Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Coffee Talk :Nov.5, author, Kristi Astor aka Kristina Cook

Welcome to the House of Muse kitchen, where the coffee(and hot water for tea) is always on and guests can come in through the back door to have a sit and catch up on whats going on in each other's lives.

Today I am really excited to have with us, the warm and talented author, Kristina Cook aka Kristi Astor.  Already a successful Kensington historical author before I met her, I am honored to call her my writing partner (with Charlotte Featherstone) in the mini-series Celtic Spice anthologies we concieved and wrote together.

But today, we're going to talk about overcoming obstacles. And Kristi's story is one of many I have come to know about, particularly in the writing world. We were just talking about this and had to wonder of the connection to this condition to writer's. I rarely hear of men with the same symptoms, but perhaps they too, exist.

Nonetheless, of those women that I know, who write and also deal with physical obstacles in order to do so, my admiration soars for their courage and tenacity--for their passion to tell a great story!

So, warm up your cups and gather around the table to hear how she spends a typical day in her "office."

"Survival Gear"

So….here I sit in my office, all bundled up in my sweats and thick socks and Ugg boots, my two space heaters roaring away to supplement the heat from my radiator. I clutch a hot mug of tea in my hands, and consider plugging in my heating pad to put in my chair, behind my back.

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, it must be really cold there!” No, it’s pretty much a typical crisp fall day here in the northeast, cool but not yet cold. Still, the heaters and warm clothes and everything else are pretty much my “survival gear”—the things I need in order to accomplish what I need to accomplish each day. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was only diagnosed last year, so it’s still pretty new to me. I’m still adjusting—still trying to learn my way around what feels like a total new body to me (and a traitorous one, at that!).

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. No one knows what causes it, why your body’s immune system suddenly begins attacking your joints. But there’s more than the joint pain and stiffness—there’s also fatigue. I’ve gotten lucky; my joint damage is minimal. I pop two pills every morning now. Interestingly enough, my meds are actually anti-malaria drugs that turned out to treat RA symptoms, too—I feel like I should make use of that and take a trip to Africa or India or something! Before I started treatment, I was having really bad joint pain and swelling in my hands and wrists, and my feet would hurt after standing for a while, but no actual damage was done to the joints themselves. At least, not yet.

The medication has really helped with that, though I still get occasional swelling, and in the dead of winter have been known to wear fingerless gloves all day long (even eating out at restaurants!). But it’s the fatigue that really gets me, and the meds don’t help that at all. I could sleep all day, every day. Getting out of bed to get my kids off to school is a struggle. First, because I’m just exhausted all the time, but also because it takes a good hour or so in the morning before the stiffness goes away.

I’m only 40, but in the mornings I feel like an 80-year old. As soon as my husband leaves to take the kids to school, I climb back in my bed, one of the few places that I always feel warm and cozy and comfortable (the other place would be in a hot bath). Sometimes it’s a few more hours before I get up again. I sometimes fear that, if allowed, I’d stay there all day.

Not a good way to live a productive life—and certainly not a productive life as a writer! Thus, the warm clothes, the multiple heaters, the hot cups of tea, the heating pad in my chair. It helps some, my survival gear, but I know I’ll have to make more adjustments in my life before I can be as productive as I was before.

We all have our own “survival gear” to meet our own individual challenges as women, as moms, as writers, readers. For some people, it can be as simple as a cup of coffee every morning. Or plugging into an iPod. Some women have challenges that are much more serious than mine—I’ve known at least one writer who required an oxygen mask to sit at her desk and write.

I want to thank Kristi for stopping by today and sharing how she is able to press on through this obstacles in her life in order to write. We all have those hurdels-large or small-- that we have to manage in order to achieve our goals. If there is something to be learned here, its that there are those who understand what you're dealing with and will support you and that tenacity and courage is essential to achieving your goals.

Today , Kristi is giving away her recently released, NASCAR series book-FORCES OF NATURE to one lucky winner who comments today!  This book is especially important as Kristi was in the midst of writing it when she learned of her condition. As authors, we pour our beings into writing--and as such, I 've no doubt that this is an exceptional read!
What about you? What’s your daily “survival gear”?

(*I think mine is that first cuppa in the morning;)...Amanda)


Kristi Cook said...

Thanks so much for having me today, Amanda! Enjoy your morning coffee, LOL! I *love* the smell of coffee, but I don't much like the taste, which is too bad because I could use the caffeine jolt each morning. Occasionally my husband will make me a cappuccino with tons of frothy milk, and I do like that now and then (if I put tons of sugar in it, that is!).

Amanda McIntyre said...

Cappuccino works too;)) Bringing that up, do you have to watch your intake of certain food or drink? Does that adversely affect your RA?

great to have you sharing on this topic! I happen to know a number of women affected by it on one level or another.

Are men? I f not I wonder why?


Kristi Cook said...

RA is *much* less common in men. Don't know why! Same with migraine headaches, which I also suffer from. I belong to an online RA support group, though, and there's something like 8-9 women for every 1 man there!

For the RA, they do say to avoid potatoes, corn, and tomatoes. Something to do with the starches in the potatoes and corn, and with tomatoes being a nightshade plant. I do try to limit those, but I haven't entirely cut them out of my diet (especially tomatoes! I love tomatoes!).

Amy C said...

Hi Kristi and Amanda :)

Your "survival gear" sure does sound comfy cozy. However, I wish the circumstances for them were different. It was nice to read how you've found ways to help cope with your RA and the pain it causes, rather than letting it get the better of you.

The fist thing I do now that the weather is getting chilly, well, after I get my pot of coffee going...and feed the cat and then the dog...I sit in my chair and turn on my little space heater on the floor at my feet. Those are my two "survival gear" items for the morning...Coffee and space heater! I must be warm :).

You know, a few years ago I had won a contest. I think it may have been from Eve Silver. Along with her book, she also sent this other book that was signed. Sadly, I didn't know who it was so I put it on the shelf and *ahem* forgot about it. When I started going to Lust In Time blog a few months ago and saw your name as one of the authors, I thought, that name sounds awfully familiar! Sure enough that extra book that I won was yours, Kristi! Undressed. I pulled it out and I plan on reading it one of these months. I think one of the reasons I haven't is because I know it's not the first book, unless the three books are stand alones?

There was one other thing I was wondering about. I had A Midnight Clear on my list for October releases, but It's never released, has it? Did it get changed? I think the cover is very eye-catching!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Good morning! I've already had my lifeline--two cups of coffee. Nothing better than that first cup in the morning! I'm a tea drinker, but I gotta have that am coffee!

My other survival 'gear' is an afternoon nap, preferarbly in a nice comfy bed, and wearing nice cozy pj's! Amanda will attest to this, Kristi and I are infamous for our 'writer conference pm naps'! One day, the pair of us will for Amanda into pj's and make her nap!!!!!

Kristi, you've done amazingly well coping with your RA!!!

Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

Good morning ladies! Ms. A, you have wonderful guests over for coffee/tea and today is no exception! Hey Ms. Kristi! First, I want to thank you for sharing your story with us.

It is always hard for someone who does not have "any problems" with them to comprehend the full extent of someone's pain. But it is understandable. I am glad that medicine helps you out a bit but not all the way. To me, you are the stronger person, because you have the strength to deal with it and go on with your life. Push forward even on those days that you really do not feel like doing that. That takes strength and courage!
My survival gear would be a cup of coffee in the morning and my daughters smile.
Enjoying the cuppa ladies!

M.A.D. said...

Mary D

My hat's off to Kristina! I appreciate her sharing her real life situation with Amanda and her readers.

My survival gear is a warm, comfy recliner and lots of caffeine, plus my morning meds to help stimulate the serotonin my brain uses up too quickly. (hence the need for caffeine)

I was diagnosed in my mid thirties with degenerative spinal arthritis AND intersticial cystitis, along with a suspected suppressed autoimmune system. That was 17 years long years ago. We have no choice but to 'tailor' our lives and persevere the best we are able :)

I've always believed that where one door closes, another opens. What we cannot accomplish physically, then we must do so with our greatest gift - the Mind. So we think write create. We express with ideas.

Which is why I sit in this comfy recliner, cushioning my lower 'morning' back, sipping a cold diet dew and blogging my brains out, and visiting my beloved best sites (such as this) to check in on the rest of the world. Good to see you ladies, and to meet Ms. Kristi :)

How is this for irony -- my BF's last name is Cook and he, too, suffers from RA (although his med is Sulfasalozene sp?). The best to you always, and keep up the wonderful work. Maybe someday I can become disciplined enough to join you 'real' authors in the printed world LOL

Until then, time to crack another cold soda and hoist my can to all :D

Kristi Cook said...

Mary, no such thing as "real" authors!! We're ALL writers, from the moment we get the bug and start putting pen to paper (or, fingers to keyboard!). And how weird that you know another Cook who has RA...maybe he's a long lost cousin (Cook is my maiden name). It's great to meet you, too--I love your attitude about dealing with physical challenges! You're SO right!

Kristi Cook said...

Awww, Cecile, thank you for the kind words!! I must say, I'm glad for my writing--because it's something that I HAVE to do, no matter what. A less compelling 'calling' might have fallen by the wayside in a situation like this. Love ya!

Kristi Cook said...

Oh, Charlotte, you know one day we'll turn Amanda to the "dark side" of our afternoon conference napping! One day she'll just start showing up mid-afternoon in her jammies, carrying her pillow...

Maybe we should start hosting afternoon PJ slumber parties at conferences, LOL!

Kristi Cook said...

And while I'm thinking about it, another really annoying thing about RA is that you don't *look* sick. Not that I want any sympathy or special consideration, but sometimes I think it's hard even for my family to really comprehend my limitations--to understand why I'm so exhausted or can't stand on my feet for 3 hours at a party, or why I didn't get any writing done--because I LOOK fine. I think RA and other auto-immune diseases often get lumped into that 'it's all in their head' category, mostly just because many of the sufferers look perfectly healthy!

Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

That is what I mean Ms. Kristina... Just because we can not see it does not mean you can feel it. I had an accident a few years ago where a large item hit me on top my head and since then I have neck/back trouble every now and then. When you go to the doctor and they ask why do you continue to lift heavy things or do certain things... My reply to them is. "Dud, life has to go on. And unless you are going to pay my bills for me, clean my house and take care of my family... I have to pick myself up, dust off my big girl pants and go on with life." Does it hurt, hell yeah. Does it bother me, sometimes more than others, do I let it stop me... No. Life has to go on... With or without us, it is going. Sometimes I just wish that the people around us could see what our insides look like or feel like. Just to see for a brief moment how we feel.

Kristi Cook said...

Amy C, that's so funny about the book!! Eve Silver is a good friend of mine--and we're always exchanging signed books to give away! As to that series, they're definitely all stand-alones, even though they're all sort of loosely tied. I even wrote them out of order chronologically! So I don't think it really matters if you read them out of order. But Undressed is probably most 'tied' to Unlaced.

A Midnight Clear was originally scheduled for Oct. 2009--and then they found themselves way over-inventoried for that month, and had to push it back. And since it's a "Christmas" book, the only date they could push it back to was Oct. 2010! So....a long time before it comes out, unfortunately. :o(

Kristi Cook said...

Oh, and Amy, I meant to say...there's even a fourth book in the Unlaced/Unveiled/Undressed series! To Love a Scoundrel is actually the prequel to the entire series. With a totally different cover look, and a non-UN title! How confusing is that?!

I was SO happy when they changed my cover look, though. No one had any idea that those three UN books were historicals. I shudder to think how many historical readers I missed with those covers. People just assumed they were contemporary romantic comedy. Argghhh!

Genella deGrey said...

Good morning ladies - hi Kristi, hi Amanda!

Here's a big warm ((((HUG)))) for Kristi. I admire you for meeting RA head on, no matter what gear you require. I'm a huge fan of not getting up in the AM - I happen to love my bed and the toasty-warm covers piled there, so you are a totally trouper for doing what you do, hon!

Some days I need an extra boost in the AM, but the only coffee I like is McDonald's coffee. Since there is not a McDonalds on the way to work, I usually bust out the diet coke with tons of ice (provided by my work.) When I crave sugar (once a month, if you know what I mean) I have a white hot cocoa (the very best is at Disneyland, but we have a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf here at the studio, so I have theirs.)

When I write, I crave what my characters are eating or drinking. (Weird, huh?) Since I write historicals, tea is almost always my companion drink.

Keep on keepin' on, Kristi! Thank you for sharing your story with us!

Kristi Cook said...

Ooooh, white hot chocolate! I find Dunkin Donut's almost addicting! (I swear, they put something addicting in it!). Next time I'm at Disneyland, I have to try theirs! And speaking about the west coast, we have Pinkberry here in NYC now! OMG, we got some last night after my daughter's ballet class....I had coconut yogurt topped with just about every fruit available--YUM!!!!!!! I think we have a new weekly tradition....

Linda Henderson said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I was diagnosed with RA about 6 years ago now and by the time they found something to help me I had a lot of joint damage. Now I'm facing knee replacements for both knees. I had so many treatments fail that I had just about given up on finding a treatment that worked. Thank goodness my doctor didn't give up on me. I had no concept of how RA affected your whole body until I developed it. My daily survival is to try and rest and stay as stress free as possible because stress makes it worse. We have been going through a weather change and that makes my joints stiffer but, I can't complain too much, I can at least get around without help now. I basically just live one day at a time and I appreciate and cherish my time with my daughters and grandkids.

Kristi Cook said...

Oh, Linda....I'm SO sorry you ended up with so much joint damage. But you're right--thank goodness they didn't give up and finally found a treatment plan that works. There are so many different treatment options--I hear that it often takes a lot of time and trial and error to find exactly the right combination for each individual. So far, the first treatment I've tried is working for me--for now. But I think I'll have to try something more aggressive at some point.

Thanks so much for sharing--I really admire your attitude!!