Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Menopause, Anxiety, Sleep Apnoea, a Writing Career and a bloody amazing husband.



For as along as I've been married, nearly 33 years, I've snored. While others have heard it, from time to time, it is my husband who has silently suffered mostly through the sawmill in our bedroom. He's only complaint, he says, is having to get up to drag the inhaled curtains from my throat. He's a funny man.

Approaching fifty years of age, I happened upon that delightful time in a woman's life called menopause. If the snoring wasn't bad enough, my husband then had to endure the endless tossing of bedclothes as I continuously went from hot to cold and hot again with night sweats. The universe finally took pity on him and gave me a good dose of insomnia. Suddenly I could only sleep two to three hours a night. Everyone had a remedy and I tried them all and still found myself lying wide awake with the stars.

I've always tried to approach a problem creatively, and decided to get up and put these silent, wakeful hours to good use. Never had I had a better opportunity to write a book, and that's just what I did. In fact, my first book, a 95,000 word novel, only took me two and a half months to write. You can read my other posts to find out how all that went, but in short, I was now a self published author and my book was going off like hotcakes. Within a few months I had published my second and six months later, my third. I was making a nice income from sales.

Menopause finally had a silver lining. Between August 2012 and November 2015, I published five books, the last one being a hefty tome of 249,000 words, taking nineteen months of writing, editing and research. It was no wonder that I felt I needed a break from writing after that one, and told myself I would be back at it within a few months. A year later, I still couldn't find the energy to undertake another novel. On top of that, my anxiety disorder of some 25 years had taken a new turn. I became agoraphobic, unable to venture out of my house alone, even down to the washing line. Once again, my uncomplaining husband took the reins and took care of me. My four adult children also stepped in and between the lot of us, life went on, except for a deep sense of being redundant. Yes, I sought medical help, but the mental health system of New Zealand seems to want to frame us all in one box and use strong anti-depressants as a cure. My time on antidepressants is another story I won't go into, and I'm not against them and see the right ones can be life saving. I'm just against a one size fits all philosophy.

Mostly everyone was supportive, though I feel I lost a few friends who couldn't understand that I felt unable to attend social functions or return a visit. I foolishly took on a radio project, only to find myself stressing constantly about it, until I finally had to give it up. One other saving grace were the beautiful people in my writing group  who I could rely upon to keep me enthusiastic about writing. With their encouragement, I was able to write a few short stories and finally get back some sense of achievement, but as each day passed, I felt an exhaustion I had never known before. Again, my husband took up the slack and took over housework and cooking, as well as working every day.

Just after Christmas 2016, I started experiencing vivid, wild dreams. My husband informed me that his nightly concerto had taken on a whole new symphony. I was ranting and raving in my slumber and sleepwalking, not getting out of bed, but actually walking in the bed. Every morning I got up exhausted, as if I'd run a marathon during the night. During the day, I had moments where I just had to lie down, only to pass out and lose an hour and still wake up exhausted. It was at this time I really listened to something he'd been telling me for years. "You stop breathing," he said. "That's the only thing that wakes me up. I lie there and wait for that gasp before I am able to sleep again." He was frightened by it. The last straw for me was when I attacked him one night in my sleep and put four bleeding claw marks down his back. It woke me up and I was devastated by what I had done. He never said a word, except to roll over so he could cuddle me.

I made a visit to my GP who requested an urgent appointment with the diagnostics department at the hospital. The first appointment was to gauge my sleep and measure these breathless moments. I was sent home with a machine with a nose mask and finger clip, and told I had to breathe entirely through my nose. Do you know how difficult that is? The next time I returned the machine and was told it would probably be a few weeks before the next appointment. Those few weeks became three days when I received a letter with an urgent appointment for me.

My obstructive sleep apnoea was among the worst they had ever seen. The results told them that I stopped breathing on an average of 99 times per hour for an average of 22 seconds. The specialist informed me it was as if I had been living at the top of Mt. Cook and probably only getting ten minutes sleep per night. No wonder I was exhausted.

So now I have a machine of my very own, but putting that nose mask on every night does little for my self esteem. I asked my husband if there was anyway we could turn it into a sexual fetish, perhaps ask for one with leather straps and a ball gag. The thing is, through it all, neither of us have lost our sense of humour and I've spent more time counting my blessings.

The machine works. In the last three weeks I've had more energy than in the last several years. And I'm writing again, working on my next novel. I've even entered the local short story comp with a piece I'm really proud of. My husband is finally getting the good sleep he's always deserved, though he whinges that the nights are too quiet now.

I can see the light at the end of the long tunnel of menopause and I've found myself venturing out a little more each day. Who knows, maybe I'll get another book out this year. So what's this post all about? I couldn't make up my mind what I wanted write about, so hence the really long title. Maybe I should have entitled it Ode to my husband and kids, who have stood by me through it all, but it's also a celebration of writing again, pouring words onto the page, bringing characters to life, plotting evil conflicts to keep them busy and providing a little entertainment to my readers. I'm doing what I love again and my world is just that little bit brighter.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

What do you call a group of authors? A look at collective nouns



It’s usually at a pub quiz that we find ourselves delving deep into our minds for the various strange terms used for a group of something. Many we may recall quickly, such as a murder of crows or an unkindness of ravens, but I imagine most people would be unaware of the many unusual, descriptive and humorous words associated with these gatherings of animals. Even less would have any idea of their origins.

It was in the 15th century that gentlemen were in the pursuit of leisurely pleasures, namely hunting and fishing. The book to turn to at the time was the Book of St. Albans printed in 1486, with its sections on hawking, hunting and heraldry. It is believed that the book was written by a nun, Dame Juliana Berners, who was also referred to as the First Lady of fly fishing. The book was popular and the colourful collective nouns she assigned to animals are still in use today, such as a pride of lions and a gaggle of geese. Others such as a shrewdness of apes has not enjoyed the same popularity. In all, 164 collective nouns were listed in the book under “The Compaynys of Beestys and Fowlys” which also included people: A gaggle of women, an abominable sight of monks.

With popularity being the key to a collective noun’s survival, there have been many attempts to create them for our modern world. In 1991 James Lipton wrote “An exaltation of larks,” a compendium of these nouns that had long been established in our language, even for inanimate objects. (A flight of stairs, A quiver of arrows)

Last year, I posed a question on Twitter asking what the collective noun for authors was. The response was amazing with many brilliant suggestions, and where I was introduced to the hashtag #moderncollectivenouns. Well worth a look, but in the meantime here are my favourite picks for authors:

A publication of authors
A block of authors
A ream of authors
An epigram of authors.

And my own contribution: A solitude of authors. Please feel free to list your own suggestions. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Taking time to talk Twitter.

As an Indie author, much of what I've learned has come by trial and error, by following advice and experience, and by giving it a go. Four years later, I'm still learning, but I feel confident enough to share bits and pieces of what has worked for me. One of the topics that comes up frequently in forums is in how to use Twitter for marketing books.

This is one of those areas in which I've found a formula that works for me. No, I don't have thousands of followers, but the ones I have are greatly appreciated and I do my best to give them some entertaining and informative posts. According to my Twitter stats, I average about 9000 impressions a week. I don't use any programs to attract followers, and maybe I should, but I like it this way. So these are a few rules I've made for myself:

I don't always follow back. Those I do follow back are usually other authors, indie filmmakers, writers, writing bloggers or anyone who has a Twitter feed that interests me. I take time to check out anyone who follows me and I will decide then if I want to follow. If I do follow back, I try to greet with a retweet.  

I will retweet for mostly anyone who retweets my posts, whether I follow them or not. There are several wonderful authors who don't follow me, but from time to time tweet my books. When they do, I retweet their books or blog post or pinned tweet. That is my thank you for their kindness. If you tweet my posts, you have a 95% chance of me tweeting for you. Can't stand a twitter feed where the only posts are authors advertising their own work and no-one else's. 

I support New Zealand authors and writers in all genres. Not all of them follow me back, but as a New Zealander, I want to support the craft I love so much and expose the talent we have in this country, along with some breath-taking scenery. 

I don't expect everyone to follow me back or tweet my books. I often tweet erotic, sexual and other topics and images that may not be everyone's cup of tea. I certainly don't expect a children's author to tweet my books.

I will advertise my books. While I endeavour to keep my posts interesting, while supporting my fellow tweeter, I'm here for business as well as pleasure and I love showing off my books. 

I mostly avoid politics, religion and any other topic that seeks an opinion. Occasionally there will be a cause near and dear to my heart, and I will have my say, but I'm not on Twitter to engage in arguments or unkindness to any individual.

I will try to keep hashtags to a maximum of three, but no promises. Hashtags get your posts noticed and like I said, I'm in this for the business as well. Also I like playing hashtag games on Twitter. 

Have a pinned retweet that will display your best work. Change it up every couple of months. 

Always make sure your URLS work before you post a tweet.

If you never retweet for others and only tweet your own stuff, why would you expect any one to engage with you, unless you're a celebrity whose fans hang on every word. I tweet more for others than I do my own promos. 

My Twitter profile has a link to my Amazon author page. 


So here you have the few basic rules I follow and a couple of tips. When it comes to marketing books, Twitter has proven to be the most successful in all my social media platforms. If you aren't finding it effective, take time to see if you are supporting your fellow tweeter. Support me and I will support you. #selfpub #indieauthor #bookmarketing 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Researching: Writing what you don't know

I've been writing stories since I was a child, when my knowledge of the world was minimal, and so I had to draw on the writer's greatest tool, imagination. I didn't let boring elements, such as facts and reality, get in my way and my stories were exciting. It wasn't until I was much older that I learned that there were supposedly 'rules' around writing that 'good' authors followed to be successful. Many of them I had been using without knowing their significance, such as structure and showing not telling, but one rule really bothered me: Write what you know.
What a boring rule. Now at the age of 50 plus, I do know a great deal about the world, but that knowledge is still limited, too limited for what I want to write. If my stories were to be tethered by what I knew, then what was the good of having imagination? That rule was quickly crossed out for me. I have a good brain and I intended to use it to learn about the things I didn't know.




When I wrote MASTER I had already determined that my main character was from Ukraine, a country I had little knowledge of. In fact the whole story would be set there and in the year 1995. My research began with the firm resolution to be as factual as possible, as if I had lived there. Writing my story began with months of reading everything about Ukraine, from history to culture. I went on forums and chatted with Ukrainians who were only too happy to set me straight about anything I wasn't certain about. This research also helped enormously in plot development, being able to incorporate historical facts into my story and give it a whole new level of reality. Because of the time frame my story was set in, I had to match facts up with how those elements would have worked in 1995 Ukraine. It wasn't easy, and I was exhausted by the time Master was published. The readers loved it and recognised the work that had gone into it, but they wanted more. They wanted a sequel. It didn't help that I had made my protagonist a super genius computer hacker.
It took 19 months to release SINS OF THE MASTER after an exhaustive study of hacking, computers, politics and many other elements.
To date, no-one has challenged me on anything in these books, but I will admit to a few areas where I took poetic licence and used my imagination, but never at the expense of undoing my plot by blatant ignorance. My advice to aspiring authors is to respect what you write and respect the intelligence of your readers. Do your research, but don't ever be afraid of venturing out into the unknown. It's a big exciting world and our stories shouldn't be bound by what we've experienced, but rather by what we are willing to learn.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Vulnerable

Having lived with anxiety disorder for over twenty years, writing has been a great friend. It allows me something to turn to during the dark hours and helps me explore the emotions and confusion I often feel. While I essentially write books, I have found poetry to be something that allows me to focus. This is one I want to share for #WorldMentalHealthDay

Vulnerable
Once I was a warrior, equipped to be on the front lines of life.
Now I step up naked on the battlefield, walled in by doubt.
My only defense is your mercy, my only weapon is silence.
When the demons are pulling upon the strings in my mind
I can only wait until they tire of their cruelty,
And abandon me like a cat with a sparrow,
Coldly watching my efforts to take flight again.
But my allies rally and I draw from their strength
Believing my victory is certain
And with this belief I advance on the front,
The laurels of achievement awaiting me.
But the battle is short lived, and uncertainty like a crane-swing returns.
My war cry becomes a suppliant blubber
And my jaw droops for want of breath.
As my heart hammers upon an anvil of fear.
My wounds are deep and I gaze at the sword in my hand
Beckoning my fall upon it,
But what sort of soldier would I be then
And at what cost to those around me?
For now, I must contend to stay broken on the field,
And blurt out the words I loathe to utter.

“Help me.”   


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Graham Norton's couch

A tribute to the best Talk Show host ever. Thanks for the laughs. 

Graham Norton’s couch

How does an artist measure success?
What would you call fame?
Is it awards or trophies or just being the best?
Is it the face, the works or name?
For me, there is just one accolade,
The gauge upon which I will vouch,
I’ve finally made it, I’ve made the grade,
When I sit on Graham’s couch.

You can keep your fancy Booker Prize,
Be gone, you Academy Award,
Pulitzer, Nobel and other highs,
Tend to make me rather bored.
But lead me to this prestigious throne
No longer to grumble and grouch,
From that time on, it will always be known,
That I sat on Graham’s couch.

And of course I would have to be among
The other guests that night.
But my placing on that red chaise longue
Will not be taken without a fight.
The closest one to Mr. Norton
Is by no means any slouch,
So pause and put this in proportion,
I’m first on Graham’s couch.

The closest to this worldly host
The object of his attention,
Not just as some celebrity roast,
But an artist in ascension.
A tribute worthy of remembrance,
Not some Oscar in my pouch,
What an achievement of transcendence
When I sat on Graham’s couch.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Why I chose to go down the self-publishing road


The lot of an Indie author is not an easy one, but the sense of achievement at the end of it all has to be the greatest feeling ever. I've done it! The dream has become a reality and my creation is out there.

In a drawer sits two full length novel manuscripts that I wrote once upon a time, one of them over twenty years ago. I tried to get a publisher, but the process was both expensive and time consuming. I had four children and money could not be spared on something so frivolous. I lost confidence and in the end gave up. One day I might take them up again, update and self publish them.

I began writing The Finest Line in May 2012. Through Kindle Direct Publishing, it was self-published to Amazon in August 2012. It cost me no more than the price of a few drinks for the people who helped me create the cover. I brought two more books out within a year of that, and they both did great, one of them going to #1 in Erotic Thrillers. Within a year of publishing The Finest Line I was making a full time income with my books and could devote my days to writing. When I say that self publishing is the most liberating accomplishment for writers, I mean it.

It is the answer for anyone who has long held a the passion to write and be published. They have a story in them screaming to be told. Well, I for one want to hear your story. It shouldn't be up to the traditional publishers to say whether your story is good enough or not. It's yours, and you want to share it with the world, whether others like it or not. Maybe it won't do so well, but who cares? I write for me, and I have to love my story before anyone does, and when I do, like any proud parent, I want to show my baby to the world. They don't have to like it, but it exists.

I've read all the dismal articles of the poor quality of Indie authors, the typos, the grammar, and mostly I think that's rubbish. Yes, I've actually read several stories, littered with mistakes, but the story itself was incredible and I am richer for having read it, and I am so glad the writer had the courage to put it out there. Failure is not several mistakes in your work and some bad reviews. Let the readers have their say, but remember, you did it, when they didn't. You are a success because you did put it out there while others are still dreaming about it, and who knows, maybe you do have the next New York Times bestseller within you. It just needs few trial runs before it comes out. With every book you put out there, you learn from it, and your writing can only blossom.
Would I ever go with a publisher now? I don't know, I'd like to say no, and I have given this a great deal of thought. I love being Indie. I love all those long hard hours of writing and getting ready to publish. I love that it costs me nothing. I love that I can finish writing a book and have it published within a few days. I love that my books belong to me alone.

And what is this all about anyway? It's about my passion for writing which has existed since I wrote my first poetry book at four years of age. It's about the first fifty page novel I completed when I was eight years old and the first full length novel I wrote when I was twelve years old. It wasn't about money, fame or reviews back then. It was because I had to write and haven't stopped my entire life, but now I can share my writing with the world. You don't have to like my stories, but they're out there, published, and I love them.

#PoweredByIndie #selfpub