When my mother in law had a heart attack, we were facing impossible life-altering choices
When this post goes live, I’ll be in Switzerland, buying sweets and chocolates for my trip to the U.S. next week. I’ll be enjoying the company of family and relatives, amazing food and hopefully glorious fall weather. St. Gallen, my home town, can be glorious this time of year. However, this year our trip is overshadowed by my mother in law’s health. After suffering a heart attack, she was rushed to the hospital where the professionals quickly surmised that she needed major open heart surgery to replace a heart valve and to undergo a triple bypass. Yeah, imagine. Life…
Disease, my highly praised coming novel, isn’t ‘really’ about Alzheimer’s, it’s a story about celebrating life, creating memories that outlive our physical existence. You can pre-order it here.
Open heart surgery is never easy. Recovery times are three months for healthy people. Well, healthy for someone who needs that sort of major op. But for someone who’d suffered a major stroke, whose general health is on a slow downward slope? Yeah. Luckily, we didn’t have to make the choice between surgery and no-surgery. In Sweden, when someone isn’t of sound mind, that decision lies with the healthcare professionals.
Today the hospital informed us that they wouldn’t perform any surgery on my husband’s mom. I should say I’m relieved, but on the other hand I also know that this means that she could suffer another heart attack at pretty much any given time. Tomorrow. Or a year from now. But like Hunter in my coming novel, a best before date has been place on my MIL’s life, and unlike the date we all have to face at some point, it’s not in the too distant future.
The death of Casper is the start of the story, not the end. A story of life and one hell of a relationship.
Luckily for her, she’s not aware of all this, never will be. Not consciously. But we, her kids, and her grandchildren, are. And we have to deal with it, somehow. Carpe diem comes to mind, and we’ve already decided to travel the three and a half hours north to see her more regularly. Quality of life. And if seeing her grandson and her two “boys” (as she refers to us) gives her joy then so be it. Least we can do. Meanwhile we get to form some final and lasting memories of our mother, mother-in-law and grandma.
Needless to say it’s hardest on my husband. He lost his dad twelve years ago, and is now facing the harsh reality of losing his second parent any day. For me, it’s going to be rough. I’ll be reminded of my own mother’s passing, I’ll think of the day when my dad joins her and that I, too, will be all alone. No more calling “home” for advice or that friendly, non-judgemental ear. You know? That unconditional love? For our son, he’s only four and a half years old, it’s difficult to say how he’ll react. He was only nine months old when his Nona passed. Nothing to remember. But he knows his grandma, and he even left her one of his plush animals at the hospital so she wouldn’t be alone. It’s hard to tell whether he loves her and how that manifests in terms of loss. We’ll see. Maybe, just maybe we’ll get to practice this with our oldest feline family member first. He’s been getting weaker and weaker and at almost nineteen, he’s way past his prime. But yeah, loss we’ll experience. Part of life, the ultimate consequence of it, actually.
Alex (my husband) lamented the other day that being middle-aged meant having more and more death around you. Hopefully we’re better equipped to handle it than when we were kids. But I understand how he feels. Pretty soon, our generation will be the “oldest” one, the one at the frontier so to speak, the next one in line to… kick the bucket? Pick out the good suit? People sometimes ask me why I chose to write two books in a row about death, first Nilas’s story, the loss of Casper, and now Hunter’s, and Ethan’s coping with that. Sometimes I think people misunderstand. Neither of those books are about death, or dying. They’re about living, Nilas’s is about the memories he holds of Casper and their life together and how he can best celebrate that memory by living his life to the fullest. For Hunter it’s all about maximizing the quality of life, rather than the quantity, to bestow as many good memories on his little daughter Amy as humanly possible. Quality over quantity.
So if you pick up any of those two books, by all means, shed tears, but make sure they are cathartic, because those stories celebrate life, and for as long as we have memories of our loved ones, they live on, forever, through us.
Have a wonderful weekend,
PS: If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
PS2: I was recently invited to a great podcast called The Wrote Podcast. Click here to listen to the episode.
One word could summarize how I feel: AAAAAAAAAARGH!
Time, whatever happened to time. That’s certainly true when you prepare for a large convention where you have a major investment while also being eighteen days away from a major book release. Now to be fair, I am doing okay. Maybe it’s reading all those posts in the GRL Facebook group form all those people with (admitted) OCD who have already packed their bags (that’s on my mental – mind you – to do list for next Tuesday, the day I fly out), people who are already on their way to the airport and what not, worrying about spending money, taxi fares or high altitude sickness. I’m not even close, and life just handed our family a major curve ball last week that threw our planning about as out of whack as only life can do.
A trip to my native Switzerland and St. Gallen with its beautiful hinterland beckons this week. Nothing like coming home…
Oh, did I mention that we have another trip planned between now and next week? Yeah! GRL is the last convention of the season for me and as it is the largest one, I’m always looking forward to it. New city, old friends, new acquaintances, and you always have to come up with new ways to please readers, not just with better books, but more exciting swag, crazier costumes and funny or tear-inducing readings.
I DO have a bit of a reputation in a couple of departments. My planning for GRL starts early, along with everyone else, as we sit down on a Saturday evening (my time) and engage in a crazy game of “fastest clicker”… I won again this year and as a sponsor of the event, my nerves were not as tested as some of my friends’. After that, there are discussions with the organizers of what to do with my investment as sponsor, and then spring and early summer settle into a calm rhythm of monthly payments, and waiting. Waiting for the theme of the costume party to be announced, waiting for the Facebook groups to open, waiting for program advertizing, waiting, waiting…
Meanwhile, I was working on my fall release, Disease, to be finished, and this year, my publisher and I are doing a special, to sell Disease exclusively at GRL, a full week before it releases to the public. We’ll see how that works. That also meant that we had to finish the galleys earlier than usual, to make sure the print copies made it to Denver in time. As I am writing this, my publisher just sent me the tracking number for my four parcels on their supposed way to Denver. Given that the hotel threatens to charge $20/day if they packages arrive more than three days before the guest, we’re playing a weird game of target practice with a moving target, as postal services and deadlines are notoriously unreliable, no matter what country you’re talking about. Oddly, my pre-order of ten copies for myself and family has already been delivered to the hotel we’re going to this week, four days ago. Color me puzzled.
This week on Thursday, we fly to Switzerland, for our annual visit of the St. Gallen agricultural state fair, OLMA. It’s an old family tradition and my son loves the rides as much as the animals on display, and we enjoy the culinary delights and seeing relatives and spending time together. Plus, I’ll be stocking up on chocolates for friends stateside and for my surprise cornucopia giveaway for people who sign up for my newsletter. It will be filled with an Amazon gift card as well as Swedish candy and Swiss chocolate. Hopefully it’ll prove to be irresistible to readers attending GRL. We return on Sunday afternoon to do laundry and grocery shopping (you know those pesky weekly tasks of survival in your average family) and next Monday I’ll get my GRL haircut, I’ll write my final pre-GRL blog post and then on Tuesday, I’ll pack my bag(s). I’ll hopefully have bought all the stuff that I need for Denver, but Monday-Tuesday are sort of my final days to sort out any last minute glitches and “shit, I forgot to…” Knowing me, there will be more than one of those.
Tuesday night, my family will drop me off at the airport and I’ll fly to Munich, where I’ll have to spend the night at an airport hotel, as I would not be able to catch the early morning flight on Wednesday, seeing as my first ferry in the morning reaches port fifty minutes before the morning flight leaves… Unless you travel faster than the speed of light, a no can do. Wednesday morning, I’ll take it easy and board my flight to Denver just before lunch, arriving there at two pm. I’ll have my bags with me (hard to get lost on a direct flight), I’ll hopefully be able to breeze through immigration, I have my sales permits in order, I (will have) all my ducks lined up in a row and I’ll be ready. I usually use the flight to prepare for my readings (two this year, allowing me to read slightly longer passages from my two most recent novels) which is great. And I’ll spend some quality days with my tribe of friends, unless life decides to throw us another curve ball…
Yeah, life. It has a tendency to foul most plans and because shit happens, shit tends to happen when you least expect it (or need it). Last week, my mother in law was admitted to the hospital for difficulties breathing, in the middle of the night. Now here comes the odd part: turns out she needs major open heart surgery, and as relatives we obviously wonder how doctors could have missed that, given that she’s been in and out of hospitals on four occasions in the past twelve months. I’ve had more doctors listen to my heart in the two visits I’ve had in this time than she did. I had two, she had one. I’m fine. She’s not. Needless to say, that this is really throwing our lives out of sync, not to mention that my MIL is suffering. My husband is a mess, it’s the second time he has to deal with this, and with a family trip and my GRL-trip ahead, we struggle to make this manageable. Somehow. Coping. Breathing. Speaking of moving targets… This is a developing situation and we don’t really know what is when and how or even if.
Makes no sense? Welcome to mi vida!
This has ben a great way for me to be seen by readers, meet new ones, and just talk. Goes far beyond just selling books. I’ll once again have a table to sell books in Denver. Just two more than last year, plus the beckoning cornucopia as a prize for signing up to my newsletter.
So, GRL. I’m nervous. Nervous, because my new book is miles apart from what the vast majority of the other authors are there with. So much more than any of my previous releases. I’m a gymnast among swimmers, a dodo among flamingos. This is gayROMANCElit after all, not gayFICTIONlit. I feel at home, don’t get me wrong, but Disease is a very different beast. And I’m nervous about the week as such. I fly in late (for different reasons, but maybe it was foresight?), I only stay Wed-Sun before I fly on to Tucson to see family, and I just couldn’t come up with a decent costume idea this year, so rather than failing expectations this year, I decided to skip that night and “Do Denver” on Saturday night.
I mean really, “Wild Wild West” (the second wild added late in the season, once again throwing me a curve ball, alluring to a crap Hollywood movie), just as last year’s “under the rainbow” was suddenly changed to “The Wizard of Oz” making my gay roman emperor look weirdly out of place among emerald cities, tornadoes and munchkins. How can you make a costume pop out among cowboy hats? How could I possible top Her Majesty? It’s all either cowboys or inappropriate “Indians”. Unless you show up as a wagon, full with four drawing horses… I just couldn’t come up with any fun ideas, maybe I was too preoccupied with writing Disease at the time, maybe you’re only afforded one good costume idea in a lifetime… So no costume, no party this year, but maybe pleasures of a different kind? I can be as wild in the wild west as the next person…
This week will also include some minor GRL and book launch activities, mainly blog posts for the time while I’m gone, release interviews etc., but also some time allocated to look after my mother in law. She lives three and a half hours away from us, and we just visited her yesterday. This week we’ll be dealing with doctors and planning for the next steps in her care. As her guardian (after her stroke last year), the buck stops with me. I’l have to make the final decision on a surgery, which – trust me – is not a situation I ever envisaged myself (or hoped) to be in. But with my husband and my sister-in-law, I’m sure we’ll find a way forward that we feel is in her best interest. Ultimately, this proves once again that we may feel that we are in control of our lives, our fate. We may write long to do lists, set goals for this and that, but ultimately, life always sits on the biggest trump card, and we just have to learn to deal with that, as best we can. Maybe something to keep in mind…
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. I hope your week turns out to be calmer than mine, and peaceful, and may Prozac and Valium guide the world away from the precipice of another global conflict…
Hans M Hirschi
Success, how to recognize it? How to make the most of it?
A caveat first. MondayBlogs, the hashtag I regularly blog under on Mondays has a couple of inofficial rules, one of them being that we don’t write about ourselves or market ourselves. It’s not to be a megaphone to get people to spread the word about ourselves. Not an easy thing when you blog, as much of what we do as bloggers is based on our own experiences. So please bear with me for a moment as I try to explain the background of today’s post: success. Why am I suddenly interested in this topic? I’m hardly successful as author, plagued by constant imposter syndrome and spending more money on getting my books out to people than I’ll probably ever make. So how does one define success?
What is success? Are we simply chasing a phantom? An unatainable phantasy?
Success. It sounds so appealing. We all have our dreams of being successful, having successful relationships, marriages, we want our kids to be successful in life, we dream of successful careers, but what does it really matter when push comes to shove? What is success? Here’s the take of Merriam-Webster, on the definition of success, taken from their website:
b :favorable or desired outcome; also :the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
So, since they link to succeeding as a “degree or measure of”, here’s what they have to say about that:
a :to come next after another in office or position or in possession of an estate; especially:to inherit sovereignty, rank, or title
b :to follow after another in order
2a :to turn out well
b :to attain a desired object or end
- students who succeed in college
While this helps us a little, it still doesn’t define what a “good turn-out” is or what it is we desire. Because let’s face it, that is highly individual, far beyond that what society may think is a measure of success, i.e. inherit a sovereignty, rank or title, wealth, favor or eminence.
Hence, we all have to individually figure out what success means to us. I can only speak to myself, being the author of several successful books. Imho, success is to touch people, to have written a book that appeals to people beyond mere entertainment or enlightenment, a story that touches people deeply, moves them, gets them to think and maybe, just maybe, even act upon that which they have learned.
Is there no in-between? Is this the only choice we have? How do you know which way to go?
For my coming novel, and this is mere background info, I have tried a somewhat different approach in my marketing, soliciting the help of my readership to get as many early reviews as I possibly could. A good fifty people have volunteered and we’re well underway to gather their reviews, a month before the book is released. And suddenly something happens, something I have never seen before. I get feedback above and beyond anything I would’ve ever imagined, and suddenly I get this impression that I might be onto something, something that is bigger, larger, better than what I’ve seen before.
And it leaves me stupefied because I don’t really know how to deal with it, or what to do with it. Hence my question: how do you deal with success? Yes, I’m immensely proud (I’m not a complete basket case), but do I just wait and see how this plays out? Do I try to get more people to read it in advance? Do I… So here’s my question to you, dear fellow authors, and readers alike: how do you deal with success? How do you humbly accept that you’ve done well and make the most of it? We’ve all seen the movies of the actor getting a break, of a sportsperson doing well and then some, all having agents and people representing them to maximise on that success, monetizing it even. As an author I’m far away from that. Because my success is a universe away from a Stephen King or a Jackie Collins. A half-decent book doesn’t constitute wealth or fortune, nor is it (maybe my imposter syndrome speaking) a sign of things to come, not to mention the burden of following up on a good book with a better book.
Needless to say, we all want to improve and become better at our writing. Anyway, this is what’s on my mind right now. I see this sapling in front of me, this sprout, this bud of what could be very important for my career. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m delusional (imposter syndrome?), maybe… This is a call for help, for advice. How have you, more successful than I, dealt with this? For me, this isn’t primarily about money, as nice as it may be to finally be able to pay some bills with my art. I also don’t want this to get to my head, because I fear the fall…
Anyway, let me know your thoughts on this, whether you’re a reader or a writer… And as I look out into the first real fall storm unleashing its rain and winds upon my island, I want to thank you for coming back to this site once or twice every week to read my posts. Thank you. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Hans M Hirschi
Hans, tell me, why do you write gay literature?
Actually, I don’t. I write stories (whether they qualify as literature is for others to judge). I write stories about life, stories to depict the human condition, showcase our humanity, the challenges we face, the struggles, the ups and downs of our lives. A long time ago, I had this discussion with my father about why I chose to write about gay characters (which isn’t the same as gay literature) rather than commercially more viable het characters. It’s a question I’ve wrestled with every time I write a new book, for five years straight.
I’ve always said that I write about gay characters because there aren’t enough stories for us, stories where my people are depicted, not as villains, clowns or freaks, but as human beings, just like everyone else. Here’s how my latest character, Hunter, a journalist, views is. An excerpt from Disease:
Disease, my new novel, about a father in his “best years”, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
However, since I’m apparently not a “normal” parent, according to Connor, I have no clue how “normal” parents travel with their kids. I decide to call Emily. She’s “normal”—married to lovely Keith, a pleasant enough forty- something guy with a fully developed dad-bod, and they have two kids just a couple of years older than Amy. Emily is our sports editor. She travels, too. I’m sure she knows what it’s like when “normal” people travel.
“Sports desk. Emily speaking.”
“Hey, Em. It’s me, Hunter.”
“Hunter, hey. How are you doing? What can I do for you?” “It’s the assignment on travel Connor has me working on.
He wants me to write this piece on gay travel with kids. He seems to think we’re special somehow. And since I can’t figure out how, I thought I’d call you. You’re sort of normal, aren’t you?”
“He said what? That man is such a homophobic jerk. Shoot, what’s on your mind?”
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know how straight, sorry, normal people travel. I mean, I always travel gay—on gay airlines, in gay economy seats, eat gay snacks, drink gay soda and gay beer. What does a heterosexual meal taste like? Are your heterosexual hotel rooms any different than ours?”
“Testy today, aren’t we?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to get caught in the middle of this. It’s just that it’s such a moronic assignment. How am I different as a father than Keith? Do you know?”
Yeah, not easy, is it. The story is about Alzheimer’s, and Alzheimer’s doesn’t make a difference between gay patients or het patients, it doesn’t distinguish between Asians or Africans, Mexicans or Germans. It affects us all. It’s a human disease, and it’s growing, as the global population ages. However, society, and the way we are treated as we get sick, that’s different. Here’s how Ethan, Hunter’s partner, writes to us at some point in the story:
Just imagine, we could have finally gotten married. You have no idea what I would have given to turn Hunter’s fantasy wedding in Amalfi into a reality—to fly our family and friends out to Italy to wed the man of my dreams, the love of my life.
Just imagine Hunter finally being able to adopt his daughter, Amy, finally being able to say that his girl was truly his in every sense of the word, even legally.
Alas, it was not meant to be. The day when the Supreme Court handed down their landmark ruling that marriage equality was indeed the law of the land, and the entire land—Michigan included—was forced to start handing out marriage licenses to LGBT couples.
On the day itself, Hunter had a really bad day. I think that somewhere, deep within him, he instinctively felt that for us, this day would be of no consequence, as we would not be allowed to get married, anyway, as Hunter was no longer “of sound mind”— a prerequisite to enter the sacred state of matrimony. To ignore the day, to retreat into his own mind, was a coping mechanism of sorts.
No, I never envisioned writing “gay literature”, but I think I just had no choice. Our lives, our existence, to this very day, is so different from the rest that when a character is LGBT, so much around us changes, radically. And while my story doesn’t show a worst case scenario by a long shot, it could’ve been worse, as some U.S. states allow doctors to refuse LGBT patients care, or that simply being LGBT is lethal or illegal still, to this very day, in many countries across the world, and even in our protected “west”, there are political parties, groups and religious organizations who wish us ill.
No, I never wanted to write gay literature. I have a responsibility to highlight the ongoing discrimination against my people, my family. I am privileged. I have freedom of speech, I have the ability to put my thoughts in writing, and therefore the responsibility to speak up. It is, after all, still, to this very day, a matter of life and death.
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful weekend.
PS: Tomorrow is Bi-visibility day. My publisher has a great sale going on with all their books with prominent bi-characters. There’s also a great giveaway. Check it out, right here.
As an author, you’re always stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to book pricing and reviews
Several posts in groups I belong to on Facebook highlight the constant dilemma of the modern author: book pricing and reviews. The two seem totally unrelated, and maybe they are, but one thing’s for sure: as authors, there’s very little we can do. Or is there?
I’ve had readers tell me that they’d never pay more than the infamous ninety-nine cents for a book below 200 pages. Yeah, they’re not in the publishing industry, because anyone in the industry knows that 200 pages are a moving target. Increase the size of the font and a 30K novella easily reaches that magic threshold. My publisher decreased the font size on my – to date – longest novel, and suddenly it was shorter than some other works. No, page numbers are worthless. However, it shows how some readers tick. They see reading as a matter of quantity, rather than quality. I
Disease, my new novel, will most likely attract some good and some awful reviews. So far though, they’re amazing…
I’ve had readers tell me that they’d never pay more than the infamous ninety-nine cents for a book below 200 pages. Yeah, they’re not in the publishing industry, because anyone in the industry knows that 200 pages are a moving target. Increase the size of the font and a 30K novella easily reaches that magic threshold. My publisher decreased the font size on my – to date – longest novel, and suddenly it was shorter than some other works. No, page numbers are worthless. However, it shows how some readers tick. They see reading as a matter of quantity, rather than quality. I know readers who read up to 2,000 books a year (they didn’t specify what sort of books, shorts/novellas or novels), still, an impressive number. Needless to say, paying ten thousand dollars for that hobby is very different than say, a fifth of that. I can see the appeal of low prices, the appeal of monstrosities like KU.
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of KU, not just because of how easy it is to break the system, but because it treats literature like a product. While a liter of fresh whole milk is comparable across the world, books are not. A play by Shakespeare is infinitely better than my stuff, and according to the experts in the field, so are the works of Booker or Nobel Prize winners. And there are books that are of a lesser quality than mine. Not to mention that there are different genres, and what not. It’s just not something you can compare. But in the eyes of Amazon, a page is a page is a page.
I’ve seen signs recently that some authors are increasing their pricing. I’ve asked my publisher to increase the prices of my books by $1 at the beginning of the year. We’ve not seen a drop in sales. knock on wood And just the other day I’ve seen another author announce a price increase on her self-published works. A dollar more may not seem like a lot of money, but when you only sell a few hundred copies a year, it’s a considerable difference for our bottom line. We spend so much time, so much energy to create the best possible stories for our readers, spending months on the writing, and then some on the editing process, proofing, and marketing. No other professional (outside the arts) would ever even consider lifting a finger for the pennies we make an hour. No minimum wage for authors…
I think that we’ve seen the worst, and it can only get better now. Reading is still decreasing and the people who buy books are increasingly aware of the value they pay for. I think we’ll see that artisan literature, mass produced literature will continue to be sold at low price points, while quality literature will be sold at slightly higher, more healthy price points. Do you also see this?
Reviews are the other pain point for authors. We all need them, and the more reviews a book gets, the more it will be pushed by Amazon. And just like some authors “cheat” by using bots to fix their KU figures, so can authors pay on the dark net for reviews. Professionals who will write great reviews for a book. Whether those reviews actually help readers find good reads is a different story. But it seems to work and such reviews sites charge hundreds of dollars for their work. Authors seem willing to pay.
What pains authors more is the constant beatings they receive on GoodReads, or GollumReads as I prefer to call it. I’ve LONG ago stopped reading reviews, I’m just not enough of a masochist to subject myself to the idiocy of some readers. But, and I think this is crucial to say, and GR themselves stressed as much during a convention I listened to them, they’re a readers’ site, not an author site. And as authors, we have to accept reviews for what they are, no matter how incredibly stupid they may be. Dramas getting 1-star reviews for the lack of a HEA, romances getting beat up for sex scenes, and just about every book is being criticized for poor editing, writing and/or grammar. By people who can’t even punctuate properly. Needless to say, such reviews hurt, but there’s little you can do about it. And let’s face it: if someone criticises you for bad writing, someone who can’t spell themselves, someone who doesn’t punctuate, someone who confuses countries or places with each other, why would you take that person seriously? Here’s the thing, and that is a personal conviction: if a book only receives 5-star reviews, I’d be skeptical as a reader. Simply because there is no book that appeals to everyone. Not even the so-called holy books do. So why would worldly literature? No, I believe that the best literature will have people split among somewhat even lines. Some will love it, some will hate it. A review that complains that a crime novel isn’t a romance says more about the reviewer than the book itself. We mustn’t be offended by it, and any sane person who reads that review will realize that, too. But yeah, it still hurts, because believe it or not, authors are human beings, too… With very thin skin most of the time, because we need that to get in touch with our characters.
Anyway, time to get on with my Monday. What’s your take? Do you agree? Disagree? Authors, are you troubled by pricing, reviews? Readers? How do you gauge how much to pay for a book? Let’s hear it!
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.
I’ve been proofreading Disease this week, and suddenly I realized the story was no longer mine…
This week I spent with my latest manuscript, working on marketing plans, contacting people who might review it etc. Most importantly, I reread the manuscript several times, first to work through the edits from my publisher, then to proofread the revised galley. A very early ARC was sent out to a couple of recipients in the medical industry to get endorsements. So far, the feedback is uniformly positive and very encouraging. That is, of course, a huge relief, as I had been worrying about this one, not just because of the way I’d written it, but also because this story was as close to home and my own life as it can get.
Disease, the cover, a story about Alzheimer’s, but no longer the story of my life. Reading it again was very cathartic.
I’ve often said that Family Ties was my autobiography, which is not entirely true, even though the book includes a lot of me, details about my own life and youth, but it’s adequately fictionalized. Disease is an entirely different beast, it’s not written “after” the fact, it’s written as a way of dealing with the fear of having the disease, having Alzheimer’s. Turns out – luckily – that I don’t. I’m just a nutty professor, in possession of a highly functional brain that just can’t be bothered to deal with certain mundane tasks such as remembering gym shorts or cutting the claws of my cat.
I had sent away my manuscript in July to my publisher, but I still remembered the story, maybe not in all its details, when the manuscript came back on Monday. It was weird reading it again, after my visit to a neurologist to do some of the same tests that Hunter had undergone in the book. Well, where I got a green light or a negative diagnosis, his is red, positive. It’s how the book starts:
“I’m sorry, Hunter. The results are conclusive. You have the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. I know it’s rare, particularly for someone your age. But sadly, it’s not unheard of. Early-onset Alzheimer’s isn’t something we fully understand, but given that your mother had it, and your grandfather, those are strong indications that your family carries a genetic predisposition.”
“Is there nothing we can do? More tests?”
After reading the first paragraph, again, and then continuing through the novel, I realized that Hunter’s story was no longer mine, not one bit. And I began to read it differently, not just as I worked through the edits, hunting for typos. No, on an entirely different level, this was a story about someone I wish I’d known. But it wasn’t me.
My writing always begins with me, be it topics I struggle with, questions or philosophic issues on my mind, and there have been quite a few through the years, weaving together my experiences from traveling the world with the research I do, with possibly opposing views on the subject to weave a narrative that hopefully stirs emotions and thought in my readers. I am well aware that this isn’t how you reach millions of readers, but it helps me stay ‘sane’. It helps me to reflect on the big issues in my life.
I cried a lot reading this manuscript, which is not unusual for me (reading) books. But it’s unusual in the way that I read my own stuff. After all, I know what happens when and how. But this was a different reading. It was cathartic to see just how the characters took on a life of their own, how they were no longer reflections of me, but flesh and blood, in their own right. I cried for their suffering, I cried for my own health, it was quite cathartic. With the manuscript back at the publisher’s, my task continues, to prepare my readers, my audiences for the release of my latest book. The first reader reactions are in, and they are encouraging, beyond my own tears:
Truly exceptional! I think I ran through half a box of tissues. I think this is your best work ever!!!!!!
or the endorsement from this Alzheimer’s expert:
The novel captured the essence of Alzheimer’s disease accurately and on point. It should be read by all people who are affected by Alzheimer’s, patients, families, and friends. This is a tragic story but full of hope and an exceptional read.
Being in the geriatric field and encountering so many people with Alzheimer’s dementia, this book gave me so much hope that showed that even when the disease progressed, his family was still there and very supportive, keeping him home as long as possible, using the nursing home as the last option.
Dr Claudine Hutchinson-Clarke
Disease releases October 26 from Beaten Track Publishing. I hope you’ll give it a chance, too. Pre-orders are available from Amazon et al.If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.