New Year, New Projects, New Goals

As we prepare to welcome 2019, it’s time to sit down and take stock of 2018, and look ahead to what the new year could hold.

2018 was full of turmoil for me. For those who don’t already know, I decided to close Schreyer Ink Publishing a the end of this year. All of our anthologies are going out of print. We will not be accepting anything new. The blog and email will close as well.

I took a chance on a lot of new shows and learned a lot about the market, and about different show organizers.

I learned a lot, about myself, about my desires, about running a business. I learned that I have a bad habit of undervaluing my time, my services, and my product. I learned that I have a few amazing friends who will come through for me every time and I hope that I can be there for them as consistently as they are for me. I learned that stretching myself too thin was a good way to fail at everything. I learned just how important my husband, marriage, and family are to me – and that my mental and emotional health, and the health of my family relationships, need to come first.

2019 is going to look very different. It has to, in the face of so many changes.

For one thing, I will not have to put aside time for reading submissions. Part of me is saddened by this as I really enjoyed all the stories that came my way. I don’t have to put aside time for layout, design, and marketing either, not for the anthologies. I can just focus on my own works.

I sadly underestimated my goals in 2018 so I’m upping the bar for 2019 and I hope I’ve landed on a good solid basis for my writing – one that challenges me without being so hard to achieve that I burn out.

This is my tentative schedule for 2019:

C4 Winnipeg Horror and Sci-Fi Convention in February – probably

Spring Craft Sales – I’ll only do 2 or 3 and only with a few trusted and liked organizers

C4 Winnipeg “Manitoba Comic Con” in April – maybe

KeyCon over May Long Weekend – already booked

Summer Street Fairs – Only doing 1 in Steinbach, and possibly 1 in Ste Pierre

C4 Winnipeg in October – probably

Christmas craft events – I’ll do half a dozen or so in November and early December, again, sticking to events with good organizers in good locations.

And, here are my writing goals for 2019:

Total Word Count Goal for the Year: 520,000 words (the equivalent of 10,000 words per week, or 2,000 words per day for 5 days each week)

Rose Garden: Book 4 is done. I need to finish book 5, get everything on the shelf, and host a massive series launch at the Jake Epp Library in the spring. (Approximately 65,000 words)

Underground: I need to write books 6 & 7 to finish off the series. There is also a spin-off book that needs to be written. (Approximately 24,000 words per book, or 72,000 words)

Underground Graphic Novels: I have an artist (I hope). Now I need to collect my thoughts for what I’m looking for in a graphic novel and sit down with the potential artist to get this project rolling.

Contract work: I have 56,000 words outstanding on a contract. When it’s done, I’m done. I will not be doing any further ghostwriting.

So far that’s 193,000 words, or roughly 19.5 weeks of work. (That only takes me to mid-May).

After that I will start on a massive 4-book project, my baby, my long-time backburner project, the one I’ve been dying to write for years. I’m looking at 350,000 words over four books (which takes me over my 520,000 word goal by about 25,000 words). My plan is to finish the four books by the end of January 2020 and then attempt to find an agent and a traditional publisher for them.

After that? Well, that’s 9 entire books in a single year (though I’ll only be publishing 4 of them) plus the graphic novels. I don’t think I want to plan past that point, or commit to anything past that point. But there are ideas. Lots and lots of ideas.

There will never be a shortage of things to write.

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Popular Q&A Platform Harmful to Writers

Have you heard of Quora? Because Quora may be helping readers steal your books.

You sign up and you can ask questions and get multiple answers from other users on a variety of topics, both personal and technical in nature. Looking for a recipe? Kitchen hack? Relationship advise? Go ahead and ask. The idea is similar to Wikipedia in that users can add their own answers, creating discussion and a wide base of knowledge. You can up or down vote answers to help keep the most useful information more visible.

Sounds good, right?

I don’t remember when or why I joined up. I think I saw a question that I wanted to answer and I was in. I get regular emails from them “Can you answer this question?” I delete them without reading them if I’m not in the mood. No one forces you to answer anything.

Lately, I noticed a scary trend in the questions I was getting (since I have literature as one of my interests on Quora). People were asking where to download free e-books (in general) or free pdf copies of specific titles.

Some titles were classics and difficult to find in electronic format so people directed them to Project Gutenberg and other similar digitization projects.

For the general request, I directed people to the free section of Amazon, or to Smashwords (which is much easier for indie authors to use when it comes to free content and actually has pdfs).

Some titles were newer and not being offered for free. And that’s when I noticed people posting links to pirate sites.

I tried to combat it by answering “Stop stealing from authors. Go to Amazon and buy the book” or something to that effect. “Your library has a digital lending catalogue, go borrow the book if you legit can’t afford it” was added in there, but politer wording.

Obviously, as an author, this upset me, A LOT. Equally as obvious was the fact that I could not fight this, one question at a time. I changed my tactics to include two new things: I contacted the author or publisher of titles I saw people requesting; I contacted Quora support.

I haven’t heard back from any of the authors I contacted. I hope my message did not get lost in cyberspace and that they have someone who can help with the problem on their end. I’m one little indie author with no industry pull, but a few “cease and desist” letters or “copyright infringement” suits against Quora from the big 5 publishers would quickly change things.

Because Quora isn’t interested in changing. I FINALLY got a response to my inquiry with them:

Hello Casia,

The questions referenced in your complaint do not violate any Quora policy. For more info, see: https://qr.ae/TUG6CH.

However, there may be specific answers to those questions that do violate our policy on spam, or some other Quora policy. We suggest that you report specific content you come across that you believe may violate our policies.

You can report questions, answers, comments, and messages by clicking on the ‘more’ menu located beneath the content (e.g., the “…” option), selecting “Report”, and then choosing the appropriate reporting option. Our moderation team will then review the reported content and take action based on our policies and guidelines.

We appreciate your understanding.

Sincerely,

Roger
User Operations
Quora

That’s right. You heard it straight from Quora folks. To be fair, they’re right, there’s nothing illegal with asking “Where can I get TITLE by AUTHOR for free?”. The illegal part is the answers. It’s the fact that people are going “Yeah, I cracked that DRM and have it on my blog, here, download it free”. I saw this. I clicked the links. It worked. (I promptly deleted the file because I will not read stolen copies).

Quora is not interested in protecting authors. That means we have to protect ourselves.

Please share this post with every author you know and in every writing group that you belong to. If you’re with a traditional publisher, warn them about Quora. Joining is free and if they have a social media rep or someone who monitors for copyright infringement online (ie Pirate sites) they should add Quora to the list of sites they are monitoring.

If you do find someone posting illegal links to illegal copies of your book, contact Quora and tell them to take it down or you will take legal action against them. They are legally responsible for the content of their site, even user-generated content.

The world already looks down on our work and undervalues books and authors. This is just one more platform people are using to avoid paying us at all costs.

Bookish Summer: Non-Fiction Reads

I’m a fiction writer, and a fiction reader, for the most part. But today’s post is all about non-fiction. Hello! If you’re just tuning in, this is one of the final stops on the Bookish Summer Blog Hop Tour. At the bottom of the post is a schedule so you can go back and catch up on all the great book conversations we’ve had this month.

Today’s topic is: The last non-fiction book you finished reading.

Tangled in Text Logo

Kelli Quintos www.tangledintext.com

“We just tiptoe around things, afraid we’ll offend or look ignorant, be misunderstood. Honesty is a risk few are willing to take.” – Flow by Kennedy Ryan 

Leslie Conzatti

Leslie Conzatti www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com

I… don’t read a lot of nonfiction, quite honestly! I’ve only read from a select few… one of those being Felicia Day. Her book You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) is a beautiful dissection of somebody who is instantly relatable and very much All Of Us. Sure, she had different opportunities than you or I might experience, and her list of achievements is astonishing–but she gives the backstage glimpse, the real-world perspective, the oftimes harsh reality of the whole situation–while imparting the nuggets of wisdom and truth as only  she can. Reading her book inspired me to write an entire blog post on “How I Learned To Stop Hiding And Embrace My Own Weird” and I hope one day to achieve her level of confidence and charisma!

 

Allie Bock http://girlwithagoodbookandherdog.blogspot.com

The last non-fiction read I read was The Eighty Dollar Champion. It’s a true rags to riches story. The book also has photos from real life.

Book Blurb from Goodreads:

November 1958: the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition comes the most unlikely of horses—a drab white former plow horse named Snowman—and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.

Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a bleak winter afternoon between the slats of a rickety truck bound for the slaughterhouse. He recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up horse and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, the horse thrived. But the recent Dutch immigrant and his growing family needed money, and Harry was always on the lookout for the perfect thoroughbred to train for the show-jumping circuit—so he reluctantly sold Snowman to a farm a few miles down the road.

But Snowman had other ideas about what Harry needed. When he turned up back at Harry’s barn, dragging an old tire and a broken fence board, Harry knew that he had misjudged the horse. And so he set about teaching this shaggy, easygoing horse how to fly. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping.

Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo, based on the insight and recollections of “the Flying Dutchman” himself. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. Elizabeth Letts’s message is simple: Never give up, even when the obstacles seem sky-high. There is something extraordinary in all of us.

 

My last non-fiction read was a memoir: Call me Adam by Arthur Adam. Arthur grew up poor in a small town not far from where I live. His memoir details his path from poverty and abuse to successful businessman. He is honest about his mistakes and his faults and the story reads like he’s sitting there talking to you. I had the chance to talk with him as we read his memoir for book club and he joined us one evening, and he’s an entertaining man with a storyteller’s voice.

Do you read non-fiction? What type? What was the last one you finished? Check out the rest of the tour! There’re a few days left but this is my last day hosting. Have a great summer, and keep reading.

bookish summer 1

A Bookish Summer: Best School Reads

School is out for the summer over here, but that doesn’t stop us from reading, or from talking about books! Welcome to the halfway point of the Bookish Summer Blog Hop. At the bottom of this post is a schedule so you can catch up on any posts you missed.

Today we are discussing the very best books we had to read for school.

Tangled in Text Logo

Kelli Quintos www.tangledintext.com

I only remember reading two books for school. The others I sparknoted or BS’ed my way through the book reports. They were The Outsiders by  S. E. Hinton and Animal Farm by George Orwell and although they were both superb, I’m still quite obsessed with Animal Farm. I had no idea a book could be that awesome, when I hated reading at that time. I loved that a book could say one thing and mean another and just have a darker, twisted agenda than ever expected. That was the first book discussion I ever participated in during class and I still remember getting enthusiastic because of all the different ways people interpreted scenes and meanings.

Leslie Conzatti

Leslie Conzatti www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com

One of the benefits of being homeschooled was that I got to choose what I read, or at least choose how fast I read things or in which order. Basically, we had this “Master Reading List” to go through, and as soon as I finished one I could go right onto the next one. I loved to read, and the bookshelves at my house were always full of classics and obscure books from the early 1900’s, or from the Victorian era. But as far as assigned reading, I would have to go with one of the books I read in college, for a class on The Life And Works of Jane Austen. Yep, I got to read romance novels for one whole quarter! My favorite out of that was Persuasion. Just the simple, straightforward protagonist, Anne, whose only goal was to do right by everybody and not to meddle with other people, and who got blamed for a whole lot… I really connected with her on many different levels, and I just enjoyed that novel immensely. So much, in fact, that I wished to give it more adaptations, as has been done with Pride and Prejudice over and over again. I have a contemporary adaptation, as well as a dark fantasy mashup that I hope to write someday!

Jo Linsdell author Pic Feb 2018

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

By far it has to be The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This book really touched me, and is, in part, responsible for me becoming a writer. It was so raw, and powerful. I felt like I was there with her. I’ve always been interested in history too so it fascinated me to read about the details of that time. I truly believe that everyone should read this book.

Rachael Beardsley

Rachael Beardsley https://variancefiction.wordpress.com/

My favorite book from high school was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. We were supposed to read it during freshman year, but we ran out of time. We’d already paid for our copies though, so they were given to us anyway. Funnily enough, I hated the book the first time I tried to read itI couldn’t get interested in the story at all. But I picked it up again some time in junior or senior year and immediately loved it. The story was suddenly powerful and I couldn’t put the book down. I’m not sure why it failed to click with me the first time, but I’m so glad I tried again!

Two Cities

Brandy Potter www.brandypotterbooks.com

I had a heck of a time with this. I honestly struggled. The Diary of Anne Frank, The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Lord of the Flies how do you pick just one? I mean all of them influenced my reading so much. And Anne Frank made me question my pride in my German Heritage (luckily I found out that we immigrated before WWI so…) but having to pick one, I went with A Tale of Two Cities. With characters like Madam Defarge, Dr. Mannette, Sydney, and Charles that just grip you. And how amazing like a reverse Prince and the Pauper… I don’t want to spoil it so.. But this book made me realize that romance can exist in a book and not make it mushy and icky. Which is now why I write romance lol.

 

I have a BA in English so I read a lot of books over the years. Einstein’s Dreams was one we read in high school and it really stuck with me. In grade 3 we read The BFG by Roald Dahl. In university it would have been The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde.

School doesn’t bring up the best of memories all the time – the work, the boring hours spent in a classroom, bullies, bologna sandwiches, but maybe there’s a silver lining in there somewhere. What were your favourite teacher-assigned books? And don’t forget to visit the rest of the tour.

bookish summer 1

My Birthday Wish

As a lifelong reader and published author, there is a cause that is close to my heart. I’ve been an advocate for many things, but this is special to me. Literacy. Children’s literacy, community access to books, little free libraries, public libraries, authors in schools, authors in libraries, family literacy day, writing workshops, poetry slams … We feed the body, we defend against abuse and neglect on every front, and that’s all so important. Books feed the mind and the soul, they empower people with representation and with knowledge.

My birthday is on April 2, and this year it lands over Easter weekend. I won’t be doing anything special this year, just spending time with family for the holidays, and I’m content with that. I’ve been spending a lot of weekends doing sales and shows so a quiet weekend with my kids is a treat. I’ll be turning 31. I’ve long outgrown the need for birthday gifts, aside from the trinkets my kids buy me, or the next season of my TV show on DVD which my husband grabs me each year because birthdays are a good excuse for the little luxuries. Still, I am blessed with a large extended family and a large network of friends so I will make this one concession.

If you would like to celebrate my birthday, if you would like to get a little something to commemorate the day, please, buy a book. BUT there’s a catch. Buy a book and donate it somewhere – to a daycare center, a school library, your local public library, the local women’s shelter, foster child group home. Or give it as a gift to a friend or friend’s child who you feel would enjoy it. Maybe you know a family that is going through hard times and a new book in the house would be a real treat for the kids. (Feel free to read the book first, if you haven’t already, or buy a copy of one of your favourites to share)

If you are donating to a daycare or school please make sure the book is for the appropriate age group. If you are donating to the public library consider checking their website for a “wish list” or ask a librarian if there’s a new release they’d love to have an extra copy of. If you’re gifting to a friend or family member’s children, ask the parents first if there’s anything the child is interested in or refuses to read. (My son HATES Five Nights at Freddie’s or anything scary like Goosebumps, some families do not like books with monsters, even cute ones)

Consider buying from a local author – local to where you live. You’ll be helping to support local talent, and often a library’s budget gets eaten up keeping the big-demand books coming in and they can’t afford to support local as much as they would like to. Or support your favourite indie author. You can even grab one of my books to share with someone.

If you do any of the above, please, take a picture of the book and share with me where you’re sending it to (if gifting you don’t have to include the person’s name).

If you need shopping inspiration, here is a list of some of the Manitoba authors and indie authors whose books I’ve enjoyed (in no particular order):

Theo Ashford, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, Alex McGilvery, C.A. King, Debbie Manber Kupfer, Steve LeBel, Jeffery Cook, Sherry Peters, Celesta Thiessen, Alyssa Thiessen, Christine Steendam

A Bookish Valentine Blog Hop: A Series You Love

And now for today’s post in the Bookish Valentine Blog Hop, everyone’s favourite book series. But before we get started on that, here’s the blog hop list so you can go check out past entries, and click ahead to the ones still coming.

 

Jo Linsdell started us off with a list of her favourite book bloggers.

V.L. Jennings hosted for “A book other people love, but you haven’t read yet”

Tomorrow you can pop back here for “A Series you Love”

Then on to Skye Hegyes for “Your Fictional Crush”

We’ll have a list of books with hearts on the cover on the 12th.

On the 13th it’s a book you love that no one else is talking about, hosted over at Bold Book Geek.

And on the 14th it’s a list of books to read for Valentine’s Day.

Allison

Allie Bock – Girlwithagoodbookandherdog.blogspot.com

One of my favorite series is the An Unfortunate Fairy Tale series by Chanda Hahn. The main character is so likeable. Each book is actioned packed and there are plot twists. Of course, she falls in love at the end. What’s not to like!

Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell – www.JoLinsdell.com

So many to choose from… one of my favourites is the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross. He has this way of creating complex characters that blur the lines of good and evil. If you like thrillers, I highly recommend checking them out. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling also deserves a mention, as does pretty much any series by Susan Hatler.

vljauthorpic

V.L. Jennings – www.virginialorijennings.com

Do I have to pick just one? Too bad… Harry Potter, Redwall, Narnia, The Left Behind series, Star Wars New Jedi Order- though they are no longer canon. See, told you I couldn’t pick just one.

Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes – www.skyehegyes.com

Admittedly, although I love a lot of series, there aren’t many that I’ve completely finished beyond the Harry Potter series. I realized this when trying to come up with an answer for this question actually. I think the first one that comes to mind is actually Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler as well as the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore, which I’ve read all of. Most series I’ve read a couple of the books from, but not all.

 

Now me, I’m a huge series reader. Redwall, Song of the Lioness and the other series in that world, Dragons of Pern, The Rowan books, The Green Mile … I’ve read a lot of series over the years. There are so that I come back to over and over again. The Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega books by Patricia Briggs, the Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop, the Society of Immortals books by Geralyn Wichers – those are probably my top 4.

What’s your favourite series?

The Need for Stories

The story of a writer often begins with the story of a reader. It begins with a passion for the written word, a longing for stories. I consumed stories. I was voracious. I read far above my grade level, and below it as well, reading the books on my classroom shelf, my parents’ shelves, and the stuff my younger sister left lying around. At twelve I was reading Stephen King, and the Bailey School Kids, and the Redwall books.

When I read that’s all I do. I disappear. I don’t hear people around me anymore. I read until I have to stop, or until the book is done. I have burnt dinner. I’ve been late for work. I’ve stayed up far past my bedtime. When my son was born I read a lot while nursing. I tried to do this when my daughter was born but realized it wasn’t safe – I’d lose track of my then-two-year-old son. I put books aside almost entirely for a few years, only flipping through a few old favourites to satisfy my need for words, books I could put down easily because I knew what happened in the end.

Often people ask writers where they get their ideas from and I’ve written about inspiration and motivation before. I think before we have ideas for individual stories we have the idea that we can write stories. Something clicks inside of us and we go ‘hey, maybe I could do this’. And then the story ideas start. There’s still time to turn back at this point, still time to say, ‘no, it’s too much trouble, I’ll just keep my nose in this book’, and that’s what many people do.

For me that click very quickly became a need. I realized I had stories to tell, stories that were important to me, ideas I wanted to share. I often feel like I have no choice in this anymore. I must continue to write. The ideas come faster than I can record them. I have projects I will never finish, and more I will never even have time to start. I am driven by a need to reach out to people, to communicate across time and space and reality, just as so many authors were able to do with the books I have read.

I have been inspired to start and continue this journey by so many authors, big name or indie, local or international, best sellers or obscure. I cannot list them all, I cannot remember them all, but here are a few books and authors I recommend:

Misty of Chincoteague: my mother read this to us when we were young and I remember the cover. It was a hardcover edition from the library with this close up of a grey horse face and the mane flowing around it. It was magical and stuck with me even when I couldn’t remember the name of the book. I did find it back again and reread it in high school along with King of the Wind and Cinnabar.

MAUS: A difficult read, one I undertook at thirteen when we did WWII in school. One of my favourite books of all time. It was dark but somehow humorous at times. It was honest, about his father’s life and his own, even his own failings. I think it’s that honesty and the stark black and white style that grabbed me.

Stephen King, Tamora Pierce, David Eddings, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Mark Leslie, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, George RR Martin.

And it wasn’t limited to books – I learned a lot about story telling from television as well. TV can teach you about pacing, character, cliff-hangers, and more, but it cannot teach you about sentences and words and paragraphs, for that you must read.

X-Files, Xena, Andromeda, Sliders, The Lost World (TV show and the movie), Buffy (TV show).

I find it fascinating what inspires people and what pop culture helped shape them and their voice/vision. This is just a part of my list. Which books/movies/TV shows/authors are on your list?

Sources of Inspiration

I’m sure it’s not just me. I’m sure every author has been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” There is no one place, no Shopping Mall of Book Ideas where we can go and simply purchase the recipe or kit for our next book, characters, plot twists, and all. And sometimes there are multiple sources of inspiration for any one project.

Inspiration is the seed, the idea, the brainstorm, the whispers of the muse. Something makes us think “Oh, wouldn’t that be interested” and off we go. Sometimes inspiration sparks the birth of a character, a new setting, a plot or a twist, or a new detail of a project in the works.

Here are some of the places I’ve found inspiration:

Music

Music is a blend of poetry and sound, creating an atmosphere and eliciting emotion – like a tiny story packed into 3 minutes. And my favourite songs are the ones that have complex, tricky, or engaging lyrics, songs that tell a story. (Okay, I have a fondness for instrumental as well and I’ll get to that). I hear these songs and my mind starts to build the story.

Sometimes it’s the mood of the song so it doesn’t matter if it has words or not. The mood of the music will inspire a scene or a setting or help me come to grips with the emotions a character is feeling in a particular scene.

Personal Anecdotes

Something I see, hear, do, or hear about in the real world will often inspire a snippet of conversation, a background character, a minor interaction, or a setting in a book I’m writing. Rarely do these events or stories appear as I saw them, lived them, or heard about them. They change to suit the new setting, to fit the fictional characters I’m writing, and of course, to make them more interesting. Though there is some truth to the old adage: truth is stranger than fiction.

My kids are amazing sources of inspiration – not only the things they say and do, but in the way they see the world. You look outside and see a blustery fall day, they look outside and see all these fine little details that we as adults just gloss over. But it is those details that make a setting rich and realistic.

So to do real places morph to become fictional settings. Shopping malls, coffee shops, billboards on street corners, quiet streets, busy intersections – the whole world is full of inspiration.

Dreams

I think authors are on the fence on this one but for me, I’ve had some amazingly vivid dreams where I’ve been able to record entire sequences upon waking. I store these away and come back to them, much like personal anecdotes, to shift them and morph them to fit a story or scene I am working on.

Movies, Books, and Television

The creative endeavours of others provide a wealth of inspiration. Sometimes it’s for conversation-fodder when I’m writing a contemporary. My characters will discuss current politics, sure, but they also reference TV shows and movies. It adds immediacy, authenticity, and both a sense of time and place.

It is also fun to ask “what if” questions. What if that character was female? What if they didn’t fall in love? What if they were plumbers instead of soldiers? What if you killed that character in chapter 2?

This is a fine line to walk. Inspiration taken from these sources must be heavily edited and twisted into something truly unique.

 

I’m sure I’m missing things but I would love to know where you go for inspiration.

Musical Motivation

This is a common question at launches and panels and such. Do you listen to music when you write? What music inspires you? Well, I’ll talk about music as inspiration in a later post, right now I want to write about music as motivation. I see motivation and inspiration as different things – inspiration is the idea, the spark, the image, the story. Inspiration gives us something to write about. Motivation is what keeps our butts in our chairs and our fingers on the key or pens in our hands.

I wrote previously that part of my motivation comes from seeing all the books on my shelf and knowing that I can do that. It comes from that desire, that drive, to fill a shelf with books that all have my name on the spine. That puts my butt in the chair – but what keeps me there? And what keeps me in the document window tapping out words instead of browsing social media or falling down the click-bait rabbit hole?

Short answer? Food and music. Food is easy. I eat in the pauses between thoughts so my hands are busy and I don’t click away from my document. I try to eat healthy – soup, veggies, fruit, crackers – but sometimes it’s chocolate, chips, or popcorn, especially if I’m on a deadline. Plus I keep a drink on hand – water, milk, or hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee or tea). But we didn’t come here to talk about food. We came here to talk about music.

I’m an easily distracted writer so I need to keep my mind from wandering and my hands from changing jobs. The food helps my hands in those breaks between bursts of words. The music helps block distracting thoughts in my head and distracting stuff going on around me, like my husband puttering in the kitchen or my kids playing in the living room.

But it can’t be just any music. Well, I mean, it can be anything because my tastes are very broad, but it can’t be just anything at a given moment. The music has to fit my mood, and the mood of the piece I’m writing. When I’m on a deadline, for example, I pull out anything that’s too slow. I need fast-paced music with a driving tempo to keep my fingers and thoughts moving.

When I’m working on something difficult, something that’s moving a little slow, maybe because it’s in the early stages, maybe because I’m having trouble with the plot, and I really need to focus on it, that’s when I listen to instrumental music. I love classical music but I also listen to stuff like the overtures from Broadway musicals, the menu music from the Game of Thrones discs (you can find it online), Session by Linkin Park, and an instrumental techno version of the Japanese folk song “Sakura” (okay, and occasionally Crazy Frog).

When I’m on a deadline I need stuff with that driving beat. I like July Talk, some of Hozier’s quicker stuff, Meatloaf, and some of Evanescence’s quicker pieces. It’s got to have drums and bass and a good tempo, something that pulls my heart rate along with it.

Most of the time it’s just random stuff, like Pentatonix, July Talk, Hozier, Meatloaf, Pink Floyd, Evanescence, Ok Go, soundtracks, classic rock pieces from before I was born (or at least before I started school) or random pieces where I like 1 song by the artist. I keep a random playlist on Youtube and I have a massive 8 hour list on my computer.

Music is so hardwired into me that if I don’t have something playing on the speakers something is playing in my head (Dream On by Aerosmith is playing in my head as I type this). Of course the music playing in my head is usually incomplete or on weird loops so I prefer it on the speakers.

My bookshelf reminds me of my dream, of why I want to write. The snacks keep me from wandering away from my writing. The music keeps me mentally on track to write. That’s my motivation. I’d love to hear what motivates you.

Book Shelf Motivation

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration and motivation these last few days. I guess inspiration is that air-fairy feeling of ideas and moods and wanting to write and knowing what to write about while motivation is what makes us put our butts in the chair and our fingers on the keys and makes us write stories instead of Facebook posts. They go hand in hand and one without the other causes all sorts of problems.

I’m a writer who rarely lacks inspiration but who often loses motivation.

Sometimes I’m a distracted writer. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Blogging. Answering emails. Some of it is legit marketing and networking. Some of it, a lot of it, is time wasting. I know this but it’s just so much easier to keep scrolling than to go back to work. And I often tumble down the rabbit-hole of related links and further reading.

And I’m not alone if the Memes out there are anything to go by.

But sometimes it’s not distraction that keeps my fingers from the keys. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming sense of … well, being overwhelmed. Deadlines and word count goals and the whole process of coherent thought and thoughtful story-telling just becomes too much. It’s this huge process and it’s easy to forget that it’s nothing more than one word after another – one letter at a time.

Every writer has that something that motivates them. Rewards are popular. So are editors or agents who stand there demanding deadlines be met. Sometimes I use rewards but I’m my own boss so I find it easy to ignore me.

For me, the greatest motivation I have is my book shelf. I inherited a lot of my mom’s books, like these Stephen King hardcovers:

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This doesn’t even include all the paperbacks I own by Stephen King and there’s a lot of books here. 34 here, plus On Writing which is one shelf up, plus the paperbacks. Mr. King has written a lot of books.

And then there’s these classics, also part of my inheritance:

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17 paperbacks by David Eddings, plus one hardcover a few shelves down.

Now David Eddings and Stephen King are both prolific writers and really, they take up the largest chunks of my book shelf. But here’s another, an author I didn’t inherit:

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I don’t even have this full series, and it’s not her only series.

So why am I showing you these snapshots of my book shelves? Because I walk into my room and I look at these shelves FULL of books by other authors and then I look at this shelf:

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6 books. Okay, the latest 2 are missing. I’m ordering them soon. So 8 books. That’s it. Compared to the other sections of my shelf it is LEAN.

I walk into my room and I see this and I think “I want to take up an entire shelf in someone’s room some day.” This is what puts my butt in the chair. This is what renews me and spurs me to finish the next book. Or one of the things, anyway.

I know I CAN have that many books on the shelf, I just have to write them. I just have to finish them. I just have to ignore the distractions and the doubts and the overwhelming big picture and write the books. They’re there inside me, all these stories just waiting to come out. All I have to do is get them down. And get them edited. And get covers for them. But I’m not thinking about that now or I’ll get overwhelmed again.

Right now I’m thinking about writing.

What motivates you?