A Package of Moods by Adam Bassett (2016): A Review

A Package of Moods by Adam Bassett (2016)Adam Bassett’s A Package of Moods is a speculative fiction novel set in a future where a pharmaceutical company has distilled moods into a nicotine patch-like form. Through a series of chapters, each focusing on a new character, Bassett’s novel explores various individuals’ lives and how they intertwine and are impacted by the new mood drugs.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The novel was an easy read, with prose that flowed and was rarely interrupted with any awkward phrasing. Bassett’s writing style has a few moments where it shines. A character’s hesitancy to try the mood altering drugs and his transition to acceptance was encapsulated in “Aidan remained hesitant until the night after Christina broke up with him. He fell into a bottle of rum and awoke with a war in his head and Happy on his neck.” Another character’s description stuck out with the succinct lines “death would be hard for Colby to come by. He always buckled his seatbelt.”

I wanted to like A Package of Moods—the premise was intriguing and borderline dystopian—but it never quite delivered for me. I feel a glaring issue is that the novel attempts to cover more characters and ground than its short length lends itself to. There are 11 chapters, including the epitaph, and each chapter of the novel focuses on a new character and their story. All the characters are connected in one way or another—a nurse from early in the book appears at the end briefly to care for another sick character, the owner of the coffee shop where one character works appears later as the wife of another character, etc.—and the main character of one chapter becomes a background character in another (or disappears entirely). This results in a very surface-level feeling to the story. Other books have demonstrated that it is possible to have a large cast of characters and tell the story from different perspectives—the wildly popular series A Song of Ice and Fire (adapted for televison as A Game of Thrones) is an obvious example—but the length of the book must allow time to develop such a large cast and give the reader enough time with the characters. A Package of Moods, being a bit over 50k words in length, just does not have the time to develop the characters and connections it introduces.

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On writing: Writing more productively

Last week I wrote about cultivating a better writing atmosphere. Here are some additional tips and reading recommendations for those who want to focus on writing more productively.

Shut off your devices

Here’s one that’s going to be hard for a lot of people: turn off your internet and cellphone while you write. Internet, messaging apps, cellphones: all of these things are just fancy distractions keeping you from being more productive. To write more, you need to buckle down and focus, and this means eliminating as many distractions as possible.

Some writers go so far as to have a computer that does not have an internet connection and they use this computer for their writing. George R. R. Martin shocked the internet back in 2014 when he shared that he still uses a 20 year old DOS computer for his writing. While his point seemed to be that he preferred the word processing software of the older computer, I still imagine he must get much more done on a machine free of the distractions of modern software.

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On writing: Creating the perfect writing atmosphere

When writing, one of the most important aspects for being productive is the atmosphere or environment. It is common for a writer to have a particular set-up for writing. Whether that is a special place in their home, such as a desk dedicated to only writing, or just cultivating a particular writing atmosphere, where and how writing takes place is quite important.

George Bernard Shaw's writing hut newspaper article 1929Where writing occurs can be essential in creating a productive writing atmosphere as documented in the case of many famous authors: some authors such as George Bernard Shaw and Roald Dahl had dedicated writing spaces in the form of a writing shed, separate from their home. Maya Angelou was known for renting a hotel room where she could go during the day to write, free from the distractions of home.

Even if they did not designate a specific space for writing, other authors have focused on how they write. It’s common to sit at a desk, but Ernest Hemingway and other writers have preferred standing up while writing, while others like Mark Twain and George Orwell swore by lying down to write. Vladimir Nabokov wrote on index cards so he could rearrange the cards if he wanted to change the sequence of events. Other authors prefer writing longhand, moving to typewriters or computers for later drafts.

Most writers don’t have the kind of flexibility that famous authors do in creating the perfect writing atmosphere. But you can still try to create a more productive writing environment starting with these strategies.

Writing in seclusion or at home?

Secluded writing shed (Photo by Paul Itkin)As discussed already, some writers absolutely require seclusion when writing. Are you this kind of writer? Do you find yourself easily distracted while at home or at your desk? Do you live with other people who do not understand the meaning of a closed door, or the request to give you some quiet time while you write? If this sounds familiar, you might need to a secluded writing spot away from home.

Now, I can’t imagine many readers will have the luxury of building a writing shed à la Shaw or renting a hotel room à la Angelou, but you can still get out of the house. Try finding a public space where you can work uninterrupted. There’s the cliché of writers at coffee shops for a reason: some people need to get out to write, whether that’s because they need to find some outside inspiration or they just can’t get any writing done at home. Continue reading

How to set up an Amazon Giveaway for your Kindle ebook

On March 2nd, Amazon posted an announcement on the Amazon Author Central homepage stating the Amazon Giveaway program is now available for Kindle ebooks. For books, it was previously only available for hardcopies, which seemed strange considering that digital copies are quite easily sent to readers. Enough people must have spoken up that Amazon finally did something about it: the announcement cites “authors have been asking for this feature” as one of the reasons for the change. It’s good to know Amazon is listening.

Amazon Giveaway winning boxIf you don’t know about Amazon’s Giveaway program, check out the homepage here and the FAQ here. As others have pointed out, an Amazon Giveaway could be very beneficial for authors, especially since you are not required to be enrolled with KDP Select. Want to make an Amazon Giveaway of your own? Launching one yourself is pretty simple, as I will show you.

Note: Amazon Giveaway is only available to residents of the United States.

How to launch an Amazon Giveaway

To launch a giveaway on your own ebook, first go to your book’s product page on Amazon and scroll to the very bottom. You should see a section titled “Set up an Amazon Giveaway.” Here is an example from the page for my book, The Joining:

Amazon Giveaway example

Click the button “Set up a giveaway” and you will be taken to next page where you will choose the details of your giveaway.

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A few of my favorite things: The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice’s Moon Colony Bloodbath (2009)

In 2009, The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice released Moon Colony Bloodbath. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle described the nineteen minute EP as a “loose” concept album with a science-fiction theme: “Some of the songs have something to do with a loose rock opera/’concept album’ idea about organ harvesting colonies on the moon and the employees thereof, who spent their off months living in secluded opulence in remote American locations. Concepts like this are actually more fun when you abandon them but leave their traces kicking around, so that’s what we did.”

I discovered Moon Colony Bloodbath from this io9 article, for which I will be forever grateful. After I got ahold of the EP, I must have listened to it on repeat dozens of times in the first week alone (though that’s admittedly easy to do with something just nineteen minutes long). The first song, “Surrounded,” begins with the line “pale white moon shines down on Colorado,” and, at the time, I was in Colorado in winter. With its chilling theme, and Moon Colony Bloodbath was the perfect accompaniment for driving down dark winter roads at night.

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