Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Payoff: Patience rewarded.

The preorder is up and the wait is nearly over. The Payoff  goes live this Friday, April 30th. Thanks to all of you who have preordered already! I'm grateful to each and every one of you.

Cheetah 123 | Deposit Photos
Patience is a virtue, or so I've been told. We have all been forced to practice patience during this past year plus, waiting for our vaccinations to take effect and for the world to reopen. Some of us have been more gracious about this down time than others, it's true. But whether we grump or whine or take more drastic measures -- or sit back and resign ourselves to waiting -- it's all really just the way we choose to pass the time until the pandemic is over.

Even before the virus hit, we had a choice about how to react to waiting. There are all sorts of coping strategies available, from meditation to creative crafting to kickboxing. But really, the only thing that will fix the problem is the passage of time.

In The Payoff, Janis and Jan have had a lot of time to practice patience. Forty years, in fact. Raised together at a quasi-research facility called the Institute, they fell in love -- and then to protect themselves and each other from the woman who tormented them there, they split up. Four decades later, they have reunited to finally right the wrongs that were done to them all those years ago.

Seems like a ridiculously long time to wait, right? I received some similar complaints about Naomi Witherspoon's ten-year romance with Brock Holt in Seized. Why did she wait around so long for him to ask her to marry him? Why didn't she dump him when she realized he was a jerk? Well, to be honest, it was partly because that was the timeline that the story demanded. 

But the book's critics also didn't seem to want to give enough credit to inertia. You know, you're in this thing and it's not great, but it's really not that terrible if you squint just right, and you can manage it okay or anyway you tell yourself you can. And life happens and pretty soon you realize you've been with this guy for ten years and nothing's happening, and why is this owl dive-bombing you in downtown Denver?

Naomi was not so much practicing patience as she was practicing inattentiveness. She woke up pretty fast when Joseph showed up, though.

In The Payoff, Janis Fowler and Jan Marek are in a completely different situation. As children, they mentally granted outsized power to Dr. Tandy, who had total control over their lives. They weren't much more than children when they left the Institute -- they were certainly naive about how the world worked -- so they never had the chance that you and I have had, as adults, to recast our mental picture of the adults in our young lives as fallible people who don't control us any longer. And Jan had Seen that he and Janis would be reunited someday, and that would be the time they could finally give Tandy what she deserved. 

So they've waited. For forty years.

There are lots of true-life stories about couples who split up when they're young due to circumstances beyond their control and reunite decades later. Usually, in the meantime, they've gotten on with their lives: they've married somebody else, raised a family, worked, or gone to war. In these tales, when the couple gets back together again, they often find that while they're different people now than before they split, their reunion was worth the wait.

Janis and Jan seem to think their reunion was worth the wait. I'm hoping you, dear readers, will agree.

I don't have a link for the paperback edition yet. I'll share that next week. And not to be too much of a tease, but I might even have news about a special edition of The Payoff then, too. 

Sounds like it's a good week to practice patience. See you next Sunday.

These moments of impatient blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep masking up and social distancing! And get vaccinated when you can!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Payoff: Justice.

So here we are at week two of the big lead-up to the publication of The Payoff. Our target release date is Friday, April 30 -- less than two weeks from now. I do intend to put the book up for pre-order. I'll send out a newsletter as soon as it's available. (You say you're not on the list? I can fix that! Click here to sign up!) 

So what's this book about? Here you go:
Janis Fowler and Jan Marek grew up together, the only two students at the Institute, a research facility and school for children with paranormal abilities. Or so their parents were told. In reality, the Institute’s director, Dr. Denise Tandy, had her own plans for their talents – Janis can read a person’s past and Jan can see a person’s future – and when the kids resisted her, she was ruthless at getting them to comply.

At last, Janis and Jan escaped – and split up, knowing it was the only way to protect both themselves and each other. But they knew they would reunite someday, when they time was right. 

Forty years later, the time has come. Their old tormentor has turned up again. Her game is the same, but her newest ruse is more dangerous than ever. And she’s recruiting more victims.

Jan and Janis must use their powers to put an end to Dr. Tandy’s vile scheming – without risking each other. It’s a tall order for two people who have been hiding in plain sight for four decades. But with age comes wisdom. And they have waited long enough to see justice served.

As I said last week, justice is one of the three big themes of this book. The obvious association here is with punishment for criminal -- or at least unethical -- behavior. I don't want to venture into spoiler territory here, but Dr. Tandy deserves whatever Janis and Jan can dish up for her.

But it's not just punishment they're after. Janis's creed is that choices have consequences. She can read an individual's past. She knows the situations they have been in, and the choices they have made in those situations. For her and Jan, the future isn't predestined; rather, it's predictable, given the human propensity to do the same thing we did in a previous, similar situation, even if we didn't particularly like the result last time. Dr. Tandy has so far escaped any consequences for the way she treated Jan and Janis when they were children, and our heroes think it's high time she pay.

The usual symbol for justice is a set of scales, often held by a woman who also carries a sword. She is the Roman goddess Justitia, and her Greek antecedent is the goddess Themis. These days, Lady Justice also wears a blindfold, but that's a modern addition.

S. Hermann & F. Richter | Pixabay | CC0

In A Billion Gods and Goddesses, I talked about the pleasant fiction that the statue atop the U.S. Capitol represents freedom, when anyone with half a brain can see that she is Columbia, the goddess of the United States. It turns out Columbia isn't the only goddess in D.C.; Lady Justice is at home in the Supreme Court Building, and unlike Congress, the high court freely admits it. No fewer than three images of Lady Justice grace the place: as part of a statue at the entrance, on the base of a lamp post, and in a frieze in the courtroom itself.

Her scales represent balance, which was our theme last week; her sword shows she is ready to mete out punishment; and the blindfold indicates her intention to be fair. Rich or poor, weak or powerful, all are supposed to be equal before the law. The key there is "supposed to be"; fairness, like justice, is an ideal we strive for, and often we don't hit the mark. And sometimes justice is slow in coming. That's where our final theme -- patience -- comes in. I'll tackle that next week.


In the meantime, I'm set to receive my vaccine booster on Tuesday (go Team Moderna!). I got a sore arm from the first shot. From everything I've heard, the second dose packs more of a wallop -- but better that than a ventilator. Or a permanent dirt nap.


These moments of judicious blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell, who will be masking up and maintaining social distancing, even after she's fully vaccinated. You too, okay?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

On balance, some book news.

Just last week, I promised that I would write about writing again, and here I am, doing it. You're welcome.

Authors are often asked where their story ideas come from. It's not a question most of us enjoy answering. Oh, sometimes we can pinpoint the moment or event where the first germ of an idea originated (the Transcendence trilogy, for instance, sprang from a wholly unplanned stop at the Newark Earthworks in central Ohio, and Seasons of the Fool came about because I wanted to write a novel set in the neighborhood where I grew up). 

But sometimes there's nothing in the real world to point to. Once in grad school, when I had a short story due, I wrote an opening sentence by stringing a bunch of words together and then wrote a story to fit the sentence. The story came out okay, but how would I explain how I got there? The Muse works in mysterious ways.

And so it is with my upcoming novel, which I drafted during NaNoWriMo this past November. I was pretty sure, when the first draft was done, that I'd written a steaming pile of crap. But after a couple of rounds of self-editing, I decided it wasn't as bad as I thought -- and could even be salvaged. So I sent it along to my editor late last night. And I now feel confident that The Payoff -- yes, at long last, the book has a title! -- will be published on or about Beltane, May 1.

The germ of the plot was a Facebook post or meme or picture -- which of course I can't find now -- about how readers would love to have a story about an elderly woman who solves mysteries or crimes or something. Hey, if there's a market for books where the main character is old, I'm happy to oblige. So the main characters in The Payoff are a man and a woman in late middle age who haven't seen one another in forty years. Deliberately. Because they didn't want to run afoul of an older woman who tormented them all through their growing-up years. Now this woman is back, and she's causing trouble for someone else who doesn't deserve it, and Our Heroes have decided it's payback time.

After the first round of editing, I sat back and thought about the novel's themes. I came up with three: balance, patience, and justice. Having those concepts in the back of my mind helped me shape my steaming pile of first draftedness into a novel that I'm pretty proud of. So I thought I'd talk about each of them in turn.

This week, the topic is balance. 

ElisaRiva | CC0 | Pixabay
(I could have gone for a pile of rocks beside a rushing stream to illustrate this post, but this image feels more true-to-life to me.)

The main characters are Janis Fowler and Jan Marek. Jan (who is male) has the ability to See people's futures; Janis can See people's pasts. Their talents cannot be called up on command; they happen when they happen. But over the years, each of them has figured out how to create circumstances that will kick their talents into action. 

In a way, Jan and Janis are a matched set. They balance each other. Together, they have a full picture of a person -- the experiences that shaped them, the choices they've made in critical situations, and how all that will play out in their future lives. Janis and Jan realized early on what takes some of us a lifetime to figure out: Choices have consequences.

While balance within ourselves is always worth cultivating, it isn't enough to ensure a peaceful life. We have to interact with others. Some of these others are seriously unbalanced; sometimes they have power over us, holding the tightrope we're forced to walk. One unhinged choice on their part and boom! Down we go.

If we're lucky -- if we live long enough -- we may get to see that person suffer the consequences of their bad choices. We might even be given the chance to deliver the consequences ourselves. And if we do it right, our balance can be restored.

That, right there, is The Payoff


I'll put the book up for preorder here shortly. I'll let you know when that happens.


These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep masking up and social distancing! The end is in sight!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

QAnon and the New Age.

You would think a person who purports to dislike DC so much would have raced to eliminate all ties to the city (other than those to friends and relatives) immediately upon moving away, wouldn't you? And yet I still have a digital subscription to the Washington Post, and probably will keep it for the forseeable future. It's not super expensive (I'm looking at you, NewYork Times) and their coverage of national news is excellent.

Sometimes, however, they kind of go off the deep end. So for the second time in as many weeks, I'm using a WaPo story as a springboard for a blog post. (I'll get around to writing about writing again eventually, I promise.)

PublicDomainPictures | Pixabay
This week, an article in their Sunday magazine set me off. It's entitled "QAnon's Unexpected Roots in New Age Spirituality," and in it, the author strives to make a connection between the New Age movement and the guy in the furry headdress who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. I'd read a little bit about this character, whose real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley but who goes by Jake Angeli and who is also known as the "QAnon Shaman." I'm sure you've heard about him, too; he's the guy who complained that his jailers wouldn't serve him organic food, so a judge ordered him transferred to a different jail.

The get-up he wore to the insurrection was a mishmash of quasi-spirituality: the horned headdress was a call to Native Americans, sorta kinda, and among the tattoos on his torso is a rune associated with white supremacy that Heathens in the Pagan movement have disavowed. The author of the WaPo article, Marisa Meltzer, says she recognized the combo as a "cringeworthy and offensive display of appropriation." I agree with her. She goes on to say that Chansley is the founder of the Star Seed Academy, a New-Agey place in Arizona that promises to help people "awaken, evolve and ascend!" His lawyer told Meltzer that Chansley is committed to ahimsa, a principle in some Asian spiritual traditions that relates to nonviolence.

When I read that, I said aloud, "Then what the hell was he doing in the Capitol on 1/6?" 

Well, he's also a follower of QAnon. And Meltzer says that fits because of this thing called conspirituality, which she describes as a "politico-spiritual philosophy" based on two beliefs: that humanity is undergoing a profound awakening in consciousness, and that there's a shadowy group out there somewhere that's controlling society.

She says Robert Bly's 1990 book, Iron John, is one of the seeds of conspirituality. Bly's book created a counter to the women's movement by highlighting masculine tropes in Jungian archetypes and fairy tales. In order for men to claim their true masculinity, he claimed, they needed both to perceive themselves as warriors and to make themselves emotionally vulnerable. 

I remember when Iron John was published. It sold really well. And there's nothing wrong with a man being emotionally vulnerable in his relationships; it kind of helps, actually. 

But then Meltzer tries to tie this view of masculinity to those held by groups like the Proud Boys and evangelical Christianity, where the ideal of men as women's protectors morphs into a belief that women should stay home and shut up. From there, it's a short hop to QAnon. 

Okay, but QAnon attracts a lot of women, too. And whatever happened to Bly's belief that men need to be emotionally vulnerable?

Look, there are some shady New Age characters out there. In my opinion, the New Age movement is less a religion than a self-help phenomenon; misappropriating Native American practices is just one of the sketchy things I've seen. I'm not against self-actualization, but you have to be really, really careful when you search for a "guru"; a fair number of them are only in it to separate you from your money.

And I'm thinking the QAnon Shaman might need to spend some of his time in prison reading Iron John


These moments of appropriate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up! Wash your hands! And get the vaccine when you can!