Yuma and happy new year, everybody!
(I mean for yesterday, when I sat down at the keyboard and said to myself, "I'll just send a quick email to my readers." That was *checks watch* 29 hours ago.)
Did I ever tell you that I'm a bit of a self-improvement junkie? I'm always reading books about how to do better: Thinking, Fast And Slow, Predictably Irrational, How to Change and The Power of Regret (which I powerfully regret not including in the best-books-I-read-this-year list I sent you in my last email). I'm always trying to find ways to make myself smarter, healthier, more productive. I'm often found printing out spreadsheets to track my own behaviour, or downloading apps that promise to make me more efficient. One of these apps has a blog, and they interviewed me about my ongoing quest to be the most efficient version of myself.
As I wrote that last paragraph, I suddenly remembered that I once even hired someone to make a bespoke app for me. I think it was called Money Run (after my book). It was a pretty simple game. I would start with a score of $1. (It was a virtual dollar. I don't mean virtual like cryptocurrency—I mean it was purely imaginary. Actually, that still sounds like crypto. I'm trying to say that the money only existed in the app, and couldn't be spent anywhere, online or off, or traded in any way. I just found dollars more motivating than points). Whenever I did something which was likely to benefit my future self (like cleaning the kitchen, drinking some water or going for a jog) I'd tap a green button, and the app would double my money. $1 would become $2, $2 would become $4, and so on. Whenever I did something which was likely to harm my future self (eating a slice of banana bread, or buying some expensive gizmo) I would tap a red button which would divide my score by 3. $4 dollars would become $1.33, or $30 would shrink to $10. (The minimum score was $0. I hate debt, and it would have sent me into a spiral of despair to see a balance of -$800,000, even if the money wasn't real. Money isn't real, by the way, but I digress. Anyway, having $0 as the minimum avoided a scenario where I would lose money for good behaviour and gain it for bad.)
This app wasn't intended for anyone but me. It was a Windows Phone app and as far as I can tell, I'm the only person on Earth who ever bought a Windows Phone. The app was just supposed to fool me into feeling like I was earning money by making good choices, and thereby encourage me to do so more often.
And it worked! For a few days, anyway. Money well spent (the real, non-virtual money I gave the app developer).
This brings me to the subject of New Year's resolutions. Love 'em. I always make a couple. Sometimes my resolutions are the same as everyone else's (exercise more, eat healthier, save more money, and so on). Sometimes they're more distinctive to me - a year or two ago I resolved to write a review of every book I read, for example.
Some people sneer at New Year's resolutions, because they typically don't last long. A few studies imply that two-thirds of people give up on their resolutions within a month. Others suggest it's actually worse than that, and that 80% abandon their goals by the second Friday in January, which has been dubbed "Quitter's Day".
In How to Change by Katy Milkman, the author says we're looking at those statistics the wrong way around. We shouldn't focus on the 66-80% who fail, but on the 20-33% who succeed in changing their lives, motivated by nothing more than the feeling of a fresh start offered by the new year. (A year which, like money, is purely imaginary. It's only 2023 because we say it is - Earth is four billion years old - and it started on January 1 only because we say it did - June 5 would be equally valid.)
Novelist and pop culture critic Linda Holmes argues that even if you don't stick to your resolutions, it's healthy to make them. The new year is an annual reminder to think about the kind of person you want to be - a task that is important but never urgent, and which you might otherwise never get around to.
I'm someone whose New Year's resolutions are soon abandoned and then forgotten. Even the ones I've made over the years which stuck, I suppose I can only say I've stuck to them "so far". And many of the changes I've made in my life which have stuck (so far) weren't New Year's resolutions, and weren't made on any special or seemingly special date. But I agree with Milkman and Holmes, and I would add this to their observations: Imagine a person who spends every January exercising, eating healthy food, learning another language, reconnecting with old friends, et cetera--and then gives up on all these resolutions on January 31. Surely that person is better off than an otherwise identical person who didn't make any resolutions at all. Wouldn't you rather be the best version of yourself for one month out of every twelve than none, even if it meant feeling like a failure on February 1?
I would. But maybe that's because I've failed so many times at so many things that failure doesn't have much of a sting anymore. Before I get too far down the existential rabbit hole about whether it's possible to be successful and satisfied, or if one precludes the other—and what does success even mean, anyway?—let me tell you some New Years Resolutions I will definitely stick to:
The tenth book in my award-winning Danger series will be published this year.
300 Minutes of Mystery features ten more young heroes, ten more dangerous situations and ten more mysteries to solve, all with a ticking clock in the margins. This time I've subtly linked not only all the stories in book, but all the books in the series. The book is accessible to newcomers, but returning fans will realise that this series is all one giant, sprawling tale, with a meta-conspiracy to unravel. I'm hoping it will blow their minds.
The sequel to my Ned-Kelly-shortlisted novel Kill Your Brother will be also be published this year.
This series is all about shocking twists, so I don't want to reveal anything about it at this stage, except that Elise and Kiara are back (most of the other characters are not, having been poisoned/shot/burned/stabbed in the previous book). I'm enormously proud of it, and can't wait to share it with you. The working title is Kill Your Husband.
I've also written a teen crime novel which will also be published this year!
I can tell you even less about that, since it's still at the structural edit stage, but if you liked Liars: The Truth App, you're going to love this—though this book is a little darker, edgier, and more grounded in reality. The working title is: If You Tell Anyone, You're Next.
Scream—my tween horror series from a few years ago—is getting re-released as an audiobook!
Those were by far the scariest books I ever wrote, and it's super exciting to have it heading for a new audience. More details soon.
Signed copies for sale!
OK, not yet—but soon. I don't want to compete with booksellers, who are champions of my work and in many cases personal friends. But I do want to clear some space on the bookshelves in my office. I've written so many books that they're getting crowded (I know, I know) and so I've decided to sell some very limited-edition autographed copies, which might make great birthday presents for the reader in your life. Stay tuned.
Hmm, I'm sure there was something else I was supposed to tell you.
But one of my resolutions was to go to bed earlier, and it's not February yet, so I think I'd better do it.
But before I go, can I quickly thank you for your support of Headcase?
I don't have any sales stats yet (the author is often the last to know) but it's been so gratifying to see so many shops stocking so many copies, so many people at so many events, and so much buzz on social media. Many of the reviews, both professional and amateur, have declared Headcase the best book of the series, and the average rating of 4.33/5 on Goodreads has eclipsed the other books (but to be fair, I think that makes statistical sense, as the readers who didn't like the other books have chosen not to read this one). The point is that Blake made it this far because of your enthusiasm. I'm grateful (and relieved).
The audiobook, by the way, has been recorded and is coming soon. I can't wait to hear it!
Phew. I usually close out this newsletter with a short story I wrote, but I'm exhausted. So here's a story of someone else's, which I found both funny and chilling: Easy Does It by Andrew E. Love, Jr.
And if that's not enough spec fic for you, here's a book recommendation—I'm having the time of my life reading Tarquin the Honest: The Hand of Glodd by Gareth Ward right now.
OK, I swear I'm going to bed.
P.S. I'm not on any social media at the moment (which feels amazing, by the way) but I will be, when the next book comes out. Feel free to follow me at the links below!