Monthly Archives: January 2014

Signed, sent… & scary!

Well, I got what I deserved from my physio, but he knows that I am a disease rebel and it’s not worth lecturing me. So yes, yesterday I felt like I’d been hit by a train, but did it stop me sitting in front on the computer… did it heck! I justified doing some work because it meant that I was ‘resting’ – whatever that is. When you don’t remember what it is like to be pain free because you belong to the exclusive club of invisible diseases, there is very little life can throw at you to bring you down. It became a sad reality, yesterday, that I am to be officially retired from the UK healthcare system due to ill health. I am a pensioner at the age of 41 – isn’t that hilarious! Yes I have to laugh about it despite what it really means: I am facing an uncertain future.

But hey! A nice big fat lump sum means I can publish my book… book a family vacation… & buy a new bikini! I am a pensioner, I can still enjoy life and have some fun, because isn’t that what you do when you’re retired? Apparently, it is also the time that many do write a book, so I’m already one step ahead of the game.

Given all of this, today I signed the contract, confidently sent it, and took a big deep breath that escaped into a big grin. Then caught myself and thought ‘This is actually quite scary, I have no clue what I’m doing… ” But if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not aiming high enough!

Disappearing chapters

Well, even though my physio is going to give me hard time for sitting in front of the computer for so long, I’m rather pleased with my little self. I’ve so far managed to reduce the book by two chapters. I realized that I needed to be brutal and really tease out the essential components of the story without losing too much meat. So far, so good, and yes I kept my promise, some of it is gone but there’s still plenty of steam!

I never get tired of reading Frankie and Jack’s story, I have no idea where it came from, it just evolved. After reading Fifty, and many others in that genre, my little brain began to see a recurring theme – hot, dominant male chases younger vulnerable female, they eventually get down and dirty, a lot! Somebody reveals they were abused, there’s a bit of drama, then they all live happily ever after with all their emotional baggage!!

It was getting a bit predictable. Time we had a powerful female and a vulnerable male… and let’s make her older and him younger, like 7 years younger (says the 41 year old with a cheeky wink!)… and let’s have real jobs that people can relate to… with real life events… and what about putting a time limit on this relationship so there’s no inevitable happy ever after here… add in a bit of drama, tragedy and steam – et voilà!!

I wanted to make the reader laugh, cry and curse me… fingers crossed I will achieve that, not only in this book but in it’s sequel.

Too many words!!

‘That’s a reasonably big book’, my publishing consultant pointed out, ‘you should consider making it 2 books’, she said.
Err… no!! Why? Well it has a sequel so that would make it a trilogy & EVERYONE is doing trilogies. So that’s a big fat no, lady, not going to happen. One of the things I really want to do with these books is break the mould. I want to give my readers something different, something fresh, and something real. So no trilogy!!! When I wrote them I never once sat there and thought, ‘right, now what do I write?’ I knew from them moment I began what the very last line of book 2 would be, and the journey it would take to get to there. And once I rolled with it, I couldn’t stop. Maybe that’s how it got so big; my imagination ran away with me.

However, despite my beta readers telling me that it really didn’t seem that big, and some of them didn’t actually want it to end, I do need to tighten it up. The professional reader report highlighted those bits as being very well done… a big fat high five to my imagination! It was also reported, with regard to those bits, that it may also contain too much of a good thing. So, even though my friend is protesting, some of those bits will have to go I’m afraid, but she’s made me promise that certain ones have to stay… oh yeah, absolutely!!

I must now be on my 15 millionth round of editing, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. This week I will hopefully sign the contract, pay them money I don’t have, and take another step towards the shelves…

The Notebook

Over the years, and especially very recently, I have asked myself ‘why am I being punished?’ I have never done anything to harm anybody or anything – well I might have plucked up the courage to kill a few spiders in my time! – And yet I feel as if I am not allowed to have a break from pain and suffering. When I started out along the path towards publishing my novel I began a handwritten journal. A notebook I carry around so I can just write stuff down. It can be anything from the way I’m feeling to where I am on the path. Somebody once said to me that I should write a book about living with an autoimmune disease, and why it led me to writing a novel in the first place. ‘Great idea!’ I thought, however, in the short time I have been writing I have discovered that now there would need to be chapters in that book I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever have to write. ‘No! that happens to other people, not me!”

The notebook is getting quite full; it is becoming a cesspit of emotion, unanswered questions and some parts, violent outbursts of anger that I don’t want my children to hear. It has inky tearstains, shouty capitals, bits crossed out & bits added with little arrows, diagrams, purple, red and black pen, lists, dividers… you get the general idea! It has evolved into becoming a good listener because I can write whatever I want, in no particular order, without grammar, punctuation or spell checking. And the best bit, nobody else can read, or understands it but me!

I think it will be a very long time, if ever, before I gather all the ‘stuff’ in that journal and put into some sort of sensible form, and tell my own real story. I would need to be in a much more stable place before I could share this part of my life with the rest of the world. Why? Because the ultimate goal would be to provide the reader with a insight into the harsh realities and devastation inflicted on a person, and their family, living with a chronic disease.

Digging deep

When I first moved to Canada I kept a diary. It was mainly to write down my experiences, so that when I became old and senile, I would be able to look back at that part of my life and remind myself. The first thing to note about this is that I didn’t think at the time I would still be here 10 years later. Secondly, it never occurred to me at the time that writing would become a thing of mine, and thirdly, I now find it interesting that it has evolved into a way of aerating and dealing with stuff!

After our initial year here – which may I add was only meant to be a year – the diary became an on/off thing. I would write in it occasionally and to be honest after a while it fizzled out… until I found out my mum was terminally ill when I was only 11 weeks pregnant with our first child. I have no idea how the diary started again; maybe even then I unconsciously realized that writing provided some sort of therapy. When I wrote my first book I decided to explore some of the issues I had experienced first hand. Yes, the death of my mother when I was 31 weeks pregnant was a highly charged emotional time of my life, but had to that the fact that I was 5000 miles away, unable to travel and be with her, and I don’t get on with my father and several other members of my family.

I found that when my story was evolving, and to this day I can’t tell you where it came from or how it evolved, I was able to use some of that emotion. However, I found that re-living it was much more difficult than anticipated. One of the recommendations the professional reader made, in her report, was that I needed to dig deeper when exploring some of the issues I raise.

So here I am, almost halfway through my 15 millionth round of editing and ready to dig deep inside myself, as far as I can this time, to give my readers a realistic account of how my character feels.

Complicated contracts

Oh help!! Publishing contract, no idea what any of it means. Thankfully my husband appears to be able to translate anything and everything even if it’s not medical. When I read it my only question was ‘what?’ Then we went through it together and now I have two pages of questions, all his. Once again I find myself wondering what on earth I’m doing when I can’t even understand two pages of what is apparently English.

So, I now have to contact the company, but the person I have been corresponding with has just returned today after a two-week vacation in Hawaii – lucky cow! Oops did I just say that out loud;-) Therefore, I didn’t think it was fair to bombard her with a whole bunch of questions, which probably have complicated answers that will cause my brain to run off with my laptop, declaring that I am stupid and have no right to write!!

Of course, you know I’ll end up signing the damn thing because, realistically it doesn’t matter who you employ to help to you, they are always going to cover their own backs and not yours…

If anyone has any advice it would be very much appreciated… thanks!!

Maintaining a sense of humour

Right! Enough about dark holes and all the other gloomy things that control my disease-ridden life. I do, in fact, have a sense of humour that I hope many of you will enjoy one day when you read my books. When I moved to Canada I discovered that a British sense of humour could offend a lot of North Americans, therefore, it took some time for them to ‘get me’. Thankfully, British Columbia has a it’s name for a reason… many who were born here are of British descent, so it didn’t take too long for them to appreciate us Brits and our quick wit.

So how can I find amusement in a crippling, chronic, painful disease?
Well, first you should know that I have been married now for 15 years. Every night since my symptoms began – approximately 5 years ago – there have been three of us in our king sized tempurpedic bed. Initially the third party was unnamed until a family vacation for my 40th birthday – a Disney cruise. Now, let’s just say I can’t sleep with my legs together… yes I know, not surprising for a dirty romance novelist, but true. At least true in the sense that I can’t physically lay on my side with my knees touching, like most people. I have to have a pillow in between them otherwise I can’t actually get out of bed in the morning. Even my closest girlfriends will tell you that one of the last things I say to them before we hit the Vegas strip is ‘promise you’ll both make sure I sleep with a pillow between my knees’ and, bless them, even in their intoxicated state, they make sure I do!

So, may I introduce you to ‘Goofy’ my body pillow, and the third member of our threesome! ‘Why Goofy?’ I hear you say. Well, while on that magical and amazing birthday family vacation, I was fortunate to stumble across the canine himself snuggled up in a corner in his PJs, with a Mickey Mouse stuffy and a blanket in situ. I couldn’t help joining him on the sofa for a snuggle and a picture, and OMG! Did he smell good!! I don’t care what the occupant of that suit looked like, all I could think of, while I was sat very close to him, was ‘what the hell is that scent?’

And from then on, for reasons I still can’t explain, my body pillow has been known as ‘Goofy’. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism, but I’ve noticed I make up fun names quite a lot even for non-disease related stuff, and especially when I write… so watch out for more of them!

The Dark Hole

Anger and resentment can lead you down a dark hole. If you find yourself standing at the entrance to that hole you have a choice to make… do I allow the cause of these emotions to push me over the edge so I fall in, or do I use every part of my being to turn away? Sometimes you’ve fallen before you realize it, but because you’ve become aware of what’s happened you manage to cling on to the side and climb out. And, because you’ve previously been at the bottom of that hole on more than one occasion, you know how difficult it is to climb out.

Before I wrote down everything I thought, felt and experienced both physically and emotionally, I fell into that dark hole many times. Not only have I found a way of venting my frustrations, I have also found a way of putting them into a fictional situation so I can let someone else thrash them out. There is nothing more sobering than life experience; sadly I have had to deal with too many of them in recent years.

So, I’ve just climbed out of the hole but something is trying to push me back in. I’ve embraced the thoughts and feelings that this ‘thing’ is creating and put them down in black and white (or purple because that is the only pen I had at the time!!). I will not allow it to win, despite what it has taken this time. Every time I climb out, I crawl a little bit further away. It is not going to be my weakness; it is going to be my strength. It is going to send me in a new direction, because I write my own story.

Getting down to it…

Right! No kids for 2 hours, every Monday afternoon, for the next 3 months… Time to sort myself out and get down to some serious editing! I have secured a package with a publisher, which now gives me something to work towards. I have 3 weeks to address all the professional reader recommendations, and honestly they are nothing I didn’t already know and there really aren’t many of them. The slightly annoying thing is that I nearly incorporated some of them into the original draft but then after discussing them with my friend, decided that I might be opening too many cans of worms. Well, it would appear that readers like worms and lots of them!!

So, although sitting in a coffee shop for 2 hours will completely screw up the benefits of the wonderful massage I had yesterday, it is the only way I can guarantee the time. I am a typical mum, if I decide to go home during that time I will inevitably do every possible household chore I’ve been putting off for the last however long and suddenly it will be time to pick the monkey’s up. So, instead I am sitting blogging, yes okay I know, not editing… blogging! All right, I’m going ☺

True friends

It doesn’t matter how therapeutic I find writing, it still doesn’t compare to thrashing it out with a good friend over a glass of wine. I am lucky enough to have a friend I can rely on no matter what. She knows me well; she can read me like a book – no pun intended!! She doesn’t judge, she doesn’t tell me what to do; she just listens and on many occasions has helped me see things a little clearer. She was the first person I confided in when I started writing, and has been right there with me from the beginning and was determined I wasn’t going to give up when I almost did. She was my first reader, she has listened to my crazy ideas – then edited them. She laughed out loud at one of those classic statements you make ‘if I tell you something will you promise not to laugh?’ Then she realized I was serious, I really had written the first 5 chapters of the book. Once she’d read them, she wanted more so her gave her the story and sub plots; she even knew the ending… well she thought she knew the ending!

We are the same age, have similar backgrounds, very similar values and beliefs when it comes to our kids. We have the same interests, enjoy the same experiences and even trained to do the same job. We party together, holiday together and yes we have even slept together because that’s what girls do on weekends away shopping!
We are true friends.