Canned Wisdom #4

It’s Monday morning again. It’s time for another piece of Canned Wisdom:

Last week’s Canned Wisdom can be found here.

This it about inspiration. As writers/artists/people we’re often dependent on the right kind of motivation in order to get started with doing something. If we’re not motivated or inspired it’s easy to just mope around and waste away the time.

At the same time there’s all kinds of advice about doing what feels right and about how we should follow our hearts. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but it may not be very productive. Inspiration can sometimes be hard to come by, and if we wait until we feel inspired it could potentially take forever to finish writing that book.

Fortunately, inspiration is an internal force. It comes from within us and we create it ourselves. Sure, something we hear or see or do can be inspiring, but the enthusiasm and energy that comes from inspiration is something we generate ourselves.

I often tell myself that if I just sit down and start writing, inspiration will show up on its own. It’s difficult, and I don’t always listen to myself, but I know it’s true. It may take some time, but in my experience it almost always happen.

The only times it hasn’t worked is when I’ve been in a really bad spot emotionally and I’ve had too many other things to worry about.

Otherwise, if you just sit down and go at it, the muse will eventually grow curious and show up to see what you’re doing. She may even be a little bit jealous and burst out some extra ideas just to show you she’s still got it and you still need her – or him, if that’s how you roll.


Canned Wisdom #4

Soundtrack for writing creation myths

I finished the first draft of the first story of my series today. It’s shit. Fortunately, there’s a good story underneath all of the rubbish, but I’m going to let it sit for a while before I try to dig it out. Tomorrow, I will start on the second story in the series.

Today, I took a little break from that part of my writing.

I have another story that’s already done, and which is just waiting for its cover before I can go ahead and release it. To be precise, the story itself is done, but there are a few details I’d like to add to it before I publish it.

One thing I noticed is that my beta readers had slightly different ideas about how the anfylk of my story look. The story works for them anyway, so I don’t consider it a major issue. I’ve also not found a good way to include a detailed description of the anfylk in the story proper.

Instead, what I’ve decided to do is add a section about the anfylk at the start of the story.

I know a lot of people have their reservations about prologues, so I’m keeping it brief, and I won’t be calling it a prologue as it’s not really part of the story itself. It’s also not required for understanding the plot.

Earlier this evening I sat down to write this not-quite-prologue, and while I wrote the song Now We Are Free, by Lisa Gerrard (from the soundtrack to the film Gladiator) came on the headphones. As it ended, I had to listen to it again, and again. No other song would do. It was the only piece of music in the playlist that fit with what I was writing.

What I was writing was essentially the creation myth of the anfylk people, albeit very brief, and the idea struck me to compile a playlist for writing creation myths. I already knew I wanted to have Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise in it, but I had to find three more tracks in the same vein.

I didn’t find them at the time, but now, at home, a few hours later I’ve got a short list ready:

Five songs in total. It’s not much, but it’s what I do when I try a thematic playlist like this. I will occasionally make playlist like this for the main characters of my stories. I start out with a very large number of songs, and then I pick out the five songs that best represent the character.

These songs do not necessarily best represent the creation myth of the anfylk people, but they will have to represent the feeling of trying to write a creation myth for a made-up people in a fantasy story.

Soundtrack for writing creation myths

Soundtrack for a Fading Champion

Whenever I start on a more serious story project I put together a playlist for the main character that reflects their personality and how I see them. Once I have a number of songs selected I pick out five signature songs and list them in a blog post along with how they relate to my character.

This time the character is Roy, a werewolf wrestling champion at the end of his career, and these are his signature songs. First is a short spotify playlist, and then there’s a youtube video of each song along with a few comments about how it fits the character.

1. Clawfinger – Bigges & The Best

Roy’s a world class wrestler and this is his theme song. He’s tough, merciless, and confident. He knows he’s the best. No matter what the critics and the press and the rising stars say, Roy know’s they can’t beat him. He’s just that good – just that tough.

2. The Phantom of the Opera

This is about the mask the phantom wears. It’s about what he hides from everyone else. There’s the obvious public face of Roy the wrestler – the persona represented by the previous song. But, there’s more than that to the mask. Roy also hides a dark secret that no one knows and that few have even seen hinted at. He hides it, and hides it well, for if people knew, they’d see him for more of a monster than just a werewolf.

3. VNV Nation – Beloved

This video is for the original version of the song, with a very sweet little animated video to go with it. However, I’d also recommend the orchestral version (Allegro Grazioso) which carries a lot more sadness in its sound, and as such is more fitting.

This song represents Roy’s love for Toini, his childhood friend who was killed in action so many years ago – and he still loves her just as much.

4. Depeche Mode – Wrong

Roy may be a world famous wrestler and multiple times world champion, but his life hasn’t been easy, and it’s not what he wanted. He’s made wrong decisions. He’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time, hung out with wrong people and said the wrong things.

Time and time again. Wrong.

Sure, he’s got fame and money, but he’s alone and disillusioned. Bitter. Cynic. A consequence of all that’s gone wrong and all he’s done wrong.

5. Empathy Test – Here is the Place

There’s also a charming live version of this song here. It’s well worth watching, but I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the album version first.

Of the previous songs, three are of a failed and miserable past, and one is about a fake public persona. This is the song for the future Roy dreams of. It’s about going home to where he came from and to where he belongs. It’s about nostalgia and it’s about having somewhere you belong and where you’re safe.

Final Comments

There are plenty of songs that qualify, but didn’t make it. I could easily have picked five tracks by VNV Nation alone.

As a character, Roy is pretty sad. He’s had a tough journey, and he’s close to giving up, but he’s not a quitter. He’ll keep going. Stubbornly, stupidly, until there’s nowhere else to go and nothing left to do. He’ll deal with it when he gets there. That’s just the way he is.

Sort of, I think…

The story’s still being planned. The real writing has not yet begun.

Soundtrack for a Fading Champion

This Year’s Valentine’s Day Cards

This is the third year I’m making cards for Valentine’s Day, and these are the cards I’ve made this year. The cards, as you’ll see, are very simple. I really only come up with the words on them. Feel free to add your own graphics if you want to.

If you’re short on time and running late, or maybe you just fell in love, feel free to use my words and make a card of your own. It can be as easy as getting a piece of paper and writing it down by hand. It’s the words and the thought that matter, not the cost of the card.

Anyway, here goes:

Admittedly, these aren’t quite all of them. I removed the ones that are too dark, or too weird, as well as the ones that require you to know me personally to understand. I hope you’ll find some inspiration in here though. If you do, I’d be happy to hear about it, and if you make something of your own, well, that’d be cool to hear about too.

Also, for those of you who’ve had about enough of Valentine’s Day, here are a few more from the past two years:

Okay, so maybe they’re a bit sweet too – in their own way. Deal with it.

If you want to have a look at more of the ones from the last two years, there’s an entire book of them (including a free download) here.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This Year’s Valentine’s Day Cards

Soundtrack for a Frozen Soul

One of my favorite parts of beginning a new story is picking out the music I think I’ll want to listen to while I write it. I try to vary it a bit so I don’t always listen to the same things, but even then a lot of songs will overlap from story to story. Artists like Covenant, Basia Bulat, Pink Floyd, and Depeche Mode have been in the playlists for all the stories I’ve written – along with several others.

Along with creating a playlist for the story, I also pick out a few signature songs for the story’s main character. These are songs that I feel fit the character especially well, or which I connect with them in some particular way.

The time has come to list Kala’s signature songs.

Eivør – Brotin

Eivør is a Faroese singer-songwriter, and this song is in Faroese. I do not understand the language, and I haven’t looked up the lyrics or tried to find a translation. With this song it’s all about the feeling, and I think perhaps that not understanding the lyrics contribute to that. It’s mellow in a slightly haunting and ethereal way, and that’s why I picked it.

The feeling of this song is one I want to try and replicate in my story. There’s something mysterious about it; fragile on the surface, but with hints of a hidden strength underneath. It’s very close to how I imagine Kala as a person.

Mandalavandalz – Kaunista

Once more it’s a song in a language I don’t understand: Finnish. Kaunis is the Finnish word for beautiful and Kaunista is some kind of variation of that. Here too, the foreign language lends the music an air of mystery.

There’s nothing fragile about this track though. The music starts out carefully, but quickly grows. It gains strength and confidence, develops an attitude and then lets it all loose. This song is about Kala dancing around the Fire of the Lonely Ones, deep in the forest under the stars of winter. It’s about how she lets go of her fears and worries, starts to put her past behind her, and gives herself to the fire and the music.

Annakin – Trooper

This song, it seems to me, is both about change and about finding your place in the world (though I admit I could be wrong). Both of these concepts are central to Kala. Her entire existence has been thrown to the wind and she needs to find a way to get back on her feet somehow. It’s kind of what the entire story is about – in a roundabout fashion.

The mood and sound of the song also ties in well with the character – in much the same way as the previous ones. On the surface it’s cold and perhaps a little bit vulnerable, but there’s strength and power hiding underneath. If you haven’t picked up on it already, that’s kind of a theme here.

If I had to pick only one song for Kala, I think it would probably be this one.

Hybrid – Break My Soul

Hybrid is a band I’ve been a fan of ever since I first encountered them back when I was at uni – nearly two decades ago – and this one of my favorite tracks of theirs.

This is a song about coming back – about standing up straight after having found your balance. At least, as far as it applies to Kala it is. It’s about how she’s taking her first steps in her new life and how she’s getting ready to take on the world again. She’s gone through the bad things, still are, but she’s found hope, and she’s found the will to go on living.

And she’s got a thing or two to tell the world about the hand she’s been dealt.

Depeche Mode – When the Body Speaks

This is the soundtrack to someone mortally wounded freezing to death all alone somewhere out on the ice wastes of the northern sea. Most likely, that’s not at all the way it’s meant, and it’s not what the lyrics are about, but if you close your eyes and listen and pretend you don’t understand the words, you’ll see it.

Picture a vast plain of ice. Picture someone lying there, on their back, with falling snow piling up around them, and their blood frozen on the ground. Picture that they’re still alive, but not for much longer.

There is no one else around. No one will come to save them, and no one will know their fate. They know all this, and they’re fine with it. They’ve made their peace, and now they just wait for the end.

This is the song that plays in the background.

The above isn’t a scene from my story. It’s not how Kala will end. It’s not a spoiler. It’s an attempt to paint a picture and show you how the song fits with the character and the story.



This is a late edit. I realised a few hours after I posted this that I hadn’t really introduced the story – just assumed everyone would know. That’s probably not the case.

So, anyway…

Kala is the main character of my NaNoWriMo project: Kala is Alone. It’s meant to be a cold, grim story about a young woman who loses everything and her struggle to get on with life. I’m putting up the chapters on the blog as I go, and you can find them linked from the story’s main page, here.

Don’t expect much though. I’m not used to writing fast, and I’m not used to having as vague an outline as I do for this one. I’m sure it’s good for me – educational and stuff. It probably won’t be my best quality work though. Still, it’s there if you want to have a look.

Soundtrack for a Frozen Soul

Magical Mixtapes

Music is important to me.

If you’re one of those who’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know I tend to put quite some effort into picking out music to accompany my writing. I make playlists for my stories, and I pick out signature songs for my main characters. When wrote Emma’s Story every chapter came with a link to a mix-set I’d picked out.

I do my own mix-sets too. It’s a different kind of creative outlet. This my latest one:

This is the second installment in the Magical Mixtape series. The idea behind it is to pick out music that’s dreamy, melodic, and a little bit mysterious. I want to create a mood that’s inspiring and that sets my mind wandering.

Have a listen, and I think you might see what I mean.

It’s electronic music with slow, but stead and insistent, beat. There are melodies and voices that weave back and forth and hint at something or the other. A lot of it is dance music, but I try to pick tracks that don’t feel like it’s just dance music. I want music that I can also enjoy while lying on my bed with the lights out, or while going for a walk.

Don’t get me wrong – I love dance music, but this set isn’t for dancing. You can dance to it, but it’s not why I made it.


I did this one as inspiration for my NaNoWriMo project. Kala is the name of the main character. The story takes place in winter, and it doesn’t really have anything at all to do with summer, or Kala’s dreams of summer. In fact, if I had really wanted to make a set to go with the character and the story, it probably wouldn’t have sounded like this at all.

Still, it works in how it puts me in the mood for writing, and for making things up, and I’m sure I’ll soon enough connect it with the story as well – whether I like it or not.

Finally, here’s the first installment in the series:


Magical Mixtapes