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Writing with chronic pain

What’s it like being an author, parent, wife, and full-time worker?

Anyone who’s wearing these shoes can tell you that it’s just part of life and you keep at it. I’ve always been running on a high metabolism, so I enjoy juggling a couple of balls in the air – it keeps my momentum going. I’m an introvert by nature, but once you get a conversation started with me, I can talk a million miles an hour and tap into all kinds of crazy topics; it’s like a multi-track where there are several trains running at full speed. Stories come to life in my head, and my characters urge me to write their stories – something I can’t resist.

But what happens when chronic pain strikes? How do you deal with it? How does it affect you? Do you get depressed? How do you live life with chronic pain? Can you still write?

I’ll answer the questions in this blog article.

What happens when chronic pain strikes?

All seemed well until chronic pain came into my life a few years ago. The first was cubital tunnel syndrome (like carpal tunnel syndrome), which I had surgery for, and the healing took six months in 2017. Thanks to exercise, training, and relaxation techniques, my arm is good now.

Then, at the end of 2018, unexpected back pain struck me like an insidious evil carving through my skin and scorching wildfire into my left muscles, nerves, and upper spine. At first, I thought the pain would go away after being prescribed anti-inflammatory medication.

The pain did not go away. In early 2019, an MRI scan revealed a prolapse that required immediate surgery. So, I had the surgery.

Things were meant to improve, but they did not. Now, two years later, I’m still living in pain. These ‘best-of-the-best’ private-sector doctors have all played roles of the gods – there was Apollo, then Asclepius, followed by Sekhmet, Wu Tao, Airmed…and the list goes on for the number of ‘expert’ doctors with numerous degrees and university teaching records who were haughty and oh so omniscient. They claimed to know exactly what’s wrong, but their advice and treatment did not work. What amused me was their arrogance when I dared to say I was still in pain!

Then, there were natural healing therapies by chiropractors, naturopaths, physiotherapists, etc. – including one who left me semi-paralyzed for a few hours and my whole left arm bloated in swollen pain – I had to take my wedding ring off because of the swelling that night and suffered from a blinding headache, attached to the nerve pain stemming across a gridlocked highway from my upper back, down to my arm.

My new local GP is fantastic. He’s like Dr. Gregory House from the TV series named after the character. He’s gone above and beyond the ‘expert’ doctors to try to find an answer and treatment. He’s called different experts in his network, and now, after a six-month wait, I’ll be tested for nerve damage and muscle damage by the head of neurology at a local hospital next week. They may not find an answer, but I live with hope every day.

Do I get depressed?

Of course, I get depressed and anxious. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel any sadness associated with the long-term pain. However, I live for a better day and try to do as much as I normally can without exerting myself. I make use of the outdoors and fresh air.

How do I live with pain?

I work in my day job as I normally would, with the aid of heat packs, ibuprofen gels, and a strong medication that I take for the worst of days – which I take in the evening as it knocks me right out and I wake up feeling groggy after about 12 hours. When I take that medication, I know that I won’t be writing, editing, or doing anything after work hours.

The other thing I do is switch off from social media when needed. I’ll do the best I can to promote my stories, prioritizing my publisher first – but everything else is placed in the ‘noise’ basket. There are so many social media channels and people with questions I don’t always have answers for.

I don’t answer all the questions – only the important ones and yes, I do connect with readers and authors who hold a special place in my heart. I prioritize them first when I’m well enough to be online socially.

I know my limits and switch off when I need to. I don’t give when I cannot give. I know when my tank is running on empty – so that’s when I say to myself, ‘stop now’.

Can I still write?

Yes. Of course! There are windows in my free time when I get a good stretch of minimal pain and that’s when I’m most productive – I’ll prioritize the tasks I need done first, and get these done. Everything else can wait.

I’ve learned to prioritize what I can take in, working with my strengths and weaknesses. As a professional author, the first writing priority is my publisher and activities around my published work. Everything else can wait.

I realize that the least painful days are like windows of opportunity that come – I’ve got a certain amount of time to really focus on completing my writing tasks before the pain intensifies again.

I also have an author PA who does an amazing job promoting my published book, and she’s wonderful. When my pain medication kicks in and it’s lights out for me, I can rest assured that my book is being promoted. It also means that I can use the “feeling well” days to write – again, a focused approach.

What have I learned from living in pain?

I’ve learned to put myself first – that means my health and my family. They come first and that’s not negotiable. We all have our challenges during these COVID times and I need to tackle these challenges with my family first. What would you do? Leave a crying child while you answer a message from a writer who needs feedback on their story? Of course, not! The kids always come first. 🙂

As I said earlier, I do get my ‘blue’ days but I take advantage of my surroundings. If it’s a sunny day, I go for a walk. If there’s a hailstorm outside, I watch my favorite TV show with my husband or read one of my favorite books – right now I’m reading A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud, one of the best fantasy romance authors in today’s world – her books are on Amazon.

Will there be better days ahead? Of course, there will be! I plan on doing so much more as an author. As for my health, I know I’ve got a good doctor who’s earnest and he does his best to refer me to the right people – even if it takes time.

I’m hoping for treatment to minimize/mitigate the pain after my visit to the hospital next week. Here’s hoping and praying for the best!

All good things take time.

Categories
Getting published What readers want Writing tips

So, you want to get published?

By Estelle Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.

Lessons on Seduction, an erotic romance novel by E Pettersen
Lessons on Seduction, an erotic romance novel by Estelle Pettersen, published by Black Velvet Seductions.

I’m writing this blog post for aspiring writers who dream to have their books published one day. I hope this will help you make clever choices as part of your publishing journey.

Are you looking for a publisher?

Okay, so you’ve spent time researching (this is a MUST), writing, editing, editing, and editing your story. Have I emphasized the editing part enough? You’re now feeling ready and excited to submit your story to an agent or publisher.

There’s been a lot of buzz, hype, and excitement about finding publishers, but here’s what you need to know, because amid the good publishers, there are many sharks out there. When I mean sharks, I’m referring to:

Vanity publishers

Vanity publishers offer you contracts where you pay an arm, leg, foot, or kidney to have your work published. With some vanity publishers, you pay for all the services, but you don’t even own the book because they may demand in the contract the same rights over the book as a traditional publisher would. Does this sound fair? My advice: don’t do it.

They paint themselves as credible but Google them. Google publisher reviews on them. Be wary. Their game is a dirty business, driven by what they can milk out of you, not giving a d-mn about the quality of your content.

You’re only selling yourself short because what have you really achieved? If your work is truly outstanding and you’ve jumped too soon in bed with a vanity publisher, you’ll always be questioning yourself, “What if I had gone with a traditional publisher?” When I talk about traditional publishing in this sense, I’m referring to the Writer’s Digest definition:

Traditional book publishing is when a publisher offers the author a contract and, in turn, prints, publishes, and sells your book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher essentially buys the right to publish your book and pays you royalties from the sales.”

(source: https://writersdigestshop.com/pages/how-to-publish-a-book-an-overview-of-traditional-self-publishing)

False agents

False agents will pitch your book to publishers for an inflated fee. What happens? You end up paying a lot of money and they do the work you could have done: send a generic email to a ton of publishers but nothing is personalized; it’s just a big blast.

Companies that claim to have direct contacts with publishers and will write your synopsis and submission letter for a large amount of money also fall into this category. Plus, you can pay more! Why? Because there are add-ons if you want more, such as a tracking list of publishers/agents, edited chapters of your manuscript, etc.

For goodness sake, don’t you trust your own writing and research skills? If you can write your own story, you should be able to write your own synopsis and submission letter. And guess what? Doing it yourself is free!

Cold-calling publishers

Cold-calling publisher. If you’re a Wattpad user and you’ve been contacted on the platform, please report it as spam.

These are ‘Publishers’ who approach you out of the blue, claiming that they love your work and offer to send a contract. Do they even know your name? Have they really read your novel? What do they like about your work? Did they even mention your novel title in their message? Be very careful about what they promise because all that glitters ain’t gold. Do not lock yourself into a contract that seems too easy and too good to be true.

Did you check their platform and see how many readers they actually have? Or how many stories they have? Are they quality stories? Will you be lost in the sea, competing with others who have been promised the same shady, shoddy deal? My advice: stay away from them.

Find a publisher that best fits your book. Aim for a publisher with a good reputation. Image source: Pixabay.com

Good publishers don’t:

  • Approach you out of the blue. They’re often going through submissions and picking the ones that are the right fit for their publishing goals.
  • Ask you to pay a ridiculous amount of money to cover publishing or marketing costs. This is a general statement as there are some good hybrid publishers out there who do give a fair deal.
  • Offer a small percentage of sale returns – your share (eg. 5%).
  • Hike the price for your book’s selling price so that it’s harder to sell.
  • Aggressively push you to sign the contract with haste.
  • Leave you in the dark when it comes to marketing your book.

Good publishers do:

  • Have a submission process where writers (or agents on behalf of writers) are encouraged to submit a manuscript, based on the publisher’s requirements.
  • Offer a contract where you, as the author, are not required to foot a hefty amount toward the publishing of your book. That’s right, you heard me. The publisher pays you, not the other way around.
  • Offer a fair percentage of sales returns – your fair share.
  • Price your book so it’s at a competitive price, including a presale prior to the book’s release. The book’s price will be similar to other books in your subgenre.
  • Give you a reasonable deadline to sign the contract.
  • Encourage you and guide you with marketing your book, and offer promotional opportunities and events. This includes developing a social media presence and offering suggestions such as having an author’s website among other things.

There’s one last thing that good publishers do: they believe in you. I chose to go the hard road and persevere with my writing. It took me two years from draft to final manuscript of Lessons on Seduction, and I did my research on publishers.

I found my publisher Black Velvet Seductions after doing my homework and checking for erotic romance publishers with great reviews in the publishing industry. It was also listed on renowned sci-fi and fantasy author Piers Anthony’s website, in the publishers’ list.

Make your writing and publishing journey an enjoyable one. Image source: Pixabay.com

Finally, there are three platforms I recommend, where you can meet and interact with other readers and writers to help you grow in your writing journey:

  1. Wattpad
  2. Radish Fiction (by application only, they can be tough on screening content quality)
  3. Inkitt (by application).

I’ve got a presence in all three platforms (I’ve only got draft sample stories on the latter two and haven’t been too active; I just don’t have the time to stretch, sorry!), but I’m most active in my role as an ambassador for Wattpad, doing my best to give other writers a helping hand. I believe we can all succeed. I really do!

Whatever your goals are, please be patient. Please be persistent, and please persevere. Every author who has a contract with a publisher will tell you that they have had to persevere before they get their work published.

The other option, of course, is to self-publish. However, I would suggest trying an agent or publisher first. Why? They can open the door for you in so many ways and can give a boost to lift first-time authors. You can also meet other more experienced authors (with the same publisher) who you can learn from and grow.

I’ll write some more about publishing, but I thought this is a good start.

Authors supporting authors. Image source: giphy.com

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Blog writing tips healthy romances What readers want

Hot and healthy romances

It’s been a busy week promoting the cover reveal of my debut erotic fiction novel Lessons on Seduction, published by Black Velvet Seductions. My debut erotic romance novel is available for pre-order on Amazon at a discount price and will be out on July 30.

I know I should be writing a chapter for my next project (a short romance with a hot and sexy Aussie cowboy), but after talking to a few wonderful readers and writers, I have to get this off my chest:

How about a hot, healthy, sensational, and sexy romance this summer?

Are you up for that?

I hope that most of you will be nodding in eager anticipation. Well, there’s no waiting line because here’s a few good romance stories where the heat between the protagonist and the love interest is flammable—which could be a little dangerous in the summer heat! 😉

Here are summer reads I recommend from books I’ve read/am reading from BVS authors:

There’s more, and I’m getting through them – including Paging Dr. Turov by Gibby Campbell and A Thread of Sand by Alan Souter.

What I love most about these books is while they’re ultra-hot and steamy, they also have heroines with strong voices. The women in these books won’t tolerate any kind of demeaning behavior from their partners. They are neither passive nor aggressive: they are assertive women.

Their love interests are men of diverse backgrounds who have a few things in common: empathy, love, and respect for their partner’s boundaries.

On Wattpad, I have my reading lists. From there, here are a some hot romance stories I recommend:

There you have it. Hot romances don’t need to tease readers with blurred lines, underage sex with vast age differences (eg. a fifteen-year-old who romps around with her 38-year-old teacher), or love that emerges from forced submission or kidnapping.

The red flag comes up when I see these lines at the start of a book:

“You will be mine…”

“By the time I’m done with you…”

“You will do as I tell you…”

“Other women would kill to be in your shoes…”

What the heck?

I have to share a personal anecdote. When I was an undergrad student years ago, there was one fellow, let’s call him Casanova, who used one of those lines on me in a confrontational manner in a public place. Oh, he was charming and handsome, but my self-respect was more important than submitting to an unhealthy proposal.

What happened next was something I’ll never forget. My male friends stood with me. They didn’t say much, but their unified stance in silence was enough to send the poor guy running like the clappers. 😉

I realized then that there was no room in my life for unhealthy relationships. That included my taste in books and movies.

Enjoy the heat this summer!

If you haven’t pre-ordered Lessons on Seduction, you can do that now for only 99 cents (pre-order sale price).

>> Pre-order Lessons on Seduction

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What readers want

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog. It’s my little corner where I will gladly share my tips, advice and knowledge about writing. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at: [email protected]

Here are some articles to support aspiring writers:

Writing your first chapter