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Reincarnation Considerations

post by: Ava Reiss
Starting in June 2020, we will be posting once per month, alternating between Ava Reiss and Ticana Zhu. Blog posts will appear the first Tuesday of the month.

I’m not certain I believe in reincarnation 100%. I do most of the time. Yet, when it comes down to it, the lack of proof stops me from accepting completely. There is no quantifiable evidence that can be measured and retested.

Let’s say—for sake of argument—that reincarnation is indeed fact. How does it work?

Is there a white light? Or are we merely drifting consciousness when we die?

I recall one conversation years ago, where my counterpart was surprised that I believed we could reincarnate as different races. He felt there was some sort of clan karma. To his credit, he was leaning towards non-believer. I tried to frame the concept that souls know no races. It’s simply a collection of unconscious experiences (to put simply).

This brings me to Brian Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters, and a few other books on reincarnation. I can’t recall the title of the other book I read. It’s been some years. Anyway, in one of his books, he states that reincarnation is down through the family. That your past lives were shared with your current family members. I feel that if reincarnation is true, that is an exceedingly limited belief. (His books are still good, and worth a read)

I’m also a believer of statistics. Particularly the ones that state it’s unlikely were the only sentient creatures in the universe. One woman I spoke with was surprised that I believed we could incarnate across planets. She’s a believer of reincarnation, and extraterrestrial sentience. We never got to finish our conversation as the evening had moved on. I was curious if she’d thought that each planet, or solar system had their own rules of reincarnation.

I didn’t realize how radical my theories were. That we, as souls, could reincarnate anywhere in the universe. Alien planets included. Or perhaps they’re not, and I need to consider the fact that I live in a more-or-less conservative Midwest city. Remains to be seen.

Anyway, I had put my ideas into my novels. They are the mechanic that drives the plot and characters. The series is dubbed Cycles of the Lights. Yes, there are some kitchy things. Such as souls being little balls of floating light. I don’t think we’d really look like that. However… I paid homage the fortune cookie fortune that inspired me to start writing… “A book is a ball of light in the reader’s hand.”

Before I go, I should mention what I put into my novels as the main driver of reincarnation: Karmic debt. There are little strings of debt between souls. It’s a vast and holistic network across the universe. (There is a multiverse, but I if I talk about that now, I’m getting ahead of myself). A soul reincarnates towards the biggest draw of debt .It’s like gravity, however. Sometimes, a more immediate situation can draw them in due to proximity.

If you’re curious about more, please check out the first novel in the series: Fall of Ima. The second book, The Seed of Life is due out January 28th, 2021.

This is not a sponsored post.

I’m Alive

Post by Ticana Zhu

My apologies for the late post. With so many things occurring on a global scale, I struggled to organize my thoughts. I’m doing well, however. No real complaints. My shelter is secure—for now. I have plenty to eat and new pets. ​(But not eat the new pets XD)

Writing is not progressing, but I have found respite in the quite moments of the day. My novels are nearly complete. I merely feel they lack a certain finesse. Once I feel better about them, they’ll roll into production. It’s the quite moments that allow me to reflect deeply and identify what’s missing.

There’s not much else of interest to report. I did have a thought the other day. That our lives here on Earth are as fleeting as a glimmer on the crest of a wave. That our existence runs so much deeper. As deep as the ocean. I fear death, yes I do. But I can’t help but wonder what lies on the other side. It could be nothing. Then what would I worry about? It could be nightmares. Or, it could be finite peace. As in, a peace that never ends. I’m sure the truth is someplace in between.

Take care, everyone.

This is not a sponsored post.

Junk Journaling

post by: Ava Reiss
Starting in June 2020, we will be posting once per month, alternating between Ava Reiss and Ticana Zhu. Blog posts will appear the first Tuesday of the month.

I recently discovered Junk Journaling. This is right up my alley, since I like to keep little pieces of things that inspire me. It might be the design of a buckle, or a piece of ribbon. Ever since I was little, I would take breaks from homework and look through some things I’ve collected. Most of it was indeed junk. It ultimately ended in the trash. However, I’d like to think that it found some appreciated with me before it parted ways.

Nowadays, it’s my concern for growing waste in the world. I try to hold onto things for a few days or weeks. There might be an instance where I could use it as a quick patch for something. I’ve got so many pasta and jam jars filled. The jars themselves I like to decorate in my free time. Most have been given away. I’ve been making them less and less since free time had been slim.

I had always appreciated the pieces and odds-and-ends as art, but it had never occurred to me to use them as art. Now with more free time, I’d like to see what exploring would bring! Stay tuned to see my progress! Don’t forget to check out my books on Amazon.com!

The Moon

post by: Ticana Zhu
Starting in June 2020, we will be posting once per month, alternating between Ava Reiss and Ticana Zhu. Blog posts will appear the first Tuesday of the month.

It’s perhaps the moon that first started my interest in science-fiction. I thought asteroids were merely lost moons, without planets. That was where le Petit Prince resided. I wanted to live on “a moon” with a soft glow. A place near twilight when dreams are sweetest.

There’s always been something comforting about the moon. That it’s been there to see the birth of humanity, and will be there long after we’re gone. (Unless something unpredictably catastrophic occurs.)

A song I grew up listening to had a line that went something like, “The moon walks beside me.” It indeed feels like a companion at times. A un-judging presence offering at the very least a guiding light on the darkest of nights when streetlights falter. With the exception of the nights when it rests. Yet even on those dark nights when it renews itself, it gives us quarter to let out our darkest selves. If anything, to merely face our murkiness. Recognize, contend with, and accept a difficult truth.

At most, it offers up a feeling of freedom. Freedom in knowing that in comparison to its presence, we are nothing. Freedom to know that even if we amount to nothing, it will still continue to watch over us, un-judging. That we will all be forgotten, but it will not.

With the nihilistic concept translated to day-to-day, it allows us to take a breath, and not push so hard. Even if we can reincarnate, and our souls are eternal, the life we’re in now—in the state it’s in now—cannot last forever. Each person should take that to mean whatever they wish. I choose to see it as a reminder to live in the present. We never know when life can end.

With Covid-19 ravaging the planet and usual operations interrupted, we’re all granted a breather. I recognize this isn’t entirely a fair statement. Many are stressed out of their minds, trying to figure out how to pay the bills without employment. Those who are employed are adjusting to new methods. Whether it’s telecommuting, educating children from home, or added safety precautions. Yet, it’s undeniable that even if it’s not a “pause” button, the speed of things have certainly slowed.

I, for one, had been trying to use this time to push ahead. But the truth is, though some sectors are denying the effects of the Covid-19, it will run into roadblocks where it intersects with other industries. Because of this, I’ve been spinning in circles, moving little. It’d be frustrating.

It finally occurred to me to ease up on the gas pedal. To accept that things are outside my control. I simple poured myself a drink, and sat beneath the moon. Basking in its loving glow.

Wishing you all better times.

Ava’s Short Shorts

post by: Ava Reiss
Starting in June 2020, we will be posting once per month, alternating between Ava Reiss and Ticana Zhu. Blog posts will appear the first Tuesday of the month.

My anthology, Ava’s Short Shorts silently went live in March. There was little press about it, since it would hardly make a dent with Covid-19 absorbing all headlines. I was a bit concerned, but then remembered to count my blessings. I’m not sick. Neither is anyone I care about. (*knocks on wood)

Most of my book sales came from events. Book shows, art shows (I sell my art prints), and readings. These have all been canceled, or delayed until further notice. Effectively, my writing career has gone on hold. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. This space allows me to recharge, and gain perspective on my work. I could write smaller things as exercises, to return to a spring of inspiration.

Ava’s Short Shorts is filled with some late night (or early morning) writing exercises from over the years. Developed of course. It was nice to work on those, and step away from my Cycles of the Lights series. But I hadn’t written anything new in two years. Nothing substantial, anyway. I’ve been in deep editing-mode. I’m hoping in the coming months, I can reconnect to my creative source.

Some of the short stories in Ava’s Short Shorts are a bit quirky. In “What We Keep,” androids left behind on a dying Earth discover a cryogenically frozen woman. They wake her and she falls into hysterics. The androids hadn’t considered how frightening they appeared with their disintegrating bodies. With the last human on earth in a heightened emotional state, she threatens all they’ve been working towards.

Then, there are tales with serious tones. “Runaway” is about two teenage friends, who’ve known each other since childhood. Both love the other dearly, but their own feelings of insufficiency keep them apart. It paints how there is more than one way to run away.

“Through the Rainbow” is another serious one. It’s weaves modern-day mythology with an LGBTQ theme.

“Fractured Shadows” is sci-fi. “Finding Ada” is post-apocalyptic, and “Imaginary Jace” is a playful, heart-warming tale about a flustered, fly-on-the-wall kinda girl.

I’m hoping as this pandemic dies down, these stories will find their readers.

Ghost or Coincidence?

post by Ava Reiss

A former friend passed away recently. It wasn’t from Covid-19. I heard it was from kidney complications. He had moved out of state, so we didn’t keep in touch.

Before he left, we had a falling out. It had to do with my cat; the one I modeled Mantou after. Mantou is a character in my Space Tigers children’s book. My cats’ favorite toy is a shoe string tied to a stick. This former friend tied the shoe string to Mantou’s tail. She tore through the house, nearly having a heart attack. It took me a while to catch her. Mantou eventually cowered in a corner in the basement. Her little heart was drumming too fast and her eyes were terrified. The stick rattling behind her made her thing she was being chased.

Just a few nights after this guy passed, Mantou got herself caught in a plastic bag. That bag had been sitting in the same, open spot for nearly two years. My cats don’t care for plastic bags in the eight years I’ve had them. They see them all the time, but have better toys.

The handle was looped around her. Again, Mantou tore through the house, knocking things over. I found her trembling in the basement like before. Those were the only two times anything has ever spooked her.

She’s alright. Just needed some soothing words and a good head rub.

It’s likely this was all a coincidence. But I couldn’t help but say a loud, and a smidge sadly, “Goodbye, Asshole.”

Inevitable Creativity Block

post by Ticana Zhu

These past few weeks have been rough. I’ve hit creativity block pretty badly. It shouldn’t be that surprising, because I have a bad habit of taking on too much. Yet, I’m the type of person who loves to live inside her head—a place where the stories never die. I thought the inspiration would keep going. I had hit a sweet drift in “the zone.”

However, tedious day-to-day things have carved away my time. It’s forced me to use my left brain. Things to deal with changes in insurance. Decisions around the house, and getting finances in order. Things that are far from creative. Little by little, I thought less and less about my stories. I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to coast in “the zone” of effortless imagination.

Lo and behold. My manuscript—about 80% done in its final edit—has just been sitting open on my computer.

Dynasty of Summer has by far the most positive feedback from beta readers. It’s about a princess who has accepted the role given to women in her society. She’s obedient, prepared to marry for a treaty between empires. Yet the turmoil surrounding her empire has her attacked on her journey to her betrothed. She finds herself amongst bandits, and presumed deceased by her father, the Emperor.

The princess (Summer) ends up finding power in her own right. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.

I started this novel in 2012. It kept getting interrupted by life… Getting married… buying a house… switching jobs… At one point, when I picked it back up, I had forgotten that I’d actually finished the first draft!

I keep telling myself I’ll push through. That this story will be done this year. I even set a June deadline and a September release date. I’m hoping things work out. The story hasn’t had the best track record.

I will say this. Unlike other stories I’ve written that evolves over time, forcing me to go back and make structural changes, this one has remained true to its core.

Now… if I can only get past this creativity block…

This is not a sponsored post. Ava Reiss posts every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu posts every third Tuesday.

A Writer’s Reflection

post by: Ava Reiss

Anyone who’s sat down to write know there are a multitudes of difficulties. Writer’s block. Can’t find the right words. Finding time to write. Loving your stuff one day and hating it the next. I always feel bonded to other writers in solidarity over these things.

I had started writing my Cycles of the Lights series in June, 2014. Flashes of inspiration had been hitting me for quite some time. Notably, there was a short story I had wanted to write. It was about a handful of people who astral projected to another planet when they slept. This was based on a dream I had. One where I found myself “on a planet a little more than halfway from Earth to Proxima Centauri.” There was a tour guide walking us around in an atmosphere like dusk. The vibe was warm and earthy. The homes were built into the mountain side and were smooth, almost like blue ice. I referred to them as “blue pueblos.” Though they were carved into the mountain.

I later discovered Chefchaouen existed, but that’s a different story.

The dream was incredibly lucid. I honestly felt as if I were there. While there, people knew about Earth. Yet knowledge that life existed on other planets was as plain as day and no one talked about it. There were casual mentions of “Oh, poor Earth. They’re so self-secluding.”

It inspired the idea for the short story. I had started it at one point. A woman who astral projects ends up in a car accident and a coma. She lives out the rest of her life blissfully in her other form on a far away planet.

Yet, when I sat down to really rework the tale, I changed the dreams to past life memories. In many ways, we live in our past experiences. They define who we are. Yet, when I see people with alzheimer’s—and feel sympathy—a part of me wonders what if when we’re born, we’re living a different sort of memory loss. What if past lives exist?

Thus the mechanic of astral projecting was changed to one of recollection of a past life. For the main characters—ones lived on distant planets.

Now onto why this was difficult.

Needless to say, it didn’t end up a short story. In a manic period of unemployment, I wrote 12 books. Yes. T.W.E.L.V.E. in 4-5 months. These are the books in my Cycles of the Lights series. Granted it was all first drafts, and needs an exorbitant amount of editing. However, I feel the over-arcing plot is solid.

I am aiming to shrink that number down to 10, possibly 8 books. With a few novellas scattered in. It remains to be seen how it will work. I’m currently in final stages of production for Book Two: The Seed of Life. Before it, I published Fall of Ima, and the novella, Vesper’s Curse.

Getting around to publishing the first novel and novella was a long, and troubled path. Of course I sought out agents. It wasn’t a waste of time—though I ultimately didn’t get signed. I learned a lot through feedback and found myself amidst supportive groups of writers.

However, I like to finish something before I start on another. The delay was the most frustrating in that there were times I wanted to work on later parts of my story. There were moments when strong inspiration struck—when I felt deeply connected to a character. I would tailor it bit by bit. Yet, I feared changing it too much. What if I get signed and my editor/publisher wants me to go in a different direction? Then all the work I’ve done would be wasted.

That led me to another concern. I had to decide what elements in my story were most important to me. It was difficult to know where to draw the line. What would I be wiling to fight for?

Despite all the hair pulling and back and forth, the process was beneficial. I came out understanding what I needed most to keep in my story. Everything else—no matter how much I like it—could be edited away.

There are still days were I connect deeply with my Arstella and Vance characters. They’re supposed to come out in the 3rd-5th full-length novels. (Hoping to shrink that down to 2 books) But I’m still working on Kameclara and Stanten (Book Two and Three). Arstella and Vance will have to wait. I’ve started a separate journal, where I write down the inspirations that strike.

To clarify for new readers: The series follows two primordial souls, En and Il as they reincarnate through many lives. They’re attraction towards each other is echoed in the universe as the concept of yin and yang, gravity, magnetism. In book one, En is Meliora, Il is Jedrek. In book two, they’re Kameclara and Stanten. Later, Artstella and Vance.

To sum things up: writing is difficult. We need to protect our creative space and process. Sometimes, that means sacrificing time for works to come. Yet, as long as we keep to it and improve day by day, we’ll get there.

Wishing you happy writing, everyone!

This was not a sponsored post. Ava Reiss posts every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu posts every third Tuesday.

Tumbling

post by Ticana Zhu

I was like a tumbleweed.
A Rose of Jericho, blowing in the wind.
I’d land for a bit. Spread my leaves and turn green.
Until the water fades.
Then I’d wrap up my little self
and tumble, tumble away.

I wonder, then, if I could choose the wind?
So meticulous I’d be, which way to drift.
Until I’d remember. The beauty of tumbling.
Is freedom from choosing.

Yet one day I know, my roots will grow deep.
I’ll become vulnerable as I first flower.
Then I’ll grow, and grow. And grow.

Goodbye little tumbleweed.

Hello, to “?”

This is not a sponsored post. Ava Reiss posts every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu posts every third Tuesday.

Diversity in Books

post by: Ava Reiss

Last month, I chanced upon an NPR broadcast of a panel discussing the novel, “American Dirt.” They addressed the way minority groups are handled by authors who are not of that background. The broadcast brought up a lot of concerns I share. Did you know 48% of YA publishers are Caucasian? I’m of Asian decent, but a majority of my characters are “white.” (Really, they’re aliens… but most are on the pale side, even the blue and violet ones.)

It’s not because I don’t want to include diverse looking characters. Yet, there is the elephant in the room: the fact that Caucasian features are still the de-facto we see on television, in ads, telling us what to do; look at the White House, etc. Things are getting better, but seeing diverse faces still elicits a cheer. It’s almost as if people are saying “Look! We’re woke!” And I appreciate that on a level. But until it elicits no response, it has not yet become the norm. We still have far to go.

In more places than we’d like to admit, there is still a general lack of trust when we see non-Caucasian faces. And even if there is trust, it’s likely to come with built-in stereotypes, in which not all are positive. Even in print, where the voice of the character should trump all else, readers are hungry to know what their hero or heroine is something familiar- even if that “familiar” doesn’t look like them.

Onto my main concern: I’d like to think I have diverse friends and that I’ve done my best to respect and understand their culture. Most of my elementary school years were shared with students from around the world. Our librarian was particular to reading books from various backgrounds. But since another’s culture is not something I’ve lived and breathed, I doubt if I’m worthy- or capable- of capturing their essence and authenticity. 

There are aspects of other cultures I would like to include more. However, I don’t want to be seen an author who conveniently cherry-picks. It risks adding to stereotypes. It may not be the best resolution: but I find myself avoiding it altogether.

An example would be the background for my character, Leera. She’s part of her planet’s ancient culture that reveres peace. Their martial practices preach violence as a last resort. I wanted to call her people the Uxolo Warriors, because I felt Uxolo was one of the most beautiful words I’ve encountered, in spirit and in sound. It’s of Xhosa origin, and admittedly, I know little about it.

I didn’t feel I could give enough of the book to explain Leera’s background in detail to allow that word to be as venerated as it should. Also, she’s pale. Hence, I changed her people to the Pinghe Warriors. Leera is in my upcoming novel, The Seed of Life in my Cycles of the Lights series. 

Now, what about me? I’m Asian but I’m writing about Caucasians? Again. Technically, they’re aliens. They have their own culture. But am I guilty of what I feared: writing about a group of people who physiologically don’t look like me?  

I’ve lived in America since before I started pre-school. All of my schooling was in the US. White culture is my culture, because it it’s a part of mainstream American culture. I don’t mean that with any disdain. Yet I can’t help but wonder how much I’m attributing to the problem. In my attempts not become a marginalized writer, am I guilty of appealing too much to the mainstream, that I’m betraying even my own instincts of representation?

Truth is, white culture isn’t all of my culture. There are parts of me I don’t generally share. It’s not because I’m ashamed. It’s more that people have found my Asian side less relatable. I’ve been ignored from conversations. Not purposefully- most of the time. Just no common ground. To be fair, it’s the same when I’m with an older generation of Asians, only flipped. I don’t talk about my day-to-day life, just the slice that’s relatable.

I WANT to incorporate more cultural diversity in my writings. Yet, I feel I’m sacrificing it to remain politically correct. Too often I’ve been asked how could I, a person of a diaspora, grasp more than two cultures adequately? People see me and immediately assume I’m unqualified to write about anything that’s not Asian. A select few have also indicated they feel that me writing about Caucasians is blasphemous. (again. Pale aliens.) 

I struggle with myself every time I design characters. My main character in The Seed of Life is Kameclara. She’s darker skinned and channels a southeast Asian vibe. I had wanted to make her darker, but wasn’t sure if making her of an Asian descent that’s not mine was already stretching it. (appearance only- because she’s from Teroma where there is no Asia)

I’ve also had people tell me I shouldn’t care, and just write what I write. 

But I do care. 

I think the conversation of diverse representation shouldn’t be approached carelessly. 

Why?

Short version: that’s how wars start. 

Long version: Cultures are like a rare flower. Each has a stage of development before blossoming into something beautiful. It’s something that gives dignity and identity to people, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

This is not a sponsored post. Ava Reiss posts every first Tuesday of the month. Ticana Zhu posts every third Tuesday.