Happy Birthday Cecelia!

February 9th is Cecelia’s birthday! Woo hoo!  To celebrate, I thought I’d write a little bit about Cici–her character and what it was like writing her in the Shift Series.

I said in Cecelia’s character study that she came to me almost fully formed–no exploratory writing required–and that’s pretty darn true.  On the surface, I knew more about Cecelia than I did about Leah when I first started writing SHIFT.  I knew Leah’s aunt lived rurally, in the deserts of the Southwest United States (though it took some searching to figure out what town she called home.)  I knew she had shoulder length, gray, wavy hair from the moment I put my fingers on the keyboard. I knew she liked to wear big earrings and flowy skirts, and was, in Leah’s opinion, a little eccentric.  As I get older, I’m not sure if Cecelia is really all that “eccentric” but she is certainly self-possessed, self-aware, and very powerful–as a shifter, but more importantly, as a person.

So I knew Cecelia individually pretty well from the start.  It wasn’t until I started writing RECAST, however, that I realized her role within the larger world of the shifters.  And it wasn’t until I started writing DRIFT that some of Cecelia’s past was revealed to me.
This is something I’ve alluded to before, but I’ll say it outright here: Characters show me things while I write. Often, I don’t have any say in what those things are, or  how they come. Sometimes what a character shows me makes sense, other times it catches me by surprise.

**WARNING: Spoiler alert!  If you have not read all of the Shift Series and do not wish to have a few very pivotal plot/character points spoiled, STOP READING NOW!  You have been warned.**

Cecelia having had a link made sense. It made me go “huh,” at first, but then it felt like “of course she did. That’s why she knew what was doing between Leah and Drake from the very beginning of their relationship in SHIFT.”

The details of her link with Felix, who he was, and their story together, was a bigger surprise. In fact, I’ll write more about that next week because Cecelia and Felix’s relationship deserves a post of its own.

But Cecelia’s death: that wasn’t just a surprise–it was a shock.

When I started writing the scene where Cici dies, I didn’t even know what was going on.  All I knew was that Leah was sick. I thought maybe she was sick because she hadn’t shifted back to her native self in so long, or maybe she was having one hell of a panic attack.  But then this happened:

‘Leah, you need to calm down,’ came Cecelia’s voice again, commanding, but strained and weak. Behind it, there was still that beeping, quiet, in a slow, easy rhythm.
‘I can’t,’ a smaller voice whimpered.
‘You can. If you don’t this will be so much worse.’  Beep. Beep. Beep.

That got me a little nervous. But I told myself, no way, and kept writing…

I was letting Cecelia down.
A reverberating, screaming pain rang through my whole body and I went screaming with it.

I knew that screaming pain was the result of Leah having thought her aunt’s name. But still, I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.  You have got to be kidding me. No way. Could it be something else? I kept writing…

Everything stopped. Thought. Breath. Feeling. There was nothing but this cold blaze. I was falling forever, and I was rocketing upward at the same time.

I knew that was the moment–there was no going back now.  Then…

It was Cecelia’s heat that was leaving me. It was tearing out of my skin, out of my chest, leaving me freezing and gasping, burning me with the speed.
“Cecelia. CECELIA!” The screams turned to words.  They were my words. I was screaming. “No! NO! Nooo! Not her! Not her! God, NO!”
I only recognized the effort, the scramble of activity around me when it suddenly stopped. “Oh lord…” came one velvet-smooth voice, from above me.

Gabriel’s reaction–that velvet-smooth voice–was mine.  ”Oh lord.”  But I couldn’t stop.  I think I wrote that scene in one long sitting, because it was so vivid and consuming, but once I caught wind of what was happening, I knew I wouldn’t want to go back to that place, so I  just wrote straight through.  It ended up a little manic, in a way, because of it.  When I read the scene now, it feels odd, but I think it’s right that way.  Leah is so confused, then scared, then in agony–physical and emotional.   She isn’t thinking in long sentences–she’s thinking in cropped snippets, distracted, and coming fast, always trying to catch up to what’s happening because she doesn’t really understand what’s happening.  If the world could stop, she would have time to figure it out–she’s not far off from the knowledge–but the world doesn’t stop. It doesn’t give her time to catch her breath until it’s over.

From the moment it happened, things I’d already written took on new meaning: Suddenly, the headache Cici had near the beginning of RECAST was something altogether different; the phone calls she’d taken during SHIFT had a new context. And that scene that had niggled at me while I wrote it–Leah saying goodbye to Cecelia before she and the others started their road trip to Berkeley–that niggling suddenly made so much sense: That was the last time Leah would ever see her aunt.

And I was relieved to suddenly  know why Leah could hear Cici’s voice in her head throughout DRIFT: As Cecelia slipped in and out of consciousness in the final days before passing away, her connection to Leah (combined with her subtle psychic-intuitiveness) created a pathway between them. It had been bugging me until that point, not understanding what Leah was experiencing and why.

Anyway, that was a really long way of saying that Cecelia’s death was like taking a baseball bat to the gut.  I wasn’t expecting it, I didn’t like it, but when it was all said and done, I knew it was right. I don’t like the idea of using a character’s death to catapult a story forward, and I don’t think that’s what I did in this case. At least, it doesn’t feel that way to me.  If nothing else, I’d make the same “decision” again if given the chance–mainly because I was pretty much not given a choice. Cici died.  Her story stopped. There wasn’t anything else to write. If I’d tried to delete that scene, nothing that came after it would have been genuine.  But, man, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her. I immediately started wondering what her last days were like for her, writing those scenes so I could understand them, but with no way to put them in any book. One day maybe I’ll post them, or maybe they’ll find their way into a side project somehow.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve forgiven me for Cecelia’s death; I know it caught many of you as off guard as it did me.  Cecelia is, in many ways, the woman I hope I can be when I’m in my 50s and onward. She’s caring, without being a push-over. She’s strong and commands respect without being abrasive.  I love writing her, and being in her head.  Hopefully I’ll have some of that Cici’s-point-of-view writing to share with you all soon.  But, until then, I hope you can go back and read Cecelia with new-found love and understanding.

Happy Birthday, Cecelia Brayton!

The only constant is change.

That sounds pretty meta, huh? Not trying to be fancy, just stating a fact. And it’s a good fact, really. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but change really can be (and in my experience, usually is) a good thing.

Anyway, I say all this because I am about to roll out some changes to my blogging life–my ‘content management plan’, if you want to be formal about it. You see, my life now is pretty much unrecognizable from the life I led when I first started on this awesomely rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but always worth it path to being an author. When I started, I had no kids, I lived in a condo with my hubby, I commuted 2 hours a day on the bus–in other words, I had a lot more writing time on my hands. Now it didn’t feel that way at the time, of course. I’ve become convinced that our lives always feel busy, however they don’t always feel overwhelming.

Well, for the last few years my life has felt pretty overwhelming at times. I had a baby boy in November 2012. I started a new job, and my family and I moved to a new house in 2013. Then I just had a baby girl in August of 2015. Somehow, I managed to released two books in that time–Augury and STAND–but doing so took herculean effort. In other words, life was overwhelmingly busy for a spell there. But now it feels a little like it’s mellowing out, at least enough for me to lift my head and look around, and realize: holy shit, I haven’t really blogged in, like, years. And I haven’t released a book since 2014. And while I’ve been working on two projects off-and-on since then, neither of them are complete.

Cue the panic.

Cue the creativity-crushing, mind numbing, oh-my-god-I’ve-ruined-this-thing-I-worked-so-hard-for, depression-inducing panic.

In my darkest hours, I thought about abandoning the whole thing. Just walking away. God, but I hated the idea. And so did Drake. And Leah. And Luceam. And I felt like I was forsaking Matra outright. I mean, she sacrificed so much. The least I can do is tell her story, right?

But here’s reality: While I do find slivers of time to write and record the lives and stories in my head, those chunks of time are fewer, and shorter in duration than they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s for good reason: I love my kids more than I thought I was capable of loving anything. But it still makes me sad that my writing time is so diminished compared to what it used to be. That’s okay, though. That’s just life–to live is to change. And I can conquer change. I’ve done it before.

I just need to redefine this new normal. So I’m going to start “small” by getting myself back into a regular blogging routine. Instead of posting most of my pieces primarily on tumblr, I’m going to be posting them here, on ellebeauregard.com. They’ll be shared to tumblr, and I’ll send out links on twitter, facebook, and google+ too, of course. My goal is to post once per week. You’ll still get things like deleted scenes, unidentified snippets of things I’m working on, and other random musings, but I’ll also write the occasional post about cool task/life management tools I’m giving a try (a little sub-passion of mine), and maybe even my thoughts on balancing life and passion every once in a while.

If you’re a blogger, and you think you might have something to share about balancing life and passion (especially if you don’t get to do your passion to make a living, but even if you do,) hit me up! I’d love to swap guest posts!

And to the rest of you, thanks for sticking with me, and stay tuned. There’s more to come.

Occupy RECAST

This post originally appeared on my Tumblr in 2011, near the height of the Occupy  Wallstreet movement.  I’m reposting it here to make it more easily searchable and because I still get questions every once in a while around whether the political statements in RECAST were intentional or accidental. (See below for more on that.)  I’ll archive this post up into the RECAST section of the site, where it will live in perpetuity. :) 

Like most, I’ve been watching coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement with some interest. I won’t pretend that I’m as well informed as some, but I’ve tried to at least keep an eye on what’s happening with the local, Occupy Seattle demonstrations because, well, I admire people “flexing their collective political muscle,” to use Cecelia’s turn of phrase from SHIFT. And, in fact, quoting Aunt Cecelia brings me to the crux of this post.

When I first saw coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, I was sitting in a breakfast pub in Vancouver, B.C., enjoying an order of eggs benedict and a glass of orange juice with my hubby. What struck me, as I read the closed-captioning on the television, was how very similar the Occupy Wall Street movement was to the protests Leah learns about near the end of SHIFT.

Well of course you’d think that, Elle, I thought to myself. You’re just narcissistic enough to draw parallels between your imaginary worlds and this very real movement. Sheesh.

I dismissed the thought as silly.

But then other, local protests began cropping up–an odd coincidence. And, finally, someone asked me if I’d intended to draw comparisons to current events when I wrote RECAST. That’s when I knew I wasn’t crazy. And that’s when I was reminded that my readers are brilliant–that of course they would see the parallels between the Occupy movement and the protests Leah observes in the Shift Series. I realized, also, that if one person had that question, others most assuredly did, too, and that I should speak to it:

I wrote SHIFT, and then RECAST (and the two upcoming books that follow them) during an 8-month bout of unemployment in 2009. At that time, the economic slide was just beginning; everyone knew at least one person (probably more) who was jobless and the outlook was pretty grim. (So, I guess things were pretty similar, then, to how they are currently…) It was in this climate, sensing that the economy would not turn around in 3-5 years (as was initially expected) that I wrote SHIFT. It was impossible for my story not to reflect some of that political-economic angst. As a result, unemployment and other signs of economic unrest are vaguely alluded to in SHIFT. Leah is not even old enough to vote, however, so what would fiscal politics have meant to her, really? Not much, beyond the classroom. Which is why the allusions are vague, only becoming tangible when they pose a threat to her immediate situation.

In Leah’s world, as much as in our own, it was only a matter of time before a large-scale demonstration was organized. So when I first wrote of economic unrest in SHIFT, it was with the intention of giving readers some context as to the larger world Leah was living in. When I wrote about the nationally- televised protest in RECAST it was with the purpose of bringing that larger world home to Leah and her fantastic circumstances. The protests in SHIFT and RECAST were not written with the intention of drawing parallels to any recent political/counter-political movements–it just so happens that they have. In a way, the coincidence was unavoidable.

To illustrate this point, I’ll let you in on a secret : When I see people demonstrating in and around Seattle, a tiny sliver of me wants to go walk around in the crowd to indulge in the fantasy that preternatural groups–Mythologicals–exist and that a few of their kind might be walking through the same crowd… I know, I know, I’m an odd duck, but many of us writer-folk are. Besides, you have to admit, what Leah witnesses in the first chapter of RECAST would definitely be news worth watching. Don’t even try to pretend you wouldn’t be glued to the television. I know I would be. (And then I’d be glued to my laptop, madly drafting another blog post trying to explain how I’d predicted the future… which would be spooky.)