Monthly Archives: October 2013

Book Reviews







Today, someone I know sent me two book reviews she’s written. Both of the books are about MS (multiple sclerosis). One is an autobiography that covers most of the writer’s life, the other is a memoir covering a particular part of the writer’s life, the most recent part, when MS came into her life.

The first book is this one ‘Carry a Big Stick’ by Tim Ferguson. It’s an interesting look at the life of Tim Ferguson. Comedian, entertainer and person living with MS. MS isn’t the main focus of the book. The main focus is the man and his career, ending with the life he now has, since MS came along and changed everything. It’s an enjoyable and honest book.

The second book is a memoir. This means the main focus is on a certain period of a life, rather than the whole life. And just for something a little different, the memoir had poetry in it, and it’s written in verse. There are cartoons too, done by Simon Kneebone, a fine cartoonist with an impressive body of work. This book is ‘Mick, Jane and Me – Living Well With MS’. This is also an interesting and enjoyable book, written with honesty and humour. I can say that, because I know this book better than anyone else, because I wrote it, it’s my book …

Perhaps living with MS, and doing well enough with it, needs humour. I certainly know that MS brings tears for many people. I’ve had a few teary moments myself. But getting up after I fall down, brushing off the dust and getting on with things, seems to work better than dissolving into a tear-stained mess, so that’s what I try to do.

So there are two reviews, but they as yet unpublished. I’m expecting they’ll be coming out in the next issue of the MS Society SA & NT Network magazine. It’s a magazine well worth reading if you have an interest in multiple sclerosis.

OK, I’m Back On Track (Again)

Yesterday, after an eight day break, I switched on my Wii Fit machine and did a 30 minute work out. Today I did the same thing, switched the machine on and started the exercise program – 35 minutes this time! I realise, of course, that jogging for 30 minutes would burn more calories, but jogging and I are not friends. I have one crook knee, and have no interest in sweating like a pig.

I like Wii Fit, where I can select the exercises I want to do, based on how I’m feeling, and what I think I should be working on. No one else knows how I’m feeling better than me! So today, I gave the golf game another go, and failed miserably. The time I did that before, about a week and a half ago, my swing was better than today, so I know I can do better than the 100 yard best effort I managed to do today. 

So that’s something to work on – I’m not doing the swing right, it’s not enough of a shift in weight, or something like that. I nearly fell off the balance board trying to get it right today, and then when I checked, the machine told me I was putting too much effort in and should both shift my balance more, and do a more gentle swing. So gentle but effective, with good shift in weight from one side to the other. Or something like that. 🙂

Anyway, I may switch the machine again later today, and concentrate on my swing. I’m not a golfer at all, but I think I can see how people get obsessed about these things. When you’ve done it better before, but can’t work out how or why, well, you just want to work it out!

The change in weight thing, once I work it out, will probably help me with my balance too. When you have what I have, MS (multiple sclerosis), balance becomes an important thing, because trips and falls can be caused by bad balance. My balance now is much better than it was when I first was hit with MS, and I want to keep on improving my balance even more. I really hate falling over, it hurts!

So that’s my life sorted out – get up, breakfast, do Wii Fit for 30 minutes or more, and then I have to report back on my Facebook page, because I told people I would, and my Facebook Friends are keeping a watch on me, to keep me going! That is a huge incentive for me to keep on going. If I know people will be disappointed if I don’t do my exercises, then I’ll make sure I do them!

I love my friends, Facebook and otherwise! Hugs to all!

Just Because the Doctor Says So, Doesn’t Make it True!

not a death sentence

Click on the link and read Heather’s wonderfully positive story.

We all have the ability to live our own lives, in the best way we find we can. Doctors work on statistics and probabilities. People though, people can live on hopes and dreams and sheer force of will. I was contacted by a man, Cameron, who is the loving carer for a super special lady, Heather.

Heather was given a death sentence by the medical world, but she still lives on, years longer than she should have, according to them. Obviously, Heather has received medical help from other medical people, but if she’d just accepted the first words she was given, she may not still be living a great life with family and friends.

Why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because I can see so much positivity in the sharing of this story. Positivity is what keeps me going, and positivity is what keeps Heather going. Positivity, family, friends and a hope for a great future as well as a great life right now! It’s our health, our responsibility and if we just accept what the negative medical people say, we may never reach the heights we’re capable of reaching!

Normal Life, or Near-Normal, Anyway

After my lofty blog post all about self-publishing, life has gone back to being ordinary … So what is this blog post going to be about? It’s going to be about cooking spag bog, otherwise known as spaghetti bolognese.

We decided I would be the one to make tea tonight, and the tea I would make is spag bog. This used to be my signature dish, made slowly and with much care. Then MS (multiple sclerosis) came along, and my dear husband Graham took over as cook. I’m feeling better now, than I was when the family made the shift though, so I was happy enough to agree to cooking tonight.

And, having finished our tea, which I will now call dinner, because such a fine repast deserves such a fancy name, I can say it felt good to be using my creativity to make our food again. I’m not saying I want to take over as full time cook, but every now and then, I’ll step up if and when needed. Graham makes spag bog for the three of us sometimes, but he makes it differently to me. I’m not saying mine is better than his, I’m just saying they’re different.

I’ve written a bit about the importance of creativity in cooking. I’m a creative person, and focussing on the creativity of it all, hides the drudgery of the whole thing. I still help with doing the dishes, if I’m there when Graham washed them, I’m always there with the tea towel if I’m home.

Housework and the hassle of coming up with something different to cook for tea is a trial, and I know Graham feels it. I’m happy to help out when I can. I don’t always feel like I can do much, sometimes the fatigue hits, and I have to sit down or else I’ll fall down. I’m so lucky to have my spouse there, and acting as my carer too. If Graham wasn’t here with me, I know I’d been in terrible trouble.

I also know it’s up to me to ensure Graham stays here with me, and that he knows how much I love him, and appreciate all he does to help. Two of my friends have recently been ‘kicked out’, and there husbands have walked away from their (quite long) marriages. The thought of Graham doing this feels me with horror. I love Graham still, after being together for about thirty years. 

It was good at the start, and it’s still good, though much different, now. Life continues getting better and better, even though it’s slowed down…

Self-publishing versus Traditional Publishing


The decision about whether to pursue traditional publishing for your manuscript, or to go with the self-publishing model, isn’t a decision taken lightly. The road to success in traditional publishing can be a long road, even if your words are accepted the first time you send them out to a traditional publisher. 

Once your manuscript is accepted, it has to go from one person to the next, be edited, sent back to you, prepared, printed and then distributed, with who know how many other steps I may have missed out. Only one of my actual books printed was printed by a traditional publisher, the first one.

This was a school reader entitled “My Dog”, published by Eleanor Curtain Publishing, first published in 2004. It’s been a successful book, translated into French for the Canadian market, and sold in various other countries. I still receive royalties for this book, all these years after the first royalty cheque. The book has probably made me more money than many other authors receive for their more awarded literary works. 

I welcome the money, obviously. It doesn’t feel like my book though. I wrote a manuscript, and a friend/writing group leader forwarded it to Eleanor Curtain Publishing. I forgot about it entirely, until I heard from the publisher much, much later. Ever since then, royalty statements, with or without accompanying cheques arrive in the post every six months. I cash the cheque and am glad about it, but I have no real sense of ownership. 

The words in my manuscript do bear some resemblance to the words in the book, but there is no feeling for me that it’s the story I wrote. I realise school readers of the kind mine is, and fictional narratives (ie stories), are two different things. It all happened so long ago now, and I’ve moved in a different direction.

My next book is the one I’ve put the front cover of up there. “Dig It! Gardening Tips For Dogs”, is what can happen when two stay at home mums get together and get creative. 
Ally and I became friends when our sons were at Primary School together. Ally loved drawing things, and I loved writing things, and a plan was formed. That plan lead to me creating the text for this book, and Ally doing some wonderful illustrations. Ally put the whole thing together in Publisher and we took it to a local printer, voila! a new book!

I don’t remember now how many copies we had published. They sold reasonably well though, and we easily covered our costs. Every now and then I think about the possibility of another print run, or of doing the sequel to the rather tame “Dig It!” The sequel is about, (or would be, if I ever wrote it) Sex, from a dogs point of view, with the working title of “Doggie is not the only style”. I blush to even consider it now, but I do know there is one lady in Mallala, my closest town, who really wants to read the sequel!

Self publishing happened much more quickly than my first traditionally published book. I had total control over “Dig It!” too, and I love this little book. It will never make me as much money as “My Dog” has, but it is personally more satisfying to me. I’ve largely lost touch with Ally now, and our sons have both moved off in other directions now that they’re adults. I got a hint of what self-publishing can be with this cute and funny book, and I liked it!

I liked it so much, that I was very keen to go for it again. I’d been writing lots of poems, with many on a particular theme that was very personal to me. Two of my friends, Garry and Sharon, had gone into helping authors/poets with self-publishing. I’d seen what they were doing and I decided to use Gary’s services. And so began my journey into assisted self-publishing. The resulting book was my first poetry collection, “damaged children, Precious Gems”. 

This book went well, and I had my first book launch and book signing. It was lots of fun, and very exciting, of course. Book sales went well, and I’ve received wonderful feedback from others for this collection. Book sales went so well, in fact, that I went for another print run. In retrospect, this may not have been my smartest decision. I have quite a few copies of “Precious Gems” taking up space in my spare room, car and various bags scattered around the house.

I’m proud of this book too, though. It’s a lovely looking ‘proper’ book. The cover is lovely, it looks completely professional, and there are copies available in various libraries around the place, included the National library. Putting this collection together happened at a stressful time in my life. I had just begun putting the book together, when I was hit with multiple sclerosis (MS), and my life had to stop for a while. 

Once I was able to though, I got back on my computer and tapped my way to a completed manuscript and sent it off to Gary. At the book launch I mentioned, I learned the truth of what stress can do to your body, when you have MS. I wasn’t stressed out in a bad way at my launch, I was excited. My body didn’t care, it considered excitement to be stress, and it decided to not work properly. I leaned and stumbled my way through the day, and was glad to get home again safely. I was glad I was with family and friends too!

My family and friends have helped me so much in my new life with MS. It’s a slower life, but still a good one. I’m learning about MS, through research and through lived experience. I would have loved to have had a book to tell me what to expect once MS had hit me. I couldn’t find such a book though, so decided I would write one, of course!

So, I was diagnosed with MS in 2010, and in 2013, I self-published my memoir about life with MS, written in verse, just for the fun of it. The book is “Mick, Jane and Me – Living Well With MS”. I received financial assistance in the writing and production of this book, firstly from the State government in the form of a Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability Trust grant to help pay for a mentor Dr Ray Tyndale. I worked with Ray, meeting her in a lovely cafe for coffee and discussion about how I was going with writing my memoir in verse.

I applied for assistance from the MS Society SA & NT through their ‘Choice’ awards and was successful. This meant that when my book was written and ready, the Society’s printer produced 100 copies of it for me. That was a wonderful help, and those 100 copies are almost all sold now, with $2 from every book sold going to the MS Society.

I’m going to get 100 more copies printed, which I have to pay for myself this time. I’m happy with this, and I’m sure I’ll cover the printing costs easily. So that’s my take on the whole publishing thing. If you want control over every aspect, and you’re not afraid of self-promotion, self-publishing wins every time!


A Possible New Role In Life

me making point at book launchRecently I put my hand up as someone who would be interested in doing some public speaking for the MS Society SA & NT. I’d been considering this for some time, and the moment seemed right, so I let the Society know I was available.

Public speaking, or speaking in public, isn’t something that scares me. I used to be painfully shy, but I got over that many, many years ago. Once I began reading my own poems at Poetry Readings, it all became a simple thing and nothing to be afraid of for me.

I was surprised to learn recently that Public Speaking is listed as the top fear in many lists of such things, including this one:

I certainly have no fear of public speaking. I’m not sure what I’d class as my top fear now. It was certainly snakes at one stage. I had a snake phobia brought on by a close encounter one of my dogs had, that I witnessed. I’ve written about it and would have put a link here, but it seems to have disappeared.

Not to worry, the article was entitled something like  Snake Phobia, Face your Fear and do it Anyway. It’s all about me meeting up with a huge but guaranteed friendly python. In the end, the snake was in my arms and I’d stopped shaking. My phobia was over.

Now with the fear of public speaking, I feel it ties in with the fear of appearing stupid, or doing something dumb, that kind of thing. I’ve fallen over in public so many times now, I don’t fear it, apart from the pain that it may cause!

Standing up and talking to people about things I’m passionate about seems like an empowering thing to do, not a scary thing. So, whenever I get the chance now, I’ll stand up and speak, telling other people all about whatever I know about what I am required to talk about.

Obviously, I know about what it’s like to live with multiple sclerosis. I also know a fair bit about dogs, about writing, and I have a good knowledge of getting over bad things that happen in life. I’ve had more than one or two bad things happen in my life. I’m pleased that my inner resilience has helped me to get over them, and to move on to a better life. This is a valuable ability.

The photo on this page is one of me, making a point at my recent book launch. The photo was taken by my favourite photographer, Martin Christmas.

Marketing Your Own Book

filename - CopyWhen a writer steps out from their computer screen, and has to promote their book, they often find it a little difficult. Fortunately, their publisher is there to help them, making appointments, giving them books and even accompanying them for author book signing events. When the writer is a self-publishing author though, things are quite different…

I knew these things, well before I chose to self-publish my most recent book, “Mick, Jane and Me – Living Well With MS”. I knew it and I’ve done my best to embrace the whole self-marketing thing. I have other people helping me, it’s not all done by me, from the pics on front and back cover, to the style of the writing within, and of course the great illustrations, I had help with it all. Even with the marketing, I’ve had assistance.

I’m thankful to everyone who’s helped me. The MS Society SA & NT helped a lot – through them, I received a MS Choice award, which involved the Society’s printer offering to print 100 copies of my book. This most welcome offer has saved me hundreds of dollars. The Society has also put an article about my book in their latest Network magazine. I’m hoping to engender some interest in the book from that.

Basically, every chance I get, I have my book with me and available for others to read, and consider… The book launch I had was terrific, and I certainly sold many books there. It was held at the Tea Tree Gully Library. This wonderful library holds many such events for local writers, and I thank them too. This library is our family’s personal library, even though it’s not that close to where we live. There are many, many libraries in between my home and Tea Tree Gully. That’s how good I think the library is!

In the back of my car, I have my book, in my handbag I have my book. Almost every time I go out, I have a copy of my book available. That’s what you do when you’re a self-publisher. I’m also promoting myself as a Public Speaker. Whenever I go for a public speaking gig, I’ll have copies of my book/books available. Spreading the word about myself, and my personal story/stories, that’s part of my job as a writer. It comes with the self-publishing territory. Fortunately, I like talking about myself!

Working hard(ish) at becoming famous!

I say working hard(ish), rather than working hard without the qualifying suffix, because I’m not really working that hard at becoming famous. I’m not really sure what else I could be doing, but I’m hardly working hard at it. 

I’ve handed out flyers advertising my services as a Public Speaker, and I’ve made some connections on LinkedIn, but that’s about it. I’m not dependant on making a wage, so it’s not right up there on my list of things I must do, to keep the house, and keep the family fed. Taking it easy, and not stressing about things, that’s the way I most prefer to live my life. There’s enough money coming in, so it’s all good…

That phrase, “It’s All Good” is one that speaks to me. There are so many good things in my life – family, friends, the plants outside, birds, trees, our dogs. It’s all good. This becoming famous thing, that’s good too. I may not be the most famous person with MS, but I’m at least known to the MS Society SA & NT, and I’m hoping to do some Public Speaking things for them in the future. I’ve handed over my card to one of the relevant people, and I’m happy to wait and see what comes of it.

I suspect I’ll never become as famous as that other person with MS, who has recently had a show on in Melbourne, and who already is quite well known. That person is Tim Ferguson, who was a part of The Doug Anthony All Stars. They were on TV and did live shows. I always found them clever and funny, so I don’t feel too badly about my shot at fame being more difficult than Tim Ferguson’s.

Tim has recently has/had a show called ‘Carry a Big Stick. This show deals in part with his life with MS (multiple sclerosis). He’s recently published a book with the same title. I’ve recently published a book too, self-published it, in fact. My first print run is almost sold out, and I’ve begun talks with the printer for a second print run. My book is called ‘Mick, Jane and Me – Living Well With MS’, and surprise, surprise, it’s a memoir dealing with my new life, living with MS.

My print run was for 100 books. I strongly suspect Tim’s first print run was in four figures, not three figures. He may make thousands of dollars from book sales. I’m happy to cover costs and have enough money for another print run, if I think there’s a need for more copies…

I’m not a TV star, I’m not a star of the stage, I’m not a comedian who people pay money to go and see. I’m a poet and writer, living in a small country town, and reaching out to others, in the hope I may have ideas that are interesting and useful to them. I think my life is a worthy one, and I hope other people can agree with me. That’s it. I am me, Tim Ferguson is Tim Ferguson. I’m happy with the life I have and I hope he can say the same about his life.