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NaNoWriMo or Bust

Don't be afraid to start over. This time you're not starting from scratch, you're starting from experience.

I started writing Team TaoRuti a year ago tomorrow, hoping to borrow from the NaNoWriMo energy that has propelled me to finish several of my novels. I’d just started a new position on a new project at the day job, so it probably wasn’t realistic to expect to complete the story then. But I would have thought I could’ve finished by now.

And then… 2020.

I’ve said plenty about what we’ve collectively faced this year. And I’ve heard from almost every creative person I know that the overwhelming news cycles have drained them of almost every drop of imagination. (Protests! Wild fires! COVID-19! Lock-down! Stock market crash! Murder hornets! Hurricanes! Police brutality! BLM! Riots! Earthquakes! Typhoons!) There are some dark memes out there pointing out that were 2020 being developed in a writer’s room, any competent show runner would fire everyone and start over, because the tangled story lines are nonsensical as fiction.

Thus has fiction become my retreat. Not the writing of it–I produced nothing new on my stories between February and August–but the reading of it. Goodreads shows I’ve read 105 books so far this year.

Keeping up with research results has been interesting, too. Creating metallic hydrogen could change the way we launch rockets. Perovskite could change how we harvest solar energy. Superconductivity could be in reach with a simple twist of a carbon sheet. Each one of these findings could drive its own story.

There have also been research findings published regarding human history. Looking at the sediment core from Lake Chichancanab, scientists are more confident that drought was what brought the Mayan culture to its knees. Other scientists, looking at Viking DNA, showed significantly more intermixing of southern Europeans and Asians than they had expected.

In modern times, research from the Rand Corporation shows such a significant redistribution of wealth to the already wealthy that the Intelligencer headlined its story on the findings as “Study: Inequality Robs $2.5 Trillion from U.S. Workers Each Year.” In Russia, there are worrying demographic trends that point to a different impact of inequality.

And underneath all of this reporting… our brain has automatic suppressive mechanisms that means we have difficulty perceiving things our brains deem “distracting”.

(Tell that to my brain, which has been distracting me all year!)

So I’m going to join the NaNoWriMo masses again this year. I don’t know that I’ll get all the way to 50K words, but if I could write 25K words in November, I could finally close the book (HA!) on book two of my Planet Seekers series. And I have the tantalizing plotbunny that woke me up a couple weeks back, where the character told me “I chose to become a ghost to solve a mystery.” We’ll see where my creative energy ends up, but that could definitely be a candidate for my next book.

Daily Blessings

"Somebody didn't wake up today, but you did. That's enough reason to stop complaining, and that's enough to be thankful for. Never let your troubles blind you to your daily blessings." -Trent Shelton

Days have a way of catching us between their teeth and grinding us down with their unrelenting sameness at the moment. I was deeply upset when the writers’ retreat cruise Gayla and I had planned to attend at the end of this month was cancelled, and any alternate plans made untenable by the persisting state of being almost locked down. We’re in our sixth month of nearly full-time working from home, and while I very much appreciate the extra hour I get to my days from not having to commute to and from the office, the general oppression in the atmosphere–worry about COVID-19, the economy, the fires on the West Coast, the latest political machinations that neglect to take into account needs outside of those expressed by the billionaire owners of certain key industries–has led to most creatives I know hitting the same kind of stagnation I’ve faced. It feels like any time I’ve “won” by working from home, has been eaten up by reading or gaming. Which ends up feeling like a loss to me.

I finally managed to dig myself out of my complete writing standstill in the past few weeks, and have added a few chapters to Team TaoRuti, as well as have come up with a decent candidate for a back-of-book blurb. I’ve updated the site accordingly, and would appreciate feedback. It’s been 15 months since I released book 1 on the series, and I’d love to make the claim that book 2 came out the next calendar year… but… we’ll see.

I can say that all the advertising from last month was a complete bust. Though it’s possible that it wasn’t the vendors’ fault, given general economic conditions, and specific details of how many people lost their jobs and are on the verge of losing their houses, I will be putting a pause on ad buys for the foreseeable future.

The stark contrast of that economic reality, and the one enjoyed by our plutocrats was described in the real life experience of Douglas Rushkoff… two years ago. Reading the article made eerie echoes with exactly the predictions I’ve been weaving into my scifi stories. For that matter, so does recent reporting about a large-scale basic income experiment in South America.

Research on the intelligence of trees and the deepening of quantum paradoxes that point to certain underlying uncertainties about the “supremacy” of human thought/reasoning/existence also play into my stories.

On the other hand, I resort to complete handwavium about the nature of interstellar travel, given reporting on not only how difficult it is to escape the planet in the first place, but also how unimaginably large the cosmos is.

I’m much more interested in how certain kinds of humans react to having their minds boggled beyond the constraints of their expectations. While this naturally pushes my imagination to where we intersect with technology, (hearkening back to Arthur C. Clarke’s third law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”) it also means… magic has a place in my scifi. And that’s all I’ll say about how I backed myself out of writing a dystopia that was uncomfortably parallel to our current reality.

Which brings me to the quote at the start of today’s post. Regardless of your stance on religion, I have noticed that since hubs and I have become intentional with our daily prayers/meditations, it’s been easier to heave myself up onto the banks of wonder, where I can give voice to my creativity. Escape the humdrum of “just another day in my {home} office”. I wish the same for you and yours.

Viral

You know what I would really like to see go viral? Basic human decency.

Another month has flown by. The days melt into each other with little distinction, and we see far too many viral videos about humans lashing out and beating each other up as they fight the nebulous fear of a virus that is still rampaging across the planet. I’m unbelievably lucky that my job was easy to switch over to working from home–the official authority for which has been extended month by month, and currently rests at the end of October. We’ve been told that unless the numbers change dramatically, we really shouldn’t expect to return full time to the office until sometime in the new year.

It’s amazing that such a large firm has has been able to implement that scale of change so rapidly. I’m seeing more articles that talk about the mental health downsides of this effort. The Guardian described it as the quiet, grinding loneliness. Politico went so far as to predict the death of cities (with their high rents and high stress environments) because so many employers have made this switch, and could therefore allow employees to live where they feel most at home. Meanwhile, the Electronic Freedom Frontier spelled out the dark side of these moves: Companies are so worried that they can’t SEE their workers working, they’re mandating intrusive “bossware“. Bloomberg, on the other hand, speculated that maybe, finally, the pandemic might turn around decades worth of workers’ rights’ and pay erosion. (That last one comes with some fancy, worthwhile charts to help build the case.) The key graf:

Covid helps clarify just how much employers have chipped away at the labor rights and bargaining power that came with the New Deal. Legislation and court rulings have outlawed key organizing and protest tactics, legalized aggressive anti-union efforts, and radically shrunk the range of occupations granted basic labor rights. Companies looking for a short-term jolt to their profit margin have more incentives than ever to hire workers indirectly, keeping payroll and liability off their own books. The pandemic certainly could give employers even more power to set the rules. Or it could give workers a chance to end the heist on a nationwide scale.

Josh Eidelson, “How The American Worker Got Fleeced,” July 2, 2020

As previously reported, for me, being at home all the time has been an unexpected bonanza. I like not having to make excuses about not wanting to leave home or spend time in large groups of people. (I conform significantly to introvert descriptions and apparently have a healthy dose of hermeticism to go with it.)

Until last week, though, all this time at home was not helping me get back in the flow of writing. My Goodreads list of books read so far this year is edging ever closer to 80, and I’ve already overshot my annual goal. It was more comfortable to retreat into other people’s fiction than mine.

My story didn’t help, either, being set in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Finally, I figured out the plot twist that gets me out of that rut and into something more akin to revenge p*rn (though likely not quite as bloodthirsty a scenario as would make hubs happy… but we’ll see how it all plays out – LOL).

I also figured out that listening to binaural music helps keep me focused and able to churn out words.

So I signed up for Virtual Author Book-signing Bingo event on August 29. (Join me: I’ll be ON CAMERA for SIX HOURS!) As a consequence, Planet Seekers: Team Alpha is currently on sale, down to $2.99 on Amazon. I’m testing out layering visibility of this sale via the Dog Days Giveaway and BookSends. Any help you can give with spreading the word would be welcome.

I’d hoped all that effort would spur me on to finish writing book 2 in time to catch some follow-up enthusiasm from new readers of book 1… but work got busy. So… we’ll see how it goes.

Meantime, relevant to my research for the book, an interesting article about the heart of consciousness being frequency/vibration. And some interesting gaps in the understanding we’ve accepted about humanity via the Human Genome Project. Each has its place in my story line and should make for a different kind of cross-over story between scifi and fantasy–and naturally, also, romance, because I need to make sure that even if only in fiction, there is somewhere a mental model for what a happy ending might look like in disastrous circumstances.

Here’s hoping the next month helps us all find some light at the end of the tunnel, so we can focus more intentionally on our hopes and dreams rather than the catastrophizing that is being forced on us.

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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