Monday, March 03, 2008

The Secret of Happiness

Patricia Smiley here…

Since my post today is about happiness, it is my pleasure to make a joyous announcement about our very own Jacqueline Winspear. Her latest novel AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE hit the New York Times Bestseller List (edition published on March 9th) just one week after the book’s publication. As you can image, our Naked buttons are bursting from pride. In fact, we’re downright chuffed, not only because Our J is a talented and deserving writer, but also because she is our friend and we love her. Cheers to you, Our J! Now there will be knitting and champagne at the Bouchercon bar.

More happiness...

A couple of Sundays ago, I watched a “60 Minutes” segment profiling the happiest people in the world. Hint: They are not Disneyland employees.

They are the people of Denmark, which isn’t surprising despite all that Hamlet the melancholy Dane bad press. Perhaps the reason for their contentment lies in the fact that the Danish government takes care of its people (which totals half the population of Los Angeles County) from the womb to the tomb, freeing the Danes to experience happiness through the simple things in life: friends, family, and low expectations.

That revelation prompted me to wonder who were the happiest people in my world. Certainly not most writers I know. We're happy but not totally so, because our expectations are as high as our anxiety over not living up to those expectations. We hunker down in our caves, typing words we hope will inspire or amuse, while facing impossible deadlines. We talk about yourselves at book events until we’re sick of hearing our own braggadocio. We worry about things like sell-through, book contracts, and bad reviews. We fret that our writing sucks and soon the reading world will discover our fraud. We compare ourselves to “real” writers who are a hundred times more successful than we are without doing one radio interview or a single library dog-and-pony show. We obsess about socking away enough money in our IRAs so we won’t have to eat cat food when our careers become the litter boxes of the fiction world. Kind of makes you want to run out and buy a ream of paper and a typewriter, doesn’t it.

I’m currently looking forward to the June 3rd release of my fourth novel COOL CACHE. In preparation for the big event, I e-mailed a wise friend about some promotion ideas, which consisted of several options laid out in a concise outline, featuring opportunities, threats, financial spreadsheets, and contingency plans (because that’s what one does when one has an MBA with an emphasis in strategic planning). On hindsight, my e-mail may have contained just a smidgen of angst, because my friend shot back with some writerly advice: “Do only that which brings you joy.”

She knew that the past year had been a blur of activities for me. I became so over-extended with planned events, unexpected responsibilities, and volunteer work that much of the joie de vivre had leached from my joyosphere. Her comment forced me to stop and consider the things that truly made me happy.

  • Friends, family, and fans who support and encourage me.
  • People who respect and appreciate my contribution and take every opportunity to say so.
  • Pilates.
  • Knitting socks.

I just finished these on Friday. How joyous is that?

Still, it seemed like a short list.

That's when my search for the universal truth about happiness sent me thumbing through Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment. Author Gregory Berns, M.D., Ph.D. maintains that "... satisfaction, thrives on challenge and novelty.”

Challenge? Novelty? Interesting. Then I remembered Paul Levine’s post a couple of Tuesdays ago. He asked us to write a six-word memoir. Mine was “That was fun. What’s next?” Could it be that the dopamine in my brain was again craving something new and exciting? If so, change may be looming in my future.

Recently, I was offered a breathtaking opportunity. At first I hesitated because accepting it would present one of the greatest physical and emotional challenges I’ve ever faced. This opportunity is beyond novel. It's a bit crazy. But just thinking about it makes me giddy. So maybe, just maybe...

What brings you joy?

Happy Monday!

P.S. Watch this if you think smart is the new sexy or if you think Tina Fey is hot or if you just want a Monday morning belly laugh.


  1. Congrats, Jacqueline! Way to jump out there!


    1. Understanding something that has long been a puzzle or mystery; deciphering an enigma, unravelling an anomaly.

    2. Discovering a well written page, passage or chapter, one that takes my breath away, and makes me wonder, "Did I write this?" (I don't know about you guys, but I'm not always completely aware of what I'm writing, not until I go back and read it later).

    3. Beautiful women (why I keep hanging around here, all apologies to Paul and the James Gang).

    "Bitch is the new black"?!!! LOL!

    More on this new opportunity, Patty? Sailing the Seven Seas?

  2. Jeff, what a great joy list. I agree. It's truly blissful when you read wonderful writing--either yours or someone else's. And the new adventure is not sailing-related. More to come...

  3. Not sailing?

    Hmmm. Great physical and emotional challenges, more than novel, a bit crazy. Giddiness. Gee, sounds a lot like a marriage proposal. :o)

  4. Ha...HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! Not even close.

  5. And Jackie's San Francisco coup was to go straight to Number One on the bestseller list her first week out. Way to go, Jackie!

    Joy? The sun on my shoulders and a glass of red wine.

  6. All right, then I'm going with something involving police work.

    Otherwise, fulfilling all of those requirements begins involving some sheer kinkiness that I'll leave better speculated by your fellow Naked Authers...

    Have a great day, PS and all!

  7. Not to put the gloom into Monday, but it's been so long since I've been truly happy, I'm not sure I'd recognize it if it came up and sat in my lap.

    And Tina Fey is very hot. I like smart women so much that one of my not-so-secret crushes is on Christiane Amanpour. Give me big brains over big boobs any day of the week.

  8. Congratulations to Jacqueline! What wonderful news!

    Joy is feeling my daughter's arms around me when we hug.

    Of course I like Louise's idea of a nice glass of red wine, too :)

    Patty, waiting with baited breath to hear about your exciting opportunity!

  9. Oh, WELL DONE, Our J.!!! Congratulations!! I've just read An Incomplete Revenge, and it's brilliant. :-D

    Joy: peace (no interruptions, no sirens, no blaring radio, no 'have to have this done now', etc.), fresh baked scones, jam and whipped cream, a huge pot of tea, and a long-awaited good book -either warm sunshine or a roaring fire. Also, cuddles from my husband. ;-D

    Ooh. An exciting opportunity, Patty? Ask yourself: what would Tucker do? :-D


  10. A child's smile.


  11. YAY for Our J!!!!

    Right now what makes me happy is the idea of going to Left Coast Crime in Denver on Wednesday, where I'll be celebrating my 45th (gasp) birthday on Saturday night. Just found out that my great pal Candace is going to be in town, in completely random synchronicity. I expect we will get up to no good, as usual.

    Also have many happy memories of Danish boys, most of them occurring in Thailand. But they shall remain secret.

  12. Louise, maybe we need to take David out for a little sun and red wine. David, will you go with if we promise to bring Tina Fey?Marianne!!!!!! Howz the writing going? We miss you. Have a great time in Denver Ms. C and the happiest of birthdays! Jeff, keep detecting...

  13. Way to go, Jacqueline!

    And this, from Canada's Globe & Mail:

    "In the crowded trenches of post-First World War detective fiction, the Maisie Dobbs series stands out. Partly because she's such a delightful detective. But also because Jacqueline Winspear really knows how to tell a story."

  14. Patricia Smiley, America's first mystery novelist/astronaut...

  15. A big congrats to "our J." With the loss of the "angel," Helen/Maude, I imagine the accolade is somewhat bittersweet.
    Keeping in mind J's Friday post, I urge you all to sponsor Sherri's walk for the cure for MS.

    "Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it."
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    To our J, and to you too Go-Lo [what with your certain-to-be-best seller coming out this summer], thanks for the cornicopia of fruits which you provide to us through your writings, including this blog.


    PS:Not to be "knit-picky" but I knew you could knock the socks off somebody....just didn't think it'd be yourself....

  16. Hi Patty! :-D

    Things have been busy: midwifing the dino book; agenting a couple of writer friends works; writing book pitches for a book publisher and packager; painting a little; sewing for the first time in god knows how long; trying to keep up with all of the new books coming out and find time to read them; the first conventions for the year to attend; travel and business stuff. Urk. Need a holiday.

    BUT we'll be in Denver ourselves for the World Science Fiction Convention come August. :-D Memphis and Dallas at the end of this month. Sigh. And I'm not even on a book tour!!

    Oh, and yes, the inspiration has been bopping me on the head in a regular fashion, so I've gotten some serious research, notes and editing done this week towards my mystery 'thing'. It's definitely time to get back to my own writing. :-D My main task this week, though, is to nominate on the 'Anthonys'. :-D

    I try to read all of your posts, but don't always have the time - or inclination to fight with my new computer over website cookies - to comment. But I always come back you guys. :-D


  17. Ah, Jon, you make me weepy.

    Jeff: Tee hee tee hee.

    Marianne, you sound waaaay too busy. We're happy to hear from you whenever you can squeeze in the time.

  18. Yay, Our J!

    As I read your post, Patty, two ideas about joy immediately came to mind: time with friends, and lurking on the Left Bank..

  19. What brings me joy?

    1. Being totally alone and there being no noise. But that only lasts for minute or two, then I get bored.

    2. That first mouthful of the first glass of Guinness

    3. Working out the solution to a real-life problem (not puzzles though, they just piss me off)

    4. Seeing my wife smile

    Number 4 absolutely dicks the others, if I had to rank them, though.

  20. I've already made it clear how I feel about Tina Fey.

    My kids have never failed to bring me joy and I've found that when things are going well for them, things are going well for me.

    Congrats, Jackie.


  21. Rae, Left Bank YES! I love watching French dogs bask in the sun.

    Marcus, I love the way you find joy, even #4 and I don't even know your wife :o)

    James O, I think we all know how much you love your kids. I even understand your thing for Tina Fey.

  22. Um, let me rephrase that. I don't have a thing for Tina Fey but I understand MEN who find her attractive. Oh jeez, nevermind.