Author Interview: Devin Madson

This week I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the incredible author Devin Madson. Devin is the author of the Vengeance Trilogy, the award winning novella In Shadows We Fall, and her most recent, and SPFBO 2018 entered, novel We Ride The Storm. As you can see from my review, I am a huge fan of Devin’s most recent novel. Before we being, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Devin for being such an awesome person for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me.

So, here it goes!

Hi Devin. Tell me a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

There’s not a lot of that sort of time because I’m a workaholic, but I do love playing both video games and board games, and I read as much as I can. I’ve tried more useful hobbies like cooking and gardening, but it appears I’m terrible at everything else.

How did We Ride The Storm come to be. When did you first get the idea to write it? How did everything come to together from there?

Since We Ride the Storm technically continues on from a story I began back in my first trilogy, I always knew I would write it. And the two dozen other books currently planned for the same world. As it’s still a world people are coming to I didn’t want to shift too far from the original roots, yet it needed to expand so I branched out by choosing POVs from neighbouring areas and the story just developed itself from there. I plan in a very… loose way, but mostly I have a very big picture understanding of the whole history and each individual book is written by the seat of my pants.

I loved your characters in your latest novel. The contrast between each and how this was expressed through the first person was something I found extremely interesting. Where did you get the inspiration to write three such different characters? Do you have a favorite?

I think in choosing to write three POVs in the first person each character has to be very different, because three similar characters would view the events in the same way and the readers would lose the nuance… the greyness to the situation and might not see the weight of any given character’s decisions. In the case of We Ride the Storm, I knew I was writing a clash of cultures, and so to properly do justice to the fact that none of them are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ I needed a POV from each. That Rah turned out honourable, Cassandra not honourable at all, and Miko in between was an incidental bonus rather than something I deliberately sat down and planned. Like I said, planning isn’t something I really do. As to a favourite, Cassandra was the easiest, Rah made me feel like a good person, and Miko makes me proud. That’s as close as I can come to an answer on that one.

The pacing in We Ride The Storm was fast and furious. Is this something we can expect to see throughout the trilogy?

Yes! It helps that there is a lot of story still to come. It’s actually planned (ha!) to be a four book series rather than a trilogy, with a new, fourth POV showing up in the next instalment. Things could change, but at this point I’m pretty confident that’s how it will go.

Why do you write and what keeps you motivated?

So many writers say they’ve written stories for as long as they can remember and it seems trite and overdone to say I write because I can’t cope with not writing, but authors say these things because they are true! It’s like being born with a disease I can’t get rid of and don’t actually want to try. I’m motivated in part by having an obsessive disposition and in part because I have SO MANY stories to tell that even a single day off seems like a waste of time.

The reviews for We Ride The Storm have been fantastic so far. Is there any advice you would give to aspiring self-published authors?

Make sure you’re ready. In most people’s minds you’re only going to get one chance to make a good impression. Just because self-publishing allows you to put out a book as soon as the first draft is done – don’t. Take your time. Get a good editor. Keeping working at it until you have the very best book you can write.

I admit that I have yet to read your other works, but I am making it a top priority to do so. For a reader who is new to your works, where would you recommend starting from?

Because people will always be entering my world at different parts of the history, it was important to ensure any Book One would be a good entry point. Depending on where you start you might have a slightly different experience of the entire story, but no spot is inherently better or worse. If you like chronology then In Shadows We Fall is the earliest, but Blood of Whisperers was the first. Generally I tell people to start at the book that calls to them the most. If We Ride the Storm sounds like your cup of tea then start there!

We Ride The Storm was left on such a cliff hanger that I am eagerly awaiting book number two. When can your fans expect book number two of The Reborn Empire series?

We Lie with Death is due March 2019! I am super excited. Depending on how a few other projects go, I will either keep up with the every 9 months release schedule for it, or stick with March each year.

 

Find We Ride The Storm on Amazon and Goodreads

Chapter 1 – Sed

Chapter 1

I awoke chilled in the room my father and I shared. It was the morning of a miserable winter day. That is not to say there are many pleasant winter days in the town of Swineton. The northern location of the town ensured winter was a constant drizzle that chilled to the bone, with little breaks from the icy rain. I would have welcomed living in a town a little further to the north, where the rain and drizzle would often chill so far as to make snow. Snow at least would cling and grip to your boots and trousers, perhaps wetting your feet. But would not soak and chill you to the bone to the same extent as rain found at the brink of freezing.

I peered out of my blanket to find my father already vacant from his sleeping pallet. This did not concern me and was a usual occurrence in the Robason household. My father, Obair Rabason, an Aon descendant, was a stout man who was dark of hair and skin; as descendants of the Aon tended to be. He was a diligent man. Over many years of living and working together in close quarters, a son gets to know his father. And if there was one trait I had come to respect of my father, it was his diligence. What my father lacked in brains and face, he made up for in his effort and want to do well in his task. I have lost count of the times he has told me ‘If the works worth doing, it’s worth doing well’, and despite the disagreements me and my father have shared, I feel that that is a lesson I will take with me to the grave.

It was my thirteenth winter since my nameday and, since two summers ago, had been expected to work alongside my father on the farm. Many a man has enlisted and joined the war at the front, leaving the young to work the fields. After several minutes of resigned contemplation, I crawled from my pallet and walked through to the communal area of my family’s house. It was a small and modest house, situated on the outskirts of Swineton, and consisted of just three rooms. One which me and my father slept in, a similar room for my younger sister and mother, and a communal room with some simple wooden chairs and tables and a humble stove. I have been told throughout my life that I should be thankful for all my parents provided for me, as with my father’s meagre wages as a farm hand and the small amount of coin my mother made through weaving and writing simple notes or letters for our neighbours, made this lifestyle a difficult one to sustain. A residence with more than a single room was a luxury not many could afford with just a farm hand’s wage. But through the upkeep and repair of the household, our family persevered. And I suppose I should be thankful for the life they have provided me, as you were never far from poverty in the kingdom of Imperium. Vagabonds were a common sight in Swineton and I am told even more so in The Capital.

Before the stove I saw my mother stirring a pot of what I already knew was porridge. It was always porridge.

My mother greeted me ‘Good morning, Sed’.

Her mousy brown hair platted and bunched to the back of her head. Like my father, my mother had a plain face. She wore an undyed woollen dress. Dye was a costly luxury, and one our family could not afford. It was the same dress that she has worn for many years. In fact, I struggle to recall a time when my mother was not in that dress. Its vigour bewilders me. As opposed to my father’s Aon heritage, my mother was Imperium born and served as a servant in Lord Kitchener’s manor, our towns governing noble, before leaving this position to marry my father. During this time, she was taught her letters, which not many servants in Imperium could claim to have done. But Kitchener was a fair man and insisted that both noble and common children of the manor partake in basic education. My mother follows this example and imparts this knowledge upon me and my sister on an evening.

‘Morning’ I replied, as I made my way to the table.

As the usual routine went, I joined my sister at the table. We exchanged a casual “Morning” and ate breakfast in the comfortable silence often shared by siblings. Flos looked strikingly like our mother but accompanied by a darker Aon shade to her skin. Each day she seemed to become more alike our mother. But she was undeniably her father’s daughter and shared a darker shade of skin, a symbol of her Aon blood. My sister was three summers my junior and has clung to the hems of our mother’s dress since birth.

Where my sister reflected our mothers looks, I am told I take after my father. I hope this to be true, for I am slight of build. Boys of a similar age tower above me and do not hesitate to use their physical prowess when the opportunity arises. I can only hope that one day I will grow into my Aon heritage.

After swiftly breaking my fast, and right on cue, my father entered the door. ‘Ready?’ he called.

It was more of a command than a question. Without reply, I left the table, found my leather jerkin, and followed my father into the winter morning.

We made our short journey down the boggy track to the farm we worked year-round. The farm was owned by the affluent Bunter family. Following the sudden fever and death of the head of the Bunter family, Bortius Bunter, a younger son, Balius Bunter, stepped up to manage the family business. This did not, however, have a significant effect on my daily routine. In place of Bortius, Balius stood each morning in the farm’s courtyard, his round face chilled pink in the crisp morning. A fine woollen cloak lined his shoulder. Using speech and mannerisms much like his father, he would divvy up the tasks of the day. Most of time I was given the same task I started yesterday, as there were few small tasks on the farm entrusted to a boy such as myself.

The winter season promised the ploughing of the fields and the planting of winter wheat. As Balius was noting attendance and assigning today’s tasks, I made sure to position myself slightly closer to the tool shed. I knew that my task was to be ploughing in the fields and wanted to ensure I has the use of a good plough. Too early I learned the effect of a day’s use of a plough with a splintered shaft.

I found my childhood friend lingering by the tool shed, his red hair tufted at the back from last night’s sleep. Patrik and I shared the same idea and habitually met each morning in this location. He stood a full head above me and where I had not yet begun the changes that boys had when they make the final journey towards manhood, Patrik had a patchy, yet noticeable fuzz on his chin.

‘Fine day for it’ Patrik groaned with the look a man has when he tries to allow as little of his skin to touch his wet and cold cloths.

‘Perfect’ I replied, trying to put a chuckle into my voice.

We moved through the fields, ploughs in hand. We lined up at the same point where we had finished the previous day and started our work. I welcomed the gradual warming that comes with physical labour. After several moments at my task, as one does with long repetitive tasks, I let my body take over and my mind wander to a place where time did not drag as much as it did when focused in the task.

The day grew warmer. The smudge of sunlight beyond the clouds travelled over the field. At its peak, we heard a whistle and returned to the farm’s courtyard. Here we collected our simple lunch of bread and stew from a large container, guarded by a younger daughter of the Bunter family. The was at the front ensured food was scarce and expensive. But most were happy to play their part in the war effort. After being issued with a child’s portion of stew and bread, I followed like a sheep the other farmhands to a barn just beyond the courtyard. It was not the first time I thought myself likened to one of the farm animals.

I reached the barn and found the most comfortable and available piece of hay I could and sat down. Before long, Patrik found me and joined me for our afternoon meal.

Patrik commented on the bread ‘This could kill a man if it was thrown hard enough’.

‘It beats the soured cheese they were giving out last season’ I replied.

He winced ‘Don’t remind me’.

The meal was over soon after it began. A morning’s manual labour will make even the Bunter family’s hard bread and stew palatable. Patrik and I arose from our hay seats and did our typical wander around the barn in search of Mendax, our resident soldier turned farm hand. For he enjoyed sharing his stories of war with the two of us. We found seats on the floor near to where Mendax was sitting.

He greeted us ‘’ave I ever told you about the ambush I was caught up in on our way out of South Sarrage?’

He had, but this story was a good one. ‘No, I don’t remember it’ I fibbed.

‘We were on our way back to the Fort, Fort Libertas that is, after a full day o’ patrollin’ the local area’ He started. ‘Usual stuff, nuffin’ fancy. We were in a herringbone formation, one on each side o’ the road with a little distance between us and the man in front. That way, it was easy to make a long line and lock our shields on either side o’ the road when we encountered any of those Muqatil feckers. An’ it helps to avoid the traps. On the way back, we passed through some forest and green that sits on either side of Sarrage river. Them Muqatil bastards know what they’re doin’. They put some of them traps, big enough to rip a man’s leg right off him, under the tracks. The rain an’ sun makes ‘em hard to spot after a few weeks. I was sat in the middle o’ the patrol. I couldn’t see the front man through the thick forest, but I heard his scream. I got down on a knee and put my shield out towards the side o’ the road. Arrows started to fly from all directions. I saw one of the other soldiers, a good man by the name of Dalais, a man who I first met during our Initial Soldier Training and thought him my friend. He was a few men behind and made the textbook mistake that they are supposed drill out o’ you in trainin’. He ran for cover. Fear does that to a man, you never realise just how little control you got over your body until you lookin into yer death. And just as they tended to do, the Muqatil trapped the mound to the side of the road Dalais ran fer. In most places, yer would think a mound like this was a good bit o’ cover. But, surely enough the large metal trap snapped his shin in two and he fell forward from the newly found bend in his shin. He didn’t scream for long before three arrows hit him in the back. And that was him done.

There is always one soldier who knows a bit o’ healin’ in every patrol. Wain was the name o’ ours. He didn’t stop to look at Dalais lied facedown at the foot of the mound. He was already gone. Instead he ran to the front an’ folded the injured man’s cloak so that he could be carried as we ran. We gathered him up and ran through the forest. The green cleared, we slowed to a walk, got back into herringbone and made our way back to the Fort. I ne’er did catch sight o’ the faces of the them Muqatil bastards. You ne’er really do. One minute its peace, and the next its chaos.’

I looked over to Patrik, his eyes wide at Mendax’s recollection. Excitement ran through me. Oh, how I envied his adventures in the front line.

‘Did they ever find your friends body?’ Patrik asked.

‘Not until a few days later’ Mendax replied. ‘It turned up battered on one of the roads one day. Looked like it had been dragged by the back o’ a horse. He was a good man, was Dalais, I still think about him sometimes. Muqatil bastards’ He spat.

A confusing and familiar emotion ran through me. Even the loss of his friend was something I envied.

The whistle blew, and we returned to the fields. On my way back to the spot I was working before the midday break, Patrik appeared at my shoulder.

‘Didn’t he say three people died last time Mendax told that story?’ He asked.

‘I think so. It’s probably hard to recall clearly after all these years’ I replied. Mendax wouldn’t lie, would he? He was a veteran of the Imperium army after all.

‘You’re probably right’ Patrik broke off from my lead and made his way back to his task.

The Afternoon passed much like the morning, the drizzle ever present. I retreated into my mind and before long the final whistle signalled that toady’s tasks were over. The short days that accompany winter meant that daylight would soon disappear. I made my way back to the courtyard. I returned my plough to the tool shed and waited in line to receive my pay. I flexed my hands, my skin felt tight and cracked around my knuckles. It was only my second winter working the farm and my skin had not quite built up a complete resilience. Last year was worse. I remember the sting of my weather ravaged hands when they would touch even the softest object. My blankets felt like prickles, my broken skin feeling every fibre of the blanket. The memory of it still sends a cringe down my spine.

I reached the front of the line where Balius stood behind a small table.

‘Sedibus Robason’ he said with a nod, reaching into a wooden box which sat on the table.

He placed five coppers into my hand and nodded to the man waiting behind me. five coppers. A child’s wage. My father would receive twelve. I did not grimace at this however, for a boy of thirteen, it was a fair wage. Especially as my body more clearly echoed that of boy of eleven years. My father would take four coppers from my wage to help support our family, leaving one copper for me. After the six days of work a week, this left me with six coppers to spend on the one day of the week I had to myself; restday. More than a generous amount of coin for a boy of my years. On my restday, I would often make my way down to the markets with my coins and select from an assortment of sweet buns from the bakery. With six coppers, I could usually afford three. I would try to will myself to save some of these for the week ahead, but usually giving in and finishing the lot before sundown.

My father and I made our way back up the boggy track to the family home. By the time we arrived, the sunlight that had peered through the overcast had vanished from the sky, leaving the moon in its stead. The moonlight lacked the strength of the sun to pierce the clouds, promising a dark and gloomy night. We entered the house through the front door to find my mother and sister preparing a simple meal of dark bread and stew made from the few vegetables grown in the small garden my mother and sister kept. Dinner was always the same. The only change was with the seasons, as some ingredients could only be grown and flourish at certain times of year. This season’s speciality was a mixture of spinach, onions, carrots, and peas. After eating this most evenings for over a month now, I longed for something different. Despite the repetitiveness of the stew, however, it was always better than the Bunters.

The evening before the restday, my mother and sister would venture into the markets and purchase some meat for our family to share. The thought of fresh meat after a long-weeks work always set my mouth to watering. However, meat was not on tonight’s menu.

I shed my jerkin and soiled garments for a dryer set hung on a line by the stove. I placed my wet garments there, to make sure they were dry for tomorrow’s day at the farm and joined Flos and my mother at the table.

‘How was your work?’ my mother greeted.

‘Much the same.’ I replied, the long day ploughing the field was not something I wanted to think about.

‘How was your day, girls?’ my father asked as he mimicked me, swapping his cloths on the line, before joining us at the table.

‘Pleasant, thank you’ my mother replied. ‘Do you remember the Morgan family who run the bakery?’

My dad spoke through a mouthful of dark bread ‘The ones with the lad serving at the front?’.

‘Finish your mouthful, dear’ my mother retorted ‘And yes the very same. They asked if I would write a note to their son stationed at one of the foremost outposts in Haram’

The name of Haram rang familiarly in my ears. Every citizen of Imperium knew of this country. A country that hated the kingdom of Imperium for our prosperity and for simply existing. Our nations had a long history of war. We were currently engaged in the third great war. The previous two not resulting in victory for either side but established a new set of borders between the kingdoms. The current state of the third great war, I am told, is heavily in our favour. We have liberated a lot of ground from the Haram rule and established outposts to help secure this. The Kingdom of Haram is so broken that their army has succumb to guerrilla warfare. Calling themselves the Muqatil. I had heard a lot about the Muqatil from Mendax’s stories and did not hold a high opinion of their “hit and run” tactics, where they retreated from the honourable face to face fighting of the Imperium army.

‘Poor lad, Haram is a blasted land I hear’ my father said, with sympathy in his voice ‘we should just leave that country to its own devices. Let the devils destroy themselves’

‘It is a just cause they fight for on the front’ my mother stated ‘I am told it is the people themselves who want to be freed from the clutches of their heathen leaders. That they rejoice at the site of the arrival of the Imperium army.’

My father responded ‘Sending young lads off to their death is not a price I would be willing to pay to liberate others from a country I’ve never even seen’

I cut in ‘But is it not an honour to lay down your life for a cause greater than yourself’

‘Well said’ my mother agreed.

My mother and father rarely disputed. But at times like these, there Aon and Imperium differences gave them very different views of the kingdom we lived in. Like most of those with Imperium heritage, who were born and raised in the kingdom, had a fierce sense of patriotism. One which is instilled into my mother. My father’s more rustic Aon blood has given him a little bit more of a considering mind when it comes to the matters of Imperium.

Aon, an old and ancient kingdom to the north, was overrun and occupied by Imperium over a century ago. Every piece of strategic and advantageous land was taken by force. This left the Aon in a state of anarchy which led to the formation of small tribes and nomads who lived off the land. These tribes are of no threat to Imperium of today and are mostly ignored.

‘Then would you allow me to join, when I come of age?’ I muttered. I had never told anyone except Patrik about my ambition to join the Imperium army. I braced myself for a laugh that I expected to escape from my father’s and mothers’ mouths. I was sure that the image of the small, unmuscular lad that I was wearing a soldier’s garb would be a hilarious sight. But none came.

My mother broke the silence ‘And is that something you would wish to do?’ concern in her voice.

My father was silent.

‘It is’ I answered truthfully.

I could feel the tension in the room.

My mother cleared her throat ‘Well finish your dinner, wash, and both of you get ready to study your letters’ my mother coughed again ‘I will consider it. You have over a year before you can even be considered for service. Perhaps you will change your mind’.

Despite her earlier commendation of the war effort, I could sense her reluctance to allow me to go. I could see the struggle between her claimed devotion to her country and concern for her only son wrought on her face.

I scoffed the rest of my stew and bread and headed back outside towards the well that the dozen or so neighbouring families shared.

I learned at this moment that patriotism is fickle. It is easy for citizens living in peace in the absence of war to get caught up in the righteousness of your countries actions. With a patriotic comment here and a small donation to the cause there, one could be assumed to be a great and noble patriot. But when that patriot is asked to make a significant sacrifice for your kingdom’s cause, it is plain to see those patriotic feelings drift away into nothingness.

World Building: The Kingdom of Imperium

Population: 102,000,000

Capital City: The Capital

Language: Imperium

Races: Imperium and Aon

Religion: The Church of Mater

Leader: Emperor Saevra Phaedra

Natural Resources: Iron, Brass, Timber, Farm Land.

It is said that Mater herself blessed the lands of Imperium. Bestowing upon them rich soil, an abundance of wild life, and many flowing rivers. To the north east of Imperium sits The Iron hills, rolling mountains of rock rich in iron and brass. Rich in natural resources, Imperium has thrived, quickly becoming what is arguably the most powerful amongst the known kingdoms.

Some scholars believe that the ancient Imperiums did not follow the teaching of Mater, but was once held beliefs similar to those of the Aon, a theory based in the finding of many shrines throughout the Imperium lands. There are only few scholars who believe this, however. Many of whom’s careers in academia has quickly ended, as this line of thinking is in direct contradiction to the Church of Mater’s teachings.

War has been a constant part of Imperium’s history. Three Great Wars have been recorded in The Imperium Archives. These wars have been raged against Haram, a kingdom across The Continental Bay. The first Great War saw Aon, an island kingdom to the north, ally with Haram. After the Imperium Army withdrew from the lands of Haram, retreat the only option remaining for the Army that had become exhausted in the desert, it made sure that Aon would never again be in a position to oppose Imperium’s will. After the Imperium Army was once again fit and resupplied, it set it sights on the closer kingdom of Aon. The conquest was short, Aon could not defend against the sheer number of Imperium soldiers, and led to the occupation of all Aon’s strategic lands. Still to this day, the Aon lands are predominantly ruled by Imperium. This occupation of Aon is what led to the mixture of both Imperium and Aon races that can be found today throughout the kingdom of Imperium. Although in some places, Aon are treated as second class citizens.

In recent years, the economy has seen drastic changes. Since the end of the second Great War, the financial gap between rich and poor has ever increased. Citizens exploit other citizens in the pursuit of wealth and riches. This is evident in the number of servants, all but enslaved to their masters, unable to leave due to debt. Those who do leave find themselves roaming the streets, becoming one of the many homeless that litter Imperium broken and defeated. In The Capital, the homeless have become so many that they have become an integral part of the architecture, blending into the gutters where they lie. A problem that no citizen, noble or common, is wanting to fix.

Thursday Thoughts – Lack of Reading Motivation

Great example of how motivation in all walks of life can decrease, and how goal setting can be used to increase it. If you want to know more on how to do this, see my post “Keeping Your Writing Motivation High: How To Set Goals” for more details.

Thrice Read

Let’s get real guys, my reading this year has been lackluster at best. At the outset of this year I declared that I would give myself more freedom and try not to focus on my Goodreads reading goal. After over half a year I think I can say that this approach has not worked for me.

My entire year has felt a bit like a reading slump. My reading has ebbed and flowed between the feverish devouring of books to complete disinterest. Now, I will say that life has changed a bit and that may have something to do with my lack of reading. However, I do believe that in not keeping myself accountable I have made it too easy to just not read.

My intentions behind allowing myself more “freedom” where it came to reading were genuine. I didn’t want reading to feel like a chore. Yet, we still…

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How To Actually Deal With Writer’s Block: A Mindfulness Approach

I have seen a lot of advice drifting around on the internet, suggesting ways an author can overcome writer’s block. These often include things like – going for a walk, making coffee, having a break from writing, and spend some time doing something you love. These are all well and good, but what happens if you return from your walk and still find yourself staring at a blank screen?

I think the problem with writer’s block is our lack of understanding of the condition and what it is exactly that causes such a frustrating condition. Scientific research of the area is lacking, however, it is suggested that the main cause of writer’s block is anxiety. Anxiety leads to a certain evolutionary response within the body that reduce the mind’s ability to think creatively. You may have heard it known as the “fight or flight” response. In my personal experience of writer’s block, anxious and stressed is certainly how I felt. I would sit staring at my screen worrying about the “what if’s” of not completing my manuscript and worrying that I may not possess the actual ability to complete it. And while a nice walk may clear your head and reduce the symptoms of anxiety, it may not be enough to reduce your anxiety to a level where your creative thoughts can run free.

A popular, and what is becoming a well researched approach to reducing anxiety is mindfulness. Mindfulness is described as the non-judgmental acceptance and focusing on the experiences that are occurring in the present moment. This is a great psychological skill and one i have consistently used to reduce my anxieties in all parts of my life, including public speaking. Below are 4 ways which mindfulness may improve your writing.

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1) Reduce anxiety.

It is thought that our anxieties are primarily linked to thoughts of either the past or future. For example, you may have experienced feeling anxious during an exam. But it is not the actually process of taking the exam that is making you anxious, but the thoughts about what would happen if you do poorly in the exam that are causing the anxiety. Thoughts such as this are useless, as after all, the only thing we can do is effect what we do in the present. Learning to bring your thoughts back into the present moment reduces the source of the anxiety and increases your focus on the task at hand, helping to get your creativity flowing again.

2) Achieve flow state.

Have you ever become so engrossed in your writing that your mind becomes fully emerged in the world you are creating, you feel an unstoppable energized sense of focus, and feeling an enjoyment similar to when you first started to write? It is likely that you were in a state of flow. Research has shown that those who practice mindfulness find it easier to achieve this state. Mainly, due to the ability to ignore distracting thoughts and fully emerge oneself in the present moment.

3) Enjoy the writing process.

When we do not focus our attention on the present, we numb ourselves to all the feelings we could be experiencing. For example, imagine eating an ice-cream. If you eat the ice-cream while thinking about what you are going to have for dinner, chances are you will not fully taste all the flavor that the ice-cream has to offer. Now, imagine you are eating the ice-cream while focusing all of your attention on the present experience of eating ice cream. Its smell, texture, and flavor. Much nicer, eh? This can apply too with writing. If you give the process of writing your full mindful attention, you may find that you start to enjoy the process much more.

4) Concentration while editing.

After long last, you have finally completed that first draft. Now it’s time for the edit. Yet when you come to read over what you have wrote, you find that your mind is drifting elsewhere. This is in part a natural occurrence, but one that can be extremely frustrating. Training yourself to be mindful can help to increase your concentration and stop your mind from drifting off into thoughts of the past or future. A great skill to have.

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So how do we become mindful?

Mindfulness is primarily achieved through meditation, and like all psychological skills, it is not something that can be achieved overnight. However, after following a daily mindfulness program of just 10 minutes for 2 weeks, people have reported a noticeable difference in their thoughts and feel themselves becoming more mindful. Mindfulness is something that can be done for free with the internet offering great guides and videos, or even paid services if you are more serious about becoming mindful. In these you will find all you need to know about how to become mindful.

I hope you have found this a useful post on how writer’s could benefit from mindfulness. This is part of a writer’s psychological skills guide that I am in the process of putting together. My other posts include Keeping Your Writing Motivation High: How To Set Goals, with more to come in the future.

Please like and share and let me know what you think and if there is anything you would like to see in the future.

Life Outside of Fantasy: Learning Japanese Part 1

4000 words learned, 1000 to go. Then I can say that I have learned the vocabulary need for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 3, the 3rd level of the Japanese government led fluency exam. But learning a language is more than just vocabulary. It’s the grammar, listening, reading, and speaking skills that combine to make a person fluent. And to top it off, the Japanese language uses kanji, Chinese characters that portray a meaning rather than just a sound. As if to engage hard mode, kanji have multiple readings, some with as many as 10 different ones, and the student just has to memorise each one as it is. It’s really fun, I promise…

Despite its difficulties, learning Japanese has been a huge joy. One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was during a trip to Japan. My girlfriend and I walked into a bar that was on the 5th floor of one of the many skyscrapers in Tokyo. A “salary man”, or businessman, was sat beside me. After a few drinks, I began to talk to this man sat casually beside me at the bar. He didn’t speak a word of English but we managed to have an in-depth conversation about the UK (where I live) and where he had visited and what he thought of it. A rather basic conversation you might think, but to me, this was a dip into a culture that I completely love, and otherwise would not have experienced. The look on my girlfriends face was an extra bonus.

As a diehard fan of anime and manga, I had always wanted to learn Japanese. But I was not stirred into action until I was backpacking around Europe. I met some amazing people, all from different parts of the world, who all spoke at least 2 languages, some even speaking 3. They were slightly taken back by my amazement at their linguistic abilities. I think it is unfortunate that native English speakers rarely learn a second language, which is understandable as there isn’t really a need for it. However, I think if more people learned a second language it will help to reduce the barriers and misconceptions we hold about other countries and cultures, which this world could probably use more of.

If anyone is interested in finding out some free resources where they can learn Japanese, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Keeping Your Writing Motivation High: How To Set Goals

As a psychology PhD student, my studies have taken me into the midst of many psychological theories. My particular area of study involves encouraging people to adopt certain behaviors, or do certain things. When trying maintain or increase motivation towards a specific behavior, a lot of research has suggested that goal setting can help you achieve this.

Goal setting may sound simple, and it really is once you understand its basic principles, but it can be easy to create goals that may actually become detrimental to the goals you want to achieve. Here, I will show you how to use one of the most well-established and simple methods of goal setting that you can use to set your own goals. Those of which can be applied to all aspects of life, such as staying motivated to complete your novel, adopting a new exercise routine, and learning a language (These areas are just some of those I have personally used goal setting for).

Image result for smart goals

The SMART method of goal setting has proved to be very useful to me and is extremely easy to pick up.

Specific – Goals should be specific. “I want to write fantasy” would not be a specific goal and would be difficult to know when this has been achieved. “I want to complete my novel” would be much more specific.

Measurable – The goal should have some component you can measure. Adding onto the previous analogy “I want to complete my fantasy novel”, how many words per day would that take, or how many hours per day? Using methods such as this to track progress helps to keep you motivated.

Attainable – “I want to complete a whole 80,000 word novel in a weekend” is obviously not an attainable goal. This aspect of goal setting is also very personal, and will vary person to person. “I want to write 3000 words per day” may be attainable for some, but for others, such as myself, it is not.

Relevant – Keep your goals relevant to higher goals you want to achieve. For example, “I want to write 1000 words per day” should be relevant to the higher level goal of completing your novel.

Time-based – It is easy for goals that lack a time component to be put aside and lost in a busy life. Having a point in time that you want to complete your goal helps to keep it high in your priority list.

For me, my current SMART based goals look like this:

  1. Complete the first draft of my fantasy novel by 31/10/18 by writing 1000 words per day.
  2. Study Japanese for 40 minutes five times per week in order to take and pass the JLPT 3 exam.

If you look back at the SMART principles, you will find that this covers them all.

Adding onto the SMART goal system, there are a few other points that research says make your goal setting more effective. These are:

  • Write them down and put them where you can see them – This helps to keep them at the forefront of your mind.
  • Don’t be too strict with yourself – For example, if I was to write 1000 words per day until the end of October would be much more than the word count I have planned for my novel. But it is likely that something will come up during those three months which means I am unable to write, so to ensure I stick to my goal, I have given myself some wiggle room.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your thoughts on whether you found it useful or not. Psychology is a very broad subject and if you would like to see more of it applied to writing let me know!