male characters who somehow morph into Superman. I just
didn’t read any of those while waiting to begin my morning walks again.
What about you? Are you
more forgiving of an author’s over-the-top characterization for the sake of
entertainment? Do you have favorite heroines who exercise regularly?

AB Plum writes psychological suspense about jealousy, revenge, and murder. Her newest novella, The MisFit, is coming soon.

7 Questions Turn a Pink Bicycle into a Mystery

by AB Plum

Walking alone, because I lope rather than walk, before breakfast offers a chance to think. Or let my mind wander. Birds and trees and pots of flowering plants brighten my route in a nearby church parking lot. Two weeks ago shortly before sunrise, the pink bicycle surprised me.

  1. What was going on?
  2. Why was a pink bike padlocked to a tree standing among well-manicured shrubs?
  3. What was inside the fancy saddlebags?
  4. Was the rider of the bubble-gum pink bicycle an adult?
  5. Would an adult choose neon-yellow-rimmed tires?
  6. Had Google started issuing mono-chromatic bikes instead of their signature multi-colored ones to their employees?
  7. Why would a Google bike be three miles from the Googleplex?

Questions—without answers—hip-hopped in my head as I walked on. A large trash container loomed at the bend of the parking lot. Suddenly, my route felt very deserted. It WAS deserted. The mystery writer in me imagined an arm extending from behind the walled trash cans. I locked my jaw.
Like any good accidental sleuth, I swore I wouldn’t scream. I fumbled for my cell phone and picked up my pace.

Okay, I admit my heart was thumping as I approached the trash cans. Whether from fear or embarrassment I wasn’t sure. A quick search—a half- second glance—revealed an intact lock on the
sturdy wooden doors. My heart slowed, but my face burned a little. Done in by my own imagination.
Laughing, I took three more turns around the parking lot. I breezed past the pink bicycle. Didn’t miss a step trotting past the trash container. My mind, though, churned.

Would the bike still be there as I took my pre-dinner walk? What if it was? Should I check the saddlebags? Should I report my find to the church secretary? Should I accept that the pink bicycle might belong there after all? Should I stop obsessing?

The bike stood in the same place that evening, the next morning, and for fifteen days afterwards. It soon faded into the background. Story questions for my psychological suspense series, Silicon Valley Murders, tumbled in my head like clothes in the dryer. Strategies for the book launch of the prequel, The MisFit, took over. I walked faster and faster until I reached a Zen-like mountaintop several times.
Two weeks after first spotting the mysterious pink bicycle, though, it disappeared. No sign on my morning or evening walk. The minister who often parked near the same tree looked at me askance (that means as if I’d gone off my meds). Dusk was falling. He hurried to his car, calling over his shoulder he was late for dinner.

My husband listened to the disappearance-twist, but the Warriors’ game claimed his attention. He long ago gave up understanding where ideas for my stories start. He definitely never caught my interest about a parked bike. What was the big deal?

Admittedly, I don’t foresee a pink bicycle in any of my upcoming novels about a psychopathic killer . . . though he does grow up in Denmark, where bicycling is almost as ubiquitous as it is in Holland . . .
What about you? What kinds of ordinary objects kick start your writer’s imagination?

AB Plum was born reading—according to her mother.  She started writing shortly thereafter. Careers in teaching, public libraries, and high-tech in Silicon Valley ate into her writing, but she kept a journal of ideas for future novels. She reads widely and writes across the genres of romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and now psychological suspense. She went from publication with a traditional NY publisher to an E-publisher and now is jumping into self-publishing with her upcoming novella, The MisFit. When she’s not reading or writing, she hikes just off the fast lane in Silicon Valley.