writing

Why?

Continuing on a bit from my post last week, I wanted to touch a little bit on motivation. I’m currently reading Charles Duhigg’s Smarter, Faster, Betterso I’m sure I’ll be writing some posts based on what I’m learning from him over the next couple of weeks.

A common response when I tell people “Yes, you can” is “But how?” They can start working on something easily enough, but after a few weeks, days, hours, they lose interest or can’t find the oomph to keep going.

This is absolutely normal. I am currently working on my thirteenth novel, and I think I can safely say that with every single project I’ve worked on, I’ve hit the point of wanting to walk away from it. Not even give up, but just a “I’m not really in the mood today” or “I’ve already done so much this week, I think I’ll just take a break and come back to it later.”

And I have had it happen that later turns into two days, then turns into a week, and then turns into months, after I’ve completely forgotten I was even working on something until I open up a related file and it comes up on that sidebar of recent documents and I’m like “Ohhh yeaaah. Welp, I don’t even remember where I was going with that anymore.” So I trunk it and it fades into the distant memory of my past.

It’s normal.

But it’s also something you can prevent with a bit of self-compassion and discipline.

This is not a post against taking breaks. They are important and necessary, because artistic burnout can absolutely happen.

This is a post encouraging you to make sure you come back to it. This is often harder than getting started. At the beginning you’re all charged up by the idea of making A THING. But as you go, you realise THE THING is not turning out the way you saw it in your mind. It’s more work and taking more time than expected, and you’d rather be doing X. So you break, and finding the motivation to come back is hard.

The next time this happens, I challenge you to ask yourself WHY you started in the first place. What was it about the idea that sparked your excitement? Was it the idea of finishing something you’ve been thinking about for a while? The pride of hitting the last stroke and declaring The end? Was it this particular story you wanted to share with the world for the sake of a friend or because you felt the world needed a new interpretation on a classic tale?

Whatever the WHY, write it out and post it somewhere you can see it whenever you sit down to work. Keep it in your mind so whenever your motivation starts to flag, you can grab on to  your purpose again and plug through, even if it’s just one little section at a time.

Remember: motivation and self-discipline are skills that can be developed. It’s just about finding tricks to build up those muscles.

The doing is not always fun (you think I enjoy writing every single day? Ha! Yesterday, I played a game of picross for every three hundred words I wrote just to keep myself going), but that moment you hit your goal and reach your WHY — that’s the part that makes up for all the taxing work and off-days.

So go on, ask yourself WHY, and if you feel like it, share below the reasons that keep you going.

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Coming Up

November is already shaping up to be a busy month. First, I’ve got the first half of the Invisible Entente finale edits coming in, so I’ll be focused on getting that cleaned up and on its way to go to beta readers in December; then, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year, aiming to complete the first draft of the new Andvell book by the end of the month. I’ve also begun another project, advocating for Canadian indie authors. I’ll be keeping those updates separate from my writing blog, but if you’re interested, you can check out Northern Words and follow for updates.

But the big news:

For a while now I’ve felt that it was time to get this blog going again from a writing standpoint. It’s been years since Greylands, and I’ve missed the real-time interaction with readers as we worked through that serial.

As a result, starting next week, I’m kicking off another blog-hosted story. This one won’t be a compilation of authors, but it will be a joint venture between you, the reader, and myself.

May I present: Ill Met by Moonlight, a choose-your own adventure series about a dream study called Project Oberon. Six subjects are put into a medically induced coma to test whether dreams can be manipulated and tracked by external conditions. The story follows Subject 315, Regan, as she navigates her way through the dream world, and you, dear reader, will help me point her in the direction you wish her to go.

How will it work?

On the first Monday of every month, I’ll post the next chapter. At the end of the chapter, I’ll post two options for you to choose from. If you’re signed up for my mailing list, you’ll receive the link to cast your vote for which option Regan chooses. The poll will be open for two weeks, which will give me enough time to write the next installment.

The first chapter is written and ready to go, and you’ll find it here next Monday. See you then!

 

The Ball and Chain Called Fear

Nah, I haven’t made a switch to writing horror short stories, just musing today on fear, and how it really does hold us back from so much. Even things we’re not aware of.

We all enjoy living in our safe little bubbles, don’t we? To some degree or another, we prefer to control our environments to protect ourselves from that uncomfortable feeling that THINGS ARE OUT OF OUR HANDS.

Understandably. That’s kind of a scary thought. It’s one thing to know that you can’t control everything — people cancel/change plans and you shrug it off; you go ahead and plan that outdoor event because, meh, it might rain but that won’t ruin your day — and a whole other thing to accept that this truth applies to every area of your life.

How much do you stop yourself from doing every day because the consequences are unknown? Your spouse did something this morning that annoyed you, but you don’t want to start a fight, so you don’t say anything. You see a job opportunity that REALLY sparks your interest, but you don’t apply for it, because what if the salary isn’t as much as you earn now or you don’t like the new team as much?

In thinking about it this morning, I realized that I need to wonder how much success I’ve missed out on because of my fear of failing at this whole writing thing.

I’ve taken a lot of chances since I’ve started publishing. Moving into full time writing might have been my biggest one, but, for some reason, not the scariest. Maybe because there were still so many elements about it that were in my control.

I’ve also put money into courses and promotions that I thought would be more of a help than they turned out to be (experience and lessons learned! Never a waste), and listening to advice that simply didn’t work for me.

I’ve also passed over opportunities because I didn’t feel I knew enough about the situation/subject to go for it. Marketing for me is a four-letter word, and I feel as though I spend half my work hours (and off hours, and trying-to-get-to-sleep hours) trying to figure out what steps I can take to reach more readers without being gross and salesy or that, ideally, won’t cost me my first-born child’s soul to do it.

The point of this post? I guess it was just a chance to be honest about the fact that despite everything I’ve accomplished so far, I’m still afraid that this is the end of the road. That I’ll never figure out how to move beyond the point where I am… unless I open myself up to whatever comes next. This post is a way to remind myself (and possibly you) that there is no such thing as a bad choice. They’re all just opportunities to develop and learn.

This post is a chance for me to grab on to fear and do my best to throw it aside for the next twenty-four hours and to be happy with who I am and what I have to offer. To find new ways to let my Me-ness shine through so I can take one step closer to achieving everything I’m striving for.

And maybe I wrote this post to prove a point to myself: that if I can write a blog post that scares me a little, then I can do anything. Baby steps.

What have you done to get past a fear that was standing in the way of something you wanted? Or, if that obstacle is still there, what is your plan to overcome it? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

Do What You Love?

As I reach the mid-way point in my 12-month “Full-Time Author Test”, I thought I’d share some of my experiences and perspectives on the mission of “following my dreams”.

When I first stepped into the FT arena, I had a plan. I weighed out all the pros and cons, talked through every element that I should watch out for: money, isolation, mental health, etc. I waited until I was sure I had a solid foundation before I took the leap.

At the end of January, my plans fell through. There were delays in my latest book release, and that delay led to a drop in sales, and a delay in the release of my next book. Those delays and sales drops meant a hit to my finances, and in May, I was sure I’d have to cut my 12-month trial off early to go back to work.

Fortunately, my support team is the best I could have asked for. My fiance and I sat down and rearranged our budget to make sure I could take another six months without any more of a hit. We’re currently working on some really fun promo material for my next series to try to get some new eyes on it. We’re talking about beginning a new project – a podcast about two artists living together, following different streams of our craft, and the ups and downs of it all.

Even when the pitfalls loom, I’m so grateful I have people who will help me stay on a solid foundation.

I knew before I went to full-time that money would be tight. I chose to skip Ottawa Comic Con this year so I could afford the GORGEOUS covers for my new series (the cover reveal is coming July 1 to my newsletter subscribers!). My social life is in a bit of a lull, because I don’t have the easy-access cash to go out very often. Every coffee I buy is a debate of whether I should get out of the house for a while and spend the $1.89 on a Tim’s cappucino, or if I should stay home and make one for free.

And money isn’t the only challenge.

One of the most common questions I’m asked when I tell people I write full time is whether I have issue getting to work in the morning and if I get distracted by everything going on at home.

My problem actually lies on the reverse side, as my fiance can tell you. I’m a bit of a workaholic. I begin my day when he leaves for his dayjob at 6:30a.m., and there are many times I’ll continue working until dinner 12 hours later. In my case, my self-discipline has grown in knowing when to walk away at the end of the day. To leave my work in my office as best I can and appreciate the rest of the day outside of my books.

The work-life balance is harder to handle when they’re one and the same (as they’ve always been, because an artist can never really get out of her own head), so I practice this by going out for long walks most days of the week.

There have been days where it’s taken all of my energy to sit down at the computer and get to work because I feel I’m not making any progress in my business. FAILURE is a terrifying word, and even though my rational brain knows that there’s no such thing – because even if the details don’t go according to plan, I’m still going to be ahead of where I was at the beginning of the year with so much more experience under my belt – it’s still a prospect that makes taking the next big step scary. Being your own boss, trying to make a go of it in the arts in a city where the arts have a hard time taking hold, means a lot of uncertainty.

I’m not saying this to whine or seek sympathy – again, I KNEW this would be the case. I’m sharing it for those of you who are on the fence to make the same leap and take risks with your dreams.

It’s a big choice. It’s a scary choice. If I were on my own and didn’t have the support of my family, I don’t know how well I would be holding up.

On the other hand, I can say, without any doubt, that I have no regrets about making my choice. For the last six months, while I’ve still had to wake up to my fiance’s alarm, I have never dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. My to-do list is always full of tasks I look forward to tackling.

I may cry, I may stuff my face with cookies, I may even bury myself in books for hours in the evenings, but every day I get to wake up and do what I love – do what I’ve always dreamed of doing with my life – and the reward for that is priceless.

So should you take the risk and jump into your dreams with both feet? That’s up to you. Be sure you’re ready for it and you know what’s coming. But once you’re really really certain – take a good look at what’s holding you back.

Life is crazy, loud, and full of uncertainty anyway – why not lose yourself in something that makes you look forward to greeting each  day?

 

What’s next?

What is the title of your work in progress?

The Invisible Entente series

Book 1 – The Invisible Entente, a prequel novella

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted to come up with some new content for my newsletter subscribers. I enjoy sending free short stories for my loyal readers. So I tried to come up with a new, exciting idea.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Agatha Christie novels and over the winter, BBC’s Poirot mysteries were my go-to to pass the cold, dark evenings. The more I watched and read and studied Christie’s style, the more I realized I wanted to stake a stab at writing a cozy mystery. Who doesn’t love the round-up at the end where the spunky detective accuses everyone in turn, building up the suspense until she denounces the real murderer?

But I’m a fantasy author, and I didn’t want to step too far outside my genre, so I brainstormed ways to merge the two – and the IE prequel was born.

Currently, this novella is available for free for my newsletter subscribers, but in another month, it will be removed from the subscription bundle and will be available to purchase via my usual ebook/paperback distributors.

From there, as it seems to happen, an entire series revealed itself. Each of the characters introduced in this round-table mystery is getting his or her own fantasy/mystery novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban fantasy with a cozy mystery twist

What is a one sentence synopsis for your book?

Prequel: Following the death of a mad scientist warlock, seven murder suspects are transported into a magically sealed room and only six can leave.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published – and I couldn’t be more excited about it. My team behind this series is strong, and the results will show it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The prequel took me a couple of weeks, but each novel takes me about a month. The rest of the work comes during edits and early outlining.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

One of the elements I’m most excited to play with in this series is taking familiar creatures/characters from mythology and twisting them into new forms. Among others are a descendant of Vidar, the Norse god of vengeance and silence; a Gorgon-fae, the descendant of Medusa; and a sorceress from the line of Morgan le Fay.

Each character has a unique voice, and a unique perspective on the humanity they both live in and apart from. Each story touches on a different aspect of “otherness” and what it means to stand on the outside looking in.

I’ve got some really fun ideas for promo and can’t wait to get started.

Expected kick-off date: August 2016

 

The Year Plods Onward – March in Sum

Before we get too far into April, I guess I should take a look back at March.

First off: HOW IS ALREADY APRIL?! (I have a feeling this will be a frequent message for the blog posts)

Second: It’s April, dammit, WARM UP!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. March.

Goal: exercise 20 mins a day (10 hours/month)

This one I seem to have knocked out of the park this month at 19h30 for the month. Most of this is walking now that I don’t need to worry (or at least, worry less) about falling and hurting myself. I should be using my standing desk more than I am during the day, though, so I’ll try to work on that.

(Psst. The more people who buy my books, the closer I am to getting the perfect sit-stand desk that will allow me to write even MORE while staying healthy. Win-win!) 

Goal: read for pleasure 30 mins a day

While the goal to get my exercise in as been great and super helpful, I think tracking what I’m reading and having reading being on my to-do check list each day has made a huge difference. I went from reading fewer than 10 books last year to (I think) having already reached that so far this year.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chodron is a book my dad got me. He offers courses in mindfulness and meditation, and is always trying to get me to slow down. (DOES HE NOT KNOW WHO I AM?! But really, he’s right). This book was an amazing read. Very quick, and one that I’ll likely pick up again going forward when I need a pick-me-up. Among other wisdom, I picked up two wonderful mottoes that I now have written up on my bulletin board.

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

It’s right up there with “My father used to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast” from Alice in Wonderland (movie), but I find the statement stirring. At any point in the day, you can make a decision that could change your life. Even if you’re not aware of anything changing or moving, something in the background could be falling into place the launches you forward to get you where you want to be.

The other:

FAILURE IS AN OPPORTUNITY

It gives a whole new spin on something not working out the way you wanted it. You COULD see it as an ending, or see it as a new foundation to build your next step. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me with a lot of plans going awry, so this was a lesson I needed to read.

Other books I read:

The Secret Country by Pamela Dean. This one was recommended to me by a friend. She said it reminded her of the premise of my Meratis Trilogy is she was very right! It’s the story of five cousins who create a game over the summer…and then find themselves living in. But things aren’t quite as they imagined. I had some trouble getting into the language of the game (very classical fantasy) and the characters were distant but the story kept me engaged and I’ll be continuing on with the series.

And Then There Were None and 13 to Dinner (or Lord Edgware Dies) by Agatha Christie. That’s right – I went back to Christie, as I said I would. I first read And Then There Were None in high school, and the re-read lived up to my memory.

The Martian by Andy Weir. I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I’d heard all the hype about the novel and the film, but doubted I would be interested. I’m a fantasy girl, not a sci-fi reader! But it hooked me. I stayed up into the wee smas to finish it off and  loved every page.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Decoded by David Day. This book was everything I wanted it to be. It looked at Alice from satirical, theosophical and mathematical levels and broke down the symbolism of every character and every speech. Did you know the shape of the rabbit hole Alice falls down matches the pattern of a Fibonacci sequence? And the feud between Carroll and Alice’s father, the Dean of Christ Church, was rampant all through the text.  A fascinating read and I recommend it for any history buffs who like digging deeper into the text.

Goal: read 1 craft book/month

Achieved! I read Susan Kaye Quinn’s The Indie Author Survival Guide and wondered how I hadn’t read it years ago. Concise, casual, and full of information on all the basics, as well as tips on marketing and production, which I hope to put into effect.

Goal: 2 social events/month

I squeezed this one in at the last minute, but I achieved it! First was my niece’s third birthday party, which was wonderful fun; then I had an impromptu breakfast with a friend I haven’t seen in far too long; and finally, two other friends and I went out to the opening of a tea room nearby. The Vanitea Room is a cute little place with pretty great food and reasonably priced tea service. The wait times ran on the long side, but it was packed because of the opening, so I would go back and give them another try.

What else have I been up to?

Editing. March was a full month of editing. Remember in my last post when I talked about learning through errors? Well March was a month of dealing with the consequences. The delay in Bladelore edits led to a rushed first draft of Death at Peony House, which mean that when I got DaPH back from my alpha reader, I had to rewrite a bulk of it. So I pushed through Bladelore edits to get it to a second beta reader, and then pushed through DaPH edits to make sure it got to my editor on time.

So I’m finally breathing. I mean, not completely easily, because I got the brilliant idea to jump into CampNaNoWriMo this year, so April will be spent drafting book 2 in the Invisible Entente series. But at least it’s light and something fun. I’m really enjoying this new series.

I promised all kinds of WIPpets and previews, and they are all coming. I’m going to start sharing the first chapter of Bladelore next week, for one thing. I’ll break it up into three sections and hopefully by the time the third section is up, the book will be in the process of going up for purchase!

*deep breath*

What about you? How did you pass your March?

 

 

A Gothic Wednesday WIPpet

That’s right! For at least one week, I’m jumping onto the WW team* to share some lines from one of my current projects.

At the moment, I’m slogging through the last draft of Blightlore before it’s shipped off to my editor next week, which means everything else is on hold. Which means no progress on Song of the Blackbird. Which makes me sad, because I’m really enjoying Blackbird. It’s a new tone and atmosphere, giving me the opportunity to stretch my literary fiction muscles as well as my entertainment fiction.

2015-08-01 10.04.10Crowley, the imp familiar I adopted from Steamdragon Studio, is my companion for this draft, so no doubt you’ll be seeing pictures of him floating around this blog, my Facebook page … my Twitter account … on the table beside me at the coffee shop when I venture outside into the real world…

So as it’s been a while since I participated in this weekly tradition, I figure I’ll start at the beginning and share the very first paragraph, introducing the hero of our gothic tale, Mr. Sebastian Harkens:

No one seeing Sebastian Harkens arrive in town that foggy November morning would have thought him a healthy man. His charcoal gray suit hung loose on his wide shoulders, the black shirt open at the collar to reveal the pale skin of his neck where it disappeared under the sooty black stubble on his chin. Waves of thick black hair curled over his forehead and down around his ears, wild and neglected, and the dark circles bruising his eyes suggested sleep had long forsaken him. Without exchanging a word with him, anyone would know this shadow of a man had developed out of a tragic story. Now he had arrived at my father’s bed and breakfast, and, for the life of me, I couldn’t guess why.

There you go – the first and earliest of sneak peeks. If there’s interest, I’ll share another one next week. I’m too excited about Blackbird to want to keep it to myself.

If you want more updates about this project, and Blightlore, and book 3 of the Cadis Trilogy, and to enter to win a signed copy of a book of your choice, and get the first look of the beautiful Blightlore cover, and have the opportunity to be added to my early review reader list, and get free short stories I plan to start throwing into the world every once in a while, then you should sign up for my newsletter before August 15! Even if it’s after the 15th, you might miss the giveaway and the cover reveal, but the other offers will still be available, so come and join the fun!

*Thanks, as always, to K.L. Schwengel for hosting the WIPpeteers.

Sale Numbers and Cover Reveal Preview

As I mentioned in my last post, I had my first experience with a BookBub ad on April 5, 2015, and would post some results for people who are interested. I’ll start with that, and then move on to the other exciting news, which is that Bloodlore is getting its cover reveal on Monday!

So. BookBub. I’d heard varying things about how worthwhile this most prestigious of book ads might be. Fantasy is a saturated market, everyone using their dragons to compete and their magic to tear down their enemies, so I didn’t have terribly high expectations for the day.

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that my first novel, Evensong, is free for your ereader (if not, where’ve you been?), and as I mentioned in my last post, I reduced Eventide to 99c for the day. The ad kicked in around 10am EST, and by 2pm, I was already in the 5-digit range, with sales on books 2 & 3 moving along at a nice pace. At its peak, Evensong hit #1 in a few categories, including Free Kindle Fantasy. It hit #5 in the entire Free Kindle Store. Eventide reached #1 in a few sub-categories, and for the first time in my publishing career, I got one of those lovely yellow “#1 Amazon Best-seller” stamps.

I’m sure it goes without saying – that was a really great day. Am I satisfied with the results? Oh, absolutely. Since the initial drop over the first couple of days, the numbers have stayed steady, giving me the hope that I didn’t choose the wrong career path after all. I realise the results will change depending on a trillion different factors, and this is just one person’s experience, but if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to apply for your ad space, I hope I’ve been of some help!

Now onto the other, more exciting, newses.

Bloodlore has a cover! It actually got a cover over a month ago, and it has been incredibly difficult for me to sit on it as long as I have. But the release date is coming up in about a month’s time, and I feel my patience should be rewarded.

Preview2

Be sure to check back on Monday, April 27 for the full cover and blurb, and if you’re interested in helping me spread the word on your own blog sites, please send me a message at theravens (dot) quill (at) gmail (dot) com, or leave a comment below!

All the excitement and the moving forward and glee!

How do You Read?

I’ve been pondering this question for the last week or so as I face a challenging read.

When it comes to books, I’m a completionist. I’m pretty sure I could count on one hand the number of books on my DNF (did not finish) pile. No matter how much I might be tempted as I go, I always hold out hope that the end will be worth the rest – that I’ll come across the one sentence that makes the novel worth reading. I know how hard authors work to make their voices heard, and, as one among the ranks, I feel I owe it to them to listen.

But how far does/should that go? Pleasure reading is supposed to be a relaxing escape. Whether it’s to learn something new, or experience a new world/group of characters, where does the line fall in whether it’s worth continuing?

In this situation, I’m focusing on the positive qualities of the book and will see it through to the end, but I’m curious about other readers and how you decide when enough is enough and it’s time to move on. By a certain page number? After catching a certain number of errors or cliches?

What’s your DNF threshold?

Grandmother – a flash fiction story

It’s been a busy week here at Casa Walsh (named, of course, after my cat and not me, because we all know who runs the show here). It took a few days to process a random tragedy in my building last week, but now I’m getting back into the swing of things. Great timing, too, because I have two events to plan for before the end of the month!

Quick plug before I get on with my post: I’m doing a book signing this coming Sunday, and the weekend after that you can find me as a vendor at the Awesome Adventure Academy (Jan 31 & Feb 1) at the Nepean Sportsplex in Ottawa! I’ll have books and art available for you.

It’s also been busy because I’m still getting Raven’s Quill Press up and running as a home business. Lots of little details to consider and organisation/discipline that need to be formed. So far I’m doing well. Not to say there are no social media distractions throughout the day, but since I’m not drafting anything new at the moment (more updates next week, I hope), I haven’t been reining it in too much.

One thing I have tried to stay on top of is my page-a-day short stories. You might recall I attempted this last July and managed a few weeks before I quit. To be fair, I threw myself into drafting and then editing EVENLIGHT, so it’s not like I wasn’t doing anything! As part of my work-from-home goals, I’ve started the habit up again and have been doing a pretty decent job since Jan 1.

Aside from keeping my words from going rusty, these page-a-days have become a really great exercise.  Turns out it can be challenging to come up with a new idea every day. I sometimes need to run through my whole day to find one moment that can inspire two hundred words. Dayjob frustrations, the weather, dreams (they’re the easy ones), an emotion, a brief game of “I Spy”.

The stories vary  between stream of consciousness style, dialogue, a description – anything that comes out of my pen once I get started. Interested in writing, but not sure where to begin? Why not give this a shot? It doesn’t have the stress of having to plot out a whole novel, but it will create the discipline you need to get that novel done! I’ll also give a shout-out to  K.L. Schwengel, who does an incredible job hosting the WIPpet Wednesday (where you post snippets of your current work in progress) – it’s a good motivator to have something new each week if you’re already working on that magnum opus.

If you want to try the page-a-day, why not shoot me a message? We can motivate each other to get them done.

Here’s a random piece I wrote a few weeks back:

Grandmother

“Do you have a boyfriend yet?”
I’d been waiting for the dreaded question all evening. It was inevitable. I wondered if there existed any grandmother in the world who didn’t ask that question of their single granddaughter at every opportunity. Was there a manual for these grey-haired ladies?
“No, Nan, not yet!” I replied, as always in that same tone of forced cheer.
“What ever happened to Todd? Do you still hear from him?”
The lying douchebag who cheated on me with his secretary. So cliché.
“Nope,” I said, still cheerful. “But I’m sure he’s just fine.”
“Good. He was an asshole. Simpered too much. You can do better.”
I smiled. This was why I still came to visit my grandmother. I loved that woman.
“Here,” she said, handing me a plate. “Have some cookies.”