A Good Day.

It’s great to be able to say that today was a positive day.

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Today was a good day.

I rested for most of the day. I made some promo graphics, played on social media, and I’ve been listening to an audiobook of the history of the Romanov dynasty, which is super interesting for my history-loving brain, so my body can relax and heal.

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I did manage a couple of non-taxing tasks around the place in my walking/standing times, which felt good.
It was a lovely spring day, so I opened doors and windows to let the fresh air though the house. I tidied a few small things away, and sorted out the mounting pile of papers on my desk and worked out what to do with them.
The junk is in the recycling, and I now have a “to do” pile for tomorrow and a “to file” pile for that currently far-off day when I can comfortably and safely bend down to use my filing drawer. Both piles of papers are small. This makes me happy.

I am also feeling positive and happy for more creative reasons.

I submitted a short story for an anthology after being recommended to the publisher by a fellow author. I hope they accept it, just because I would appreciate the encouragement of having them like it enough to include it.

I also submitted a poem that I was commissioned to write a couple of months ago. You may recall me writing in March about the bushfires that devastated our local area. One of the farmers who lost everything except his wife and children in the fires provided me with some photos and written reflections, and asked me to write a poem based on those to demonstrate the power of loss and grief experienced by farmers in the region.

My poem will be used to accompany a working report to the Government on the impact on farmers of the loss os property, livestock and livelihood as a result of the fires, so it was an absolute privilege to be asked to write such a piece. Of course, there is always a bit of tension in knowing it’s important and wanting it to be exactly right, but I am probably just as obsessive about every poem I write, so I am experienced at dealing with that. I really hope he likes it.

So, for now, it’s more waiting but I have plenty to keep me occupied. My “ideas and plans” writing notebook is still quite full. Be afraid!

Current Status: Not Ready For Adulting

Today, I ventured beyond home for the first time since coming home after surgery.

I had to go out today. There was sunshine. There were people. It was traumatic.

My driver’s license expires on Thursday, so my husband agreed to take me to the next town where I could get the photo taken, sign the form, and give a chunk of my cash to the government for a new one.

I did my hair, put on real clothes instead of pyjamas, and put on some makeup.
I thought I was doing okay for someone recovering from surgery, so I sent a snap to my best friend.

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Naturally, she was both encouraging and completely understanding of why I made the extra effort. She is consistently awesome like that.

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Let’s face it, you don’t want to be thinking “Oh yeah, that was that month where I spent two weeks nearly dying from a mystery chest infection and then ended up having spinal surgery after screaming non-stop for four days!” every time you look at your license photo for the next ten years, do you?

The drive to Camperdown wasn’t too bad. I had the seat reclined a fair way because I still can’t sit comfortably for more than about eight minutes, and my husband was pretty good at missing the worst of the bumps.

I walked from the car to the shire offices without too much trouble. I didn’t have to wait long, thankfully, and everything went smoothly so that the license renewal was taken care of in just a few minutes.

Then my husband suggested we call at the supermarket to pick up something for dinner. My approach to grocery shopping is quite pragmatic: get in, get what you need, and get out. I thought I could handle that, even at this stage of my recovery.

Of course, it’s never that simple when you really need it to be. I wasn’t two meters through the door of the store when an acquaintance stopped me for a chat. I had the cart to hold onto – what a clever disguise for an disability support walker that was! – and it was a very good thing, because just standing there, I could feel myself fading and the sweat breaking out on my skin as I tried to pretend there was nothing wrong. In the end, I told her I had to go and staggered off to find my husband, who had been gathering the things we needed and had his arms full of stuff. We went to find the last couple of things, and that was when he pointed out the Harry Potter Quidditch Match LEGO set.

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That may not seem significant to you, but Harry Potter and LEGO are both big-ticket items in my world. I didn’t have to rationalise anything. It was coming home with me. I left the set with Aragog behind, though, because while Hagrid may love giant spiders, I do not.

We got through the checkout and back to the car, and my lower back where I had the surgery last week was really starting to hurt.

The road seemed longer and much bumpier on the way home than it had on the way there. I was really thankful that I wasn’t sitting upright, and tried not to complain but couldn’t help making those awkward little little grunty noise that you make when something hurts and you try to just grit your teeth but the sound gets out anyway.

When we got home I had to take some ibuprofen and lie down. I didn’t even take a moment first to look at my new LEGO set. And once again, I am writing a blog post on my iPad while lying flat on my back.

The good thing is that my driver’s license is good for another ten years.
The not-so-good thing is that I know I am nowhere near ready to use it.

She’s Baaaaaaack!

Sometimes, fiction is only slightly more horrific than real life.

Yesterday I wrote something other than a blog post for the first time in a couple of weeks. After being ill, having surgery, and then finding myself entirely without focus, it felt so good to have the words flowing again. I knew it would happen; I just had to wait for my muse.

As it turns out, my muse has a very dark sense of humour. As I commented to my best friend this evening, “It’s a bit sad that a horror story can be so highly autobiographical.”

The story is one I started at some point during my illness, most likely when I had started to come back to life after failing to die at the hands of whatever disease it was that I had, although I don’t remember writing it then.

I’m not going to give any spoilers, but I will say that I love the opening line, and while I am confident that this gruesome little story does reflect my own experiences of the past three weeks, it also holds some twists that even surprised me as I was writing it.

After some sleep and a bit of thoughtful editing today, I have made ‘Contaminus’ available to read for free on WordyNerdBird Writes.

Realigning My Priorities.

My recovery from spinal surgery demands that my priorities change.

There were so many things I had planned to be doing this week.

As a horror author, promoting my books leading up to Halloween was always going to be a major focus. I had a major promotion and giveaway planned. I had a well crafted social media campaign organised. October was going to be my time.

As a teacher, my classes are continuing even though I am not there. Lessons need to be developed and delivered, and my students have exams coming up.

There are things I need to read and other things I need to write.

None of that is happening.

I am now home from hospital. I am moving and thinking very slowly, and trying to heal after spinal surgery. The local anaesthetic that was embedded in the site of my surgery and in the incision has worn off and I am feeling the reality of what my body has been through. My Fibromyalgia has also joined the pain train today, so while I am trying to wean myself off the fancy pain killers, the motivation to do so is less today than it was yesterday. My eyes don’t want to focus any more than my brain does.

I know this will not last. And I know I must be kind to myself while it does.
The writing, the work and the social media hamster wheel will all be there when things improve.

Yet I can’t help feeling frustrated by my slowness or inability to focus on anything. I am not accustomed to inactivity and my mindset is certainly not one that surrenders to pain. Yet that is exactly where I find myself.

The challenge for me is to accept where I am and be willing to rest instead of letting my frustration push me and ending up with sub-standard results.

The priority for today and the immediate future has to be self-care and self-preservation. My spine demands it. Everything else will just have to wait.

If you would like to encourage or support me, you could

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Post-Surgery Post

My life took a very painful turn this week – but I survived!

Well, what a week this has turned out to be.

After writing last week about the terrible infection I picked up while at the ER with my dad, I finally made it back to work on Tuesday.

It was during the lesson before lunch that things came unstuck again.

I had been struggling all morning with weakness and feeling as though i hadn’t really been ready to return to work. Toward the end of the lesson I emailed my boss no told her how terrible I was feeling, and we decided together that I should stay home on Wednesday and try to get stronger. Then, in one seemingly innocent moment of acting so as to not infect my students with any evil germs I might still be carrying, I turned away from them to cough.

That cough was violent, and I was gasping for air and hacking up a lung and the same time.

That was when I felt my back go.

I remember thinking “that’s not good” as the fireworks went off in my lower back. I have had a similar thing happen previously and it has always sorted itself after that initial flash of pain.

Not this time.

It was all I could do to maintain my composure. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand properly. The pain was immense. And for some reason, I kept thinking it would be okay on a few moments.

“Walking will help,” I said to myself as I dismissed the students and headed for my car.
It didn’t.
“It will settle as I relax,” I told myself as I started the car.
It didn’t.

By the time I was halfway home, I was in agony and had no choice but to keep going.
“Maybe I need to stretch it,” I thought. So I stopped each time the pain got too bad, stretched and walked a little, and kept going.

When I got home, I gave thanks that the trip was over and went to lie down for a while, reminding myself that quietness and rest had always brought relief in the past.

I don’t know whether I slept or if I passed out while lying there, but it was 5pm when my best friend woke me. I knew I was in trouble: I could t feel my right foot at all, but I could definitely feel the lightning-hot pain that extended from my pelvis to my right ankle.

My bestie took me to the ER, where the medical staff showed amazing patience and sympathy while I spent the next six hours screaming and moaning incoherently.

By midnight, I had been given the maximum dose of every pain-killer I could have, and I was still screaming, so they added Valium to the mix to try to relax my muscles.

“Why didn’t you go to the emergency room in Warrnambool right after work?” the doctor asked me. I had no answer, except that I really did think it was a spasm and it would settle down. I believe now that the pain had already been messing with my grip on reality by the time I got out of the classroom, and I know how incredibly lucky I was to have made it home without killing or injuring myself or anyone else.

I had never experienced anything like this level of pain before. That’s a big statement for someone who has at different times endured bulging lower lumbar disjcs, a torn Achilles’ tendon, and the physical process of more than one miscarriage.

This was a stabbing pain in my back accompanied by what felt like the worst cramp imaginable stretching from my butt to my right heel, only set on fire at the same time.

Medical staff at Camperdown sent me to Warrnambool via ambulance for an MRI. By morning, the doctors had organised to transfer me to one of the “clever hospitals” in Melbourne where one of the “clever doctors” wanted to operate as soon as possible.

Holy Toledo. They were using words like “significant impairment” and “danger of permanent disability” as they talked.

As it turned out, my L5/S1 disc had not simply bulged a little more than before. That sucker had ruptured and became an “ex-disc”. A piece of disc debris was pressing on my nerve, and both of them were sandwiched firmly between two vertebrae that were locked in far too intimate an embrace.

By Thursday afternoon I was being transferred to a city hospital, scheduled for surgery by one of the top “clever doctors”, and on my way to Melbourne with my best friend as my carer/escort/chaperone/cheer squad.

I can’t really explain how I was feeling. I was terrified, but my brain was so jangled by pain and sleep deprivation that I couldn’t really feel the full impact of my fear. Whatever my fears, I didn’t have much of a choice. So, I just tried to focus on the blessings of being transferred and seen so quickly without wondering what danger I was in that had precipitated such haste.

Another sleepless night followed. The pain was such that I hadn’t slept the previous two nights, either. I cried a fair bit instead, which I think is fair enough, really.

Today I met the surgeon, the anaesthetist, had an ECG and bloods taken ahead of being wheeled down to the theatre for my surgery.

When I came out of the anaesthetic, I was, by all acccounts completely hilarious. The nurses told me a few of the things I said, but these were voted the favourites of the Recovery Room nurses::

Nurse: “You were asleep for a very long time!”
Me: *with only one eye open* “Yeah, I was polishing my tiara.”

Me: “Oh, that feels nice.”
Nurse: “Whar does?”
Me: “My legs.”
Nurse: “Oh, the massagers.”
Me: “They are caressing my calves like the sensuous fingers of an adoring lover.”
Nurse: “Wow!”
Me: “I write poetry.”
Another nurse: “Can you say it again? I want to write that down.”
Me: “Nope. It’s copyrighted.”

The best part of the whole thing, though, is that the pain in my right leg is gone. The incision in my back has anaesthetic in it, so I can’t feel it yet unless I move.

My surgeon came to see me tonight after my surgery, and I cried as I thanked him. What an amazing person to take enough of an interest in someone from hundreds of miles away and make such healing and restoration happen overnight.

So after a highly traumatic couple of weeks, I can lie here in my hospital bed, looking out the window at the city lights as the fancy machine continues to pleasure my lower legs, and give thanks for my blessings.

I am thankful that my agony has ended.
I am so thankful for both the talents and the kindness of my surgeon.
I am thankful for my best friend and my husband, both of whom dropped everything and everyone else to take care of me.
I am thankful for those close to me who have consistently encouraged and cheered me, especially when I was feeling very low.
I am thankful for every message of love, aencouragement, support, care, concern and prayers from friends in the hundreds of texts, Facebook messages, voice mails and emails.

I am thankful for so, so much else, too. How blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life.

My Near-Death Experience

When I say I have been deathly ill, I’m not exaggerating.

After following the ambulance to Camperdown and then to Warrnambool, I spent last Thursday night at the ER with my dad. Over the course of the night, his pain lessened and his condition improved. At 4am, I was allowed to take him home. We both slept all day, and I didn’t go anywhere else.

By Saturday morning, I had a bad throat. As these things go, I figured it would be a croaky day or two, took some paracetamol, and tried not to think about it.

By the wee hours of Sunday morning I had no voice, a fever, cold sweats and a wracking cough. I was so dizzy that when I had to get out of bed, I had to hold onto the furniture to keep myself from falling over. I stayed in bed, made sure I drank plenty of water, and told my dad not to come near me.

By Monday, my lungs were rattling and squeaking. I could no longer lie flat, and sleep was out of the question. There were moments where I would have gladly accepted my fate if the Reaper had shown up.

I have been out of action ever since, and am still in quarantine. My doctors have me on two different antibiotics, cough syrup, Ventolin and pain meds. I haven’t felt so awful since I had Ross River Fever in 2011.

Today is the first day on which there has been any improvement. My cough is less frequent, although not less violent, and the rattle in my lungs sounds more like rice crispies than a chatty raccoon.

If I were you, I still wouldn’t come near me for a while yet.

It’s fair to say that I know why the person I got this disease from was at the hospital.

A Glimpse Into A Writer’s Mind.

Today’s instalment of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.

When I was growing up, there was a girl with whom I was friends most of the time. Our parents were friends, too, which meant that we saw each other outside of school and church activities. She left school two years before I did, and I only saw her briefly a handful of times between then and when I left Sydney in 1989. We have some friends in common, but I haven’t ever pursued reconnecting in any way.

2016-02-11 21.54.33-1At 3.47am today, my brain woke me up to remind me that her birthday was March 2nd.

A Curious Surprise.

Curious Times is out now!

I announced in my recent ‘cover reveal’ post that there were Curious Times ahead. Today, my latest release hit the stores.

I wasn’t actually expecting that to happen before tomorrow. In some miraculous twist, Draft2Digital and Amazon both published my book into stores faster and more smoothly than ever before. The alternative is that I’m getting better at this, which is also a possibility, although I doubt that the skill of any individual can make those wheels turn any faster.

Curious Times Cover eBook

Curious Times‘ is the sequel to ‘Curious Things‘, and delivers five more stories about a black cat, superstition and strange events.

Friday, the magical black cat with a devilish sense of justice, returns in a second collection of macabre and darkly humorous stories. Set at significant times of the year, these stories celebrate key events while Friday delivers his own brand of feline justice to people who fully deserve what’s coming to them.

If you have ever wished for revenge, or taken pleasure in seeing horrible people get their just desserts, this book is for you.

‘Curious Times’ is on its way into all the stores I can possibly put it into and, like all my other books, will be widely available as both a paperback and an eBook.

 

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For Sale: Part Of My Soul

Why my writing matters.

Sometimes I wonder what people think when I say I write poetry.

Cute little greeting card verses? No.
Lofty, unintelligible, old-fashioned rhymes about flowers and oil paintings? No.
Trite rhymes that talk about love and sunshine? No.

I have to admit, I’m very tired of the “That’s nice, dear!” kind of responses.

I’m also more than weary of the sensation that I have to just about stand under a red light on a dimly lit street to get people to take my poetry seriously.

I’m not talking about my readers here. I’m talking about people I interact with in my daily life, be they co-workers, acquaintances, family members or friends. Other than a very small number of individuals within those circles – for whose support I am ever grateful – it feels like most people in my life prefer to pretend I’ve never written a word.

I know they’re not my main audience. I don’t expect them all to love everything I write. In all honesty, most of them have never even picked any of my work up to read it.

The question remains, though: Why aren’t they more willing to support me? Do I mean so little them that what matters to me is of no value, either?

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I have commented on numerous occasions that there is a part of my soul in every poem. My poems speak my pain, my love, my joy, my life lessons, my resolutions, my fears, my anger, my insomnia, my restlessness and my contentment. Some of them are the very essence of my desperation to survive and my will to live. Some of them could only be more “life and death” if they were actually written in my blood.

Do people not understand the bravery that it takes for an author to put their words on paper and unveil them in front of the whole world? That kind of vulnerability is, quite honestly, terrifying.

I experience this far more profoundly with my poetry than I do with my fiction. It’s far more personal, and it’s definitely more revealing of what’s in my own heart and mind than any of the stories I write. That’s why I am so committed to crafting each poem to say exactly what I want it to, in a way that is beautiful to read, and with careful attention to the music and structure of each poem. If I’m putting my soul out there for other people to read, it’s going to be the best that I can make it.

My readers tell me that my poems encourage and move them. The ultimate satisfaction as a poet is knowing that my words matter to the people who read them. They get it. And thank God they do, or else I’d be feeling more dejected than ever.

The other weirdly encouraging thing is that this isn’t something that only I experience. These are thoughts and feelings that are remarkably common among the writing community, and I have come to learn that they are common to all creative people, whatever medium they work in.

It’s why I am so thankful for my community of fellow authors and poets and other creative people who encourage and celebrate one another’s creativity and the courage that goes with it.

It’s why I am doubly grateful for my “additional family” that are known as the Indie Fabs – they’re my posse, my constant encouragers, and my soft place to fall when things are hard.

It’s why I am doubly grateful for those few family members and friends who support everything I do, read everything I create, and cheer me on relentlessly.

It’s not overstating things to say that I am still here because of my writing, and I am still writing because of them.

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A One-Off Inscription.

There is more truth than most people realise in the jokes about authors killing people off in their books.

Yesterday I signed a paperback copy of my latest book for my best friend. I have written something personal and unique to her and our friendship in her copy of every one of my books.

Yesterday’s effort was by far my favourite.

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You should understand that this is not a promise I’m willing to make to just anyone. Anyone who has read ‘A Poet’s Curse’, for example, will have worked that out very quickly.

Jokes are frequently made about authors putting people in a book and killing them, but most don’t realise just how satisfying and therapeutic that can be.

Oh, we change the name and some minor details, but the important thing is that we know who we’re finishing off, even if the rest of the world doesn’t. And you know, it is important to conceal the true identities of our victims because, in the end, nobody wants it to backfire or get ugly.

I have, in fact, had a number of people ask me if a particular poem or story was about them. Rather than confirming or denying anything, I’ve gone the “self-examination” route. Each of them received the same answer: “If you think that’s a possibility, I suggest you to take a long, hard look at yourself and how you treat people. It might be time to do some repairs.

As an author, I can have my macabre little cake and eat it, too. And as an extra reward for good behaviour, I get to keep my best friend. Bonus!