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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.

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: (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.

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