Literal Freedom: Laura James on Rheumatoid Arthritis

This week, 16th – 22nd June 2014, is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, often debilitating auto-immune disease, which causes laura handinflammation, stiffness and in most cases, chronic fatigue. I’ve been diagnosed with the condition for near on thirty years. It’s indiscriminate, and not as some may think, restricted to older people. I was eighteen when I first noticed a dirty red hue and swelling to my knuckles. My mother had been diagnosed five years prior, so as soon as I showed her my puffy fingers, we were off to the hospital.

That was a long time ago, and treatment was vastly different then to now. Technology, science and medicine have come on in leaps and bounds, and one of the reasons I am able to type this post is because of the amazing hand surgery I’ve undergone in the last few years. My rheumatology and orthopaedic teams are incredibly skilled, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be under their care.

My debut novel, ‘Truth or Dare?’ started life when my left wrist had been partially fused and plated. I had a minimum of six weeks in a cast, followed by a couple of months in a splint. With a head full of ideas and an unshackled right hand, it was the perfect time to write the novel I’d always said was ‘in me’. I took out my A4 notebook, warmed up my favourite pen and posed the question, ‘Is it ever acceptable for a person to do the wrong thing for the right reason?’ At that moment, Kate Blair and Declan O’Brien entered my world. Declan has the best hands.

Hands 3Technology has also provided me with an alternative way to read. I am not always able to hold a physical book, as much as I love them, so on ‘bad’ days, I switch on my e-reader and lose a few hours living vicariously through the characters. It’s the same when I’m creating and writing books. Distraction is a well-known technique for fighting pain. Lately I’ve been distracted by my new hero in my second Choc Lit book, ‘Follow Me, Follow You’. Gorgeous Chris Frampton bears an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp.

I am often preoccupied with the characters in my head.

I’m often preoccupied with Johnny Depp.

It’s pain management, you understand.

I think it’s fair to say that with or without a condition such as RA, the human body has itsphysical limits, but there’s more to us than skin and bone, or in my case, metalwork and plastic. We have our minds, imaginations and creativity, and when inspired, even if it’s for the shortest time, we are free.

For further information on rheumatoid arthritis, please click on the link for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.


Introducing Beverley Eikli to the Choc-Lit Family

One of the earliest unpublished novels I wrote was a Regency Romance called Game of Chance.

The title has been an apt summary of my life. Who’d have thought I’d join Choc-Lit in the midst of all this festive good cheer as the winner of their ‘Search for an Australian Star’ competition? I was in such good company on that short list – but what a fabulous early Christmas present.

Good things happen when you least expect them to but it’s certainly true to say that the harder and longer the journey the keener the sense of pleasure when they do happen.

I’ve wanted to be a published writer since entertaining my family at our South Australian beach cottage, Dandeloo, with my School for Witches series, written when I was seven. With no television, reading, writing, walks on the beach and endless games of Beetle were the order of the day.

At seventeen I made an earnest attempt at hitting the big time, finishing my first novel with a fatal flourish: the drowning of my heroine on the last page. It was supposed to be a romance.

Well, that sounded the death knell of my romance writing career for the time being and I became a journalist, but at 27, I fell into the middle of my own real life romance: one which ultimately set me up for writing for a living.

The last thing I was looking for when I left Australia to manage a safari lodge in Botswana’s Okavango Delta was a handsome Norwegian husband.

But that’s what I got and that gorgeous bush pilot I met around a camp fire the night before I was due to return to Australia has taken me on the most fabulous adventure traversing the globe for the past eighteen years.

As the trailing spouse of a pilot one learns to be adaptable.

I trained to be an airborne geophysical survey operator in the field in Namibia when the company my husband flew for was looking for recruits. After a year surveying the skeleton coast and the arid region between Windhoek and Swakopmund we took jobs with another survey company. Based in Canada, for three years, we worked on long contracts around the world, sometimes together, sometimes separately.

Cocooned in the back of a Cessna 404 with a lonely pilot during eight-hour sorties over the French Guianese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap was a good apprenticeship for a romance author.

However, it wasn’t until I was literally left holding the baby (now back in Australia and with another baby on the way) while my husband was flying in Antarctica for four months that I finished writing my first published book. Pouring my frustrated passion onto the page during those long, lonely months was therapeutic. Writing my own happy endings, later, when he was in rehabilitation after he’d broken his back a month before our second child was born, was even more so.

A few years later my writing career took an unexpected turn when I wrote a book with a theme that was too saucy for my publisher at the time. This led me to write a series of erotic historicals which I publish under my Beverley Oakley pseudonym.

So now that I’ve entered another, exciting phase of life as a Choc-Lit author the coming year is looking good. I’ve been so warmly welcomed into the Choc-Lit family, and propelled into 2013 with so many genuine well wishes from fellow writers, readers and friends I think there must be few better ways to earn a living than writing happy endings.

In winding up my introduction I’d like to wish a very merry Christmas to all those lovely people who’ve helped me with their friendship, encouragement and support in so many ways during the journey. Not least, my husband who has always known just the right thing to say during my years of writing rejection and is even more gorgeous after eighteen years of the ups and downs of our unexpectedly eventful marriage. After a long, hard slog he’s made a full recovery and now flies the majestic Boeing 777.

Like me, he reckons life is sweet when your hobby is your job.

Thank you, everyone! I hope your New Year is a joyful, rich and prosperous one.

Beverley Eikli and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Homer

Beverley Eikli and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Homer