Writers In Isolation: Katherine Mezzacappa #Isolation #Writers #Authors#Historical #Fiction

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Katherine Mezzacappa coping with this enforced isolation?


At time of writing, lockdown here in Italy is easing, but I am still wary of emerging into the sunlight. To begin with, it wasn’t isolation per se that was difficult to cope with from a creative point of view, but the fear of all the unknowns around the pandemic – I’ve got a little better at living with them. I had the advantage of having worked from home for years so I was used to not having the routines of a commute and a shared office. However, my job is paused at the moment until later in the year, which meant I had to think about how best to use that time. Time is what writers often complain they don’t have enough of, but when you’re suddenly faced with lots of it, the prospect is daunting, and you feel guilty if you don’t take advantage. I know from my writing network that I’m far from alone in feeling that. I had final edits to do on two books, The Gypsy Bride (Katie Hutton) and The Casanova Papers(Kate Zarrelli) so having the space for them was a boon, though revisiting a book set in Venice when I could see that city on webcams, silent and shuttered, was also heart-breaking. Writing did pick up though, as well as other ‘writery’ activities. I’ve co-presented at a virtual litfest with an old friend from MA days, though we’re thousands of miles apart. I am now an assessor for a writing consultancy and a proofreader for a new Italian publisher. Writing predominantly historical fiction is an advantage in lockdown, as the writer must perforce go in her head into a vanished world, and the less interference from the modern one there is, the better (provided that for research purposes, Google works, and ABEbooks still deliver!). Frustration as a writer lies in not being able to do field visits for future projects – a first world problem, and those places will be waiting for me afterwards. The virtual company of other writers has become more important than ever before. There have been some stellar online opportunities, like the Society of Authors workshops, and the Arvon at Home readings. I hope these persist alongside conventional offerings once the pandemic has passed, as they represent real accessibility and democratisation of the business of writing.

Katherine Mezzacappa is an Irish writer of mainly historical fiction now living in Italy. She also writes as Katie Hutton and as Kate Zarrelli.


Her début historical novel as Katie Hutton, The Gypsy Bride, was published May 2020 on Kindle and Audible by Zaffre Books, with the paperback to follow in June.

A sequel, The Gypsy’s Daughter, is in preparation for June 2021. As Kate Zarrelli, writing for eXtasy Books, she is the author of Tuscan Enchantment (2019) and The Casanova Papers (June 2020). Her short fiction (as Katherine Mezzacappa) has appeared in Ireland’s Own, Erotic Review Magazine, The Copperfield Review, Turnpike, Asymmetry and in anthologies with the Bedford International Writing Competition, Henshaw Press and Severance Publications. She’s a member of the Irish Writers Centre, the Irish Writers Union, the Society of Authors, the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists Association. She was awarded a Cill Rialaig residency by the Irish Writers Centre in 2019 for the writing of a Renaissance novel, Giulia of the Albizzi. Katherine regularly reviews for the Historical Novel Society. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Canterbury Christ Church University in addition to an MLitt in Eng Lit from Durham and a first degree in History of Art from UEA.


You are never alone with a book; that’s as true now as it was when I was a lonely teenager. Historical fiction allows us to escape into a different world, and without being preachy about it, can help us realise that we’ve been through terrible times before without the advances in healthcare and communication that aid us now. I do not believe that writers of historical fiction should offer nostalgia to their readers – more perhaps a realisation that human beings are often more resilient than they realise.

Author Links:


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gypsy-Bride-Katie-Hutton/dp/1838770259/
https://www.facebook.com/katherinemezzacappafiction/
https://www.facebook.com/katezarrellibooks/
 @katmezzacappa
 @KatieHuttonAut1

Thank you so much to Katherine for being my guest. It is interesting to hear her thoughts from a historical fiction perspective.

It’s been wonderful featuring such a variety of authors and bloggers in this series. All have shared such interesting and perceptive thoughts on lockdown and isolation for writers.

We truly are living in history at the moment. No doubt future generations will reflect on this time period in their studies to come.

I have to agree with Katherine, the human race will find a solution. It will take time but we will get there.

For now, this is the last in this series. Thank you to all that have taken part. I am currently working on my COVID19 diaries, flash fiction and poetry collection which I hope to release soon. And I will also be finalising my YA fantasy The Curse of Time #2 Golden Healer.

More about that soon.

Please comment below, I’m sure Katherine would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well.

Writers in Isolation – Drew Neary and Ceri Williams – The Clockmaker – #COVID19 #Isolation #Writers Supernatural #Novel #Series

Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels

How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How are Ceri and Drew coping with this enforced isolation?

Hello everyone!

We are Ceri Williams and Drew Neary and we co-write supernatural thrillers. Our first book “The Clockmaker” is a novel set just after WW2. There is a third member of our team – our illustrator Priscila Arandez who produces our cover art.


Our second novel “The Perfect Child,” will be released some time after
COVID-19 finally releases us from it’s grip.

Drew:

The biggest difference to my day in lockdown, is that my children are now at home 24/7. As a parent this offers a lot of challenges but also opportunities. Firstly, the children have to be kept safe, schooled and given plenty of exercise time. I found that establishing a routine really helped–so we do our schooling, then it’s exercise time- usually a walk in the sunshine to somewhere green and leafy. After that we have free time where the children usually play and I get some writing done. Then it’s evening
mealtime and we sit down and watch a DVD, play a board game etc.


I always carry a pen and note pad or my Dictaphone with me during the day. So when moments of inspiration strike, I can record them for later use and they are not lost nor fade from memory. So far, even though my writing time has drastically reduced, it’s been quite an enjoyable, positive experience.


There are so many hours in the day, so the writing has to be reduced – but it’s always there, on a smaller scale bubbling away in the mind, being recorded, kept in pockets for a later day.


As co-writers, the major downside of lock down is no face – to – face meetings. This, I really miss, but we have to be sensible and follow the guidelines, so it just means more chats on the phone and on Facebook.


Ceri


I am less disciplined than Drew and only write when the muse occurs. It is harder now that we are apart as writers, but we send each other pieces of writing and that often kick starts my own writing process. I am solitary by nature and so these weeks of isolation aren’t unusual. But lack of choice to go out, see friends and especially loved ones has been very hard for me, as it has for millions globally.

Us:


We greatly miss our author visits to shops, libraries and book clubs. Not only is it a chance to promote and sell our book, but we are very sociable people and it’s fantastic to meet and engage with fellow readers and book fans.


There is no real way around this current situation as authors promoting their work. Social media of course-Twitter, Face book etc, are all tools to promote, meet new people and talk but for me it’s just not quite the same as meeting people in person.
One of the questions we are often asked on our visits or interviews, is how do you co-write? Is it difficult? Is there conflict? Oddly, it is a very smooth process based on respect for each other’s ideas and individual styles of writing.


We both write either independently (and prior to this lockdown) together. Then amalgamate, discuss next steps and repeat the process.

Ceri is brutal with the editing which happens primarily when we are both
satisfied that the story is all down.

So at the end of the day, lock down has put us all into our little personal
bubbles.

The Clockmaker is the first in an upcoming series of gripping supernatural books by Nottingham based Ceri Williams and Drew Neary.

Widowed in World War 2, Annette and her young son face a completely different life as they exchange the devastation of post-blitz London for the slow pace of a small village. The house they have inherited is old, its bones still settling, creaking noises in the dead of night and the murmur of scritch-scritch in the walls. Located outside the village of Lochnagar, it’s been empty for many years. 

The unfolding of how the Clockmaker made his plans, his meticulous preparations and macabre creations, all builds up to a series of gruesome, horrific murders. These have just one end in view: his release from that which has held him captive for centuries. 

The Clockmaker is a character in the much larger Novel – Optics. When we put some extracts on our website, we received acclaim, and requests to develop the minor characters further. That was when The Clockmaker was born,” comment debut authors Ceri and Drew. The authors are currently arranging a series of book launches around the local area and have engaged various local writing groups with their debut. 

A chilling supernatural novel with characters you’ll come to care for, The Clockmaker will interest anyone who fears the dark – and what might lie in the shadows… DREW NEARY became interested in history, science fiction/fantasy and conspiracy theories in his teenage years. This prompted him to write short stories over the years. He is also a fan of tabletop gaming.

CERI WILLIAMs has always loved language, and after a 5 year stint in advertising and journalism, now writes supernatural horror and fantasy.

The Clockmaker is their first book and forms part of an upcoming series. PUBLICATION DATE 28th May 2018 ISBN: 9781788034586 Price: £8.99 

A few of our reviews for The Clockmaker


I enjoyed this book. It has some Gothic, is a bit historical, has some
supernatural and a touch of horror. This is not a gore book but a clever
unravelling of a story where the human characters are not the most
unnerving.


“It was brilliantly written with a selection of both historic and
atmospherically creepy terms, and the conclusion was both surprising
and satisfying to the tale as a whole. A great Gothic thriller.”

“There’s nothing I can say about this book apart from Brilliant. Great story very well written with characters the reader cares about. Read it.”


“An amazing Gothic thriller set in the Scottish Highlands with cinematic
type prose that hooked from the beginning. One of the most well-
written books I’ve read in a while.”


“Absolutely loved this book, the writing is beautiful, like poetry
sometimes. Thought the story very gripping. A little bit dark and a little
horror would recommend this to anyone who loves books and good
writing. “


Atmospheric and chilling!
“If you like creepy, supernatural horror, this is the book for you.
Brilliantly alarming; kept me awake half the night! Well written, great
settings, absorbing themes and characters. “


The writing was exceptional, the characters alive and real, the Clockmaker terrifying. I found it hard to put down, A Gothic thriller that will keep you awake at night! Wonderful characters and setting and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat.


Beautiful yet insanely creepy.
First of all, this book is very well written. The prose and the descriptions of London, war-ravaged Berlin, and most impressively Scotland, all created a beautiful aura that had a slow-burning undercurrent of horror beneath it. It takes a little while to figure out just what type of creature the villain is, but the authors left little clues throughout the early pages to create suspense. This is part historical and part something else. It’s a wonderful read.

https://www.instagram.com/ceriw1497/

Thank you so much to Drew and Ceri for being my guests.

Well, I’m intrigued by the sound of The Clockmaker and the apparent effortless of the teamwork involved. Now let me see, I have a thing about clocks…. and I love the supernatural… I do enjoy a novel set in WW2…

I’m sure you enjoyed this interesting blog post too. Do comment below I’d love to hear your thoughts on The Clockmaker.

Isolation for Writers – Guest post: Miriam Owen #COV1D19 #Isolation #Bloggers #Books #Blogging

How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Miriam coping with this enforced isolation?

Book blogging in the time of Covid 19

Lockdown – Week 4. In the time it took me to open a Word document to write the title of this piece and prepare to begin writing I received a message that a friend had passed away in London. They didn’t pass from Covid 19 but cancer. I had interacted with this person online 2 days previously but hadn’t seen them face to face for 6 years. Online they were looking good and sounding cheerful. Their passing hit me hard. Probably harder than it may have done normally because I had more time to think about it, read messages about them online and more time to cry. I reflected as death always makes us do. I felt strongly that life cannot be lived online only as we do not understand or portray the whole picture online.


My research also forces me to be reflective. It is indeed a requirement in my area. In wider terms I need to reflect upon how this current situation changes the way that we as readers interact with the book market. As a reader, blogger and an academic I have been reflecting upon the cancellations of hundreds of book events, book festivals and book launches. All these things that bring the reading community together. The specific context of my research is book bloggers and their interactions within the book world. I was due to travel to some of these events to observe, interview, film and study book bloggers. All these activities are now cancelled. I find myself specifically reflecting upon the role of the book blogger in these lockdown days.

Has their role changed? Do online events fulfill the same need in readers (and specifically bloggers) as live events do. Are people reading more book blogs? Does a blog tour take on more importance if there is not an actual physical book launch? I would love to hear what people think about this.


I have been a blogger for nearly 8 years now. Do I feel any different about my blogging activity under lockdown? I don’t really, not in a general way. The reviews I have promised to write remain. The desire to blog is still there. What has changed? I have had the time to do a long overdue tidy of my bookcases which has allowed me to ask myself questions as I unearth books I had forgotten about. Why didn’t I write about this or why haven’t I read that? The quiet space to read and write has changed under lockdown. My two young children are now around me all the time and need to be schooled. I am exhausted from home schooling, watching the news and being needed by my family. Bedtime is now the only time for reading (if I can stay awake) and if I am lucky I can read a few snatched pages upon waking up on weekend mornings. My writing space is now the school table, when it isn’t the breakfast, lunch and dinner table or the jigsaw puzzle space. Instead of picking and choosing what to blog about I ask myself what can I do to help in my community? I feel terrible for all the publishers and authors who have worked towards book launches at this time. I feel bad for the writers who have already spent so much time on their own and had meet ups planned as I know the planned social time is important for them. I contact some of them that I know with offers to write about their projects. I offer to organise a blog tour for a festival that I go to every year. I send books and DVDs to friends. I speak to more people in private messages to make sure they are okay. In my case all these things are interwoven with relationships which have been grown online but have been solidified in person at book events, over coffee and in face to face conversations. Everybody’s experience of blogging is different but for me I love being part of a community. Going to book events is like a renewal of vows, it enthuses me to go on blogging, reminds me why I do it, makes me feel part of something exciting and significant.


Some festivals are moving to online events. Some under their own branding whilst others are becoming involved in kind of umbrella online events where their event becomes part of something larger and less specific. Some have had offers to slot specific events into festivals which are happening (they hope) later in the year. Some authors have taken to being creative themselves and doing pieces for their own social media. You Tube seems to be useful – book illustrators seem to be flourishing in the online visual culture. Musicians too.The first few weeks I thought this is great, all this will help me through these dark days. I usually cannot get enough of the arts and really craved online events when I could not get to things because of family commitments. Now that we are in week 4 of lockdown I find it all washing over me as I drown in online events that I cannot keep up with. I am craving eye contact, the smell of new books, handshakes, group laughter, group applause, group tears and deep, important discussions where I see and feel people express themselves. I know there are people busting a gut to get things online lest they be forgotten about but to me as an individual it seems not to hit the spot somehow. Perhaps there is too much online in my life now. Work online, school online, shop online, sell online, browse online, communicate online, listen online. It is all too much and for me it does not feel like a satisfying a substitute for the real thing. The travel, the human contact or feeling the buzz that makes events so exciting is part of what inspires me to keep blogging.


I can appreciate that some people will enjoy what is happening. In academic circles I often see academics ask why do we need to go to conferences? All the introverts say we can do this online, save the planet, still get our point across and I am screaming no! I need to see people, feel their energy, enjoy learning about somewhere new, I like my dedicated conference time and space to reflect on what I am hearing. The same goes for my blogging and book time. The reading/writing community is an amazing thing in general, online and offline. In my experience with the crime fiction genre the community is positive, down to earth, well documented, well organised, supportive and adaptable. It is one of the reasons that I undertook this piece of academic research. There is passion, motivation, kindness and knowledge. Festivals are important. We meet, talk, drink, solve the world’s problems, learn and relax. I miss them like I miss an old friend because they help me to understand, get a clearer picture of what is going on and solidify something important in life. So far Covid 19 has allowed me a pause. Within that pause sits time to think about so many actions including the action of blogging. Have you been reflecting too?

Miriam Owen is a blogger and doctoral researcher in Marketing at Strathclyde University.

If you have any opinions about book blogging she would love to hear from you at miriam.owen@strath.ac.uk

Thanks to Marjorie for hosting this piece in her Covid series.
Miriam’s blogs are: nordicnoirblog.wordpress.com and walkingbassbuzz.wordpress.com

Thank you Miriam for being my guest. I am so sorry to hear the sad news about your friend. Sending my deepest condolences.

I wish that things could be different. I wish that COVID19 had never happened. I miss meeting my writing and blogging friends in person and attending festivals, particularly the Edinburgh International Festival and Book Festival. But I am so glad that I started this feature – it has been rewarding and given me a focus on something other than COVID19.

I am enjoying all of the articles submitted to me and they have all been so different!

It is by no means easy to cope with this time in our lives. We must try to be patient, whilst we keep on reading, writing and sharing our love of the written word.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

It is a joy to connect with the writing and blogging community.

COVID Diaries 4th May – 6th May #Family #Diaries #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Writing #Blogging #Fashion #Guest #Features

Time to catch up on my COVID Diaries… I’ve been very busy of late finishing edits on my second book in my series The Curse of Time Book 2 Golden Healer. They are now finished and I am pleased to say I have now passed my manuscript on to Heena Rathmore Pardeshi https://crazycatwriter.com/ for a critique and proofread service.

So, let’s go back in time…

4th May

I slept badly the night before so I’m feeling tired. My eldest daughter Tasha and I still did our workout session but it was a gentle one. We both thought it would suit a granny! Which is just as well…We finished it off by doing some yoga.

I tidied my office and did some editing of the second book in my Curse of Time series. Later, my hubby and I went to the supermarket. My friend Hanna was in the queue too, so we stopped to chat to each other – following the social distancing rules – of course. You can’t exactly talk quietly due to the distance imposed, so I shouted across the queue about the fire…

What fire?

IVC is the local secondary school that my kids went to. Apparently, a skip lit and the fire spread to the roof of the performing arts block. Strange, sounds like arson to me. A friend of my daughter heard two large explosions, they thought it was an earthquake, or something. Everyone is so on edge at the moment that any loud bangs, or noises would be enough to trigger an attack of the nerves.

I wonder how the fire happened?

Getting back to the shopping trip with hubby. Whilst inside…

We argued down the aisles, in a feisty banter kind of way and I saw one of the local mum’s smirking at us.

Our shopping trip was so distracting. Both hubby and I bought four packs of onions, so we’ve got lots of onions to eat!

Next time I’m going on my own! Hubby’s idea of shopping consists of ample supplies of alcohol, and no treats apart from one bar of chocolate! How to survive lockdown with no crisps, nuts… Mind you, judging by our horrendous food bill perhaps we should start a starvation diet.

Oh, and I had a couple of guests in my Isolation for Writers Series:

First up was Jeannie Wycherley:

https://mjmallon.com/2020/05/03/isolation-for-writers-guest-author-jeannie-wycherley-guest-author-isolation-collaboration-thoughts-family-cov19/

And then Chantelle Atkins: https://mjmallon.com/2020/05/04/isolation-for-writers-chantelle-atkins-isolation-writers-covid19-ya-author/

5th May

It’s been a funny day. Aren’t they all? I finally cleared out my office. I am such a hoarder! I found things stuffed behind things that I didn’t even know were there. Nevertheless, it was interesting. We discovered three large bags of old photos and an airmail letter from my dad when he’d been working abroad in Swaziland. My eldest daughter Natasha has never seen an airmail letter before! What a lovely find. His writing was atrocious though. What a job I had reading it. Basically, it was to congratulate me on the birth of baby Georgina! And to send his love and well wishes to hubby’s dad who was ill at that time. Sadly, hubby’s dad passed away shortly after that letter was sent and Grandpa James never got a chance to see his new grand-daughter in person, which is especially sad as he always wanted lots of grand-children.

Also, I came across an old newspaper cutting of Tasha when she was three years old with her Grandma (my mum, who must have been about my age at that time,) at a hospice event.

How young my mum looked. Time flies by too fast.

I also found some old photos of hubby and I when we were young! That was funny, me draped all over him looking loved up… There was one of me wearing a leopard skin crop top and tight matching leggings. We were going to a fancy dress party. Memories, yes, it was a day of memories.

Other than that we did our gym session in the garden around 11am. Me, and the girls, and then we had lunch afterwards.

Hubby decided to climb up a ladder to sand the outside windows for painting. This made me very nervous as he’s so high up. He decided to wear his bike helmet for protection but at that height if he fell…

At one point, I went upstairs to pass him the sander and I saw this wasp on the window ledge. I was too frightened to tell him it was there in case he fell off the ladder. Later, I realised the wasp was dead!

Then Gina had an almighty melt down brought on by us all making so much noise whilst she’s completing her university assignments. Hubby was making this annoying sound with his sander, or yelling at me to get him something he needed. What a job I had calming her down. She said she wanted to go back to Manchester. No chance of that – no one can go anywhere. So, I suggested we sit in the car for a while. She brought her laptop and we looked at it together, with tears in her eyes. Bless her. Then hubby came out, looking at us as if we were bonkers. He asked why we were sitting in the car! I explained about the noise and he said he’d finish for the day. Thank goodness it’s quiet now. Phew, it’s just as well I used to be a therapist. Sometimes, I need to be to calm this lot down…

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I hope it is a bit calmer…

6th May.

I had a terrible night’s sleep. Stress of yesterday? Perhaps it was also exacerbated by hubby teasing, saying that he was leaving the long ladder by our bedroom window for a thief, or Romeo to come in. I woke at 3.30am. I thought I heard someone climbing up the ladder. No doubt it was just my imagination! One of the hazards of being a writer is you always imagine the craziest things. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I crept out of bed and started blogging – as you do!

By the time hubby was up, I’d had enough, so I went back to bed and managed a couple of hours sleep before Tasha came looking for me. I didn’t join in with a keep fit, or yoga workout today, or take part in Writing Sprints. Shame. Instead, I edited some of the Curse of Time, beta read and finished a poetry collection for Sarah Northwood, Poetry for The Heart and Soul which I loved. Here is the link to her beta reading group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/877149636124566/

As well, I started working on a blog post about my daughter Georgina’s fashion/social media profile.

Which you can see here: https://mjmallon.com/2020/05/09/photography-shoot-daughter-fashion-business-student-modelling-clothes-hair-accessories-makeup-lashes/

Georgina seemed a lot more cheery today. She was all dressed up, make up on and had made excellent progress on her assignment. She even mentioned that it wasn’t as hard as she originally thought! Kids, hey… They give you such grief and then say everything is okay…

Oh, and Tasha and I sneaked out for a ride in the car. What an adventure! We didn’t go too far but it was nice to see neighbouring villages.

What have you been doing during this difficult time. Please share in the comments.

Isolation for Writers – Guest Post: Peter Taylor-Gooby #COVID19 #Isolation #Empathy #Imagination #Compassion

Coronavirus: Time to Write, But the Ideas Don’t Seem to Come

Peter Taylor-Gooby

I’m lucky – I live in a small town on the edge of countryside where no-one’s told the Spring about Covid-19 and I have a good-sized garden. It must be very difficult and very hard managing in a small flat trying to home-school children and keep up with the home-working…

As an amateur author everything seems to rest on the ideas coming in my head. I spend many hours remodelling and replotting and rewriting, but it always seems to start out with a vision that appears in my head: people there in great clarity. I can’t hear what they’re saying but I can tell by their body language what their relation is whether it’s conflict or love or compassion that’s driving them. It’s that revelation that forms the starting point and the passion that compels me to write, whatever happens to the words in the slow process of finalising the script is secondary.

Perhaps it’s that nothing measures up to the colossal scale of what it going on about us, perhaps it’s that there is enough drama in everyday life and on TV and on the media now to quieten whatever produces the visions, perhaps it’s just a temporary break, a lockdown of ideas. I try to start out on something, but find it hard to take the words anywhere and look forward to resuming normal life when I hope the writing will come back to me.

On my walks, I spend time thinking about what the world After Coronavirus will be like and how it will differ from the past. We must rebuild and we must rebuild better. The pandemic has brought us face to face with so much that doesn’t quite work in our world and also shown us the neighbourliness and the quiet acts of generosity and of self-sacrifice that all of us value.

One of the objectives of fiction is to help us understand our lives together, through imagination, compassion and empathy, and to visualise how things could be different. My most recent novel “Blood Ties” is set in the under-world of people-trafficking and forced labour. The characters strive to change or ignore or acquiesce in the issues hidden in plain sight all round them.

Here’s an extract:

Nic

Argon Road slants off the North Circular to the trading estate behind Ikea.

‘You’ll wait for us? Ten minutes?’ I hand over an extra £20.

‘Sorry.’

The door locks click and he’s off.

I pull my coat tight and look round. The air’s damp from the river and smells of diesel fumes and tarmac.

Two-storey corrugated iron sheds line the road, each with its compound, behind a three-metre metal fence. Harsh yellow streetlights clustered in fours on forty metre poles cast midnight shadows. I feel like an intruder in a giant’s world. A huge lorry with blank sides like a moving fortress glides past, the driver invisible in the cab. In the background the roar of the A406 is continuous, here there’s the pulse of solitary engines and the occasional shout and clatter of iron crates, but no movement I can see.

I shift closer to Nic but she’s concentrating on the torn packet, holding it out in front of her as if it’s a map and she expects to see landmarks. I shade my eyes to look for numbers on the buildings.

‘That’s it.’

The letters SPM in lime-green neon, superimposed on a golden bullock, shine out from a scaffolding above a one-storey shed at the end of the row.

Nic’s ahead of me, I half run to keep up with her.

I can’t catch my breath.

‘Slow down, we’ve got to keep together.’

‘That’s it,’ she says again. ‘Don’t you see – they outsource. No forced workers actually in your restaurant.’

‘Nic, it’s just a business. Come on, you need to get home. We’ll sort out your pills.’

The windows along the side of the shed are ablaze with light. I smell the sour salt smell of blood and see people moving around inside. The fence is higher than the one for the next compound, and the gates are locked. Nic stands back, checking it where it turns a corner. The air’s chill on my face and I start to shiver inside my overcoat. She doesn’t seem to notice the cold.

She hooks her fingers into the wire mesh above her head and hoists herself up. I grab at her belt.

‘Don’t be a fool. That’s razor-wire on top.’

‘Lend me your coat.’

Her shoes are too broad to get a foothold. I catch her as she slithers down. She stumbles backwards against me and I get my arms round her.

She pauses for a second, leaning back into my chest. She’s so cold. I open my coat and wrap it round her. For a few moments neither of us moves. I could stand there, like that, forever, they’d find us frozen in the morning. She stirs and rattles the fence.

‘Thanks Dad. Let’s go.’

I take her hand.

‘I’ll see if I can get a cab on the main road.’

Peter Taylor-GoobyNew in April 2020: Blood Ties a social policy novel of love and conflict set in the Britain of inequality, populism, Brexit and people-trafficking. Available from all Ebook stores, £1.99, paperback out in August.

Thank you for being my guest Peter. What an interesting extract. Thank you for sharing and for joining us to talk about your experience during this time.

Wishing you health, happiness and success with your novel.

Isolation For Writers – Alice May: Guest Post – #COVID19 #Isolation #Art #Tutorials #Writing #Resilience #Inspiring

How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Alice May coping with this enforced isolation?

This is her answer:

Opening the Door of ‘The House That Sat Down’

Many thanks to Marje for giving me the opportunity to open the door on The House That Sat Down and show what is happening to one author, in a remote cottage in the middle of nowhere, on the Dorset/Hampshire border during coronavirus lockdown.


Our cottage looks as idyllically chocolate-box perfect as it ever did – before it collapsed six years ago and needed rebuilding, that is – but that doesn’t mean that life is any easier inside for us than it is for anyone else at this challenging time. (A quick contextual update for those who have not read The House That Sat Down Trilogy, our house fell down out of the blue one day in 2014 and was painfully rebuilt over a traumatic period of time, which involved living in a tent in the garden; my husband, myself and four children. This period in my life led me to write my first award-winning novel.)

On a superficial level, the main change to my daily routine that I thought social lockdown would bring hasn’t materialised. I naively expected that ‘a bit more time at home’ would enable me to finish editing my latest book. The opposite has – in fact – proven to be the case and I am reminded that nothing is ever quite what we might expect.


Like many, I am attempting to nurture my family through their dramatically altered lives; a role which requires huge amounts of diplomacy which has never been one of my strong points. But, from a writing career perspective, I initially found myself paralysed by an overwhelming sense of loss.


My original – pre-Covid19 – schedule for April was chock full of exciting entries. There were multiple speaking events, radio interviews, literary festivals, book signings and even a trip to London to pitch my new book to publishers. It took months to set everything up, but only hours to come crashing down. My new, very empty April stretched before me and mental tumbleweed rolled around inside my brain as I found myself struggling to process the change without dissolving into tears.


With the world so very different, it seemed that the previous twelve months spent writing book 5 had been a colossal waste of time. How could that work still be relevant? I found myself unable to write at all and that worried me.


Instead, I started painting – no, not the walls, although they could do with it. I created big bright, colourful pieces of art to cheer myself up. I have always used painting as a way to express my emotions, it was a massively important part of my recovery from post-traumatic-stress after my house fell down. Recent weeks have seen a resurgence in my reliance on throwing paint around to make myself feel better.

My fabulous PR guru @jane_dean_pr suggested that I put a couple of free art tutorials on my YouTube channel (Alice May Artist https://youtu.be/p6bHYY4xPl0 ).

If I am completely honest, I think she was trying to get me to stop pestering her with questions about what I ought to do.


Nevertheless, it was a brilliant idea and has led to some exciting developments which proves that you never know when opportunity will come knocking. Uploading that first video was the start of a whole new dimension to my creative career. Three weeks and nearly twenty tutorials later, there has been a surge in the number of subscribers to my channel, countless visits to my website (www.alicemay.weebly.com) and an unanticipated increase in book sales. Plus, I’ve had some wonderful feedback via email, twitter and Facebook.


I was interviewed for an article in Good Housekeeping Magazine which was very exciting followed by a lovely chat with Louise Hanna on BBC Radio Solent, which in turn has led to me being invited to deliver paid presentations and art demonstrations on-line to social groups gathering on Zoom. Who knew that such a thing was even wanted, let alone possible?
https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/lifestyle/a31989711/art-beginners-guide/

There has even been a suggestion that I might like to start running proper art classes after lockdown is lifted, which is definitely something to think about.


My empty diary is now stuffed full of new activities; none of which I could have predicted before lockdown, but all of which I am thoroughly enjoying. Which only goes to show that you can never predict what is just around the corner.
Anything is possible.
Stay safe, stay well and stay positive.



Alice May Artist, Author, Speaker
www.alicemay.weebly.com
You Tube: Alice May Artist
Facebook: AliceMayAuthor
Twitter: @AliceMay_Author
Instagram: alicemay_author_artist

Thank you so much to Alice for being my guest. I never imagined that such a thing would happen. Poor Alice, can you imagine your house falling down with all its belongings, and memories reduced to rubble?

My goodness.

And now this COVID19. How resilient and inspiring she is. I am so glad I started this series. It has introduced me to so many amazing writers and creatives.

Stay safe and well everyone.

Isolation for Writers – Guest Post: Ritu Bhathal #Author #Writer #Poet #Blogger #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Isolation #Thoughts #Writing #Reading

I’m so thrilled to have Ritu join me today.

Ritu and I have met on several occasions at Blogging Bashes in London and we ‘clicked’ just as much in person as we do in our lovely ‘online,’ friendship.

So welcome Sis! When Ritu knew I was offering fellow writers a chance to join the online discussion about COVID19 – this crazy world we find ourselves in, she jumped at the chance.

How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Ritu coping with this enforced isolation?

Here is Ritu’s answer:

Coronavirus.
COVID-19.
Unprecendented.
Social Distancing.
Quarantine.
Self-Isolation.
Lockdown.

These are all words we have heard countless times in the last few weeks.
What have they done?
Brought a wave of panic into your life?
Or are you someone who has taken to it rather calmly?
Well, for me, it’s been a bit like this.
When we first heard about this strange virus, schools were still open, yet I had students going off sick with mysterious illnesses for a week to ten days at a time.
Then the government called for school closures, followed by social distancing, and the UK version of Lockdown.
I say UK version because, though all non-essential businesses have been closed, we are still allowed out to exercise once a day, go shopping for food, and schools still need us teachers, but in a different capacity; as carers for the children of Keyworkers.


Once I got over the initial worry and shock of what was happening, I got excited.
This meant more time for me to get creative, when I was home. Book two has been started but had been languishing for a couple of months, as the business of daily life took its toll.
But, just because you have time, doesn’t mean you automatically switch to the creator of four thousand words a day – well, that doesn’t happen to me, anyway.
My creativity has been hit-and-miss to be honest.
I thought all this time would mean I could write, do some courses I signed up for but never got a chance to access, more promotion, lots of reading…


The reality has been quite different.


To start with, I am in school on a rota system, so I could be in for one or two days, but I don’t know more than a week in advance.
And there is the joy of having both kids and Hubby Dearest at home as well, so no time was distraction-free time either.

I sit with my laptop open on one of my home days, WIP loaded up, ready to write up a storm. Nothing comes.
I open a book to read. But I can’t get into it and put it down after a few pages.
Then I remember those courses. So, I manage another couple of modules on a creative writing course.
But no words.
After the first ten days, we were in official Easter holiday mode. Technically no different to the last few days, but I felt, mentally, that I was on a break.
I discovered online writing sprints on several Facebook groups that helped, and in a few days, I did double my wordcount.

The joy to read came back.

But then official term started again.


And I have now got online learning to do for school too, to justify us all being at home, even though we are still planning work for our children to do at home. As well as still needing to go in periodically.


Another killjoy to my writing spree.


I’m trying to be practical still have work, but I need my play too, which involves reading and writing.
So, I have taken time to re-plan and structure my WIP, and while doing that, I have got my juices flowing, again, I think.
My aim is to do school-based work in the mornings and use after lunch time to look at my creative projects, be it writing, courses or research for the WIP.
The evening is filled with family time, walks, cooking, reading, watching films and TV, and if I feel inspired, a little more writing time.
I’m under no illusions. At one point I thought I would end this period with a mainly finished first draft, but I don’t think that will happen.
I’ve had up days, days where I have felt productive in all areas of my quiet life, then there have been days where I have barely wanted to leave my bed.

Those days are the days that suck my creative well dry. The days I watch the news and the world gives me nothing to be hopeful about. The days I had that call or message to say a loved one was ill, or had passed away (twice, so far).
Still, I’m just thankful that I am okay, we are all healthy, and that, in itself, is the biggest thing.
I’ll keep trying to write, but I won’t beat myself up if nothing comes. These are crazy times. Messing with our heads.
If I can’t write my own words, I’ll read others. I’ll teach myself new things to make my words, when they do come, better.

But I won’t stop trying to write.


(Oh, and I discovered TikTok! Heaven help us all!)

Author Bio
Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her. From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is credited to her mother. The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her writing, from fiction to poetry. Winning little writing competitions at school and locally encouraged her to continue writing.

As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes. A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!

Ritu also writes a blog, www.butismileanyway.com, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, and Best Book Blog in 2019.Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the fur baby Sonu Singh.

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/ritubhathal
And by clicking the following link, you get to my author profile on Amazon: Author.to/RituBhathal
Buying Link: myBook.to/PoeticRITUals


Buying Link: http://getbook.at/MarriageUnarranged

And my review of Ritu’s book: https://mjmallon.com/2020/02/09/book-review-marriage-unarranged-ritu-bhathal-arc-review/

And my review of Poetic Rituals: https://mjmallon.com/2017/10/26/my-review-of-poetic-rituals-by-ritu-bhathal/

Social Media Profiles
Blog Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com
Author Website: http://www.ritubhathal.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RituBhathal
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ritubhathalwrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butismileanyway/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RituBhathal/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/bhathalpadhaal/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal
Mix: https://mix.com/butismileanyway
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ritusmiles
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ritu-bhathal-48941648/
Bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/@ritubhathalpadhaal

Ritu has been a great blogging/author friend. Like me Ritu believes in Team Work. It’s great when writers and creative souls come together to try to help each other.

We both support each other with book launches and the like because that is what friends are for.

Isolation for Writers – Guest post: Tracie Barton-Barrett #COV1D19 #Isolation #Writers #Grieving

Photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

Welcome to author and counsellor Tracie Barton-Barrett, my next guest on my new feature – isolation for writers, creatives, artists and book bloggers.

As a counselor, Tracie wanted to give back and help others during this time. So, she wrote an article/blog entitled,

“We Are All Grieving,”  https://weareallgrieving.blogspot.com/

This is her article which I am sharing here:

We’re All Grieving–Support During This Uncertain Time

Welcome to 2020. We’re living in a time where there is uncertainty (which our brain dislikes), fear, mounting death and illness, lack of supplies, 24/7 social/news, and isolation, all to fight an invisible foe.
If you wanted to create a perfect storm, we’re living it.
So, yeah, it’s OK to grieve.
We’re all grieving something now…
…the loss of a job, financial security, loss of a family member due to the virus, loss of freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go, the loss of being at home without every single family member there, loss of that trip you were going to go on, the inability to visit a loved one in the hospital, the inability to have neighbors, friends or family over, the loss of identity or purpose. 
Or, the issues you were dealing with before all of this came crashing down.
The list goes on. Although we’re all “in the same boat,” there are different areas and points of view from that boat.

This situation easily calls forth the entire spectrum and expression of human emotion. 


It’s OK if in the middle of the day, or late at night, you suddenly feel heart-broken, overwhelmed, or frustrated, or livid, and just want a hug.  As mammals, the sense of touch is extremely important, particularly to babies.

Same holds true for adults.
–Whatever feelings come up, see if you can really unpack them and get the core of them. If you’re “angry,” try and see if you can get as specific as possible. Does it remind you of any other times in your life you’re reliving from your past? This is a perfect time to dig deeper to prevent out of control emotional eating, drinking, drug use, porn, or anything else that is used as self-medication. My concern is the number of divorces, domestic violence incidents, and suicides that could increase. 
–If possible, try to limit the amount of social media and news you allow in. The kicker is that we need to be connected and a need to belong, which social media can provide. However, it can easily suck us down rabbit holes. Personally, I continue to walk the line between being informed and getting sucked in. It’s a tight-rope walk and sometimes I fall.
Think of social media/news as a very rich, high caloric dessert.A little bit is OK; too much will make you sick.
–Try to create structure in your life. I prefer the word “rhythm” to “routine,” but whatever works for you, try to find it. Otherwise, the days will just run into each other. If you have kids, they thrive in it, even if they say they don’t. Those boundaries create safety, which is at a premium now.
I’ve found it helpful to have 3 daily intentions:· Get outside and/or walk. Reach out to someone via email, text, phone call, etc. Work on my next novel, FINDING HER SPIRIT
–If you’re a position to do it, I also encourage you to use this time to do things that you normally wouldn’t have time for. Perhaps set a bigger intention…”By the end of April, I will…”
But, DO NOT JUDGE YOURSELF if you’re not there. Or, you don’t get there. Or, you find that you need to distract yourself by binging on that show. Or, it’s 5:00pm and you haven’t done squat. That’s OK. 
–Emotional/spiritual health needs to be fostered, too. Meditation, prayer, watching masses or church services online. Reaching out to others, particularly those who are alone, is important. If we don’t find the need for connection in healthy ways, we’ll find it in unhealthy ways. Channeling your energy into making masks, organizing Zoom gatherings, community virtual food drivers, anything to help others is a way to get out of our heads. Sometimes literally just texting someone and saying you’re thinking about them is enough.  
–Staying physically healthy is also important. Our bodies are meant to move, and if we’re dormant too long, it begin to affect us emotionally. Also, if you can get outside, even better. Nature and her beauty is so healing. Kids especially benefit from it.
–If you can, find some fun.

Whatever that looks like for you. I love to sing, dance, and play piano. I also make sure to try to laugh every day, too. Fortunately, there are so many creative videos and memes out there that help. My two cats and husband are fodder, as well. 


–Take this time to learn a new skill, language, or further develop one you already have. Or, clean out that basement or junk drawer that’s been calling your name. 
Again, be gentle with yourself if the only thing you can do is get up and maybe shower. Maybe not even that. 
In the same way with grief and/or trauma, not everyone is at the same place at the same time. The trick is to stagger our moments and meltdowns, so we can be there for each other when we fall. It’s happened to me when I had a bad day, people were there for me. 
Who knows what the next normal will look like? No one really knows. We’re all co-creating this as we go along. This experience brings out what it really means to be human, as the stories of kindness, compassion, and altruism are off the charts. My heart grows in leaps and bounds. My deepest thanks to the medical community, retail workers, truckers, any delivery workers for are keeping us afloat during this time.
I picture it as we’re all walking along a path. Sometimes one of us stumbles but doesn’t fall. There will be times, however, when we really do fall. Then, we will be there to lift each other up.
From six or more feet away, of course. 😊

Tracie Barton-Barrett, MS, NCC, LPC http://www.TracieBartonBarrett.com
TBartonBarrett@gmail.com www.FaceBook.com/TBartonBarrett Author of BURIED DEEP IN OUR HEARTS

Here is the link to my novel, BURIED DEEP IN OUR HEARTS, https://www.amazon.com/Buried-Deep-Hearts-Tracie-Barton-Barrett-ebook/dp/B01EARJ59A/   

Available on Kindle, paperback and now Audible. 

Thank you so much to Tracie for being my guest and offering such invaluable advice.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.TracieBartonBarrett.com

FaceBook:  https://www.facebook.com/TBartonBarrett 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnimalsConnect

Isolation for Writers: Chantelle Atkins #Isolation #Writers #COVID19 #YA #Author

Welcome to Chantelle Atkins, my next guest on my new feature – Isolation for Writers. How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Chantelle Atkins coping with this enforced isolation?

Here is her answer:

What’s Changed For Me?
Nothing and Everything

The outbreak of Covid19 and the lockdown that followed has had a huge impact on us all, but as a writer, I feel in a unique position to observe, absorb and reflect on the changes for me personally and on the society around me.


What’s changed for me? Nothing and everything and believe me, that’s as confusing as it sounds. The confusion and anxiety tend to hit me hard in the evening, when my parenting duties are over, and I sit down to write. I’m not ashamed to admit I am often now writing through fits of tears. It’s just such a strange, sad, scary, hopeful and heroic time. You can’t help but be affected by it.


On the surface, lots has changed for me. I have four children aged between 5 and 17 and they were previously all in full-time education. I run a writing-based business called Chasing Driftwood Writing Group and my time is normally spent running after school writing clubs, writing clubs for home educated children and writing clubs for adults. 2020 started off so well for me, with the addition of three new clubs. I really felt like my little business was growing and succeeding.


When the schools closed, so did the libraries, community halls and museums and just like that, I had no work and no income. Luckily for me, my husband had just had a pay rise that almost covered this loss, so we didn’t panic. He works for Iceland and although I worry every day about the risk he is taking being there, I am also extremely grateful that we still have an income and access to food.


I’m now home-schooling my five-year-old son, which isn’t too much of a challenge as I used to be a childminder and I work with children at my clubs. In fact, I’ve been really enjoying it. My older children see to themselves and they’ve been brilliant at playing with their little brother when they take breaks between lessons. We are also lucky to live in a semi-rural location with a huge garden, ducks and chickens and other animals, plus a vegetable plot to keep us all busy. We are fortunate, and I do not take that for granted.


I feel the fear, like all of us. My 17-year-old daughter has just got a job with her dad at Iceland, and although I am proud of her I am also terrified for her. I try to avoid the news in the day and my little boy is a wonderful distraction and a shining light for me daily. His adaptability has inspired us all. But it hits me in the evening, and I can’t help sit and consider everything that has changed and wonder when normality will return.


The things is, I’m not sure how much of the ‘normal’ I want to return. I love schooling my little one and although I think school can provide a better and more rounded education than me, I am going to miss him like hell when this is over. I miss my clubs and the children and adults I work with. I keep meaning to set up online content for them or engage with them via Skype or Zoom but I’ve had to admit at the moment I just don’t have the emotional energy for it by the time my day is over. I don’t miss the stressful day-to-day running around. I spent most of my earnings on petrol I think as we only have one car, so I was pretty much running everyone everywhere all the time. I don’t miss traffic jams and it’s so peaceful now where we
live. And I don’t really miss other people. I’m an introvert who loves to be alone. In fact, I need to be alone to refuel, so lockdown is not a challenge for me the way it is for more sociable people. I’m actually a little bit worried about how I will cope adjusting back to ‘normal’ again. I also think the world was heading in a worrying direction and I really hope that this ‘pause’ in proceedings will make us all think about the kind of society we want when it is all over.


As for writing? There is a bit less time as the kids are here in the day, but most of my writing took place in the evenings anyway and now that I don’t have clubs to prepare for, I’m able to get plenty done. I am tired though as I spend a lot of time attacking my garden! I’m probably blogging more than usual, as I keep thinking about lockdown related things to talk about. I find this as therapeutic and hopeful as gardening.


So, it’s weird. I’m still doing all the things I’ve always done, all the things I love. I’m with my kids and my animals. I’m writing and reading and listening to music. I’m gardening and growing things and spending as much time outdoors as I can. Normal, everyday stress and strain has been replaced with a darker, spikier edge of fear that only comes out at night. I the lockdown and love lockdown. I want normality back and I fear it returning. I’m a very confused writer, but that is probably also normal for me.


Author bio:


Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to reading, writing and music and writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling.


Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life and has now been developed into a 6 book series. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere and award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels, plus a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories.
The award-winning Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing in October 2018. YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson was released in December 2019 and is the first in a trilogy. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine.


Links:
Website/blog : https://chantelleatkins.com/
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/chantelleatkinswriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Chanatkins
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/chantelleatkins/
Email Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/bVVbGD
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chantelleatkinswriter/

Well it’s been lovely to have Chantelle as my guest – another YA author! Yay… Good to know – and we both have written about self-harm – how’s that for a coincidence?

I’m so glad I started these guest author posts it has introduced me to a lot of fascinating authors.

Thanks for being my guest Chantelle.

Isolation For Writers: Guest Author – Jeannie Wycherley #Guest #Author #Isolation #Collaboration #Thoughts #Family #COV19

Photo by Bruno Scramgnon from Pexels

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to my next guest author Jeannie Wycherley – in my Isolation series in the time of COV19 – I discovered Jeannie via my Facebook post on Book Connectors asking if group members would be interested in writing a post about Isolation during Coronavirus.

Jeannie was one of several who were interested in joining in. She has a fascinating tale to tell.

Welcome Jeannie…

How are coping with this enforced isolation?

Collaboration in the time of Coronavirus Jeannie Wycherley

I was travelling in Sri Lanka when I first heard the word ‘coronavirus’. That probably makes it sound like I’m some sort of global jetsetter, and to be honest, I wish I was. But in truth, my husband and I run a small seaside gift shop in a small town in the south west of England and this was our first holiday in five years. We both have to supplement our income from the shop in other ways. He does so from exam marking (we’re both ex-lecturers) and I do so from my writing.

I don’t think I was concerned at first. I wasn’t paying much attention to the news in any case. But then we stayed in a gorgeous hotel near Dambulla over Chinese New Year and it seemed really odd to see all the Chinese tourists wearing face masks. Fast forward two weeks and I flew home with a scratchy throat. Just 48 hours later I had a respiratory illness that knocked me for six.

By then Coronavirus was becoming more newsworthy. I still don’t know what I had, but I knew enough about the virus that I self-isolated, ‘just in case’, for nearly three weeks. Unable to shake it off, I chose not to visit my parents at all, until suddenly, people over seventy were being asked to self-isolate and I’d lost my chance.

We kept our shop open through the first two weeks of March but increasingly became aware we were fighting a losing battle. Nobody wanted to shop, the streets were deserted, and we felt increasingly uneasy—wary of people ‘touching’ things or coming too close. On the 18 th March we closed our doors. The government announced the lockdown the next day.

I had a really bad few days from the 19 th March. Extreme anxiety, feeling weepy, experiencing nightmares, struggling to breathe at times. I tried to write—in fact I needed to write because I had a pre-order set up on my next Wonky Inn book—but I struggled to focus for longer than a few minutes. With the shop closed, I suddenly had the equivalent to three extra days to write in and be more productive. Instead of that, I found myself constantly checking social media and the news websites, driving myself crazy.

What made it worse, for me, was fear for my elderly parents. My Mum, 74, has been brilliant and remained indoors, crafting and doing puzzles, but my Dad, 75, is a different story. An ex Royal Marine, and prison education manager, he’s been around the block and he gets restless. He has lots of interests though, and one of those is writing although he’s never been published.

It came about that I had picked up a pre-made book cover, a fun science fiction. I spotted it in a sale; it made me chuckle and I parted with some cash. I don’t write sci-fi. I don’t even read a lot of modern sci-fi although I’ve read lots of ‘classics’ in the genre. But I absolutely love sci-fi movies so I’m aware of the tropes. My Dad loves all sci-fi. He grew up with it. When I was a kid and we went on holiday, he would invariably be reading sci-fi books on the beach.

I write horror and paranormal cozies. It occurred to me that a cozy sci-fi would be a lot of fun and there would be some crossover with my fans and I might pick up some new ones. The thing was, I was still struggling to focus enough to finish Wonky Inn Book 9: A Gaggle of Ghastly Grandmamas as well as editing an epic Victorian gothic ghost story, The Municipality of Lost Souls, so where did I think I was going to get time to write anything else?

Link for A Gaggle of Ghastly Grandmamas: http://mybook.to/WW9

At that stage I asked my Dad if he fancied collaborating and I sent him the cover. He loved it and bounced back with an idea. I suggested he create a plot and he came up with just over half (he admits he’s useless at endings). Now, I cannot ‘pants’ to save my life, so I took his plot and painstakingly broke it down into scenes, fleshed it out and finished it off. Between us we tweaked it and divvied out who was writing what and off we went.

Or rather off he went! Like a rocket. This is a man who struggled to write 300 words per day. Now I can’t stop him. I juggle my editing of Lost Souls and Wonky 9, with writing my scenes and editing what he’s written so that I can oversee a consistent voice throughout the story. It’s hard to keep up with him! The side effect is that I’ve had to focus because I’m doing so much. It will pay off in the long run.

And do you know? We’re producing a great little sci-fi story set on Dartmoor here in Devon, with a nod to H G Wells and those wonderful old 1950s serials like Quatermass and the Pit, but with a little humour and some quirky characters. We use Google Docs so that we can both see what the other is doing, and we catch up every few days so I can check that’s he’s happy and iron out any plot holes that have come up. It’s a fun project that we will both be proud of. When we’re both happy with it, I’ll send it to my editor. At some stage later this year, I am confident we can launch our collaboration and be justifiably proud of it.

If nothing else, this pandemic will have allowed us to work together in a way we might never have considered doing before. I’ll always be grateful for that, and for my parents remaining indoors and staying safe.

Link to my amazon page: http://author.to/jeanniewycherley

Website: http://jeanniewycherley.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeanniewycherley/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thecushionlady

Bio

Jeannie Wycherley is a genre-hopping introvert and word witch living somewhere between the forest and the sea in East Devon, UK. She is the author of Crone (2017), Beyond the Veil (2018), the Spellbound Hound books (2020), and the Amazon bestselling Wonky Inn series. She draws literary inspiration from the landscape … and cake.

Well, that was a fascinating post from Jeannie. I love how she is collaborating with her dad. There are positives that we can take out of this awful experience and it gives me great joy to share them.

Coping with anxiety and stress.

Hopes for the future during these strange times.

If you are interested in taking part in this new feature on my blog please email me on: marjma2014@gmail.com, or comment below.

Please share any photos you would like, thoughts, reflections, and of course your book links, book descriptions/photos, author bios and the like. All welcome.

Together we are stronger. Stay safe and well.