January Joys: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
I'm especially excited to write to you this month because I've just crossed a milestone in my brief publishing life. It's been exactly five years since I published my first book, a fantasy novella titled In Search of Leo.
To mark the occasion, I wanted to give the book a bit of an update now that I have access to fancy editing and formatting tools that I didn't have at my disposal five years ago.
That task was taking way longer than I had anticipated, and so instead of spending more time on getting it done, I went and wrote an entire post on that.
But what I really want to share today is something I wouldn't have confessed to myself even a year ago. It's truly embarassing to admit and it's something I've come to see only in hindsight, and now I can look back at it and chuckle and shake my head and pretend I am much wiser now.
So, here goes!
In the days leading up to the book's publication, I was convinced that once I was a published author, the world would treat me differently. People would start to behold me differently, give me a look of awe and respect, perhaps even feel a little envy.
Perhaps my skin would begin to sparkle or I'd have a fancy aura around me or a glowing halo around my head, something that would reveal to the world at first glance that I was someone special.
Better still, perhaps I'd feel comfortable in my own skin at last, having finally accomplished something that was a long cherished dream of mine. Maybe I'd even begin to blow kisses to the person in my mirror!
Of course, nothing of that sort happened. My book was one among the 6 million ebooks that were for sale on the Kindle store back in 2018. (Apparently, that number is well over 12 million as of May 2022.)
Well, that's still more than a drop in the ocean, so there's that. But I didn't end up with sparkly or glowy mutations. Nor riches, in case you're wondering.
In fact, it would take me a couple of years and a couple more books after that first one to even feel comfortable calling myself an author, without feeling like a fraud.
And another couple of years after that to understand that it's all a homecoming, that this entire endeavour of creating something, of designing and trying to live one's life with some intention, is all a homecoming.
It all has very little to do with what you're trying to achieve and much more to do with who you are becoming in the process.
I had to ask myself the question: why did I want to write? Because I loved to write or because I thought it'd be cool to be an author having grown up reading so many books and admiring so many authors for their storytelling brilliance?
My journey evidently began on the latter premise but over the years, humility has come to replace that initial egoic desire—and that has been a very painful process, in itself—but now I can say I am simply very grateful that I can write my books, hone my craft, and have amazing readers like you reach out and tell me how much my words and tales mean to them. Thank you for your endless support!
This anecdote reminds me of a lesson in parenting and living that I learnt a few years ago from renowned clinical psychologist and conscious parenting expert, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, on sitting with the muck of our ordinariness.
I share excerpts from the video below, but it's only a 2-minute watch and filled with one of the most powerful teachings I keep coming back to over and over again. It's well worth a watch even if you're not a parent because parenting, as it turns out, is not really about the child on the outside but all about our inner child.
I would say the common denominator in the reason we create dysfunction in our lives, period, across the board, is our immaturity and inability to handle emotional pain. We’ve become a culture and species obsessed with running away, avoiding pain. ... Instead of teaching resilience to our children, we’re really teaching them emotional avoidance.
Now, how do we teach emotional literacy to our children? The only way we can do that is first we, as parents, need to become comfortable in our own emotional skin.
We need to be comfortable with our emotional language, with our emotional depth, with our emotional ambivalence to handle the conflict of life and to be able to sit in that not-knowing space. And understand that through the tolerance of the pain of life, we actually grow stronger.
... To teach them to handle failure and sit with the muck of their ordinariness and teach them that in that muck is the ability to shine. Not through the success, not through the accomplishment, not through the lights and the glamour, but through the muck of ordinariness.
But because we are so avoidant of our own ordinariness, we simply have not taught our children this and this is the failure in today's parenting.
~ Dr. Shefali Tsabary
The muck of my own ordinariness. How much I've come to love that particular string of words now!
And the realization that we are so avoidant of our own ordinariness was literally a slap in the face. It stung! But it also woke me up to reality!
So now, five years since I published my first book with grand expectations, I can ask myself the following questions and answer them honestly.
Would I still write my books even if no one were to read them?
Would I still write this newsletter if I were the only recipient?
Most days, the answer is "Yes! Absolutely!"
But I'll also admit that just as often, I yearn for that joy of connection with readers, that thrill of knowing that the words that came through me touched another's heart and soul as deeply as they moved my own.
Now tell me, what is the one thing you'd set out to do if you could be comfortable with failure, if you could be OK undertaking something simply for your own growth and not for a medal or some accolade for the outcome of your efforts? (You'd still crave the latter—we're only human, after all—but its absence would not deter you from keeping on coming back to the path you've chosen.)
Then go forth and do it.
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.
Tales for Dreamers
the secret of the dream pedlar
To mark this 5-year bookversary occasion with something special, I gift you an excerpt from In Search of Leo.
Did you know the book actually has a character named The Dream Pedlar? Read the tale to find out what he does.
If you're asked to log in, please enter the same email address at which you receive this newsletter and you'll promptly receive a link to log in and read the tale. If you run into any issues, please write to me (email@example.com or simply reply to this missive) and I will resolve them for you pronto!
Books You May Love
I actually managed to read a number of books this past month!
My love affair with Christopher Pike's Thirst series continues! The ending of Thirst No. 2 had me in tears, as you'll see in the post below. I have since finished reading Thirst No. 3 too and will write an update soon.
I also returned to another favourite author, Lisa Jewell, who writes dark psychological thrillers with heart. A long time ago, I read The Family Upstairs, which was a pretty scary story about a cult and a very dysfunctional family. Little children and teenagers get caught in this madness, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up the sequel, The Family Remains.
One thing I had forgotten is Jewell's remarkable ability to write about the darkest and most terrifying of human experiences in a way that actually restores your faith in humanity. Impossible to believe? That's what makes reading her books an absolute treat!
After finishing The Family Remains, I sought more of her works and read The Night She Disappeared, which is about a middle-aged woman looking for her teenage daughter who has disappeared, along with her (the daughter's) boyfriend, leaving their one-year-old infant behind. This is truly the subject of my terrors! Innocent children abandoned or caught in the madness of grown-ups.
Yet, I read this book, led by Jewell's deft storytelling, turning page after page, rooting for the characters, and was happy when the last few pages caused my heart to soar with relief and joy.
I also read Lilly Singh's short and sweet self-help book, Be A Triangle, and raved about it.
And finally, I have this huge pile of books I'm currently reading. I've gone back to reading a number of books simultaneously, a few pages of this one, then a few pages of that one. This quite reminds me of that song, Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega.
A little bit of Pike in my life,
A little bit of Kabat-Zinn by my side
A little bit of Newport's all I need
A little bit of Miro's what I see
A little bit of Swain in the sun
A little bit of Gaiman all night long
A little bit of Holiday, here I am
A little bit of your book makes me your fan ...
On that note, my dear lovely companions on this journey, I must bid goodbye. Thank you for being with me on this ride.
Here are a few ways in which you can support my writings:
- Sign up for Tales for Dreamers to receive a short whimsical story in your inbox every week.
- Grab a copy of In Search of Leo (it's up on Amazon as of now, and I'm working on putting it out on other retailer platforms and in paperback format soon) or any of my other books
- Spread the word about this missive and my writings to one other person you think might enjoy them.
- Write to me and stay in touch!
I hope 2023 has begun on a fantastic note for you! The best is yet to come.