IF YOU LIVE IN FEAR, YOU FEAR TO LIVE

Award-winning novelist Linda Gillard's essay on beating cancer as featured on novelist Christine Nolfi's blog.Linda Gillard is a writer’s writer: successful, intensely creative, humble and one of independent publishing’s finest novelists. Her story will inspire you to live each day with your arms opened wide:

I’d like to tell you a story.

In 2012, a few weeks before my 60th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went from diagnosis to mastectomy in less than 3 weeks, then underwent a programme of chemo that was so painful and made me so ill, I thought I was dying. Then I had weeks of radiotherapy. After that, I assumed I’d begin the long haul back to health. I would, as they say, “get my life back”, if not my breast.

I didn’t. Well, not so far. Unfortunately, chemotherapy left me semi-disabled. For two years now I’ve suffered from peripheral neuropathy – pain in my feet and fingers caused by chemo-damaged nerves. I am in constant pain. I can’t walk or stand for very long. I walk with a stick and I need to use a wheelchair for anything more than short excursions.

It’s rare for this kind of damage to be permanent, but mine appears to be. No pain relief has been effective, so I manage the pain by ignoring it. You do actually get used to chronic pain, but it takes its toll. I’m crabby, permanently tired and find it hard to concentrate. It’s like having a brass band rehearsing in your head.

I’m a full-time writer, so a sedentary life didn’t entail major changes for me, but my writing was affected by my experience. Fear became the biggest thing in my life – fear of cancer recurrence, more chemo, worse disability and death. I knew I had to start writing again. Working on a new novel – my seventh – gave me a sense of my pre-cancer self, even if my fingers hurt when I typed and it was a struggle to organise my ideas.

CAULDSTANE_kindle_600 x 800My ghost story, CAULDSTANE was my artistic response to life-threatening illness. A phrase that recurs throughout the book is, “If you live in fear, you fear to live.” Writing a novel about fear gave me a channel for examining and expressing my own fears. I depicted fear – of a ghost and an ancient family curse – as a kind of wasting disease that is gradually destroying a whole family. My malevolent ghost was in fact a personification of cancer.

Cancer changed the way I think and work. Formerly, a book took as long as it took, but now my calendar is dominated now by annual health checks and I find I’m reluctant to start anything that can’t be completed in a year. I don’t like to tempt fate.

Cancer has also changed how I read. My damaged fingers struggle to turn paper pages, so my Kindle has been a boon. Cancer has changed what I watch. I avoid negativity, graphic violence, anything medical.

Cancer also changed what I write. I hate to admit I might be less courageous in my writing now, but if I am, it’s because my life scared the bejesus out of me – and it still does. I hope there’s been no diminution in quality, but I’ve developed a tendency to write unequivocal happy endings. When you’ve had breast cancer, there is no happy end, just a fervent hope it will never recur. Cancer survivors put on a brave face for their families, friends and the media, but we live with fear as our constant companion. So when I was writing CAULDSTANE, it was important to me that good should triumph over evil, that fear should be vanquished, that the characters should go forward and live life to the full, just in case I don’t.

There are few positives about what I went through, but something to celebrate was the discovery that nothing, not even cancer is going to stop me telling stories. It isn’t about ego or the money. It seems I write because I must. I am a storyteller. I may be a stricken storyteller, but clearly it’s going to take more than a nasty bout of cancer and disabling chemo side-effects to silence me.

Cancer is huge. It’s monstrous. But there’s something even bigger and more powerful than cancer. I already knew about the resilience of the human spirit and the comfort of gallows humour. I lost my father and both in-laws to cancer. My joyous discovery was that the desire to create is – apparently – indestructible. And since reading was my main escape from the physical pain and grief of losing all my hair and a significant body part, I like to think that what I write might bring comfort, or at least distraction, to someone who is going through the fire.

Every word I type now is a blow struck against cancer. Writing – especially writing well – is the best revenge.

Website www.lindagillard.co.uk

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LindaGillardAuthor

Amazon.com page http://goo.gl/aBPVjs

Barnes & Noble page http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/linda-gillard

CAULDSTANE on Amazon http://goo.gl/uhJtNs

What Readers Want from Authors on Social Media

092511c_1 (480x480)Toby Neal, bestselling author of the Lei Crime series, offer tips on getting the most mileage out of your social media engagement with readers:

One of the most exciting aspects of growing as an author is the relationship I’m developing with readers. I happen to love the social media interaction I have with readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, G+ , Instagram and my blog. Yes, it’s a lot to keep up with and I see a time when I won’t be able to interact with readers like I do now, but as much as I can I respond to questions, concerns, and criticism with a personal touch and an encouraging word. This level of interaction just isn’t every author’s style, though.

What do readers want most from authors, and how can we continue to enjoy a relationship with them, even with all the pressures we’re under?

Readers respond most enthusiastically to these five things:

1)    INSPIRATION. Uplifting quotes, humor, and beautiful photos of Hawaii have became a focus of my social media presence on G+, Instagram, Twitter and FB.

2)    INSIGHT: Readers want to know insights on character development, where you get your ideas, tidbits about your book research, snippets of dialogue and what might have inspired events in the books.

3)    INSIDE SCOOPS: Readers want news updates. They want to know what’s happening with that title they’re waiting for. They want to be informed on progress, sales, and how they can help get the word out.

4)    INTERACTION: Readers LOVE being asked for input about story ideas, names of characters, what foods should be included in the books. They like to weigh in on issues and to know their input matters. My readers are SO AWESOME this way. They never fail to come up with something when I ask for advice, help, or ideas. In fact, the crime being dealt with in the 7th Lei Crime book, Dark Lava, is the direct result of asking readers what Hawaii crime they wanted me to write about. They were NOT shy in responding, and there were great ideas from conservation to chem trails, one of which I chose for the book.

5)    SWAG: Readers love giveaways, signed books, secret looks at new material, contests, even bookmarks. I’m doing this through a new thing I’m developing called the Book Lovers Club. Sound interesting? Sign up and let me share goodies with you!

Every author has their own social media flavor. I follow some of my favorites: Michael Connelly is really excited about his upcoming crime drama, Bosch, on Amazon. Diana Gabaldon tortures us with sexy quotes from her books and advance previews of the new Starz show Outlander. Sandra Brown throws out funny one-liners about her life as a famous writer, showing us she gets colds and runs her nylons and even has bad hair days, too. Louise Penny updates us with beautiful, soulful, personal snippets of her life as a mystery writer in the frozen north, a world so far from mine I have trouble imagining it. Each of them teaches me a little something as they share—and I hope I do that for my readers, too.

Readers, have I missed anything you want more of? Writers, do you have any additional insights for us?

Fire Beach cover

Toby Neal is the author of the bestselling Lei Crime Series. She grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years. Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books. Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking. Connect with Toby on any of the below!

 

Website/Blog

Twitter: @tobywneal

Facebook

Instagram: tobyneal0

G+ Toby Neal

Pinterest

Goodreads Event Winner

Contest for Amazon gift card on the website of bestselling novelist Christine Nolfi.

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Contest: Share Your Pie Recipes!

Pie recipe contest by award-winning author Christine Nolfi.

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