Guest Post #1 – Hello Home…

Last week I posted about how it felt to be entering yet another strict lockdown here in the UK due to Covid 19 infections soaring again. It was a post addressed to my home…the place that is sheltering us and keeping us safe. It got me thinking, how are other people coping in their homes? All our homes are so very different – how does it feel for other people to be locked in again? So, I reached out and I’m happy to report I’ve got a wonderful selection of guest posts lined up for the coming weeks on the theme ‘Hello Home…’. For the first post please welcome author R. V Biggs. You can find out more about him and his books at the end of the post!

Home.

‘Home… home again.

I like to be here when I can.

When I come home cold and tired,

I love to warm my bones beside the fire.’

Wonderful song lyrics that I’ve remembered for almost 50 years and taken from the album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd.

But at some point during autumn, maybe into November, a switch usually turns on inside my head while I’m glaring at tail lights during the daily commute home along the M6. The switch activates the memory of these song lyrics and draws me into the warm embrace of what home means, especially when we’re heading for the dark months.

That warm embrace offers up a myriad of recollections all listed under the heading of Nostalgia and not just related to the winter months when, for the most part, we humans migrate indoors.

As the years have passed, I’ve realised that Nostalgia isn’t just a yearning for years gone by. It can invoke memories in the recent past, and I think lockdown has had its effect on this notion as well.

My commute came to a halt in March 2020, much like, I imagine, many others, though I deem myself one of the lucky ones who can work quite effectively from home. So now my house has become my sanctuary, since I’m shielding, a place where I’ve been able to shut out the world to keep safe.

But the way I feel about my home has changed over the last twelve months. It has taken on a more poignant meaning after a three week stay in hospital when the medical experts tried to figure out what was wrong. Mercifully they did and returning home made me realise how I long for and value my home when I’m away.

For almost a year now I’ve worked from home, which suits me for the main reason that I don’t have to commute… the single most exhausting part of the working day. It means I’m here to have breakfast with my wife, and elevenses, lunch and dinner, the latter without being almost too tired to eat. There’s a comfort in knowing I can share more of my day with her and Mags, our Labrador rescue.

As I look around, I see the material things that make up our home. The furniture, the photographs, prints on the wall, the candles, the DVDs, my wife’s knitting basket. Then outside the trees we have planted, the roses, the summer bedding, the hard landscaping, the vegetable garden, the bird feeders. The list goes on.

But each of these things invokes a shared memory. The memory of when and where we bought ‘x’, or planted ‘y’. When this or that photo was taken and what we were doing at the time.

Imagine if you stood in each room of your home in turn, picked out an object and pondered when you bought it, from where, and what you were doing at the time, how far down memory lane could you go? What connections would you make?

Here’s an example. On the bistro table in the photograph above, there are cups and saucers my wife and I purchased from a charity shop in Tywyn, near Aberdovey. At the time we were having a short break in October 2019 for our wedding anniversary. I use one of this set each day for coffee while I’m working, and it reminds me of our rediscovery of the Cardigan Bay coastline of Wales.

During the year we met, we took a short break in Wales and fell in love with the place and each other. For years we holidayed there in the Autumn before discovering the vastness of Scotland after which we only had days out in Wales. But the return was an eye opener, since we’d all but forgotten its beauty. Now when I look at these cups and saucers, I remember that holiday in 2019, I remember the days out over the years, the seafront at Criccieth, Cadwalladers ice cream, the long beach at Harlech, Fish and Chips from Barmouth… catching the sunset before the long drive home. And all this from an object that sits in a cupboard in our kitchen.

Maybe these are the things that really define our homes so that when we return we are surrounded by the memories we’ve made.

I mentioned lockdown above. Well, below is a picture of homemade jam. The fruit was partially foraged locally by my wife during lockdown on daily dog walks, and from Cumbria during an early autumn holiday of this year before the world closed in once more.

Everything around me has a link to a memory somewhere in the near or distant past, and for me each of these memories relates to and brings me back home.

But if I were to be honest, home has two meanings for me. The first is that which we all recognise from the word… the place where we live. But for me, the other meaning is my wife. She is the reason I have a home, the reason I have so many memories, so many objects around me that link to my past. In the words of Roger Waters, (sorry, Pink Floyd once again but more recently than 1973), ‘Everybody’s got someone they call home.’

I think home must mean more to me than I sometimes realise, which is why I chose to weave themes of family and home into my writing. Not a decision I sat and thought about… it just developed that way, as you can see in this extract from Reunion, the second in my short series of psychological mysteries.

Sarah’s need for the sanctuary of family was her greatest strength and her greatest weakness. What was family, she thought, if not a place to belong? Family was everything. It was a warm blanket… an embrace… a safe place to hide when the world threatened. A refuge where the door was always open, and a friendly face welcomed. Her need was deep-rooted, which explained the intensity of her grief after losing both of her parents.

With thoughts of family, she recalled the feeling she’d had when entering the building over half an hour ago. But the feeling of home that touched her back then, was little to do with the carpeted entrance, the heavy curtains and fresh flowers. Instead, it was the presence that called to her… a manifestation which sent forth warm tendrils of love that spread outwards from this quiet room overlooking the sea.

So I guess ever more so during these times of lockdown, home is not only where the heart is, it’s where memories lie, where our spirit settles, where our souls are at peace.

Thank you so much to Rob for this wonderfully personal piece. If you would like to find out more about him and his work his bio and links are below! We will have a new ‘Hello Home…’ piece mid-week!

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favourite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health National Health Service trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

Amazon :- Tinyurl.com/yavoqlbx
My website:- rvbiggs.com

Character Interview- Mack Walker

Morning folks! With Christmas just around the corner, many of you lovely bookish types might be thinking about buying books for your loved ones. With this in mind, myself and my friend indie author Kate Rigby are holding a little Christmasssy event today over on Facebook. The Christmas Pop-Up Book Shop will be full of links to paperbacks by fantastic authors. Authors, feel free to add your links throughout the day, and readers, please come in and browse the shelves. We will be leaving the event up for a few days so that you can pop in and out and not have to worry about missing anything. We will also be posting some other things of interest, such as giveaways, competitions, and character interviews. Here is one such thing. Indie author Mark Gillespie is an incredibly talented and prolific writer. I can’t keep up with the number of books he releases! This character interview is with Mack Walker, the main protagonist in his dystopian/post-apocalyptic/speculative fiction style trilogy, The Future Of London. (I’ve read two books in the series so far, and it is brilliant!) Enjoy!

Mack Walker (The Future of London Series)

1. Do you have any negative character traits and if so, what would you say they are?

I suffer from obsessive tendencies. But I don’t know, are those negative traits? To wake up in the morning knowing that only one thing matters above all else? That sounds like clarity to me. I’m looking for someone you see – that’s my thing. You could call it hunting rather than looking, because when I find him, well…

2. What are your most positive personality traits?

Obsessive tendencies.

3. Tell us what your current most pressing ambition or dream is?

To kill a man called Hatchet. In 2011, he did a terrible thing, something that changed all our lives for the worse. Someone has to make him pay and only a few people know what he did back then.

4. What are you most afraid of?

I still don’t know what happened to my parents. Nine years after they locked us up in London I don’t know what happened to them. Did they stay behind to look for me or did they make a run for it and try to get out before it was too late? I’m afraid I’ll never know the answer to that question. Most of all, I’m afraid they stayed behind.

5. Do you have a best friend? If so, why this person?

Friends don’t last long in this city.

6. Have you ever been in love?

I was only 16 when they locked us up in here. I never had much time for all that stuff back then. I’ve got even less time for it now.

7. Have you ever committed a crime?

Yes, but not without good reason. I don’t even know what counts as a ‘crime’ anymore in here. We do what we do to survive. Things like stealing and murder, they don’t mean what they used to.

8. Do you have any secrets?

I have a big secret. I know why no one is a hurry to let us out of London even though it’s been nine years since they sealed off the city. I’m certain they could find a way to bring us all back into society if they really wanted to. Only one other person in the city knows what I know. They’re using us – they’ve installed hundreds of thousands of micro-cameras everywhere, all over the city and they’re filming us. Not only that, we’re part of a reality TV show called The Future of London. Apparently it’s very popular and people pay a lot of money to watch us in here. They gain nothing from letting us out but they stand to lose a lot of money.

9. Do you have any regrets?

I wish I’d never moved to London in 2011.

10. How would you like to be remembered?

There haven’t been any new headstones in London for a long time. But it doesn’t matter if no one remembers me. Not as long as I find him.

Thanks so much to Mark (and Mack!) for this interview! You can find out more about Mark’s books on the link below;

Mark Gillespie books

 

Why My Favourite Draft Is The Second

Writing the first draft of a novel (as I am doing right now) is wonderful and scary and full of surprises. There is nothing quite like the exciting moment you first put down words to see where they go. Also, if you have been spending a lot of time revising and editing, writing something brand new and fresh, is just glorious. If you’ve had to push back ideas and ask noisy characters to wait their turn patiently, finally starting that first draft is just about as exciting as it gets.

However, the first draft is also tricky. It’s entering unknown territory. You may have a plan and a plot, but things change, things happen. Sometimes the characters take over and throw constant spanners into the novel you had envisioned! It is also a draft full of self-doubt. Is this working? Is this rubbish? Then there are the bits that drag. It’s slowing down, what do you do?

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Writing your first draft is an exhausting, nerve-wracking business. Compare that to the frustration and tedium that sometimes accompanies the third, fourth or fifth draft, and you might understand why the second draft of a novel is my absolute favourite. Here is why!

  1.  Because it’s surer, more confident than the first. It has a clearer idea of where it is going and why
  2. It is usually a hell of a lot better than you thought it was! Writing the first draft I am often telling myself how clumsy and awful it is. Going through the second, I tend to get a pleasant surprise. It’s actually not that bad!
  3. The journey has been mapped out and the plot is staked into place. Yes, things still could change, but the solid basics are there. The journey is basically filled with less trepidation
  4. The characters have come alive and introduced themselves properly. They were a tad shy to begin with, but that is so not the case now!
  5. The characters have taken control and surprised me. They’ve taken the wheel from my hands and even changed the direction we were going in
  6. The themes are growing in strength and making sense
  7. As I am blundering through the first draft, I can already see how much better I can make it in the second, and this is very exciting
  8. I’m excited to get back to the start again for a better effort with more tools in my kit and my knowledge about my characters and story
  9. The hardest bit is over, I’m now refining it, fleshing it, trimming it, shaping it and perfecting it
  10. I’m not bored of it yet! It’s only the second draft so it is still all shiny and new!

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How about you? Which draft do you enjoy the most? Which one is the worst or the hardest? Please feel free to comment and join in the conversation!

Writers Blog Tour

So I’ve been passed the baton by writer John Needham, which makes it my turn to run with. At the end of my post I will be passing it on to two blogging writers, Nicole Nally and Michael Hawke. As is the whole point of the blog tour, they will then do their posts and link to some more writers, and so on. Seems a great idea to me! It’s certainly introduced me to some new authors and their blogs. So anyway, onto the questions! (Interviewing myself, how weird!)

What Am I Currently Working On?
A tricky question right away because there is no quick or simple answer. I am working on several things at the same time, which to be honest is a bit of a nightmare! There is the sequel to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side which I wrote a few years ago and have only recently decided to make public. This Is The Day is in its last edit and will hopefully be available in the next month or so. You can read it as a sequel, but it will also make sense if you have not read The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Then I have another finished novel named This Is Nowhere. It’s currently being edited and when I get it back I will spend some more time on it before releasing it. It’s essentially a family mystery and deals with subjects such as dementia, mental illness, suicide and family conflict. Then there is a brand new book I have started writing, to be aimed at young adults. My book hungry almost twelve year old has been a major inspiration for this. She devours books like nobodies business and my ambition is to write something so gripping that she cannot put it down! Quite a challenge I can tell you. I can reveal that the book is called The Tree Of Rebels, and is set over a hundred years in the future where a thirteen year old girl begins to question the apparently perfect society she lives in. It is about nature to a certain extent, the human kind as well as the wild kind, but more importantly it is about rebellion. And finally that brings me to my debut novel The Mess Of Me; a first person narrative from the perspective of a cynical, body conscious sixteen year old girl. This will be re-released with Autharium at some point soon. Long story, but it was snapped up by another publisher, with whom things have unfortunately not worked out. I am looking forward to giving it the once over and getting it back out there!

How Does My Work Differ From Others In My Genre?

Hmm, another toughie. To be honest I am not really sure what my genre is, which is one of the reasons I decided to go with an independent publisher. It gives you the freedom to write what you want, whatever genre that may be. I suppose you could call it realist fiction, (although The Tree Of Rebels will obviously be a young adult fantasy) as I tend to write about real people in real situations. I have a tendency to write a lot of dialogue, and I would say that my books are largely character driven. There are plots, and sub-plots, but I like to feel it’s the characters that stand out and drive things forward.

Why Do I write What I Do?
I like this question! This one is easy! I write what I do essentially because I have to. It really is as simple as that. I never really decide to write about a certain subject, and I never really devise complicated plots before I start writing. It is always, always the characters that come to me first. They quite simply walk into my mind, set up home and refuse to leave. They start talking, and soon they have a particular voice. A way of speaking, as well as a way of looking at the world. They will eventually present a dilemma, or a journey, and then I will start to see the other characters that surround and influence them. Bits and pieces will link up and join together in my mind, becoming like this spider web of words and images and situations. Eventually it gets so noisy in there that I have to start writing things down. So that’s why I write what I do. The voices in my head make me!

How Does My Writing Process Work?
Well I probably answered some of this in the last question. It starts with the character and their voice, and then when it gets too much to contain I will start jotting bits and pieces down. It will probably just be in my phone to start with; just random notes and ideas as I am walking the dogs, or trying to sleep at night. Eventually I will need to start a notebook, and this takes over from the phone. It is sadly never as organised or as neat as it should be. There will be pages about characters, with their names, ages and physical description. There will be a timeline somewhere. There will be ideas for the plot, and many, many snippets of conversations I envision my characters having. This will all take place as the book is written though. Nothing is planned out in advance. The notebook takes shape alongside the story. It’s really just a way to stop my head getting too full. Most of the time the actual writing just flows. If it’s how it should be, then it just happens; word after word, page after page. To me, writing should bring out the same emotions in me as reading. I should be addicted to the story, desperate to get back to it!

Well that’s enough about me and what I do. Please let me introduce you to my fellow blog tour writers, Nicole Nally and the poet Michael Hawke;

Nicole Nally has told stories for as long as she can remember. After dabbling with the idea of joining the publishing world after University, and working in several desk jobs that left her crying in the toilets, she finally realised it was possible to make a living from writing and has done so ever since. Writing as a freelance ghostwriter, she is also working on her own stories and trying to worm her way into the world of webcomics. She currently writes a monthly post for Autharium’s Tuesday Takeover and writes for her own blog several times a week.
http://nicolenally.blogspot.co.uk/

Michael Hawke retired twelve years ago, after running his own pharmacy for twenty years. He started writing poetry as a way to communicate to his five children and six grandchildren a bit about who he is and how he feels about things. He has a book of poems called Vignettes published with Autharium and has a brand new book of poems called Love From Dad-Poems of Love and War coming out soon. Michael can often be found reading his poems to audiences in pubs, cafes and writers groups. You can find out more about Michael in his blog.
nompie.wordpress.com