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

Superpowers & Secret Identities

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Seattle Public Library, well done

Seattle Public Library, well done

I’d long suspected that my superpower was talking for hours without ever stopping to breathe, or maybe having just the right piece of unexpected trivia to sprinkle into a conversation because I am promiscuously curious about absolutely everything. Turns out, it wasn’t these things at all. It would appear that my gift is giving the outward appearance of calm and confident determination 97% of the time.

I  suspect the perception percentage varies on how well you know me, but for the sake of accuracy I’d like to correct that average to 56.6~. That contains a confounding factor of  +/- 12% relative to how clueless I am about what I’m facing. Everyone is confident when they don’t know their parachute is empty right?

It’s been a year since I pulled the plug on the release of Broken Wave the second in the Crytpid Coterie series, and in that time I’ve been functioning as though I did not choke and that I will write dozens of novels any day now. I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve blogged some, and I’ve gone back to my paranormal Seattle universe again and again, hoping to see it clearly. Some days, I would consider a single sentence a success, and others I would cut a whole chapter and sigh with relief because it needed to be done. And all that time, I was still a writer.

I am once again stepping up to the plate with Broken Wave, and putting Girl Out of Water on sale today in the meantime. What I’ve learned in the last year, through my own experiences and reading other authors, is that the tortured Writer Pain of “I suck, I don’t know what I’m doing, and I am a terrible fraud” never goes away for anyone.  OK maybe a few people, but nobody likes them. The rest of us are humming along, secure in the knowledge that we’re fucked but making a go of it.

When I started writing novels  (working on my third at the moment), I thought the woman at the keyboard was my alter ego. I believed she was my juicy secret that made me interesting. The more comfortable I’ve gotten with creating and owning my identity as an artist, I figured out that I’d bought my own cover story. The rule-abiding goddess of multi-tasking efficiency who works too much and runs my life? She’s the real secret identity.

Theres a danger in believing your own facade. Just as those who know me perceive my perfectionist streak as the real me, when I believed it too, I limited my growing process as a writer and took the setback of a missed deadline way too hard. Writer me wants to give that Winifred a cookie, a cup of coffee, and a very short pep talk: “Writers write.”

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. If you’re doing that, at whatever pace, you’re a real writer, no matter what you tell yourself on a bad day.

This writer will be celebrating her second book release with a meme worthy video post, and merchandise you can use to express your love for Tabitha, her friends, and her nightmares. There’ll also be an exclusive free download of the story of Minnie Gagle Yesler. Subscribe already yeah?

Paul Dorpat, Archivist of Seattle

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Picture it: Duvall, WA. April 28, 1968.

There’s a 500 pound piano, suspended by helicopter, over a woodpile surrounded by lit votives. Why? Why not?

After my meeting with Paul Dorpat at Ivar’s Salmon House and scratching a few microns into his reign as the historian of the Puget Sound Region, I imagine scenarios like “The Piano Drop”, the event that spawned the Sky River Rock Festival four months later, are liberally sprinkled throughout his life.

Dorpat has authored and contributed to more than a dozen books on Seattle history, co-founded and edited Helix, is the principal historian of History Link, and for more than 30 years, he’s written Seattle Now and Then, a visual diary of the city’s evolutionary ambitions, for the Seattle Times. Despite this, when I approach him for a meeting he assures me that I probably know more than he does. I suppose that’s how one acquires a granular knowledge of a place and its people, via constant vigilance for an unfamiliar perspective. I can reassure you Reader that I am in no danger of eclipsing Dorpat’s knowledge of Seattle anytime soon. In fact, the Cryptid Coterie series was inspired by his research.

That being said, don’t blame Dorpat for the fanciful liberties I’ve taken with history, the Yesler family tree, the personalities, motives, and habits of the Denny Party (the founding families of Seattle). ‘Tis fiction. “Minnie Gagle Yesler was involved in the death of Henry Yesler? But how?” he asked. Because Magic Paul. I explained that my novels also include cryptids and mythology so no, I have no proof the heirs to the Yesler legacy have lately met with mermaids aboard the defunct MV Kalakala. I also don’t have definitive proof they haven’t. Shrug.

Still, speculative fiction is not Dorpat’s wheelhouse so we focus on the various creative avenues his appetite for history have taken him down. In addition to being a living treasury of the past, he’s also created a photo series called Wallingford Walks, and he’s working on a novel about Ivar Haglund, famed restaurateur. We bond over the endless allure of just one more click on Wikipedia, the necessary neuroses of the writing process, and the things you want to change after you’ve released a book into the wild of the world. When I ask him about the differences in his approach to writing versus photography, he’s puzzled by my insistence that there’s a connection. I maintain that the storytelling in image composition shares DNA with writing, but because I’m not a photographer, perhaps not. Dorpat explained that anyone with a camera is a photographer. “I’m a Promiscuous Photographer, I can just drive down the street taking pictures of everything and anything.”

I rather like the idea of Promiscuous Creativity, and Dorpat seems an archetype of Promiscuous Curiosity, also a good thing. He’s a pioneer in the Seattle tradition of D-I-Y and committing to the life of the mind. His first volume of Seattle Now and Then, was self-published when he had no money, solely on the credit of his assurances to the publisher that it would sell well, and it did. According to him it was luck; there were no other amateur historians focusing on regional history to the exclusion of everything else, but his legacy is inspiring because you can’t be lucky if you’re not prepared to act on a benefactor’s leap of faith.

About “The Piano Drop” spectacle: Dorpat maintains that it wasn’t his idea, he was just the ringleader and promoter. His friends did all of the organizing. They merely wanted to hear what it would sound like when it landed. The helicopter pilot was fearful about the physics involved in hoisting and releasing the piano, but up they went. Dorpat wasn’t near the woodpile, he was further away, trying to keep people out of the drop zone. His unease grew the higher the piano went, and when it was released, “something in my gut or my heart just came up”, Dorpat gestured around his impressive snowy beard. The piano came down into the soft mud near the woodpile, with scarcely a sound. Because shrapnel is a thing, this was likely for the best, but considering the absurdity of the plan, the outcome of the event becomes outright hilarious.

My meeting with Dorpat was cut short by the growing noise of a busy lakeside restaurant on a beautiful day, and my powerful fear of evening Seattle traffic, but stay tuned for our rematch. Paul has promised to answer more questions than he asks next time. I don’t believe him, but I’m still looking forward to it.

For more from Paul Dorpat visit pauldorpat.com and check out his latest book, Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill: Propriety, Profanity, Pills, and Preservation

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Our Novels Ourselves

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Writing is therapeutic. Sometimes I like writing about mermaids. Therefore, I have invented the Mermaid Self-Help genre, an exciting development in literature and mental health.

We all know that writers put observations about themselves and their world in their work. The challenge then becomes how to create authentic characters without sliding from forgivable Author Avatar to indigestible Mary Sue. Tangent: the best explanation I’ve ever read about why the Mary Sue template “works” is The Oatmeal’s take on Twilight. Good writing invites readers to connect with the authenticity of a character’s experience rather than the optics of the reader’s mirror image. The main pitfalls are confusing archetypes with default relatability and being oblivious to how much of your work is effortlessly you.

I’ll explain.

Mary Sue characters are directly connected to one of the fallacies against diversity in books. Able bodied readers who don’t kill people will connect with your down on her luck quadriplegic assassin (I have to write that now, tucking it into the idea file) just fine if you promise them a really good story and deliver. Sure it’s possible to give an Every Hero archetype a single feature that makes him so unique he is both familiar and totally novel from the outset, but considering the breadth of fiction ever printed it’s not plausible. Guy transforms into a robot dragon in space has probably been done already. Try harder, do better. I doubt J.K. Rowling consciously set out to make a Diverse Book, by creating Cormorant Strike, a veteran with a prosthetic limb, it was merely a side effect of expert character creation.

Taking my own advice, the Cryptid Coterie series was an act of therapy from the outset. When I started writing it, I was stuck in Seattle. The move I desperately wanted was not in my cards at the time, and it was my outlet for working through it. Toni Morrison said write the book you want to read, so I did.  Characterization is one of my strengths as a writer so while Tabitha is without a doubt my Author Avatar (but then so was her antagonist Irene) there are significant things that separate Tabitha from being a Mary Sue copy of me. Flaws were an integral part of Tabitha’s build. I didn’t want to write about the perfect, gold-hearted elemental that triumphed over the mean two-dimensional people. I wanted to create a living, breathing person and that meant obnoxious personality traits. Tabitha is a fair parody of myself at her age, in a wardrobe of self-awareness as well as wish fulfillment. Likewise Irene was Neutral Evil but also an exploration of aspects of myself. Dividing the chapters between them allowed for an antagonist with her own demented humanity that readers could identify with. The Villains we love to hate are successful because on some level, we understand them. We applaud them even.

When it came to being vulnerable in writing, I discovered that I was infusing my work with vulnerability without even trying. Every word comes from some nook deep inside the writer, how could it not be revealing? Blame shifting is difficult when it’s your name under the title. My magic happens when I can take the Reader to that same place inside themselves.

Go forth, and trope responsibly.

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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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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.

Sophomore Shuffle

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“Drowning Salvation” by Matt Dangler

I am just winding up the engine that will launch Broken Wave, the second installment of the Cryptid Coterie series, available in ebook and paperback on June 24, 2014. A cover reveal is around the corner, I’m composing a timeline of all the good things, many of which I bungled during the release of Girl Out of Water. That release resembled juggling chainsaws with my feet, to casual observers. It was a pleasurable and terrifying experiment. I’ve learned a little bit. I’m the better-late-than-never indie author I’ve always wanted to be, and I’m giving it another go.

Naturally this would be the exact time my world yo-yoed with my daily routine to the point of vertigo.

In 72 hours I went from “I suppose I live in Seattle forever and always but it sure would be nice to leave.” to “I have three days to get on a plane to England to interview for a few really cool jobs.” to “Oh, I can only be sponsored for a visa if the position is on this list of jobs I’m not applying for?” It might have been easy for a normal person to maintain the flow of prep for a new novel in the face of an adventure deadline plus intriguing immigration but, I, am not of that kind.

I’ve never been the sort of person who had a home in the traditional sense. I spent all of my twenties wandering the United States, looking for someplace that felt right but I never found it. There were a few good attempts, but they each fizzled or exploded depending on how much dynamite I had on hand at the time. Like most people struggling against themselves, I didn’t make lasting progress until I committed to something that mattered to me in a way that nothing else could. For some it’s parenting, religion, or advocacy. For me it’s expressing myself via writing. Writing novels created that place I’d been looking for, the place where when I showed up, it had to let me in. Home.

Perspective and other diversions of the last few weeks make me think if I had gone off on this grand adventure of becoming an expat my production as an author would have suffered. Not because the new life would have been incompatible with a writing career, but because it would have shifted my focus of home away from the worlds I create for myself on the page, to an external location dependent upon bureaucracy, and establishing my credentials as someone who belongs.

My expat dreams shelved for the moment, but I continue to build. That home I searched for is here, and it wants to be burnished into a second novel. Stay tuned.