The Practice of Creativity

Besides being published by Book Smugglers Publishing, I have found that another wonderful perk has been discovering other fantastic authors in the BSP family. One of them is Dianna Gunn. In May, I discovered Diana’s novella, Keeper of the Dawn. Dianna’s was the first novella released in the Book Smugglers Novella Initiative. I loved it and also wrote a review of it. Dianna and I have many overlapping interests and I have enjoyed getting to know her work.

Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She blogs about writing, creativity and books at http://www.thedabbler.ca.

I’m delighted to welcome Dianna Gunn to The Practice of Creativity.

– Tell us about your recent novella, Keeper of the Dawn. What are you hoping readers will connect to in this story? 

Let me start by sharing the blurb:

Sometimes failure is just the beginning

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn is a tale of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

# # #

If there’s any one thing I want readers to connect with, it’s the idea that the path to success is rarely straight forward. I also hope Keeper of the Dawn will serve as a reminder that we all deserve love, even—especially—if we have to seek it outside the bounds of “normal” relationships.

-How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become an author?

I always loved telling stories—I used to read to my stuffed animals—but I didn’t realize “writer” was a valid career path until JK Rowling made a lot of money. I was quickly disillusioned about making my own fortune, but I’ve never let anyone dissuade me from the idea that I can’t make it a career.

You manage to pack a lot into your day! You’re a blogger and freelance writer, and you’re working on a non-fiction book. How do these activities support your creative work?

Being a freelance writer by day comes with its own set of challenges, but it also has special advantages. The flexibility of my schedule means that if I’m on a roll, I can work on my fiction WIP for several days, and do my freelance work at the absolute last minute.

On the other hand, if I’m struggling with my fiction, I always have something else to do.

Also, I’m writing that non-fiction book VERY SLOWLY and blogging large parts of it. Some of it is also reworked from blog posts I wrote 2-3 years ago, allowing me to write the book efficiently. Albeit still slowly, because fiction is my true love.

-In your ‘Inspirations and Influences’ essay for Book Smugglers, you mentioned that you were writing a parody novel that you eventually abandoned, but kept Lai as a character. What allowed you to abandon that project and dive deeply into Lai and build a story around her?

Hahaha, I never had a problem abandoning projects. Which might sound strange if you know that I’ve also been working on my full length novel, Moonshadow’s Guardian, for 9 years, but I have happily thrown away dozens of other manuscripts. And I always keep the notes so I can reuse ideas in new stories.

-What’s on your bookshelf, next to your bed (or in your e-reader)? What are you reading right now?

I finished reading Cog and the Steel Tower by W.E. Larson last night, so now I have to pick a new book. Which is going to be tough, because I picked up the LGBT Story Bundle a couple weeks ago and I’ve also got several print books friends loaned me…

– What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Don’t take criticism of your stories personally, and ignore anyone that uses flaws in your fiction to attack you as a person. I know it doesn’t FEEL like our books are separate from us, but they are. We should treat them that way.

 

When she isn’t helping her clients bring their dreams to life, Dianna can be found busily working on her own dream of being a successful fantasy author. Her first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, came out on April 18th, 2017.  She has several other novellas and novels in the works, and hopes to announce a second release date soon.

You can also follow her on Twitter @DiannaLGunn or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dlgunnauthor/.

 

I know many authors that choose to not ever look at their reviews. I’m not there yet! My new novella, Reenu-You has been garnering some lovely reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I am super happy. Check in with me on the day I receive a 1 star review and I am sure my tune will change. Until then, however, I am celebrating.

I’m grateful to writing buddies (and customers) who have taken the time to write an honest review. Writing a review is such an important way to support an author. And, they don’t have to be long! Most people take a peek at reviews before purchasing a book. Reading others’ reviews can generate excitement for the book. Also, from what I understand, having lots of reviews (preferably good ones), helps with the algorithms Amazon uses to promote books.

Also, since editing the novella and getting it into production took longer than either the publisher or I expected, we didn’t get a lot of time to generate early reviews. So, again I’m pleased that reviews are starting to come in.

Below, I’m highlighting two reviews that appeared on blogs:

Nice review @ Black Girl Nerds–they did my cover reveal in May.

Engaging review @ Fraser Sherman’s blog. Fraser Sherman, is a writer and prolific blogger. He runs a fantastic blog that reviews speculative novels, movies, comics, and films both past and present. And, he writes about many other topics.

If you’re a speculative fiction lover and interested in reviewing Reenu-You this summer, drop me a line at mtb@creativetickle.com and I’ll get an ARC to you.

How do you renew and refresh yourself? What are the kinds of activities that supercharge you?

Most of the writers I know write a lot. Most write daily.

The creative professionals I know are doing it all, all the time—writing, creating, supporting other creatives, marketing, honing their craft, etc., in addition to living a full life. Demands continue to expand. Many creative professionals I know are skirting the edges of burnout.

A few years ago, I decided to stop waiting for week-long vacations to take a break. Those kind of vacations are great, but for me they usually only came once a year. And, by the time I went on them, I was so mentally and physically fatigued that I usually spent a chunk of it in bed or sick. A bummer! Also, I found myself putting so much emotional energy into ‘having a great time’ that it put unrealistic expectations on the trip.

New research suggests that shorter breaks throughout the year may leave people feeling happier and more productive.

When friends recently invited me to hang out with them, for a few days, at the beach, I jumped at the chance.

I also did something rare for me. I didn’t bring my computer. This was huge! My computer and I are usually inseparable. I’ll often bring it along on a vacation to do creative work.  My amazing partner, Tim, was the one who suggested that I take a break from writing on the computer

Take a break from writing on the computer? The suggestion almost caused heart palpitations. He is a wise man, however, and I decided to follow his suggestion. I old schooled it—bringing a journal and some books.

I love being outdoors in just about any kind of setting, but the beach is the place I unwind the best.

Three nights and four days was a great gift. Hanging with friends, playing games, taking long walks and doing nothing was a balm for my body, mind and spirit.

Filling up the creative well is an important component of living a creative life.

 

This daybreak beckoned to me. I spent some time drinking in the morning light and then grabbed my journal and started writing.

 

An amazing flan to end a great day at the beach.

 

Key Lime Krush, Purple Rain, the Slim Shady and Butterfinger Bash were some of the offerings at the suggestively titled ‘Wake N Bake’ Coffee and Donut Shop. If you’re ever driving through Carolina Beach, check them out.

 

More offerings from Wake N Bake.

As it turned out, by taking a few days off, I was able to break through on some writing projects that were stuck. I even plotted out what I hope will be a coquel (yes, I made that word up) to my current sci-fi novella, Reenu-You. Our imagination gets all fired up when we experience new things and get out of our typical schedule!

I have never hunted for ‘ghost crabs’ before but a friend suggested we do it one evening. It was so much fun! We flashed our lights on this guy.

Do you have a short break coming up this summer? Where are you going to stock your creative well?

I admit it. Growing up, I wasn’t a fan of Wonder Woman. I didn’t read DC comics and wasn’t in love with the television show. Some of this was due to the fact that my younger sister, Melissa, adored WW. And, of course, the unwritten rules are that older siblings can’t ever like what the younger ones do. It’s just not cool.

Plus, I saved all my girl crush energy for The Bionic Woman, who although is not a classic superhero, captured my imagination with her brute strength, grace, style and humor. And I enjoyed the show’s sci-fi theme. Plus, she wore real clothes while she kicked butt. I also always believed that in a fight, the Bionic Women could totally take Wonder Woman. I still have my first Bionic Woman doll, although she is missing a foot!

So, all this is to say that I was not expecting to completely fall head over heels for the new WW movie. Tim and I went to see it this week and we both really enjoyed it. As many critics have already pointed out, the film subverts some of the taken for granted superhero themes. It is a mother and daughter story, a collective empowerment story, an ensemble story and a female coming of age story, all rolled into one.

The action in the first twenty minutes of the movie is absolutely thrilling. It is thrilling to see women, strong women, stand up for what they believe in and defend themselves. Usually female viewers watching action adventure and/or superhero films have to contort themselves into identifying with the strength and perspective of the male lead characters. It was nice to not have to do that with WW. I could go again just to see the first fight scene, it is that well-choreographed! It’s not that we haven’t seen kick-ass heroines before, but WW feels different. The kick-ass heroines are usually singular, surrounded by a male team and often not the leaders of the team. And, they sometimes apologize or are ambivalent about being strong. Not the case for WW.

 

Diana isn’t an anti-hero, she is compassionate and becomes wise by the end of the film. Yes, she’s gorgeous (and at times I found myself wondering why all the Amazons were lacking any body hair), but the camera shots and visual cues about the actress’s body weren’t gratuitous.

Maybe WW is striking such a powerful chord in the US because as many of us believe, collectively women have recently suffered some pretty significant cultural, political and legal setbacks. Those of us fighting and advocating for gender equity need continued courage. And, of course, the fact that the film was directed by a woman is another milestone.

The Amazon theme also holds a special place in my heart as I have an anthology, titled Amazons edited by Jessica Salmonson in 1979, that a male friend gave to me in college. The writers in the collection reimagine an “amazon heritage” using some of the historical record to tell new stories. I was so inspired by this book that a few months later, I coaxed some to friends to help me make an Amazon costume for a Halloween party. That book turned me on to ‘feminist science fiction’ in college which led me to Ursula Le Guin, Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler, many others and then my own writing path.

I’m hopeful that with the release of WW, young girls and boys can find awe in and enthusiasm for a new superhero.

I hope someone I know will throw a Halloween party this year, so I can start working on an Amazon costume!

*this post was inspired by writer, P.K. Tyler’s Facebook post on WW.

Those are my thoughts. Have you seen the film? What’s your take on it?

 

This 248 word story appeared last year in Thing Magazine. Last year was a breakthrough one in that I felt much more ease writing flash pieces. Writing them was a great comfort when I needed a break from longer projects. I’ve always been fascinated by the character of Lady Luck. We can trace her origins back to Roman times and the concern over the idea of human fate. I borrowed some of this history and played with it. I love this little vignette and hope I get to return to find out how Lady Luck and her cousin fare.

 

What The Slots Hold

Lady Luck came to claim her own in Atlantic City. She stalked past the drunk, slack-mouthed men at the blackjack tables. A cocktail waitress holding a platter of drinks looked up, screamed and ran. Casino alarms blared and men that from her twenty-five foot height looked like children, ran toward her from every corner. They yelled and fired their guns at her. Annoyed, she plucked coins from her dress, dropped them and watched as the golden disks smashed the men’s heads.

With a magical ax given to her by Ares, she hacked at the row of the garish Greek Gods slot machines. As she worked, she remembered the handsome face of the mortal she had met so long ago. A secret visit from Olympus to see the earthly realm had tempted her. She, a daughter of Aphrodite, a natural lover, fell so easily for his charms. He said he would build palaces where men would whisper her name. She might never have known that her magic was stolen, corrupted, used to kidnap others, until she overheard a joke about casinos by Zeus. She would show both gods and humans what happens when Lady Luck is angry. The last blow split a slot machine in two. In a burst of orange light, her cousin, Fortuna appeared. They hugged. She threw more coins from her dress and watched as they sprouted legs, arms and hands holding daggers and chased the remaining humans.

Taking Fortuna’s hand, Lady Luck said, “Vegas next.”

Dianna L. Gunn – one of the other authors in The Novella Initiative by The Book Smugglers – is hosting me on her blog today! We chat about the inspiration behind Reenu-You, the rise of novellas, and how publishing must change to support diverse voices. https://goo.gl/zZmFmT

Over the next few months, I’ll share reviews about the incredible authors I’m reading in the Book Smugglers Publishing family. I am truly honored to have found a press that is publishing fantastic authors and that values diverse and underrepresented voices in speculative fiction. I’m glad to be in their family! I am enjoying reading so many writers that are new to me. I just finished the novella, Keeper of the Dawn, by Dianna Gunn. Dianna’s was the first novella released in the Book Smugglers Novella Initiative. Dianna will also join us here for an Author Q&A during the summer.

 

 

REVIEW

Have you ever wanted something so badly, trained for it, dreamed about it, devoted yourself to it and then it got snatched away? How does one recover when this happens? These questions swirl around Lai, the main character in Keeper of the Dawn. The story begins when she is a young girl training to become a priestess. The training is grueling and can prove fatal. In her society there can be only one priestess and because of her heritage (her grandmother and mother were priestesses), people assume it will be her.

The story is an outer journey as Lai struggles to find a way to serve her goddesses when all looks lost and she faces many obstacles. It is also a great inner journey as Lai’s growth involves exploring her values, believing in herself and being vulnerable.

Keeper of the Dawn is set in a thoughtfully designed and complex second world fantasy. I love this culture and her portrayal of strong and complex heroines. The writing is detailed, vivid and compelling. Her writing reminds me of the work of Elizabeth Moon.  Another thing that I think is really cool and interesting is the way that Gunn explores asexuality and the complexity of relationships. This, I think, is a relatively new area of character exploration in young adult fantasy.

Ms. Gunn is a talented writer. I think most fantasy readers will find this story engaging. I definitely want to read more of her work!

Read her her essay on inspirations and influences for Keeper of the Dawn.

Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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