Guest Post #2; Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a brand new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks ago. Following on from my post Dreaming of Another World, I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world is possible and could just be glimpsed during lockdown. I reached out to other authors, wondering what their reactions to lockdown were in terms of the future. Has it made them want something different? Has it made them change the way they are living, for instance? Do they have daydreams, like me, about a different way of life? Each week I hope to post a response to these musings from guest authors and bloggers. This could be stories, poems, essays or personal pieces. This second piece is from author Lily Hayden. To find out more about Lily click on the link at the end of the piece.

Dreaming of another world- Lily Hayden

Headphones in and eyes down, I spent my commute dreaming of a world where I didn’t race from a school run to jam myself aboard a packed and late train that spilled us out at a hectic station. My head would be full of all the things I would do ‘if I had time’ as I was swept up in a sea of commuters like a dull, drab shoal of fish swimming past the now-familiar rough sleepers and brimming commercial bins, dodging the puddles from cleaners hosing down the pavement outside the strip of bars and restaurants until I reached my office to sit at a desk for nine hours exchanging eye rolls with my colleagues as we counted down the days to the weekend with the same lethargic lack of enthusiasm; “Ugh, Monday!”, “How is it only Tuesday?”, “Happy Hump day.”, “One more day!” and finally “Thank God it’s Friday!”.

My head, like the commuter fish around me, would be full of all the wonderful things I could do if I wasn’t a slave to the rat-race.

“I’d love to go vegan,” I’d lie to myself as I inhaled my fourth coffee before midday. “I just haven’t got the time to meal plan!”

Same for exercising. Not a chance could I fit gym time in amongst juggling work, writing and raising four children and numerous animals.

“Love the concept of zero waste!” I’d shrug as I clicked through an Eco page on Instagram in my lunchbreak. “But who’s got time to go searching for all that? I can barely manage one big shop on the weekend.”

“We should do more with the kids,” I’d say to my husband as we flopped down exhausted on the sofa on a Friday night, feeling the familiar pang of guilt as they all disappeared off to their rooms once the takeaway had been devoured. “If only we had more time!”

And then suddenly we had time.

“This is so strange,” we would repeat to various neighbours that we only ever saw in passing as we all flew from school runs to work on a never-ending hamster-wheel of rush, rush, rush.

We played games in the street at a social distance and went for walks in the woods that I’d never set foot in despite living on their doorstep for thirty-seven years. We baked, and we gardened, and we sat in the sun. We made little schedules for the children, and the big ones helped the little ones with their schoolwork. We skimmed stones in the river and explored the fields and the forests. We went from driving every day to once a week, and I thought about the carbon footprint reduction.

80,000 people commute into Cardiff every day for work with an average commute of 19 miles taking 48 minutes according to various sources. That’s 1.5 million commuter miles on train, bus and car pumping out tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2 every year.

“Did you know Cardiff is the fourth most polluted city in relation to size?”

“If half of those commuters worked from home, imagine the impact to pollution!”

Imagine! The world could start to repair the damage we’d done to it!

We had enough time to watch the news, to really watch it and talk about it, rather than scroll past on our way to work, the gym, drinks, dinner with just an apathetic ‘how awful’… And we had time to take to the streets chanting ‘no justice, no peace’ when we woke to the reality of the cycle of oppression that we had been complicit in. Strangers united to topple statues of terrible men who did terrible things in the name of profit and power.

We clapped for the nurses that work gruelling shifts putting their own lives at risk to care for others, but all they wanted was fair pay and protective equipment to keep them safe. Of all the people in powerful positions, a football player was the one to convince our Prime Minister that while schools stayed closed to the majority, children would go hungry without their free school meal. The staggering reality of poverty in our country felt like a dirty, little secret had been exposed.

But not everyone could stay home and breathe. A hotchpotch of roles were marked as essential alongside the obviously necessary ones as businesses interpreted the loose rules to suit their pockets, and instead of question the necessity we ordered takeaways, and everything from Amazon, we queued to buy paint from B & Q, and the country sold out of hot tubs.

And then we began to grow bored of entertaining ourselves. By nature, humans are sociable creatures; we missed our friends and our family, and worried that the children needed the routine of schools. By the end of June, mixed messages teased of our ‘playgrounds’ re-opening, and we craved our postponed holidays, desperate to jam a facemask on to jet off to foreign shores the minute the planes took off, or gather outside the pub to clutch that first ice-cold pint or queue to fill a basket in Primark. We were chomping at the bit to get back to ‘normal’.

The emotional need for normality was exacerbated by the very real fear that there would be economic repercussions of the wheel not turning and millions of worker bees furloughed; businesses would fold, and jobs would be lost forever. With fear in our hearts, we will jump back on the treadmill as soon as the whistle is blown. It’s likely that we’ll never have this chance to collectively stop again in this lifetime.

Imagine though if that was the last chance that the world was willing to give us.

On Monday I could be back on that train, headphones in and eyes down; the only thing that would have changed would be the facemasks we are wearing, and wouldn’t that be a horrible, horrible waste. Over forty thousand people have died, and tens of thousands are still recovering from a very serious and debilitating illness.

We cannot let this be for nothing.

I know it wasn’t just me on the train dreaming of having the time to be better, having the time to care, to educate myself, to read, to share, to connect, to donate, to question the morality of the society I live in. I don’t want to go back to seeing my own children for just a hectic hour each morning and evening, missing their lives so that I can pay to keep the roof over their head. My husband took over sixty business flights last year, we drove maybe twenty thousand miles of car journeys. I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our planet anymore. I don’t want to be shocked when I read that over one million children in the UK rely on free school meals or scroll past news of more racial injustice because I’m too exhausted to be angry. I know that it’s not just me on the train dreaming of a slower pace, more time and deeper connections.

I dream of a world where we learn from the lessons we’ve been taught.

Thank you so much to Lily for this wonderful and thought-provoking piece. If you would like to find to find out more about Lily’s writing, please follow the links below! And if you would like to contribute to this feature with a non-fiction or a fictional piece do please get in touch!

Link to author page and bio: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-

Hayden/e/B07CR8KF7D%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Guest Post; Dreaming of Another World

Welcome to a brand new feature on my blog; Dreaming of Another World. A regular slot handed over to fellow authors and bloggers. Following on from my post Dreaming of Another World, I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world is possible and could just be glimpsed during lockdown. I reached out to other authors, wondering what their reactions to lockdown were in terms of the future. Has it made them want something different? Has it made them change the way they are living, for instance? Do they have daydreams, like me, about a different way of life? Each week I hope to post a response to these musings from guest authors and bloggers. This could be stories, poems, essays or personal pieces. Our first piece is from author Grahame Peace. You can find out where to follow Grahame at the end of the blog post!

After months of planning, my partner and I, along with my youngest sister and her husband, had been looking forward to travelling to Nice in early April to celebrate my other sisters sixtieth birthday with her family. In May we also had plans to go to Paris with friends and realise a lifelong dream and visit Versailles. All that came to a sudden halt in late March 2020 due to the lockdown in the UK and across Europe due to Covid-19. Along with that, we had to cancel theatre trips, meeting up with friends and family, and our regular trips to the gym.

I’m sixty-two and suffer from asthma and allergies, putting me in one of the Covid-19 high-risk groups. Funnily enough, my partner and I had both been ill in late November 2019, we’d never experienced an illness like it, and as information came to light about the coronavirus, we are both convinced we had it. We had all the symptoms, although, without testing, we’ll never know. One good thing came out of that, once we were feeling better, we both rushed for flu vaccinations, and we’ll be going for another as soon as they become available in September.

None of us could predict what would happen next as the lockdown started here in the UK and across the world. I retired from my job in the National Health Service (NHS) in 2014, so I know first-hand the many daily challenges facing NHS and social care staff, how I feel for my hard-working, and often undervalued NHS and social care colleagues. It’s good to see them finally being valued and getting recognition for their work; one can only hope they get all the resources they need and are going to need in the future.

Since retiring writing has been my fulltime (F/T) occupation, and I treat it like a F/T job, working every day for several hours at my computer. The lockdown had no immediate impact on me from a work perspective. My partner was soon put of furlough but was used to working from home, so being at home every day wasn’t unusual. A positive outcome from that meant those jobs in the house and garden could now receive our full attention, not that there were many. During lockdown, my youngest sister and her husband have built two greenhouses and created a fantastic vegetable garden; they even discovered a hidden stream on their land.

Like many, I became obsessed with the news as well as trying to find out as much as I could about the virus. I was distracted and found it hard to concentrate on my writing. I still do, although I persevere. But how dire the news has been, with the daily death toll not just here in the UK but around the world. Along with awful predictions about what life could be like for years to come, and the worry for many as they lose their jobs. I still find it impossible to make any future plans, and I’m grateful to have my writing to keep me occupied; it’s also a much-needed distraction as I lose myself in imaginary worlds. I have a vivid imagination, which is both a good and a bad thing!

During the lockdown, we’ve hardly seen friends and family, but thank goodness for Zoom, what a fantastic piece of technology, it’s like something out of my favourite childhood TV programme ‘Thunderbirds’. We’ve tried to entertain ourselves with lots of reading, internet shopping, re-watching most of our extensive DVD collection and binge-watching various TV shows and series. Along with long daily walks in the countryside, even in the pouring rain, just to keep moving and get out of the house and into the fresh air. We also started shopping for our elderly neighbours. How I feel for people shielding who live on their own; they don’t see anyone for days on end as one day merges into the next.

During the lockdown, I finished and published my tenth book, The Ghost from the Molly-House. A Christmas Wish, this is book seven in the series and set in 1850 in Victorian London. As with all my books, I did a lot of historical research into the period, it truly was a world of the haves and have nots. Doing all the research helped me to realise that even with a global pandemic, how lucky we are to live in 2020. Life was grim and incredibly cruel in Victorian times, but that’s history for you! I’m now busy researching and working on my next book, The Ghost from the Molly House. Lady Fenella and the Fleet Diamonds, which is set in 1937. I hope it will be out later in the year.

Life is slowly returning to some form of normality, my partner started work again on 20th July, and things are opening up again. Not that I have any desire to go anywhere or back to the gym until I see how things unfold in the coming weeks, particularly as we’re starting to see spikes of Covid-19 cases all around the world. I’ve even started cutting my own hair; and going to a supermarket feels anxiety-provoking with panic buying, social distancing, long queues, plastic screens, hand sanitiser, and now face masks; I dread it, but needs must.

For me, one of the good things about the lockdown has been nature, the wildlife in the garden, the bird song in the morning, and the considerable reduction in pollution and traffic on the roads. I’m sure that’s had a positive impact on my asthma; for a period, I even stopped using my inhalers. It also created a sense of community; our neighbours have all come together. We had an outdoor, socially distanced VE Day celebration, which turned out to be a lovely evening enjoyed by all.

One downside I’ve witnessed has been litter. As I’ve walked through the countryside and watched the news, I’ve been astounded by all the litter, and rubbish people leave everywhere. Things like drinks cans, beer and plastic bottles, garden and building waste, and, of course, fast food packaging, without a thought for the environment and the poor people who have to clear up after them, it’s staggering.

Seeing how some political leaders have behaved over Covid-19, has made me feel increasingly worried about the future. I base that opinion on their actions, political spin, and fake news. It’s not inspired confidence, just at a time when the world needs to come and work together. The pandemic has brought out the best and worst in human nature with incredible acts of kindness, but also unbelievable acts of selfishness.

They say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, I do hope this pandemic will prove to be a wakeup call to everyone in the fragile world we live in; we can’t live in isolation, we’re all part of a global economy and like it or not, what happens in one part of the world, has an impact everywhere else. The days of things like the British Empire are long gone. Lockdown hasn’t made me dream of a new world; it’s just highlighted the need for the world I’ve always dreamed about; a world of peace, harmony, tolerance, respect, kindness, love, consideration, and equality. But someone somewhere will always want the last fish in the sea.

Thank you so much to Grahame for writing this piece for my new feature. You can follow him via the links below! If you are interested in writing a piece for Dreaming of Another World then please get in touch. I am looking for stories, poems, essays and non-fiction on the theme of another world. Did lockdown inspire you to change your ways or even your life? Would you like to see a change in society after Covid 19? What are your hopes and fears for the future? Anything written in response to Covid 19 and/or the climate emergency will be considered! Many thanks.

Website: https://www.grahamepeaceauthor.com/ Amazon UK Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grahame-Peace/e/B00JNA07HE/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gpeaceauthor Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamePeace

Barefoot On The Cobbles – Guest Post by Janet Few

Dr Janet Few.JPG

When Chantelle kindly offered to allow me to pay a visit to her blog, she said that her own writing was gritty, contemporary and non-conformist. I reckoned that I could manage at least two out of three. Then I discovered that her blog was called Glorious Outsiders and that certainly had a resonance. I am here to talk about my new novel Barefoot on the Cobbles and my slightly eccentric life; Glorious Outsiders abound!

Before I was any sort of published author, I was and still am, an historian. As such, I am not particularly interested in politics or tales of the great and good. I am fascinated by ordinary people, how they lived and the influences that underlie their behaviour. If I say that the presentations that I give on historical topics include aspects of witchcraft, mental health, non-conformist religion and the role of women, you might get the idea. It is the marginalised who intrigue me the most; truly the outsiders.

I am also a keen family historian. I seek out my ancestors and pay tribute to all those from whom I descend. These are not rich people, nor are they anyone who is well-known but they are those who, if it were not for me, might be forgotten. I have several non-fiction books in my portfolio; books about social history, genealogy and local history. I had reached a lull in ideas for more non-fiction topics, so I thought it was time to turn to fiction. I hadn’t written ‘stories’, since I was an angst-ridden teenager. I was all set to craft a very different novel, when the tragedy upon which Barefoot on the Cobbles is based came to my attention. It was a story that was not recalled in local folklore, which piqued my interest. So, in a way, I still haven’t written fiction, as this is the retelling of a true story. I did find that my historian’s instincts had to be suppressed at times. Although very little in the book is pure invention, there were occasions when I had to create plausible scenarios to fill in the gaps in the historical record. At first, I found it very difficult to convince myself that I really could just make it up!

Barefoot is set, in the early years of the twentieth century. This era provided me with plenty of scope, encompassing as it does, the First World War, the fight for women’s suffrage, the influenza epidemic, the dawning of a social conscience and medical care in pre-NHS days, all of which feature in the book. So, from that point of view, the novel is not contemporary, yet the emotions that my characters experience are recognisable today; the psychological make-up of human beings does not change.

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In Barefoot on the Cobbles you will find a narrative set in the beautiful Devon landscape; communities whose lives were shaped by the sea. So not just real people but real, recognisable places. There are scenes in the local asylum, on a battlefield, in court and on deathbeds. I think that qualifies as gritty. It isn’t all doom and gloom because the characters’ lives shaded from joy to despair, as do our own. As I struggle to answer the question, ‘What is your book about?’ I often say it is about people and the incidents in their pasts that led to the tragedy that is the culmination of the novel. It is a ‘why-done-it’.

Who then are Barefoot’s non-conformists, the Glorious Outsiders? The person who became the main character is a fisherman’s wife, who is past middle-age and described by some of her neighbours as ‘odd’. On the surface, her behaviour seems unconventional and the novel seeks to explain why this is so. Apart from this desperate mother, you will meet the troubled daughter, the reluctant soldier, the traumatised engineer, the militant suffragette, the alcoholic bankrupt and others on the side-lines.

I will leave you with the blurb and if you want more information, it can be found on my own blog The History Interpreter http://bit.do/bfotc

“In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.”

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy ISBN: 978-1-911438-54-0 is published by Blue Poppy Publishing https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk and paperback copies can be obtained from them. It is available on Kindle from Amazon, in various English-speaking countries. The link for the UK is https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07K3YMYRV

 

Guest Post: Anthony Morgan Clark

Hello lovely followers, it’s time for another guest post! This month please let me introduce you to British indie horror and sci-fi writer Anthony Morgan Clark. Anthony  has just recently released a spine chilling short story collection The Soul Bazaar, (cover designed, incidentally by the wonderful Justine at Jakeart1 who has also designed some of mine!) and he is also the author of the epic The Complete Tor. Here he talks about why he chose the indie path and why it’s what works best for him at the moment…

 

“So when are you getting a book deal, then?”

Many people to whom I’ve spoken about my writing assume that writers fall into two categories: the ‘serious’ writer who spends months or years slaving over the perfect manuscript to use as a tool to pursue a publishing contract; or the hobbyist who writes occasionally, is more interested in self-expression than success, who publishes their work on their website or Facebook page and throws out a Kindle book every so often because, well, what else do you do with all that writing – and who knows, it might even make a few quid. The digital equivalent of vanity press authors.

Of course, the advent of the e-reader and print-on-demand services has thrown this reality (if not the perception) into disarray. Self-publishers now exist in a mixed-up spectrum rather a single category, ranging from the aforementioned hobbyists to the top-level pros who essentially constitute small presses themselves through their outsourcing of editors, proofers, cover designers, formatters and advertisers.

Me, I sit somewhere in the middle of that. I’ve learned to proof and edit my own work, though am happy to take feedback from beta readers. I possess none of the artistic skill needed to create the visuals on my book covers, but do assemble them myself using paint.net (a free Photoshop equivalent) or Canva. I have a very limited marketing budget at present, but use my writing and copywriting knowledge to draw attention to my books. I am far from being a hobbyist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but my goal is for my writing to be my main source of income. But does that mean I would welcome a publishing contract? After all, I have four titles already published. All of my published work has received strong reviews. I’ve two further horror novels outlined and am working on a third. As a horror author, I have an existing market a well-funded and well-connected marketing department could tap into.

So, given that my existing releases have not garnered the sales I’d like, it would make sense chase a contract with my upcoming manuscript, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Aside from the hurdles involved, from finding an agent to the insistence of some agents and publishers that a script is ‘professionally’ edited (whatever the hell that means), to the unbearable turnaround times, there’s also the amount of control I’d need to give up.

More often than not I’m a horror author. Any publisher would market me as such. Given the content of The Tor and The Soul Bazaar, that would be sensible. Even more so, if they asked to see my unpublished outlines for Swarm or my current untitled WIP, a supernatural horror. The problem is, I’m not just a horror author. Reformed may have horror elements, but it is mostly a sci-fi. The same is true of The Graveyard, another plotted WIP (that will be having its title changed!). I also have enough short stories for another collection, covering a range of styles from sci-fi to comedy to social commentary to literary/speculative fiction. The entire publication will be a tangential sequel-of-sorts to the final short story in The Soul Bazaar.

How many publishers would be comfortable marketing a collection of shorts, none of which crossover but are still collectively a sequel to a short story which is itself an offshoot of a trilogy of novellas? Or would be happy to spend time and money promoting non-genre (or different genre) works by someone they’ve pegged as a horror author? Even those that would are likely to insist on a pen name. Which I won’t do. Because all my works are interlinked. For example, several characters from The Tor appear in other short stories in The Soul Bazaar, including Symeon. Symeon is an archivist and a collector of stories, and it is this idea which binds together all the stories in my as-yet-unpublished collection. The Krahe family from The Tor appear in Tremere, a novel existing only in a notebook on my shelf. The Rutenger Corporation own the technology driving the majority of Reformed, but also run the vivisection clinic from Swarm, the deep-space tech of Graveyard, and the AI tech in some of the stories from that future collection. In addition, there’s ‘5304’, a code that crops up more than once in Reformed, The Soul Bazaar, The Tor, Swarm, and a number of other short stories. I can’t even begin to tell you what that’s about… Then there’s the length of the product.

I enjoy working quickly, and after the four hundred pages or so of The Tor I’m looking forward to working through all those ideas and outlines I constructed whilst editing The Tor. A few of them (Swarm, Graveyard) I expect will run to the length of shorter novels such as Herbert’s The Dark, or King’s Salem’s Lot. Other ideas, such as my story about a female serial killer, or the sequel to Reformed, I’d expect to become novellas. How many publishing houses market books of that length anymore?

As an author, I want to push and test my writing abilities. I want to experiment with different genres, styles, and techniques. If I fall on my face doing so, then so be it. I want to choose what I write, how much I write, when I release it. I want to choose how long I spend promoting my release before moving on to the next project. I want to choose who does the art for my covers. I don’t want to be a manufacturer, penned in to my own little niche, making product after product for the marketing department. So I choose to self-publish. Ultimately publishers are gatekeepers. And who needs gatekeepers now there are no gates? I may have started out as an indie by default, but I think I’ll choose to remain one for a long while yet.

Thanks Anthony! You can find out more about Anthony and his books by following him on Twitter  and Facebook

Over to you! Writers, have you chosen the indie or the traditional path, and what has led you to this decision? Perhaps you have tried both? What do you think are the pro’s and cons of each publishing path?

Don’t forget I am always looking out for new guest posts on my blog! If you have something to say that is related to writing or your writing journey, then please get in touch. Alternatively, if you have something to say which relates to my theme of glorious outsiders, then let me know! I am happy to consider blog posts, poems, short stories, novel extracts and more!