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!

New Year, New Project

*peeks out from her blanket fortress of winter cozy*  Is it 2016 yet?  Yes?  Excellent!

For many people I know, 2015 was a bumpy ride, self included.  It was one of those awkward years, filled with metaphorical growing pains, highs and lows in rapid succession, and Muses that didn’t necessarily want to cooperate on busy schedules.

It was also the year I released Waiting For A Star To Fall, a book I’m very proud to have in my catalogue, and the year I toyed with Kindle Select and other promotional tools as an indie author.  That’s the thing about choosing indie: you don’t simply write, or even promote.  You must coordinate every detail, from cover art to typesetting.  And while I’m quite happy to do so, it’s always nice to put an end to that cycle and create again

Nanowrimo 2015 kicked off the new creation cycle, yielding the first draft of a project I’ve spoken very little about–until now.

Codename: WTZ

I’ve never enforced any rules on my writing.  I don’t have a set genre, nor a proverbial playbook that guides my stories.  To date, I’ve written paranormal mystery and a legal suspense-thriller.  I simply walk in with characters, wind them up and watch them go.  Their interactions and growth (or lack thereof) are all that matter.

It shouldn’t be surprising , then, that I see nothing unusual about my next project being a zombie tale, laced with dark comedy.

We’ve seen the zombie genre from the perspective of many:  military, everyday families, teenagers, cops… It is a genre we devour eagerly.  We’ve seen it played for scares, for gore and for laughs, and we’ve lapped up all three. There’s a reason AMC keeps churning out new shows about the undead.

For me, the best zombie stories are the ones that really explore how zombies echo our lives, and the ways we live them–or fail to live up to their potential.  I also love the ones that can make me laugh at the doom.  My next book, which we’ll affectionately call WTZ for now, marries the disgruntled apathy of the working class with the first seventy-two hours of a zombie apocalypse.

Joshua Rivers, a struggling student trying to pay his tuition for his final year of university, reluctantly takes a security job at a prestigious office tower.  Assigned to the swing shift–deemed the worst schedule possible in the industry by his peers–he is thrown into a world where drunks and self-important businessmen assault, demean and dehumanize anyone in uniform, and employees take it with a smile.  It is a world where catching wrongdoers becomes a game, and where energy drinks are arranged in a hierarchy of potency, as they shamble through the long hours on little sleep.

It’s also a world where the zombie apocalypse arrives, with the expectation they will defend their blast-proof glass palace for barely more than minimum wage.

WTZ is a look inside the lives of the faceless people most of us pass daily without a second thought:  security, maintenance, store clerks.  It’s also an exercise in creative zombie slaying via office supplies.  As Josh and his coworkers fight for their survival, their mantra is one many of us have echoed in our lives:

“I am not getting paid enough for this.”

In the coming months, as I begin the process of editing the book, I’ll be sharing more about the six people at the heart of the story.  Like my very sweary Brit, who made research particularly fun for this one.  For now, you can read the first-draft take on the Prologue over on my Nanowrimo profile.

Happy New Year!