Goodbye Porpoise Spit AKA Later Seattle, it’s been weird

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Knihkupectvi Academia Bookstore, Prague

I have lived all the cliches. I am one merit badge away from unlocking an unholy rom-com achievement sash. Teenage girl on a Greyhound bus to New York City with nothing but a dream? Check. Driven, career-focused woman making a u-turn for love on the cusp of 30? Check. Carefree divorcee leaving it all  behind to wander the globe? Well, 2 houses, 2 hotels and 3 countries in the last week later, check. Checkfuckingmate.

The change my life has been through in the last year is breathtaking. Yes, I learned a whole new language. Yes, I lost 78 pounds. Yes, I plotted and executed things most people only ever talk about doing.  Factor in the two years before that, and I get full on vertigo and vapors. Yes, I wrote and published a novel (and have nursed 2 other novels along but that’s another matter).  Yes, I disposed an industrial tonnage of fuckery in the form of people and patterns that no longer worked for me.

I spent 10 years in Seattle. That is most of my adult life, far longer than any of the cities I flitted through in my early 20s, and about 5 years longer than I saw myself being there. That’s a long time to wait for your life to begin. Processing my fervent desire to leave the city when I thought I was stuck gave me Girl Out of Water, and Tabitha’s whole universe. Translating that desire into action gave me total access to superpowers I’ve only ever dreamed of. I am an actual badass. I’ve crossed that threshold of hoping to be acknowledged to owning every ray of my glory.

After months of blog radio silence, grueling overtime shifts, and still no new book, I have made my great escape. The endless work of my emotional life has been accepting, acknowledging, and letting go. I know this is only the first leg of a really long journey, but I am ready to lay down the burdens of other people’s expectations and my fear. My joy is incalculable. I can exhale, take my victory lap, and look forward. For the next while I won’t be wandering the globe as much as setting up shop and looking for my niche in a very targeted area.

If you’re looking for quirky, complicated, protagonists and the universes they inhabit, we’ll all be in Norway (except for those weeks we’re in the Czech Republic, or the UK, or hvor som helst), skating through brand new challenges, forgetting the exchange rate and paying way too much for stuff, and living our best friluftsliv.

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Actual size, OK not really, but much smaller than anticipated

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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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.

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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?

 

 

True Lies

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The cliche is write what you know. Toni Morrison said something like “Write the book you want to read.” I did both of those things when I told a story about a young black woman making her way into adulthood in the secret supernatural underbelly of Seattle. I wanted more representation of characters like people I knew, but in the sci-fi/fantasy settings I loved. So I made those characters. Girl Out of Water was part of my process of trying to understand Seattle better, instead of you know, hating its guts and plotting my escape.

Radioactive salmon? Probably. "Spent nuclear fuel stored underwater and uncapped in Hanford's K-East Basin." - Wikipedia

Radioactive salmon? Probably. “Spent nuclear fuel stored underwater and uncapped in Hanford’s K-East Basin.” – Wikipedia

I definitely was not writing what I knew when I created a physicist searching for proof of the existence of gravitational waves at the LIGO Center in Richland, WA. My armchair physics end with Stephen Hawking books, FTL drives on Battlestar Galactica, Discovery channel documentaries, and odd blind alleys of the internet. When the book was finished, I wondered where I should mail my letter of apology to Science for the liberties I took. Imagine my surprise then, when after years of no news on the gravitational home front, within days of each other there were headlines about new proof in the existence of gravitational waves, and a recent spike in congenital anomalies in eastern Washington, particularly in Benton county, where Irene Chownyk lives and works. Near the environmental clusterfuck that is the inactive Hanford Nuclear reactor site.

Am I implying that there are new cryptids being born in Washington state as we speak? Absolutely. Obviously. However, the article mentioned real families facing serious health issues that I’m sure are totally coincidental and not at all related to the toxic dump in their backyard. To help those families, give to charities like The March of Dimes and speak up when there is industrial negligence in the world. If a large commercial interest has not polluted your area, assume that they’re busy and haven’t gotten around to you yet. As for gravitational waves, huzzah! Science is now positive that they’re probably real. Mostly. Which means more insights into the big bang theory and black holes. If only there were more measurements…

Nerds in Paris – Part 2

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Remember the part of this blog where I am a published author of a gripping story about coming of mystical age when you’re black, urban, and nerdy? Me neither. However, Broken Wave, the next Cryptid Coterie installment is on the horizon, and there have been a few odd incidents of life imitating small sections of Girl Out of Water. Subscribe for effortless updates, or mark next Friday in your calender. Whichever. But back to Paris.

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Capital of a column from the audience hall of the palace of Darius I
Achaeminid Period, reign of Darius I, c. 510 BC
Tell of the Apadana, Susa, Iran

I have been a museum nerd since I was the smallest of children. I read the words Champs Elysee in a book as a little girl and talked about going there, full of charm because I pronounced it chAMps Ulysses. The precocious clueless cute was too much. On a field trip to the Chicago Art Institute, our docent called me Mythology Girl (she might have been annoyed by my interrupting her talk with fun trivia about Hero and Leander, among other things). I like big museums and I cannot lie. Once again, Paris is perfect.

The Louvre. I could just stop there. Depending on how much time one has to tour Paris, you could legitimately spend weeks just touring The Louvre. It’s that big. In fact, The Louvre is so large (I promise this won’t turn into a Yo Mama joke), that the only time I got lost in Paris in weeks of aimless foot wandering, was inside the museum. There are over 2 dozen thematic trips through the museum (works on Love, Food, etc.), but I did not attempt any such navigation because I am a Muggle and not a Witch. I planned to hit The Louvre on a Wednesday and a Thursday one week, and then the following Friday, because Wednesdays and Fridays, the museum is open late into the evening. On my first visit, I wanted to leave the Richelieu wing to go to the Sully wing. I had a printed map in English. I had a Nintendo DS audio guide programmed in English that showed me where I was, and I still could not figure out how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I adopted a new strategy. Because I was in effect trapped in Richelieu for the rest of my day, I opted to see everything in that wing on all three floors, instead of touring the museum floor by floor as I had intended. My next visit I did Sully, and then last I did Denon. I did the first two days back to back and then I spaced out the last day. Even for an art lover, after 9 hours of being obsessed with light, color, technique, and detail, it all blurs together. I realized this when I sauntered through a room of Rembrandts without really seeing them. It was time to turn in my headphones for the day. Also, if you’ve ever been selfie blocked in the club? NOTHING compared to trying to get a decent shot of a piece in a museum. Getting this shot of the gorgeous palace column took about 10 minutes. If it was something more popular like the Mona Lisa? Not happening. Just never.

If Paris only had The Louvre, that would ONLY be 1.7 million square feet of priceless artifacts and art work, some of which, is approximately 9000 years old. But there are so many museums in Paris, they have a pass, that you can buy that will let you into nearly all the museums in the city for the one price of the pass. I recommend this. Not because you can realistically tour over 60 museums and monuments in even 6 days, but because the pass lets you skip to the front of the line. No waiting. The money is well spent if you plan to go to the Louvre even once because the line outside that big glass pyramid is basically World War Z. You will feel like Beyonce when you skate past your fellow tourists in their endless queue. Until you get inside of course and you’re just like everyone else again.

The Louvre is in a class by itself, but my favorite museum was Musee d’ Orsay. The scale is meant for mortals, and the subject matter is largely sculpture, and late 19th and early 20th century decorative arts. Massive paintings are also there of course. I even discovered a painter I should have known, and totally geeked out on the ones I knew.

ImageFor my engineering and steampunk types, you can not miss Musee des Arts et Metiers. You won’t find many figurative portraits in this museum, but there are entire rooms devoted to 19th century gears and engines, the first computers (I had to restrain myself when I saw a Commodore 64 behind the glass, the nostalgia was overwhelming), and the most ornate tools you’ve ever seen. Writer me was obsessed with old printing presses, and a fountain pen set so extensive, it required half a cabinet of its own. Even the display cases themselves were fascinating in this museum as several were old-fashioned wood and glass, where the front panel expanded on a wheeled track. There’s also a small theatre for automatons, a room for the roots of industrialization and transportation in France, and a beautiful model of the Ariane rocket. It’s quiet, you can check your coat and bag, and wander back a bit in time. Highly recommended.

 

I could blog about Paris forever. Easily. It’s old, beautiful, and full of interesting people. Alas, it’s back to this business we call show and not tell. My two takeaways from Paris: 1. Why do I live in Seattle when Paris exists? 2. How can I be a better writer? How do I become the people who painstakingly swept a brush across a canvas until the pigments on their palette made the sun shine, and silk rustle, the woman who shamelessly showed off her skill with leaded crystal and bronze to create a dressing table far beyond anything ever accomplished in the medium, and the countless faceless bodies, that nudged and carved stone for decades to build exquisite and soaring monuments to their faith. THAT. Paris made me hungry for that.

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You know you live in the PNW, when these remind you of Portland

Nerds in Paris Part 1

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Villa Santos-Dumont, 15e

So I just returned from Paris. I know, I know, my life is hard.

For the last three weeks I have been immersed in a language I don’t know, learning cultural etiquette via trial and error, and obsessed with butter in all of it’s glorious forms. I walked, and thought, and got lost in the beauty of the city, cocooned by anonymity and language. It was a much needed break from the daily grind and I have returned with renewed energy and inspiration. How could I not?

I know there are many types of nerd, so I will post accordingly. For my pop culture people? This one’s for you.

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Happy Hour at Le Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde

Le Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde near Chatelet, is arguably the epicenter of pop culture nerdery in Paris. They’re not messing around. This is more bar than restaurant despite the delicious spread on display here. There are three distinct levels themed in various fandoms. Want to get your tabletop on while sitting near the Iron Throne? You can do that here. The downstairs bar had Buffy’s (or is it Faith’s?) scythe attached to the grate on the wall. The first night I visited was cosplay for  Frank Miller’s  300. I didn’t know this, and thus perched awkwardly in various places because there was nowhere to sit. The place was mobbed. The second time I visited, I cozied up in a threadbare wingback chair on the top level and read and drank my way through Eragon. Occasionally I would recognize one of the theme songs playing as background and hum along (The Real Folk Blues, is a universal nerd standard). At one point the entire service staff belted out the chorus from an anime I don’t know, but now must find and watch. The Thundercats theme song in French also happened to me. This is a great spot to flex your French language skills on the tabletop and get a dose of your fandoms. All of them. They were thorough. 

There are other pockets of nerd life tucked away in Paris. Want to get your crepe on in the sugary pink surroundings of a Lolita den? Princess Crepe provides (disclaimer: my French friend is not impressed by the crepes). I opted for a savory crepe which was OK, but I found myself asking, but why is there corn in this?

Do you love eyeballing action figures? Especially drool-worthy collector’s items you can’t afford? Lulu-Berlu is there for the ogling.

Ran out of manga/comics you haven’t read on your 20 hour flight? Refill at Hayaku Shop, Album, or  Manga Cafe.

Stay tuned museum nerds, the next one is for you.