Imposter Syndrome: Why You Are Self-Sabotaging (and How to Stop!)

There comes a time in nearly everyone’s life when they are struck by a sudden fear that they are a fraud. No matter how much evidence you have for your skills, success, and potential, there is a niggling little worm in the brain that whispers “You’re a fake! You’re a loser! This is never going to work!”

In fact, the more successful one becomes, the more likely they are to suffer from these kinds of anxieties and insecurities. It’s called Imposter Syndrome.

Who Gets Imposter Syndrome?

Everyone is vulnerable to Imposter Syndrome, but some groups of people more so than others.

  • Entrepreneurs who see a sudden surge of success are more likely to be hit buy fear and insecurity than those who have had to build their business up slowly over time.
  • Creatives are more susceptible than those in traditional occupations because there is so much social pressure to have a “real job.”
  • Women and minorities are more likely to doubt their worth than others.

If you fall into more than one of these categories, you might be at higher risk than others.

10 Signs You Suffer From Imposter Syndrome

  1. You don’t think you’re anything special.
  2. You think others can easily achieve the things you have.
  3. You feel generic and replaceable, a placeholder in your field.
  4. You give other people credit for your success, thinking “I couldn’t have done it with out so and so’s help.”
  5. You feel uncomfortable when others praise your skills and achievements.
  6. You believe your connections are more valuable than your actual skills.
  7. You believe people who praise you are just trying to be kind, or you mistrust praise as flattery with an ulterior motive.
  8. You attribute past successes to luck or being in the right place at the right time.
  9. You believe you haven’t worked hard enough to deserve the success you have had.
  10. You are afraid that other people will realize you aren’t as great as they thought, that you have somehow tricked them into believing you are better at your job than you really are.

2 Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome That Are Hurting You

If you frequently find the above thoughts passing through your brain, you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Unfortunately, the damage of Imposter Syndrome is deeper than just self-consciousness. Your fear of being a fraud can actually drive self-sabotaging behaviours.

Overworking Yourself

Some people, when struggling with feelings of inadequacy and a fear of being discovered as a fake, believe they must work harder than anyone else in order to make up for their perceived deficiencies. These people show up early, stay late, take on extra projects, and work themselves to the bone. Then, after they do all that extra work, they try to minimize their efforts as if anyone else would do the same thing!

Procrastinating

On the flip side, the belief that you must be perfect in order to be worthy can result in a paralyzing fear of starting anything. People suffering from Imposter Syndrome will often make excuses for why they can’t take the next steps they need to make in their business or creative projects, because they are convinced that failure is not an option. Failure will expose them as the frauds they are!

Cure Yourself of Imposter Syndrome

Negative thoughts have power over us when they are allowed to fester and squirm around our brains unchecked. The longer they exist without being challenged the more real they become to us.

If you believe you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome there are some simple steps you can follow to shine a light on that wormy dark place in your brain.

The Emotional Rx

  • Acknowledge the negative beliefs to yourself, and identify them as toxic thoughts.

The Social Rx

  • Talk to someone close to you about them: your partner, close friends, family members, and colleagues. Share your experiences, and listen to theirs. You may find comfort in knowing that others have the same thoughts and fears.

The Mental Rx

  • If these beliefs are out of control and are taking over your life, seek the help of a mental health professional. In fact, seeing a counsellor regularly can be a great tool for setting and achieving your goals, even when you aren’t suffering from negative thoughts.

The Physical Rx

  • Learn a new skill, completely outside the sphere of your usual work. Allow yourself to be an amateur. Allow yourself to fail and to learn. Get comfortable with not being perfect. Then see if you can apply this newfound freedom to your professional life as well!

Conclusion

As more and more people are working from home, pursuing creative work, and starting their own businesses, it is important for us to talk about the very real threat that Imposter Syndrome has on us and our livelihoods. Fortunately there are many resources out there to help you if you are struggling with negative beliefs about yourself.

Discussion

Have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? How did you handle it? Do you have any advice for others in your field? Please share in the comments!

Spooky Tales for my VIPs!

Wow! Have I got a deal for you…

As many of you know, I have a penchant for entering flash fiction and short story challenges and contests. I’ve posted the results of a lot of them here and received invaluable feedback on my work! I’ve even won first place in a few rounds of various NYC Midnight competitions and some cold hard cash in The Anarchist’s Fantasy Short Story contest last year!

I have been planning to gather up all my shorties for an anthology for a long time. The trouble is, I have some that are fantasy, some that a sci-fi, some that are low-key horror… And I didn’t have enough of any one genre to fill a book. I thought this project was going to take a few more years to complete.

But then I had an epiphany. It was a Halloween Miracle!

My stories aren’t all in the same genre. But they do have one thing in common. They’re all a little… weird. Which happens to be perfect for this time of year when I wear my witchy hat all day long and Strange reigns Queen.

Meet The Ferryman…

I’d like to introduce you to The Ferryman and Other Strange Tales by S.C. Jensen, a collection of my most unsettling works. Nineteen bite sized stories to tickle your creepy bone whenever you can sneak in a few minutes’ reading break.

A Gift for You!

For the month of October, I will be offering The Ferryman for free to my newsletter subscribers. If you are on the list, great! You should already have received your invitation to download it. If you think you’re on the list but didn’t see it, check that over-enthusiastic junk mail folder of yours and make sure I’m on your approved senders list! Remember, my newsletter is different from the WordPress emails you might get when I publish a new post here.

If you are not on my mailing list yet, but you’d like to get your hot little hands on this Halloween treat, click >>>>HERE<<<< You will see the invite email with a button to subscribe up in the top left corner. Be sure to subscribe before you try to download, as it will only work if you’re on my list!

Tell Your Friends!

If you know anyone who likes strange stories and weird tales, feel free to share the above link. In a few days this book will be live on all your preferred online retailers for the very reasonable price of $3.99. Cheap thrills, indeed! Of course, free is always better, so don’t delay!

Bonus?

But wait! There’s more! If you’re on my mailing list, you will also be the first to see the cover for my new book, Ghostlights! You will also have the opportunity to sign up as a member of my Launch Team and get to read it before anybody else. I’ve never had a Launch Team before, and I’m really excited about it. The first 50 Team members are going to get a special gift from me to celebrate Ghostlights big launch day! So sign up, stay tuned, and tell everyone you know!

Is that too much to ask?

Share your excitement with me below…

5 Wonderful Ways to Support Indie Writers

I love books. I love books more than I love most people. But you know which people I love even more than books?

I love writers, whose tireless efforts fill my physical and electronic bookshelves to overflowing with more books than I will ever be able to read in this lifetime.

And I love readers, whose passion for words and stories give me a reason to continue writing.

So here are 5 simple ways that you can support the authors you love, and help us keep cranking out those pages as quickly as you can read them!

#5 Go to their events

Check your local bookstores for readings and book signings put on by indie authors in your area. Stop in to say hello at their table when you visit book conventions or other events.

But don’t forget online events, too. Follow your favourite authors on their social media platforms, and be sure to show up for launch parties, cover reveals, contests, and whatever they’ve got going on. Not only does it give them warm-and-fuzzies to know you’re out there, but it shows other readers that this author is worth supporting!

#4 Post to your Socials

Sharing is caring, friends. If you are loving a current read, don’t hesitate to shout it from the rooftops. Share a picture of your reading space on Instagram (show off that gorgeous cover!), tweet your favourite line on Twitter, or gush about your latest book haul on Facebook. The more people who hear about your fave authors the better chance they have of growing their audience, supporting themselves, and writing more books! Bonus points: Wow your friends and frenemies with your worldly connections by tagging in your featured writer. We love to be able to say thank you and geek out about other books.

#3 Buy our books

Obviously, right? But did you know that not all buying options are created equally? Here are a few things to consider before buying your next indie book.

  • Where to buy – Buying direct from an author’s website will usually garner them a higher payout, but it doesn’t help their sales rankings on bigger book buying sites. Buying from Amazon, or other big online retailers, boosts their rankings and provides the benefit of a “verified review” (see #1). You may have to ask the author which they prefer!
  • What else to buy – You can also help out your favourite author by buying other books in the same genre at the same time. This helps online retailers link similar authors together, and provide “Customers also bought” advertisings to other shoppers.
  • PRE-ORDERS! – The absolute best way to buy an author’s book is to Pre-Order it. While this isn’t an option for books that have already been published–and of course authors want you to buy their older titles, too–pre-ordering a new release gives a huge boost to that book’s opening week sales, which in turn affects their ranking and visibility on whatever site you buy from. This helps more people find their books!

#2 Read our books

I know. Sometimes we buy way more books that we can possibly get through. Our TBR piles are dangerously close to tipping over and squishing a child or fuzzy friend.

But the writer is a strange creature. We put our hearts and souls into producing a story that begs to be read. We know we may never hit the NYT Bestseller list. We know we may never see our book on the silver screen. That’s okay. We can live with that.

But if no one ever reads it? That kills us. Our hearts flutter with excitement every time one of our books sell. Will you love it? Will you hate it? We need to know! Nothing is worse than knowing someone has bought your book and then never hearing about it again. Please read it. And then…

#1 Review our books

Reviews are the writer’s lifeblood. Real, honest reviews are invaluable. Not only do reviews help the right kind of readers find each book (and the wrong kind of readers avoid them), they help boost a book’s sales rankings and make it more visible to more readers, and they provide feedback to the writer that can be extremely difficult if not impossible to get within our real life circles.

Please leave a review. Tell other readers what you loved, what you didn’t, and what you hope for in the next one. We read them. We learn from them. We try to improve because of them.

And hey, if you’d like to review The Timekeepers’ War, you can do that HERE! Because you don’t get what you don’t ask for, right?

Bonus Points: Library Requests

In case you are looking for one more way to help out your favourite writers, here is one that often flies under the radar. Check your local library (or local bookstore for that matter!). If you don’t see those indie titles you love, don’t be shy. Make a request! Not all self-published books will be available to libraries and bookstores, but it never hurts to ask.

When you’re finished reading their latest book it goes back to the shelf, ready to be discovered by a future super-fan. Be sure to let the author know when your library says yes! You will make their little ink-stained hearts grow six sizes, guaranteed.

Brainstorm with me!

Can you think of any other important ways to help independent writers keep pursuing their dreams? Drop them in the comments below. Better yet, share one of your favourite books!

Please share this post anywhere you like to geek out about books. Let the great symbiosis between reader and writer thrive on!

Why Sci-Fi?: An exploration of Genre

Recently, one of my Instagram followers commented on how I often passionately post about Sci-Fi writers and works that they have never heard of. Classics that have somehow not been on everyone’s radar, and new writers who have been overshadowed by those in other, more popular genres.

If you don’t already follow me on IG, please do! You can find me @sarahdoesscifi and join in on some of the live discussions we get into, not just about SF but about reading, writing, life, and what makes us tick.

What makes you tick?

The question got me thinking. What is it about science fiction, or speculative fiction, that gives me those visceral reactions?

I read very widely. I love mysteries and crime dramas; I love fantasy and magical realism; I love action and suspense; I love fancy pants literary fiction. The only genres I don’t read are romance and erotica. No, I am not a prude. I just don’t like them. That’s allowed, dammit!

Rarely, though, do I ever gush about any of these other genres. I’ll happily recommend it to others who enjoy similar books, I’ll say that I loved it. “Great book!” I will say, and I will mean it.

But I’m not going to write a blog post or book review extolling its virtues. I’m just not. Because I never, with the exception of some literary fiction and memoir, have ever truly felt changed by any book that was not science fiction.

So, Why Sci-Fi?

Science Fiction is real. It tackles real life problems, or future problems, and it attempts to solve them. Sometimes, it demonstrates how those solutions might fail.

I’m not saying that fantasy or crime thrillers or romance novels can’t be realistic. I believe all good fiction is based in reality in one way or another. Human interactions have to be recognizable to the reader’s experience. The laws of the story world must be obeyed.

Writers across genres are telling us something about what it means to be human. This is why we love to read. It’s a universal bonding experience to reach across the world, or into a fantasy world, and find a character that we love, can relate to, cheer for, or root against.

Terry Pratchett’s observations about human nature are brilliant and philosophical, for example. What Pratchett and most other genre writers don’t do is this:

They don’t offer solutions.

“The Most Important Artistic Genre”

I recently read Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Homo Deus. They, like good science fiction, caused a massive shift in my brain. He changed the way I thought about the world, about being human. He made me reconsider everything, spun me around, and pointed me in a different direction entirely.

“Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre,” Harari says in Episode 325 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.” — “Why Science Fiction is the Most Important Genre,” WIRED, 09/08/2018

Science Fiction is real. It is based on a speculation of what might happen if…

And those “what ifs” are real possibilities. They may be far fetched, the author might not get the science exactly right, but they don’t require magic or monsters to get the job done. They find solutions: the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between.

The Solution is Sci-Fi

The SF author’s job is to make people think about this world, the here and now. To inspire people. Science Fiction can provide distant early warnings about the paths we are currently on. They can show us our doom.

Better yet, they can show us our potential.

The Best of the Best

My favourite SF writers right now are N.K. Jemisin (Check out How Long ‘Til Black Future Month), Octavia E. Butler (I’m currently reading Parable of the Sower, and I also highly recommend the Lilith’s Brood trilogy for a serious look at what makes us human), Ken Liu (his short story collection Paper Menagerie is a great mix of SF&F), and Margaret Atwood (the Maddadam trilogy is wonderful).

Discussion

Do you read science fiction? What is your favourite thing about the genre? Who are your favourite authors, and why? Which genre do you get the most out of? Let me know in the comments!

10 Gardening Quotes to Inspire the Sci-Fi Writer

What does gardening have to do with science fiction? Perhaps not much on the surface. Human beings have been gardening for more than 10,000 years. It’s as old fashioned a pass-time as there gets. Right up there with cave painting and throwing rocks at our enemies. (Please don’t do the latter.)

I have become increasingly interested in the future of gardening, though. Science Fiction is ripe with possibilities for both near and far-distant futures on Earth and elsewhere in the universe. It’s got me thinking, are there ideas to harvest here?

Sowing Ideas

Writers are known for deriving inspiration from unexpected places. Here, I give you 10 quotes about gardening that might just sow an idea or two for your next fiction project.

10. Hopefulness

There is something hopeful about growing a garden, isn’t there? In order to plant something today, one must believe they will be around tomorrow. This proverb makes me wonder about future human settlements–recovering from a natural disaster, maybe, or trying to survive on a new planet entirely. What are their hopes for the future? What challenges will the this new life bring?

9. Garden Teachings

The garden as teacher; it is a wonderful metaphor. Viewed through a science fictional lens, however, this quote takes on a potentially sinister tone. Imagine a world falling apart, where the lessons from the garden are lessons in survival. Patience, watchfulness, industry, thrift, and (mis)trust may become the only thing that stands between our protagonist and death.

8. Survival

We all know weeds grow far better in all conditions than the plants we actually try to cultivate. Is your protagonist a delicate flower, tended and cared for and placed just where society wants her? Or is she a weed, defying all attempts to control and eradicate her? Weeds are what every dystopian fiction needs to kick-start an adventure.

7. Future Generations

Perhaps this is true. But what happens when past generations have seeded something more sinister than shade-giving trees? There are many beliefs and practices that come back from the past to haunt the present. What seems like a great idea today might end up a burden on our children. Can you think of any gifts from the past which could spoil the future of your characters?

6. Immortality

No one lives forever. Yet. It’s no secret that science is working its way closer and closer to this ideal. What will happen to the world when our lifespans grow longer and longer? How will it change our use of land for food and habitation? Humans do not have to be the only gardeners, either. Perhaps gardening is a task entrusted to an immortal artificial intelligence system, too important to be left to our foolish, self-destructive species. What becomes of the immortal gardener? What challenges does it face in keeping us humans from destroying ourselves and everything around us?

5. Vision

It’s true. There is something incredible about the vision of the future required to design a beautiful garden. Emperors may been seen as gardeners themselves, of a kind. Where the green-thumbed herbalist cultivates plants to feed, heal, and inspire so, too, does the Emperor shape his empire. How might the garden inspire great leaders? Will we garden on spaceships hurtling towards an uncertain future on another planet?

4. Back to Nature

Can you envision a future in which human beings embrace Mother Nature and follow Her lead? It is possible that we will learn from past mistakes. Rather than trying to control nature and assert our dominance over the planet, humanity may decide upon a cooperative future with this planet (or the next). Solarpunk has shown us that the future doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. How might humanity redeem themselves?

3. Planning and Execution

No, your characters don’t have to execute anyone. Or do they? We must be the change we wish to see in the world. If you want a garden, you have to plant it. And if you want to turn a corrupt society on its head or overthrow an oppressive government, you have to join the revolution. This quote is a reminder that no matter what kind of world your characters live in, good or bad, the most important thing is that they act!

2. Experiments

Once again, I think of the Immortal Gardener. Perhaps human beings are the cultivar gone wrong. Are we weeds, invasive species taking over the planet? Are we an experiment gone wrong? Maybe you are dreaming of a world in which humanity discovers a cure for one of our many ills but this experiment takes a dark turn. In stories, as in real life, there are no true mistakes if only we learn from them.

1. Optimism

No matter how bleak a world you are writing in, there must be the occasional flower. There must be a reason for living, those little flashes of hope and optimism that keep your characters on their path. Is your character the kind of person who finds flowers in every crack in the sidewalk? Or do they have to have a bouquet shoved under their nose before they stop to smell the roses? Maybe your flower is a bio-luminescent fungi growing in and underground tunnel, like in my Timekeepers’ War trilogy. There are lots of ways to use this metaphor in your own work!

Growing Inspiration

What do you think? Do any of these quotes make you think of a favourite book or movie? Does anything here pique your interest for a future book or an addition to your current Work in Progress? Let me know in the comments!

The Timekeepers’ War: Character Art by Ingrid Nordli

Something I have always loved about fiction is the way it inspires other artists, from musicians to illustrators to film makers and beyond. I love the way an idea can sprout from the mind of one person and blossom into new ideas and interpretations and grow a life of its own.

Fan art has a special place in my heart because it demonstrates how deeply moved a reader can be by a writer’s work. Fan fiction, too!

I’m not famous enough to inspire fan art or fan fic (yet). But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to see how other people see my characters and watch my ideas grow and change through others’ eyes!

Until I have my own fans making art for me, I decided to commission some art myself this year. I am quite active on Instagram and follow a lot of artists and writers. I love to support other creatives in their work, and I thought this might be a good way to connect with people. Plus, I am dying to see my characters come to life!

The first artist I would like to give a huge shout out to is Ingrid Nordli (@authoringridnordli) She did two paintings for my first novel The Timekeepers’ War and I’m so thrilled with them!

Ghost and Lynch are the main characters of my post apocalyptic speculative fiction series. Nordli really nailed the setting and clothes in this piece, and I love Ghost’s attitude!

One of the side characters I get the most comments about is Mouse, the eerily silent canine companion who keeps Lynch company after he escapes his life as a soldier for the Urasaarian Empire in Book One, The Timekeepers’ War. I love this piece. Again, the setting is perfect. Mouse looks exactly as I pictured him. And I love that we get to see Lynch’s softer side, which we’ll see more of in Book Two, Ghostlights later this year.

Thank you so much, Ingrid!

Please let me know what you think in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

April Update: It’s Still Winter

My garden. This is no April Fool’s joke.

I know I’m not alone when I say 2020 isn’t exactly working out the way I planned. Somehow I neglected to account for a global pandemic, massive economic shut down, suddenly having to home-school my three kids, and being temporarily laid off in my World Domination Schematics. Also, we appear to be trapped in an eternal winter.

I’d ask for help, but we’re not allowed to actually do that in person any more. Please send warm thoughts, if nothing else. My seedlings could use a little pep talk.

Among other things, the turmoil caused by COVID-19 has also disrupted the attention of my beta readers and I have only received feedback from one person. My husband. He pretty much has to do these things for me, though. Even when the rest of the world falls apart, I demand support for my pipe-dreams.

The good news is, he hasn’t found any major plot issues. Other than fixing a few detail inconsistencies, I am ready to package it up for my publisher more or less on schedule. I would have like to have more eyes on it, but I trust my editors to help me with the final polish. Hopefully the upcoming recession isn’t going to delay publication too much. If so, I may have to look at other options to get Book Two out to the world.

One other exciting thing I’m working on is some character art! I’ve commissioned two artists with very different styles to illustrate some scenes from both The Timekeepers’ War and Ghostlights. As soon as they are complete I will be sharing them here and on my Instagram feed. So stay tuned for that! I’d love to see some other artists try their hand at these characters, too, so if that is something you’d be interested in let me know.

I have started an online Permaculture Design Course to help stave off the stir-crazies and ease the transition to my new garden site once the snow finally melts. Gardening has become one of the things I look forward to the most right now, and which helps to ease the anxiety of our current situation. I hope you are staying safe, keeping sane, and reaching out in the midst of all this madness.

Tell me, what are you most looking forward to these days? How are you staying present? Let’s share our ideas!

Growing Pains

Most of you who follow the blog know me for my rambling about the trials and tribulations of being a storyteller. Once upon a time, this place was called Sarah Does Sci-Fi, and I just talked about reading and writing science fiction and my adventures in querying my first novel.

I also do commercial writing, though. My “real job,” the one that actually pays a living wage, is in providing writing services for businesses. I write copy for newsletters, websites, promotional articles, and I’ve even written a training manual for the transportation of bulk chemicals!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to merge my creative and business writing into one place. The blog will be largely unaffected, but you may notice some changes as I fiddle around with the site and get the flow through where I’d like it to be.

New! Services for Creative Writers

I’m also expanding my business offerings to include some services for creative writers. I now provide developmental editing and coaching services to writers. This includes helping with the outlining, structuring, drafting, revising, and editing stages of any creative writing project you are working on. You can find details on the Writing Services page. Eventually, I will be linking all of my writing craft articles here as well, rather than on the blog.

Newsletter Sign-up!

I have always wanted to start an author newsletter, but I never really knew what to write in one when it seems like eons go between my book releases (I’m working on that!). However, I’ve been doing some research, and have made some decisions about what kind of content to post where, and I have decided that I can do this newsletter thing, too!

You may notice that you receive a pop-up prompt to sign up for my newsletter when you visit the page now. If you don’t, you will soon. I’m still experimenting with these settings. When you see it, please do sign up! I will be putting out a newsletter once a month–no spam, I promise–with more personal updates, the occasional freebie, and other fun things that you won’t be able to find on the site. If the pop-up doesn’t work, you can CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP for the newsletter.

I Want to Hear From You!

Do you subscribe to many email newsletters? What kind of content do you like best? What kinds of things would you like to hear from me? I have lots of ideas, but I’d love to hear yours, too. Leave a message in the comments!

February Update

I am thrilled to announce that I finished the revisions on my second novel!

I should have made this post two weeks ago, but the very minute I hit “send” to get my manuscript into the hot little hands of my extra special beta readers, my body decided to succumb to the viral miasma my kids have been bringing home from school all winter. I have been brutally ill ever since.

I suppose I should be grateful I managed to complete the revisions before contracting the plague. I am, really. But I am also wallowing in self-pity. I have never been so laid up by a virus! Usually I just take whatever necessary medications to suppress the symptoms and get on with life. That just isn’t working this time. I have barely managed to peel myself off the couch for the better part of two weeks and have spent most of my time napping or staring blearily at the wall and wishing I’d gotten my flu shot this year.

Anyway. I am tentatively feeling better today. Not totally better, but the cold-meds can get me through the day kind of better. So I’m in my office and going to try to get some work done that I planned to finish last week.

My husband is the first of my beta readers to finish and get back to me. He’s stuck up north on the ice road, and had plenty of time to read while waiting for his crossing. Some writers say you should never let your significant other reader your work. But my husband has always been my first reader, and often gives me some of the best feedback. He’s not a writer himself, so he doesn’t bother me about stylistic choices. And he has a great mind for details, so he’s quick to pick up on little inconsistencies in my descriptions. He did not find any major plot holes and says he loved the book. So I have high hopes for the next few to come in!

This whole outlining, fast drafting, and then revising process has given me hope that I can actually put out a novel a year. Or maybe even two! Once I’m finished my current “real job” project, I’m going to start outlining book three and it will be back to the grindstone for another couple of months.

How is this winter treating the rest of you? Anyone else caught the flu from hell? Hope you’re all taking care!

Indie Book Review: Jim and Martha by Joel Schueler

Jim & Martha: An Indie Classic for the 21st Century

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of writing and revisions I start to get bogged down by my own voice. One way that I kick myself out of a rut is to read something outside my genre, or something completely different from my usual reads. Jim & Martha is something I picked up on a whim because I was so intrigued by the idea of a tragicomedy set in an ecovillage. It isn’t solarpunk, but I thought it might help trigger some new ideas for me. I got all that and more!

From the Book Jacket:

Jim & Martha is a tragicomedy about a couple entering a major lifestyle change, transitioning from a suburban London flat to an ecovillage. Racing along a two-lane road of humour and tragedy at one hundred miles per hour, how will the lovers fare with their new environment, their new cohabitants, their mental health and each other? As the ecovillage becomes a crossroads of instability, who can trust who? Adventure or nightmare, some things are inescapable…

Click on to the ‘zon

My Review: 4/5 Stars

JIM AND MARTHA is a wry, darkly comic novel about relationships, community, and the environment. It is not an easy read by current standards; the language is rich with imagery and symbolism, the narrative flow is at times almost “stream of consciousness” in style.

It took me a while to get acclimated to Schueler’s authorial voice. Because this is an indie book, it would be easy to assume it needed another pass from an editor. The sentence structures can be challenging and Schueler uses a rich and varied vocabulary. I even learned a few new words and I consider myself a language buff!

I assure you, the author knows his craft! If you are at all  familiar with literary modernism, please give this book a chance. It is, in my opinion, a classic for the new millennium that speaks to all the dissatisfaction and cultural angst of our generation.

Once I learned to trust that the author’s language was intentional, I was able to relax into the narrative flow and really hear the character’s thoughts and feel them as my own. The imagery is raw and poignant, and often surprisingly “real” without being pretty or flowery.

Underlying the tale of the titular Jim and Martha’s voyage to an eco-village is a current of anxiety that I think readers under the age of 40 will know well. The urge to escape, to start fresh, and to rebuild is haunted by the fear that we can never truly escape ourselves.

I gave the novel 4/5 stars because I did find some of the unusual sentence structures distracting, and to my eye it didn’t serve any particular purpose. I also struggled a bit in moments where the POV character shifted from one character to another. I could have used more hints, earlier, to signify the shift as I had to reread some passages when I realized I was in a different character’s head.

However, this not detract too much from an overall wonderfully fresh reading experience. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the English language!

Indie Recommendations:

Does anyone have any great indie reads they’d like to see reviewed here? My preference is for SF&F and I’m especially interested in the SolarPunk movement. But I’m open to any suggestions! Let me know in the comments section.