The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert

How we come to select a book is an interesting concept – the subtle influences that make us choose one over another. I saw “The Signature of all Things” listed on the Goodreads site in the “Best of 2013″ awards category. From there I went to the reviews, which were naturally, mixed. And I suspect that, like many others, I purchased the book because of Elizabeth Gilbert’s previous work – “Eat, Pray, Love”. Oddly, “The Signature of All Things” also happens to contain selection as a driving theme.

If I had to select a star count for “The Signature of All Things”, I’d be as confused as Alma in the novel. I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s too long. I don’t know whether this is because the fashion now is for extremely long books. In an age where readers have come to expect “Free, Cheap, Long” as the parameters for their purchases, maybe Liz Gilbert was told to ‘bulk it up’. But it’s way too long and I found myself skimming portions where Liz delved into Dickensian lengths. If this were a novel submitted to a publisher, by an unknown author, it would certainly have been heavily edited.

Editing should also have taken care of a few irritations in the mid-section where Liz Gilbert lost her timeframe. She makes statements such as Alma was “not a swimmer” when no woman was a swimmer in 1850. Then there were niggles such as why didn’t she jut show the drawings (the non-vulgar ones) to the natives and discover the identity of the boy she’d traveled across the world to know instead of wasting years of her time and hours of mine? The ultimate identity of the boy was obvious to me chapters before it emerged which only makes the mystery more annoying.

Eat, Pray, Love was also a book I struggled with for its narcissism although I adored the concept and my dislike could have been similar to Alma’s own quandary when another writer pips her to the post. Still, “The Signature of All Things” occasionally reads like “Eat, Pray, Love” in crinolines – as though Liz Gilbert wishes to explore her voyage of self-discovery story in another age.

And then we came to the denouement.

And this is where I woke up and felt my own long, sometimes agonizing,  journey became somewhat worthwhile. Without hitting the “Spoiler” button, the ending sums up for me, a concept I have been recently very focused on. Coming through personal trauma is a complicated endeavor in which it’s natural to seek out reasons and validation. I have always believed in a bigger entity outside of the weak and fragile human – the Universal Energy. In the battle through adversity, we turn to the bigger force as a teacher and inquire what are we meant to discover from our problems.

But like the questions posed by “Signature” what if we are merely seeking another mothering figure out of personal fear? Just as Darwin’s theories raised fury, so our own adversity makes us seek some justification for what may be a totally random fact of human existence.

Writing Narcissistic Personality Traits

“Illusion” – Part 1 of The Narcissism Novels is published , I’m into a second edit of “Delusion” – Part 2 and it’s an even more intricate process than the first. Writing the narcissist is straightforward enough but feathering the layers of a person/character who has what is becoming known as Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, is like trying to depict  teenager tribulations to geriatrics. (Swift aside – I really don’t like the words victim and syndrome, especially side-by-side – narcissistic healers would be much more apt) 

Isobel, the main character in The Narcissism Novels, has experienced severe psychological abuse from birth. Her mother has narcissistic personality disorder at an extreme level on the spectrum – what would be called malignant narcissism, meaning she’d rather see her child dead than having a better life than her. This may be achieved through beatings and criticism, but what if it’s accomplished through enmeshment and the fantasy bond? Consequently, Isobel is very comfortable with narcissism and has slithered into repeated torturous love relationships with narcissist/sociopaths that have left her feeling broken. Now, with a child of her own, she worries constantly about not repeating the cycle of a hidden abuse she cannot understand.

She doesn’t even recognize narcissism as abuse until halfway through the novel. The sequels focus on how she battles to come to terms with it’s effects, and as we know – this can be harder than the original abuse.

Writing the narcissist is quite fun. There’s plenty of information about narcissistic personality traits and the hideous behavior makes for entertaining scenarios with a character similar to Hannibal Lecter, only camouflaged.  Writing the narcissist victim is difficult because although Isobel is all the things a “woman” is supposed to be in our culture, she’s also damaged and this makes for a less obviously likable character. (I might have mentioned before that my first editor asked; “When is she going to turn into Superwoman?”)

In Book 2 – as Isobel approaches a “proper” relationship with the first emotionally well-balanced man she’s ever known – she battles herself and him, feeling not only that she doesn’t deserve to be loved for herself, but that the person doing the loving must also be damaged simply for loving her. The NV pushes love away out of mistrust and fear. Sometimes we test whether the person will stick with us through our pushing away, sometimes we shoot first to maintain the only sense of control (safety) we know. Sometimes love and kindness is so strange, it evokes terrible sadness and loneliness as we remember childhood lack

“Love is scary when it contrasts with childhood trauma” -R. Firestone PhD

Yesterday as I edited “Delusion”, Isobel stepped forward and forced a bizarre change to a scene (Any writer will confirm that characters have the tendency to do this as you get to know them more deeply). I say bizarre because, without giving up the plot, her behavior could be misconstrued as immoral by readers who have no notion of the backlash of fantasy bonding. Whatever the reaction, Isobel asserted her character and will be who she needs to be. Her actions may invite disapproval but in any exploration of human nature, real or literary, we have to be willing to look for the underlying layers of motivation. (In a film, a good actor can indicate a layer with a look, in a book in takes foreshadowing,  3-4 pages of explanation, character self-appraisal and resolution, etc.).

Even though Isobel is aware her mother is a malignant narcissist as it was diagnosed by a psychotherapist, because she is highly fantasy bonded to Cynthia, she repeatedly dissociates from this reality. Many women find it excessively hard to separate from their narcissist mother for reasons of identity that run deeper than desiring the comfort of a mother. Especially when she consistently demonstrates herself as unwilling or unable to give it.

In receiving love from the truly ideal man, Isobel unknowingly goes through an identity crisis as her entire concept of her world is shatters. Everything she has known for four decades is wrong. She’s come out of the fog of idealizing her mother (and every man shes chooses as a mother substitute) but receiving genuine love on top of that is beyond her mind’s ability to digest. She has no idea who she is.

I’m taking a chance that Isobel will not be “liked” for her struggles with the view that many victims of narcissistic abuse are also disliked through lack of understanding of the seemingly infinitesimal onion skin layers of our nature we are required to confront in order to heal. Isobel’s commitment to winning is a motivational reminder that we all can do the same no matter what anyone else thinks of us.

Have you had problems with accepting love or maintaining relationships? Does the awareness of fantasy bonding and idealization of a parent ring true? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

“Illusion” is available now in paperback and Ebook at Amazon here and Amazon UK here. “Delusion” will be published in early 2014. Sign up to the newsletter to receive advance notice of publication and sometime goodie offers, but no spam and chips.


And The Winner is….

The winner of the gift copy of ILLUSION – Book 1 of The Narcissism Novels and a $10 Amazon gift certificate is…

Nicole Kene

Congratulations Nicole! Your prize will be winging its way to you in time for Christmas. 

Look out for another book giveaway coming soon.

Narcissism Novel Published Today

The first book in the series The Narcissism Novels is published TODAY!
When those who love you want to destroy you- it sounds strange until you’ve been there.

ILLUSION details the struggles of interior designer, Isobel, to understand why every man she meets loves her, then hates her – the same attitude her mother has always adopted with her only child. ILLUSION is a novel of psychological rather than direct physical abuse – an area that is under-portrayed in literature. Here’s the book jacket synopsis:

Have you ever encountered the seductive genius of the emotional vampire?

Interior designer, Isobel Hobson, has escaped an alcoholic husband and her narcissist mother has moved in with the sociopath next door. All she and her young son, Dylan, want is a complete happy family. When she meets Saul on a business trip to Manhattan and he convinces her she’s found it, she moves her life and child across the world.

But her happiness is brutally shattered and her mind starts to unravel when Saul’s character abruptly turns. With desperate attempts to make their relationship work, Isobel is unaware that others are planning deeper psychological torture with  life-changing consequences and her horror has only just begun.

Illusion is the nightmare tale of love and motherhood – a powerful exploration of the narcissism epidemic in intimate and family relationships set against the turbulent background of terror and viruses of the early 21st Century.

ILLUSION is available for download and in paperback at AMAZON and AMAZON UK (Click to be taken straight to site)

Please spread the word to readers who may not have personal experience of this abuse but might be interested in understanding its subtle destruction.

And remember there’s a Giveaway party for a free copy and a $10 Amazon gift certificate (with which you could buy two or ten other great Indie titles) today, launch day. Simply sign up to the Newsletter to enter. Winner will be notified on Wednesday!


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ILLUSION Launch Party


ILLUSION – The first book in The Narcissism Novels series is here.

The Narcissism Novels

Publication week has arrived finally – what with juggling the release dates for the E-book and getting the print proof back to Amazon and having to wait for all the approvals – It’s a wild juggling act. I’m only hoping I can keep all the balls up in the air for publication party week.

My plan is to run giveaways and raffles for the entire Holiday season, so if this one gets away, come on back for another or, better still, sign up to the newsletter to be informed right away about all upcoming special offers and prizes.





This week features a free book (ILLUSION print paperback) PLUS another free book in the form of a $10 Amazon gift certificate. All you have to do for a chance to win some lovely free books is leave your name and email by signing up to the newsletter. Hopefully you will want to stay friends and hear about the second book in The Narcissism Novels series – DELUSION – ready for publication early 2014. I will inform the winner by email on Wednesday 11th.

As many of you know, it’s been my intention in writing these novels to raise awareness of the psychological horror of narcissism so that, if it can’t be stamped out, there will at least be some empathy for those who have experienced the torture. I am really looking forward to hearing whether the novel brings about any lightbulb moments. As Gabriel says in Book Two, “We would do well to think as children and view life’s experiences and tribulations as toys in the box we are given to play with for a while”.

There has been a ton of interest and many women who have experienced the type of abuse that Isobel struggles through in ILLUSION, both as the daughter of a narcissistic mother and in love relationships with men with narcissistic personality disorder, have reached out and said they want to write a book too.

This is an awesome ambition and if anyone is moved to do it, I say go for it with all you’ve got. Only know that it takes a huge amount of effort to line up all the elements in the right order to produce a book, followed by possibly even more elements in order to publish a book. Every writer I know comments about the hard work involved. Russell Blake, one of the indies whose advice I follow, says he has worked 16 hours solid every single day for the past two years to successfully publish. I’ll be blogging about this subject, hopefully in the next day or so. I’ll just add now that ILLUSION is my fifth novel (2 under a pen name) and it was ten years in my mind and came out (can’t quite say ‘birthed’ for a novel) through a very dramatic writing process.

In the meantime – I look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow, Tuesday December 10th for an anti-narc party.

ILLUSION (Book 1 The Narcissism Novels) is available at Amazon HERE and Amazon UK HERE

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Narcissism Novel Published

Today’s the day (in a way) – it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving so maybe not too many people are thinking of buying a new book and that’s okay. “ILLUSION” doesn’t hit its pub date until next week but I see that Amazon have made the E-book live today – thus giving me the chance to check it for nasty inevitable errors.  The e-book formatting was done by a pro, awesome job but even the Top Six Authors have hideous layout anomalies in their Kindle books – the upload scrunching does bizarre things with words.

Speaking of words, I had a very nice new review on “Magic” saying “Tracy Johnson sure has a way with words” – I’m assuming that was a compliment. I’m going to be taking “Magic” down for re-formatting and rewrites soon – once my WIP on the second part of the narcissism novels (“DELUSION”) is complete. A very successful author said to me that there is no reason not to upgrade your work as you get better and that he has rewritten fifty percent of his early work to reflect his improvement in his craft.

“Magic” has its own tie-in – a book of recipes that main characters Suzanne and Diego create during their travels in North West Argentina and North East Brazil. So that will now be published when the new issue of the novel goes live – hopefully in time for the Christmas rush of new Kindles. Sign up to the newsletter to hear about the date and for a free recipe in your inbox right now!

Over the last couple of months I’ve studied some of the great authors (working methods rather than writing) and read up on procrastination in order to up personal productivity. I highly recommend Hillary Rettig’s book on the subject to anyone wanting to work smarter. This means writing the next book (“Delusion”) and creating its cover at the same time as publishing and marketing another (“Illusion”) and re-writing another (“Magic”). At the same time of course, other ideas are percolating in my mind and reams of notes are written – I’m thinking that the third part of The Narcissism Novels will be a prequel exploring the early life of Isobel’s mother and the possible reasons behind her malignant personality.

This idea stemmed from the many narcissism forums where daughters ask repeatedly “Why is my mother like this to me?” and “What made her this way?” These are interesting questions to explore and I’ve wanted to do a novel set in the mid-20th century for a long time (Cue more reams of notes) so we’ll see how that works out.

In the meantime, I shall be running a giveaway on the blog later this week to celebrate the publication of “Illusion”. It’s super tempting to set it up now but I feel bound to honor the readers who have told me they don’t own kindles and have purchased my novels in print. The giveaway contest will be run with the option of print or e-book prize. Sign up to the mailing list if you want to be informed of when it goes live, along with a free chapter from book 2.


Laptops for Writers

Technological woes are the stuff of Greek Tragedy at the best of times, but for writers – those about to publish the first in a series while at the same time, furiously scribbling away at the second – losing connectivity is like losing a leg (I didn’t write losing an MS, not wanting to tempt the fates).

I had one of my most serious heart failure moments this morning when I plugged the USB stick I use as constant exterior storage into the port on the 17″ HP Pavilion laptop, the tiny red LED blinked once and died. The Word directory told me the port was not found. Cue serious Yogi breathing. In a real state of panic, I plugged the stick into the new Chromebook – the one I purchased when the HP decided it no longer cared to connect to the WWW. Why? Even the two compu boffins in the house can’t figure it out – seriously ,this laptop suffers from full moon madness on a daily basis.

I bought the chromebook as typing extensive mail on an Iphone is detrimental to sanity and viewing a website on that screen is just daft – Note to businesses: MOBILE! At first the Chromebook seems cool – until you try working with it as an author. I never realized how much uploading and downloading a person needs to do in order to send interior MS files and covers to formatters, designers, editors and the publisher. Running a blog and website – plug-ins, widgets – up and down loading which the Chromebook flatly refuses.

Plug in the USB but there’s nowhere to open the file. No Scrivener – it needs to be downloaded. Google wants me to run everything in its Cloud but it’s about as accessible as flying to Venus. Finally, I copied the document and pasted it into a Google Doc. Sure I can work on it (if I ever get to grips with this skewed keyboard and the depressed keys) but I can’t save it externally. I am to trust that Google will nurture my 75,000 word baby.

What now? It won’t do – I need ANOTHER machine to operate my home office. But which one. Looking around it seems the Macbook and ThinkPad are the main contenders, both rocketing in at over $1000. Are there no laptops suitable for authors that don’t bust the budget?

Free Ebook

Did the offer of a free ebook in the title of this post grab your attention? It’s a genuine gift, no strings, no drawing from a hat or any waiting involved – the only hitch is you have to love sci-fi fantasy.

“How far would you go to save your wife and child? To Another World?”

This is the enticing tagline of “The Winds of Heaven and Earth” which has all the elements of a thriller, when Jordan’s pregnant wife goes missing and suspicion ultimately falls on him. From there we plunge into a world of mystery and magic that takes you along at full blast and leaves you wanting more. Fortunately “The Winds of Heaven and Earth” is the first in a trilogy so the adventure will continue.

I am gifting TEN copies of my friend Stephen M Holak’s epic tale because I believe in authors helping authors. “The Winds of Heaven” is a book that readers will be pleased to discover. If you would like to receive a copy sent direct to your Kindle, let me know in the comments or via mail through the box in the sidebar.


Book Cover

Illusion is Coming!!

It’s hard not to get really excited as you see your book gather it’s momentum for that final push into birth. The book cover is much more interesting than editing and fiddling with formatting which I could frankly live without – Playing with fonts and photos and color is much more fun.

I wrote a long post this morning about how writer’s block is like dieting and unhappiness – it doesn’t really exist. This was my motivating word count to get me moving on a resistant morning when I wasn’t sure where Isobel was headed in chapter thirteen. Turns out she’s heading towards a major unraveling, so that could be why I was resisting getting the laptop fired up.

So blog post, word count target and the rest of the day spent on keywords and blurbs, until California got on board and Karri sent me these updated choices for the cover.

Illusion book covers

I know from newspaper editing on North West Nomad News that once you see the mock-up, it’s easier to figure out what’s working and what was just a dumb idea. I can see that there’s too much text on the back cover and that the hard spine is not a good idea as CreateSpace just aren’t that exact in their printing.

In working the precis on the back text, I came up with the tagline. Now to figure out the color scheme. White, Orange or pink? Which works?

There will be giveaways and offers on launch date week so please sign up to the newsletter if you’d like to be informed of all the juicy bits – I only mail with something to say, not every other day!!

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