Guest Post #3 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. This week, please welcome author Paul Waters to the blog with a wonderful piece about a lockdown project that really brought the local community together. Enjoy!

The Blue Book House

During Covid my second home has kept me connected to the world. It’s not what you think. I don’t spread my life between two properties. But I do have a home-from-home with essential creature comforts and it sits on my front fence.

My other house is wooden, double-fronted and painted blue. My carpenter friend, Mick, made it watertight and solid for me. My friend, Wink, friend carefully painted it. My Mum, Patricia, did the lettering. And the creature comforts it contains are a selection of one of life’s essentials – books. Hence the name, the Blue Book House.

It all started before the pandemic when I realised that I had far too many books. It seemed like putting a book house in front of my human house would be a good way to share my surplus and spread the book love. But it has not turned out as I expected.

The message written on both sides of my book house says: “Choose a free book. Read it. Keep it forever. Or pass it on.” And people do. They look through the windows or open the doors for a rummage while standing on the pavement.

But far from reducing my book stock, the book house has boosted it in volume and variety. That’s because people passing by also do two other things. They return books they’ve taken and they kindly add books of their own. Sometimes they slot them in. (I try to keep children’s books on the left and other on the right – though that system and any themed displays I attempt quickly become higgledy-piggledy.) Other times I open my front door to find a pile or bag of books in my porch. Which is lovely, though it wasn’t quite was I was aiming for.

I love books. I read voraciously. I write books – you’ll find my debut historical crime thriller Blackwatertown in shops in the UK, Ireland, France and Spain, and online. I like talking about books – I co-present a books and authors podcast called We’d Like A Word with fellow author, Stevyn Colgan. And I love sharing books and the love of reading. So the Blue Book House fits right in.

But it has also become something else – a point of contact with other people when we are restricted in where we can go and what we can do. It’s a connection at a time of social distancing, loneliness and alienation – and reduced hours or closure for local libraries. Most of the time people dip in and out of the book house without me noticing. The only indication is the books rearranged, some gone, others arrived.

But sometimes I happen to be passing a window when people are browsing. The book house is a reason to pause and rest when walking the dog or getting some exercise. Or perhaps I happen to be coming or going myself and have the chance to exchange socially distanced hellos with neighbours.

Sometimes a note is posted through my letterbox or left inside the book house saying thanks for a particular book. They’re usually anonymous. Sometimes with the handwriting and crayon drawings of a young reader. And that is lovely.

When there’s so much doom and gloom and disruption, the notes and conversations prompted by the Blue Book House bring light into my life.

You’re welcome to look inside and see if there’s a book that tickles your fancy. Or if you’re not in the neighbourhood, you could visit virtually via Twitter @bluebookhouse or Facebook @LittleBlueBookHouse

Even better, you could create your own book house. Just don’t expect it to help you cut down the number of books in your home.

Thank you so much to Paul for contributing this wonderful piece to Hello Home…feature. If you would like to find out more about Paul and his work his bio and links are below!

Bio

Paul Waters is the author of Blackwatertown, published in paperback/softcover and ebook by Unbound and audiobook by WF Howes. His website is http://www.paulwatersauthor.com

Books

 Blackwatertown: Amazon.co.uk: Paul Waters: 9781783529254: Books or www.amazon.co.uk/Blackwatertown-Paul-Waters/dp/1783529253/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4G0MXWZ5E4EO&dchild=1&keywords=blackwatertown+paul+waters&qid=1611069602&sprefix=blackwatertown+%2Cdigital-text%2C140&sr=8-1

Guest Post #2 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to be during the strange and unsettling time. This week, please welcome author Drema Drudge!

Pandemic Chair Musings

By Drēma Drudge

During the summer, during normal summers, that is, Barry and I spend as much time as possible at the Indiana Dunes. While our miniscule backyard is certainly not a day at the dunes, being forced to spend more time there than we ever had in 2020 led us to rediscover wonders during the spring and summer months of the pandemic that rivaled our favorite outdoors spot.

Beginning in March, when I was supposed to be on a book tour for my debut novel, instead we enjoyed sitting in the backyard, a drink in hand, observing “our” squirrel scamper, and a myriad of birds from robins to blue jays populate the pine trees, and watching spring and summer come and go.

Later in the fall, our squirrel was joined by another. Alas, no introductions were made, so we had to draw our own conclusions about the nature of their relationship. We saw them playing and chasing one another quite a bit, so one does wonder…the most interaction we had with them was when our original squirrel fussed at us for coming out and sitting in the very chair he wanted to occupy. Or so we surmised by his squealing as we invaded his space.

While we didn’t do all that we could to learn the names of the various flowers and weeds, bugs and birds (which is to say, we did virtually nothing to), we did spend lots of time observing them. A pandemic malaise overcame us that meant for the first time we didn’t feel obligated to do anything that didn’t have to be done. I also learned to nap and may have done a little reading but more dozing in the backyard.

Small things became important. We our Rose of Sharon. I had saved it from dying out a couple of summers ago by briskly, aggressively, pruning it and feared I had done it mortal damage until it came back. Barry said during our chair musings that the right side of the now-thriving bush was a tree that needed to be removed; I wasn’t so sure. We even compared the leaves of both and still disagreed; we hadn’t had such nature chatter together, well, ever. (I’m the greater nature lover in the family.) Funny how impassioned such topics became during that us-two-no-more time.

For the record, I think he’s right about the tree, but I’m too stubborn to admit it. I’ll just sneak out in the spring and chop the tree out and be done with it.

We sat daily in the vinyl chairs which we had rescued from our neighbor’s spring clean-up pile a couple of seasons before and watched with great interest some sort of ground cover (fence cover?) creep up and over the neighbor’s fence in a matter of weeks. The squirrels seemed vexed by it, because it was along the fence line they enjoyed traveling. Tiny pink and white flowers appeared on the covering. It reminded me of honeysuckle, but it didn’t have a scent. We decided to just enjoy it without further investigation, and when fall brought its dipping temperatures, we bore witness to its browning and shrivelling. Though we were momentarily sad, we looked about with interest to see what would come next as we sipped our drinks, we wrapped in our jackets, watching our breath in the evening cold.

Because our backyard is so small, Barry and I turned often to mindless conversation in those intermingled months. I brought a book of poetry outdoors and read the whole thing. Aloud. Sometimes we’d stay out until the stars appeared, because no one was stopping us.

On my favorite nights, he’d bring out his guitar and play. Sometimes I’d sing along, but more often than not I just enjoyed.

When we put fruit in our daily drinks, the bees or the creepy crawlies inevitably came calling. Those, too, were wonders to study, although Barry is allergic to bees, and I’d rush him indoors as quickly as he’d allow when that happened, but not before examining them up close and taking photos if I could.

We also took the time to plot what was next in our writing lives. We cohost a podcast, too, and we would discuss upcoming episodes. These weren’t meant as work sessions (okay, maybe my overly productive self was trying to show up), but they were so leisurely they didn’t feel like it.

Mostly, though, we’d sit and talk about nothing. That was best of all.

We bought a new grill, our old one having given up the ghost a couple of summers before. We took turns grilling food for the week: hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, pork chops. Then we could sit and watch whatever took our fancy on Netflix on the days when it was too hot to sit outside until evening or read. It was like having (besides our at-home work, naturally) an extended vacation. Thus began a real partnership on the cooking front. I’m not mad about it.

There were days, of course. There were moments of panic and fear, wondering what would happen if we got COVID. Would any of our loved ones get it? We hated to see it happen to anyone. The death toll rose. We glumly mulled the state of the world. Barry listened as I spewed my fears and he’d try to logic me out of them. When that didn’t work, he’d bring out his guitar and soon enough I’d be so enthralled those worries receded.

We were relieved to have a mild fall, and we continued our tradition as long as possible, even as the temperatures dipped below my comfort level. The fresh, cool air revived us and our cherished (yes, I said it) spring and summer months.

Writing this, the temperature is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit today. While we still occasionally rush outdoors for a few minutes, most of our time interacting with our backyard takes place watching our squirrels out the window. But we’re counting the weeks.

The pandemic brought plenty of ill to the world, but we are also thankful for what it gave us.

Thank you so much to Drema for writing this wonderful piece for my blog. If you would like to find out more about her and her writing just check out the link below!

My bio:  Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction. Her debut novel, Victorine, is now available. For more about her writing, art, and travels, please visit her website, www.dremadrudge.com, and sign up for her newsletter. In return you’ll receive a free historical fiction short story. 

Guest Post #4 Pandemic Pets – How Are Furry Friends Saved Our Sanity

Welcome to another Pandemic Pets feature! Each week I will be welcoming a guest to the blog to tell us how the furry friends in their life have made getting through the Covid 19 pandemic that much easier. Please welcome YA author KM. Allan who tells us how her new kitten Dash helped fill the hole left by her previous writing buddy, Slinky.

How Having A Pet During The Pandemic Made Things Joyful

When lockdown began in Australia during March, I’d had my new kitten Dash for only a few weeks. He wasn’t a lockdown pet, but a cat I’d been waiting to get for a few months, having lost my last cat, Slinky, to cancer 2 years prior. I’d had her for 15 years and was looking forward to having another furry companion and a new writing buddy.

Slinky – writing buddy

That first lockdown lasted from March until June. Then we had a second lockdown in July that’s still ongoing, although the harshest of restrictions eased last month. Having spent 7 months of the year in lockdown—mostly at home for 23 hours a day—you get to know a kitten pretty well.

While Dash spends a good amount of time sleeping, he’s also playful. Sometimes that playfulness happens at 3am and I wake to find him trying to steal my pillow, but it has made lockdown more bearable.

I tried to keep a routine during this time and stick to writing with the #6amAusWriters on Twitter, and this became part of Dash’s routine too. He’d get up with me and sit near the desk, often stealing my chair (until I got him his own) and would keep me company on cold winter mornings. It even got to the point where he’d wake me if I didn’t get up when my alarm went off (yes, really. And his idea of an alarm is biting me!)

Dash – writing buddy

While I didn’t get a pet to help me through lockdown, I wonder what it would have been like without one. I probably would have checked the news more often, letting the sadness of the world get to me more than it did. I wouldn’t have taken breaks through the day to throw soft balls around and marvel at how high a kitten can jump, and I wouldn’t have discovered how much Ragdoll cats are like dogs and will play fetch with you.

I would have known what it was like to pass the Groundhog Day sameness of lockdown by doing a puzzle without a cat stealing the pieces, but I wouldn’t have arranged boxes from online orders into cat tunnels or upgraded to a cat play system. I got to do those things during a time when we’ve all done things we probably thought we wouldn’t.

Dash – box tunnels

It was, and still is, a hard year to cope with, and I’m glad that I had a pet to help me through it.

Dash wasn’t just there on the days when all the creativity I could muster was to set Netflix to binge. He was also there when I achieved milestones like publishing my first two books.

In a year when being a debut author meant missing out on bookstore events, in-person launches, and celebrations in restaurants with family and friends, having a cat who was just as excited as me to open a box of my published books was fun. Okay, so for him, it might have been about a new box and not the books, but I’ll always smile when I see the picture of Dash nosing his way into the carton.

An event that didn’t pan out like I thought it would because of 2020 was still joyful, and it and many more events throughout year were, simply because I had a pet to share them with during the pandemic.

Thank you so much to Kate for joining us on The Glorious Outsiders and introducing us to the gorgeous Dash! It sounds like having him around really helped the strict lockdowns become more bearable. If you would like to know more about KM Allan and her books her links are below! And if you would like to write a personal piece, story or poem on the Pandemic Pets theme please get in touch!

K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. She started her career penning beauty articles for a hairstyling website and now powers herself with chocolate and green tea while she writes novels and blogs about writing.

When she’s not creating YA stories full of hidden secrets, nightmares, and powerful magic, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, spend time with family, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need.

Visit her website, http://www.kmallan.com, to discover the mysteries of the universe. Or at the very least, some good writing tips.