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Archive for the ‘A writer’s life’ Category

We had a long weekend in Canberra last weekend and I went to Conflux 15, a local SF convention. For the first time we had it in a library, Gungahlin Library to be precise. It was a nice space. There were logistical issues with the door when the library wasn’t open, but overall not too shabby.

It seemed to be a smaller convention than usual. It takes a few people to not turn up to make it seem that way. I heard that the committee had issues and that Karen Herkes was in hospital and that left just a small core of people to do all the things. They and the volunteers did a great job. The program was an awesome thing to behold. Well done, Alistair. I also hear that Karen is on the mend so that’s great news too.

Thoraiya Dyer was the guest of honour and her guest of honour speech was moving and funny. It was very well done. Les Petersen was the artist in residence and his talk about his puppets and animation was interesting. He talked about his career making book covers and how book covers should tell a story. Russell Kirkpatrick was the MC and he put on a schoolmaster role that had people laughing their heads off. Special bonus was a visit on the Sunday by John Scalzi, who did a walk around chat in the dealers area! A kaffeklatch and a question and answer session. It was so fab! John Scalzi was very generous with his time. His books are good too. I’m waiting on The Last Empero that he’s writing right now.

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Me with Thoraiya Dyer at the banquet

 

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Les Petersen during his talk

I have to admit to being the mastermind behind John’s thank you gift. I noticed when I met him in Perth at a Swancon a few years that he had a little sugar addiction going. He’d flown 40 hours to get to Canberra and would need a bit of sugar to get him home. We gave him a bag full of Australian sweets, with some vegemite flavoured peanuts thrown in. He has youtubed the tasting of said sweets. I laughed. Musk sticks scored the lowest and I love those lollies. I can’t keep a pack in my house because I’ll just keep eating them. The link to John’s youtube tasting is below.

A few days before, I was lucky enough to catch John Scalzi’s keynote at the Dept of Defence seminar on the future of war through the lens of SF. A great day full of great talks by the lights of Australian SF: Jack Dann, Janeen Webb, Russell Blackford, Cat Sparks, John Birmingham and other international speakers. I even got an idea for a novel out of that day from an unasked question.

The con kicked off at Siren’s on Friday night with a get together, with pizza and meat on skewers and it was low key but a nice way to warm up with everyone. Well everyone who came. It was free and put on for Conflux members. I’ve always been a fan of the warm up event.

I hung with Keri Arthur and Catherine Walker mostly at the get together and during the con. Keri is a real trooper and had come up for Conflux to catch up with mates. She didn’t even bring any books to sell. I also got to say hello to old friends and introduce myself to people I didn’t know.

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Catherine trying to get away from Keri and me.

 

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Catherine joining in because she couldn’t get away

I had a dealers table at Conflux so I spent a lot of time there. But first, you must hear about my book launch. Leife Shallcross launched Ruby Heart and Emerald Fire at 12.30 on Saturday. I made cupcakes. The best recipe ever that I got on Youtube. I will post the link below. I also made gluten free brownies and provided some rice crackers and humous.

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Launch food, photo by Cat Sparks

I think the launch went very well but I stuffed up my reading. This is because I was so busy! Can you believe that excuse? A serious lack of preparation. Cat Sparks took some shots from the launch. Thoraiya’s daughter had dressed in steampunk costume for the launch. I was dressed in 50s’ style as I have grown out of my steampunk garb! Thoraiya bought both books for her daughter, who is a very advanced 11 year old. To my surprise, the wonderful daughter finished both books by the banquet on Sunday night and pronounced them excellent! I have never been so gobsmacked and grateful for such excellent praise.

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Launch books

My partner usually helps me out with the table and launches but he had a commitment to our house cleaners. I was lucky enough to have my daughters and granddaughter come to help me. My second daughter revamped my table and the number one daughter did the till! They were rewarded with cupcakes.

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Me at the launch. Photo credit Cat Sparks

 

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Me explaining something about the books

People stopped by my dealer’s table so I did get some photos. These guys were instrumental in Matthew Farrer’s writing career. They used to manage a Gamesworkshop store back in the day. Matthew is my very understanding partner.

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Dr Tim Napper and Andrew Old

I was probably on the most panels I have ever been on during a convention. On Saturday I was on a panel about research and rabbit holes called the Exploration Beneath the Novel. It was a fun panel with Dion Perry, Dawn Meredith and Aiki Flinthart. We talked about types of research, like experiential–doing stuff so we can write about it more effectively. Aiki launched her Fight Like a Girl book at Conflux. I’ve almost finished reading my copy. It’s a book for writers about writing girl fights and it is interesting, well researched and very useful. I did her fight like a girl workshop last year.

I was scheduled to be at the Meet the Author station on the Sunday but after watching authors sit under this sign and no one coming to talk to them I didn’t do it. I likened it to the naughty chair so I stayed at my dealer table. Catherine M Walker had the table next to me and she was great keeping an eye on it while I was scampering about. Thank you Cath! And she was company when things were slow.

Monday I was on three panels.  The first one was SF romance, which was a very good panel with Freya Marske and Darian Smith, a new to me male romance writer. I will be interviewing him on the blog soon. Freya was the moderator and she did an excellent job.

Then in the afternoon I was on two in a row, Underground Movements and Secret Societies, followed by the Jane Austen panel. I didn’t have time between panels to change but I had decided to wear my latest Regency dress and my slapdash bonnet. Seeing that in the Regency period, and earlier, there were men’s clubs I thought I could get away with the dress and bonnet during that panel. We were lucky enough to have Keri Arthur join Dionne Lister, Dion Perry and me. It was a fun panel and interesting too about paranoia and conspiracy theories and why these nefarious societies work in fiction, particularly urban fantasy, paranormal fantasy and so on.

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Me on the underground societies’ panel, photo by Nicole Murphy

I chaired the Austen panel and participated a little bit. With panel members Leife Shallcross and Freya Marske, who could talk Austen underwater, this panel went off nicely. With some information gaps filled from the audience we were able to talk about Austen’s contribution to fiction and genre and recommend some Austen genre mashups. I had done a little research ahead of time through reading this book, What Matters in Jane Austen, by John Mullan. Thank you Nick for the gift.

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As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time at my table, but the buzz from the congoers was good. A bit slow for us dealers, but that happens. I did manage the banquet which had good food although I think they ran short of roasted vegetables and put some chips in there, which is a bit sad really. The gluten free menu was a bit contracted and poor Keri got no entrees and had to have ice cream with caramel sauce because there were no gluten free dessert for her.I did hear a rumour that we might get historical banquet’s again curtesy of our resident historian, Gillian Polack.

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone at the end. Sad to pack up the table but Matthew was there to help me so all good. I had to take a walking stick with me because of the distances involved. I have a partial tear in my plantar plate and I’m trying to keep the weight off. I kept leaving the stick behind. But once I went a certain distance I’d need it. I wasn’t faking it guys. I hate the damn stick.

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A great photo of me in my bonnet taken by Cat Sparks

So ends another Conflux. Conflux 16 has been announced for next year. If you like meeting authors and hanging out with the genre tribe then make plans to go to an SF convention near you. If you have been to Conflux before and think you might go along one day maybe, remember that Conflux only exists because people come along so come along next year. Without support SF conventions can’t afford to run no matter how dedicated the committee and volunteers. Convention goers make the con. I hope to see you next year.

Here is John Scalzi eating Aussie Sweets and YouTube.

The cupcake recipe is from this lady but this clip is great.

Cat Sparks has a great selection of photos on her Flickr account.

The first photo in Cat’s photostream is Elizabeth who bought and read my books. She’s so cute in her steampunk outfit.

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Last week it was Conflux 15 over three days of the long weekend. I’m due to write a post on that, but first I’m just in the relax weekend space. I have some sourdough in the making. I’m making three loaves instead of two as my second daughter wants a loaf regularly too. I currently make one for the house and one for the number one daughter. I think I have this sourdough bread baking in hand. Today though I threw in a bunch of other flour, some wholemeal and some spelt so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

It’s a lovely sunny day outside, though a bit nippy. I can see cloud shadows on the ranges out the window to my left. I find that view comforting and calming.

IMG_9298I’m a bit stressed. Not a lot stressed but just a bit. It’s the 13th of October 2019 and I’m wondering what is happening to time. September I had a schedule to work on my phd novel, which I stuck to, but October started out busy and you know it’s just slipped by.

I did a schedule for the rest of October and I feel sort of less stressed about it. I want to do NaNoWriMo in November but I do have an exegesis to get reacquainted with. I haven’t been at my uni desk for a long time. I’ll be back there next week.

I think the schedule helped me be less stressed because it positioned me in reality a bit. It’s not an overly hard schedule but sitting down and looking at the month let me know that I still have a couple of weeks to get things done. Or shall I say start to get things done. A little bit less of panic, hand waving, screaming mode.

The PhD is not overly stressful. I’m on intermission so how can it be? It’s one of those things I must really throw myself into next year (next year is fast approaching!). I’m not working and earning so that is probably an itch that contributes to this sense of unease. I think it is this sense that time is going too fast.

So today I’m kicking back and relaxing. I have no chance of slowing time, I know that, but I want to feel a minute pass, and feel my breath as it leaves my body. I’m looking at the view and I’m waiting for the sourdough to do it’s thing.

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Recent sourdough bread

I did have something else to say but it’s slipped through the sieve of my mind.

PS. The sourdough starter I dried before I went away revived nicely. I also froze some but can’t discover it in the chaos of the deep freezer.

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I was away for two and a half months. I cannot put all the photos I took on the trip here. Maybe if I had blogged the trip I could. Alas, I did not do that. I put most photos on Facebook over the period.

So without much blather about this and that, I’m going to put some photos up here. We were located in Saltdean for the first part, not far from Brighton. We did a short trip to York and Nottingham, as well as a few places around Sussex, such as Scotney Castle (Kent) and Tunbridge Wells, Charleston House (Bloomsbury set), Monk House in Redmell (Virginia Woolf’s house) and the Burlington Gap.

We’ve stayed in Saltdean before but had not explored the bridle paths behind the suburb. The weather as you can see was amazing and I believe that is linseed/linen growing behind me.

 

It was so peaceful walking in the bridle paths and it seemed like we were alone forever. Here are some views of the fields and to the sea. See the poppies growing wild? I love UK for the wildflowers.This was a short kind of wheat growing here.

A lovely shot of the linseed, looking across to the rear of Saltdean, not far from Telscome Tye (the common).

A look along the bridle path. If you don’t know what a bridle path is, it’s a public right of way through private lands brought about by the historic use of these paths for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Some are just walking paths. This one you can ride horses.

This is a shot from Burlington Gap of the Seven Sisters. It is being eroded at a fast pace as the cliffs and most of the Southdowns are made of chalk with flint in it.

 

The next is a shot of my daughter and granddaughter as they went down the stairs to the beach. We had good tea and cake here in the cafe. The rocks are the flint from the chalk.

A view along the coast from our walk to Brighton Marina along the footpath.

Just to break the monotony of these gorgeous landscapes! This is the largest internal waterfall inside a mall at Singapore. The mall is attached by a walkway to the airport. We broke our journey from Canberra in Singapore and stayed at the Crowne Plaza. We were totally spoiled and hung out at the pool. Sadly just one night.

A few local places we went to next.

A very old pub in Alfriston, the George Inn, where they serve the most amazing Welsh Rarebit. And next, Monk House in Rodmell Village, Virginia Woolf’s own room.

A bust of Virginia Woolf that was at Charleston cottage and Monk House.

A short trip to York, which was so great. Our apartment was right in York, near the river. We thoroughly recommend Jorvik and we also saw another place, Barley Hall. Here is me in a kids’ dress up.

Here is me at the York Assembly Rooms, which is an Ask restaurant. Ask is very similar to Zizzi’s so not overly expensive.

Here is the obligatory shot of the Shambles in York.

Two shots of Scotney Castle, near Tunbridge Wells. My second visit. This is an iconic shot of the ruins.

Scotney has a Victorian house and then the old castle was ruined to make a folly. This is a view from the front of the house down through the amazing gardens.

Nottingham. I don’t seem to have a lot of photos from Nottingham. I did a tour of the caves under the mall. My daughter got claustrophobia and couldn’t do it. This was my second visit. The tour guide was great.  The photo is from the caves, which contain the oldest tannery, from about the 12C or something. Nottingham was visiting friends and family and a spot of shopping.

After leaving Nottingham we went to Southwell for the morning. There is a cathedral there, a minster actually and it is said the least well known. We fell in love with this village. So quaint and lovely.

The Southwell cathedral is famous for a gargoyle that looks like Donald Trump.

There are a few walks around Southwell, one that takes you to one of Lord Byron’s houses.

Near Southwell, actually within walking distance, is the first workhouse. In later years it was for assisted housing, but this workhouse served as a model for others. It was seen as a way to save money in looking after the poor.

 

These are some of the highlights. Part Two will have to be Cornwall, Lyme Regis and a few great houses.

See you later for the next instalment.

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I really should blog more. That way I don’t cram up important posts with all the things I’ve been up to.

I’m currently marking for Uni so that’s something I have to do. It’s going okay and I’ll finish in time. Yesterday was a fasting day so not a good time to be reading lots of stories that I have to grade without the aid of chocolate and chips. However, I have survived so far.

My partner and I just finished a film making workshop with Dan Sanguineti from Sanguineti Media. We had three nights 6-9pm, to plan a two to three minute movie, including brainstorming ideas, come up with a script, actors (Dan supplied those), storyboard and plan the shots and lighting and so on. Then we filmed the movie on Saturday night 6- to 11.30pm with cold temperatures etc. Then on Sunday, we edited the film and did the sound. High five to Shauna O’Meara and Craig Cooper and to Josh and Dan. Just under two minutes! The Key now exists. Later on in the year I’ll share it. Right now it will be doing festival rounds etc.

Doing the workshop was amazing. It is a really hard thing to come up with a story that has a beginning, middle and end in two and a half pages of script. Writing a script was on my bucket list– so tick. I want to thank my partner, Matthew, who basically found the workshop, paid the fees and encouraged others to come along. I did not think I’d have a short film to my credit until now. I didn’t have much idea of how the workshop would pan out but it was great. I learned so much. I have heaps more to learn obviously and more scripts to write.

That brings me to now. Last year I drafted a novella in the Silverlands Series while I was in Perth. Recently, I polished it up and had it proofread and found an amazing cover. Vorn and the First Comers is available now in most large eretailers and it’s free. Yes, that’s right…free!

The novella is a few things. It’s part of a larger collections of stories from Argenterra. One of the characters in Argenterra is Kushlan Silvertongue and he’s a storyteller. If you are familiar with Argenterra, the first book, you know that tales from the past are very important to the narrative and important to the people of Argenterra. I had the idea that Kushlan would be tasked with writing these down. Vorn and the First Comers is the first of these. There will be others…such as Goslien of the Valley, Faruni’s Triplets, Shabra’s Curse and so on.

I’ll be releasing each of these tales before combining them into a collection.

This then is part of a gift to my readers. You get Vorn and the First Comers for free.

The other function of the novella is for readers to get a taste of Argenterra and then get the rest of the series if it interests them.

Here is the Amazon link.

Here is the Apple Books link.

Here is the Kobo link

Here is the Barnes and Noble link

Here is the Googleplay link.

My next task is to get this novella in My Books section.

Blurb and cover (from Patty Jansen)

A choice between life or death…

Kushlan Silvertongue has been commissioned to write the Tales of the First Comers, Tales of Argenterra.

This novella is the story of Vorn and the First Comers and their journey from violence and death to the beautiful magical land of Argenterra, the Silverland.

Mighty warrior, Vorn, leads the survivors to a new land and sets in motion a civilisation that lasts for over one thousand years.

Discover the origins of the given magic and how the first comers made the oaths that secured that magic forever.

 

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Currently I am living with my partner and his father.

I am pretty much an on the go person, except when I’m not. Recently I have been on the go. Baking bread, trying to weave (both fixed heddle and four shaft), write, bake, teach, study…

I fear I probably need a sedative as I am interesting to watch apparently. Maybe I don’t know how to relax.

Meanwhile, I am finding it hard to focus on the PhD novel. This post is probably an example.

It is just that there is so much to do and life is so short and I know I’ll never get to do all the things…and it makes me anxious!

Maybe I should just take a pill or meditate on what is important and reasonable.

Here is a picture of my 100 per cent Rye bread, first time ever. It’s all gone too. So yummy.

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I’ll be posting about my new novella next.

 

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It’s been a long time between posts and I really don’t have an excuse. Life if just hectic at times. I’ve also decided that my daughter and her new baby will come first this year. That decision requires refoccusing. And I’ve been baking bread, particularly sour dough. It’s therapeutic!

Still on the writing front things have been plodding on. At times, I do not understand this industry. I love writing and making up stories but at times it is hard to be positive about the longer term. Selling a book a day is not sustainable. I will try though to keep positive!

Emerald Fire, Cry Havoc Book Two was free on Amazon for five days and people downloaded a lot of it (635). I was shocked. Ruby Heart , Cry Havoc Book One, hardly had any downloads in comparison and that was the book one (about 120). I umed and ahed about putting a book 2 on for free but I did and I’m not sure what it all means. I think my newsletter subscribers are waiting for Ruby Heart to be discounted again so they can have the set. I love writing this series so much. So much fun and research. I will be discounting Ruby Heart in May, which Emerald Fire goes wide.

Meanwhile, Argenterra, Silverlands Book one, has been 99 cents on all platforms for the whole of April. The sale ends on April 30. I even had a paid promotion and I’ve only shifted like 25 copies all up. That’s with newsletter shares and so on. The weird thing is the sell through on Argenterra appears pretty good. People do buy the next books in the series. I love the new covers. I’ll put links below in case you are tempted to sample.

I love the Silverlands series. Argenterra was the first fantasy I tried to write. My second novel ever, rewritten many times before it was ever published. I love the Argenterra world and the characters and the stories of the history.

You have until April 30 to get your 99 cent copy.

Buy links

amazon ibooks Kobo Google Nook

I have a collection of stories from Argenterra planned, ostensibly told from Kushlan Silvertongue’s point of view as commissioned by King Oakheart. A bit of a literary conceit there, having a story teller tell the story.

I’ll be releasing the stories one by one, at first, to introduce readers to the world of Argenterra and an extra for fans of the series. When they are done I will release them as a collection in one volume. They will be free or 99 cents.

The first one of these will be released in a couple of weeks as it is with the proofreader right now. That tale is Vorn and the First Comers, an appropriate place to start. I have thought about writing Vorn’s story as a prequel novel so the novella doesn’t cover the war, just the trip to Argenterra and early settlement. Here is the cover below. It’s from Patty Jansen’s premade cover store and I’ve been eyeing it off for ages.

It is stunning. It is a generic fantasy cover, I know, but evocative and beautiful.

Over the Easter break I did some writing, well technically revision as this novel was drafted years ago and I’m still working on it. I had feedback that meant I needed to change the title and confirmation of my thoughts on this SF romance of mine.

It’s a story that wants to be just SF without the romance, or it’s an SF romance that wants to be romance. In the end, I’ve decided to make it SF with romance on the side. You might think there is no difference, but there is.

Anyway I spied this cover on Patty’s site and I had been eyeing it off. My partner, Matthew, thinks Deleen’s pose is too sexy, but I think the cover is deliciously retro looking and reminds me some 80s’ covers of books say from Lois McMaster Bujold.

My great author buddy, Nicole Murphy, asked for the draft and she read it in one day. I’m gobsmacked! She gave me some great feedback and came up with the new title. The old one was ‘Cold Soldier’.

Patty was really good about retitling this cover many times. I haven’t got a blurb for this yet. They usually come last. I’m still working on the story too. This book having an identity crisis borked me from getting very far into the rewrites over the years. Now, I’m two thirds in and I’ll need to revise it again, but I feel I have better direction. It is also part of a planned series but not a trilogy. The stories should work on their own. Awakening should come out later this year. After I’ve done a few things like this blog post, I will return to it today.

No blurb as I said, but a bit of a teaser.

On peaceful Colony Five there is a coup in progress. The administrator is mysteriously replaced and security advisor, Deleen is sent on forced leave.  Previously unknown cryo soldiers are being taken out of people’s basements and burned in the city parks. People hiding the cold soldiers are being taken away and charged with treason. Disturbing as this is for Deleen, she senses danger as a kind of martial law is being enforced in the city. Then she starts having dreams of a man asleep in a glass case-a suppressed memory that is forcing its way out. She escapes the city her abandoned homestead to confront the past and save the present.

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For a while now I have had this thing that I thought was old age creeping up on me. Tiredness, fatigue, headaches on waking and feeling generally slow. Feeling like I couldn’t drive for more than half and hour. Really struggling with everything. I was tested for mysterious diseases and as I have Hashimoto’s disease, my thyroid (which is mostly good on its own atm) and zero. Nothing in the blood work to explain it.

We had suspected sleep apnoea as I snore and it’s been getting worse. My partner noticed choking in the night and I had too.  I was put on the waitlist at the Canberra Hospital to see the sleep clinic people. I was told by the hospital that I had been triaged to a six month appointment. It’s been 14 months and I still haven’t got an appointment date.

So there is a wait list for the wait list for a sleep study. I guess the ACT government doesn’t advertise the first wait list just the one when you get on the waitlist.

I get insomnia and restlessness and I had been sleeping less and less.  I put this down to getting older.

Anyway, the chemist had a 50 per cent off deal on sleep studies. You take a machine home and wear it for the night. It measures your oxygen levels, your breathing etc. I had the worst night’s sleep that night and had some insights into my sleep besides the suspected apnoea. I was staying up later and later watching Netflix. I played with my phone and if I woke up I’d pick up my phone until I felt tired again and I was drinking caffeine before bed. I realised that these were bad habits that were affecting what little sleep I was allowing myself.

Then I got the results back. I thought there would be none due to the appalling sleep but there were. I had sleep apnoea. Moderate but considering how badly I had the machine on, I was surprised that there were any readings at all. My oxygen lows were into the 80 per cent and I had around 20 obstructions and narrowing of airways per hour. Now wonder I was feeling mentally and physically low.

I’m still waiting for my appointment at the hospital as I have a range of sleep issues and the chemist tests don’t pick up the neural issues-when your brain forgets to tell you to breathe.

I decided to trial the ACAP machine. This is a new generation machine apparently as it doesn’t blow constant air, but ramps up the pressure when it feels a narrowing or stop breathing thing.  I am trialling this machine. I don’t find it obtrusive. It’s not noisy at all. I have a nose only mask and it’s a soft silicone so no hard bits. At times I think I forgot to put it on but when I touch my face it is there. Sometimes I think it’s not working and lift the mask off and air blows all over me. Anyway, I manage to wear it for 7.5 hours on average. Apparently that’s good. My obstructions have dropped to 4 to 5 per hour.

Before I started the trial I changed a few habits that I had developed. Only decaf tea after about six in the evening or a milo/hot chocolate. I turn Netflix/DVD watching off before 10.30. I don’t look at my phone in bed and I try to read a paper based book for half an hour before I sleep. This has worked for me too, mostly. I still get some insomnia and go for a walk around the house. I suspect the waking up is me choking at night and the machine has woken me when it is blasting me with air to open a blockage or to make me breathe. I’m hoping the sleep specialist if I ever get to see one will know more about that.

But best of all, I feel great. I am so energetic and mentally alert. It’s like I’ve dropped ten years in a week. I feel so much better I feel that I can cope better with the bad knees (also wait listed for an appointment for them!) and the other dramas life throws at us. Just getting more air at night has made such a difference.

I really, really can’t believe how good I feel.

I’m so happy with the result. Now if I could tackle the insomnia (which has improved) and the restlessness (mmm) my sleep would be great.

Now I just have to find the money to buy the machine when the trial is up.

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