Letting Go of the Balloon String

One of my favourite songs since childhood is the German synth-loaded pop tune “99 Luftballons” by Nena.  Not the English version–the German original.  As a child, it felt deliriously beautiful.  I could dance to it all day.

As a teenager, I took German in high school–no word of a lie–so I could find out what the lyrics meant and sing them correctly.  I grew to love the language itself, but I have to say, my second year class that revealed all to me was a highlight of those years.  Of course, I promptly found out exactly how dark and ominous a metaphor it was.  This made me love it more.

99 years of war.  Losses and a broken world.  A long journey, a struggle, born of an innocent gesture.  A gesture that is repeatedly, in memoriam.  It’s far more moving than the shimmering, sunny melody would have you believe.

Sometimes, life is that way.  It’s an uphill battle, one with well-intentioned actions that go astray.  Sometimes, you run out of spoons.  Sometimes, the fear that once motivated you?  It pushes your head under water.

And then, the dust clears.  Someone offers a kind word.  You find the spoons.  Your heart sings with new ideas.

At that moment, you stand outside, with that little red balloon, that novel you always meant to query, until the ground fell away beneath you.  You smile to yourself, give a hopeful tug against the helium’s resistance, and let it go.

(What comes next?  I promise to share that soon.)

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End of Year Update (Or, yes, I am still alive. I think.)

It’s been very quiet in my writing world since the early summer.  I know.  For an indie writer, this is a cardinal sin of promotion.  You must constantly be engaging and building your audience.  You must constantly write, share, be real but also be professional, positive, careful…

There’s a lot of “must” and “should” for writers.  For me, the biggest “must” is one often overlooked:  you must take care of yourself.  In the simplest terms, that’s where I’ve been.

Author Maureen Johnson once described health troubles that sidelined her for some time as “having a neurology” and for lack of better terms, I spent the summer and early fall “having a neurology” of my own.   I entered the emergency room one morning, having suffered from a violent migraine for four days.  Aside from a three-week migraine in my teens, my headaches have never stretched beyond two days.  Mine are also pretty moderate and infrequent.

What began as a concerned visit led to another stay and a lumbar puncture to rule out meningitis.  This, in turn, led to my neurology:  behold the post-dural-puncture headache, or postural headache.

For the next 30 days, I was in and out of hospitals for testing, a blood patch and on bedrest.  For five weeks to follow, I was on half days at work that would render me exhausted and nauseous.  It has been nearly six months and I still have days where I can feel the pressure drop in my skull, hear the cerebrospinal fluid moving in my neck.

I share this for two reasons:

  • My next novel was naturally delayed by all of this.  Intended to be queried by early October, it is only now being formatted for query.
  • This ordeal has given me a new perspective on life:  on what matters, what doesn’t and what I will carry into my future writing

When your body betrays you, rendering you unable to care for yourself, let alone work or play, you have a great deal of time to think–more time than you would ever want.  And while at first, the pain is so great that you think of little more than feeling better, you’ll eventually reach the plateau where you are not entirely sick, but still unwell.

I am a disabled woman and have been since my teens.  But this was a whole new level of disability.  I could not sit up.  I could not use my computer for more than a few hours a day.  I was so drained, my head pounding so badly, that I could not even scribble in a notebook or use voice recognition software.  I could do nothing but think of everything I longed to do once more.

In these moments, I began to wonder why I’d delayed edits for WTZ, why I was putting off writing my next book, and the way I was allowing my day job to cause me unnecessary stress.  I had let everything slip out of balance.  My body, in response, vehemently hit the brakes and demanded a reset.

It sounds cliche as hell, but life really is too short.  We don’t know how much time we have.  And if my neurology has taught me anything, it’s that I need to treat every day as a Nanowrimo day.   Make time for my passion.  Write without fretting over how good or bad it is–that’s what editing is for.  Edit with the same love and gusto that I draft with.  Trust in the Muse to deliver.

In 2017, I’ll be looking to balance feeding my Muse with letting it spill onto the page.  I’ll be surrounding myself in art when not consumed by my own.  My wish to you is that whatever you do, whatever you love, you find the same balance.  Find the things you love and make them your priority, even if only for ten minutes a week.  Your heart and mind will thank you.

A musical love letter to you all…  Farewell, 2016.

Codename WTZ: The Music

I can’t write without music.  I know, zero surprise.  But I can’t.

The first step in my writing process (after the initial idea, of course) is building a writing playlist.  For those who don’t work this way, it may seem like a diversion.  “Shouldn’t you be outlining?  Developing character studies?  Doing research?”  Yes, yes I should be doing all of these things.  In fact, I am doing them while choosing the playlist.

I write cinematically, for lack of better term.  Every scene plays out in my head like a film.  My morning commutes are often spent with my eyes closed, picturing my characters and letting things unfold–winding them up and watching them go.  Every great film has a perfect score and/or soundtrack.

In building a playlist, I am defining my characters.  What music do they like?  Do they care about music, or is it another distraction in our digital world?  Do they have anthems?  What is the main mood of each one?  Music defines that.  Music also shapes the tone of the story.  Is it dark and gritty?  Brooding with a slow build?  Is it frenetic or playful?  Choosing the music that will accompany me through a lengthy process sets the vibe of the project.

Once the first raw draft is on the virtual page, I then set out to create the soundtrack.  Writing playlists are usually 200+ songs deep–unwieldy beasts meant for a shuffle.  The soundtrack, which I share on a book’s details page,are the songs that are directly referenced by characters or set the particular vibe of each chapter.  They’re the core of the characters and their journey.  Sometimes, my favourite songs to write a project to have no set place in the final soundtrack.  Sometimes, I endlessly repeat them to get that draft done. Either way, the soundtrack is distilled to the critical pieces for the next step:  revisions.

All of this is to say that my new project, codename WTZ, is entering revisions now, and I’m very excited.  Taking a few months away from the story has given me new insights into scenes that felt rough or incomplete on first go.  It’s also given me time to hammer out the soundtrack for the journey.

So, what does a team of security guards groove to while slaying zombies and dealing with demanding corporate lawyers? Take a spin below and find out!