The MixTape

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I’m starting to feel the heat of the Broken Wave deadline. In a good, “I will not let this sequel become vaporware” kind of way. When the writing gets real, I reach for my headphones. Music is an integral part of my everyday life and my creative process. I wouldn’t attempt to write a book without music anymore than I’d agree to a single minute at the gym without a playlist. It’s my preferred way to push through to the finish line.

As a blerd my musical appetites are diverse, sometimes unexpected, and intense. Judge my taste all you want Internet, cause I can’t hear you over the awesome.

When I wrote Girl Out of Water, I tried something new: making a core playlist for each POV character. So when I switched from the Tabitha chapters to the Irene chapters, I’d switch up the music too.

The combined Girl Out of Water playlists were almost 1000 songs strong, but here are some of the highlights.

Favorites from the Tabitha chapters of Girl Out of Water

Favorites from the Irene chapters of Girl Out of Water

These tracks are for the drafting process which tends to be more subtle and plodding as does the music.  The music I listen to during drafting registers in the faintest possible way. It’s almost a security blanket, but it has to be present in order for me to feel right even if I’m not consciously focused on it. Broken Wave’s initial draft was split between Seattle’s cryptid history and how that affected Tabitha’s time, so the playlist included a lot of classical music and instrumental. It’s shifted slightly more contemporary since that focus has been cut.

Broken Wave Playlist Highlights

Editing is where I get complicated. It’s not that the Lilith Fair-ness of it all goes away during editing, it’s just outnumbered and overpowered by EDM, arena rock, and yes Reader, Kanye by the pound.

There are only 47 days until the release of Broken Wave, expect more dispatches about the struggle right up until the deadline.

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Pre-order Broken Wave Now

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Pre-order your copy of  Broken Wave (Cryptid Coterie Book 2) on Amazon now, available everywhere July 28, 2015

Deja What Now

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The best 404 error ever.

I prioritize time spent writing over time spent blogging about writing, hence the awkward radio silence for the last six months. Oh, also a contributing factor: as soon as I came home from 3.5 weeks in Scandinavia, I promptly planned a 5.5 week return trip to Europe.

I’ve been back in Seattle for just over 3 weeks, and while I feel much better about the overall direction and progress of Broken Wave, I’m focused on precision over speed, since the angry mob demanding its swift release has wandered off in search of brunost and chocolate. Angry mob, population: 1, answers to the name Winifred.

Whilst gallivanting, and working long hours at the day job in order to afford said gallivanting, my vision of  the novel sharpened. I sculpted contours with a machete. I hacked the ever-loving shit out of its structure to reveal the gem beneath. What’s taking shape is the literary equivalent of mixed-media outsider art that people only pretend to appreciate, but its a better approximation of what I wanted to say all along, than the novel I almost released last summer.

What mystifies me about the creative process, is how much easier it isn’t the second time around. I thought figuring out if I was capable of conceiving and completing a novel, was the hard part. I thought there would be, like, a second book discount on process angst. A 15% shave off production time, and zero plot confusion down. It turns out that writing the first novel (if writing novels is what you want to do forever and always), is akin to arriving at base camp. This is not the summit, the summit isn’t even visible from here.

After I got over the initial paralysis of my own hopes for the Cryptid universe and some of the reader insights in reviews, I fell back on what I want to people to feel when they read the next installment in Tabitha Slate’s story, and the things these characters were going through. I also unlocked the author achievement of real-time therapy on the page, writing through the demons I’ve been exorcising for the last 18 months or so. There is nothing like surrendering to the storm upending your world. I’ve been leaning into the wind snatching at my every step. It’s been a hell of a ride, but I’m better for it.

The distraction of navigating new environments with strange food (fish for breakfast now makes total sense to me), languages, and customs (dear Berlin, stop closing down Schonefeld airport between flights, some of us arrive early and it’s mean) helped refine my perspective. I had a few insights into the gift of failure. In Particle Fever, the documentary about the first experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, one of the scientists said “…jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret to success.” This is the essence of writing I think, unless you’re one of those people who is annoyingly secure about your writing. Yes the quote is a paraphrase of that Magnificent Bastard of the 20th century, Winston Churchill, but if I just quoted Churchill, how would you find out that I watch documentaries about particle physics?

The second and much more grand lesson in failure happened in Stockholm at the Vasa Museum. Imagine for a moment that you have created something ornate and expensive but ultimately, utilitarian, like a house. Or in this case, a ship. Then imagine that on its first day as a functioning object, your opus sank like a carefully planned sarcophagus to the bottom of the sea. That’s what happened to the Vasa, the expansive 17th century refueling ship of the Swedish navy, that sailed only 1300 meters (less than a mile) on its maiden and final voyage. Today the Vasa Museum employs archivists, docents, and scientists tasked with its preservation. The ship’s carved detail and intricacy is second only to its breathtaking scale (over 50 meters tall and nearly 70 meters long). Its spectacular failure as a seaworthy vessel is what guarded the Vasa from historical obscurity. Had the ship made it into open seas, saltier water and shipworms would have eaten it away. Instead it lay beneath the water awaiting rescue, for more than three centuries..

As I wandered the Vasa Museum, or as I like to call it, Sweden’s Fail Monument, I took comfort that someday, some stranger might find my work buried beneath the ocean of content proliferating around the world, and then, I pressed on writing.

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What Had Happened Was…

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I totally blew my deadline for Broken Wave. In fact, I’m still in the process of blowing that deadline, as much as I am simultaneously in the process of correcting the matter by wrestling my manuscript daily. Let me explain.

Working an obscene amount of hours at my day job while moving across Seattle to better facilitate that workaholism didn’t help, but truthfully gentle Reader, that’s not why Broken Wave isn’t yet ready for purchase. As ever, the reasons are writer angst, procrastination, and “Is this good enough? No? Ok, how exactly do I fix that?” The story at its core, has stayed the same, but I’m not sure about a few choices I’ve made, and if I change them, I have to change the whole damn book, and possibly the next book in the series as well.

The only way I fail is if I stop completely right?

The only way I fail is if I stop completely right?

To punish myself for missing my publication deadline, I’m sending myself on a mini sabbatical into writing exile. Abroad. For 26 days. I hope that when it’s over, I return from Sweden and Norway with more confidence in my creative decisions, and clarity in general. I need to turn my routine upside down a bit, and delicious Scandinavian coffee brewed to exacting preference, fjords, and Viking ships are just the ticket. To further atone I will make travel porn posts, put Girl Out of Water on sale, and talk to myself quite sternly about the importance of sweat equity for the dream. I’ve always known that I don’t need a precious loft, a fancy trip abroad, Moleskin notebooks, or any tools in particular to write. I’ve discovered that I do need time to wander away mentally, to daydream the “What Ifs” that fuel my fingers at the keyboard, free from a thousand urgent requests and tasks that must be done right now. I might also need rain. I don’t like trying to write in beautiful weather. Fortunately for my production, it is once again Fall in Seattle. When I return, expect at least a novel excerpt. I will release Broken Wave sharpish, if only to introduce you to Ursalynn Wade, who talks to me at all hours of the day and night.

A special thanks to Meredith Morgenstern, contributor to Holiday Magick, for featuring me in her Speculative Fiction by Women of Color project.

It’s not too late in October, there’s still time to join Seattle Geekly’s Extra Life 2014 charity gaming team or to help them reach their fundraising goal of $500.

Writer Behind Schedule. Send Glitter, Coffee, & Downpours.

W

Is there a problem officer?

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My favorite kind of badge really

My favorite kind of badge really

A funny thing happened on the way to the sequel.

America’s a beautiful, brave, and litigious country. Amazon just got sued for making it too easy for children to spend money (do children over 30 count?). We like our structure, our rules, and our retribution. I imagine in certain circles it’s more unusual to never have been a defendant nor a plaintiff in a lawsuit, just as it’s unusual in certain other circles to never have been arrested.

Imagine my delight when I inadvertently discovered a way to  make myself a target for both.

Sequels are all about continuity and depth. If you’re an especially obsessive writer you mind the details that aren’t plot critical just as much as the details that are, because you have no idea what will become important to which Reader. Consistency is good, and it’s a skill I’m working on. I don’t know what house elves G.R.R. Martin entrusts with the hordes of Westeros and Asshai and everyone and everything in between, but I imagine it takes a village of continuity staff. Because if he does it all himself in that ancient word processing program he uses, I am officially not worthy. Ahem. Mortals such as myself reread our work, make Google our accomplice, and run the details over and over again. And then we do it some more.

When I created the suspicious Benton County (Washington state) Sheriff’s Department detective that gives Irene Chownyk some unexpected news, Google said go forth and name your character, no significant search results here. When I Googled some details yesterday morning, the search engine said “Hey you know that’s a real cop right?” Cue palpitations.

I pulled, entirely out of thin air, the first and last name for a fictional Benton County Sheriff’s Department detective, a combination that you guessed it, matched an ACTUAL Benton County Sheriff police officer, with no prior knowledge of his existence whatsoever.

The largest city in Benton County is Kennewick at around 75,000 people. Neighboring Richland, WA is approximately 52,000 people. Try explaining to an individual in a possible pool of approximately 175,000 people total, that you just happened to name a character their first and last name that does the same job and lives in the same actual geographical area. Now give that person handcuffs and a gun. You can see my dilemma.

I turned to the trusty greybeards of the Kindle writing community, and they all said, “Pooh pooh, you have a copyright page disclaimer right? This sort of thing just happens. Legally you should have no problem getting a judge or jury to recognize that coincidences happen.” And for all of 30 seconds I thought maybe this isn’t such a big deal, more a little oops. I went back to the Council and said “Um, cop?” The roar of change that shit right now was  deafening.

And so Reader, I did.

Broken Wave is almost upon you, only a few days left for the GoodReads giveaway, and any winning entrant who is also on my mailing list will receive autographed copies of Girl Out of Water as well as Broken Wave.

Learn to Swim indeed.

Broken Wave Giveaway

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There are only 4 days left in the paperback Goodreads Giveaway for Broken Wave. Sign up here to win an autographed copy of my latest book. Psst, winning entrants also on my mailing list, will win an autographed copy of Girl Out of Water and Broken Wave.

Sales and Sequels

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d350f797d411cb3f56851920c26658e4To celebrate the upcoming release of Broken Wave, the second installment in the Cryptid Coterie series, Girl Out of Water is on sale! If I was Scooter from Borderlands, I’d say “This is where the awesome lives, get you some!” Oh Scooter. For a limited time, pick up an ebook edition of Girl Out of Water in the flavor (Kindle, Kobo, Nook) of your choice for only 99 cents. You can know where the awesome is going to be ahead of time by subscribing to this blog. Join the mailing list for promotions, giveaways, and up to the minute Winifred whimsy and whinging. Go on, fill this out, I’ll wait.

Ok, resume whinge. So sequels. Even though Girl Out of Water was always the first installment in a much longer story, writing a series is a bit mad. As a writer you’re basically saying, “So you thought those casually mentioned details were unnecessarily mysterious and inconsequential, well Reader, they’re HUGE! Got your nose, can’t believe you didn’t see that 2000 pages ago. If you’re pulling that off, well good on you, gasps and golf claps. If you’re not, you’re confusing the hell out of people.

They like it, the real fantasy addict, fangirl types (such as myself) love to hunt for the one true clue that lets them say with satisfaction, after they’ve devoured the latest/last installment, “That’s how it had to be. If you look at the characters, their arc until now, there was no other path they could have taken and stayed true to themselves.” Yes we know how it sounds, yes we love saying that sort of thing anyway. As I grind away in preparation to unveil and further muddle the world of Tabitha Slate and Seattle cryptid society with secrets and unanswered questions for every revealed detail, know that I’m just as surprised when something happens in my books as you are. How cool is that?

Broken Wave Cover Reveal

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Broken Wave (Cryptid Coterie 2)

July 28, 2015

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Tabitha Slate used to worry about her grades or being the only black girl in her engineering classes. Then she bumbled into the Wardein: the guardians who protect Seattle from its supernatural human hybrid and cryptid citizens hiding in plain sight. She joined them and swore an oath to perform her duty, even if it meant her life. But Tabitha has lost one of the best friends she ever made, and she blames the leader of the Wardein. At best she’s a rogue, at worst she’s using young girls as a human shield. Tabitha can’t trust her.

What’s left of Tabitha’s family is unraveling, an evil djinn with a score to settle is targeting her and her housemates, but Tabitha is on her own. The Wardein are busy with the biggest threat they’ve ever faced: Someone is trying to breach the Trench, the only barrier between the Puget Sound and a voracious horror nearly as old as the sea.

Tabitha’s world is in pieces. Divided between loyalty and duty, she’s afraid she will choose the wrong person to protect, the wrong family to abandon, and the wrong person to love.

To celebrate the impending release of the second book in the series I’ve made the first 7 chapters of Girl Out of Water a free excerpt available for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook, as well as a free download at Goodreads.

Sign up now for news and behind the scenes goodness on Broken Wave!

Dr. Maya Angelou’s Glory, 1928 – Infinty & Beyond

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Dr. Maya Angelou's Glory, 1928 - Infinty and Beyond I once dreamt, when I was going through a different but also rocky time in my life, that I was in a therapy session with the dear and now departed Dr. Maya Angelou. For my troubled sub-conscious, there was no better healer or guide available. She sat in a comfortable chair and I reclined on a sofa in the traditional therapy poses, but we were on a platform of a flatbed truck that drove around a city, as I talked through what worried me, what I hoped for, and what I wanted to be. It was like a literary feminist music video. I have no idea what she told me, but I woke up feeling whole. I remember thinking, yes, of course Maya Angelou fixed my life. Reflecting on her life’s work now that she’s gone, I remember how giddy I felt when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, at the thought of a life that generated volumes of autobiography. The woman sang for Billie Holliday and cooked for M.F.K. Fisher. She did. She was. I can. Her life and her work have always made me feel that way, that I can.

Weekend Glory by Maya Angelou

Some clichty folks don’t know the facts, posin’ and preenin’ and puttin’ on acts, stretchin’ their backs. They move into condos up over the ranks, pawn their souls to the local banks. Buying big cars they can’t afford, ridin’ around town actin’ bored. If they want to learn how to live life right they ought to study me on Saturday night. My job at the plant ain’t the biggest bet, but I pay my bills and stay out of debt. I get my hair done for my own self’s sake, so I don’t have to pick and I don’t have to rake. Take the church money out and head cross town to my friend girl’s house where we plan our round. We meet our men and go to a joint where the music is blue and to the point. Folks write about me. They just can’t see how I work all week at the factory. Then get spruced up and laugh and dance And turn away from worry with sassy glance. They accuse me of livin’ from day to day, but who are they kiddin’? So are they. My life ain’t heaven but it sure ain’t hell. I’m not on top but I call it swell if I’m able to work and get paid right and have the luck to be Black on a Saturday night.

How Great Leaders Inspire Action, as translated by Winifred

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“Why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?” – Simon Sinek, Author of Start with Why.

Let it be known I’m a TED talk devotee. I discuss my favorite TED talks and This American Life segments with all the faith of the religious and all the fervor of a fangirl. They’re a big deal. I’ve seen/listened to about 2/3 of both properties, because I am constantly searching for a perspective I haven’t considered or investigated. I am desperate to understand the mechanics and mysteries of other people’s lives. I want to ask invasive questions about their creative processes, and look into their medicine cabinets. TED and This American Life are two of my favorite ways to eavesdrop on people grappling with life.

Simon Sinek’s talk is primarily focused on leadership and innovation as it relates to commercial success, but it has stuck with me for repeated viewings because “why” comes up a lot when you’re an independently published author/creator, and you have to explain to yourself and justify to others why what you do matters.

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I’m pleased to report, that while I frequently make this face, terrified that I have no clue what it is I’m trying to say, or where my work in progress is heading, I do know why I’m writing. That, I have a two-part answer for.

There’s been much made in the last few months about the lack of diversity of representation in popular culture, especially books. NPR has done stories on it, and there was a hashtag.

In the years to come, I hope the issue of representation in media and culture will be quaint if bizarre. “Hundreds of thousands of words about why it’s important for more than one kind of human social group to appear in media and culture? Was everything else done? Were they bored? Was this truly a problem?”

Yes anthropologist and culture critic of the future. Yes it was.

I’ve had this conversation in any number of settings and with several different kinds of people, but for some reason, it is still necessary to declare the importance of all kinds of people in all kinds of stories. I waited years to read books with people who were like me: young (ish), brown, and female exploring real and imagined worlds. Those books rarely appeared, so I figured out I had to start writing them.

Some writers and content creators will tell you “If the reading market wanted these books they’d exist already, you can’t make us write “other” people! That will derail our good stories and fill them with angsty mobs of disabled queer people of color who want a plot totally based around social justice and, and that would be TURRRIBLE!” To those people I say, you do know it’s possible to write about different kinds of people without focusing solely on how they’re different right? Do let me know how that defense of privilege holds up won’t you?

This “why” is only the most obvious. Not having to justify my existence based on capitalist market demands is actually not the primary creative motivator. I know, right? Weird. I struggle with being good enough, with working hard enough, turning a clever phrase, and making people out of characters because it fixes something in my head that I didn’t even know was broken until writing strengthened it. Lots of very famous and lauded writers have said something like this. It happens to be true for me too.

My inner fangirl wants a piece of creation. She wants to craft the same experiences other creators have made for her; the gift of other universes. A ramshackle cradle of myth, betrayal, love, and awe. That’s my why. That’s why I continue to write in the independent author echo chamber, creating deadlines, obsessing over cover elements, and browbeating myself to sit down at the keyboard even when I’m not sure how many people will connect with what I’m trying to say. I’m stumbling along, secure in the knowledge that creating meaning in this way is reason enough to continue.  I wonder if I can get my own TED talk?