Getting Back into The Swing of Writing

Getting back into the swing of writing is a post written by Australian author Alison Tait. The title grabbed my attention and inspired me to write this post. Let me be honest, I haven’t written a thing in three years. Not a single word. In my defence I’ve had a lot on my mind, and I’m told I’ve been through multiple highly stressful situations during this time, however, in the past that’s when I write the most. But not this time.

I’m starting to find my feet and I have discovered over recent weeks I’ve thought about writing. Thinking and doing are two different things, I know that, but for me thinking is a step closer. 

There are five things I really do enjoy. Well, maybe I should say, I used to really enjoy. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Researching my family tree
  4. Playing the PlayStation
  5. Taking long walks with G and our dog.

I’ve never stopped reading. However, I can’t say the same for the other things on my list. Over the last few months though, I’ve restarted four of the five things. The only thing left to restart is the writing. I want to start. I guess this post is the first step. I wrote the post. I acknowledge my desire. I now have to … write.

I’ll get back to you in relation to this.

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Semi-Online and Forging a New Routine

The last three months has seen my entire life change. Sadly, Dad passed away at the end of June from lung cancer. Those last few weeks were horrible, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget certain details from that period. The pain. The confusion. The acceptance. The moment I realised he was gone.

Then the changes started. Moving house. Transferring location at work. Forging new routines. Learning to cope with Mum’s condition and the constant questions. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, at times I found myself sitting staring at the floor consumed with thoughts that scared me. But, like all bad situations, there were teething problems but it is settling down now.

My only constant during this time is that I have found time to read. I finished “The Lavender Keeper” by Fiona McIntosh, which was a brilliant book set in WWII. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I also finished “Wanted” (A Leopold Blake Thriller) by Nick Stephenson, which reminded me of The Da Vinci Code without the history lessons (and believe me when I say that’s a compliment). Currently, I’m reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. Many people that I trust recommended this book to me. At first, I found the backstory annoying, even though it is a large part of the plot, however, the storyline is quite twisted and I’m so engrossed in it now that I find it hard to stay away from. I look forward to seeing the movie when I’ve completed the book.

Anyway, I set up my laptop yesterday and here I am … checking on things, writing updates, sifting through emails, catching up with news.

I don’t think I’ll have the same internet experience anymore, not like I used to. I just don’t have the time. But I will write updates when I can. And I will attempt to start writing book reviews once more, but no promises.

And, no, I haven’t written during this time, but I have found myself thinking about my works-in-progess. If time permits, I think I’ll try to dedicate that time to finishing those works-in-progress rather than spending time on other activities.

Going Offline for an Indefinite Period

back-soonIn coming weeks, due to family illness and a need for me to become the primary carer, I will be moving in with my parents for an indefinite period of time. They don’t have the internet connected and due to the circumstances (my father has lung cancer and my mother has early dementia) I will not be pushing to change this.

I may be able to access emails from another location, but it will not be often, so I am going to say that even emails will not reach me.

Yes, I will be totally internet free for several months. Yes, it will feel weird, but we will have more important things on our minds.

Eventually, more permanent decisions will have to be made. I envision this to be two or three months down the track, at the earliest. And I suspect I will be relocating permanently at that time. This will mean lots of changes; selling my home and my furniture, making arrangements where my job is concerned, new routines, new priorities, but I’ll face that when I get to it.

Right now, I am spending time pulling back from anything that can be put on a back-burner, including writing. I have spent hours unsubscribing to websites and newsletters (I don’t want to log in to my email in six months time to discover 1,000s of emails sitting there waiting for me). I have loaded heaps of ebooks on to my iPad in anticipation of having time to read in the evenings (I won’t be able to take a multitude of books with me, so this is a fabulous option). I have prepared this website so it can be left unattended.

I will return. Not sure exactly when, but when decisions have been made and put into action, and when I am settled in then I will return to the internet. Until then, I hope life is good to you.

A Stroke in Life

Life is short. This is something we are told regularly, but – in truth – I believe we don’t take much notice of this saying. When I was a kid, a year seemed like a lifetime! It took forever to go from the first day of term to the last, let alone getting to the summer holidays. I always believed we lived forever (even though I knew this was not a reality). But as I got older, the years went faster. Much faster. It was almost as if the years became shorter somehow.

It wasn’t until I lost my son almost six years ago that I realised how short life really is. But then you never truly know anything until it smacks you in the face. Not really. I became complacent and allowed the knowledge to start slipping away. Until … Wednesday, the 25th of January.

When I had a stroke.

Don’t worry is was only minor, but I did suffer a bit of brain damage … again, only minor. Nothing that is noticeable. I was extremely lucky!

My specialist said that next time I might not be so lucky. Now that is scary. Hopefully there won’t be a next time, but I’m not going to take any chances and for that reason I am following instructions and have been injecting myself and making myself very, VERY sick.

I have a blood disorder called Essential Thrombocytosis. This means something inside me isn’t working properly and I’m making red blood cells constantly. I’ve been on tablet medication for about 18 months. It worked to begin with but then not so much. My blood count started climbing again, I had the stroke and now I have to go on injections (twice a week) in an effort to bring the numbers down to a safe level again.

Thing is, the injections make me sick for at least two days. As I have two injections a week, this means I’m sick for four days a week, but this past week I’ve been sick all week. I’m told my body will get used to the injections, but it will take about six weeks. I’m in my third week. Half way there. But the side affects are numerous – headaches, shivering, fever, aches and pains, confusion, depression, weakened eye sight, hair loss, fatigue, nausea and some other things it doesn’t seem right to put here. I have all these symptoms. It can also cause the patient to feel suicidal, anorexic and have breathing difficulties. So far, I do not have these symptoms.

It doesn’t sound bad in writing but just as I start to feel a little better, the next injection is due and I slip all the way to the bottom again. And I’m finding it more difficult to hold on to the fact that this is meant to be short term. But I’ll get there. I just remind myself how bad it could have been, and that helps me move forward.

My life has changed since the injections started. I don’t have a life. I go nowhere and do nothing because I’m too sick. I do go to work when I feel I can (this week that was only on Monday). Surprisingly, I have managed to do some writing. Never much in any one sitting, but at least I am putting some words down. And I have stayed on top of major projects. I hope I can keep that up over the next few weeks too.

When my body adjusts, I hope to have a healthier lifestyle and not have to worry about the possibility of another stroke. For now, I will just push on through and hope the next injection – due tomorrow – will not be as intense as the previous ones.

Paperbacks v Digital Books

There was a time in the not so distant past when I clearly remember believing paperbacks would always be my preferred reading source. I love books. I love reading. It’s the one thing I do constantly in my life and have done since I was a very young child. Books are important to me.

I love the feel of them. I love the smell of them. I love seeing them lined up in a book case, showing their vivid colours and inviting me to jump into their secret worlds. These things cannot be said about digital books.

I love walking into someone else’s home and viewing their books of choice scattered around the place. It hints at the type of person they are, the imagination they might have. It’s possible to spy reference books which tells you of that person’s interests too. And in moments of quiet, they allow you to point to a book and ask them about it … which may well lead to a very interesting conversation. Again, these things cannot be said about digital books.

I love walking into a book shop and browsing the shelves of unknown authors, never before seen covers. Picking them up and flipping them over to read the (hopefully) catchy blurb on the back. Will it intrigue me enough to want to read it? Or does it sound boring or too serious for me, which will make me put it back on the shelf? At the risk of repeating myself, this cannot be said about digital books.

Yet, with all this said and done, I can’t help but prefer to read books in digital format these days. In 2011 most of the books I read were digital. 2012 has only just started, but my reading list comprises of digital books only so far. I have a beautiful wooden bookcase in my bedroom, filled with wonderful books. I want to read them all. They deserve my time, but I feel pulled to my reading device.

It’s a small object really. Most people would lift an eye brow and scoff at reading on it. They mumble things like “small screen” and “eye strain” but I always assure them that the size of the screen is not noticed and I’ve never had eye strain whilst using it.

Perhaps it’s my personal circumstances that make reading this way more attractive. Our lounge room has no lighting except for a single lamp. Reading in the evening is difficult due to shadows across the pages. To avoid the shadow I must sit in an uncomfortable position. I’ve tried using a book lamp but it was more trouble than it was worth, to say the least. However, when I use my reading device I can sit anywhere I want, however I want because the backlight on the screen is just right (for me) for reading.

If I can’t sleep, I can sit in bed and read in comfort. If I want to sit in the garden, I can. I can read on the train, and can swap and change between books if I want to. I can take a selection of books with me on vacation or to work or to the hospital. There’s no weight, no storage problems. If there’s a power source, I can plug in and read. If not, the battery lasts for an entire week if all I’m doing is reading on the device.

I have purchased ebooks from online bookshops, but there is no personality and no feeling of belonging. Shopping in the virtual world is not as good as shopping in the physical world. I still want to browse books, pick them up and flick through the pages, read the blurb and make a decision. But I think when the decision is made I’d like to be able to go up to the counter and say I want the digital version.

Bookshops need to get with the times, and I believe this is starting to happen, but it’s not something I’ve seen for myself. Bookshops draw booklovers to them, so why not entice the booklover to walk out of the shop with a book in hand (be that paperback or digital). Instead of denying the existence of an ever changing world, merge with it and grow.

People will continue to buy printed books, but more and more people are swapping to digital reading. Once, I would have vocalised loudly about the need for paperbacks, but now I find myself vocalising more loudly about reading itself, not the format it’s done in.

My Favourite Fiction Books for 2011

It seems to be the ‘in thing’ to write about your favourite books for the past year. And who am I to go against the grain. Of course, your favourite books are not ones you’ve heard about or like the cover of, they are fiction books you’ve actually read.

Here is my list of favourite books for 2011:

1. Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb
2. Full Circle by Pamela Freeman
3. Hater by David Moody
4. A God-Blasted Land by Lee Carlon
5. The Broken Thing by Peter Swift

The first two books on my list are the final books in a series. It was difficult to determine which of the two would make it to the top of the list, but ultimately Hobb’s The Rain Wild Chronicles was read more recently so had a better imprint on my mind. The first two books of Freeman’s Castings Trilogy were read over two years ago and the story was not as vivid in my mind. However, having said that, both series were excellent and highly recommended.

The next book on the list, Moody’s Hater, was a good zombie type story that told of how our world (as we know it) might end tomorrow. I could relate to the main character and for that reason felt a strong connection to the story.

The fourth book on the list is Carlon’s A God-Blasted Land, which is a post-apocalyptic story. It’s a story where the characters ‘spoke’ to me and I loved the unexpected twists and turns.

And, last but not least, is Swift’s The Broken Thing, which is a scary story for younger readers. I love reading books for younger people and this book appealed to me from the moment I saw it.

I’d like to point out at this stage that I am not a fast reader, but I do consider myself to be an avid reader. I read most days, even if it’s only a couple of pages. I’d love to read more and faster, but that’s just not me.

I would also like to point out that I will read books by any author – well known, unknown, big publisher printed, indie printed. It makes no difference to me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about how famous the author is, it’s all about the story and what it does for the reader. And two books on my list are written and released by the author. Those two books were more enjoyable (for me) than some of the ‘big names’ I read this year, such as Terry Pratchett and Cornelia Funke.

Before I end this post, I’d like to give an honourable mention to one other book – Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter. It’s a short non-fiction book on how to write fight scenes and it’s written especially well and gives the reader the confidence to write the fight right.

That’s my list of favourite fiction books for 2011. What are yours?

Ripping Ozzie Reads Interview

It was an honour to be interviewed by Ripping Ozzie Reads in the last few days. Being a quiet person by nature, I feel totally “out in the open” right now. It feels strange to bring my personal life and writing life together and just be me for a change, to share the emotional journey through to the end result – Hope.

Each day brings a smile to my face when I discover another book (or two) has been sold. It makes the long hours and sometimes stressful times totally worth it. Finally, I feel like I have done something worthwhile and will help other families avoid the loss I endured. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who made this possible.

Hope is beginning to make an appearance on the world wide web. It is now available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon and will soon be available through other online bookstores.

Personal Challenges

The current unit is hard, taxing on the brain, challenging. My initial thought, “this will be easy!” was totally incorrect. So far, this unit has proved I’m not only stupid, but I’m incredibly slow.

Talk about falling flat on your face! I’ve done that and it hurts.

My vocabulary is shot – and, by the way, I can’t even say the word out loud without stumbling. I’ve been advised to read the dictionary more often. And then, at work, I’m told I’m too quiet and must stand up and speak out more often (in fact, to back this up, my team leader has informed me that I’ll be ‘heading’ the next meeting…brilliant!)

These situations have done nothing to improve my confidence. However, I’m not a quitter (well, not for long anyway) and I have forged ahead with the unit (I’m hoping my team leader will forget his threat about the meeting). I’m still only half way through the unit but I’ve written the required short fiction. Literary fiction! Again, I feel out of my depth. I write genre fiction, not literary (yet another word that doesn’t come to my lips easily).

The course tells me literary fiction is easy to write, genre fiction is difficult. Sorry, my experience is the other way around. Anyway, I was required to fictionalise an event from my past. Luckily, I have five decades of the past to choice from so it was easy to come up with ‘an event’ that could be made to sound more interesting than it actually was.

I finished the story yesterday, so on Monday I’ll return to the unit and see if I can move forward with it, at last.

In other news, the final edits of the manuscripts for Hope have been done and the stories will be submitted by the end of next week. And, a new printer has been found in Australia and contracts have been signed. This is an exciting time, but it also means my work load will double in coming weeks so don’t be surprised if I disappear for a while.

OK, my whinging session is over. You can go back to what you were doing now. 😀

What to Do When Typing is on the NOT-to-Do List

Last week I mentioned a slight problem I’ve been having with my shoulder. It hurts, a lot, when I use a computer mouse. And it got to the stage when it hurt, a lot, just to type, to hold a cup of tea or try to write freehand. When it got to that stage, I knew I had to take action!

On Thursday, I decided to go cold-turkey and stop using the laptop for a few days. Three days. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but I found it difficult because most of the things I enjoy doing are on the computer — writing, internet activities, playing games, researching all kinds of stuff, family tree investigations. It was like we had no electricity for three days. Everything I wanted to do involved a computer. It proved how dependent I’ve become on the thing.

Friday was the worst day. I went through a bad withdrawal period. At one stage I realised I was standing at the door of the room where my computer is, staring at it wistfully and that’s when I realised something else. I need a life! In the afternoon, I went to work for my allotted five hours and got to use a computer but it was only for work stuff, which is so boring, so that didn’t appease me in any way. It was late when I got home and I was tired so I sat in the lounge room reading an ebook on my iPod Touch.

On Saturday morning, I was awake before the birds and continued reading. After an hour or so I got a bit fidgety and that’s when I discovered something new. Of course I knew I could use the iPod Touch to go on the internet, but what I discovered is Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and probably every other big name on the internet has developed an app for the Apple store. Which meant, I could send status updates, check other people’s updates and write posts for my blogs. Brilliant!

As soon as I knew I could do something that was “out-of-bounds” I no longer HAD to do it. And that opened the door for me to do other things.

We moved into this house two years ago. We still had two huge boxes of books that we had not unpacked as we had nowhere to put the books. So what started out as a simple mission to tidy my bedroom up, ended up being a major clean out. Heavens, I was ruthless!

Apart from the two unpacked boxes, I also had a large pile of books (30 or so books) piled up on the floor. I decided to go through my book shelves, discarding the books I’d read and knew I wouldn’t read again and getting rid of the books that I hadn’t read and knew I would never read. I estimate about 25 books ended up in this pile, which meant the pile of books on the floor were finally to be moved to a place on a shelf. When I went through the books on the floor, I discovered I had doubles too, which meant a couple more books ended up on the discard pile.

G, seeing an opportunity, then reminded me about the two boxes of unpacked books. I looked at the newly arranged book shelves and could plainly see that there was no more room. When I mentioned this, G went to the book shelf and pulled out one book.

“You’ll never read this,” he said.

“I might,” I replied.

“We both know you won’t,” he said. He pulled another book out. “Same with this one. You’ve culled but haven’t culled enough.” He paused. “If you don’t unpack those boxes you’ll never read those books either so I may as well get rid of them along with the discard pile.”

Alarm bells flashed. Was he serious? I couldn’t even remember what books were in the boxes but I knew I couldn’t allow them to be discarded! No way!

I was aching from the work I’d done that morning, but we are talking about books and I had to attempt to save as many as possible even though I knew in my heart he was just bluffing. But he had a point. If I didn’t even know what was in the boxes, there was no way I was going to read the books they held. It was time the boxes were unpacked.

Half an hour later I had books piled up everywhere. The house looked like a bomb had hit it leaving books of every size, genre and shape laying in its wake. The books in the boxes where even better than the ones lining the book shelves. There was no possibility that I would allow them to go on to the discard pile. And I definitely couldn’t leave them piled up all over the house. So more culling had to take place.

It seemed like an impossible task but once I let myself acknowledge which books I really did want to keep and which books were being kept for keeping sake, the job became easier and now the discard pile holds about 75 books.

Making room meant I also threw out other stuff, mainly clothes I no longer wear and nick nacks I’ve had for many years that serve no purpose other than collecting dust. The bedroom was cleaned from top to bottom, as was the lounge room and eventually, late in the evening, I even made it into the computer room and cleaned out my desk. I couldn’t believe how many backup discs I had stashed away, most of them the old 3 1/2 inch floppy disks, which I can’t even access these days. And, old versions of printed manuscripts were stacked in neat piles, held together with long lengths of ribbon. Over the next couple of days I’ll be shredding those manuscripts!

Today the house looks and feels neater and cleaner. As for that pile of books I’m discarding, I was going to sell them online but I don’t have the time or the inclination to be bothered running up to the post office when a book or two sells — if they sell. Besides, I want the pile gone and I don’t think it will be worth my while trying to sell them. I could take them to a second hand book shop, get a credit on them and buy more books (which I don’t have room for), but I’ve decided to donate them to our local library. Our library is stuck in the old-days and needs something new. What doesn’t end up on the shelves will be sold and they will use the money to buy new books, and I’m happy with that.

Not being able to type made me look for other things to do and I’m pleased with the outcome. I should ban myself from the computer more often. 😀

Local Bookshop Gone!

Living in a small town has its drawbacks, especially when it comes to shopping. Whenever I’m in the market to purchase something the choices are few – if there’s a choice at all!

Last weekend we decided to go to our local bookshop. I had some cash in my purse that needed to be spent and I reckon spending it on books makes good sense. Besides, I was in the market for a good Australian grammar reference book. I had spent an hour or so searching the internet but felt reluctant to purchase without being able to flick through the pages first.

The first sign of a problem was when I noticed the bargain bins were not outside the store. They are always there, spines pointing upwards, tempting passers-byers with titles that just might grab their attention…but often didn’t. As we got closer to the shop I noticed something else disturbing, no posters or books on display in the window. Admittedly my heart gave a jolt then but my mind told me confidently that the bookstore owner was simply in the middle of changing the display. It happens…sometimes!

Finally we came to a stop outside the vast windows and discovered, to our pure horror, an empty shop. Everything gone! We stood gaping through the windows for several seconds in silence. How could this be so? When did it happen? The small sign on the door told us “Sorry, I’ve retired”.

What can I say? I’m gutted. I didn’t feel happy that he could retire, or he felt he had to retire. I gave no thought about why he’d closed down; my only thought was “what are we going to do now?” We turned around and glanced across the road at the newsagency, but I’ve seen the small selection of books they carry – a few romances and a handful of biographies written by people I’ve never heard of. Even the books in the bargain bins would be a better choice. The only options now are the Post Office, which carries a few classics and some travel books, or the two second-hand bookshops, but I’ve rarely seen books in either of them that I really wanted to buy.

Yes, we did head to the second-hand shops but the only grammar reference books they had arrived on the Arc so were completed useless to me. I guess I have no choice now but to make more purchases from the internet, unless I want to travel to larger towns some 35 to 45 minutes drive away. I know it’s not that far to go, but it’s a nuisance.

My problem with purchasing online is the cost of postage. I’ve said it over and over again, postage to Australia is so expensive it’s not worth buying the book. With this in mind I set about finding Australian resources. There’s got to be somewhere online that is Australia based where we can buy from that isn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg.

The search results showed me it was difficult to find one place where 1) the books were a reasonable price, and 2) the postage was reasonable too. I could find one or the other but not usually both. Yet, having said that I did find one place that would give me both. It’s called The Nile. The prices are good and the postage is low – $2.99 for any number of books up to $50 (in total) and then postage is free. This means I’m back in the book buying market, because I don’t mind paying $3 for postage. That’s a fair price.

Now, where’s my Wish List?