Summertime, and the Living is Crazy

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly NOW. Love mercy NOW. Walk humbly NOW. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

It’s coming up on that time of year when I mark the passing of yet another milestone of life on this planet. This summer, given the various upheavals of COVID-19, adjusting to a long-term stance of working from home (NPR ran an interesting piece about the likelihood that most of us going to be making that shift permanently), and the protests calling for police reform and recognition of racial injustices, it doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate, let alone a birthday. Especially the last birthday of my fourth decade.

While I still haven’t found my own creative zone, hubs is chugging along with his. He created a lyric video for the first single off his new album, honoring his brother as an interpretive dancer: https://youtu.be/foZ6f6mHzV4. (The single is now also for sale via pretty much any channel you wish, too: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.)

I have apparently been profoundly inculcated with the belief in “productivity” that drives my own value. So it was interesting to read an article in the Atlantic that talks about the historic shift that drove the assignment of dollar values to everything. And then there are the neuroscience studies that show just how flawed human perception is; our brains are designed to tell stories, largely based on past experience, none of which manage to faithfully portray reality with anything approaching reliability.

Those underpinnings put a different spin on history. The arrogance driving colonial rule in India, as described in a book review by the New York Review of Books, the article about the godfather of sexist pseudoscience, and a different article about the Enlightenment’s Dark Side, all reflect obvious failures of both logic and empathy. Is it possible that statistics could help provide clarity? There was a whole article about four charts that reflected the current problems with policing that could provide some insight. But that puts me back in memory to the old quote about “lies, damn lies, and statistics”–that has a slightly different inflection on that earlier article about how Americans value almost everything in terms of finance. There is an underlying lie in saying a human is in anyway reflected in a dollar value.

In the face of all that, my optimistic nature inclines to the Polish phrase Jakoś to będzie. Thus I was reminded of my youthful aspiration to speak as many languages as possible, and found it an intriguing coincidence that there’s a whole conference dedicated to that pursuit.

So I will continue to interrogate my own blinders and biases–and encourage those around me to do so as well–and hope that someday I will find my way back to the energy necessary to continue with my creative writing.

Unofficially Summer, Officially in Another Bookfair

C.L. Cannon's Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Fair 5/8 - 6/10
Enter to win a Kindle Fire, a one-month gift subscription to Owlcrate, and a $10 Starbucks gift card.

It seems the thing to do these days–read. A lot. So I’ve put Planet Seekers: Team Alpha into another book fair. Not only do you get the opportunity to win some kewl treats, but you also get to check out a bunch of other authors who write in my genres. So many wins!

The interesting thing about experiencing the current state of lock-down and the debates about what the best course is for humans to follow toward well-being, relates to a philosopher’s take on the Information Age. In an article written two years ago, Italian philosopher Gloria Origgi talked about the difficulty we face in determining which sources of information to trust. Not even a few months later, Peter Singer wrote Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media, which he summarized in an essay for Foreign Policy. And then there’s the question of how that personal social capital allows or restricts freedom of movement.

It seems oddly prescient that in three very different periodicals, two years ago, there were discussions that take on such a sinister cast with the benefit of hindsight. It’s part of what’s making finishing my current WIP so difficult. There are urgent questions about bodily autonomy and freedom of information and censorship that I’ve already written into my story… and that are being uncomfortably reflected in my present.

I don’t know when I’ll feel comfortable enough in my discomfort to revisit the follow-on to Planet Seekers: Team Alpha.

On the other hand, the Pentagon has (this month!) admitted we need to take UFOs seriously.

And then there’s research that, contrary to what grandma always said, gossiping is good. And we are all likely to underestimate how much we can benefit from being kind.

So I’ve been spending most of my free time reading fiction. And I stumbled across an old article that pointed out that the glorious Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda movie “9 to 5” will celebrate its 40th release anniversary this December. I remember watching that in a second run at an Army base theater in Garmisch-Parten Kirchen with my family as an impressionable elementary school kid, and will never not sing my heart out to Dolly’s title track. Reading the 35th anniversary interview with Patricia Resnick (the original author of the screen play) reinforced how radical the story was… even still.

It makes me think, maybe there’s a different story I can tell that still scratches my itch to write.

Resting in Peace

You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.

This week we lost one of our friends. Not to COVID but to cancer, diagnosed just a month ago. We watched from a distance as the disease ate through his vitality and tore open his family’s hearts. As much as funerals are painful to attend, not being able to comfort his widow in person, when she was one of the few to do the same for us after my miscarriage, has been its own kind of torment. Flowers will never mean as much as the solidarity of shared presence or a hug.

Of course, the reason for being confined to our home was the Virginia Governor’s stay-at-home order. Since my work is tied to software development, this has been a relatively easy transition for us–we like to spend our days together. Being on what amounts to a retreat while the economy crumbles and people around us worry about the invisible boogeyman of a virus, though, has challenged even my capacity for Sitzfleisch.

I’m using breathing exercises more often–including this one from the Navy SEALS. And I’m really grateful that I haven’t been inundated with virtual events as described in the MIT Technology Review.

And I’m interested to read how quickly the natural world can rebound without humans being in the way. Plague-ridden pasts have introduced a number of social changes. It will be fascinating to watch to what degree our work lives evolve as the population begins to emerge from these restrictions.

All of which is to say, I’m still on a reading binge more than a writing binge. My need for escapism and enjoying somebody’s Happily Ever After far exceeds my ability to write further in a post-apocalyptic story that has some uncomfortable parallels with what we’re going through. Goodreads says I’m now 10 books ahead of my reading challenge schedule. The only thing likely to slow my reading down in the next few weeks is that hubs is making great strides on recording his newest album, so I’ll be playing with my layout and design tools again to pull together the packaging for his CD. I’m grateful at least one of us is able to exercise our creative voice while we’re living through this latest “unprecedented” societal experience.

It may well be that I have to pursue one of my alternate plotbunnies to rediscover my own creative voice. Luckily, I binge-bought book covers for a few of them a couple months back, so if I do, there may be a surprise release later this year. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Introverted, Isolated, or Quarantined?

"Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide." -D.W. Winnicott

It’s been about a month since my last post, and in that time life in America has come to the kind of grinding halt very few could have anticipated. I’m one of the lucky few who has a job that I can do entirely from home–though I do worry for my younger colleagues who have no roommates or pets, and the impact of so much isolation on their mental health. I’ve taken the unusual step to ask to connect privately via hangouts for non-job-related purposes, though, to be honest, I might just be looking for another excuse to share pictures of my beloved furry angels.

From their perspective, a pandemic might actually be heaven on earth: Nobody is abandoning the pack to go hunt dollars or find nourishment or run those mysterious human-centric errands that seem to crop up with distressing frequency. In fact, it is remarkable to note just how much can be accomplished with an Internet connection and the means to communicate using its channels. One could almost feel we’re the best prepared to ride out quarantine orders that we’ve ever been. Reading an article late last month about how people are using their home spaces to “cocoon” as opposed to hosting get-togethers was in some ways oddly predictive for how we’re being told to take refuge at home. In the same week, I read reporting about a business development idea in Tulsa driven by the concept that more people can work from home these days, and cities should lure those remote workers to locations where work-life balance can be more easily pursued.

I do notice, though, that work-life balance can be more difficult when you’ve been sequestered. I’ve seen exhaustive articles and training on how to make sure you don’t get sucked into being available for longer than is healthy. And then there’s that quiet, evergreen, background knowledge that career advice for women is gaslighting.

Which brings me back around to my writing. You would think that having an extra hour a day from not needing to commute would mean I’d be deep in the writing flow. Especially given all the recent speculation on topics that typically prime my creative pump: How religions would respond to proof of alien life; why we should NOT colonize space; why we SHOULD colonize Titan. Or even a discussion of consciousness as a field that is as pervasive as space-time.

Instead I’ve been reading other people’s fiction (six books last weekend might be a record even for me). Or worrying about the dear friend who was diagnosed with stage 3-4 pancreatic cancer almost two weeks ago. The weight of worry that pervades everything these days makes it hard to find the energy to do much more than maintain some minimal baseline status quo. We’ll see where I end up next month. In the meantime, the news that brightened my day was that hubs’ song Kintsukuroi is still in the top 40 of the European Indie Music charts. Maybe his creativity will rub off on me at some point soon. Until then, stay safe and think deeply.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Virtual Book Fair

C.L. Cannon's Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Fair - featuring 100+ free and discounted books. Enter to win a Kindle Fire, your choice of 2 bookish candles from Wick & Jane, and a Dragon-themed adult coloring book. Runs from February 21 to March 25.
Includes The Builders and Planet Seekers: Team Alpha, by Tonya Cannariato

Quick update to let you know I’m participating in C.L. Cannon’s virtual Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Fair for the next month. My books The Builders and Planet Seekers: Team Alpha are both half off in honor of this event.

For the moment, this is about as creative as I’m able to be, as my day job has taken up longer hours in the past month or two as we gear up to travel as a team to participate in a workshop. Naturally, that means articles about traveling (and how much flying messes with your body) and how unnatural it is for us to have a day job have been catching my eye. To wit, an interview with Jeffrey Pfeffer who argues that the way we work is killing us. Another on the bizarre nature of corporate-speak, more clearly described as garbage language. And a third that outlines the extra stress of being a night-owl forced to work a 9 to 5 schedule.

In some ways, reading about these studies makes me feel every one of my years. Which made running across an article titled “An Ode to Being Old” refreshing. As well as reporting on how marriages improve with longevity. As we celebrated our 22nd anniversary earlier this month, I can attest to the silliness factor.

🙂

All of these articles have bearing on my current protagonists, and I’m glad I followed my heart in making them both older than 50.

In other news, Gayla and I were given the gift of a writer’s retreat… on a cruise in September. We’re both looking forward to getting to see each other again, so it was interesting to run across an article on the importance of just spending time with friends. And another one on the nuances of “nice”.

So life is happening, even if that means I haven’t had the energy to invest in writing more fiction in recent weeks. But thoughts continue to percolate, so I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, enjoy the savings on two of my newest titles.

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