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#WhateverWednesday A Moment of Clarity at the Passenger Gig

Frankie Av

Last night my sister-in-law and I took my son to his very first concert in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. We’d been trying for a while to get tickets to go see Passenger, and as a first concert, I think it might have blown my boys mind. It blew my mind and I’ve been to some amazing concerts! But, what started as taking my son to his first ever gig, became a moment of self-realization, and for that reason alone, last night is one of the best gigs I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.


The thing about Passenger–Mike Rosenberg–is there is always a message to his music. I’ve always felt his music means more than just the beat, tempo or lyrics, and seeing him live proved that even more. The energy Mike has on stage is amazing. He never stops moving, plays the guitar like it’s part of his anatomy and sings like his heart is melting. Even his explanations for the lyrics and his amusing–sometimes sorrowful–anecdotes between songs tell me that Mike really means what he sings about.

There is emotion, amusement, tragedy, energy, amazing arrangements and just pure awesome on the stage of a Passenger gig. There is passion behind the lyrics, true meaning behind the words. His songs are not written with the express intent of gaining fame or money, but to send a message to all who might listen.


But there was one particular part of the show which really resonated with me. He introduced the song Twenty-Seven with a short explanation of why he wrote it. At a time when he was low, fed up, tired and frustrated about his career, he wrote Twenty-Seven to cheer himself up, and to remind himself that if you are passionate about something, don’t be discouraged. Do whatever it is, and do it from the heart. Don’t listen to those who might discourage you, because this is damaging to a creative mind.

The words he used last night were along the lines of feeling frustrated about getting nowhere, about feeling like you are doing something for nothing and no one is interested. As a writer, I often feel this way. There are times I’ve sat and cried frustrated tears and wondered why the hell I waste my time with writing books and blogs and make vlogs no one really looks at.

Often wonder why I bother, or sometimes why I even try. Yet I do it because I want to convey messages, too. I want to spread joy, amusement, my love of people, of animals, of good music and great stories. I want to raise awareness for those in need, want to fight for this world and everything which lives upon it. I want to tell folk how a stupid toy pony can make my day, or how my book sold a single copy and put a smile on my face for a week. I do it because I enjoy it, I love making people smile, and because it means something to me and others.


I wish I’d had my camera running at that moment last night just to remember the exact words Mike said. When I got home I wondered if he said them in another concert so I searched and found the video below, but with slightly different wording. The message is still the same, still means something. So while there are times I get tired, low and frustrated about the lack of interaction or interest, Mike is right–keep doing what you love, no matter what, and I intend to. 

If you ever get the chance to see Passenger live, do yourself a favor and grab tickets and go see him. Amazing!

Passenger Official Site

Twitter: @passengermusic

Facebook: Passenger Facebook

YouTube: Passenger YouTube Channel

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE



#WhateverWednesday And They’re Off!

Frankie Av


NaNoWriMo started yesterday and I think I’ve made a pretty good start considering I’ve worked two consecutive 12.5 hour night shifts these last two nights! I have almost 5000 words written and plan to write more after I upload this blog.
What I love about NaNoWriMo is not just the writing, the goal setting and the planning, it’s how fired up all my writing friends are. How their imaginations are creating an explosion of ideas all over the writing forums and groups. There is excitement in the air, a real buzz of creativity and everyone is enjoying themselves!
Of course, we are only into day two, but that excitement never really fades. Some might get disheartened at times, maybe stuck a little, probably frustrated, but the excitement of writing a novel in 30 days wins out in the end!

Even though I am sleep deprived, even though my mind is working slower than usual, and even though I am getting distracted by almost everything today, I set a word count goal and I intend to meet it. So I will go make yet another coffee, stretch my body out a little, maybe fire up Spotify to keep me company, and then write ALL the words 😀

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this year! I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi  MALEVOLENCE

#WhateverWednesday: Writing Playlist

Sam av

A lot of my friends have a writing playlist. Some claim that they cannot write without music. I’m in a sort of…in-between category? There is certain music that inspires me. There are other songs I can and will listen to while I’m writing. But then there are also times that I just need the quiet.

Music that Inspires

What I listen to for this category kind of depends on what I am writing. Often, I am writing stories where bratty, bold women are the leading characters. For most of those, I listen to some fantastic female vocalists. Examples of this: Halestorm, Barlow Girl, Evanescence, Fireflight, Digital Daggers, Plumb, Halsey, Banks, The Pretty Reckless, Lana Del Rey. Of these, I often listen to Halestorm’s “Familiar Taste of Poison,” Banks’ “Beggin’ for Thread,” and Fireflight’s “Forever” on repeat. If this is something you like, try plugging “Familiar Taste of Poison” into Pandora.

(Note, this next one may not be safe for work)

If I am writing something emotional, I drift towards songs that have affected me in some way. I have a whole bunch of these that I’ve gathered throughout the years. Artists include Over the Ocean (“I Will Be Silent”), X Ambassadors (“Unsteady”), Anberlin (“Fin”), Avicii “Waiting for Love”), Starsailor (“Way to Fall”), Great Big World (“Say Something”), Imagine Dragons (“It’s Time”), Nate Ruess/Fun. (pretty much everything).

(Not gonna lie…75% of the reason I love this next song is because of this video)

Bonus: I loved all of the music of the early 2000s, and I have found that the magical formula to get Pandora to give you what you want is to make a Collective Soul radio station. Magic.

Writing Music

Usually for the actual act of writing, I need something that either doesn’t have words or has words I cannot understand. Otherwise, my mind focuses on the words and I end up wanting to sing instead of write. Either I listen to piano and instrumentals or I listen to music in a foreign language.

For the instrumentals, I love Frederik Chopin on the piano. Chopin also kicks out a KILLER Pandora station if you like that kind of thing. The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit soundracks are awesome. There is also Audiomachine, Balmorhea, Thomas Bergerson Two Steps from Hell.

My absolute favorites in this category, though, are the songs from basically the entire soundtrack of Fairy Tail. It’s Celtic inspired, heavy on the violin and electric guitar. SO AWESOME.

In the category of words I don’t understand, I listen to a LOT of Japanese music. Some I have found from watching anime and just thinking “That’s cool!” while some I found just by clicking round the internet. Among my favorites are Kalafina, Flow, and Wagakkiband.

And this one, which was on constant repeat while I was writing Achillea:

These two are on CONSTANT repeat,

The theme song for Attack on Titan

and one of the opening theme songs for Naruto Shippuden

Since my silver Mac died, I lost 600 songs. Luckily, I have amazing friends who stepped up to offer help. One is sending me a flash drive from California. My mother-in-law offered to let me try her Slacker radio app, my boss gave my flash drive to his wife to load up for me, and my sister’s boyfriend offered to transfer songs from his computer to mine.

I had to reload up the iTunes on the backup laptop, but unfortunately attaining the same magnitude of musical worldliness is going to take a long time, and, well…

NaNo is only a few weeks away.

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out the #WhateverWednesday category every Wednesday to hear about whatever random topic has taken up all of the real estate in our minds!


#WriteTip #WeCreate: Double Post Special. Work space and Cutey Bear!

This will be a double post, covering #Writetip Friday and #WeCreate Saturday.

First off, write tip!
One way to get into the writing zone, is making sure you have a work space which helps you focus and concentrate–even generate ideas. The work space in my office looks so terribly messy, but everything is there for a reason.

 photo 1_zpsagmf3wag.jpg

  • There is a skull to the left which remind me of how fleeting life is, and how scary your mind can be.
  • There are some of my action figures dotted around which help me remember fantastic scenes and stories which I can draw on for inspiration.
  • There are my posters, similar to the figures in the feelings and memories they invoke. Of course, Captain Scarlet was always finding himself in peril, much like my own characters!
  • There are my work boards with my character sheets, flow charts and story outline for Emergence, so I don’t get lost in my writing.
  • I have my speakers set up for playing my writing play-lists which help me to concentrate.
  • There is my cup warmer to keep my tea warm while I write as I often forget I made one!
  • My actual space is relatively clear so I don’t get annoyed while typing.
  • My chair is set up at the right height, with cushions on it for comfort.
  • Lighting is set up so I don’t strain my eyes, the monitors are at 50% brightness or lower depending on how dry my eyes are.
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Some of my little friends! 😀

All of this makes me happy, and I think you need to feel happy in your work space, otherwise your writing will suffer due to your frustration.  Sometimes my work space changes if I feel I need a certain mind set, so I might change it around a little. But, for the most part, all of these items remain in place.

What is your word space like and why? Let me know!

As for #WeCreate, I received this in the mail today, all the way from Hungary. It’s from my dear friend Kitti, and she made it herself as a gift for me.

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As I’ve said before, art can mean many things to many people, but it all means something. I can look at this lovely little bear and see the work which went into her creation. Every stitch made in a certain way to shape the form of the bear. The choice of yarn used, to give her a smooth and pretty finish. The little bows as added accents, just to make her so cute. But there is more in this little bear than her stuffing and material.
There is love in every little stitch, thanks in every piece of stuffing and she is friendship existing in a material form. Yes she is adorable and cute and well made, but to me, she is more than just a little bear; she is a symbol of friendship. Therefore, I named her Amity, which means; Friendship!
And now, she sits on my work space, next to the skull and the alien from the first Independence Day, to remind me that not everything in life is harsh and depressing. Sometimes, life is beautiful. 🙂

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F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE


#WeCreate How I Make My Trailers: Part Three

Frankie Av

This is the final part on how I make my trailers, and it is by no means the least important; adding music.When making a video, choosing the right music is vital. Music sets the tone of the entire project. There are times when choosing the music for a video has taken me far longer than any of the art or rendering for the entire project.

It is always best to either use your own music, or–if you are like me and unable to create your own music–find free music and sounds. This sounds simple enough, but truly royalty-free music isn’t music you rip from the internet. What you have to find is music listed under a creative commons license. The way in which you can use this depends on which license it is under. There are six main types of creative commons license. The best way to explain them is to watch this short video which tells you what you need to know.

Creative Commons Kiwi from CreativeCommons AotearoaNZ on Vimeo.

There are a few sites I use for music, sound effects and such for my videos, all with content listed under various creative commons licenses. The site I use the most is by Kevin MacLeod. Music on this site is predominately licensed under a creative commons attribution, which means I can use it so long as I credit Kevin as the creator and provide a link or information back to the site.  He also has a handy page explaining the different licenses his work holds.

Another useful tool provided on Incompetech is the ability to search for music according to feels, length, genre and tempo. This comes in particularly handy when you know the length of the video and the tone you wish to set. The drop down menus make it easy to find the piece you want out of hundreds of songs.

By the time I search for music, I already have the video I’m making finished. If we take the short video I made last time as an example, I know it is only twenty-five seconds long. A search for songs of this length on the Incompetech still gives me a sizable list. By going through the feels filter, I find a song that is the right length and what I think sounds right for the video.

When you press the name of your chosen song, you can see that Incompetech has a handy link which includes the attribution which Kevin has provided. So it is easy to use the licence and attribute the music back on my projects by simply copy and pasting the information in the link.

Once I have downloaded the song and the attribution information, I can then use the song in my video. I can either add the attribution for the song in the end credits of the video as I did in my Malevolence trailer, or in the video information on Youtube, as I do for my vlog videos.

Once I have the song, I add it to the video using Movie Maker.

And that is it! Well, in short at least! The programs I used to make this tiny video were as follows:

Artrage (Drawing)

Photoshop (Drawing and creation of animating layers)

After Effects (animating layers and creation of video)

Wondershare Video Converter (Reduce size of video file, add opening/ending credits)

Movie Maker (Edit video and add music/sound effects)

Audacity (Edit music and sound effects)

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WhateverWednesday: Elizabeth Haydon’s Symphony of the Ages

Sam av

I’ve had an exciting day.

Since I got the iPhone, I’ve been trying to avoid getting lost to the wilderness of apps and the Internet. It’s always been my issue with smartphones…that they’re just another way for people to dumb themselves down. In true Sam fashion, I’m rebelling. Instead of loading it with games and sitting on Facebook, I’ve been using my iPhone to try to make my brain better. I read the news and listen to informative podcasts, including two new subscriptions to mythology and writing podcasts.

However, I’ve lamented (ha…this is funny…you’re about to see why!) that I don’t have any books on my phone yet. The phone comes preloaded with iBooks, an eReader. But lately I’ve not been able to stomach the free books (I keep trying…they aren’t grabbing my attention). I don’t read enough because I’m just not finding anything all that interesting. I’ve been missing that feeling I get when one of my favorite authors releases the next book in my favorite series…a feeling so intense that I completely drop everything, clear my schedule, and shutter myself into my room to read.

I was talking just this morning to my boss about how I needed…SOMETHING…to put on iBooks, so that when I was bored somewhere I could read instead of playing Flappy Bird.

And then today I get this email…

“HEY SAM! One of your favorite authors released a new book! Hey, guess what! It’s a new book in one of your favorite series! Hey, you know what else?! It’s the LAST BOOK in that series! It’s the END! MAYBE MAYBE MAYBE it’s going to pan out the way you always hoped! WANT TO FIND OUT?!?! Oh, also? It looks like this:”


Me: “OMG email…are you fucking kidding me?! OF COURSE I WANT TO READ THAT.”

I couldn’t hit the purchase button fast enough. Gleefully, I perused the interwebs, wanting to read the synopsis and such. Then I read a curious little tidbit. “Book Nine of the Symphony of the Ages.”

Hang on.


Are there really nine books?


Have I read eight other books?

*counts in head*

No…I think it was six.





Conveniently, my vacation starts today. I’m going to read the shit out of these, I think.

Since this isn’t a #SundayReview, I’ll just give you the quick rundown. Basically the premise of this book is that this singer is fleeing her stalker and runs into a couple of unsavory characters preferable to her stalker, so she affixes herself to their party and uses them to escape. So they escape through this tree (like the World Tree, Yggdrasil), travel through the earth, and emerge on the other side.

Except the world as they knew it has been destroyed, and is completely different now. And they’re immortal.

It’s lovely…so well-written. And as you might tell by the title of the series, there is a lot of music woven into the words. I should probably reread the old ones, in fact, but in the interest of time I probably won’t.

I’m so happy to have books on my phone now. Hopefully, it gets me reading more!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS.


The Good Thing About Music… #amwriting



So I came across an album yesterday that prompted me to make this vlog. Music is a tool I use while writing, classical music most of all.
Someone came to the door and I forgot to stop recording, so I had to cut the video, that is why about 4 minutes in I am looking one way then suddenly the next XD Anyway, I will post some of my favorite pieces below this vlog for you to have a look at. They are only a small example of some of my favorite pieces, as I have so many. What are your favorite tools for writing?



Liebestod, by Wagner. the one that always makes me cry and made me cry as I watched it when I fetched this link!


Beethoven – Symphony No.7 in A major op.92 – II, Allegretto. Very powerful piece of music.


Chad Lawson – Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1 (Arr. By Chad Lawson for Piano, Violin, Cello) One piece from The Chopin Variations.


Ludovico Einaudi – Sotto Falso Nome