The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I’ve almost bought this book so many times because I thought the premise sounded good, but I always stopped when I saw it was a WWII book. I almost bought it again when I saw the trailer for the Netfix movie. But I didn’t pull the trigger until my book club decided to read it this fall.

To me this is a funny book because I’m honestly surprised I liked it as much as I did. It has elements I normally don’t really like in books, but somehow in this instance it worked for me.

I didn’t care for the main character though I liked the actions she took and her behavior. But I loved all of the Guernsey inhabitants and some of the other characters she writes to like Sidney.

To me, this book is a good bookclub read because it contains a multitude of things that could appeal to a group. The style and subject matter are unique. It’s easy to read. And the large cast of characters means that there are a lot of subplots going on that you can follow.

This letter (epistolary) format made it easy to keep turning the pages and the book is not too long. And for the most part, it is pretty lighthearted. Certainly the most lighthearted WWII book I think I’ve ever read.

But it did have its moments of levity. This book did a good job educating the reader about an overlooked piece of history. I had no idea that any of the British Isles were ever occupied during WWII. And I didn’t know much about Guernsey in general, but even with the letter style, I feel like I could really picture the island and its people. Now I want to go visit (of course). I should plan a Europe trip to visit the various book settings I’ve read about. Maybe someday…

The experience of this book is honestly like sitting down for a cup of tea with a couple of good friends to exchange news and stories. The time passes quickly, you leave happy and warm, but you can’t quite remember the main thrust of the conversation or everything you talked about. But you leave thoroughly satisfied just the same.

On Gratitude

It feels very cliche to be writing a blog post about gratitude on Thanksgiving. But nonetheless, I’ve been wanting to do this blog post since the beginning of October so I’m taking advantage of an enforced day off to finally do this.

Yesterday I posted an exercise to Facebook and Instagram asking my friends to comment on what they thought my superpower was. (I took the exercise from Pat Flynn’s book, Will It Fly) One response I got struck me and stuck with me throughout the day. One friend commented that they thought my superpower was the ability to keep myself centered.

I think that struck me most because it is something I have consciously worked on for the past ten years of my life. As a natural worrier, falling off the cliff into anxiety and despair requires a very short runway. And as anyone who’s battled their own demons knows, you never really win. Rather, you fight the same battles over and over again, but you get better at fighting them through repetition.

In the months since I’ve started my business, I’ve become obsessed with mindset. James Wedmore’s Mind Your Business podcast is my favorite and it’s a good thing he puts out three episodes a week because I really can’t get enough of it! But my obsession with mindset isn’t a new thing. I got introduced to the concepts of mindset and manifestation several years before, I just didn’t realize how influential those discussions has been in my life.

The thing about mindset and the thing about gratitude, is you don’t get “there” and stay “there”. It requires constant work and realignment to pull yourself back to center. Staying positive, staying grateful, staying open, believing in abundance…all of these things are under constant attack in daily life. Whether produced in the mind, encountered in the words of a trusted friend, or affirmed by the less-than-pleasant stuff we all face everyday, we find ourselves having to choose gratitude, choose positivity, choose abundance over and over again. And exhausting as it all is to constantly be fighting the same battles, I think it’s the best and most worthwhile fight there is.

All that is to say, that as I sit here on Thanksgiving morning, I wrote this as a reminder to you that gratitude isn’t a daylong affair. It’s not a month or even a season. Gratitude is a 365-days-a-year knock-down, drag-out fight to stay centered and keep focused on what truly matters.

Of course I can’t close this post out without writing my own list of things I’m grateful for today (and every day). So without further adieu and in no particular order,  I am grateful for:

-My boyfriend who has continued to come with me on every journey I’ve taken in the last five and a half years though most of the time he’s had NO idea what’s he’s in for. No idea. Case in point, he recently spent over three hours with me wandering around downtown Puerto Vallarta as I searched for un caballo huichol. Three hours in high humidity. That’s love folks.

-My parents who have always supported me in whatever obsession or fancy has currently diverted my attention. Always supported me.

-My boyfriend’s family who I’m spending Thanksgiving with – my first Thanksgiving without my own family! I’m looking forward to an out-of-the-ordinary day to round out my out-of-the-ordinary year. #ReadyfortheGenRave

-My friends who are somehow still my friends even though I take more than a day to text them back or sometimes forget to respond at all. Love you guys, you’re the real MVPs.

-My lovely menagerie of animals. There’s no love like theirs. And as I am a magnet for difficult creatures, I am grateful for all the lessons I learn in loving and caring for them. Everything I know about working with people I learned from loving the animals that others would give up on. Elliot. Ham. Cheese. Escobar. Pia. #SquadGoals

-A business that has grown so much over the last six months and keeps me so busy I hardly have time to keep up with this blog. (But don’t worry, I’m not giving up on this blog. No way, no how.) I’m eternally grateful for the endless support I’ve received and all of the people who have appeared or reappeared in my life exactly when they needed to. It honestly feels a little like seeing my life flash before my eyes in reverse except I’m not dying. This journey of starting and managing a business has really reaffirmed for me that one of the best pieces of advice I could ever give is to be kind to everyone you meet and always do your best to do right by them. When you need it most, you’ll see those efforts repaid tenfold. Twentyfold. One hundredfold.

-The new faces and friends I’ve met over the past six months. Before starting my business, it felt like my circle had grown to capacity and stabilized. People would leave, people would join, but it was stable. Little did I know that a circle actually has the endless potential to grow and expand, to include new connections, new friends, and new partners. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have already found so many wonderful, wonderful people to add to my circle.

-My writing group who is helping me whip Shadow of the Magician into fighting shape. It’s going to be done guys. Done soon and for real this time. This is the last time around and I couldn’t be prouder, even though half the time I feel like giving up and throwing in the towel because this book has been so damn hard and has taken so many years of my life. But what keeps me going is that one day I hope to point to it and say, This was the book that made me. This was the book that taught me to write and to write well. This was the book that changed everything.

-Being alive at this moment in time. (You can read this in Gary Vee’s voice) Seriously, we are so blessed to be alive right now. For all the terrible stuff that happens, for all that we feel that social media and the internet are ruining our lives, there has never been another time where we have had so much control over our own futures and had so much ability to shape our own destiny. It is absolutely magical that I can turn on my phone, select a podcast, and have the wisdom of the world’s best teachers delivered to me on-demand. I can learn about any subject I want to, any subject at all, and all I need is a wifi connection. Our potential for growth and development are limitless and it’s because we are lucky enough to be alive right now. Not one hundred years ago. Not a thousand. Right now. And if that doesn’t give you perspective and make you fucking grateful, I don’t know what will.

To close out, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and use this day as an opportunity to make gratitude a lifestyle choice, not a momentary celebration.

Oh and one more thing: Be Safe, Skip the Salad, Eat the Damn Pie.

Mastering Fear

Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL’s Guide by Brandon Webb

Brandon Webb has run life-threatening missions in the world’s worst trouble spots, whether that meant jumping out of airplanes, taking down hostile ships on the open sea, or rolling prisoners in the dead of night in the mountains of Afghanistan. As a Navy SEAL, he learned how to manage the natural impulse to panic in the face of terrifying situations. As media CEO and national television commentator, he has learned how to apply those same skills in civilian life. 

Drawing on his experiences in combat and business, along with colorful anecdotes from his vast network of super-achiever friends from astronauts to billionaires, Webb shows how people from all walks of life can stretch and transcend their boundaries and learn to use their fears as fuel to achieve more than they ever thought possible. “Fear can be a set of manacles, holding you prisoner,” writes Webb. “Or it can be a slingshot, catapulting you on to greatness.”

The key, says Webb, is not to fight fear or try to beat it back, but to embrace and harness it. In the process, rather than being your adversary, your fear becomes a secret weapon that allows you to triumph in even the most adverse situations. In Mastering Fear, Webb and his bestselling coauthor John David Mann break this transformation down into five practical steps, creating a must-read manual for anyone looking for greater courage and mastery in their lives.

E3EE7BF6-FC15-4D5E-BB20-3614D977549F

Though I haven’t been keeping up with my weekly Week in Review updates, consider this a mini one wrapped up in a book review.

Up until August I was sailing along. And I mean sailing. Everything was great, nothing was too hard.

And then August happened and I got so damn busy. I also realized I didn’t take my business plan out far enough. That niggling fear I I had that my 2-year plan was on track to collapse into a 6-month plan, became a 4-month plan. And oh boy, did I have to make a lot of decisions quickly.

And I’m still making decisions quickly, hoping they are the right ones. And if they aren’t the right ones, well hopefully they’re pretty fixable.

I picked this book up in the midst of one of the few afternoons I’ve had off lately. I was at the Amazon bookstore, which I actually really like if I just need a book and not something in particular. Because everything they stock is highly reviewed so you can be pretty sure if the book sounds good, you’ll probably like it.

Anyway. I was looking at the self-improvement and business books and when I saw the title, I knew I had to buy it. Because if there is one thing I have been trying to strongarm into place, it’s my fear.

If there’s any advice I can give to would-be entrepreneurs at this point in my journey, it’s that every day is really about your mindset and shoving yourself back in line when your fears, your desires, and your ego are trying to take over. Entrepreneurship (at least for me) requires a level of cool, unconcerned detachment. And that is not a level I naturally operate at.

So anyway, a book about mastering fear sounded like something I needed to buy and read. The fact that it was written by a Navy SEAL sold me on it.

I really liked this book and thought it was helpful. It’s one of those books that kind of pulls together all the things you know on some level and packages it up into an easy-to-read guide. I know all these things; I just need someone else to tell me in a way that will hopefully stick.

The writing style is very conversational. I don’t know the author, but I feel like I know him after reading the book. He reminds me of a few of the more charismatic military guys I’ve met. Which means he kills it at the motivational speaking.

This is a pretty short book so I won’t summarize it too much since you should just go and read it. But I do want to share the one point that has really stuck with me: the story you’re making up about the thing you’re afraid of is almost always worse than the reality.

I feel like this is true. I’ve seen it be true in my own life. So as I keep plunging forward and heading for new horizons, I’ll keep reminding myself of that.

 

One Horn to Rule Them All

One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology

Unicorns, with their single ivory horn, are elusive and magical creatures of myth. Yet even more elusive are the purple unicorns. First sighted at the Superstars Writing Seminar, their legend has grown year after year until it could only be contained in this anthology. Nineteen storytellers, including Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, and Jody Lynn Nye, as well as new and rising authors, invite us into worlds both near and far, across a desert oasis, a pet shop, a Comic-Con exhibition floor, and more, and show us the many variations of purple unicorns, from the imaginary to the actual—and one very memorable half-unicorn, half-potato. One Horn to Rule Them All is an unforgettable collection of imagination and creativity. So, saddle up, and take a ride beyond the rainbow. 

F3B57FDF-8C53-455A-BABE-2B24A5E30381

I didn’t mean to start reading another anthology so soon on the heels of Undercurrents. But while taking care of my neighbors’ cat, I found myself having to wait for the cat to come out from behind the bookshelf. Picked up one of their books to pass the time and wanted to choose something I actually owned…because you know, it would have been too much work to walk back across the street and get my own book.

Anyway.

Purple unicorns it is!

If you follow me on social media, you know I kind of have a thing for unicorns. And kind of absolutely love that unicorns are a hot trend right now. Which makes One Horn to Rule Them All an anthology that was years ahead of its time.

Overall, I really liked this anthology and not just because of the unicorns. I thought all of the stories inside were great in their own way and there were a couple that got me interested enough to look up the authors to see what else, if anything, they had written that I could buy. There were also some very, very imaginative stories in this mix which was neat. I liked the stories in Undercurrents, but I felt like there were some genuinely wacky concepts that worked amazing well in One Horn to Rule Them All.

As another fun treat, my friend (and neighbor) has a story in this anthology that she’s been expanding on…and we got to read it in writer’s group over the summer!

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

Gladwell introduces us to the particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children’s television, direct mail, and the early days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and visits a religious commune, a successful high-tech company, and one of the world’s greatest salesmen to show how to start and sustain social epidemics.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

I’ve still been reading, but not reviewing recently even though I’ve read a few good books. I’ve been pretty busy working on my business which is going through a growth phase. And trying to finish the last chunk of edits of Shadow of the Magician. Also traveling. So that’s why I’ve been a little quiet over here!

The Tipping Point is another book I’ve had on my shelf, but am just now getting around to reading. I was getting a little bit burned out reading books that were strictly self-improvement or business, so I decided to add this one to my Miracle Morning pile.

I really liked this book. I know a lot of people often look down on these books as being pop psychology/sociology and not necessarily well-researched. However, I think it’s important to remember the audience. They want to learn, but they don’t want to read an academic research paper. I’ve read academic research papers. They are not for the faint of heart and many require an intimate knowledge of the lexicon of the field just to understand the abstract.

Gladwell does a job balancing story with science in The Tipping Point. I found this book very entertaining and was always disappointed when my timer went off and I knew I had to move on to something else. Despite being a person who reads a lot and browses all kinds of articles online, the stories he used in The Tipping Point were all new to me, with the exception of a few. But even those few contained information I’d never heard before. That’s what kept me reading, wanting to know what conclusions he was going to draw from them.

In a nutshell, Gladwell manages to identify a few commkn factors that need to present in order for an “epidemic” to start. And we can think of epidemics not just in terms of disease, but in terms of popularity, trends, and product sales success.

Since I’ve been working in and thinking about marketing for more than six years, I’ve devoted considerable time to thinking about virality and success in this digital age. What it takes for a brand to tip over and skyrocket to the top of the industry. Why things work for certain people and not for others.

I liked the argument presented in this book because it dovetails pretty well with my own observations. That there is a hidden X factor or factors that explains why one thing is a smashing success, while an almost identical brand or concept languishes in anonymity. This is what makes my work so challenging – virality and runaway success are not something I can engineer. There are practices you can take to position yourself for it, but there are too many factors and variables that are out of your hands. That’s why if you read my blogs over on Minute Marketing or talk to me about marketing, I’m such a staunch advocate for consistency and dedication when it comes to your marketing strategy. I do not believe that rapidly shifting your strategy is the best plan of attack. It feels too much like throwing a bunch of shit at the wall to see what sticks. Unless of course you happen to stumble onto virality or something that’s rapidly accelerating your success. Then by all means, do more of that!

Anyway. If you’ve been curious about this book or have been wanting to read something by Malcolm Gladwell, I definitely recommend picking this one up!

Cover Reveal: Cursed Collectibles

Hi.

Still alive. Just busy. Will get back to regular updates eventually and will share some of what’s been occupying my time soon. (Hint: it’s the business)

Still writing. I think I’m on track (hope I’m on track) to have all my edits done for Shadow of the Magician done by the end of the year. And I wrote and submitted another short story to a contest, so cross your fingers and toes for me!

Still reading. I actually have three (!!) book reviews on deck.

Still riding. Escobar and Pia are great, they are both starting to get fuzzy for (SoCal) winter and are incredibly cute.

But just dropping by this weekend to share the cover of the Cursed Collectibles anthology which I have a story in. Can’t wait to share the actual release date and more details about purchasing! This will be a physical book, which is SO exciting!! Let me know what you think about the cover in the comments below!

41347744_2182551335402280_6560853872271687680_n

New Publication Forthcoming!

August was just…a blur.

I had hoped for better this month, but September seems to be more of the same.

But I found out this afternoon a short story I had submitted will be published in a forthcoming anthology called Cursed Collectibles!

I don’t think I’ve written any short fiction the last few years as I’ve been focused on working on my books, but when I saw the topic of the anthology, I knew I had the perfect story to submit. It’s a story I had written for a class in college that’s been collecting dust on my hard drive. Of course, I ended up re-writing the whole thing anyway prior to submitting (at the suggestion of my writer’s group). But it was worth it because that story, now called “The Garden Party”, has a home! Yay!