Happy New ‘Me.’

It’s half way through January. Christmas and New Year have been and gone. In our house, all that remains are a couple of yellow, deconstructed sprouts in the bottom tray of the fridge, six (gifted) packs of ‘After Eight Mints’ and various boxes and cartons of chocolates with only the dodgy coffee cream and coconut varieties left that none of us like.

So, how many of you are still hanging in there with your New Year’s resolutions? You’ll be impressed to know I haven’t broken any yet (although mainly because I didn’t make any!) I figured after the year I’d had, health and writing wise in 2016, 2017 could only be better. 2016 could be defined by two words. NO WRITING. Or, perhaps I should say; ‘pain and sleep.’

fullsizerender-1Both RNA parties and various writing events and meet ups fell victim. For the first time since joining the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, I missed the Conference, usually one of the highlights of my year. My 50th Birthday celebrations were lovely but muted and I was unable to host the sacrosanct Romaniac Sparkle Weekend. The bilateral jaw joint replacements I’d had in 2010 were not working and numerous tests and an exploratory manipulation of my jaws early in the year showed my mouth opening was less than half a centimetre. One side was encased by new bone growth.

All I could eat was soup, shepherds pie, lasagne and soft foods from a small spoon. Eating in public became a no no. As my jaws deteriorated, I became hyper conscious of the pitiful ventriloquist’s dummy act my poor mouth attempted when forced to talk. Those who know me well will understand why I chose to hermit. Morphine patches and top ups of extra morphine and analgesia helped, (or maybe caused) the excessive drowsiness. Whatever; morphine and sleep became my best friends in 2016.

We take for granted the simplest actions of eating, sneezing, yawning and brushing teeth. When these basics became almost unbearable, my Maxillo Facial surgeon asked if he could consult with my original surgeon who had since retired and see whether there was anything they could do. Several weeks later I was advised that my original surgeon had agreed to come out of retirement and together they would try a major and risky operation. There were no guarantees. If the pain improved, that was a bonus, but the main proviso of going ahead was simply to help give me back a quality of life.

13th October was D Day, and, by coincidence, six years to the day since I’d had the bilateral total jaw replacements.

 

It’s been a long and painful recovery. As a result of the surgery I’ve developed hyperacusis and vertigo which has hindered progress but in terms of the work the wonderful surgeons did to free up my jaw prosthetics, it’s still early days, but it seems to have been a huge success. 2016 wasn’t a complete wipe out after all and the highlight of my year was being able to stuff a whole mince pie in my mouth at once! Beat that!

Not being a lover of New Year, I’d planned to go to Northumberland for Twixmas but cancelled at a low point post surgery to give a good friend chance to re hire their cottage out. However, as I improved and both my lads made plans, I got the itch to take off on an adventure, have some space, maybe do some writing. I had no intention of sitting home alone on New Years Eve to enjoy a solitary evening with the BBC and Robbie Williams, toasting Bruno, my Labrador! So guess where I ended up? Charlestown, in St Austell. Yes, I know it’s even further than Northumberland and I must be mad but I paced myself by stopping over in Glastonbury, my spiritual home, to split the journey.

For six days I relaxed, breathed in huge lungfuls of sea air to heal and blow away the past months. In between I secreted myself in the quiet corners of restaurants and pubs, and wrote. Yes, I wrote! I can’t tell you how good it felt to scribble again, to watch the words and scenes flow effortlessly across the various notebooks I’d received for Christmas. By the end of my break I’d added about eight chapters, plotted the main twists and turns and written the ending of Country Strife, my second novel.

So, to 2017 …

When I got the email from Immi inviting me to re-join the NWS this year I replied instantly to take up my place. I missed seeing my RNA friends and the Romaniac girls last year; the support, comparing progress, the banter, the fun. All the Romaniac girls are now published, agented and have book deals. Except me. In 2016 I felt less and less able to contribute to our daily messages and to add anything other than congratulations to peers on social media. There is never any sense of competitiveness within the RNA or with the Romaniacs but seeing so many RNA friends enjoy publication days, book deals and to see their new relationships with publishers and agents etc, I realised I was being left behind.

Health is the most important thing in life, next to family and friendships and I have to accept, for me it will always be a challenge. I’ve realised I may never fulfil my full potential. But I have to keep trying. Having made the inroads with Country Strife, I’m going to type up what I scribbled in Cornwall and fill in the gaps. With the jaw surgery behind me and less pain and renewed energy, writing shouldn’t feel such an uphill struggle so I’ll push ahead while the going is good. And as if by magic, this years RNA Conference returns to Harper Adams, just up the road in Telford, so there’s no excuse for not attending.

I welcome 2017 warmly. I wish those of you who choose to get up super early to go jogging or head straight to spin class after work, and my sons who have replaced the selection boxes with boxes of protein shakes and dumb bells all the best. However, as long as I can limit my wine intake and reduce portion sizes, instead of resolutions for 2017, I’ll make three promises to myself:-

1/ I WILL finish Country Strife to send off to NWS – aiming for Easter. You heard it here first.

2/ I WILL go to the RNA conference in July.

3/ I WILL live well and enjoy every day of my 50th year as best I can.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive 2017 too. Let me know any promises you’ve made to yourself…

Until next time

Debbie xxfullsizerender

 

Christmas? And writing? Together? You are kidding…aren’t you?

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Here at Romaniac House, we’re getting seriously bogged down with heaps of sticky tape, rolls of wrapping paper and stacks of melt-in-the-mouth mince pies. Yes – the festive season is bearing down upon us in a big way.

So how can we keep normal life (or what passes for it) ticking over, and still get some writing done, amidst the chaos of shopping, wrapping and sprouts? I went out into the crowded Christmassy streets and asked some real life writers for their tips on coping with Yuletide and still managing to get some work done. Well, actually that’s a big, big lie. I sat in my warm and cosy chair and sent some messages out into the ether. Then I got out my favourite Christmas photos and had a large glass of Baileys. And this is what those kind authors told me:

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Talli Roland – I’ve found the best way to work through Christmas comes down to one thing: denial. Forget the mince pies, the carols, the Christmas cards… just put your head down (with perhaps a sip of mulled wine, if you’ve been good) and focus on the manuscript. I like to look at my growing holiday to-do list as a challenge, sometimes leaving it as late as Christmas Eve. It always gets done, and when the big day rolls around, I can finally relax in the smug knowledge my MS is where it should be AND I completed my shopping in one day!

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Liz Fielding – My December involves writing at the kitchen table, surrounded by drifts of wrapping paper and my notebook blotted with mincemeat. The only way to get any writing done is to get up at 5 am, lock myself away in my writing room on the top floor and get the pages done before the first “Did you organise…” puts the dh in danger of his life.

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Emily Harvale – have an advent calendar pinned to the wall above my desk and I’m only allowed to open each day and have the chocolate inside, when I’ve written at least 500 words.

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Debbie Viggiano – I got half way through writing the Christmas cards and then abandoned them to get my writing fix. I have yet to return to the task .  They are currently scattered all over the study floor after the new kitten divebombed the previously neat pile. I hope to complete the task before next Christmas!

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Fenella Milller –  I do everything on line, so that cuts down on time – have wrapped presents and written cards in the middle of the night when up watching the cricket. Then I have all day to write.
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Sue Moorcroft – Christmas? It’s no bother. I just get worse and worse tempered until people leave me alone, I suppose! Then I give in and have a week off.
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Lucy Felthouse – Hehe, that one’s easy. I just look at the deadlines I have – and think of the money I need to earn to pay for the presents! That makes me write faster.

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Phillipa Ashley – I’ve had a very busy and at times very stressful year, and have achieved some writing goals – now I need to space to think about what to write next and mull over new ideas. I really think my motto is Give Yourself the Christmas Gift of Stopping Writing if you need to.

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Rose McClelland – Oh dear! Lol. I am not doing any writing at the moment so I can’t answer that! Not only is Christmas on the go but I’m also moving house! So I’m afraid my writing is on hold!

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Sarah Tranter: I’ve been known to take my hearing aids out when I’ve been attempting some sneaky writing. But that isn’t a particularly helpful tip for most – and neither is it particularly effective as it doesn’t stop DSs from spinning me around in my chair and yelling in my face. Therefore, I’m afraid – I’ve no helpful tips. I could do with tips myself!

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Nicky Wells – Ruthless time management. I’ve had to scale back how much time I can dedicate to my authorly being during the festive season, what with baking, decorating, shopping and school plays; but when I’ve allocated a morning to writing (or proofing) I stick with it relentlessly. I do a little, as often as possible. Oh and there’s the occasional late-night or very-early-morning shift.

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Chris Stovell – I escaped to the depths of the country to get away from the madness of Christmas! Sheep graze in the field behind me and the sea stretches out in front; there isn’t a fairy light in sight, but I can still find excuses not to write! My tip is to try to take a little time for yourself every day in the build up just to stay in touch with your writing, then, when Christmas comes and you’ve got a house full, like me, you can celebrate with a clear conscience and several glasses of fizz! It’s only once a year – thank goodness. Cheers, and here’s wishing you a very merry Christmas and a writerly New Year!

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Mandy Baggot – Christmas? What? Is something going on? Do I have to lift my butt off the typing chair and shop for gifts? What’s that you say? I’m hosting Christmas dinner this year? HELL! My tip for carrying on writing as Christmas looms is to carry on writing and ignore the frenzy! I have a new wintry novel coming out on 13th December and I have concentrated my efforts on that rather than hanging garlands and wrapping gifts. So my ultimate tip is INTERNET SHOPPING! I know lots of you love the hubbub of looking for gifts when it’s cold and icy, you can smell the German sausage and mulled wine and hear the school choirs sing, however I get terribly frustrated with people who have no clue what they want to buy and browse…very slowly…painfully slowly! So Lady B’s tip is to go a little Scrooge and shop from home. You’ll write more and you won’t stamp on anyone’s toes! Or push them into the tinsel display.

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Christine Courtenay – I try to organise myself and I make endless lists – who to send Christmas cards to, what presents I’ve bought and still need to buy, what food I need to buy/make and so on.  Then I try to write in between actually doing the stuff on my lists – well, you have to sit down sometime!  And as long as I’ve ticked something off each day, I feel I’ve earned some writing time.
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Cara Cooper – I can give you one which  a journalist friend told me she did. When it all got too much and she was under a deadline, she would take her baby out of the playpen and sit in it herself with her laptop so she could finish the story in peace!

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So, there we have it – a small sample of sanity in the madness of Christmas. Thanks to all these helpful writerly people. I’m getting a great overview of all of us slowly giving up the battle and just letting Christmas happen! What do you think? Any more tips? I’m off to do my Christmas dance now. It was inspired by a pair of new and very festive slippers. We all have our own ways of getting ready…on the other hand I might just go and sit in my playpen.
Celia x
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