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.

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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!

Behind The Book: How One Great Song By Arkells Revealed A Character’s Backstory

Over time, I’ll be sharing the soundtrack for Waiting For A Star To Fall, and how each song inspired or enhanced the creation of the novel.  Impatient? Full Spotify playlist is here.

Star  was the book where Canadian bands somehow knew just what I needed.  While July Talk found a way to kickstart my Muse, another band found the way to answer a niggling character question.

When I began writing Change of Season, the first scene I clearly visualized was Autumn and Andrew’s proper introduction.  Fleeing an unknown stalker beneath ground, Autumn literally runs into Andrew.  Forced to trust him, she is relieved when he helps her to safety.

Just as I immediately knew Autumn was a vibrant redhead, I also knew that Andrew never went anywhere without his leather jacket.  I’m not necessarily a fan of leather, so this wasn’t a matter of personal preference.  Nothing about his personality necessarily spoke to wearing leather.  But Andrew was adamant: if it was cool weather, he wanted that well-worn leather jacket.

Fast-forward to 2014, when I began plotting Waiting For A Star To Fall.  While spinning music on shuffle, the song “Leather Jacket” by Arkells came on.  At first, it struck me as a great track for these two because of Autumn’s personal trauma and Andrew’s desire to help her.  But then, the chorus lodged in my skull and everything made sense:

Of course Andrew refuses to let go of that jacket.  It belonged to his father.

Planting a glossy kiss on his cheek, she smirked. “Cruel would have been making you wear the leather jacket.”

The infamous black leather jacket. She’d learned six months into their relationship—on Andrew’s nineteenth birthday—that it had belonged to his father. When he wore it, Andrew felt like he was still around to guide him through the idiocy teenagers excel at. It made her love its soft creases and glitchy zipper all the more. It had also lent an extra layer of sentiment to their shared love of “Leather Jacket” by Arkells—proof that there really was a song for everything.

“I would, you know.” Autumn startled at the sound of his voice. “If you really wanted me to, I’d wear it in this weather. I’d pass out, obviously, but I’d extract my revenge with some sort of uncomfortable lingerie,” he added playfully.

Her disbelief dripped from her response. “You wouldn’t.”

His hand squeezed her newly bejeweled one. “I would. But I know you wouldn’t ask me to wear leather during a heat wave.”

“Oh? You think you have me all figured out, then?”

“Not quite,” Andrew admitted with a smile…

The mystery was solved, and these two found a new song for their personal playlist.  It became a staple track of the writing process, and led to a few sweet exchanges between the characters as a bonus, including the one above.  Take a listen below!

She always looked tired but dazzled as a drunk
She even pulled off that stupid haircut
She said, “I don’t need a sponsor or the best lover
Some man that sees me as some fixer-upper.
The last few years, I’ve been running for cover
Trying to sleep so I can visit my mother.”

You called me up from a pay phone
I said hang tight, I can drive you home
I pulled on up and with a southern accent
I offered you my dad’s leather jacket…

Waiting For A Star To Fall is now available on Amazon.