The Sisterhood of the Travelling Book

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants was my daughters’ favorite book. Now I’m introducing The Sisterhood of The Travelling Book because between the three of us we are giving my book exposure.

I began the day with a vlog. I’d previously researched how to connect with an audience.  Apparently you need to bring the energy.  Unfortunately me and energy haven’t been in the same room for some time. Instead I natter about my latest read Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear which begun promisingly. I’m about a third in and I’m not riveted but I love the London feel and the insight to the characters. It has a flavour of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, in that, a child’s perception is often flawed.

val 2I put this thriller aside for my husband’s and my Valentine Lunch. It’s quieter a few days before the actual date; I’m not great in restaurants with tight spacing and lots of diners because my spatial awareness dives.

I was pretty excited…they’d rhubarb crumble for dessert….and it’s not often we go on dates; money is tight and I get tired easily.

I’ve been married twenty-eight years; my husband was my first boyfriend. I’ve been with him more years than I’ve been without him. We still find plenty to chat and laugh about which is nice at our age. Particularly my diversion into writing and self publishing.

valentine 1Arriving at the restaurant I’m a bit disappointed they haven’t put much thought into Valentine; there’s not an inflated, shimmering heart in sight nor a sprinkling of glitter hearts on the table.  Anyway my novel comes out and I make a pretty arrangement and snap. The waiter comes over and I ask for two glasses of champagne; it comes with the Valentine set menu. It arrives for the next photo opportunity!

Next we’re offered the standard menu yet my booking clearly states Valentine Menu.  The waiter looks uncomfortable then says it’s only available on 14th. My heart drops to my socks. I’m sure it was for a whole week, starting today? But I get so confused. Fibromyalgia brain fog and medication has me second guessing myself constantly. It’s been the basis of my depression. It’s why it’s easier to stay in. Don’t worry my husband says, we’ll pick from the main menu…but that’s going to cost.  I check the pretty valentine menu for dates; in tiny writing it says valid from 9 Feb to 16 Feb. I feel more than annoyed when I point this out.  I could accept Madam, very sorry, we’re not offering the Valentine menu but here’s a complimentary glass of champagne – instead a lie – which had my confidence plummeting. I knocked my cutlery off the table.  Reaching for it, I dropped my novel on the floor.  I sip my champagne and think f**k; this champagne’s now outside the safety of the Valentine price.

We play the disabled card.  There are NO advantages to being disabled.  Thoughtless people say:

  • you don’t work anymore
  • you can park easily
  • you get a free ticket at the cinema

I want to run across the beach. I want to dance to Wiley at my son’s eighteenth. I want to enroll on SAS Who Dares Wins!

I digress. My husband told them about my condition, how much I’d looked forward to today, how exhausting this mix up is for me – it was all true – but not exactly low key or romantic.

Tval 3he restaurant sees the error of their ways and throw champagne and pudding in for free.  We relax. My husband picks my book and camera up, walks off and returns with this image.  Ok it’s not as clean and pretty as my shots but The Sisterhood of the Travelling Book has it’s first male member.

On Valentine’s Day my book accompanies me to a patisserie where I’m known as Mrs Banoffee. For Christmas my son’s generous girlfriend bought my husband and I Afternoon Tea and I booked it for 14th Feb. During our marriage we’ve only ever celebrated our children’s birthdays so this dating business is like our early days, when we thought about what we’d wear, what we’d take off.  I’m not the person either of us imagined I’d be at 51. I seriously thought with mind over matter I could cheat Myelopathy…not so.  I’m pretty broken in some ways…I accept that but don’t ever think I gave up. Life for the disabled is like special forces training…it’s a mental game as well as physical. It’s about the team not the individual.  When I was so weak I couldn’t turn the pages of a book my husband tore the pages from the spine and attached a few at a time to a clipboard; we called it the swindle (kindle for the poor).  When days were painful and I had no distraction my daughters said write a novel, a few pages a day.  Those pages became The Rebirth of Henry Whittle, the next  Random Attachment, the next September.

IMG_0314Now I blog, vlog and Twitter.  I might be pushy, maybe I’ll oversell my book, annoy people, but for me Random Attachment is:

  • my FY to Myelopathy
  • my message to every teen who feels less than they are
  • my affirmation to my family that I will get through dark times because I’m a mother, a wife, a reader, a writer.

Thank you for reading and to the lovely ASH @FTLOBooks for inviting me to guest blog.

 

facebook.com/gertrudetkitty    @gertrudetkitty1

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwao3_-p4ISUoWlVOhZYnsQ

instagram.com/gertrudet.kitty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jafaris myelopathy & me

It’s midweek and I’ve been yo-yoing between conquering social media and hiding under the quilt. Editing one book and trying to sell another. Wobbling about the coffee shop to whaling on the sofa. Oh and going to the loo like every fifteen minutes. Kids, Music, Marriage, Writing, Two Barking Dogs and Books are my life.  Here’s my latest vlog, that I’ve edited badly but life is one long lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXuDkpZeg84&t=91s

 

The Reader Saves The Day

Today is my daughter’s birthday.  She’s in Brugge with her boyfriend.  My other daughter’s at uni, first year.  My novels and blogs are mechanisms that keep them in my heart.

I was horribly unwell when I first started writing.  What little energy I had I spent chatting to my four children.  Kitty and I would get so excited about the weekly episode of #vampirediaries.  We’d try to find films with a baddie that when faced with a dilemma would do the right thing like Damon.  There are two films that were flops, but I loved them, purely because the male protagonist is beautifully, sexily evil; The Guest and No One Lives.  Kitty and I would come up with scenarios for boys/girls of this ilk.  This led us to a scenario where an assassin steals an identity and comes into contact with a damaged teen girl.  This premise got forgotten for a while, mainly because I was so unwell.  After my second operation, feeling regenerated our concept reignited and my other daughter Gerty came up with a title ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.”

The following morning I wrote all day.  Then the next and the next and so on.  It was addictive.  I was quite weak and housebound so the characters became totally real to me.  I loved them.  The girls critiqued, proof read, laughed at me a lot! I updated.  We came up with a pen name Gertrude T Kitty (my girls’ nicknames and T because it sounded good).  Then off went the first three chapters to literary agents. I struggled with that.  I’m too old and too unwell to be anyone but myself or to sell myself.  Luckily there was a lot of interest in the premise and requests for the full manuscript.  I had lots of ‘we liked it but didn’t love it’ or it’s not one for us but that’s subjective’.  I also had two offers of representation and an American publishing house that were considering it.  I went with an agent I immediately felt comfortable with. Sadly it did not work out.  But I learnt so much, from her and from the response of editors at publishing houses. I took a break then decided to go it alone. No having to compromise.

Readers for me are incredibly important. An unread book means I’m not an author. Yes I had the joy of writing it and sharing it with my daughters but it’s about identity.  I’ve a degenerative spine condition; there is so much I can’t do but I can write. I can Twitter. I can blog/vlog and endeavour to connect my book with readers. Readers are magic because they sprinkle fairly dust and they’re with your characters; turning each page, making them real.

My book is an invitation to connect with new people, of all ages, all around the world. I won’t feel awkward or have nothing to say because we’ll have Random Attachment in common.  Yes, lots of folk will tell me how wrong I’ve got it, but honestly it won’t upset me.  I’m a newbie, a wildcard; I am going to make mistakes.  I’m a different generation to my readership so I’ll be out of touch; sometimes say the wrong thing.  I’m actually my teenage self again, trying to find a place to fit in, unsure of myself, a bit fragile at times.

My female protagonists are not perfect.  Nobody is.  We are all flawed and talented in some way  but that’s what makes us special and unique.  I want girls to read my books then look in the mirror and know they are beautiful. There’s always those that will make you feel less than you are.  You might be unable to cut them from your life because you live with them.  I think that’s why teen years can be the hardest because you’re trapped; at home or at school.  I imagine that’s how a lot of battered wives feel.  Unless you’re wealthy you can’t just walk away from a marriage.

My male protagonists will never follow a stereotype.  I’ve never met the perfect, 6ft, chiseled cheekboned, 6 packed man.  My husband is small and roundish; during our marriage he’s been a villain and a hero.

Today I woke up fresh and I showered. That alone caused me to crumble.  I’ve had to lay still til Tramadol kicked in.  I’m moving poorly, my body is sluggish and unresponsive.  I’m weeing every 15 minutes.  What’s lovely though is I have purpose. I’m eager to check things out on Twitter.  Then Amazon to see if I’ve any further reviews (only have 4).  I check KDP to see if I’ve sold a book. Then I read some blogs.

Having any illness can be lonely, even when you’re surrounded by those you love.  Especially neurological diseases and mental illness because the unseen disabilities often have the least support.  I yearn to be an author because I need to live a fulfilling life; it’s self help for someone who spends long periods at home.  Life doesn’t stop for others when you’re disabled; friends work and socialise, your kids move out and rightly have lives of their own; so it’s up to me to make things work.

So when you read my book not only are you bringing my characters to life, you’re bringing me to life.  Thank you for that. X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing for life

It’s been a difficult week. The news from my surgeon is that there is nothing surgically he can do, even though I increasingly become more disabled. I walk like a drunk baboon; it’s ugly. I’ve stopped pool exercising; it’s a blow because it helped combat my increasing weight and wasting muscle whilst lifting my spirits enormously…but it’s spiking my pain.  There is no doubt in my mind that right now swimming vertically is off bounds.

The car is a blessing as I can’t walk far but it’s also a major contributor to my immobility and pain.  Whatever is going on in my body, it does not like me sitting, or travelling. So I avoid it which is akin to being on house arrest. Many myelopathers have been like this for years but I’ve fortunately bounced back so well after each operation…but there is no outrunning your fate as Final Destination foretold.

I’ve made losses and gains; my writing is a life line. Being able to engage in an activity comfortably at home is incredibly lucky.

I have a beautiful family that love me and want the best for me. We’re not perfect, we have our Eastenders moments. My youngest is 17, in his last year at school, and if all goes well he’ll be at uni next year so it’ll be just my husband and I at home. So my ‘mum’ role has reduced considerably. Now, it’s about having the energy and health to live a life with my husband. For 40 years I’ve always thought of others before myself. Now I’m physically diminished and emotionally worn I haven’t the will or energy to contribute significantly to people’s lives other than my husband and kids.

I rarely phone friends. I hate the phone. Anyone who has suffered depression will understand; a main symptom is phone phobia. But I may pick up the phone if it rings.  I will enjoy chatting once I get into it.

Random Attachment is medicinal. It’s important I don’t focus too much on my children.  They need to feel unburdened and able to live their lives without thinking I’m going to throw a wobbly.  I don’t need constant attention or reassurances I simply need to look after myself better.

Time for me is different. I don’t work.  Often I have no sleep pattern. My routine is trying to see my son off to school. I call him long bean…I use to call him chicken or sausage but now I’m Vegan he’s a member of the Bean family…maddness…I know…it’s what becomes of you when you’re on house arrest.  I’ve seen some shocking videos of barbaric animal welfare: a live rabbit being plucked for its fur for angora jumpers, never again will I wear angora.  A cow that cried; real tears fell from its eyes as it was restrained. Sometimes it’s dwelling on the injustices in the world that lead to me feeling down.  Anyway back to Long Bean. I think about his breakfast, even if I can only manage buttering a hot cross bun. It’s about spending time with him. I’ll tidy a little…sometimes I’ll tidy too much.  I settle down at my computer and work on my novel…sometimes I’ll type too long. I attempt banter on social media with my older children, then I’ll twitter…sometimes I’m unsure about my responses to tweets and feel a bit anxious.  If I’m well my husband and I go for coffee; I try to leave the house once a week.  My spacial awareness is poor, I bump into people and things; I get flustered and very confused communicating which makes me nervy.  Writing clears my head. When my fingers are slowly typing a life, a place, a feeling, it’s like I’m regenerated. In my head I’m doing the craziest stuff.

I’ve family who can’t reconcile my condition with my writing. They don’t realise the lengths you’ll go to when you are housebound, in my case 296 pages. I think they want me to give in, to throw in the towel, to stop living because that’s what they’ve done. I am fighting every day to live life. I have no room for negativity. People either get on board with me or not. I will keep writing, blogging, Twittering. I will never apologise for the time I spend writing.

It’s overwhelming how many books there are and how many book bloggers. I mean, you write a book, and you’re sort of amazed at yourself that you accomplished that but you are so far away from the end game, so far in fact, that if you’d known you probably would never have put yourself through writing a book. I’m being dramatic, I loved writing my book, writing is the absolute best.

Twittering is quite exhausting. I am easily fatigued. Hanging on in there takes a great deal of energy…but I’ve a book to promote. This is one of the things I tell myself when I wake. I equally love and hate my KDP sales bar chart. I love a sale, even though I might only be earning 25p; I fling open my door and shout it to the heavens. On days where there is no bar my mouth downturns and I feel sad for my little book, just waiting for someone to open its pages to free the words.

I’ve been contacting book bloggers, they have professional, beautiful sites. Even the humblest are witty, current, mini blogging stars. Whereas I’m an asteroid orbiting around their sun. I am going to have to be fully committed to social media to make my book stand out.

Be interesting says online advice. Well, you see the problem. Interesting is not a word I’ve ever associated with myself. I’m very ordinary, I do mundane, ordinary things like put a wash on, or sort out the spare socks…but upstairs…in my head…is a killer, a twisted mind thinking brutish thoughts.

Run giveaways. Yes! I sent my novel off to two deserving young adults. But I’m a mum, I know what kids are like. The last thing they’ll do is read. I’m gently coaxing them. I think they’d be hooked if they make it to chapter 5.

I did a bribery type promotion. Buy my book and all this is yours.

I think reviews are key. I’ve only got 4 reviews out of 52 sales, 7.7%. Not great. Gone are the days when all and sundry could review you. There are so many restrictions and bylaws to prevent the author hyping their own book. Reviews are now totally legit.

As with most things, it helps if you can throw money at it, advertise your book on Amazon and Goodreads, get it to pop up on people’s screens. I’m word of mouth, it will be a slow process. In the meantime I’m reading The Rebirth of Henry Whittle. It’s been a couple of months since I last gave it attention. My health is the determining factor of how long or short I work on it each day.

Unless you had a progressive degenerative condition it would be hard to imagine the determination and physical effort it takes to get rolling. If you knew you’d have the worst strain of flu with an evil migraine for the rest of your life you’d be traumatised. My husband and children see what a mess I am, how broken I am. So they want me to take things easy, put myself first, enjoy my writing, ask others to work around me. It is perhaps a selfish way to live…but living is the key word.

For all those struggling with mental health, you are never alone although it will feel like it, be vocal, to your family, friends, on line. People often say pull yourself together, be strong, think of all you have, think of your family but depression, anxiety, mental illness doesn’t work like that. The hopelessness is so bleak and weighty you don’t have the energy for positive thought and the feeling of wanting to sleep forever is the dominant emotion; the way out of your despair. For me, every time I’ve blogged, vlogged, Twittered, the weight of hopelessness eases. I’ll put the kettle on. Netflix follows. Sometimes when it’s particularly bad I go to bed, shut down, sleep it away.

Some  think depression is self indulgent, is weak, but it’s often those that give most to others that struggle to give to themselves.  For me, exhaustion is my trigger.  Often I take on more than I can cope with. By the time I realise this it’s too late; everything bad thing that’s ever happened to me plays on my mind, like building blocks it intensifies till I’m drowning in self doubt and negativity.  An hour later there’s not even a shadow of earlier depression; I’m one hundred percent my happy go lucky self.

We are all an enigma, trying to figure ourselves out, whilst others try to figure us out.  At this stage of my life I simply want to be a kind person and have others be kind to me.

If you are on twitter, instagram of wordpress it would be lovely if you would give me a follow.  If you have kindle unlimited you can download my book for free.  I would love reviews, good, bad, shoutouts on social media, I welcome them all because they will make me a better writer.  I will actively follow you back. If you love YA, romance, thrillers and you can afford to buy my book that would be amazing.  10% will go to myelopathy.support and 10% to YMCA West London.

Thank you for reading.

Twitter – @gertrudtkitty1

Instagram – gertrudet.kitty

Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwao3_-p4ISUoWlVOhZYnsQ

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gertrudetkitty

Disappointment

Enjoying a book is subjective. I know this from the many rejection letters I received from agents when I first started out.  Then when I had an agent, rejections from editors saying ‘I liked it but I didn’t love it’.

I am prepared that for every five-star review my novel receives, there might be twenty one-star reviews.  I can’t be more accurate because so far Random Attachment has only 3 reviews. In a way this feels worse, it’s like you’ve gone to the school disco and no one wants to dance with you. I feel rather rejected. It’s early days I tell myself.  Life is so busy that readers most likely won’t review my book which is disappointing when you are literally a struggling writer.

In between tweeting about my amazing, spectacular, potentially YA version of #FiftyShades meets #Psycho (I have to be this confident because doubt won’t sell copies) I’m reading.

Lisa Jewell – Then She Was Gone: Slow start but boy does it get a grip of you and twist you around.

C.L. Taylor – The Treatment. The well plotted adult thriller writer diversified into Young Adult. I’m such a big fan that perhaps my expectations were too high.  It simply did not take off.  The YA voice was lacking, the characters flat, the story predictable.  I think the biggest challenge of writing YA is that I’m a middle-aged woman who needs an authentic teenage voice. This is one of the reasons I’m going it alone.  With my first (unpublished) novel The Rebirth of Henry Whittle my agent felt the YA voice was too street and too sophisticated.  I don’t think she gave credit to the savvy young adults out there ruling the world. I also feel she found the slang and swear words unpalatable, as do I, but the protagonist’s voice is central to the success of the novel. I don’t say f**k but Mia does. And she wants to make love with Flynn, on a bed, against a wall, once, maybe more; she views intimacy as a natural response to finding someone attractive. Promiscuity is possibly an outdated verb. It’s these key issues that I compromised on first time around with my agent. My daughters advised against diluting the vocab and the darkness and they were right.  I’m not saying CL Taylor’s characters should be swearing and jumping each others bones but they should be 3D. I hate blandness; I want to love, hate, fear characters. I remember when I picked up 13 Reasons Why long before the hype and I couldn’t put it down; I felt sick to the pit of my stomach, not just for Hannah and Clay but her family, Jessica, Justin – that is a book that doesn’t come around often.

I’m new to writing, I’ve been working at it for about five years on and off; barely any time at all.  If I could write one totally, mind-blowing novel like 13 Reasons Why that would mean the world. Perhaps I’m incapable…I don’t know.

I am confident in my writing though; I don’t shake at the knees that my friends are reading stuff and nonsense.  I’m widely read in the YA/NA market and if I can make sales I think Random Attachment can hold its own out there.

I recently read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and other than a cool name and a great book cover I didn’t rate it. Random Attachment is all about the characters. Could the premise be better constructed? Yes, with the help of a professional editor or maybe by me in ten years when I know what I’m doing.  I’m winging it at the moment.  I guess I expect more of traditionally published novels because of the expertise and resources they have to bring a book together. I didn’t connect with Mara. The story seemed all over the place.

I daren’t think about the criticism coming my way.  Or perhaps readers are so pee’d off they won’t review it. I hope that’s not the case.

Right now I’m focusing on social media, getting my name out there, trying to sell my book.  The paperback is as low in price as I’m allowed, I’m only making 25p on each sale and 20% of that is going to charity @myelopathy.org and @YMCAWestLondon.  So reviews are key and for anyone that has purchased the paperback, passing it on would be great. If you liked it then please Instagram it, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you can do is greatly appreciated.  I’m relying on reviews and word of mouth. To date I’ve sold 43 copies, not exactly mind blowing so all support appreciated. I’m not too proud to accept help, go for it!

 

 

Merry Christmas

Christmas is a funny time for myelopathers.  Maybe some of us feel under pressure to produce the perfect Christmas day and are already stooped in pain and it’s only Christmas Eve. Maybe others isolate themselves because they lack the energy to get dressed and join in with family.  We say ours is a hidden disability but I think that is sometimes an excuse we make because our families lack empathy. When I move it’s all too obvious that something is amiss.  The pain of course invisibly attacks the nervous system but I think it’s evident in my grimace and the way my body caves inwards that I’m suffering.

I don’t personally know any of you…but I think about you…my friends united against this horrible degenerative disease.  I hope that your family and friends are kind to you, that they rally round you…that they understand your limitations.

I never imagined seven years ago when I was diagnosed that the battle would be this huge, this gruelling, this demoralising.  If you’d asked me then was I coping…I’d say there wasn’t anything I couldn’t conquer.  Right now I feel like I’m at war with myself. I’m a person I don’t recognise.  I’m jumpy, anxious, easily upset, unable to form coherent sentences, all weekend I’ve called Kitty’s boyfriend Jack when his name is Zac.  He’s such a dear, he worked out that becames my other daughter’s partner is James I was mixing the two together.  I can’t remember anything.  Historically it’s been my husband who upsets the apple cart, right now it’s me…which adds to my guilt.  Other than being in constant pain…I’m ticketty boo.

Regardless of everything I have just moaned about I couldn’t be happier.  On Saturday I sat enjoying a Christmas lunch with the five people I love most in the world.  I used to say to them I love you more than all the desserts in the world, all the seas and when I look at my husband, sons and daughters I know I am the luckiest person.  They totally get me, they know the ugly side of me and they do whatever they can to make me as comfortable and supported as anyone with a painful disability can be.

And I want that for you all this Christmas. I think right now if you feel unhappy or distressed you should stop doing what you are doing.  It’s better to have beans on toast and feel as well and as happy as you can be.  If your family are taking you for granted and letting you dig a hole for yourself tidying and cooking you owe it to yourself to say no this is to much, no I’m not coping.

I’ve had serious mental health issues this year.  I’ve never been so glad to see the back of of a year in my life.  I’ve nearly ruined Christmas; I just managed to pull myself together for the family meal. I know I need to keep communicating with my family, to admit when I’m in pain, to not physically push myself because I’m gaining weight which I hate.

Yes I’m disabled, yes my life is very limited, but I can’t expect others to know how bad I feel if I don’t tell them. It’s my responsibility to ask for help.  I owe it to my family to ask for help.

I’m taking control of my life back by escaping into writing, by blogging and now vlogging.  I am going to shout from the rooftops that I feel like I’ve been twisted inside out I’m in so much pain, that’s what cervical myelopathy does to you…But there is always hope and sunny days ahead.  Great things are ahead of us.  Be vocal. Cry. Sing. Argue…but don’t suffer silently.  You deserve better.

Happy Christmas myelopathers.  Thank you for being there for me through https://www.facebook.com/groups/myelopathy.support/ Thank youhttps://www.facebook.com/myelopathy.org/   I intend to raise money through Jen’s bookclub The BB’s, who are so brilliant with me, my book sales – if anyone needs a present for 14+ to adult ladies please buy Random Attachment, 10% of royalties go to Myelopathy.org and 10% to YMCA West London https://www.amazon.co.uk/RANDOM-ATTACHMENT-Gertrude-T-Kitty/dp/1790375347/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1544651916&sr=8-3&keywords=random+attachment

And lastly if anyone wants to get to know me better and my take on myelopathy please check out my youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwao3_-p4ISUoWlVOhZYnsQ