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Creating a New World

I realized this weekend that it’s now officially been six months since we moved in – and two months since we added a dervish of a puppy to our household. We’ve created a whole new world for ourselves in just half a year.

If you feel like you don't fit in this world, it is because you are here to help create a new one.

It’s remarkable if you frame it that way.

Animals are known to create their worlds, too. Interesting research on birdsong during the pandemic indicated the reduction in human noise (think cars and heavy traffic), added to the breadth of the soundscape they created. There’s a new world in processed foods, too, of microbes.

And if you really want to challenge yourself on adapting to a new world, try approaching it from a canine’s perspective. Recently there have been more stories in the news and social media about dog maulings, so it’s worth sharing a few tips on non-aggressive ways to approach strange, new dogs. As well as (once again) pointing out that punishment-based dog training is most likely to lead to a fearful, potentially aggressive dog.

From a humor perspective, The Guardian shared a list of 100 ways to do small things to improve your life. Can’t say I agree that just wearing yellow provides instant cheer for me (it tends to make me look sick, and therefore feel self-conscious), but I can say having an ereader on my phone – and therefore access to a whole library in my bag – is a source of significant comfort for me. And I’m happy to report that I found a new-to-me author this weekend (Elizabeth Hunter), who mixed up the most enticing catnip for me with her Cambio Springs series: PNR with a heavy dose of murder mystery and small-town, inter-generational support and interaction. It was great to retreat from the news of the world into such a richly imagined fictional world. Even more interesting to note the different kind of pacing this author used – her key pivots in the story came at the 30% and 60% point of those stories.

My work world has involved a lot more trips in to the office recently, so it was interesting to read others are struggling with escaping the heavy attraction to comfy clothes, and are making new rules about office wear.

Yet, with all these worlds colliding into the one we all agree to share, there are other worlds, still… several of them bouncing in my brain. I’m trying something new and different in my writing life: Co-writing a novel. We’re 5,000+ words in and thoroughly enjoying the process so far, but keeping all other details under wraps to protect this little seedling of a story from too much pressure or speculation.

It’s fired me up for writing my own story again, though I still haven’t actually puts words on a page. I will keep you posted on that, and hope that my readers don’t lose their appetite for the Planet Seekers conclusion.

Cover Reveal: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter

Book Cover: Planet Seekers: Team Shifter by Tonya Cannariato

Presenting… the cover of book 3 of my Planet Seekers series.

I finally have some confidence that I’ll have the energy and time to write the story that concludes this arc, so I”m happy to share the excellent work my cover artist at Sleepy Fox Studio produced for me… last year.

As per my previous practice, I’m adding the word counter to my sidebar so you can track my progress. If all goes well, I should be able to publish this next year.

Wish me luck!

That’s It?

Never regret a day in your life: Good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.

The release of Team TaoRuti marked the completion of my 12th book, as well as my 13th release. It’s the second book in an SFR series, my first new (story) release in nearly two years, and reflected a decent amount of the collective trauma we’ve lived through in Our Year of COVID. It was hard to finish. And, as with most of my other releases, landed with minimal fanfare and a small number of sales.

Completing a story always comes as a bit of a let-down; it’s a big enough milestone to invite a pause and an evaluation of what I’m getting out of putting myself through all this stress and effort.

For me, it always comes back to: I love stories and the creative process. Being open to the world around me. And I’m enough of a Gen Xer to want to do my own thing for my own reasons, so this mode of self-expression suits my spiritual/emotional needs. But there’s an echo to the burnout reported in The Passion Paradox. Obviously writing as an independent author gives me extreme autonomy. And I can see the improvement in my writing skills book over book. But for as many positive reviews as my books have gotten, I’ve never gotten fanmail from a stranger or any sense that there is a community of readers out there who would be upset if I just stopped publishing. It feels, at the end of the publishing process, profoundly exhausting to have invested huge amounts of time and effort for so little return.

According to the IRS, my writing remains a very expensive hobby.

Interestingly, research points to specific activities that help people recover from burn-out – primarily centered on self-care. And spending time with hubs, my very best friend, who understands implicitly the cycle of ups and down that come with creative production. (Interestingly, there were points made in that first article that are repeated in a second about signs of a happy marriage. Considering that earlier this year we celebrated our 23rd anniversary, I can’t argue the correlation. 🙂 )

So I’ve gone back to my primary self-care mode and read. I’m ahead of my Goodreads goal for the year for now again, and the two most recent books have reignited my story in me. The first I got as an eARC from Netgalley, so you’ll be seeing a review about it in the next week – a profound mix of philosophy and scifi that deserves every accolade it will undoubtedly accrue. The second was randomly listed as a freebie on one of the many book-promoting email listservs I subscribe to. It’s a mash-up of historical fiction, urban fantasy, cozy mystery tinged slightly darker than that genre generally expects, and just enough of a slow-burn romance to seriously pique my interest. And it’s the first of a 10-book series. Totally my jam.

The funny thing about reading really good books – for me, anyway – is that last night I figured out how to start book 3 of my Planet Seekers trilogy. The subtext of the series is a reflection on things I’ve experienced in my career… held at the arm’s length of a post-apocalyptic scifi story. There’s definitely more water in that well, so we’ll kick off book three with the fun of a jargon-filled, pointless meeting.

So. That’s not it, after all. I’ll keep writing and publishing. And if you have any interest in reading my books for the purpose of reviewing them, contact me for a free eARC.

Anniversary and Completion

Yes, there really are Perfect Matches.
Quote from Zen 2 Zany on top of a sepia-toned picture of a romantically dressed couple holding a great horned owl.

This week hubs and I celebrate 23 years of marriage, so it is fitting that I should run across an article describing six distinct types of love. And I finally finished writing book two of my Planet Seekers series. Now that I’ve finished reading it to hubs, and have guidance on a final few missing scenes, it’ll go to my trusty editor, Liana, which means I’m starting to consider a marketing plan for it.

My first idea is to proceed with creating audiobook versions for both of the Planet Seekers books. Apart from that, we’re looking into setting up interviews with long-form talk radio hosts hubs has become friendly with. It will be interesting to see whether these new approaches will garner any new readers.

Of course, we’re also still laboring under the constrictions of COVID-driven lock-down. It occurred to me yesterday, that likely part of the reason I’ve embraced these restrictions so whole-heartedly was because of my university experience studying monasticism, which culminated with a week-long stay behind the walls of Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Maumont. Living within those strictures was one of the happiest times of my life. With all the assurance of a 20-year-old, as enticing as becoming a contemplative was, I decided then that that would be the “easy path” for me. It seems I was not wrong.

But more and more outlets are writing of the toll lock-down is taking on people’s mental health. Managers are being given tips on how to support their teams in beating WFH burnout. I even read about the seven types of rest people require, and about the simple Dutch cure for stress.

I, on the other hand, have embraced my inner night owl. I’m happy with the distinct phases of my day: work, eating, canine care, creativity, sleep. There is order for me, and much less stress, even as my responsibilities on the work front continue to tick up. The real challenge for me will be to face a return to full-time work at the office.

Given current conditions, that is still at a minimum, months away. But as a neighbor and friend gets ready to sell their house and take retirement, I look down the barrel of twenty more years of a day job career and wonder how that will play out. Which puts an interesting spin on the experiment Amsterdam is conducting with its economy in the wake of COVID restrictions. And then, in a different call-back to the study a few years back documenting the importance of luck in gaining “success” in a system, there was a fascinating case made for the mathematical reason not to blame people for their misfortunes.

The notion of time also got scrambled scientifically in the past few years by Carlo Rovelli, who points out the quantum implications of the relationship between time and gravity–and hints that our human insistence on a linear description of experience might be more wrong-headed than we’d imagined. Similarly, Einstein’s theory about general relativity was recently strengthened by observations of the collision of two neutron stars in 2017.

Which all boils down to say the universe is stranger than we’d imagined, and our place in it more fluid. Comforting thoughts as I come up on the quarter-century anniversary of meeting hubs and the half-century marker since my birth later this year. “Chance” has had quite a bit of say in my life, and I’ve learned enough not to say “never” again, so I’m excited about the opportunity I’ve been granted to continue to spin fictional tales. It still remains to be seen which one I pursue next, but for now I’m in the more mechanical phase of error correction and fleshing out before I start with an exploration of producing audio content. Stay well, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Surprise Release of Red Slaves omnibus edition – Happy New Year

The Red Slaves Collection - omnibus edition of books 1 through 4

Starting with good news: I was able to work with Kelley to come up with a “collected works” cover strategy for my Red Slaves series, so I could release all four eBooks in the series at a price point that rewards readers for continuing through the whole story–essentially, buy books 2 and 3, and get books 1 and 4 for free. (I’ll keep updating that page as new buy locations roll in.) What surprised me was that these four books together represent almost 200K words. I never would have anticipated that I could write that much. Especially given that my earliest creative efforts were poems.

Which brings me to my not-great news: I was gung-ho to at least manage 25K words in November to finally finish book 2 of my Planet Seekers series. Then I got the kind of interesting news from the day job that boils down to longer hours and more responsibilities, and that energy got re-allocated. If you’re following my blog’s side-bar tracker, you can see I’m still 9K words away from finishing writing. Which was a lot of what drove my decision to release the omnibus.

I’m hopeful book 2 will come out in the first quarter of 2021. I’ll keep you posted either way. By way of background research, I read an interesting article about how an evolutionary biologist is coming to terms with the Gaia theory, which makes for a different take on my sentient planet characters.

Other science news I’ve been digesting relates to the relationship between eigenvectors and eigenvalues. More important in our current, COVID-restricted environment was an opinion piece in Scientific American talking about how current scientific debate is being shut down. As a writer in the SFF spectrum, the ability to question everything is a key skill–and, ironically, generally considered the hallmark of good science. Listening to absolutists who regularly bloviate in the public sphere, combined with the concerns outlined in that article have both been key drivers to push me toward tuning out what is commonly reported. In fact, I closed out 2020 having read 121 books, and was intrigued by an article that emphasized how important fiction reading is to developing “mentalizing” skills. Maybe if more people read more fiction, it would be easier to cross the barriers that have become so evident in society.

🙂

In the meantime I read about the effort to protect “one square inch of silence” and was intrigued by the concept of being in a space where no human-generated sounds would intrude within the span of 15 minutes. Given the wild number of distractions available, this sounds like the pursuit of paradise to me.

And then there are the articles that talk about making peace with not having a legacy; how overexposure to cortisol as a child has life-long impacts on the ability to remember, organize, and pay attention; and the importance of peripersonal space. An intriguing recollection of the early friendship between Sartre and Camus led to an analysis of their disagreement over the nature of freedom that drove them apart. Finally, the balm of these days, friendship, was beautifully described by Kahlil Gibran.

I will be returning to my monthly blog habit, as well as posting select reviews (watch for one later this week about the upcoming release from Suleikha Snyder, which does all the kinds of genre-bending mash-up things that make me happy) this year. And I will try to stay on the 1K words per week path that seems to be my minimum regular output in the face of … waves handslife. Be well until next time.

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