Book Jacket

 

rank  Editors Pick
word count 96671
date submitted 26.02.2010
date updated 30.09.2013
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Popular ...
classification: moderate
complete

The Existence Game

J.S. Adams

Told with warmth, insight, and humor, The Existence Game portrays the life of Alex Moser, a young woman suffering from and overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder.

 

“...I investigated every place in my bedroom that a murderer might hide -- even, I'm not kidding, my desk drawers... then got into my closet, pulling shoes, comic books and other stuff over me, so the murderers wouldn't see me. They'd figure I was a pile of junk. But even then, the pile of junk couldn't get to sleep. I hallucinated the sound of footsteps, breathing, even threatening whispers. Roasting under the blankets, I read by flashlight until I couldn't keep my eyes open.”

Alex Moser, a self-declared nutcase, is at the end of her rope. Finding little meaning in a life governed by innumerable phobias, she finally gives suicide a shot, but… “I couldn’t even get that right!” she moans upon awakening in the hospital. The Existence Game chronicles two months in Alex’s life, detailing her path from suicide attempt to long-awaited healing. Peopled with complex, intriguing characters and situations, this is an altogether inspirational and uplifting story.

 
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tags

borderline personality disorder, child abuse, munchausen by proxy, overcoming mental illness, patient therapist relationships, psychiatric hospital, p...

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HarperCollins Wrote

Based on the name alone, I’d expected this to be a science fiction submission. I was pleasantly surprised to find ‘The Existence Game’ to be a brave and thorough account of a young woman’s life with Borderline Personality Disorder. The book details – minutely! – two tumultuous months in the life of Alex Moser.

Alex is a great protagonist. Her illness is severe, but she also has just enough self-deprecation and wit (‘I admit I felt some satisfaction when I tossed Gunner’s leftover pizza into the same bag as his favourite suit’) to feel real, and for readers to be able to relate to her on a basic level. She sees the lunacy in her own behaviour (‘I began my nightly investigation of every place in my bedroom where a murderer might be hiding – even, I am not kidding, inside my desk drawers’), which makes her inability to manage and fight the more extreme elements of her illness all the more vivid and frightening. ‘The Existence Game’ is a fantastic representation of an illness that most people will never understand. The scene in which Alex uses the door-handle to beat the images of ‘GR’ out of her head is particularly strong – it stands up with the likes of ‘The Bell Jar’ as one of the most vivid representations of mental illness, from the sufferers perspective, I’ve encountered.

Some elements of Alex’s illness are not so clearly explained, and could do with development. Such as the appearance of ‘GR’ – the Grim Reaper. The fact that hallucinations are a common symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder is not something I would have known without a bit of research. This element could be introduced more gradually, as part of the narrative. For instance, Alex could see someone in The Pub that fits the GR’s description, and use this as a catalyst to describe the moment this figure first appeared in her life, and its influence over the years, again, through narrative. Which brings me on to my next point …

My main criticism of the text at present is that there is far too much exposition. You utilise a stream-of-consciousness narrative to stay within the two-month period of Alex’s ‘breakdown’ but still allow for background information to infiltrate the narrative, but you do so through large chunks of summarised history. Alex’s friendships, relationships with men and her family, childhood, etc. – all key elements in explaining how she came to be in her situation – are described in summaries and analysis, rather than through narrative. This is a great shame, as you prove elsewhere that you’re capable of strong dialogue and pace (such as in Alex’s interactions with Eileen). It’s fine to sum up certain elements of backstory, but at present I’d say that more than half of the narrative is exposition, which can feel like information overload for a reader, and make them feel removed from the characters in the novel. I’d strongly suggest reading (or rereading) ‘Catcher in the Rye’ for an example of how to use the stream of consviousness form to best effect. ‘The Fuck Up’ by Arthur Nersesian and ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath are also good examples of the genre, and are in many ways analogous to ‘The Existence Game’.

As I said, that’s my primary criticism. The following points are smaller, but worth bearing in mind for revisions.

The novel is told from Alex’s point of view, which generally works well, but it would be helpful to signpost the ‘now’ of Alex’s narrative more often. Why is she describing this period of her life? How, and to whom? At the moment, this lack of framework gives the novel a non-fiction, memoir feel. There’s also a tad too much ‘analysis’ by Alex. As she wanders into her own thoughts, she analyses her behaviour and past and, in effect, leaves little for the reader to interpret. This could be resolved by addressing the exposition issue above. The representation of Alex as inquisitive and above all intelligent, despite her misgivings about her sister Shelby being the ‘smart one’, work well, and should remain elements of her character.

During the rewrite, be careful to catch repetitions in the text. At the moment, terms and ideas are hammered into the narrative a little too heavily. For instance, in chapter one, the term ‘existence’ is forcefully played with and explained over three paragraphs, which feels laboured. A few paragraphs later, Alex’s desire to ‘stay’ in her flat after Gunner is evicted is also repeated. Then her inability to ‘sleep’. Further on, in chapter five, Alex repeats her displeasure that ‘Todd’ doesn’t appear to like her several times over a short passage. These are minor, picky points, but they’ll help smooth out the writing overall.

There is so much to commend here. Some of the writing is brilliant, and there’s a dry humour to the overall narrative, which serves only to add further darkness to Alex’s situation. Lines like ‘In this upscale hotel for the moderately insane, there were much more fruitful pickings’ are stand out. Characterisation is generally very good. Peripheral characters feel well-rounded and intriguing – Cory the forgetful nurse and the alcoholic security guard Kevin, in particular. However, the writing is too journalistic at the moment. The reliance on exposition distracts from the core story, and makes it harder to empathise with the character or engage in the story. Without trying to say, ‘copy similar successful books’, I do think that reading heavily in the genre then revising with a view to storytelling at the heart of the rewrite, could dramatically improve the text, and its appeal to fiction editors.

asatafsteve wrote 182 days ago

plan to read this later will let you know what I think

Maevesleibhin wrote 222 days ago

Existence Game
Judy,
I read the whole book as posted.
This was an engaging, emotive and entertaining read (pardon the alliteration). It was sometimes hard to remember this is a work of fiction. This fact makes it more vibrant, but has consequences. On the one hand, it allowed me to forgive some (but not all) moments of discourse with which I would have had a hard time with in a fiction narrative.
On the other hand, some of the moments that are clearly fiction and required a greater suspense of disbelief clashed a bit.
This book is worthy of being on the editor's desk. However, I will respectfully take the opportunity to make some suggestions that I believe might help tighten it a bit.
Generally, my biggest issue is that the almost autobiographical style leads to a bit of chatting at times. This permits Alex to talk about her political views and generalized opinions within the narrative in a way that comes across sometimes a bit preachy, and sometimes as summarization. This slows the forward motion of the plot and detracts from the pleasure of the reading.
Another issue, which I have mentioned before, is the fact that she shares a past with Kim. Even after having read to the end of the book and seen the confrontation there, I would suggest it does not have to be the exact same person who tormented both of them. It might be enough for Kim have heard about someone else who did such horrible things in Vietnam for her to want to confront him. The coincidence of Alex' psychiatrist's maid having had her sister killed by the man who molested Alex in a completely different country is just very hard for me to stomach. It's one of those things that could happen in real life, but not fiction. (Mind you, I feel the same way about Lolita's mother getting run over as she is about to deliver that letter).
This issue comes far along enough in the book that readers will be hooked by the time they get there, so it is not a huge deal. However, I think it is an issue which might affect the impression of the book as a whole.
There is something very lovely and nostalgic about this book. This is combined with a lot of alcohol, which adds a bit of humour and sentimentality, albeit unhealthy humour and sentimentality.
Hook and plot- My first reaction upon reading the first chapter was that there were too many quotes. I realised afterwards that the second quote is your MC talking and that you were starting every chapter with a quote and it made more sense. However I am not sure whether anything is gained by the historical perspective from the quote. Although your story is based in Washington, I don't think the cultural and political issues are significant.
I would much rather you start at the narrative, which hooks quickly with the early explanation of what the Existence Game is and why she wants to stop playing it. The description of Alex' relationship with Gunner was very well and succinctly done. There is a bit of summarisation in the flashbacks about he mother, but the narrative style allows for that, and the story becomes gripping and hooks well by the end of the first chapter when you have Alex' mother ignore her cry for help.
You follow quickly to the lovely scene in the bar where we can almost hear her scream for help, but see her being too polite to bother Eileen. I love the image of the Grim Reaper tenderly brushing her hair off her face and sitting next to her "snuggling his head against my shoulder."
Alex' insanity is mild and accessible. It lacks the wild madness that can be very entertaining to read about, but which is also very distant from most of us, but is instead oddly familiar, a kind of madness that I can see myself succumbing to if I were exposed to such experiences. Her regression to a small child when with Frank was very believable, and her exploration and the rediscovery of the events that had led to her psychosis.
I was very much engaged throughout with the hospital staff (I found the side story about Todd interesting. It was not until chapter six that I felt that there was a bit of ranting. While there had been earlier moments where you discuss the deficiencies with the American health care system, in Autho 6 it is a bit more expansive and slows down forward progression. I also had an issue in chapter 8 with the jump forward in time. It is at odds with the pacing of most of the book (although at times you do talk a bit about how the relationship evolved with Frank) and a bit distracting. That chapter also contained a lot of stories about people at the bar, whose significance is unclear. In chapter 13 you have a bit of psych-sprecht, where she seems to analyse herself ("As long as that little Alex was still alive in me, I would never cave completely.", "I’d never be able to move forward with my life if I couldn’t resolve this issue. ","That was really the crux of the problem I had with men – the ones I dated, anyway.") These sections are rather different than the tone you had established to that point and represent a bit of summarisation, which I don't think you need. We are very aware of her psychosis at this point. If you feel some of this information is necessary, I would rather read it in dialogue..
In 15 I found the reverie of her youth with Shelby charming, but it did detract from the forward motion of the story a bit. You might want to consider changing the placement of this moment.

The bar scenes were generally entertaining in a sad kind of way and added to ambiance, although they added little to the plot. I found the reaction of her brief boyfriend sensible when he said (sorry, I am rubbish with names) that he wanted to leave the city for the country because there was too much alcohol in all of them, and that he did not want her or anyone else to come see him. There was a similar moment when Eileen and Alex look out onto the chaos on St Patrick's day and realise that it is madness. Kevin's death and mourning was poignant in a way because it was somewhat pathetic. He was this wonderful person and a war hero, but he ruined his life through being a drunk, and his wake is celebrated at a pub.
Some moments were very funny. My favourite, most LOL moment was when someone tried to use a woman as a blanket in chapter 11.
All in all, the plot progresses well and the story is easy to read.. I would suggest that cutting out some of the asides where Alex makes her political or social opinions known directly to the audience would make the read flow more easily. The book could probably be trimmed down a bit and be stronger as a consequence.
There is one substantial plot-wise objection I have (Big spoiler alert with this next one for those who have not finished reading the book):
So, I must admit that I found the dramatic ending a bit too neat. Having Sylvia shoot her husband after being suddenly confronted by these two women while she and her husband were tanning on the beach just does not come together well for me.
First, you had her receive and read the letter, and deny the accusation to Alex' mother. If she felt remorseful, she would have either called Alex herself or confessed to Alex' mother. And, if she is so livid at her husband that she is ready to shoot him dead so that he not touch another child, what is she doing lying next to him on a beach chair looking at the beautiful waves? I get that she wanted the money, but she is not acting that way. If she wanted the money and nothing more, I would expect her to be out shopping or in the house at the very least. And what was she doing inviting Alex' mother over after receiving that letter. She should be too embarrassed to look at herself in the mirror.
I believe that you need to rework this somehow. Either you can have Sylvia look very upset at the time Kim and Alex arrive, in which case her losing her grip would be more expected, or you can have the shooting of Drake be accidental, as in, perhaps Kim's gun can go off when he tries to take it away from her. The second would probably get Kim in trouble with the police if they were there (although you could have the police not be on the scene and have Sylvia decide to take responsibility for it in a moment of great emotion.
If you have Sylvia be upset, you might reconsider having them invite Alex' mother. Maybe this could be the thrust of a new rant against Alex- instead of announcing that she would be going to the beach house, she could be upset with Alex for having ruined her vacation.
Just a thought.
Character Development- First person narratives about overcoming psychosis of course offer wonderful opportunities for character development, and your story is obviously all about that. Through your flashbacks, you give us an almost unimpeded view of Alex from her early infancy to her late twenties, with just a bit of a gap during preadolescence.
I think your supporting characters are very well developed as well. Frank is particularly well done. You are careful not to make him more personal than would be appropriate, but do manage to bring in some backstory and interactions which made the character vibrant.
I felt that there was something slightly lacking with Shelby. It is such an important relationship for Alex, and yet we see so little of her, except as through the eyes of Alex. I would have liked to have had at least a little bit of dialogue between them.
Alex' mother is a well developed character, although God only knows what is wrong with her. I found that the story with the chowder stuck in my mind as the quintessential moment that defined her.
The characters at the bar were largely colourful, but blurry. Even Kevin and Eileen, of whom we see quite a bit, don't stand out very much for me. By contrast, I felt that the staff at Psych was very vibrant. Maybe it is the weight of the interactions.
Kim, as I mentioned before, is a bit of an issue. I think she is a good character, but there are too many coincidences there. Again, I think that a person with Kim's background would be furious with any person she finds out did similar things as the murderer of her sister. This alone would make the coincidence less jarring. Aside from this issue, though, I think you do a very good job with her development, both with the very moving story of her youth and the descriptions of her manner on the road trip.

All in all, I think this is an entertaining and successful book. It is on my shelf and I star it highly. I believe that a bit of tightening and working on the climax would help make it stronger.
Best of luck with it,
Maeve

Lara wrote 222 days ago

Another backing. Can't have The Existence Game going below 5.

doggod42 wrote 227 days ago

Speaking of mental illness, after reading the first page of glowing comments I'm beginning to think I might be insane. Clearly these people all live in a different universe from me. I found the first chapter so boring and tedious I had to start skimming ... just in case something interesting came along. It didn't.

Sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph of telling me things as if you assumed I was interested. Where did you get that idea? Instead of all the turgid, stupefying descriptions of how the protagonist felt, how about some action or dialogue so I can discover it myself?

Right before the end you had some dialog that could have shown me how nutty you mom was (and saved us all the tedium of having you tell about it earlier), but that not only doesn't happen, it's not even clear why you called your mom at all. You don't like talking to her, but you just have to call her to tell her about your new job? Nothing seems to add up here. All I know is there is a person who isn't happy with her life and wants to tell me all about it, but, you know, I have other things to do.

I guess I'll push on and see if it gets any better, but I have to tell you honestly that based on the introduction and first chapter I would not read this book if it were given to me free.

lizzcorn wrote 233 days ago

Chapter one: The first few paragraphs kind of make you think. You know something is going on, but you have worded it so that the reader keeps guessing. I like it.
Poor Alexis! It would be horrible to be frightened everyday. You really grab the reader’s attention with her misery also, her mother makes the reader mad.
Chapter one is good. It keeps the reader interested enough so that they turn the page.
The only paragraph I had issues with was when she was describing how she felt about her mother’s response to her when she answered the phone. I thought it could be a little shorter.
Chapter two: I am glad she has Eileen to make her day a little better.
Did the song change between paragraphs? You said Aqualung was on and then Songs from the Woods is playing in the next paragraph.
“It’s because eventually I will have to…” Should there be a comma after eventually?
OK Chapter two is very sad. My heart aches for Alex. You did a good job at describing her depression leading up to her suicide (attempt I assume)
Chapter three is short and to the point. I am glad it was an attempt and hope she gets some serious help.
My heart aches for people who feel as if death is easier than life. Alex has been dealt a bad hand and I really hope the rest of her life is easier without anymore attempts on her life.
I think you have a great book so far. There is not a lot of dialogue, but I assume that will come in later. There are a few paragraphs that are very long and drawn out, but not so much that I lost interest in the book. I like how you described the sky in D.C. I could imagine exactly what you were talking about. Although I have never been to D.C., I have been to many large towns and know exactly how the sky must’ve looked.
I will read more, but I have to do a lot of reviews for people that have reviewed my book. I will post my thoughts as I read.
Good book so far.

Nigel Fields wrote 234 days ago

Backed with pleasure.
Best,
J

Jodi Louise Nicholls wrote 239 days ago

This isn't my genre, but I absolutely love your sense of flow. You have a beautiful way with words and I have no criticism to give (not that I like to anyway!) I am immediately drawn to Alex and worryingly can empathise! I've happily shelved and look forward to reading more.

Kind regards,

Jodi. ~Evalesco~

Buck Rogers!!! wrote 240 days ago

Excellent writing. I'm new to this site, but if your book's anything to go by, I've come to to the right place.

Backed and six stars.

John J. Lawrence wrote 241 days ago

Hello Judy,

Your protagonist, Alexis, tugs on the reader's heartstrings from the very beginning of the story. The feeling of oneness with Alexis is immediate and engrossing, as she impresses the reader as someone telling her story from across the kitchen table over a cup of coffee. Nicely done!

Some technical critiques for your consideration:

Quoting other writers before starting Alexis's story only serves to stall the beginning. Start at the beginning with Alexis introducing herself. Drop the quotes from the other authors and sprinkle in pertinent information from the "Introduction" during the first chapter.

Telling the story in first person draws the reader's attention; however finding ways around Alexis's overuse of the word "I" is imperative. Perhaps reading other novels told in the first person will give you some ideas of how to work around this issue.

Overuse of the passive verb "to be" weakens the story by placing the author in the position of telling the reader what is happening rather than showing the reader what is happening. Try to re-word some passages with active verbs.

Two books on writing that I refer to often may be of assistance to you.

"Essentials of English" by Vincent F. Hopper, Cedric Gale, Ronald C. Foote and Benjamin W. Griffith; Barron's ISBN - 13:978-0-7641-4316-8

"Word Painting" by Rebecca McClanahan; Writer's Digest Books ISBN - 13:978-1-58297-025-7

Keep going, you are doing great!

Best,
J. J. Lawrence
"Uncharted Waters"

Alena J. wrote 258 days ago

Wow, this is quite well-written. You have a clinical approach to truly terrible events that makes them more haunting than if a lot of emotion was coming through. Your writing is very realistic and autobiographical, making it tantalizing to those of us who haven't experienced life in the same ways your MC has. I did feel like the first chapter was overly long and ended rather abruptly. Wishing you all the best with this though!
High stars and a place on my bookshelf,
Alena

Kate Steele wrote 273 days ago

The opening lines of chapter grabbed me by the throat and pulled me in - such original, intelligent, quirky writing. Your heroine's train of though sparks off all kinds of associations in the reader (even though most of us won't have experienced such dark experiences) and makes her believable, in spite of the fact that she is totally dysfunctional. High stars.
Kate Steele, Is That All there Is?

R. Dango wrote 279 days ago

This is so well-written. It's hard to believe that it's a fiction but maybe it's easier to read for a reader thinking it's a fiction. This is one of those books I'd buy, and leave for a long time in my book shelf until I get into the right mood, but once I've read, I'd always keep it with me.

R

W.D. Frank wrote 284 days ago

Ugh...I am sorry, I really wanted to read more of this magnificent book however unfortunately I have to make time for other people's books too. I read the first seven chapters and I am feeling rather depressed already.
I don't have borderline personality disorder however I do have bipolar disorder and one of my biggest fears is being abandoned. So, this is one of those few stories that can provoke an empathetic response from me.
I don't know if this is really 100 percent fiction (as you seem far too familiar with the inner turmoil of the "mentally ill") however I will respect your need for privacy and I won't pry. Anyway, onto the review.
Your writing style is fairly flashy however it is also quick and to the point at the same time. I don't quite understand why people dislike a little bit of flash however I am glad to say that you will appeal to those that don't just as much as you will appeal to those that do. (It seems you already have, number 17)

Alexis is a character that I can understand without sparing much time for thinking. Sure, her whole mind is filled to the brim with contradictions however any person with an emotional disorder will tell you that sometimes the world just isn't logical. My brother still doesn't get how nonsensical the world really can be for me because he was born with the curse of stability. (Since my eccentricities almost certainly upped the quality of my writing, I occasionally think emotional normalcy is a curse. Plus, mania is fucking excellent!)

Anyway, when Alexis got on the bus and those two were laughing with each-other, I understood how she felt.
When Alexis watched Star Trek, I was cheering my motherfucking ass off... because Star Trek is the second greatest American television show of all time! Granted, she was watching Star Trek IV and I have only seen the first three movies...But still!!! Leonard Nimoy is in it! That's all something needs to be utterly badass!
Just buy a copy of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep if you don't believe me. That game was complete garbage however Leonard Nimoy's voice transmogrified that shit-fest into something downright awesome!
That is the power of the Nimoy! LEONARD MOTHERTRUCKING NIMOY!!!!! I LOVE YOU, LEONARD NIMOY!!!!!
I LOVE YOU SO MOTHERTRUCKING MUCH!

Okay... it is time to continue this review...Damn it, I really want to talk more about myself and Leonard Nimoy.
Anyway, what the fuck was up with Drake? That guy is such a douche canoe. Why did he have pictures of mutilated Asians, and how could one be cold enough to kill an Asian kid? (Did he kill them?)
They are almost as cute as English Mastiff puppies!
What the fuck?! Asian kids are fucking adorable! Fuck you, you child molesting sack of shit!
Cut open some white kids instead! At least then there is a high motherfucking possibility of your victim being ugly as a bag of meatloaf. Just saying, our gene-pool is kind of a mess or something.
(Not really sure what the deal is... but damn, we're ugly too fucking much of the time)

Okay, I said I was going to review however I am probably just going to make a bunch of vulgar, obscenity-riddled jokes about everything and pass it off as a review. (Because I have pretty much nothing to criticize and I really don't feel like doing a serious review right now)

Drake's wife: Enough said. Somebody! Stab this bitch in the uterus about eight-thousand mothertrucking times and feed her to a gang of genetically altered sea-turtles that have inexplicably decided to become carnivores. (Don't ask how that works, it just mothertrucking does)

That one dude who owns the pub: I don't really know him enough to like him however he seems alright so far.
Somebody, buy him a copy of Lost Highway and blow his mothertrucking mind!

Dr. Frank: I know Alex thinks he is nice however I am pretty sure this is the same dude that ate my parents.

Mother Dearest: If she was real I would cut her intestines out and sodomize her with them as I forced her to watch Ghost Rider starring Nicholas Cage.

GR: I don't know why I like this guy however it probably has something to do with that singsong voice.

Captain Meow: Not a real character however I really wanted to say something about him. Sail well, Captain Meow! Brave the seas! Live long and prosper! Nobody can stop you but Poseidon himself! You are a cat on a boat and this gives you power somehow! Go, Captain Meow! Everybody on the internet loves you even if you don't exist. Try to figure this one out, random ridiculously awesome writer of the internet.

Score accumulated:

Five out of five stars.
Try to figure out how you got this score by yourself! BYE BYE NOW!
MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! :D








rachel_mary wrote 291 days ago

What a natural, quick-fire writing style you have! This is an absolute joy to read, and I don't say that often. The fact that many people have mistaken this for a memoir pretty much sums up both its strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, it is as vivid and crammed with detail as though you had actually lived it. On the other hand, there seems to be, in the early chapters at least, no plot as such. Clarifying some thematic through-thread early on will give the reader something to hold onto in the whirl of the narrator's memories. My only other complaint is that too much is covered in the opening chapters. Although brilliantly written, the opening lacks focus and jumps from snapshot to snapshot seemingly without logic or purpose.

Nevertheless, this is fab writing, and a very high standard for the site. Five stars and a place on the WL for shelving consideration in the future.

Rachel
The Diver's Brilliant Bow

Billie Storm wrote 295 days ago

Fiction, eh? Well researched. I like this very much, even got over the wee spiky intros to each chapter, provenance uncertain. Enjoyed the candour, the summary of abuse, or rather explanation, and gradually won over by narrator. The outsider is my favourite subject, or should I say, default setting, and you've scoped this character eloquently with enough mordant humour to give this reader distance from pathos - deftly skirting around issues can actually bring them into focus.
Haven't read very far into, but wonder how you'll sustain the pace; nonetheless have confidence that this will unfold as a series of scenarios, which illustrate the exquisite balance that the hyper aware, or totally self-absorbed have to maintain in order not to plummet into the barking mad category, or worse, invisibility.
I'd also like to congratulate you for successfully turning a potential me, me, me yarn into an us, us, us narrative. Important!
Very good. Thanks
Backed
xx

Fragmented wrote 297 days ago

Hey Judy,

Oh wow....bloody fantastic! And well done you in getting so high up the charts!
I love the title, too.
CHAPTER ONE
I adore it when she chucks all of his stuff out the window. Genius. Wanted to do this myself to a few ex-boyfriends but never had the guts.
Everything she does is just brilliantly portrayed...like putting on all the clothes, and I sort of think okaaaaaay...I kinda get that, and then with all of the other stuff on her, and I start thinking okay, there's much more to this girl, and the story is definitely going to be a good one. In all honesty, I stopped leaving you specific things at this point chapter by chapter because I don't want to stop reading in order to type. There are so many good things I could say, or moments that I could refer to but I'd be here all night writing your whole book right back at you.

Man, the characters are so REAL. Her mother reminds me of someone I know (NOT my mother) but someone with that exact same attitude. Its almost eerie how spot on you have it.

The GR. The GR. Brilliantly sad and......REAL. God, my grammatical ability has gone out the window, because I just don't know how to describe what Im reading. There are NO ERRORS. Its flawlessly perfect.

Ok really...can you send this to me so I can read it on my kindle?

I love it, and its going on my shelf

Rachel

xxxx

Jane Mauret wrote 306 days ago

Hello, JS Adams

I think the inner self-talk comes across as very realistic and not too over the top. I think most people would be able to relate to what the MC is saying.
There was humour too, eg, when Alex chucks all Grunner’s out the window.’
Here the MC hints at her lack of self-esteem when she describes how surprised she was to be going out with that particular guy.
Then we learn that the gun has been knocking her around so the eset-up is well and truly established by now. Some new writers spend eons describing things we don’t really need to know so it is clever to be able to tell us so much so quickly.
The MC is really quite endearing the way she assesses herself and admits that therapy has helped her learn to be alone.
You say that this story is a fiction but there is so much realistic detail that perhaps it is based on real people
I really felt the writing was quite professional and I havne’t often said that on the site. Usually I like to crit something but I was really struggling here to find something. I did not even notice any grammar or punctation issues which so often makes mediocre writing even worse.
The only thing that struck me was I didn’t quite get why the mother was so awful and we didn’t hear much about the nice father (at least in the early part that I read).
This book has done well on the site and I look forward to hearing from the ED have to say in the near future.
Best wishes.
Jane Mauret
HOW TO BE INAPPROPRIATE

Nanty wrote 306 days ago

The Existence Game.

I think this works so well because people can relate to at least one or two of the issues Alexis has, maybe more. For me, it seemed she had been groomed to fail by her mother, and I felt very angry with her father for letting this happen, as he was in part responsible for the downward trajectory of his child's life. Alexis' alta ego, which is how I viewed the GR, is never far from her, and even when she's in happier situations, his menace can't be entirely shut out. Very well written, Alexis' gentle voice has the power of realism in it, as she slowly moves a reader through her life, telling of disastrous relationships and what resulted from them. The prose flows, no hint of self-pity is not shown, at least not in the four chapters I read, the characters are well-drawn, and one can't help becoming engaged, so no surprise The Existence Game has done so well.
Highly starred.

Nanty - The Sphalerite of Almandine.

Jaclyn Aurore wrote 307 days ago

finally got a chance to reread this start to finish since the whole 'incident'
anyway - this is great, truly great stuff
i love how this is broken down into parts, i was a big fan of Kim's story in particular

since i already commented/reviewed, i kinda just wanted to sit back and enjoy - so i did :)

well done, already highly starred, friend!
Jaclyn x
My Life Without Me

nautaV wrote 330 days ago

Dear Judy,
Your Existence Game is an excellent, intriguing novel. I've read only four chapters and find them stunning. Sometimes we find ourselves cornered and it's not so easy to find the way out... Intolerable mother was the source of all the problems, Alex had experienced later in her life - all those phobias, cheating guns, obsessive GR's voice, the attempt to commit a suicide, the Psyche with tranquil Dr. Frank...
Thank you for mentioning the 'haves' and 'haven'ts"
The topic is well elaborated. The text is polished and smooth.
Six stars, my WL and my very best regards, dear Judy!
Valentine But
Escape

BeeJoy wrote 339 days ago

This was a hard read for me only because I struggled with mental illness. I can relate to some of this. Like my book...I talk about mental illness as well. I will say that this was well writen. Very compelling and addicting. High stars from me!

Edward Gardner wrote 340 days ago

What a well-told and agonizing first chapter you've crafted. Somehow you've presented a narrator who dumps a staggering weight of grief on us without sounding like she's feeling sorry for herself. The believable worthlessness she expresses, and the anguished experiences contributing to and arising from it, comes off as something we can probably all relate to in varying degrees. There's a realism to the account so far, helped by your use of quotations from the characters themselves to introduce the chapters. In conjunction with your opening quotation from Phoenix, these quotes give me the impression of an informal 'school' or forum, a kind of gathering of friends committed to surviving in the most graceful way they can.

Stylistically, I'd offer as a suggestion that you break your chapters about in half - I think as shorter episodes they would help propel the reader through Alexis's pain. On the other hand, asking the reader to take in the chapters in one go definitely leaves us FEELING some of that emotional weight. But I'd also shorten some of your paragraphs, which would also move the reader forward easier. For an example, in Chapter 2 I'd make 'I could always count on Eileen' the start of the second paragraph.

Typos:
'...revealed its self to be an insidious form of hell.'

Anyway, this is a powerful, and I think ultimately hopeful, story. Highest stars from me and good luck with it.
Edward
The Black Dionysia

Andrew Esposito wrote 379 days ago

The Existing Game has a strong compelling narrative as the reader is tugged along by Alex and her harrowing life. I really like the in depth analysis of the torturous conditions, both real and imagined by Alex, that leads her on a path of attempted suicide. Gunner is a good, but brief character and the family's thoughts of him being too good for Alex is a good insight into the root of some of her insecurities. Alex's relationship with her mother is distressing and the characterisation contributes well to Alex's trauma.

I like how early on, the reader is aware of the suicide attempt. It made me want to read on and learn what could bring Alex to the decision. I soon found myself cloaked in Alex's lucid, endearing narration of her troubles and doubts. Little nuggets of Pop Culture was also a good hook - I liked the explanation of the Beatles song as it set the scene immediately for Alex's actions and thought process.

Judy, The Existence Game is very well crafted. I wanted to endure Alex's sad journey with a pang of hope - signalling to me that the characterisation was rising above the unsavoury topic. I've rated The Existence Game very highly and wish you much success. Best regards, Andrew Esposito / Killing Paradise

Sheena Macleod wrote 395 days ago

Judy, I had the "existence game" on wl to read. The short and long pitch really grabbed my interest.
Chapter 1.
You give so much information about Alex in the first chapter without any sense that it is pushed- it just builds up her issues so well and flows from the page. This is a complex area, yet you present it so effortlessly. You do know the area well. How you manage to include the family, boyfriend and friend dynamics as well is nothing short of a miracle. Complex, interesting and insightful..
Alex's sense of Identity is bound up in her relationships with others.She has a strong identity whilst being with "The Gun" - she prefers this abusive relationship-to being alone
Anxiety state - grief from the double loss of losing her friend and moving away.-
Obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behaviour0- to prevent bad things happening .Her self esteem in tatters..
EEk, mum, even good mode mum is waful. Amazingly portrayed.

I love Alex Moser's quote's particularly the one at the beginning of chapter two,
Gee, poor Alex. Self harminga and a suicide attempt
I liked the way you used the Grim Reaper -GR- to describe her inner thoughts.

So much, and so cleverly constructed.
I will read more. High starred
Sheena
The Popish Plot

PowerWriter wrote 412 days ago

I've only read the first chapter so far. I'm very impressed with your writing. It's refreshing to see an arguably perfect, active first scene. The conflict and failure resonates and holds. Your voice stands out as unique and matches the prose. Your sentences are mixed nicely and appropriately. I felt no boredom and no hyperbole.

I have a minor criticism: you overuse exclamation marks -- you have at least one *grin* -- and you use capitalization to emphasize -- PRESTO! Such techniques are gimmicky, lazy, amateur, and belittling to the reader. This is a novel. Use words to build and convey emphasis, not punctuation and styling. If we don't get it, you haven't done your job.

My first impression is this will be published, but it's a long, arduous process.

I will revisit this story.

Michelle Richardson wrote 414 days ago

I just read two chapters of The Exsistence Game - it is written in a compelling voice and the
Observational style works well to develop the story and pull the reader in. Placed on my Wl and highly stared .

Well done x
Michelle Richardson - 43 primrose Avenue

Lara wrote 415 days ago

I was impressed by the careful attention to detail. The chapter after her suicide attempt. 4 I think, was particularly realistic, the fluctuating attitude to clothing etc. I am not too sure I appreciate the headings. They take away from the ongoing drama imho.
Backed. A worthy book.
Rosalind
A RELATIVE INVASION

MC Storm wrote 415 days ago

I've read two chapters and really,really enjoyed it. I can feel Alex pain from the time she's young right up the part she throws Gunner out.I snickered when Alex threw his clothes over the balcony and the garbage bag didn't quite make it. You write the sdtory very well, just enough suspense to make me want to read more.
Well Done!
MC
Exposed

Roto wrote 416 days ago

Judy, I just wanted to congratulate you on an amazing and compelling story.

I have just finished the second chapter and it is the first book I intend to read in full. I am going to mark it as one to watch.

I have to admit I cried at the end of the second chapter, so tragic and moving was the scene. It is not an easy story to write,but you do it beautifully, capturing the heartbreaking inner world of the damaged.

Well done,such an excellent job!

Elisa
Keep Running.

Edentity wrote 417 days ago

The Existence Game. After your incredible feedback on my book, I really hoped I could be helpful with yours, but I'm not sure that will happen. I'm no critic, can only say how I find it as a reader.

Pitch: I dunno, I don't think you need the 'told with...etc' - I'd like to see this more brazen, more upfront, taking no prisoners, making no apologies. It's a hard-hitting tale, and that doesn't come across from the pitches. I confess I have seen it before and skated past, not thinking it was my kind of read. Also not convinced by the cover either - but hey, that's small beans on here.

I make notes as I go along, jotting down stray thoughts - these are what I have on my pad.
Chap 1: Love your voice - you have a light touch, easy-listening writing, yet you deal with deep questions. I love the gentle self-deprecating humour of your MC. She's very likeable. Very damaged, for sure, but very likeable. We're gunning for her from the off - or, at least, I am.
There is a lot of back story here...but your writing is so easy on the ear that it's not bothering me and I'm drawn into the story.
She read around 24 books a week? That pulled me up short. I read incessantly as a child but never managed that many.
LOL to Chris - the 9 year old MD.

Chap 2 - Boy, these are REAL people. No wonder people thought this was autobiography. I have never come across such detail in writing.
The GR as a doting old lady is spine tingling. Really chilling.
I thought an afghan was a hippy coat from the 60s/70s - now I'll have to google it. :)

Chap 3 - Hmm. Still one helluva lot of reported action. I'm beginning to feel I need to see more of what's happening rather than be told about it. I'm needing more dialogue, more immediacy.

Chap 4 - NOW you're talking! It comes really alive in this chapter - all the element fuse beautifully - description, action, dialogue, interior thought. Fantastic. I get the no belts and laces - my mother had psychotic episodes and was on suicide watch several times.

Chap 5 - smiling at the prism. Now I want a prism. :)

Chap 6 - I like Todd's projection. But you know, I'm feeling distanced again. And then, suddenly, wham! We're out of Psych and in The Pub and I'm feeling a sense of let down because I wanted to hear more about how she and Dr Frank worked together at Psych.

You say it in this chapter: "Enough musing - tangents and rants sometimes look to me like the main road" and I think that may be my main stumbling block with this, Judy. I LOVE your writing and I love this story. The world you build and its characters are pitch perfect - but I felt as a reader I needed the information rearranged somehow. It's always a danger, as a writer-reader, to suggest to someone how to write their book, how YOU would write it...and I try not to...but I'm sitting on my hands. I think I'd have maybe kept with a more linear narrative (starting from just before the suicide attempt) and then maybe fed in the back story in nuggets of remembrance, scattering them through the book (so the reader gradually picks up exactly why she has come to this point). There, I said I wouldn't do it and I have... but hey, it's just my thought and, as I said, I ain't no critic.

I'll back this happily because I figure it has MASSIVE potential. And you are a pretty awesome writer.

Janet/Helen wrote 419 days ago

The Existence Game. Chapters 1 to 3.

Brilliant, powerful, gripping. Will be back to read more. In the meantime, 6 stars, onto watchlist and will back in the very near future. Janet

Janet/Helen
The Stranger In My Life

Bea Sinclair wrote 423 days ago

Beautifully written and very original this book is ready for publication. High stars and backed. Yours Bea

Keith Gilbey wrote 423 days ago

On my w/l to finish.

keith

Jaclyn Aurore wrote 423 days ago

The Existence Game - return read

After reading your book, i understand now the conversations we've since had... My book is intentionally unrealistic and should probably be tagged as "fantasy" though there isn't any paranormal or mythical being so i don't want to give people that impression...
your book on the other hand - is everything real.

my useless notes that i made throughout:
- ironic that the MC fears being alone at night lest someone break in and abuse her... yet she found comfort in an abusive boyfriend... ironic, but realistic. that fear of being alone makes us do stupid things, being with someone, no matter how mean, we justify it by saying "well at least i'm not alone/single" etc or "at least i can prepare for the worst" - the fear of the unknown is what makes us do stupid things.

how the family blames Alexis for Gunner's departure - knowing a bit of your history (even though it's not a memoir) i understand this all too well... and can relate and have friends who can relate. it's sad...

the suicide scene was well written and her reasons for doing so - established... it wasn't just 'oh my life sucks, death would be better' - there was so much more to it

by the end of the first three chapters (one autho chapter), i'm anxious to see how Alex will cope in Psych, her sessions, and what she'll learn. I assume that's where the story is going... unfortunately that part isn't posted!

the next two chapters are more like a glossary and dictionary discussion of Bipolar Vs the character... it's well written, but i want back in the story damnit!

do you plan to post more? please let me know

Jaclyn x
My Life Without Me

William Holt wrote 432 days ago

This is a highly emotional story, clearly based on the sort of experiences that we would prefer not to live through but that give fiction a powerful push toward what every writer wishes to induce in a reader--the "willing suspension of disbelief" that Coleridge described in relation to such strange tales as he himself created.

The listing of characters early on is unusual. On the one hand it might seem to violate the familiar recommendation that one should allow characters to reveal themselves through their words and actions without direct description by the author, but on the other hand it creates the impression that what we are reading is drama. One is reminded of the leisurely descriptions of the dramatis personae in a Tennessee Williams play like The Glass Menagerie, given just before the devastating clashes of will that can so mesmerize even the most jaded audience.

And drama this is--a tale of greatly heightened emotion carried to the very brink of self-destruction as the MC endures terrors almost beyond imagination.

Highly recommended.

Brian G Chambers wrote 444 days ago

Hi JS
No wonder you are getting well wishes from people, this is a truly amazing believable story. You have captured the Psychosis perfectly. Ireally like first person stories (it feels like you are in the persons head) and your discriptions of how the MC ended up in a psychiatric hospital is told really well. You started from where you think the problems arose, but it seems as though your MC has had problems all her life. A truly remakable story. Very well done. I couldn't help but notice that your script jumped to the next line half way through a sentence though. Though probably this is due to a glitch on authonomy. You will do very well with this and thank you for sharing it and letting us read it.
Best wishes.
Brian..

Seringapatam wrote 448 days ago

JS Well done on a number fo counts. For coming through this and then writing something as cool as this. You are a special person. To laugh in the face of adversity and then come out with a read like this, I take my hat off to you. Brill story, great pitch. Nice flow and best of all you have very cleverly took these characters and used them to the full as and when you wanted to dictate and increase or decrease in pace. So well done and I am going to be scoring this very high. Loved it.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks. Sean

c. ross wrote 453 days ago

Hi Judy,

Apart from your naturally flowing and engaging style, the story itself is riveting. At first I felt the long opening providing background might not be necessary, but by the slamming down of the receiver at the end of chapter one, I knew I was hooked. Your long pitch isolated a key scene that, when I came to it again in the first chapter, provided the perfect snapshot of Alexis's disorder (and I even thought it might make some sort of excellent image for a cover--a pile of comic books and clothes with feet sticking from beneath). I am mesmerized by the "Mommy of the Moment," and your paragraph describing Alexis's trepidation while talking to her on the phone is masterful.

Superficially, I'm guessing you've noticed the occasional random break in a line--I had some of the same formatting problems (and also the big breaks after paragraphs) until I turned on the formatting tracker in Word. I was quickly able to indent and eliminate strange breaks with extra lines. One very insignificant punctuation point: the comma before "(Yes, Gunner)" could be moved after the parentheses.

The line that will stick with me (and maybe a connection to your reference to the Panama operation at the beginning?) is this: "If we cut our mission short, we might have to come back for the same lessons." I sense that this entire work so far is a strategic operation for the narrator--both in attempted suicide and also in getting her life back together. Thanks for putting it here for someone like me to read.

c. ross
So Much Depends

carol jefferies wrote 454 days ago

Hi J S,

I was drawn to reading your book 'The Existence Game,' as i believe the more people learn about mental health issues, the better it will be for those affected. I also like reading biographies.

I can see how you suffered from such low self-esteem and high levels of anxiety from your family undermining your confidence, and then experiencing the tragic loss of a parent . Your mother with her unpredictable behaviour sounds a nightmare, compounding your feelings of failure.

Well done for simply surviving.

Good Luck with it,

Carol Jefferies
(A Prince Unboyed)
(Love for Lilian)
(A Kinsman's Chattel)

Cathy Hardy wrote 471 days ago

Wow!! powerful stuff. I will e certain to read this all the way through, having been diagnosed with this myself. I wish I had found this before. Top stars!!!!

JMF wrote 545 days ago

I thought this was an interesting read and wondered whether it's a memoir rather than fiction. Whichever it is, I think it would benefit from being broken up a little with some more dialogue as I did find it hard-going at times. I was intrigued by Alex's earlier life and her relationship with her mother, but I felt there were not enough details to really hook me in as a reader. It may be that you delve deeper into these things later on, but I wonder, as you mention how much your character's early life at home affected her, whether it would be a good idea to give some more concrete instances of what life was like for her at home. Just a thought.
You deal with some emotive, distressing issues very well and I wish you luck with your writing.
High stars to you.
Julia
Shadow Jumper

hockgtjoa wrote 581 days ago

I think there is a lot of good writing and character and (maybe) plot elements here for a good book. But as it is, it seems to be an outline of what might be in the book. Please do work on this so we can read what should be a wonderful story.

Lynne Heffner Ferrante wrote 593 days ago

Judy, An incredible insightful empathetic expression of what it feels like to live in the middle of dysfunction and illness. Anyone who has been there will immediately feel it; anyone who has not will experience it second hand but with true emotion. Your structure and writing are careful at the same time that they are totally evocative. the over all effect is charming and compelling. I can't wait to read the rest. Stars for you and you remain on my watch list for now until I have room on my shelf. Best Regards,

Lynne Heffner Ferrante
An Untenable Fragrance of Violets

Neville wrote 596 days ago

The Existence Game.
By J.S. Adams.


Alexis has clearly suffered from a very early age. She’s afraid to sleep at night without the safety of others around her. I felt that her mother contributed to the anxiety by way of her domineering attitude.
I thought that there was very little love there …she did throw Alexis out at eighteen, being the minimum age allowed by law to leave the confines of a family.
It’s a sad story that could well be a true life experience being told; even though it’s fiction it carries a lot of weight for the reader to think otherwise.
You have a good voice coming through and the dialogue is acceptable but at the same time it would enhance the story if there was more of it.
The attempted suicide and the hospital scene breathes new life into it just at the right time…a nice hook.
Pleased to star rate your book and wish it well.

Best regards,

Neville. ‘The Secrets of the Forest – Cosmos 501’ (Series) Book Two.

Lucy Middlemass wrote 596 days ago

The Existence Game

The long pitch tells me this is going to be ambitious and interesting. Good start. I’ve only read the first two chapters so far.

Chapter One

I think I’d like to know if this is a memoir or an work of fiction, but either way it’s a smooth read; it’s well-edited with a strong, straightforward voice.

Your main character’s relationship with her mother is drawn convincingly and is something I’m sure many women would recognise to some degree.

The matter-of-fact way of telling this story helps enormously in making it more relatable. If this is the viewpoint of someone who has struggled with mental illness, then it’s entirely right that we should be drawn into her world by things are regular and normal as childhood friendships and the rent. She is any of us.

I also like the whole “existence game” idea. For Alex, the idea of ending her life is not so unreasonable or remarkable. The “existence game” makes it seem somehow logical and palatable.

Chapter Two

Love the quotation at the beginning of this chapter.

“He looked like a sculpture of a huge infant.” is great. I like the Kevin character - the mini-stories about him are fun, and give the narrative good balance.

The GR part is good, especially the description of him being like a doting old lady. Really horrible, creepy and good.

I’ve enjoyed this, to the extent that something like this is intended to be enjoyed. Some of it makes for uncomfortable reading, especially the end of the second chapter. It’s well-edited with a good balance of flashbacks, plot progression and minor characters. I’m going to star it highly.

Lucy

Abby Vandiver wrote 597 days ago

The writing is good. I did see some grammatical errors. But I think that there is too much narrative. Paragraph can be exhausting to a reader. The story is interesting.

I was a bit confused because i thought Alex was 13. But then sge had a landlord and going to a pub.

Good start.

Abby

Su Dan wrote 597 days ago

this has a great premise that you write very well indeed with intelligence and skill...
backed...
read SEASONS...

Elizabeth Buhmann wrote 633 days ago

What a remarkable story. Is it fiction or memoir? Whichever, it is so unflinchingly honest that it is almost unbearable -- but at the same time, it is wry and captivating -- in sum, totally compelling and utterly convincing. It is beautifully written, in a quiet, matter-of-fact style that makes the powerful emotions all the more effective. I'll read more, but I wanted to let you know how much I admire your work so far. EB

Sue50 wrote 651 days ago

Incrediblly moving! Happy to put your work on my shelf. Hope you have a chance to look at Dark Side by CC Brown. Good Luck.
Sue50

terryj wrote 653 days ago

liked the premis, blurb, first person, character, and [at first] especially the style. super, i thought.
but after a few pages i began, honestly to find it a little too even paced, kind of like rrading someone's diary which, face it, isnt meant for publication?
and also by then i was forced to ask: is it actually ficton?
if it truly is then it's on the way to being great, but i'm aware that such things happen. i'd be a lot happier if i could be sure it was