fbpx How Coping Helped Me Cope: Behind the Scenes of Writing Coping

How Coping Helped Me Cope: Behind the Scenes of Writing Coping

Warning: This blog post contains discussions about the plot of Coping (the novella that follows Falling) and hints about the plots of Landing, Rising, and Recovering in the Girl With Broken Wings series.

Coping, in many ways, is the novella that shouldn’t exist. Well, I should say that it wouldn’t have existed if everything had gone to plan. By 2010, I had already spent two years painstakingly polishing Falling, the first novel I ever felt was good enough to actually publish. I already knew that the story of Maya, Tarren, and Gabe couldn’t be contained in a single book. They had too much more to do. (Not to mention the fact that Maya’s number one enemy, Grand, was still breathing.) However, I faced one itty bitty problem.

While I loved Fallingthe book agents I sent the manuscript to weren’t as enthusiastic. Mind you, some showed interest, but that was almost a worst punishment than outright rejection. Sending a manuscript through the slow-grinding gears of the traditional publishing complex is its own form of purgatory. First, you must send a query letter. If, by chance, an agent shows interest, the next phase is to send her the first few chapters, followed by the full manuscript for her review and consideration. Each step takes months.

I rode this snail-paced merry-go-round with three different agents for over a year, which put me in a very difficult spot. (You can read all about this oh-so-fun adventure in my behind the scenes look at Falling.) I already had the concept for Landing sketched out, and I was eager to start writing the next chapters in Maya’s adventure, but I was also wary of writing the second book in a series that no agent yet wanted.

One consequence of all this waiting was that I found myself with a lot of extra time to think. Over those days, weeks, and months, the characters in the universe of Girl With Broken Wings stayed alive in my mind. I watched Maya slowly becoming accustomed to her new life, Tarren trying to figure out how much risk she presented, and Gabe just thrilled he had someone who would laugh at his jokes. Scenes unfurled in my mind – many just fragments of the Fox family’s everyday vigilante life that would never make it to the pages of a book, but some that hinted clearly of things to come. One or two scenes that are in Flying, the last book in the series, were born in those early days.

With the world of Girl With Broken Wings growing exponentially in my head, trapped by my self-imposed moratorium on writing, one character above the rest began to nag at me.

Rain Bailey.

Picture of man looking at the sky
A kind of sad, romantic picture of a man that of reminds me of Rain.

I am going to abruptly change the subject right now, but I promise I’m going somewhere with this. In 2010, the same time my trapped writer’s brain was going into imagination overdrive, the show Battlestar Galactica had just ended. You might assume from the multiple references to the show in the GWBW series that I a bit of a fan. You’d be right. The series rebooted at the end of 2003 with a three-hour mini-series that basically blew my mind. That initial mini-series was filled with many amazing plot twists and greater-than-life characters, but one character in particular stood out to me.

The first time we meet Helo, he makes an incredibly brave decision to give up his seat on the last Raptor escaping the dying planet of Caprica so that a civilian can be saved. Let’s ignore the fact that the civilian in question happens to be Gaius Baltar, making this probably the worst trade in all of history. In the mini-series, that sacrifice is all we see of Helo. For all we knew at the time, he was just a random blip in the plot, a necessary lever to get Baltar off that planet.

[Note: This is where a big picture of Helo would go if I wasn’t totally terrified of getting sued. HERE is a pretty sexy picture of him.]

Those who watch the show know that Helo goes on to become a main character in the series and that his time on Caprica is one of the most compelling plotlines of the first two seasons. Since Helo was always one of my favorite characters, I was pretty surprised when I heard somewhere that he was never intended to be a main character. He was originally intended to just be left behind on Caprica, one more casualty of that mass extinction attack. However, so many viewers were interested in what happened to him that the show’s writers wrote him what ended up being a fascinating and crucial storyline that includes a very unlikely romance.

I always liked Helo, because he was one of the few characters in a show that could be dismally depressing who was thoroughly good. He had a huge heart and always believed that the battered remnants of the human race would find a new home.

Here’s where we go full circle. You might have connected the dots by now, but the truth is that Rain was never meant to come back after his brief encounter with Maya in Falling. He, like Helo, was just a plot blip…except he wasn’t. I couldn’t get Rain out of my head. I wanted to know what happened to him after he saw Maya. It didn’t take long before I realized that he just couldn’t let his sister’s death go or forget that he saw a girl standing over a dead preacher with glowing hands. No, he would need to find answers. I became convinced that he would keep searching and searching…until eventually his path would cross Maya’s again.

I just had one little problem…Rain wasn’t in Landing…like, at all. If you’ve read Landing, then you know that he does make an appearance, but for the most part I couldn’t find a way to fit him into the plot. This was a problem. His part was so small in Falling that I knew readers would forget all about him if he just sat out a whole book. Also, by that time, I also knew that during the events of Landing, Rain wasn’t sitting idly by. He was actively trying to figure out what angels were and hunting Maya with a vengeance.

Man with crow bar
Rain gets all vengeancy

So, in a very real way, Coping was driven by my need to tell just a little bit of Rain’s story. Since the novella is from Maya’s perspective, we only get to see the disastrous results of Rain’s efforts to solve the angel mystery, but Coping is very much the link that keeps Rain alive (figuratively and literally!) for the rest of the series.

We don’t get to learn a lot in Coping of exactly how Rain ended up in that barn in Poughkeepsie, and when we meet him again in the next books in the series (particularly Rising) his life and circumstances have changed drastically. Sorry about that. The untold parts of Rain’s story do exist, but right now they currently reside only in my head. I’ve actually toyed with the idea of writing a spinoff novel or even a novella documenting his journey from Falling through Rising (including his epic introduction to Gabe in Recoveringone of my favorite scenes to write of all time). I would love to get inside Rain’s head and to also explore his friendship with the troubled Chain and the fledging beginning of the Totem. Perhaps one day…

In the end, after sitting on the literary agent merry-go-round for a full year with nothing but a million new ideas for my series to show for it, I decided that I wanted off this was ride. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me that my book was worth publishing or that Maya’s story was worth telling.

Merry-go-round
This picture of a wonderful, fun, and joyful merry-go-round is nothing like the dreary, frustrating literary agent merry-go-round I experienced. Photo credit: chatirygirl via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-ND

As I started prepping Falling for publication, I finally started writing again. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Coping fell onto the page with amazing ease. (A wonderful experience I wasn’t able to recapture when I finally started writing Landing.)

Coping might be short, and its story doesn’t drive the larger plot of the series, but I love this little novella. It gives readers an important insight into Maya’s growing acceptance of her situation, shows her tightening bond with Gabe, and demonstrates exactly what is on the line in the war with the angels when the Fox family makes its grisly discovery in Poughkeepsie. (A situation that comes to represent the very real risk of what it could mean if angels ever gain the upper hand on the humans.) Most importantly, Coping allows me to briefly reunite Maya and Rain and to keep him in her mind throughout Landing so that I can set up his re-emergence in Rising. And finally, the last chapters of this novella gave me a chance to let Maya seek a small drop of closure in her relationship with Ryan and in the shedding of her old life, which I felt was very emotionally important for her character.

I hope you liked this little novella, too!

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Deidre


Age: 24
Occupation: Housekeeper to Nathaniel Hayward
Hobbies: Playing the cello

About: Deidre may not be a particularly good housekeeper, have a lot of natural talents or ever be able to tame her frizzy red hair, but what she lacks in life skills she makes up for in perseverance.  She needs a lot of it as she dodges the practical jokes of the haunted mansion's two resident poltergeists, makes sure The Thing In The Basement has fresh cow heads to munch on, and puts up with her cranky boss Nathaniel who is libel to drain whoever knocks on his door (usually Mormons) if she doesn't watch him.

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Nathaniel


Age: 266
Occupation: Vampire of leisure
Hobbies: Cleaning musket, reading biographies, watching I Dream of Jeannie, campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower

About: Nathaniel doesn't understand why everyone gets so uppity about newfangled fads like the telephone and horseless carriage. He also doesn't approve of the loose today's loose social morals, what with women walking around wearing pants and making it to age 20 without at least one child on their hip. This isn't what Nathaniel fought in the Revolutionary War for (only at night). The worst of the lot is his housekeeper, Deidre, a bitter old maid who insists he stop sucking the life blood from the Mormons who knock on his door and can't even get prune juice stains out of his kerchiefs.

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Dex


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Conveyor of Extreme Emotions
Hobbies: Guiding unwilling individuals to the conclusion that true fear resides in the devastation we bring to our planet and to our society.

About: Dex is dedicated to transcending the poltergeist stereotype by delving deeper into the nature of fear and showing his unwilling victims that our own reality is what truly deserves our fear and notice. He accomplishes this by through artistic haunting - murals, dioramas and even living projects (which tend to scurry away and end up jumping out at Deidre from the kitchen cabinets). Dex is a ghost with a cause, and he won't rest in peace until you've heard it.

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Sloppy Joe


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Scary-ass Poltergeist
Hobbies: Making Girl Scouts piss their skirts

About: Sloppy Joe grew up on the mean streets of Zanesville, Ohio  where he was pursuing a career as the world's latest and greatest skinny white rapper when he met his untimely death. Nathaniel's mansion is his first official haunted residence. He's still getting used to his powers, but that doesn't stop him from trying to make Deidre's life hell and demonstrate that death doesn't keep down a brother from Zanesville.

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Silas


Age: 79
Occupation: Retire factory worker/part-time vampire hunter
Hobbies: Collecting lawn gnomes, killing vampires

About: Silas was all set to marry his high-school sweetheart in the 1950s until she came home one day a couple of shades paler and with some dental enhancements. After staking his fiancé, Silas vowed to  kill the vampire who had turned her. This led to a 50-year stint as a part-time vampire hunter  and eventually brought Silas to Nathaniel's door. With his fanny pack filled with stakes, Silas is ready to avenge his long lost love.

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Silvia


Age: Claims to be 45
Occupation: Between jobs
Hobbies: Bingo, shopping on QVC, flirting

About: Silvia is proof that some gold diggers never stop digging. When she sets her sights on Nathaniel, she's not worried about his fangs as long as his bank account is just as sharp. Not one to put all her eggs in one basket, Silvia also treats Henrick the werefrog to a little of her wrinkly good stuff. Sure, the extra long tongue is a bit of a turnoff, but she just saw the cutest pair of heels on QVC. No time for scruples when there's sexy footwear on the line.

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Henrick


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Insect control
Hobbies: Taking a snack break at the dumpsters behind the nearest buffet (he only comes for the flies)

About: Henrick is an obese werefrog who was quite the monster back in his day. Now, confined to an electronic scooter, his terrorizing the human populace days are well behind him...unless something really gets him riled up.

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Drew


Age: 25
Occupation: Assistant shift manager at Arbys
Hobbies: Rooting for the Browns, playing Xbox

About: Drew just wants to be your everyday slacker jock. He's got the good looks, nowhere job and deep thought avoidance radar that would make him the perfect addition to any state college frat keggar. Unfortunately, a small genetic inheritance keeps getting in his way, as Deidre learns first hand. Even the knowledge of Drew's dark secret can't douse the flames of Deidre's crush though she knows that the handsome jock never falls for the chubby nerd...or does he?

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The Thing in the Basement


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Vortex of destruction
Hobbies: Anything that involves mayhem

About: The Thing In The Basement shall not be spoken of.

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