Category Archives: Ramblings

Anything that comes to mind

Final Notes on the Crossfire Trilogy

A little while ago, while feeling nostalgic for my favorite characters, I reread the Crossfire Trilogy and also the Driftwood Trilogy, and an interesting thought occurred to me. Is the Driftwood Trilogy really a spinoff of the Crossfire Trilogy, or is it just a continuation of the story, with the prequel, in the form of Crossfire: Driftwood thrown in somewhere in the middle. And I wondered to myself if I shouldn’t rather rebrand and market the six books as the Crossfire Series instead. But then I wondered whether Crossfire: Driftwood shouldn’t then be the first book in the series. After all, chronologically Driftwood happened many years before Crossfire.

But then I remembered that I wrote Driftwood after finishing the Crossfire Trilogy, and that Driftwood demonstrated some of the fears and problems that Marcelle had carried over to the first Crossfire book. And I realized that Driftwood needed to be read with the knowledge of the Crossfire Trilogy already in mind. I think it heightens the tension a bit more that the reader can easily guess who the strange man is that Nancy finds on the beach, simply by his description, and it lends a particular note to the story that the reader has information that the main protagonist, Nancy does not have.

So in the end I decided that the order is correct, and that Driftwood should be the fourth book in the series, because it also answers a question that is posed in Crossfire: Hearts on Fire, which is why is Karl so bitter and twisted about Nancy?

So yes, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about this, mainly because when I look at sales figures, it is obvious to me that the Driftwood Trilogy has not had the same sales numbers as the Crossfire Trilogy. Not that it has sold badly at all, but what I mean is it is obvious to me that many people who read and enjoyed the Crossfire Trilogy didn’t go on to read the Driftwood Trilogy. It makes me wonder if I failed in my marketing of the two trilogies, and didn’t make it obvious enough that the two are connected?

This returns me to my first question, whether I shouldn’t rather rebrand the six books as one series. I would love some input on this, if anyone has an opinion. I don’t know if an author is allowed to love their own books, but I love the saga of Marcelle, Stefan, Kris, Karl and Nancy and their trials though the years. Those characters have been with me for a long time, because I wrote the Crossfire Trilogy way back in the nineties! And I realized upon reading it again that the Crossfire and Driftwood trilogies are primarily about betrayal and forgiveness. And whether love, whether romantic or familial love, can really overcome all.

And I really hope in real life that it can overcome all, because in this past year our family has experienced the lows of betrayal and anger as we were forced to go to court to protect a minor child from a predator. I can’t say too much about it, save to speak hypothetically. Let’s just say that there are predators who like to target single, sometimes desperate, women with a child or children of a certain age. Do you see where I’m going with this? And sometimes this woman is blind to what is happening, or what could potentially happen, and no amount of talking or reasoning will help, leaving her family no choice but to resort to the highest court in the country to keep this child safe, and keep this predator away from her.

We have provisionally succeeded, but the case is still on going, and the threats and abuse from the respondent in the case has been on going for this entire year. The cost to our family has been enormous, both financial and emotional, and our relationship with the respondent has been destroyed, which means we stand to lose everything, including our relationship with the child in question, if we should fail in our endeavor to protect her.

But I’ve always believed that the only way that evil can succeed in the world is if good people do nothing. And when I look at this beautiful child with her whole life still ahead of her, I know it will all be worth it in the end, knowing that we have prevented her childhood from being stolen from her. One day I will be able to face her and say to her that I did everything in my power to protect her. But the cost has been great, not the least in my productivity as a writer. I’ve been trying to get the third Blackstone book written, but all too often have found myself staring out of the window, my thoughts far away as I try to find a way to settle this whole affair peacefully, and try to heal the rift in our family at the same time.

And sometimes I have to wonder when things are going to improve. I mean 2015 was a pretty crap year health wise as I wrote in this blog post and this one . But still I managed to bring out Crossfire: Broken earlier this year, which I believe, and which some reviews have also mentioned, is one of my best books to date, in terms of the conflict and tension, and I must say that I loved writing it, because even though my body was hurting, it was an escape for me, and more importantly, I was fully immersed in my characters.

But now, my mind is restless and my soul is tortured. What do you say when your godchild says to you with tears in her eyes that sometimes she pinches herself to check if she isn’t a ghost, because her mother, (the respondent in this case) barely talks to her, and pushes her away when she wants to hug her. She is in agony, our family is in agony. I am in agony. But the child’s mother is filled with revenge and rage and hatred because she feels she has been wronged, and that we shouldn’t have interfered. It is monstrous, and unbelievable that in today’s times it should be so difficult to protect a child.

I must apologise for such a morbid post, but I felt that you guys deserve to hear the truth about why the third Blackstone book won’t be ready in December. I will do my best to complete it as soon as I can. I know that many of you are waiting to see what happens next, and I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m hoping that I might have it done by March at the latest. If I manage to finish it earlier, I will always announce it here first. 🙂

 

 

The joys of sleeping on a recliner

Some of the best naps I’ve enjoyed have been on a recliner, specifically the one I normally use when I write. A few years ago, after the second operation on my right knee, my orthopaedic surgeon suggested to me that sitting at a desk with my knees bent at ninety degrees might not be the best option for me. Being a writer, which normally would involve sitting at a desk, I thought about this for a while, and came up with a great solution, which resulted in me buying my first recliner. Of course I wasn’t trying to write while in a reclined position. What I was really interested in was the front part of the recliner that elevated my feet, which kept my knees in a slightly flexed position, just as my doctor suggested.

I also bought one of those laptop stands with the cooling fans built in, so that I could rest my laptop on my thighs. And that’s how I’ve been writing the past couple of years. Of course the best benefit of writing like that, is that even with the backrest of the recliner in the upright position, it’s really comfortable. This can present a problem at times, because sometimes, when I’m really thinking deeply about what’s going to happen next, and I get into a bit of a dreamy state, I drop off to sleep.

The advantage of that is that it allows my subconscious to come to the rescue and supply me with the next part of the story, and it’s really great when that happens. If not, I’ve lost an hour or two of the day, oops. I think that part of the reason why I fall asleep is that I’m constantly running in the red when it comes to sleep, so any time I get too comfortable I run the risk of dropping off.

Why am I running in the red, you might ask. Well, to summarize, somewhere around the age of thirty five I developed a fear of sleeping. That was when, for some inexplicable reason, I started waking up at three in the morning, in the middle of a fight or flight reaction. Medically it’s called a panic attack, or an anxiety attack, but basically it’s the result of a massive release of adrenalin while asleep, and boy is that a nasty way to wake up. You’re filled with intense fear, except that there nothing there to be afraid of, your heart is hammering, you’re hyperventilating and shivering and consumed with an insane desire to go outside and just run. From what? There’s nothing there. But try telling your body that.

Of course all medical technology could offer was sedation, which didn’t work, mainly because I found that while it could dull your senses, it didn’t take care of the panic, and I hated not being in control, so I gave that up after a short while.

Sleeping became a problem, but by resisting my body’s desire to sleep, I inadvertently stumbled onto the solution. By going to bed at three in the morning, I avoided the panic attack and normally slept through until eight, by which time the house was normally so noisy that it was difficult for me to continue sleeping. So that’s five hours at least. Certainly better than nothing, but an hour in the afternoon is often irresistible.

And what do I normally do until three in the morning? I watch TV, read, work on my latest manuscript, or just wander around the house. Being a bit of an introvert (more than just a bit), I’ve grown to relish the silence in the house while my family is sleeping, and quite frankly, after ten years it has become a habit.

But let’s get back to the fact that I’ve had some of my best naps on a recliner. Just an update to my post, “Disappointed“, I did finally have my knee operation on February 18, when all my blood levels were back to normal. I then had to wait a few months for my knee to heal before I could have my shoulder fixed up. And all that from one misstep off a ladder? Freakin’ unbelievable. Anyway, before I went to hospital on May 28 for the operation on my left shoulder, I wondered to myself how I would sleep for the six weeks that my arm would be in a sling. And then I remembered about my recliner, and how it would probably be a great idea to sleep on my back in a slightly raised position.

My mind made up, a few days before my operation I bought a new recliner for my bedroom. Of course my kitties all had to test drive it first, but when they realized that I was giving them my bed, with the electric blanket permanently switched on, they decided I could have my recliner.

We got here first!

We got here first!

And wow, I wish I had realized before how comfortable this would be. I used to wake up in the morning feeling as if I was broken, mainly due to five heavy kitties piling onto me the minute I got horizontal, twisting my body into all kinds of unnatural positions. Just try to imagine having traction that’s pulling in five different directions all at the same time.

I found there are two advantages to sleeping on a recliner. Firstly I’m held in position very securely, so no chance of turning onto my side by accident and hurting my shoulder. And because I’m sleeping on my back, no sleep wrinkles from mashing my face into a pillow. What a bonus, I look younger already. 😉 I’m seriously considering continuing to sleep this way even once my shoulder is healed, which could take a while. Even though I can stop using the sling in about two weeks time, I’m still looking at a few months of physiotherapy before this arm will be anything close to fully functional.

But I know the burning question here is whether I’m able to work on the next Blackstone book while my shoulder is healing. Well, for the first two weeks after the operation my left arm was completely out of action, and I spent my time watching TV and listening to music and reading and trying anything that kept me from going out of my mind. Yep, I hate being helpless and the truth of the matter is you need two hands for just about everything.

Accepting help from my family for things that I took for granted was difficult for me. One weekend we went to my brother’s house for a barbeque, after my sister had helped me dress, my mother had tied up my hair and my father had laced up my boots. And at the barbecue my sister casually leaned over and cut my meat into small little blocks that I could just pick up with a fork. Yes, that’s love and I felt about five years old. Ugh.

Anyway, those of you who want to know what was wrong with my shoulder. In the fall that I described in the post, “Disappointed”, what had actually happened was that I had torn my bicep tendon and injured my AC joint, which is a little joint on the top of the shoulder that helps with the rotation of your shoulder. Anytime you reach across your body, let’s say to put on your safety belt, you’ve used your AC joint. And if you reach up for something above your head, your AC joint is at work again.

So anyway, after the operation my doc said that he had managed to repair the tendon successfully, but he’d had to shave away a lot of bone to get my AC joint functional again, which in fact had already been compromised even before I fell. According to him it was one of the worst cases of shoulder impingement he had ever seen, which explained why my left arm had been practically useless before the operation. Basically the narrowing of my AC joint, combined with the injury sustained in the fall had trapped the tendons of my shoulder resulting in pain and reduced mobility.

I remember even while finishing Somali Sunrise that I had been in intense pain from my shoulder, and had to take regular breaks because my chest muscles kept cramping. Oh, the pain of creation. 😉

The good news is that by the third week after my shoulder operation I was able to get back into a regular schedule of writing. I managed that by propping my elbow up on the arm of my new recliner, thereby supporting my shoulder, and then releasing the clip of my sling so that I could rest the heel of my hand on the palm rest of my laptop. From there it was easy for me to reach the keys of my laptop and type quite comfortably without straining my shoulder or upper arm at all. I include a photo for illustration.

Yoda keeping watch and editing as I write. LOL.

Yoda keeping watch and editing as I write. LOL.

Of course, Yoda, one of my kitties, decided that she would help to keep my arm steady by providing support. She’s such a little darling and guards me day and night. I think she senses that I need a little extra help at the moment. And of course we enjoy wonderful naps together.

But I’m quite confident that I’m on schedule to publish the third Blackstone book by December. And as always, I’ll announce it here first.

Disappointed

I have been meaning to write a blog post regarding the release of Somali Sunrise, but I kept putting it off, hoping to be able to give better news.
The end result of that is that I’m now writing this blog post from my hospital bed on my iPhone 6.
Yep, it sucks big time. But let me give a little background first. The photo you’re seeing is of the back of a factory where I feed feral cats. I’ve been taking care of the feral cats at that factory for eleven years. And for eleven years I’ve been climbing up on that wall to fill up the two auto feeders that are on top of that container but underneath the carport. It’s a great sheltered location and I can put up to a week’s supply of food in the auto feeders there, and know that it’s safe from rain, ants , rats and birds. Problem is it’s quite high up. There where you see the food container is where I normally stand. So yes, better not to look down.
So I’ve been doing this safely for 11 years but on the last Sunday of November my odds ran out. Not too badly though. I mean, it could’ve been worse. I fell off the ladder, not the wall. Didn’t really fall, but stumbled on the second last step, landed awkwardly on my right leg, at which point it gave way with a funny click and I hit the ground like a ton of bricks, but not before bouncing off that big blue garbage container.
But having been a competitive cyclist for many years, I’m used to hitting the deck so I got up and dusted myself off. My knee was hurting and my shoulder was bruised but I didn’t have time to be injured so I just carried on.
Big mistake. By the time I went to my orthopedic surgeon (two weeks later) and had an MRI done I was on crutches. And the MRI showed I had twisted my  knee and torn something which had now become wedged inside my knee joint. Yes that sounds as painful as it is.
Anyway so an operation was needed except that because it was by now the middle of December, my doc was going on leave until 7 January 2015. Bummer. But he’s been my knee doc for twenty years so I didn’t want to use another doc. And everyone else was going on leave too anyway.
Entirely my own fault that this happened. I had been so obsessed with finishing my manuscript that I refused to let life get in the way. Except that then life came and took a big bite out of my ass.
Approx three days after my doc went on leave my knee blew up and from there it was antibiotics and cortisone and anti inflammatories as my general practitioner tried to deal with something that wasn’t his speciality.
And through this haze of medication I was still trying to finish Somali Sunrise, but to be honest, I was losing the battle.
It’s really difficult to get into the ‘zone’ if a throbbing leg keeps pulling you back to reality.
Anyway, I prevailed and then finally was booked for my operation for 14 Jan 2015, which is this Wednesday. Except that on Saturday morning I woke up with my entire lower right leg swollen and very red.
Of course I rushed to hospital, mainly worried that I might have developed a blood clot in my leg from sitting with it elevated all the time.
Anyway, I was promptly booked into hospital and put on blood thinners and megadoses of antibiotics.
The blood thinners was until a DVT (blood clot) could be ruled out and the antibiotics was to treat the cellulitis that I had developed in my lower leg.
Tests revealed that I had picked up some kind of ‘bug’ in my bloodstream and of course it had gone for the weakest part of my body, mainly my wonky knee.
It’s now Monday and I’m pleased to report that I’ve just been for a sonar of my right leg and it showed zero blood clots. Phew! I am relieved.
But the cellulitis and leg swelling is still ongoing and being treated. So for the time being I’m still in hospital but hoping I might be discharged tomorrow.
Of course my knee op has been postponed yet again because I’ve been on blood thinners and doc won’t operate while I’m ‘septic’ which is wise, I agree. He only has my best interests at heart.
What does all this mean for Somali Sunrise?
Good news is that through all this I’ve actually finished the manuscript. The bad news is that because I couldn’t work at my normal pace, it hasn’t yet been edited.
So I’m asking for a little indulgence here, please. As soon as I’m discharged I’ll get cracking on the editing. For a manuscript this size (110000 words) I’ll need four to six weeks to edit and polish. And in between all this I still have to have my knee operation. Ja, before another bug gets hold of me.
It seems that with working with feral cats and getting scratched and occasionally bitten I’m a prime candidate for things like this. But I plan to be more careful in future. Promise.

This photo following is of the space above the container and shows one of the feral cats ‘posing’ for a photo.

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Roasted Nuts, anyone?

This is a photo of one of my kitties, Rocky. He was brought to me in a state of complete starvation at the end of December 2010. He was three months old, but looked like a 6 week old kitten, and weighed just 600g. He was hours from death and nobody held much hope for him. For the first 5 days I hardly slept, expecting each breath to be his last. He pulled through, and three months ago I took him for his standard FIV (feline aids) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) tests before he could come out of quarantine. Alas, he tested positive for Leukemia so his life expectancy is limited, at best. Due to the extremely contagious nature of the disease, Rocky will be in quarantine for life, however long or short it may be. For now he appears healthy, though his blood tests tell a different story. He’s a bit of a silly clown as you can see in the photo. We can learn from him, I think. Like most animals he doesn’t know how to feel sorry for himself.

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Too much editing can make you ill

I’ve never planned to have a blog, despite the fact that apparently every self respecting writer or wanna be writer should have one. I followed a link from Twitter for someone else’s blog and there was a link that said Install WordPress for iOS. Since I own an iphone and being naturally curious, I clicked on the link. Voila! And WordPress was installed on my phone.

A day later, I clicked on the icon, just to see what it was about, and they offered me a free blog. Cool, I thought, particularly since I would be able to blog straight from my iphone. Easy as pie, surely. So that is how I came to have a blog, quite by accident. I certainly cannot guarantee that I will have something to say every day, as most of my days are hectic, to say the least. Unlike other writers, I probably won’t be dispensing too much advice on how to write a novel, or how to… anything like that. I believe that I still have plenty to learn and I subscribe to many blogs to get as much advice as I can. Until now, the blog from Nathan Bransford (ex agent) has taught me so much, and I enjoy Eric from Pimp my Novel. They are definitely worth checking out.

Now to the subject of this post, “Too much editing can make you sick”. To give you a little background, I have been busy with the final edit of my 100 000 word manuscript, Crossfire, which I plan to publish on Kindle as soon as it is perfect. Yes, unfortunately I’m an August baby, and a perfectionist. No errors allowed! Yes, even if it kills me. Of course, like many unpublished writers, I have a day job, and though I love my job (who doesn’t love being the boss?); it leaves me with evenings only to dedicate to my writing career.

For the past ten days, I have been busy until one in the morning most days and it has taken its toll. I have developed conjunctivitis in both eyes from staring at the screen too long, and a sore back and shoulders from my incorrect sitting posture. But wait, there’s more! In the early hours of this morning, I fell asleep at the keyboard, and woke up this morning with a crick in my neck that is threatening to disable me permanently. Why not go to sleep when you are tired, you may ask. Well, I don’t like sleeping, and pretty much consider it a waste of time. Normally I just carry on until my body calls a halt and I’m ready to drop. Sometimes I make it to bed on time, other times I might sleep in an odd place for an hour or so before I wake up and go to bed. Ja, I know that’s odd, but I’m probably not the only person in the world who does that. To bring me back to the subject, that’s why I say, “Too much editing can make you sick”, particularly if you fall asleep. Right now, I am relaxing on the couch, a warm electric pad on my upper spine, and a box of chocolates on the armrest. I have taken enough painkillers and muscle relaxants to drop an elephant, so please forgive me if my spelling or grammar is less than perfect. I have given myself the day off to relax and to ramble on a bit on my new blog.

There, that wasn’t so difficult.