What’s Tucked Away In Your Writer’s Toolbox by Shan Jeniah Burton

Do questions like this one make you feel a little twitchy? Like maybe I’m going to say that if you don’t have this or that in your writing go-tos, you’re not a real writer, or you’ll never be successful, or you’d better get a second mortgage or a fifth job to pay for this laptop or that program or the other seminar, because, obviously, NO ONE can be a writer without them?

Well, you can take a deep breath, because I don’t write (or even believe in!) that kind of post. In my opinion, what makes anyone a writer is WRITING. If you’re reading this, odds are really good that you are already a writing writer, or that you’re serious about becoming one.

So, instead, let’s talk about what you already have, tucked away and maybe forgotten in the corners of your tool box, your closet, your mind – anywhere you find the bits and pieces of unnoticed life that could feed your writing. Not sure you’ve got any? Maybe you do, but you haven’t ever thought about them that way.

What are these bits and pieces? Well, they’re different for each of us.

These tools don’t cost anything but our attention, and our willingness to be open to what they might offer. They’re all around us, and within us, in our experiences and memories.

To give you an idea, here’s just one of mine – the one that tickled my mind until this post came out.

My Accomplice has something of a man cave in our garage. He often goes there late at night, after the restaurant closes. He putters, and has time for his own thoughts. Sometimes he wants to be alone, and others, I join him for a while, if the kids are asleep, or busy with their own things. We talk about whatever, and connect, or listen to music together.

The other night, when I went out, he was playing a new local radio station. A song came on, and I knew that I knew it but couldn’t place it – until the chorus…and then I sang it word for word, and well. The next song? I could sing that, too.

I was into the third or fourth loved-but-forgotten tune when I began to imagine a scene in my current novella-in-progress, where I knew two people from very different backgrounds were going to dance and fall in love. I hadn’t known what music they would listen to, until I heard that station. I had envisioned a rather stuffy, lifeless scene – but this music, the playlist of their evening, had them laughing and clowning and clinging together- alive and lit up by the music and each other. They experience the music differently, but it binds them together.

The songs on the radio in my garage were a tool, for me. I could have listened, and enjoyed, and that could have been that. But because I noticed my imagination being triggered, and opened up to it, I have a scene that’s richer in detail, in life, in magic, and in music.

I needed to know the music. I needed to feel it, in myself, before I could feel it with them…

Once I did, the music became my tool to chisel into the soul of the scene, and this new love.
I hadn’t thought of most of these songs in years, but I remembered them as soon as I heard them. I could sing along word for word, note for note. I could remember school dances and skate parties, being a new mother, being newly in love…and those are the tiny, real details that unlocked what my characters were feeling, as they danced. More, that feeling led them down a path that’s not in my plotted outline, but which deepens and adds emotional impact to the story, so that this scene does more, and better, than I thought it would, during the planning phase.

Will I mention every song by name, in the final draft? Probably not. I don’t need to – what they listen to is less important to the scene than the way they’re transported by the music and each other, and what’s building between them. The names of the individual songs are more important for me than for them. 

The tools here are all part of my everyday life. I didn’t seek them out; they’re too common for that. It was my Accomplice’s need for a personal space, and both of our need for connection. It was an overlapping musical palette that allows for us to enjoy enough of the same music that we can listen to the radio happily, together. It’s that I love to sing, and he enjoys listening to me sing. It’s that he found that station, on the battered old boom box cast off from somewhere I’m not sure I ever knew, and the kids being otherwise occupied.

Just life, on that night.

These tools that are all around us, and usually free. The way the morning light shines through new spring leaves. The way evening shadows fall across the lawn; the scent of food cooked on the neighbors barbecue, or the scent of rain or snow on the way. The texture and curve of a baby’s cheek, or a curled cat. The sound of a favorite bird, or a sudden laugh. The taste of that first real kiss (I can still taste mine, as clearly as if I’m standing on the back steps of a library that isn’t a library anymore. Grape lip gloss – mine, not his! – and something indefinable that said ‘desire!’ in a way that was new, dangerous, and thrilling).

I’m sure you have a collection of your own, just waiting for you to dip into and explore.

So, I’ll ask you again – what’s tucked away in your writer’s toolbox?


Shan Jeniah Burton

Changing Up The Way We Do Things…Maybe

Hola ROWers.  I’m breaking the posting schedule today to pose a few questions to you, the ROW80 community.  When I started this blog back in 2010 (holy crap, has it really been going that long?), I tried to set things up in as simple a fashion as I could in order to try to engender a community of like-minded writers who were into accountability and challenge, but without the one-size fits all goal of something like NaNoWriMo.  Over time, I’ve changed very little other than to give the site a couple of makeovers.

All this time, I’ve had my sponsors (and hopefully more of you) cheerleading each other in the comments sections of your individual posts–which has been successful more on some fronts than others.  Some of my past participants wanted a Facebook group, so we made one of those (even though I rabidly hated Facebook at the time).  And we’ve got a hashtag (#ROW80) over on Twitter.  And I admit…I hang out over there a lot more than I do poking around blogs.  I am, in fact, terrible at responding to comments in general on my own blog unless a direct question is asked.  But I’m VERY active in social media and cheerleading over there.  I’m sure if anybody here had a clue how the heck to use Google+ (I sure don’t), somebody could start a ROW80 circle or whatever over there.

That brings me to point 1.  I just read this post by Michael Hyatt about why he’s removing comments from his blog.  I think it’s well worth a read.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I like what Hyatt has to say, like the idea that removing comments forces the discussion into social media and makes it SOCIAL.  That’s directly in line with the idea of community.  But hey, it’s not just me here and I want y’all’s input.

Edited to add this from the comments below because I think it helps clarify what I’m talking about and the logic behind it.

No no. The linkies aren’t going away. The blog posts aren’t going away. That part works and I have no intention of changing it. As a sponsor (or otherwise general cheerleader), you’d still have that to go off of.

The ONLY thing that would change is that there wouldn’t be comments HERE. So instead of conversation about the inspiration topic of the week taking place in a thread here, they’d be out in social media on FB or Twitter or wherever–where other folks who are not already part of the ROW80 team will see them and (hopefully) ask about them and follow back to the blog and decide to jump in to join us.


One of the other things I was considering is having a semi-regular post during the round wherein fellow ROWers with new releases can submit their book to notify fellow ROWers that it’s out (we aren’t big enough for this to be a weekly thing, but maybe a couple times a round?).  Would y’all be interested in that?

So speak up, folks!  This is YOUR community.  Feel free to make your case in comments (and yes, I realize the irony of that, given I’m talking about yanking them) or over at Facebook or on Twitter.

EBOOK FRAUD: Spread The Word

So we can all agree that book piracy sucks.  Know what sucks even more?  People trying to illegally SELL our work.  Courtesy of Google Alerts, I found out about 45 minutes ago that Red and Forsaken By Shadow are both illegally listed at  So are my friend Susan Bischoff’s books and a whole lot of others.  It’s not limited to just self published books either.  I’ve seen books by Carina Press, Penguin and other publishers on this site.

The site is hosted through GoDaddy, so it is important that you, as author, check to see if your books are listed, and then follow the directions below to file a complaint in order to see that the domain is suspended and have GoDaddy cancel this asswipe’s hosting.


B. Copyright Claims (from GoDaddy’s Legal Dept.)

1. If the Complaining Party would like to submit a copyright claim for material on which you hold a bona fide copyright, Go Daddy requests that the Complaining Party substantiate such claim by providing Go Daddy with the following information via email to The words “Copyright Claim” should appear in the subject line. A copyright claim can also be submitted by mail to: Copyright Agent, Go Daddy, 14455 N. Hayden Road, Suite 219, Scottsdale, AZ 85260

To be considered effective, a notification of a claimed copyright infringement must be provided to Go Daddy and must include the following information:

  1. An electronic signature of the copyright owner, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive copyright that has allegedly been infringed.
  2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works on that site.
  3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to locate the material.
  4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to contact the Complaining Party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the Complaining Party may be contacted.
  5. A statement that the Complaining Party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the Complaining Party is the owner, or is authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

2. For Copyright Claims, upon receipt of appropriate notification from the Complaining Party, pursuant to Section 1 of Copyright Claims above, Go Daddy will remove or disable access to the material that is claimed to be infringing.

3. If the Complaining Party provides Go Daddy with appropriate notification, pursuant to Section 1 of Copyright Claims above, including information reasonably sufficient to permit Go Daddy to locate and remove or disable the material in question, or includes information concerning repeat infringement, then Go Daddy will forward the Complaining Party’s written notification to such alleged Infringer and shall take reasonable steps promptly to notify the Infringer that it has removed or disabled access to the material.


For the complaint you need this information (courtesy of the fabulous and brilliant Jay Donovan):

Contact info of the owner:

Registrant Name: Xuhong Wang

Registrant Organization:

Registrant Street: No. 699, Team 5, Gejialu Village Registrant

Street: Haizhou Country

Registrant City: Kangping

Country Registrant State/Province: Liaoning

Registrant Postal Code: 110000

Registrant Country: China

Registrant Phone: +86.13022421175

Registrant Email:

site IP address: Address:

Domain registered: 2013-09-06




Domain Name: KINBK.COM

Registry Domain ID: 1772822438_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN

Registrar WHOIS Server:

Registrar URL:

Update Date: 2014-05-08 03:43:56

Creation Date: 2013-01-11 22:32:25

Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-01-11 22:32:25

Registrant Name: Neil Jennings

Registrant Street: 1916 Freedom Lane

Registrant City: Stockton

Registrant State/Province: CA

Registrant Postal Code: 95219

Registrant Country: United States

Registrant Phone: +1.2093516430 R

Registrant Email:


Introducing The Forge: Affordable Book Finishing

We interrupt our regular post schedule for this announcement.  Yeah, it’s irregular, but since I’m the boss, I get to do stuff like this :D

Logo MediumAs we are a community of writers, particularly a great many self published writers, we are in need of various services that traditional publishers usually provide.  To that end, I’m happy to introduce The Forge: Affordable Book Finishing.  The Forge is the brainchild of myself and former ROW80 sponsors Susan Bischoff and Lauralynn Elliott.  Between the three of us, we offer content editing, proofreading, and e-book formatting.  All of us are self-published authors with more than fifteen years of experience between us.  We know exactly what’s required to produce quality books and we’re familiar with the budgetary restrictions of most indie authors.  We’re priced accordingly, at a fraction of the cost you’d pay in the traditional sphere.  So if you or someone you know is looking for services, we hope you’ll remember The Forge.

New Thoughts For A New Year

Welcome to 2014!  We don’t actually begin Round 1 until the 6th (because I have this thing where I like to start things on Monday), but I wanted to wish all you ROWers, new and old, a very Happy New Year!

It’s going to be awesome.

Because I decree it, and in this little corner of the universe, what I say goes.

I’ll be working on my inaugural post of writing wisdom over the next few days, but I wanted to put a little bug in your ear to be thinking about as you formulate your goals for this round.

We live in what Brene Brown refers to as a “culture of scarcity”.  She talks about this in her book Daring Greatly, which I’m reading right now (great read and on sale!).  It’s this whole idea where our focus is always on the lack, from the moment we get out of bed in the morning.  “Oh, I didn’t get enough sleep.”  “I don’t have enough time.”  “I didn’t write enough words.”  This is a self perpetuating cycle of making us feel like we’re always behind and we suck.  And gee, this ties in with why I dislike NaNo and why I started this challenge in the first place.


I want you to approach your writing from a position of GRATITUDE.

Be grateful for what words you get, grateful for those bursts of creativity, grateful for the community of writers we have here to support each other.  I know I am.

So focus on that when it comes to your goals and, most especially, with your check ins.

See you on Monday.

Fundrazr for Lauralynn Elliott Now With INCENTIVES

NOTE: This is a sticky post.  If it is past May 10th, please scroll down for the newest content.

Okay, so I’ve been woefully slow getting this out here.  Part of it has been personal scheduling, part of it was the close occurrence of other, more well publicized disasters.  Thankfully Susan Bischoff helped me out by creating the entry form.  THANK YOU SUSAN.

So, here’s how this is going to work.  A whole bunch of paperbacks and ebooks have been donated by various and sundry authors and have been assembled into prize packs.  Everyone who donates will be entered into a drawing to win one of the prize packs.  For simplicity’s sake, you have just as much chance of winning for donating $1 as you to for donating $100 (trying to figure out how to do it in some weighted fashion was one of the other things that held me up).   When you click through to the form, you will see that we ask for your paypal email address that you used to make the donation.  This is so we can confirm that you donated and also in order to notify you that you have won.  I know a great many of us write under pen names and therefore donated anonymously (since our Paypal accounts are under our real names).  This gets around that without breaking your privacy (certainly *I* won’t be sharing your real name or paypal address with anybody).  Only Lauralynn and myself will have access to those names (due to our access to the Fundrazr itself).

So, without further ado, the prize packs are as follows:

So hie thee to the Fundrazr to DONATE if you have not already.   And then go FILL OUT THE INCENTIVE FORM to select which price pack you’d like to be entered for.  We have raised a whopping $1766 so far.  I really want to see this top $2500, y’all!  SPREAD THE WORD!