PTSD; survivor angst

I can’t believe I’m still alive 4 years after the diagnosis that my breast cancer had come back in my bones, liver and pancreas. I’m not only still alive, but actually ‘well’. I suffer the tiniest bit of back ache from time to time. This is an absolute miracle created by monthly ‘denosumab’ injections. I call it a miracle, because in 2012 I was described as having ‘extensive boney metastases in spine and pelvis’; I never imagined they could become sufficiently mended to give almost no pain at all.

The only thing I do suffer is an antsy anxiety that it will all come back. I’ve phrased that wrongly – it WILL come back. The only question is ‘when?’ Six months, six years, sixteen years… It’s quite difficult to live with that hanging over you, and sometimes I feel my skin is crawling all over with anxiety. I feel so tired I can’t hold my body up, but so ‘antsy’ laying down is like lying on a bed of nails (with ants crawling all over it!)

In many ways, I’m no different to any other human being on the planet at this moment. Death can come at any moment to any of us, and tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s just having your face rammed into your mortality by a cancer diagnosis is quite tricky…

NaNoWriMo Winner!


I’m engaging my ‘smug mode’ this morning. I challenged myself to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this month, and succeeded! My novel is now… well… written. Unfortunately it’s a long way off me letting anyone actually READ it because I need to reread it, edit it, revise it myself first. But, it exists!

I didn’t think it possible five weeks ago. I realised it would involve me writing about 2,000 words a day, every day, for the whole month. I write my stuff longhand, with pen and paper, then transfer it by two-finger typing to the computer. I didn’t think I could physically do 2,000 words a day like that. In fact, it was proving very tough, so mid month I did a few experiments. I tried speaking the words into my Sony tablet, using ‘Evernote’. Doh! I couldn’t make it capitalise. Then it would miss a few words, so I would say them again, and it would do them twice. Finally I gave up when I said ‘illuminated reindeer’ and it converted it to ‘nominated philanderer’. (And what was I doing with an ‘illuminated reindeer’ anyway in my novel? Ah! You’ll have to read it and find out…)

We went away for a mini-break, so I was forced away from my laptop, and ‘Word’. ‘Evernote’ and the Sony tablet came up trumps this time. I typed my novel into a series of notes in ‘Evernote’. Using the predictive text was fast and accurate for me, and I achieved previously unheard of speeds of typing (for me, anyway). The only problem I had was when I selected the wrong word from the predictive offering on the top bar, but that didn’t happen very often.

I learned a lot, and enjoyed the process. I’ve only written short stories before, and it was quite nice having a whole gang of intricate characters at my beck and call. I rather miss them, now. I might have to start another novel…

Drowning in digital dreams

Isn’t the digital camera a wonderful thing? Remember the days when you had to limit your photography to 24- or 36-shot portions? Each shot had to be carefully considered. You might run out too soon and miss vital moments. Printing the pictures was expensive, and remember the resentment when you found you’d paid for one that was obliterated by light leaking into the camera, or leaving the lens cap on?

These days you can click away to your heart’s content, capturing fleeting moments. We can create massive archives from which to select the one that’s ‘just right’.
As you sit down to sift your way the 600 plus pictures you fired off at Bob and Jean’s golden wedding bash, or the 3,000 shots you brought back from your holiday of a lifetime, do you feel a mild panic? Perhaps a little nostalgia for the self-editing nature of celluloid and print?

Once you’re selected the 50 or so images that you really want to keep, how do you store them or display them? Backing them up on CDs and DVDs seems a good idea, but how often are you going to fire up the computer to look at them? In future, will your children and grandchildren be able to look at them? You’ve backed them up on electronic storage device – say, a DVD or Flash drive – so they should be safe, shouldn’t they? Wrong. The media may well last a century, but the device for playing it may be long gone. (I must remember to move the electronic slideshow I did of my daughter’s wedding from a DVD to my hard disk before… oh, hang on, too late… my new laptop doesn’t have a DVD drive.)

What happened to those things we got off a shelf? They were interactive. You could flick through to wherever you wanted. You didn’t need electricity. Ah yes – photograph albums.

There’s one potential answer in self-publishing. Don’t be put off by it sounding rather grand. It’s a relatively simple and inexpensive way to make a book (or two) of your favourite memories. Websites ‘Lulu’ and ‘Blurb’ guide you step-by-step through the process, providing templates and making it as easy as possible to produce a good looking book. Once you press the ‘Publish’ button your book will be winging its way to you in a few days.

So, instead of all those pictures languishing in a folder on your computer somewhere, you can have a selection of beautiful books on your shelf. Books of memories.

I can’t wait to start my library. ‘My recipes’, ‘Last summer with our dog’, ‘Best hotels for long weekends’, and ‘Summer holiday with Granny and Grandpa’. That last one will have to wait until we actually HAVE grandchildren, but I’m looking forward to it!

Trevor Vincent – what have you done?


Just a few days ago, my friend Trevor pointed out a cracking little video about sketchbooks and journals, and since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Now it’s forming itself into yet another New Year’s Resolution:

  • to do a drawing – or anything visual – every single day and post it on the web.

At first quite a lot of my drawings will be for my ‘Beetroot’ children’s book project, because I’m challenging myself to do one of them every day until I get the book finished.

I don’t want to stop at that. I have ideas for many more things this year. I’m determined to conquer lino-printing, and also have more ideas to resurrect my character ‘Brixham Bill’.

I need to make sure I do something every day, even the smallest of doodles.

Where to put them?  I couldn’t choose between Tumblr or Pinterest, so I’m creating a visual journal on both.

Have a look: Sketchbook Journal on Tumblr, or Sketchbook Journal Board on Pinterest.

So, curses Trevor Vincent! You’ve inspired me to add another thing to my list for 2014.

Back to the hand

After twenty plus years of using a computer to generate all my graphics and illustrations, I’ve re-discovered my hand. Where has it been all these years?

These last few months I’ve been working on my ‘Black Hole in the Beetroot’ children’s adventure series, and I’m loving losing myself in the ink and wash illustrations.

As well as re-discovering my hand, I’ve finally discovered time-management. I’ve been labouring under a misapprehension these last four decades. It’s a misapprehension that has been a scandalous thief of my time and energy. It was the assumption that each of my days look like this:

Daily enery assumption

when actually they look like this:

Actual daily energy

Every morning I would completely waste my sparkling, creative time doing mundane tasks, usually washing up and cleaning the kitchen from the night before. By the time I had finished my washing up, washing, food prep, shopping, and more, I was well into my ‘Can do mundane tasks’ section.

Now I’ve shifted things around a bit and it’s made all the difference. I make it a rule to get straight on with drawing and writing as soon as I’ve got up and finished my ‘morning pages’ (another story).

I’ve discovered I can do mundane tasks even right into my ‘Useless’ bit of the day, so washing up, and even the week’s big shop, have been relegated to the evening.

I can’t believe how this simple adjustment has changed my life? Why didn’t I do it years ago?


What if the car breaks down? What if a deluge of snow blocks Telegraph Hill? What if a car transporter tips over and blocks all carriageways at Exeter? What if all traffic is halted because someone is threatening to jump from a footbridge over the M5? So, taking into account all my ‘what ifs?’, we arrive at the airport with 3 hours to spare.

A couple of rounds of sandwiches and drinks cost us £30.

Having taken all these precautions how do we still end up being the last on the plane?

Choosing the fastest queue through security, we make good progress, or so it seemed. Then everything grinds to a halt with the chap in front.

He has waited in the queue blithely ignoring the huge posters and looping video on big screens telling us about all the prohibited items. He’s got the lot. Scissors in his hand baggage, that has to be indecorously unpacked (I hope he’s on the return journey. Either that or he habitually dresses like Worzel Gummidge.) Then he’s got a studded belt that has to come off with great difficulty. Great laced boots that take an age to unravel and heave off. Large bottles of liquids and gels that all have to be argued about and confiscated…

By the time we get through, a lady with a clipboard is calling for the last two passengers for the flight. That’s us. We are escorted rapidly across the tarmac. I glance at the pilots in the cockpit, angrily tapping their watches, and rush up the steps into the plane, now full of angry holidaymakers, all tapping their watches in unison. (OK, I made all the watch tapping bit up. No one really noticed. It’s just how I felt.)

At least the incident made me feel better about our previous trip. We had been on a plane since 9/11 so I thought we were up-to-date with airport security, but we had missed the extra ramping up of measures after the bloke with the exploding trainers. Unlike our heedless friend on this flight, I had noticed all the signs and videos, and spent my queuing time repacking. Nearly everything was wrong and had to be confiscated or bagged up.

Blooming nuisance, that man with the exploding trainers.


Another blog

I’ve changed my theme! I love the way this one makes the pics really big, and colour-schemes them according to the pic.

Stone on Berry Head

The words are from Francis Lyte's 'Abide with me', written in Brixham. This monument is on Berry Head.

This post is also to announce my new blog about my 2012 quest to self-publish. The journey had only just begun, so there’s not much in it at present!

I’m going to document things that work, and things that don’t, and hopefully build up a resource for other writers wanting to do the same thing.