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Dragon’s Pursuit Cover Reveal

As I mentioned in a post in January, I have signed up to be one of the authors participating in the Hotel Paranormal series. This week, I got the final version of the cover for my book. I’m so stoked I can hardly contain myself, so I wanted to share it with you:

Hotel Paranormal: Dragon's Pursuit, by Tonya Cannariato

The story is slated for release in early January, so it’s along way off–and I need to finish the Red Slaves trilogy that inspires the events in the story, too. It will be a stand-alone spin-off about one of the next-generation dragon shifters that I’ve already half plotted. I’m looking forward to writing the story, and with such a glorious cover to help me keep my eyes on the prize, it should be an easy one to write.

Cover Reveal: Fire to Dragon

Those of you who follow this blog will know by now that I’ve been struggling to find time and momentum to finish the third book in my first trilogy. Today, I’m pleased to reveal that the lovely, patient (!), and multi-talented Gayla Drummond has recast the covers of the entire series and given me new impetus to complete what I’ve started.

Behold, book 3 of Red Slaves:

Fire to Dragon

I still have work to do to finish the book itself–and doing so will have to wait until I’m past my studying requirements for the PMP–but this gives me something solid to act as both spur and reminder for my goals.

Part of the issue that brought us to this point: I had started by choosing photo-real images for a fantasy novel set in a place well-known to a certain segment of the global population. As the story evolves over the course of the series, that setting becomes harder and harder to represent in photographs and remain true to the patterns we had established with the first two covers. So we had to rethink the whole series at once. Here’s what that looks like:

Red Slaves Trilogy

With my current time commitments, I won’t be able to release the 2nd edition versions of books 1 & 2 until July/August, but with the New Pretties… I certainly have the inspiration to push me past the finish line. 🙂

Working Hard

"Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion."When I set my goals last week, I worried whether I’d manage the 500-word bar but didn’t think I’d have a problem with the walking or the at-home date night. It’s interesting to see that even with the major headache of nightly course work and weekly papers off my plate, life still has a way of adjusting the goals and priority we set for ourselves. In my case, I’m now at 26,431 words on Fire to Dragon, so managed all but 70 of the words in my goal.

The weather, on the other hand, offered us snow and ice and Wisconsin-like temperatures, so while we still walked the dogs, we were lucky if it was a mile each day. With the prediction for freezing rain tonight, that’s likely to persist a few more days, because it really is surprising the number of people who don’t shovel in Virginia… making for a scary number of icy sidewalk hazards for those of us trying to stay fit.

The other big miss was the other one I’d thought easy: A stay-at-home date night. When I get home at 7, and it’s dinner time, then writing time, that doesn’t leave much time for cuddling in front of a show or movie. On the other hand, we did celebrate my brother’s birthday at an entertaining Teppanyaki restaurant, so left our furbabies at home alone for the longest stretch yet. Apparently two hours apart means KouKi is shrieking and frantic by the time she sees us again–though she didn’t destroy her crate or anything in it, so maybe, eventually, she’ll be as chill as Santino was about the experience. I hope so, because Natasha was at the other end of the house to stay away from the racket, and I hate to see a puppy that upset.

Of course, it couldn’t have helped that we discovered Friday that she had a major infestation of roundworms. Those parasites could explain the issues we’ve had with diarrhea from her, though it seems, too, we caught it early enough that her growth and general vitality has not been significantly impacted. She’s already at 22.5 pounds and still playing daily. Regardless, I had the gut-churning “joy” of receiving a text from hubs with pictorial evidence that the medication was working. All I will say, for those of you with visual memories of Star Wars, episode 6 (version 1!), is … Sarlacc pit. </gag> We’ll find out whether she needs another round of treatment next week, and are planning on getting the other two tested as well, since, as the vet said, this is an environmental hazard here.

Odd that in almost two decades of dog ownership, though, this is the first we’ve run across the issue, given the wide geographic range we’ve lived in. It looks like I will finally be investing in Panacur, which my mom (a Berner breeder) swears by.

The most interesting part of my week was the persistent sense that I was missing deadlines. Almost like the schoolwork was a phantom limb, teasing me with remembered stress. So when I saw the quote above drift past on my Facebook feed, I had to consider the difference between stress and passion. I’m feeling significantly less stressed in some ways, but have started setting up deadlines for my writing that will add to my stress, given the amount of work I anticipate investing in that process. In fact, I discovered a critique group accepting new members this week and submitted an application. Another writer friend had posted an article debunking the 10,000 hours to mastery myth, prodding me further down the road of looking for someone(s) to poke holes in my story telling. Which, ironically, will make the hard writing work more stressful, but I hope ultimately leads to an affirmation of my passion.

We’ll see. As it is, writing book three of a series has enough challenges that this story feels more of a slog to tell. I really hope that makes for effortless reading on the other end. Once again, time will tell. But I’m starting to operate as if March will be my release month, since I feel hopeful that the pace I’ve set is both realistic and achievable.

I didn’t even try to deal with our remaining boxes, or to establish a study schedule for the PMP, but at least I seem to finally be past the cold/flu that has been so draining for the past month and a half. It seems someone’s Internet-posted remedy of honey water has turned the tide for both of us. So we’ll see whether I have more energy this week to be able to shoe-horn in more progress. Otherwise, check out how my fellow ROW80ers are doing, and I’ll be back next week to let you know if I’m any closer to achieving my goals.

#AtoZChallenge – Z is for Shr Zen

universal-eyeI’ve made it to the end of another A-Z challenge–despite crazy MBA classes and four weekends’ worth of overtime at work. It’s shocking me a little, to be honest… so I thought I’d share the shock Anne experienced the first time she saw her new ghilen friend Shr-Zen hover on the verge of shifting back to her natural form.

Something about an all-black eye has freaked me out since I first saw the effect in an X-Files episode some 20 years ago.

This version captures the broader impact of having a mythical beast with millennia of experience stare you down–you feel smaller and more defenseless than just the regular version of eyes could ever make you feel.

The funny thing to me is that when I created the name for this particular character, I knew she would be based on Chinese mythology, so wanted something both meaningful and vaguely accessible. I knew from my couple of semesters of Mandarin that “shr” (with the proper intonation) means “to be”. I thought it would be interesting to make her name be something on the order of “I am Zen” since she’s trying to teach the young dragons how to reach that appropriate mindset. What surprised me in the character’s evolution was that she ended up being anything but.

That brings us to the end of this year’s installment of A-Z posts about the Red Slaves series and Blood to Fire more particularly. I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of characters, places, and concepts (with a few language lessons thrown in), and look forward to hearing whether any of you have been enticed into reading based on these teases.


#AtoZChallenge – Y is for Yi Ding

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. -Stephen HawkingSince book two of Red Slaves brings in the Chinese angle on dragons, I thought it would be appropriate to comment on a Chinese word: Yi Ding means “certain” in the sense of “fixed, given, particular, or necessarily.” It’s the trap Anne falls into: She considers herself well-educated and firmly grounded in reality. So when she’s forced to face the fact that there IS another perspective on the world her first response is to retreat into herself. And become rather a bother to the people around her.

She becomes annoying for exactly the reason Stephen Hawking’s quote is genius: “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

It’s one of those cautionary tales about how certain we can be about being right–while we are, in fact, wrong. One of my favorite TED talks is by “wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz, who asks a question about what it feels like to be wrong. Her audience falls into her trap, describing the embarrassment and pain we’ve all felt at one point or another. Schulz points out… really… that’s the feeling of realizing we’ve been wrong. We were wrong before we discovered we were wrong, and it felt an awful lot like… being right.

So while Anne faces her wrongness with little grace, my invitation to my readers is follow Schulz’s invitation to look out at the universe’s vastness with the eyes of wonder that allow us to say, from time to time, “I don’t know.”

#AtoZChallenge – X is for Expatriate

a-to-z-letters-xThis was another tough letter, until I realized one of the things Anne resents the most in Blood to Fire is her forced expat status. The book opens, in fact, with the revelation that she’s all but sequestered herself in a passive-aggressive rebellion against what she views as her entrapment in the Russian Federation. She almost comes across as a xenophobe–despite her love of research and learning.

This is the way she is most different from me. I still count as close friends people I met when I (or we) were not in our home countries. Something about exploring new things together is an uncommon bond, and makes friendships established in those circumstances last beyond what many Americans expect.

In fact, I recently read an insightful blog post about what it means to be an expat, and, even though my experiences as one were primarily from a child’s perspective, I still found myself nodding at the strange dislocation returning “home” can bring. I am a third-culture kid, with the perpetual outsider’s view on the communities I inhabit, which is in many ways a freeing perspective, and also, I suspect is part of why I have the romantic sense of “home” being where those I love are, rather than any geographic location.

It’s a lesson Anne will continue to learn as the Red Slaves trilogy comes to a close.

#AtoZChallenge – W is for Winners

BLOOD TO FIRE TourCarla and I have counted, coordinated, and confirmed, and we have an official list of winners from the Rafflecopter that went along with my recent virtual book tour.


$25 Amazon Gift Card

Beth Gallinger


5 Sets Autographed Paperbacks

Amber Hall

Beth Haney

Mary Preston

Tes Halim

Tina Connor Myers


10 Sets eBooks

Arely ZPerez

Bonnie (Book Lady)

Christy Harrelson

Elizabeth L

Katrina Whittaker

Kristen Heyl

Natalie Cleary

Sandy Lion

Shadow Kohler

Shannon G*

*Not yet confirmed


Congratulations to everyone who won and thanks to everyone who participated–I felt well-loved with the huge participation the give-away garnered.

#AtoZChallenge – V is for Visit

BtF_coveridea_01a_600As we’re getting to the end of the alphabet, I find it interesting that chapter 1 of Blood to Fire is titled “Visit”… So you get an excerpt today–the first few paragraphs of book two of the Red Slaves trilogy:

There’s an annoying twinge intruding on my consciousness; I’m happy, tucked away in my stone niche, reading. Someone is looking for me again. I know who it is, but I don’t want him to find me. At least not yet. I didn’t want to be mated, yet I am—to Ivan, the prototypical leader of the pack. Not only that, but I have an entourage. Ivan, Vasily, and Fyodor are nice men. Good men. Good-looking men. But I’m used to being on my own, and the past couple of months have shown me more action than I ever expected to face based on my preference for sedentary pursuits. Life would be perfect in this library-like nook if I just had something to nibble.

Maybe if I sit still and focus harder on the words, the voice will go away.

The words blur together and my vision is overlaid with images of food on our dining room table. I reconsider. I am hungry after all.

Even as I uncurl myself from the velvet-covered bolster that had made the chaise such a comfortable retreat, I mutter about room-mates. “I haven’t had room-mates since I lived at home and had to share with my sister. Why doesn’t anyone understand I need alone time?”

“You’re talking to yourself again.”

I whirl around and find Olga smiling at me. “You! You’re back?” I run toward her, but stop myself from a full-on bear-hug attack. She hugs me instead. “Will you stay longer this time? Save me from an overdose of men?”

She laughs. She really is beautiful, and marriage seems to suit her. I’m thankful my research-partner-in-crime has returned to me. I know she’s been busy setting up a branch office to satisfy my erstwhile boss, Sam Stone, so the latest ancillary to his empire will run efficiently. Not that the stress is apparent in her face. The complexion that had glowed previously is now truly radiant, and the twinkle in her eye is ever-present. “We’re here for two weeks this time, in honor of what our boss likes to call Holiday Shut-down. Andrei is settling our bags into the guest suite. Ivan said you had hidden again but maybe you would come if I asked nicely?”

Intrigued? It’s available in both eBook and paperback formats from Amazon.

#AtoZChallenge – U is for Unwanted

uloved-unwantedI really struggled coming up with another U for this year’s Red Slaves theme… then I thought about all the things Anne does not want. Prime among them was the relationship and transformation she ended up with–but there was a deeper meaning to the unwanted theme, too.

And… I won’t share it for its spoiler-tude.


In the meantime, I found a vendor selling this t-shirt, and am left shaking my head. A few comments on the product page pointed it toward a Downton Abbey meme, though I haven’t watched the show, and a small bit of digging didn’t reveal anything to the point. So I’m wondering if this is just an extreme example of irony… because I feel like I’m missing the joke.

As a society we have such a hard time appreciating our true value as individuals, and already have such poisonous soundtracks running through our brains regarding our stupidity, lack of beauty, and other perceived deficiencies, it’s difficult to see how adding a real label of this kind would help us move toward inner loving-kindness. What do you think?

#AtoZChallenge – T is for Travel

20130423-010405.jpgI wasn’t really sure what I wanted to write about for T, but then figured the dislocation of travel was enough of a theme in my Red Slaves series to warrant comment.

The superficial dislocation we feel when faced with a new location is but the most obvious of the changes we face. When, as with Anne, you have to adapt to a new culture over a longer term, there is the opportunity to really explore who you are and grow into a new person, defined by an understanding of yourself gained through a new context.

One of the reasons I’ve always felt comfortable traveling is because the opportunity to see who you are when juxtaposed with something wholly unexpected offers one of the clearest paths for growth that I know.

In Anne’s case, I suspect she holds on to her past so tightly because she is not confident of who she is at a core level–and she doesn’t like herself when it comes right down to it. Which makes it surprising to everyone when she is able to establish such fast friendships.

I’m not sure what it is about travel, either that contributes to the swiftness of accepting new buddies, but I’ve both seen it happen and experienced it enough times that even that element is true to life in this story.

What about you? Do you like to travel?

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