A New Writing (and Reading) Year: 2021 Edition

Do you have any goals this year?

Usually I share this post on the first posting day of the new year, but because of last week’s special share, it got pushed to the second post. This is the time I talk about what I intend to accomplish this year, in several aspects of my life. Even with the way 2020 went, I still have plans and goals for 2021.

But let’s quickly talk about goal-setting in general, in case you have a desire to set your own goals.

It is important to make sure whatever goals you set are achievable. Sounds basic, right? Well, what I mean is that it would be risky for me to set a goal to travel more or to gain 1000 new readers. Traveling is still uncertain, and the number of readers I gain is mostly out of my control. If I set those goals, I’d be setting myself up for failure.

But I still want to set goals, despite the remaining uncertainty for 2021. I know I’ve said this time and time again, but setting goals – and expressing them in writing and/or verbally – can help you achieve them.

This year, I’m going to break it down more than usual. I’m going to set myself personal goals, reading goals, and writing goals. And I’m going to do my best to make the goals achievable and logical.

And away we go!

Personal Goals

This year, I’m really not sure where my personal life is headed. But I do know I want a few things:

  • Eat healthier. I’ve been trying to get back on board with this all pandemic. I can’t kid myself with saying I’m going to work out (that won’t last), but I can reduce my snacking and make healthier choices.
  • Take more walks. Maybe this is just getting up from my desk at work every hour or so. Maybe this is actually going on walks. Who knows? We’ll see.
  • Commit to drawing or some form of visual arts most days. This may sound odd to you, but I did Inktober this year and discovered 1) how much I missed drawing, and 2) it is actually huge self care for me. No one requires anything from me when I create art. It’s just for me. And just 20 minutes of drawing is enough to reset me, even if I don’t want to do it when I start. I always end up with a feeling of accomplishment and peace and renewed energy for life.

Reading Goals

I haven’t gotten to set my Goodreads challenge yet as of this writing (why do they make you wait until January??? I wrote this on New Year’s Eve!), but I know I want to increase my goal. The last two years, I read 92 books each (again, as of this writing… I have plans to read some more today, so there’s a chance I could check off one more). My goal last year was 80 books.

This year, I want to set that goal post a little tighter. 90 books.

But beyond that, I want to expand my reading again. I want to be a bit more intentional. I want to read at least one of the following books:

  • a classic – there are a few of these on my list I’ve never quite gotten around to reading
  • a nonfiction book in a subject that interests me – I have so many interests. I want to expand on some of them.
  • a diverse title – we need to read about the experiences of people who aren’t like us. It helps us learn and grow as people and creators.
  • an inspirational writing book (or a book for artists) – I have one I meant to read this year that I never quite go to.
  • a craft of writing book – again, I have one of these waiting for me.
  • re-read a favorite book or series – I tend to focus on new books and forget the ones I loved… even when I always want to re-read them because of how much I loved them. I’m thinking of the Ashfall books this year.

Writing Goals

This year, I have a lot on my plate as far as writing, and a few of my goals are intertwined with my personal life.

  • First, I want to readjust my writing schedule. I usually aimed for 1000 words written per day, but I’ve lost my habit, what with the new job. So this year, I want to get back on board with my writing schedule and keep drafting even when I have editing going on. I’m going to set this as 1000 new words MOST days… more often than not. I know I can’t promise myself every day.
  • Release 4 Seasons of Magic books
  • Begin releasing the Pie-Jinks series
  • Draft my next trad title to query
  • Work toward completing the This Curse series
  • Complete an audiobooks DIY course so I can create audiobooks
  • Complete an ads course I purchased in 2020
  • Put what I learn into practice

Final Thoughts

I have high hopes for what I can accomplish in 2021, after a difficult 2020. I can’t promise I’ll meet all these goals, but I will try. And that’s the important thing about resolutions or goals or whatever you want to call them.

If you don’t meet your goal (on your timeline), it’s important to have some compassion with yourself. You can only do your best. And it’s ok if you don’t do everything you planned. Life happens. Plans change. Priorities shift. And it’s ok to shift with them.

So now, it’s your turn. Are you setting any goals this year? Looking forward to anything new?

Tell me about it in the comments!

2020 Annual Wrap-up: Pandemic Edition

What did I manage to accomplish this year? Also… HOW?

It’s time for the last post of the year! Wow, can you believe it? Also… GOOD RIDDANCE.

ANYWAY. Now is the time I like to look back on my goals from the beginning of the year as well as what I managed to accomplish over the last twelve months. And even though I have shifted into being more of a books blog, this post encompasses all my goals – writing, personal, AND reading.

So buckle in. It’s been a wild year.

Recap: What did I even envision last January???

Yeah. I know. I set myself goals and SURPRISE I hit some of them! But also… a lot changes when you fall into something as crazy and unpredictable as 2020. So what had I planned on accomplishing this year?

Finish This Cursed Shadow

And guess what? CHECK! Yup, I managed to come in right at the finish line for this, releasing on December 20. You can still get your copies, ebook or paperback! It’s also available on wide retailers (those who aren’t Amazon).

Publish 4 Seasons of Magic Books

Also CHECK! This year, I published Freeze Thaw (Amazon and wide), All That Glimmers (Amazon and wide), Carnival of Curses (Amazon and wide), and The Patch (Amazon and wide). If you haven’t gotten your copies yet, you can grab your ebooks any time!

Begin a Fox Shifter Urban Fantasy

This one is still on my list, but I have not been working on it. Instead, I’ve been focused on a lot of other things. I also changed gears this year and decided to release a full 6-book Pie-Jinks urban fantasy series starting next year, so the fox shifter will be delayed a little longer.

Land an Agent

Well… like I mentioned in the goal-setting post this year, this is not so much in my control. I still have hopes for Sea of Broken Glass, and I had a request from an editor for the full manuscript just this month, but at this point I may be looking at shelving the project and trying a different story to complete this goal… maybe next year.

Improve my Formatting Skills

Another CHECK! I learned how to add pretty graphics to interior layouts AND how to do paperbacks (which was just this month). Which means now I can make MORE paperbacks and pretty interiors!!!

Learn to Make Book Covers

After much deliberation and discussion with my current cover designer… I decided I just don’t have the time or passion for this right now. It’s still a possibility in the future, but especially considering some of the things that happened this year, it’s just not in my cards.

Personal Achievements: 2020 Edition

So yes. Personal stuff. Well, obviously there wasn’t much I got to do this year. Before the pandemic started, hubs and I did do our annual pilgrimage to Katsucon in February, which was a blast! We also took a couple of our good friends. But after that, plans were mostly canned.

However, there are a couple personal achievements I can still highlight:

  • Had my second anniversary ❀
  • Got a new, much better job and am now a CMC Manager (that’s pharmaceutical industry speak for helping to manufacture and get new medicines approved). And I’m working in visual medical needs, which I think is cool because it’s gene therapy and I have vision problems myself.

Writing Accomplishments: 2020 Edition

This one is actually much better than the personal accomplishments, as the pandemic affected them a little less. Here we go!

  • In addition to the 5 books mentioned above, I also released a prequel for This Curse titled This Cursed Light (Amazon and wide).
  • I got said prequel price-matched everywhere to FREE. Believe me, that took a little work. It was the first time I created a free story. It is also my first real reader magnet.
  • I learned how to do Amazon and Facebook ads.
  • I started focusing on finding my people (the right people who want to read stories like mine).
  • As mentioned above, I learned how to do SO MUCH FORMATTING.
  • I released SIX books (last year I released only 3).
  • I added my first newsletter bonus, a coloring page of Janan’s bottle that I drew myself. You can still get this if you subscribe to the newsletter.
  • I read 90 books this year (I was aiming for 80). I may yet finish 1 or 2 more I’ve been working on. You can see everything I loved most in last week’s post.

Final Thoughts on 2020

For a pretty intense year, both personally and on a global scale, I’d say it’s still managed to come out okay. I hope you can say the same. Sure, I’ve had some not so great things happen in my personal life, including family going through Covid and other family dealing with intense stuff that rippled to the rest of us.

But despite these trials, I’m still here. I’m still talking to you guys. I’m still committed to giving you the best stories I possibly can. So thank you for sticking it out.

My heart has been with all of you these long months, and I hope you are doing well. Let’s welcome in a fresh new year together and hope it stomps 2020 back into the mud of distant memory.

And in these last few days of 2020, I’d love to hear how you’re doing. How are you? Have you done anything you’re particularly proud of? Do you have any special hopes for next year? Let’s chat in the comments.

Talk to you in 2021. πŸ™‚

❀ Selina

Gifts for Your Bookish Friends (or Yourself)

Hello, bookish friends! Sorry for such a long break last month, but I guess I needed a little vacation from posting! But not to worry, I am back with something fun for the holiday season. πŸ™‚

I don’t know about you, but I have been absolutely DEVOURING all the gift lists lately, and I figured it would be a good time to share some of my own wish list (or already owned) bookish favorites! Because if there’s one thing all those lists are missing, its the bibliophile factor.

Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate, I earn on qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share either I have tried and enjoyed myself or it’s something I would buy for myself! If any of the links below are not affiliate links, I will let you know!

For Reading

Book Page Holder

Now, this is a little device I’ve seen all over the last few years. I have to admit I’ve never used one myself, but it looks like the cutest little gift for any book lover. This version is a gorgeous handmade wood piece, and it comes in various shapes and sizes based on your reader friend’s (or your) preferences.

Personal Library Kit

I’ve seen various versions of this floating around, but this version is a super cute set with cards, a stamp, and bookplates. There have definitely been times I wished I had one for my personal lending, as I tend to forget when and what I lend to people. Also, let’s be real… what book lover doesn’t want to have their own library lending system for their personal libraries???

The Book Lover’s Journal

This is the book journal I use when I’m reviewing, and I absolutely love it! It has space to write the general info about the book, a scale for rating elements like writing style, ease of reading, and many others, stars to fill in for your personal rating, space for notes, and a reminder for yourself if you want to read more by the author. Not to mention pages at the beginning and end to create TBRs based on the books you rate! It’s a really nice way to track reading, particularly if you plan to leave a detailed review.

Read Harder Reading Log

This is an alternative to the book lover’s journal, created by Book Riot. It has many of the same elements, but it helps the reader focus their next reads with challenges for topics. One day, I plan on getting this one as well, just for fun and to broaden my reading horizons! (PS, Book Riot is a great place to get bookish news, particularly if you’re into YA like I am!)

For Traveling

A Bookish Tote Bag

I have my own version from the Uppercase Book Box subscription I used to have (which I still love, though I had to cancel because I fell behind in the reading!). But a bookish tote bag is a lot of fun for a trip to the bookstore or a relative’s for the day. This particular version is Kate Spade and has some adorable folksy art of books, which I personally love!

Cosmetic Bag (also good for pencils, chargers, bookmarks…)

I love organizing my items with all sorts of cosmetic bags, and your book-loving friend may enjoy one with a book print! It’s definitely helpful for keeping small items separated for easy access while traveling, or even for simply storing things at home.

For Wearing

Bookish Circle Scarf

I’ve grown quite fond of my own circle scarves, and this one is printed with books of every color neatly arranged on a shelf. This is scarf season, after all!

Book Nerd Earrings

I don’t know about you, but I love a good pair of earrings! I have a few different bookish earrings myself, but how about a cute pair of book nerd earrings?

For Relaxing

Novel-teas

This is a set of twenty-five tea bags with literary quotes perfect for pairing with your favorite read! If tea is your… well, cup of tea, then this is the cutest gift for relaxing!

Book Page Art

I have my own version in my library/office, one of a singing bird that a friend gifted me ages ago (the same friend who owns the Compendium Boutique, which is full of lovely things you can purchase online). I love mine, and I can’t imagine any bibliophile who wouldn’t love their own book page art!

Bookish Candles

My sister-in-law and my husband have both gotten me book-scented candles. There are plenty out there, and lots I’d still love to try, but this one is a “leather” scent like the one from my husband. But feel free to look around and see what other scents may appeal to your bibliophile!

For Writing

Galen Leather Writer’s Medic Bag (not an affiliate link, I just love this!)

This is one of those items that I REALLY wish I had. It’s a gorgeous bag, finely crafted, and made to carry the notebooks and writing implements any writer would need on the go! And it’s darn gorgeous. Like, seriously. I first saw this over on K.M. Weiland’s blog, and I haven’t quite been able to stop thinking about it! It is a bit higher priced, though, which is why I don’t own it.

Writer’s Gift Set (also not an affiliate link, but super cool!)

This one is something your writer friend will love, for sure! Sold on Etsy, it contains fun items like a literary-inspired candle, writerly pencils, a wood bookmark, and a bunch of other fun goodies depending on the size of box you select. I know I would love to get this as a present, and your writer friend will, too!

Writer’s Emergency Pack Card Deck

So this is a deck of cards with prompts and games to help any writer out of a corner or past a block! My sister got them for me a couple years back, and they’re so fun! They live on my desk, and sometimes I carry them when I go on trips. Definitely a fun thing to play with!

The Writer’s Toolbox

Here’s another fun one. I don’t have this myself, but it looks like a fun way to deal with writer’s block or help plan out a new story. It’s got everything from prompt cards to spinners and even a timer to get some focused writing done!

Final Thoughts

Phew! That was fun. There are so many things on this list that either I have or made their way onto my own wish list! I hope this has given you some ideas for the book lovers in your life (or even for your own wish lists!).

If you have any other suggestions, drop them in the comments! I love building up my bookish life outside of the pages. πŸ™‚

Until next time, happy shopping!

3 Ways You Can Have a Fun Halloween In This Year

Planning on staying in for Halloween but not sure how to celebrate? I got you covered!

This year is weird. You know that, I know that, the whole world knows that. And Halloween is a bit different. Trick-or-treating may be affected in your area. You may not have the normal costume parties you’re used to this time of year. You may be wondering how you can enjoy the season if you plan to stay in for the holiday.

And that’s why it’s time to figure out how we can have a fun, safe, bookish Halloween. So today, let’s look at three ways you can embrace the season without leaving your house – and do it in a way that celebrates books! I know I plan on enjoying some good media, setting my mood up, and dressing the part!

So let’s dive right on in!

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share either I have tried and enjoyed myself or it’s something I would buy for myself!)

Set the Mood

The easiest way to get into the spirit of the season is to surround yourself with things that put you in that spooky frame of mind.

Personally, I think the biggest thing you can do to set the mood is find a smelly thing. Before I met my husband, my favorite fall candle was Warm Caramel Cider from Bath and Body. But it turns out he doesn’t like that scent so much, so I’ve been burning my last one in bits and pieces when he’s not around.

Ultimately, that led me to seek out some new scents. High on my list are Yankee Candles – they have good burn times, and they’re super fragrant, so the scent fills the room really well. They have a couple that are on my list to replace my Warm Caramel Cider: Mulled Cider and Apple Cider. I’m hoping one of those will be agreeable to both hubs and me!

But more than smelly things, you need some good decorations. Last year, my sister got married in the fall. That meant I had the chance to get about a million (this is an exaggeration) pumpkins for her shower. I highly recommend checking out your local dollar store for pumpkins to display around your house. Or, if you don’t want to get out of the house for decorations, you can find some options on Amazon.

Another of my favorite things is placing battery-operated candles everywhere. When you have a lot of them, you can turn off all the lights and still have enough to wander in the spooky atmosphere without keeping your lights on. Though, if you get to the entertainment section and need a lamp to read… well, that’s ok, too.

Dress the Part

Once the mood is set, I like to dress for the season. Last post, I shared a cozy cardigan that I absolutely love. You can certainly wear that here, too!

But I’m also thinking things like jewelry and shirts (unless you want to wear a costume, in which case, GO FOR IT.). Personally, I love the shirts at Tee Turtle, and this year I finally got myself a couple of fall ones. Both with foxes, because foxes.

But besides that, I LOVE accessorizing, particularly with earrings. And if I don’t feel like wearing a costume to celebrate Halloween, I definitely wear earrings. Here are a couple sets that look like fun to me (unfortunately my current sets don’t have great options on Amazon, but they are simple clear orange fall maple leaves!).

Find your Entertainment

I know we’re all here because we love to read (and I’ll get to some book recs soon!), but I also know that some of us have overwhelming TBRs or need a break from reading. That’s why I say to find your entertainment, whether it’s a game with a housemate or close friend/family, a movie night, or books.

Games!

So let’s start with a game. I have the game Unstable Unicorns, a silly, fun card game all about building a unicorn army. And it has so many expansion packs, including some that would work great for Halloween! I have only played the base game, though, so I can only personally vouch for that one. But my family loves the game, and I bring it to family gatherings often.

Another great option (with a ton of versions) is Munchkin. My family also loves to play this one, which is a card version of role-playing games that goes to ridiculous lengths. Basically, you explore a dungeon, kill monsters, get better equipment, and try to be the first to make it to level 10.

Or, if you want something a little scarier, there’s Betrayal at House on the Hill. I only watched this one being played, but IT IS SCARY. Def a good Halloween game.

And/or Watch a Movie!

But, if games aren’t your thing (or if, like me, you like things on in the background), there are a ton of Halloween movies. But today I will share my own favorite: The Little Vampire, all about a little boy who moves to Scotland with his family, only to find an entire family of vampires and an ancient curse. It’s so cute and so seasonal, and every year I want to watch it.

I also have a dear place in my heart for Disney’s Coco. It’s a great watch and has such an important, positive view on death. It’s so great for Halloween night or your own celebration with friends and/or family.

And, finally, BOOKS!

First, check out last year’s picks for spooky reads here (note: none of links in last year’s post are affiliate links; they link only to Goodreads. However, all the links on this page with the exception of The Patch at the bottom, are affiliate links. Be aware I NEVER use an affiliate link to my own books).

And here are my new recommendations!

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

I read this over the summer, and I have two words: murder mermaids. If you’re looking for something horror-y, this is a great pick! It’s so spooky and scary and exciting! It also has a lot of good representation, including neurodiverse and LGBT+ characters. It’s a long one, though, so if you plan to read this, you may need to block off a few days of binging!

Ghost Academy by E.C. Farrell

This is, just as it sounds, academy fiction, but with ghosts. There’s a lot to take in here, but if you want a little less spook with your spirits, grab this one! It’s got a lot of good characters, strong storylines, and an interesting take on the afterlife.

Dead Girls Don’t Dance by h.g. Lynch

If you’re looking for something quicker to read, how about a short story based in Day of the Dead mythology? Follow the main character as she wakes up dead and has a mystery to solve and her own death to come to terms with before she can move on.

Are you ready yet?

Those are my biggest recommendations for celebrating a safe, fun Halloween IN. I hope you’ve found some entertainment, decorations, and/or attire to put you in the mood and let you enjoy the season, no matter what is going on in your community right now.

I know I don’t talk about the outside world often, but holidays are hard. I know. I understand. I’ve lost events and celebrations, too. But keep strong, keep safe, and take care of each other. And, just maybe, these little tips I’m sharing with you can give you some bright lights, some joy, in the midst of whatever you’re facing. I want you to know that I sincerely care about you guys. I know how rough it’s been; I’m in it with you.

So let’s enjoy October, do things that make us smile, and celebrate, safely, together. ❀

~~~

PS! I just submitted the final version of The Patch (this is not an affiliate link) to all retailers today! If you want to know when it’s up for purchase (hopefully within 3 days), subscribe to the newsletter! (You’ll also get two free short stories just for signing up, and you’re free to unsubscribe at any time).

The Patch (this is not an affiliate link) is my spooky Halloween novella all about a girl desperate to save her family’s farm… and a mysterious magical pumpkin patch filled with ghosts and a hundred-year-old curse.

Don’t forget to subscribe for updates!

5 Ways You Can Have a Cozy Bookish Fall

Wondering how to max out your cozy factor with reading this fall? I got you.

So. I have this thing about being cozy. The first thing I did whenever I moved into a new place was hang things on the walls and pile blankets and pillows all over the place. And then light a nice, warm-smelling candle. It was all about the cozy.

In fact, that was one thing my now-husband loved about my apartment when we met: I had made it a place to be comfortable and at peace. And, of course, I applied my own personal rules of cozy to his house!

So now that fall is in full swing and spooky season is upon us, why not discuss five things you can do right now to have a cozy bookish fall?

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase links on this page. However, the things I have chosen to share either I have tried and enjoyed myself or it’s something I would buy for myself!)

1. Choose a cozy book.

I mean, this is the first requirement of a bookish fall, right? You have to find yourself the right book! Ideally, this book should evoke all the warm fuzzies you could imagine and take you on an adventure of your choice.

Not sure where to start? No problem. I can get you started with 3 recommendations.

Pumpkin Everything by Beth Labonte

I’m currently reading this on my ereader, and it is so full of everything autumn! The fall foliage, the chill in the air, and, of course, everything pumpkin. This is great if you’re looking for a sweet adult romance, and even better, it’s the first book in a series set in Autumnboro, the self-proclaimed capital of the New England fall season!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is one of my all-time favorite books! It’s young adult, but college-age, and it follows the story of Cath as she navigates her first year of college, new separation from her twin sister, the finale of her super-popular fanfic, and her first real relationship. This book has such a rollercoaster of emotion, and it always leaves me with warm, happy feelings when I finish it! (yes, I’ve read it 3+ times) Also, it’s coming out in manga form! (for those of you who don’t like sex or swearing in your fiction, maybe pass on this one)

Pumpkinheads by rainbow rowell

And even though I haven’t read this one, it’s been on my list for ages! Same author as Fangirl, but it’s a graphic novel format and of course is set during the fall! It follows two teen seasonal workers in their last year… the year they say goodbye. I love Rainbow Rowell, and I’m so excited to read this one!

2. Set the mood.

Once I got my own apartment and didn’t have dorm restrictions anymore, I developed a love for candles and wax/oil burners. Scent is so deeply tied to memory (neuroscientist here) that it can be easy to set a mood with smells, relive old memories of fall, or create new associations.

This year, my husband bought me a candle I love so much that I’ve been savoring it. It’s especially great if you don’t have a fireplace, like us, because it’s campfire scented and has a wood wick, so crackles. I also love the shiny, charcoal-like appearance of the wax. Seriously, I love this candle, and wood smoke is one of the scents I always link to fall! You can check it out here.

But if candles aren’t your thing, I also recently came across a few different autumn oil blends. In particular, this maple one! Like, how cool is that? I haven’t gotten to try this one, but it sounds fantastic.

Whatever you decide to use, just make sure it is a scent you find warm and welcoming!

3. Get a drink!

I love picking out special things to drink while I’m reading or relaxing at home. There are a few good choices, depending on your tastes. For example, I switch between coffee, tea, and super sweet Duplin wines, like their Toil and Trouble mulled wine for fall…which they sadly don’t have this year πŸ˜₯ . But especially when it gets colder, warm drinks are a must to cozy up!

Last winter I had gotten the Victor Allen mix of winter coffee K-cups, and this fall I found their autumn version! There are so many warm, autumn flavors that I’m super excited about. Or, if tea is more your thing, how about a cinnamon, orange, and clove black tea? It sounds spicy and warm, all good flavors for the season!

And since we have a wood fire going with the candle already, how about a camp-style mug to drink out of? I’m so happy these are on trend right now. When I was in undergrad, I won a camp-style mug from the school, and I got another when I went to grad school to stick with the theme. They just remind me of the camping trips I went on with my family when I was a kid. Simpler times… and one of those trips especially was super cold!

4. Find some snacks.

I don’t know about you, but I am a snacker. It may be a bit of a problem. But this is a great season for snacks! I particularly like sweet snacks, like little cakes, or savory like special cheeses or simple chips and popcorn.

One good option is the Pepperidge Farm pumpkin cheesecake cookies. I’ve had these, and they’re such a sweet twist on autumn cookies! I love the cheesecake bites in them and the spiciness of the season.

Another favorite of mine is Cake Bites, though I’ve had them in the Italian Rainbow cake flavor (husband comes from an Italian family and introduced me to them). But now they have their own pumpkin spice version! These cakes are sweet, moist, and delicious! Great for whenever you have a sweet tooth but don’t have a whole cake.

Whatever snack you go with, I highly recommend preparing it together with your drink before you move on to the next step…

5. Snuggle up!

Yesss, my favorite part! First, you have to find the perfect place to nest. For me, I prefer to snuggle into my spot on the couch. I have enough surfaces around it to hold my drink and snacks, and there’s our fluffy Costco blankets and the heated blanket (another luxury my husband introduced to me). The Sunbeam washable versions are the kind we have, and they have 3 settings for you to adjust your level of toast. And if your feet also get cold, I like to wear my thick socks. I can’t find the ones I have, but I love the pattern of these wool socks!

I also bought myself a super cozy, bulky, sweater cardigan for around the house. It was so handy when I was working from home and quarantined back in May, and I’m so happy I have it now. It’s so comfortable and warm! I got it in antique violet because I’m a fiend for all things purple, but it comes in a bunch of different colors.

Final Thoughts

With the weather getting colder up here in Pennsylvania, I’m so excited for cozy season! Today I shared some of my favorite ways to have a cozy, bookish fall. Once you’ve performed all five steps, you’ll find yourself snuggled and ready for a super cozy, warm, and peaceful reading session! Whatever choices you make for your own bookish fall, just make sure they’re right for you! And I’d love to hear your suggestions, too. πŸ™‚

What do you do to snuggle up? What are your favorite cozy reads?

Also, you may notice that the format of this post is a little different. That’s because I’m trying a new thing. Instead of just throwing a list of books at your likely already monstrous TBR, I wanted to help you curate an experience. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this as well!

Talk to you in the comments, and until next time, stay cozy!

Three Great Places to Draw Inspiration for Creativity

I have to admit, sometimes it’s hard for me to find inspiration for blog posts. And honestly, sometimes that extends to larger projects, like books, art pieces, or DND campaigns. This is a sentiment a lot of creatives often share, and people can find their inspiration in a lot of different places. So where can we look for ideas when we’re feeling blocked? Where can we search from the comfort of our armchairs or couches or desks? Let’s take a look at three places online we can search for ideas.

Real life

Honestly, is there anything stranger than real life sometimes? *gestures vaguely*

But current events aside, you may find that you can be inspired by the things going on around you. As an exercise, try setting a timer for 5, 10, even 30 minutes (and believe me, a timer is important if you don’t want to lose the rest of the day). Then, scroll through the home page of a news site or even Facebook. Write down as many ideas as you see pop up…don’t worry about if you’ll use them or what you’d use them for. The idea is to pick out things you might not have noticed otherwise, things that can be used for character or world development, maybe even the basis of a plot.

Other media

Another way to come up with ideas is to see what other people are doing. In order to refill your own creative well, you may find that consuming other stories is key. So watch Netflix for a couple hours a couple times a week. Read a few books (and you should probably be reading books anyway as research for yourself). Take time to see what you enjoy in stories or what interests you in documentaries and let yourself dwell on those things. Then, when you’ve done some research into things you like to consume, see if you can figure out how to incorporate those ideas and tropes in your next piece.

Internet

There is an abundance of inspiration to be found online as well, some of which can count as real life or media. But I want to draw your attention to a few particular places online.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a great place to find photos and artwork to inspire you and to create digital mood boards. I do this for just about every story I write! I’ve also talked a bit about how to use Pinterest for your writing in a previous post, so I’ll leave it here for now. πŸ™‚

Photo sites

I won’t list specific ones, but sometimes all you need to shake an idea loose is the right photo. Take some time to scroll through stock photo sites or photography communities.

Tumblr and other blogs

You may also find ideas in blogs across the internet. See what other people are discussing that strikes a chord with you. Maybe it’s a single thought that’s the theme for a new piece. Do you agree with what you’re reading? Disagree? Have more thoughts? Expand on that.

Wikipedia

Finally, Wikipedia is a wealth of information. And it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole. Follow a link trail and learn new things about a topic that interests you. But, much like with the news or social media searching, you may want to set yourself a timer.

Final Thoughts

Before I close for the week, I want to be clear that what I’m talking about today is simply finding inspiration – a single idea that you can develop on your own. This does not mean taking whole ideas and stories (no plagiarism, copyright infringement, or other illegal activities!). It simply means looking at something that interests you and seeing how you can make it your own story.

But I do want to emphasize that we are surrounded by stories all day every day. With practice, you’ll be able to pick them up and set them aside for later. I don’t know about you, but I keep a file on my computer of random ideas I may eventually use. Maybe it’s time to start your own file, too!

Keep your eyes open, and let your mind wander. You never know where you’ll find your next idea.

Ambient Sound Recommendations to Improve Your Writing Day

Hey folks! Last week we discussed the benefits of using ambient sounds and I admitted I’m terrible at following my own advice (I regularly watch TV while writing instead of using tools like ambient sounds to boost my focus). But today, I wanted to share three resources for those of you who want to give ambient sounds a try. These are all resources I have personally used for both writing and for setting the mood while DM’ing a D&D game (so dungeon masters, listen up!).

Online Resources

Rainy Mood

This site is by and large my favorite. It plays the sound of rain, and as a pluviophile, I love putting it on as white noise in the background.

Coffivity

This is another one that’s fun. For free, it lets you choose from three different coffee house settings to give you some ambient noise. Especially good for right now to make you feel like you’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop. All you need is a fresh cup for yourself, and you’re all set!

Ambient Mixer

This one is also fun. There are so. Many. Choices. And you can search for specific atmospheres you’re looking for. I know there’s also a way to make your own mixes, but I’ve never played with that part of the site.

Apps for your Phone

There are also a couple apps I have on my phone for those times when I’m not connected to the internet on my computer. Rainy Mood has an app with some free ambient noise for you, the Rainy Mood Lite app. There’s also Relax Forest that I really love, which has a whole bunch of forest tracks for you to listen to for free. I run on Android, so I can’t promise these are also on iOS. But if you can get them, they are fantastic!

YouTube

I linked my own personal playlist of writing sounds, but there are so many. Just search for whatever setting you’re working in, and voila! Instant atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

Ambient sounds are a great way to focus, and today I’ve shared some of my favorite tools (psst, they can also double as ways to set the mood for events like parties). If you have a favorite I haven’t mentioned, feel free to let me know about it in the comments! Or if you’ve tried one of these and hate it, let me know that, too!

Either way, I hope you found the last couple weeks useful, and I’ll see you next time!

Survival Part 1: Why I Love Survival Stories

Let’s talk books!

This week I’m going to start a 3-part series on survival stories. Why? Well, I’ll get into that this week. But the background is three-fold: I am a longtime lover of the survival story, the novel I’m querying right now is a fantasy survival story, and I just finished reading a new one (which I loved!).

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but right now is not the time I’d necessarily expect I’d want to read survival stories. We’re in the middle of weird times (yes, I am also getting tired of people calling it “unprecedented times”) that feel a little too post-apocalyptic. Personally, I’ve noticed a split between those who want to read ALL the post-apoc and those who want nothing but fluffy. At first, I did want those post-apoc books. Then I wanted fluffy. And now, as things are starting to stabilize again, I’m good with reading slightly more survivally stories.

There are several things that really appeal to me about this kind of story.

First, these stories showcase ingenuity in a way nothing else does. There’s something to be said for dropping a person in a seemingly impossible situation only to see them come up with solutions like MacGyver with nothing more than a shoelace or their own hair. Yes, that really did happen in the book I just finished. As someone who’s never had to fight for my life in a life-or-death struggle, I never would have come up with that. Amazing to see the things a person can come up with when the situation arises.

Next, these stories make us think, but in good ways. They remind us that we really don’t have it that bad, but beyond that, they make us think what we would do if thrown into a situation like that. They are books for critical thinking wrapped up in a pretty package of drama and edge-of-your-seat excitement. They show the raw sides of humanity and let us consider both the good and the bad.

Finally, there is nothing like a triumphant survival story to showcase the human spirit. It can show us the lengths we can go to in order to make it through a difficult situation. And they show us the pure determination and grit, the hope. They show us how people come together in impossible situations to take care of each other, like in The Martian (we’ll go through some specific recommendations in a couple weeks). They show us how people can rise above the terrible things that could happen.

And honestly, that’s the biggest draw of the survival story: the triumph of the human spirit.

Next week we’ll discuss five important elements to writing a survival story, and the week after that I have some good recommendations, but for now, tell me what you think. Do you enjoy this kind of story? Why or why not? What is it about them that make you feel that way? Let’s chat in the comments, or tweet me @selinajeckert!

The Value of Finding Your Writing Community

Do you know why community is so important for writers?

It’s been said that writing is a solitary pursuit, and for the actual act of writing, usually that’s true. But just because writing is solitary doesn’t mean it has to be lonely. The online writing community is one of the most positive and friendly communities I’ve run into online (of course with exceptions). There is a lot to be said for finding a tribe of fellow writers to share your writing life with, and there is a special value in having like-minded individuals to talk to and learn from.

The Value of Community

There are a lot of benefits to finding a writing community to participate in, ranging from professional and creative development to fostering networks and friendships. Let’s look closer at three benefits to writing community: mentorship, fellowship, and growth.

Mentorship

One good reason to find community is mentorship. Especially as a new writer, there are going to be questions…and lots of them. And even writers who have been writing or publishing for years may have questions that more experienced writers can answer.

A good writing community can provide help to writers for writing craft, marketing, publishing industry, moral support, and/or the process of publishing. Just bear in mind that some communities will focus on specific aspects and will ask members not to post about unrelated topics. But that’s just another reason to join a variety of groups focused on different things!

Fellowship

Besides mentorship, online communities can provide places for writers to commiserate about the challenges of writing or just chat about craft and story. It’s awesome to have these kinds of connections, and they can be inspiring and uplifting conversations! You may find not only friends but colleagues with whom you can produce work together (be it co-writing, beta reading, editing, or any other act of creation and revision).

Regardless of what you find or the friends you make or don’t make, just having a place to go to chat with like-minded individuals can reduce that loneliness that can come with being a writer. These people know what you’re going through, and more likely than not, they want to help. Writers, more often than not, are some of the most generous people I know.

Growth

And finally, similar to mentorship, online communities can help you to grow. They can provide you with valuable tools, resources, and information to grow your writing and your business, and they can also help expand your thinking. By finding diverse communities, you can begin to find people who may not think exactly like you and who encourage you to try new things or to come at a story from a different perspective.

Finding communities can help you grow academically, professionally, and personally, and it is a great joy to both to be the one learning and to work with others to learn together.

Where to Find Communities

There are a lot of places online where you can find communities, but I’m going to stick with Facebook for today, as there are lots of groups on there that can get you started. I encourage you to look into a few that are relevant to you and join them to try it out…and if it doesn’t work for you, just leave and move on! Eventually you will find your people. πŸ™‚

I highly recommend that those interested in indie publishing (or in finding new communities) check out 20booksto50k(R) on Facebook. This is a large business-focused group, but they have an abundance of “units” where they share the collective knowledge of their almost 40,000 members. They also have units dedicated to finding writers in your genre, which is a great stepping stone for new authors to network. They do strictly monitor posting, though, so be sure you read the rules carefully so you don’t get kicked out!

Another kind, positive group I recently found is Create If Writing, run by indie author Kirsten Oliphant. She is such a kind, knowledgeable person and maintains a wonderful safe community for authors to chat and learn. She also has a podcast that has excellent info for authors on marketing and branding.

Finally, I am also part of the Clean Indie Fantasy (Discussion) group, which also has an indie book club run by Fellowship of Fantasy. This is a great place for clean and Christian authors to connect, and it is an active, supportive group of authors who all help each other out.

In general, just search around and ask other writers what groups they’re in that they like. Sure, you may find some you don’t like, but you will get the chance to find the groups that are right for you, the groups that will encourage you, grow you, and make you new friends.

But most of all, don’t give up the search. Keep looking for your community, and let them support you as you support them in turn. Sometimes you don’t realize what you needed until you stumble on it.

Keep writing, my friends, and keep growing. πŸ™‚

Keeping Creative in Stressful Times

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about as much media overload as any one person can stand. In my corner of the world, my state has shut down non-essential businesses and issued a stay at home order for my county and several others. If we do go out in public, social distancing is strongly encouraged. And the stores…well, you’ve heard how people have been hoarding. But hubs and I did manage to find the groceries on our list, so hopefully we won’t have to venture forth again any time soon.

Well, other than for work. Because we’re also both essential personnel. I am a biologist, and my lab is still open, so I am in every day there is lab work and analyzing data and writing reports when I’m at home. And then of course there’s just life itself, and we all know how that can be.

It’s a lot for someone to handle. And I know many of you are feeling the same kinds of stress, or even just the stress of being at home, not having enough to do, or worrying about paychecks. And on top of this, I’m sure you may have seen the posts encouraging us writers to write a “quarantine novel.” I’d love to…if I wasn’t still working full-time. (Thanks to all you essential workers out there…you’re keeping us going!)

But how do we keep on top of our creative endeavors when we’re feeling so much stress and pressure, when things are so crazy out of control?

I have three quick tips, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

Set reasonable goals.

I say this one for a lot of situations, but one of the biggest things you can do to boost your creativity when you’re stressed is to set goals that are attainable. Write a sentence a day? Sure! Browse the interwebs for new ideas? That works!

Perhaps make a list of potential goals that can help you baby-step forward on your larger goals. Then, you can check less stressful things off in a way that’s still making progress.

Whatever you’re working on, just set goals you can hit that won’t overwhelm you during this time. And you may even find that once you start working on these smaller things, you’ll have the fuel to keep going longer than you expected!

Find and consume inspiring things.

I don’t know about you, but for me, consuming certain things can really boost my inspiration and make me excited to do creative work.

This may be reading articles or listening to podcasts related to writing. Or sometimes it’s looking at pretty pictures to inspire settings or paintings. Maybe what you really need is to take a few days to just read new books.

Whatever it is, find the thing that excites you to get back to work!

Cut yourself some slack.

Yup, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Don’t be afraid to change your goals or even to step back for a bit to reset. It’s okay to take a break if you need to…without criticizing yourself for whatever you’re not getting done. It will still be there when you’re ready to go back to it.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a hard time for everyone, but there is so much community online. Reach out to your friends and peers, your fellow creative individuals. Let’s build each other up during these stressful days and try not to be hard on ourselves (or others), no matter how much or how little creative work we’re doing.

And don’t forget that we’re all in this together.

Stay safe, my friends! ❀