Every year I decide to release a book at Christmas. Every year I forget that if it’s not done by mid-October, I won’t have time to finish it. Still, it’s never finished in time and I’m scrambling to pull everything together. It works out, but just once I’d like to grow as a person 😉 This year was no different. I just got through 4 edits of a 124K word manuscript in 6 weeks. I feel like my brain has melted and anxiety is just my regular state.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to say Happy Holidays! We celebrate Christmas in my house, though it’s less of a Christian festival and more of an exercise in wrapping my childhood nostalgia into a tangible event. For the past three years, I’ve done a fabulous job! This year’s looking great so far 🙂
Here’s hoping your winter season starts off as wonderful as mine!
The release of the movie Dune is a big deal for me (yeah, yeah- it doesn’t take much). My absolute most favorite story of all time, my absolute favorite character of all time, brought to the big screen with integrity paid to the themes of the book, is an exciting treat. But the only way I could see it was with my sister, who shares my love for the story. Since she lives in Syracuse and my current semi-permanent home is Somers, CT, some travel plans were needed. Not a problem. I enjoy the travel and it turned the weekend into something closer to a real adventure.
I have never been on a train and was excited to make this my first time. It’s a much slower form of travel than I expected. Apparently, I watch too many sci-fi movies where trains travel above cities at 200 mph. In this reality, with stops, a 3.5-hour drive is 6 hours by train. But that’s okay. I found the steady, elevated travel inspiring.
I wrote this as the train made its way from Springfield, Mass into the countryside:
“A train is a romantic way to travel. I’m thinking of Laura Ingels, her sister Mary traveling by train to and from her school for the blind. How different the countryside of the Midwest from the North-East? How different now from then?
Fall is setting in. The leaves just turning. Mostly green to contrast the changing colors. The sky bright and clear and blue. The fall typically means rain but not today. Today the universe wants me inspired. Today, I ride a train.
It’s the little things that can so largely influence perspective. Sitting up, higher than the freeway, higher than most roads, one can look down and out and across and away over the land. The golden stalks of harvested corn are like amber waves. The closeness of the trees, of the dirt and grass, makes the path much tighter than the many lanes paved for cars. At first disappointed we wouldn’t be traveling at 100 mph, I’m now glad. There is a peacefulness to this pace, to watching the land slip past.”
Opening day is Friday, October 22 (we’re ignoring the blasphemy that HBOMax allowed an early release time). Friends that are going to see the movie with us can’t go until Saturday. Not okay.
So, we’ll go twice. Friday night and Saturday night.
Opening night, it’s a mostly packed house. The crowd is varied, which is fun to see. Couples my parent’s age sit near groups in their twenties. I wonder if it’s Dune they are here to see or just an epic-looking science fiction movie. It starts. The first chord of music tingle through the darkened room. Hans Zimmer is a master. Tears are in my eyes as the first scenes reflect from the big screen. The music is perfect. The sights are perfect. Already, I’m glad to see it again tomorrow and the first line of the movie has barely sounded. I know there will be too much to absorb from a single sitting.
I’ve called home to talk about the greatness. There are a few flaws I can speak of, but petty overthinking and more for the point of conversation than that they tainted the film in any way. But I can’t talk about these specifics because I can’t give anything away to those who haven’t seen it yet. A third viewing is planned.
Watching it a second time is better than the first. All the details you can watch for when you already know the overview.
BACK ON THE TRAIN
Headed East and North, the train is delayed and I’m worried there won’t be time to see the movie again this evening. There is always tomorrow, but I’m hoping not to wait. Sure, I’ve seen it twice but I want more!
Paul Atreides is arguably one of the best characters in fiction, especially if you’re arguing with me. “A great man doesn’t seek to lead. He is called to it,” his father says to him before they leave their home planet. At that moment, in all of Paul’s fifteen years of wisdom, he feels he will never have the need. He has a moment of peace when the future he’s already glimpsed isn’t real. When the need does arise, when Paul is called, he is both compelled to sabotage the moment as well as take up the mantel. The horrible acts he sees in his future, a future, if he accepts, will subjugate atrocities on all of humanity, is weighed against what that future would be without it. So great is his burden, he considers allowing his own death to eliminate his responsibility for the future. It is Paul’s prescience, a genetic inheritance come a generation early, enhanced by the psychedelic properties of the spice harvested on Dune, that allow him this sight. Even before he steps foot on Dune, glimpses of possible futures plague him. Once the spice enters his system, just the small amounts caught on the wind of the planet, he sees more and more; sees multiple paths that he might play god and decide the fate of all.
I’ll leave it to that. If you haven’t seen the movie, or haven’t read the books so don’t know what’s coming, I won’t spoil it. There is so much to explain, I won’t do it justice anyway. It’s really hard to talk about things in a blog post…
Tell me what you thought of the movie. Do you know the Atreides story, or is the movie your introduction into herbert’s universe?
Happy Reading (and watching) 🙂 CMM
*Sign up for my newsletter and stay up-to-date on my goings-on. This post is an extension of my latest letter.*
This book has a solid 4.5 star rating with over 24K reviews on Amazon and I was so, so excited to finally pick it up. I’ve seen so many great things, ‘best love story’ even, that I was sure I’d found a new favorite book…
From page one, I was let down.
I just couldn’t. I put it down at page four.
A few days later I started it again. This time, I forced myself to continue reading. So many voices in my head were telling me it was supposed to be one of the greatest reads of my life. I think I got about 20%. Maybe not quite. Every page was a struggle.
First of all, the writing style… it was so clunky. I could never fall into a flow, constantly kicked out to slow down my reading to interpret sentence structure. I wanted to send it back so it could go through another round of edits.
Sure, the world seemed cool. The problems seemed problematic. The MC was in a place to dive-in and leave her mark and get some things set right, damn the man! But I just couldn’t stick with it long enough to see if that happened. The main character—I don’t even remember her name—just no. I have not liked MC’s before and it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for the book. I think a lot of MC’s we’re not even supposed to like. This one though, I think we are supposed to like. We are supposed to geel sorry for her and be so curious about her traumatic past. But it all seemed so forced. Something about her seemed—inconsistent? I hated the opening scene. I hated the forced nature of it, like it was saying ‘look, I’m not afraid to be sleazy. I know you like that.’ And I can like sleazy. Erotica is one of my most-read genres (don’t tell my mom). But I hate things being force fed and that’s how I felt this was. Maybe it would have made more sense if I’d stuck around to find out what happened, but I have too many books on my TBR…
A part of me wants to go back and see if maybe I was just in a mood of some kind. But the rest of me will just put this one in that column of ‘didn’t do it for me.’
What books did others love that you just couldn’t stand?
From Blood and Ash
By Jennifer L Armentrout
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.
The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.
Maybe you don’t know, I’ve been working on rebranding my Fool’s Path series into the RISHI’S WISH series. Book 1: KILLING GAME and book 2: We Are Forever are ready for reading! The next three books will come out by Christmas!!
First dibs go to my street team. If you’re one of my ARC readers, get ready 🙂
If you’re excited about new books to read, get a Travel Pass to be the first to hear about it. Travel pass holders tap right into my parallel worlds so there’s not lag on receiving information. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Click here.
It’s crazy how long things might sit before I get to it. This email sat in my inbox for almost a year before I actually clicked on it. I guess this was the time I needed to read this article. Maybe it will help you as well 🙂
Click the link, or read the full article below.
How to Reduce Decision Fatigue
by Daniel Parsons
Everyone wants “it all,” but you often find that the few people who have everything they want actually filter a lot of seemingly important activities out of their lives. According to Psychology Today, this is because the average person is constantly making decisions – possibly up to 35,000 a day – and each one negatively impacts our focus and willpower. Therefore, when top performers minimise the number of trivial decisions they make per day, they retain more mental energy, which allows them to excel in their chosen fields.
On this topic, Eminem admits that he does practically nothing else when working on an album, and that tactic has made him one of the most accomplished rappers alive. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly wore the same turtleneck every day to free up his decision-making power, a habit he attributed to his success as the head of a global company. Showing a similar mentality, Bruce Lee once said, “The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.”
On a fundamental level, we all understand the power of simplicity. Think about the most common advice bestselling authors give on podcasts: writing a new book is the best way to market your last one; produce lots of content in one genre; advertising is easier when you have a bigger backlist. The message there is clear. Those who write lots of books in one genre tend to experience success.
So why do we continue to distract ourselves learning social media tricks, genre hopping and watching Netflix? Why do we make so many needless decisions and leave ourselves mentally frazzled? Understanding this particular ailment of the human condition might be a little ambitious for one blog post. What we can do, though, is treat the symptoms. Read on for tips that will help you reduce your decision fatigue and optimise your productivity.
Prioritize One Thing
In a meta way, your first priority should be to identify your priority work. What activity will have the greatest impact on your author business? It’s probably writing, of course, but you need to be more specific if you want to make a goal air-tight against excuses. If you have lots of unfinished manuscripts then settle on one book and don’t work on another project until it’s finished. If you have several incomplete series, consider writing more instalments in whichever one generates the most income. No multitasking or project-switching. Only then will you see your results advance at lightspeed.
Your one thing doesn’t have to be writing. That’s just a common factor that will benefit most authors. If you’re already prolific then learning how to advertise profitably might deliver you the greatest results, at least in the short term. For an author with 15 books and a stable stream of royalties, mastering Facebook, Amazon or BookBub ads could double book sales overnight, even without a new release. Whichever ads platform you choose to learn, committing to one at a time is the key to mastery. Not only does a singular focus make you less likely to be overwhelmed by decision fatigue but having only one brand of ads running at once will make it easier to track cause and effect, which will make you a better marketer.
Disconnect from the Internet
Everything is online: all the information and all the entertainment. And it only takes a momentary lapse in concentration to slide from book research to cat videos. Not only does this impulsive behaviour eat into your time but it also drains your capacity to think clearly. Every click and scroll contributes to your expanding brain fog. Websites and apps are essentially display cases of brightly coloured buttons, images, GIFs and videos. Browsing just one page can force your brain make dozens of choices:
Should I like that post?
Should I enter my email address?
Should I Google the lifespan of a platypus? (It’s 17 years.)
This approachable, all-knowing vampire will suck you dry. What’s worse, each unnecessary decision you make saps you of a little more willpower. This means that every second you’re online you become more susceptible to the temptations of passive browsing, you make more low-quality decisions and you become more likely to abandon your writing altogether because it requires too much brainpower.
Science indicates that once this spiral is set in motion, it becomes increasingly difficult to escape. Willpower is not enough. That’s why avoiding the internet altogether during your dedicated work hours (preferably in the morning) will drastically improve your energy retention and allow you to keep making wise decisions later into the day. Once you’ve achieved everything on your to-do list, you can swipe, browse, like and share as much as you want, confident that a good night’s sleep will fully replenish your willpower for the next morning.
Eradicate Lifestyle Decisions
Earlier in this post we touched on Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, and how he habitually wore the same black turtleneck and jeans every day. Look into it and you will find that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg follows a similar regimen. So did Barack Obama during his time at the oval office. The reason isn’t laziness. Actually, it’s the opposite. They all realised that, by stripping unnecessary decisions from their lives, like which clothes to wear, they became more able to make effective billion-dollar decisions.
This habit isn’t exclusively for the one percent, ether. It doesn’t require cash, a private jet or superhuman strength. Anyone can pre-plan what clothes they wear all week, what to cook and when to exercise. In fact, doing so will make you more likely to get ready quicker, eat healthily and train consistently when everything is already organised and sticking to your plan becomes the path of least resistance.
Keeping your laptop stationed at the same workspace every day will have a similar effect, reinforcing your writing habit by minimising the effects of decision fatigue. Try it: find and eradicate as many unnecessary choices from your day as you can. It will make you more likely to start work and more able to stay in the flow state once you have begun.
Take Proper Breaks
Self-development “gurus” talk a lot about structuring your work blocks but they rarely address how you can benefit from structuring your breaks. That might seem counterintuitive at first glance. “I thought the point of a break was to forget about structure and relax,” you might say. And, in part, it is. But if you don’t consider setting some rules and limits, your breaks can easily become the Achilles heel of your productivity plan, and I don’t just mean when you let them run for longer than intended. Long or short, a poorly-executed break can actually have a detrimental effect on the time you do spend working.
Think about it this way: how do you take a break? Do you close your laptop, push it aside and immediately start browsing the internet on your phone? Don’t worry, we all do it occasionally. While passive browsing might feel relaxing because it soothes our internet addition, as we have already learned, the internet is an energy vampire. Thus, it doesn’t count as a proper break.
A better option would be to do something that doesn’t involve a screen. Perhaps sit quietly in the garden or brew a cup of tea. Fold laundry. Stroll around the block. Just be sure to keep a tight rein on how long your breaks last or that short relief period can easily turn into more than an hour. Set a timer if you need to. Think of it as a reverse-Pomodoro, a way to concentrate on true relaxation for a specific block of time.
Speaking of strolling, according to studies conducted at Harvard Medical School, walking once a day will boost your mental capacity in the short term, such as before a test or creative writing session. In addition, it also slows your brain’s decline over a span of decades, therefore enabling you to stay sharp for longer.
For writers, walking has two standout benefits. Firstly, a walk (without your phone) forces you to step away from screens and reduces the temptation to trawl the internet during a break. Secondly, it stimulates subconscious thought. Have you ever noticed that eureka moments often arrive when you’re jogging or traipsing around a shopping mall? That’s because aerobic activities, much like sleep, encourage you to enter a meditative state. In doing so, your subconscious mind starts to wander and process ideas you’ve accumulated throughout the day. What this means is that exercise will both distance you from distractions and help you overcome story issues that might have been halting your progress.
Using just one of these strategies can enhance your energy levels during a writing session. A combination of them has the power to supercharge your productivity, discipline and stamina, meaning you will be able to write better, faster, and for longer than ever before.