The Introvert’s Obligatory Daily Existential Crisis.

It is after midnight and I should be sleeping, but having just awoken from falling asleep at 9:30, sleep eludes me. What better time to blog?

I have been away from my computer, working more hours, traveling, preparing for Christmas… Edits of my novel, kernels of ideas for the next one, the scorned mystery, all lay in the periphery, like cast off slippers peeking out from under the sofa.

Since the rejection of my mystery, I have, once again, daily reconsidered my life. The introvert’s obligatory daily existential crisis. What should I be doing? Where should I do it? What am I capable of? What will my anxiety allow? It is interesting how the mind never tires of these questions and still, after fifty years, provides new and unique responses. In some ways it is a curse for aptitude tests to indicate you can be anything other than a surgeon. With a million paths before you, how do you know which one will have the staying power? My dad worked for thirty plus years at Ford, most of the time doing the same job, daily packing the same bologna sandwich, well not the same sandwich literally, but you get what I’m saying. Me, I top out at five years. Except for being a stay-at-home mom. That never got old. But my kids did.

So, what are the new paths I consider as I do my daily rounds? Lately, I’ve been going back to my earlier choices. Conservation. Music. Things I had decided I was too old for. But, maybe not. Maybe I can resurrect old passions. Time will tell. For now, I am anxious to have the time to complete the revisions of my novel and send it out to be shot down by dozens of agents with curt replies. I’m not anxious for the last part to transpire, but it is the nature of the beast. I do so want to place my creations in a publishing house that will give them their best chance. That is the goal.

So, for now, I have goals and a job that makes the car payment. And tomorrow, the cogs in my brain will turn again, pondering, puzzling this thing called life.

Book Review – The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurl’s novel, The Emerald Comb is an entertaining read with enough mystery to keep the pages turning.

Dually set in modern England and down the heroine’s family tree two hundred years, Katie learns more about her ancestors than she bargained for. As an amateur genealogist, I related to Katie’s search into her past and frustration when her husband didn’t share her zeal.

I found the conversations and interactions in the present sections to be stilted and some of the characters awkward. Conversely, the sections in the past read without a hitch. It was the story of Katie’s ancestors that kept me reading.

The Emerald Comb was a quick read, which means I was invested enough to want to return to the book. Since finishing, I have thought back to the story several times. Both signs of an enjoyable reading experience.

I give The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl three duckies and recommend it for a good weekend read.

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I purchased the Kindle version of The Emerald Comb from Amazon for 99 cents plus tax.

The Emerald Comb

By Kathleen McGurl

Published 2014 by Carina UK

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Rejection.

There is little in this world that hurts more than rejection in all its forms.

The break-up, I’m not even going to touch upon. Why bother when so much has already been written on the subject. No, I’m thinking on all the little rejections we face from the time we are born. The times as a tiny infant we cried and no one came. The times we weren’t picked for a game. The teachers who favored others first. The jobs we didn’t get. All the times we were looked past and yes, the boys or girls we didn’t get.

I think I’ve always felt I placed near the top of the pack in many things. Near, but never at the top. Doing well, but not the stand-out. Like in the Great British Baking Show in the early weeks when several hover in the middle. Not Star-Baker, but not going home either. Mentioned in the tent during Paul and Mary’s musings as having done something well enough to stay but not in the limelight.

Near the top isn’t a bad place to be. In fact, most of the time it’s a preferred spot. Safe. Respected. Less pressure.

It isn’t a bad place to be unless you want the spotlight.

I’m a writer. I’ve written three novels, three collections of short stories and a self-help book. I want these works in the spotlight. Somewhere in the pack in this industry means available for purchase but rarely seen by the public. It means I write books that nobody reads.

Somewhere in the pack isn’t good enough.

Eleven weeks ago I submitted a novel. Diligently, I followed the publisher on Twitter, both before and after the submission. Followed not in some creepy, stalkish way but to educate myself. I learned the submission process was taking up to twelve weeks and the longer it took, the better the chances it was being considered. As the weeks ticked by, I searched my inbox several times a day, relieved to not get the dreaded rejection.

Then, last night, at eleven weeks and one day, I got the e-mail. The form letter, thanks but no thanks. Heartbreak. If you’ve never put yourself out there in the same or a similar way, you don’t know the pain of being told you’re not good enough. But then, maybe it’s the same pain as every time we’re told we’re not good enough.

Rejection. Is it any wonder I probably tried to protect my children too much from rejection. It’s a tricky business knowing the balance between enough to learn healthy coping skills and the tipping point that overwhelms and leads to dysfunction.  I know, as my mother often told me, I’m too sensitive. Rejection creates a burning hole in my heart that in my older adult life is tamped down by tears, yelling, swearing and vowing to make good. Tamps down the fire, but has as of yet, never extinguished it.

So, today, I re-evaluate. What I submitted was written to their specifications. I don’t do that well. I have to tell my stories in my own way. Not that I reject the submitted story. But, if I hadn’t been fettered by their vision, there were things I would have written differently.

Rejection creates internal narratives. For some it’s the spark that drives them on. For others it’s the reason they can’t get out of bed. For me, it’s both.

My internal narrative tells me my tagline is – I write books that nobody reads. Another tells me, I write books that nobody reads – yet.

Book Review: The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney

It was with delight that I stumbled upon The Wolf in the Attic on a Goodreads list. I read it in a day.

Paul Kearney’s eloquent, yet conversational, prose captured and held my interest from the first paragraph. Told from the perspective of eleven-year-old Anna, the story unfolds at a skillfully tantalizing pace. Pieces of Anna’s past were doled out in a natural telling, stoking my curiosity that kept the pages turning.

Rescued from the burning quays of Smyrna during the Greco-Turkish War in 1922, five-year-old Anna and her Father began a new life as refugees in Oxford, England. But for them both, a new life did not come easily. Anna’s father insisted upon Anglicizing her by altering her name and providing an English education while he remained connected to the older Greek community, seeking reparations for what they had lost.

Mourning the loss of her mother, home and way of life, Anna’s only friend and confidant was her doll, Penelope. Discouraged from playing with the local children that her teacher considered guttersnipes, Anna began to wandering far afield. One night, she saw more than a child should witness.

Just when I was comfortably ensconced in the novel, it took a bizarre turn. Bizarre if the reader, such as I, did not realize Paul Kearney was a writer of fantasy.

The writer grounded Anna in point in history unfamiliar to me and even if the book had not taken a fantastical twist, I would have enjoyed the rest of Anna’s tale. But, twist it did and though The Wolf in the Attic took off in a direction I never expected, it did so without jolt or jar. Paul Kearney craftily introduced Anna to characters of folklore reminiscent of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and we were off and running.

In researching the author, I discovered I came late to the party as Paul Kearney is the well-established author of many books of fantasy. I am glad I stumbled across one that was a mixture of my favorite genre, historical fiction, and fantasy.  I also learned The Wolf in the Attic is not the end of Anna’s story. Its sequel, The Burning Horse, is scheduled for release in 2019.

Don’t expect this to happen too often, but The Wolf in the Attic swept me away. Therefore, I award it a coveted 5 out of 5 duckies.

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I purchased the Kindle version of The Wolf in the Attic from Amazon for 99 cents plus tax.

The Wolf in the Attic

By Paul Kearney

First Published 2016 by Solaris, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd

What’s Writing Got to Do with It?

I used to be an avid reader, but somewhere along the line, I’ve fallen off. In part it is laziness. Visual media does so much of the work for us. In part it is the introvert in me that shies away from meeting new people, even in print. And, in part it is because, as a writer, I am constantly in editing mode. I cannot turn it off. I even edit people’s conversations.  Thankfully my edits are contained in my mind, unlike Sheldon Cooper. It’s horrible. There is no off switch.

So, to encourage my reading habit, I have decided to include on this blog book reviews. Books I have read recently. Books, though published years ago, I consider to still be relevant. Books by authors of renown and books by authors unknown by most.

As a rating system, I didn’t want to give thumbs up, or stars so I have decided I will assign each review a ducky rating from one to five.

I hope through my reviews you may enter into a relationship with books you might have otherwise never met.

Is This How You Spell Existential Crises?

Just looking at that word – crises – I’m in a panic. Not because of any event, but because it looks so very wrong.

Words. Spelling of words. Appearances. All things I’m no ducky about.  All things I need a macintosh for because they aren’t sliding off my back on their own.

To shed some light into my insight into brain gymnastics, it should be shared that I’m a trained mental health counselor. Education, experience and personal insight. Too well, I understand the acrobatics the mind can perform.

So how does this lead to my routine existential crises? (I’m going to keep writing that word until it becomes more normalized. Doesn’t it just look weird?) It goes back to the shoulds of yesterday.

What should I be doing?

I’m not saying this is the case for all introverts, only this one. Creativity, introversion, ability, guilt, insecurity and shoulds roil around in a tiny internal cauldron sending out paralyzing fumes. Fumes that twist and twine around the parts of the brain that define the self and the parts that instigate action.

There is a reason people set out with enthusiasm and hope and end up in bed under the covers. The existential crises. The inability to function in the world laid out before them.

So, the next logical step is to create their own world, one where they define their existence. Seems like a plan, doesn’t it? But existential crises constantly question – why am I here – what am I supposed to be doing – how am I supposed to do it  – and on and on.

It’s like being asked to design your own personal Eden. Seems like a dream, right? Not so much.

We all need boundaries. My object lesson in this happened when I was a teacher for an outdoor education center in my twenties. I watched the director set clear expectations for the children and saw the most rebellious child relax into the frame. Like lanes in a bowling alley, boundaries set the path. Like a warm hug from a parent, boundaries make us feel safe.

Life is better with boundaries.

That’s why jobs and school are soothing to an anxious mind. (They really are, more than it seems when you’re in it) We all need direction and boundaries.

Freedom from anyone’s control seems the pinnacle, but if you achieve it, then what? Now, you are the master of your fate, you must set the course or flounder about in a sea of overwhelming opportunities.

Which leads back to the existential questions – why am I here – what am I supposed to be doing – how am I supposed to do it…

The answers fluctuate with time of life, state of mind, availability of courage, belief in the self, level of external expectations. I’ve come to terms with knowing I will probably never be free of these crises.

After all, even Snoopy asked the questions.

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