Being Swallowed by a Whale is So Bad Ass – Fear Setting and the Big Lie in Your Novel and Your Life

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Being Swallowed by a Whale is So Bad Ass - Fear Setting and the Big Lie in Your Novel and Your Life

A lot of writers get blocks. Sometimes those blocks have to do with story ideas, with the fear that their idea sucks, that they don’t have the writing chops to pull off a novel.

Sometimes those blocks have to do with worry that trolls will ridicule their story, nobody will read it, everyone will hate it.

Sometimes those blocks have to do with the fear of typos, of not being perfect.

But they all have to do with fear.

As a writing coach, I have to talk to a lot of writers about their blocks and their fears. And recently, I realized that adopting Tim Ferriss’s ‘fear setting’ approach could help a ton of the writers-students that I love so much.

Goals are brilliant, Ferris says. Resolutions? Fantastic.

But nothing happens with those goals and resolutions if you are too afraid to make the steps.

So he delves into those fears and explores them and determines the potential and the risk.

That’s what you need to do with your writing (and your life).

Ferris’s process is quite refined and quite simple. We have links in the podcast notes on so that you can find them in Ferris’s own extended version. He also has a TedTalk about them.

But it begins like this:“Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and “what-ifs” pop up as you consider the big changes you can—or need—to make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?

Next, think about what you could do to fix it if that worst-case scenario happens. Write it down. Was it not quite as hard as your fear made you think it would be?

Next what are the benefits, the potential, the outcomes in forever ways and transient ways of all those scenarios and possibilities? Would you be more confident? Happier? Would you have more money? Make a scale of 1-10 and rate those outcomes.

He asks,

What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might be—it is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. I’ll repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous business people for advice.

And how is this hurting you? By not doing something because of your fear how are you hurting yourself? Inaction also has a cost. It’s just a cost that seems easier because it doesn’t seem to rely on as much choice.

Ferris has some fantastic slides from his TedTalk that relate to this, too.

A lot of us who write novels, talk about the big lie that dominates our main character’s life, the wrong belief that dictates and holds the character back.

Fear is our big lie in the story of our lives.

All of us have our own big lie or lies. We worry so much about what might go wrong that we are afraid to embrace what might go right. We live so much in our heads that we fail to live in our world. We allow the fear, the lie, to hold us down. Our fear is also a symptom of our lie.

It’s good to see how that’s holding you back. Just like we want the characters in our novels to have transition arcs and evolve, so should we, right?

Dog Tip for Life

Don’t let your fear control your life.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Use the big lie and your characters’ fears to show their transition throughout the story.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!


Sparty Dog on a Wednesday

It’s easy to rip other people apart.

But you aren’t about easy. You’re about lifting up so we can all hit new heights, have cuddly beds, good treats.

Look at how beautiful you are. You. You sparkle. Go share that. Go be you.

Also, bring treats.


Sparty Dog

Gabby Dog’s Tuesday Motivation

Sometimes you might lose hope.

But the thing is? Hope can come back.

The thing is? YOU ARE AMAZING all the time.

Look at you breathing, thinking, doing.

You’re beautiful. You’ve got this. I believe in you.

Gabby Dog

Sparty and Gabby Inspiration for Monday

Hey! You know what…?


You’re looking brilliant today, super shiny and amazing.

*awkward cough*

We think you’re great. We hope you think so, too!

*runs away barking happily*

Love, Gabby and Sparty Dogs

Ballsy is sponsoring our podcasts this week and it is an awesome company.

They are running a promo right now for LOVE DAY and all days, really. The retail price is $less than $50, and the coupon code is for 20% off.

Here is your code for you, our cool listener: DOGS20 

It has the word DOG in the code. That’s so cool. Just like you’ll be cool if you give this to your special man for Valentine’s. So go check Ballsy out at

There’s an I’m Nuts About You gift set and the You’re Incrediballs heart box set. 

The link to our episode

Our last regular episode.

Leaning Into Fear in 2020

We all have times in our lives when fear gets the best of us, when we don’t know what’s going on in ourselves or in our world. Our thinking becomes catastrophic and everyone is suddenly an expert in the Book of Revelations and apocalypse horsemen.

That’s no way to live. Not even in winter in 2020.

Marguerite Duras wrote in her novel The Lover that “the art of seeing has to be learned.” That’s true for bravery, too. 

This is my year of leaning in or rather it’s my life of leaning in, of going right at the things that I’m most afraid of. 

I grew up in a house where fear was a normal state of being. My mom was afraid of everything, closed spaces, open spaces, heights, deep water, birds, spiders, dead animals, driving over a bridge, driving into a city, even cats eventually became terrifying to her. Jump scares happened daily and would be caused just by me walking into a room.

My older brother and sister inherited her fears. My sister was afraid of grass when she was little. She got over that, thankfully, but she’s still afraid of a lot. My brother is too. Birds make them nervous, heights, closed in spaces, so many things. 

“You are not like me,” Mom said once when I was in fifth grade after jumping off the roof of our garage. “Or like the rest of us. You’re brave.” 

I thought that maybe fear was a part of our DNA, our family. I thought it might be some kind of inherited disease that I could avoid by being fierce. 

But I had it too. The fear. I just hid it better, fought it. At slumber parties when there would be some creaking radiator that all the fourth-grade girls would be 100 % sure was either a possessed clown doll with an axe or a possessed clown human with a machete and I would grab the closest weapon (usually a flashlight) and yell, “Come on! We have to face our fears!” We’d all grab hands and I’d march them off towards the source of the sound. We’d hold hands for so long. We’d be praying. We’d be shaking. But we always moved forward, holding each other up as we walked towards our terrors. We never met any possessed things. 

“You’re so brave,” my friends would say because I was always the one in front, the one who’d be first to die via possessed clown doll, I guess. “So brave.” 

I’m not. It’s just that we live, if we are to live at all, in a world full of noises, and fears, and possibilities for harm, violence, pain. “I don’t know what this world is coming to,” a man said to me recently in the grocery store parking lot, “but I mourn for us.” 

He reminded me of my dad, plumber’s smile pants, kind smile and eyes full of worry. Cracked skin on his fingers from hard work and cold, dry air.

I live in on a large island in Maine. In the winter, our tourist community loses most of its people and color. Wind sweeps through winter-boarded restaurants. People meet up at the grocery store. People start going to our grocery store every day just to see other people. The world is white and gray and brown. The only color is the sky and an occasional scarf. Even the most of the people dress in navy blue, white, black, and gray.

And this is when I always feel the most scared, the most trapped, when the sun is a distant memory and warmth has been swept away on currents to much warmer places where the lights stream down. Every world event, every life event, every choice feels more dangerous and I feel more vulnerable, less tethered to bravery. 

We all have times in our lives when fear gets the best of us, when we don’t know what’s going on in ourselves or in our world. Our thinking becomes catastrophic and everyone is suddenly an expert in the Book of Revelations and apocalypse horsemen. 

That’s no way to live. Not even in winter in 2020. 

My mother never had the life she wanted, never visited England, never explored the world and became a teacher, never swam with manatees or dolphins, because she was too afraid. When the events of our lives and the world combine to feel catastrophic, we don’t know if there is a design to it or chaos, but we can know what our reaction is to it. We can lean into the fear and hold up signs saying THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING or we can lean the other way, towards courage and possibility. We can hold up signs saying, HOW DO WE MAKE THIS WORLD BETTER? Yes, even if there is only a day or two left of this world, we can still try to make our lives and the lives of others better. 

We can breathe in, take a look, and ask ourselves, “What is happening here?” We can react out of courage, hold each other’s hands and investigate the noises. 

Looking into the darkness and illuminating it,  looking into the light where the ugly truths are illuminated? Both can be terrifying. But to move forward, to evolve as people, or society or as a species, that’s exactly what we have to do. We have to face the truths illuminated, the darkness of our fears. We have to hold hands and face our fears, lean into them, and see not just what they are, but what they reflect about us. Call attention to what we fear, what we see, what we do, because that is the only true way to fight the things that have to be fought. 

Lean in.

Face your fears. 

All day, every day. 

Bravery like seeing – truly seeing the world –  has to be practiced. You stagger a bit in the beginning, but then your own bravery can shock you, becoming a total surprise. And instead of seeking to have it, you’ve just become it. Brave. 

Doggy Thought For Monday

Why hello.
Look at you, getting out of bed and into the world, looking so shiny.
I’m proud of you. Let’s go face our fears, be vulnerable and strong, breathe in all the moments.
You’ve got this Monday & this week.
Let’s do it. Let’s adventure!

Gabby the Dog


I’m about to publish a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up? 

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones

I have a new book coming out!

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can preorder it here. Please, please, preorder it. 

So, um, please go buy it. I am being brave, but that means that despite all my reasons for doing this, I’m still terrified that nobody will buy it and I really, really love this book. A lot.


This week’s writing podcast.


The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.


The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”


My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!


It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods



Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

New Year’s Gifts and Open Hearts

Open Hearts at Grocery Store

Two years ago, on the last day of 2017 (the no-good, terrible year), I was in the grocery store line and the cashier said something nice about me making a good meal for my man and how cute we are together and then she said, “You’re best buddies. Best buddies forever. Me and my — ” Her voice caught on grief. “We were like that.”

And my heart broke right there.

And I said, “C–, you’re breaking my heart and you’re working and I can’t get over there on the other side of the grocery belt thingy and hug you because you’re working.”

The bagger girl at the end of the lane looked away. I don’t think she’s good with emotion.

But C– just smiled at me and said, “It’s okay. It’s okay. I have a new man in my life and he’s so sweet to me and he showed up just when I needed him and my J–, I think he sent him to me.”

Her J — is her long-time, forever buddy, her husband who died.

So, I basically emoted all over the place while she rung up my crackers and I was like, “C–! You are killing me. I’m crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m happy for you. I’m crying because you’re so beautiful. And this is all… it’s all so… It’s poignant.”

She laughed.

The bagger kept looking away.

And when I walked out of the grocery store, this person I don’t know, he touched my elbow to make me stop my mad-fast hustle to the car. It was -2 out. It was cold.

The guy who was all bundled up and wearing some Carhartt’s said, “You know. When you have a heart as open as yours, it’s going to hurt sometimes.”

And I said, brilliantly, “Oh.”

“It’s worth it,” he said. “Do good out there, Carrie. Do good.”

I was a little freaked out, but I thanked him, got to my car and sat there, and I just stared at this cold, Maine, parking lot and the people rushing through the grayness that seems to sometimes overwhelm everything during winter and my heart got so full that I started emoting everywhere again because that random Carhartt-wearing man took time out of his day to talk to me. He stopped in the cold to talk to me.

This guy knew my name somehow, but bigger than that? This guy knows about hearts.

Gifts Out There

So, here’s the thing – there are gifts out there (big gifts and little ones) and they can come from the weirdest places. They’re connections. They’re motivations. They are these tiny times where you get to see inside other people’s minds and hearts.

Savor them this year. Try to dwell on those good things as much as we all dwell on the bad.

And let both the good and the bad inspire you to make a difference in your own life and maybe even other people’s lives (big ways and little ways).

cat, cat wisdom, catandkitten, kitten, Maine cat, maine
cat, cat wisdom, catandkitten, kitten, Maine cat, maine

Thank You

Thank you all for everything you’ve done for me this year. You’ve listened to me worry about things like suddenly being a full-time mom again.  You’ve celebrated with me about book stuff and podcast stuff. You’ve mourned with me when Charlene died.

You haven’t mocked me too hard because Grover (the muppet) is my internal cheerleader and John Wayne (dead cowboy movie star) is my internal editor. You’ve been brave with me on Be Brave Fridays when I shared my art, which is still scary by the way.

Some of you have bought my books and become my patrons. On social media, so many of you have been so kind over and over. And you haven’t unsubscribed to my newsletter. That’s such a big deal to me.

Thank you.

I really appreciate how kind and giving you’ve all been and if I write any more I’ll start crying. And there’s no random stranger guy here to make me feel better.

But there is Gabby….

Gabby’s New Year Wisdom

Love is being right in the moment. It’s about enjoying everything around you. And really feeling it, being open to it.

This includes the couch.

It even includes squirrels.

It’s not giving or taking, but who you are in relationship to all else (especially the couch) at that moment.


Gabby Dog

Last week’s podcast

This week’s podcast link.

Continue reading “New Year’s Gifts and Open Hearts”

Gabby Dog’s Monday Motivation

Sometimes it’s hard to open your heart to life that feels different, but
that’s the best time to open your heart.

You get a cool soft place to rest your head & to just be.

Loving is just being.

Opening your heart? It’s not about taking or giving. It’s about being.

I want that for you.


Gabby Dog

Gabby Dog Motivation and Big Thoughts for Tuesday

You don’t need to wear disinterest like a badge of honor. Celebrate the things you love. Let others celebrate their loves, too. Don’t ruin other’s joy by announcing your disdain.



Anti-Star-Wars peeps.

I’m looking at you. 

Gabby the Dog’s Wednesday Inspiration

Holding onto love is like hearing the universe sing.

Believing in yourself is adding the melody to the tune.

Open the sliding glass door. Let’s go love and sing today. No matter what happens. Let’s embrace the love, share it, make change with it.


Gabby the dog

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