Guest Post #4 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. Today please welcome author Susie Kearley who released her pandemic themed novel in January of this year. If you would like to know more about Susie and her writing, her links are at the end of the piece!

“Stay at Home” has been the clear message during lockdown in the UK. For me, it’s been easy. I work from home anyway, writing magazine articles, and when my husband joined me in March 2020, I appreciated the company.

Back in the autumn of 2019, I took two months off article writing to complete my novel – it’s a story about a fungal pandemic, which brings about the end of the world! At the start of 2020, I started looking for an agent, and then Covid struck, which I thought made my book really topical!

I had good feedback but no takers, so I finally decided to publish through Amazon in January 2021, because I felt I was missing an opportunity. There’s been a lot of interest in pandemic stories since Covid struck; Dean Koontz’s novel about a Wuhan Virus published in the 1980s saw sales peak. Peter May’s Lockdown, which was previously rejected because publishers said it was unrealistic… was published to great acclaim in 2020.

As the UK went back into lockdown in January 2021, it felt like the right time to publish.

So my time at home in recent times has been productive, despite considerable challenges. A lot of magazines stopped commissioning, preferring to use up stock, given the unpredictable nature of what might happen next. Article writing work was slow, so I spent more time in the garden, went for daily walks, and worked on my photography. We watched a lot of movies in the evenings under lockdown.

I’m grateful that we have a nice home, with guinea pigs, and a garden. It’s so important to like your home, when you’re having to spend a lot of time there. We’re now looking forward to the opportunities the future brings, as the vaccine is rolled out, and hoping that my pandemic book, ‘Pestilence’ will capture people’s imaginations and become the next best seller! Check it out here http://mybook.to/pestilencebook
www.susiekearley.co.uk

FB: www.facebook.com/susie.kearley.writer
TW: www.twitter.com/susiekearley

Many thanks again to Susie for writing this piece for my Hello Home…feature!

See you next week for another guest post!

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 #5 Pandemic Pets – How Our Furry Friends Saved Our Sanity

Welcome to the last post in my Pandemic Pets feature! I have been welcoming guests to the blog to tell us how the furry friends in their life have made getting through the Covid 19 pandemic that much easier. Today I’d like to extend a warm welcome to my very own big sister, Fran Hemsley. Fran is not a writer or a blogger, but I felt she had an interesting experience during lockdown, so I asked her if she would consider contributing to the blog.

When I found myself furloughed back in April I did what a lot of people in my position did – I started running! Every day I escaped home-schooling and the house full of people for about thirty minutes of ‘me time’; something I have never really indulged in before.

During lockdown I experienced the sudden death of my beloved Weimaraner Beau. I’m not ashamed to say he was the love of my life and my best friend. To cope with this unexpected bereavement I turned to running even more and found it even more beneficial as a means of ‘escape’.

Beau

It was during one such running session that I first came across Mr Fox. Well, I think he was a mister! He was sat as bold as brass in the middle of the road and when I paused to talk to him, he bounded on over and stopped at my feet.

And so an unlikely friendship developed in the midst of the global pandemic and the loss of my best friend.

After that initial hello, Mr Fox started appearing on my drive when I returned from my runs. He quite quickly started to follow me through the gate of our side lean-to. Even when the running stopped and I returned to work, if I left the gate open, he would appear like clockwork at the kitchen door.

After Beau died I was left with some very expensive dog food, so of course this went Mr Fox’s way. As did his wormer and flea treatment.

Mr Fox

Some people don’t like foxes being fed in urban areas, but their opinions don’t bother me. We have taken over their natural environment with the urban sprawl, turning them from hunters to scavengers and with the modern wheelie bins being so tall, it is hard for them to find our leftovers. Every single person I have spoken to about Mr Fox, bar one, does not have a problem with me feeding him. In fact, many neighbours confided in me and said; ‘Well, don’t tell anyone, but I feed the foxes too!’ It seems to be a very well kept secret where I live!

These days it’s too cold to sit in the lean-to and wait for Mr Fox to appear but I leave food for him out the front every night. Our property is kept clean and tidy and he must devour the food quickly, as we do not have a rodent problem in the area.

Brave Mr Fox

Making friends with Mr Fox was totally unexpected and magical and really helped me to get through the lockdown and the loss of my beloved Beau. I really hope to see Mr Fox again in the Spring.

Thank you so much to my sister Fran for sharing this with us and thank you too to the other bloggers and guests who shared their pandemic pet stories!

My 2021 Goals

It’s that time of year again! And the scariest thing is how fast it comes back around…I swear the years are going faster and faster.

Anyway, before I start dwelling too long on my imminent slide into old age and death, here are my goals for 2021! And if you missed my recap of 2020, you can find out here https://chantelleatkins.com/2020/12/10/my-2020-goals-vs-the-reality/ how I got on with the goals I set myself at the end of 2019.

  1. Do even better in the vegetable plot – Improving how much food we grow ourselves was top of my list of goals last year and it is again for 2021. There are so many reasons why this is important to me but I think the main reason is mental health. Gardening absolutely saved my sanity during the first lockdown and home-schooling. It’s addictive. It burns more calories than just about any other exercise and getting dirty is good for you physically and mentally. I could go on and on about how amazing it makes me feel to spend time in the garden, but I think you probably get it. Towards the end of this season I extended the plot and I am still popping in there whenever I can to keep on top of weeds and to add mulch and manure. I cannot wait to start sowing again!
  2. Publish the next two books in the Holds End Trilogy – This should happen. Emily’s Baby and The Search For Summer are both good and ready to go. They need formatting for ebook and paperback, they need their back cover blurbs finalised and they need front covers. All these things are in motion and I hope to release them early next year, possibly February and March.
  3. Revamp and re-release Bird People and Other Stories – This little short story collection needs a makeover. I have already contacted my designer about revamping the front cover and my proofreader is going to go over all the stories after I have. This shouldn’t take long and I hope to re-release it in April.
  4. Finish and release my short story and poetry collection The Old Friend and Other Strange Tales and Poems (working title!!)– This collection just keeps growing and growing but at some point I need to call time on it and get it out there! I will get the same designer to do the cover so that it compliments Bird People and of course there will be several rounds of edits and proofreads before it is ready, so I hope to release it towards the end of the Summer, perhaps July or August.
  5. Start the second draft to my current WIP The Day The Earth Turned- Book One – I am very close to finishing the first draft and really hope to have it done by the end of 2020…so the next step for this one would be a second draft. I was tempted to dive straight into writing book two, but as this is such a complex and challenging book to write (more on that another time!) I now feel going back over Book One would be beneficial before I start Book Two. There are already bits I want to change, for example.
  6. Move things forward with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – now that I have a creative partner, I am really excited about the CIC changing and growing in 2021. We have some exciting plans in motion which we will talk about very soon. Lots and lots of things in the pipeline – so I really hope that after the disaster of 2020 where thanks to Covid I barely earned a thing, I can finally start to see the hard work pay off in 2021.
  7. Carry on writing the screenplay version of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – this is a project I recently started and it’s not a priority. It can’t be, with all the other things going on! But if I have a spare moment in the week, I do enjoy getting back to this. It’s really challenging and fun turning a book into a screenplay and of course, it would be my absolute dream come true to see the series turned into a TV series.
  8. Get better at promoting my books! – I have been shockingly bad at this in 2020. Sometimes I go weeks or even months without so much as tweeting a link. I really need to come up with a plan and stick to it. I think I will get a separate notebook just for promotional activities and ideas and make a load of lists to tick off. This should motivate me a bit more and keep me on track.
  9. Keep adding notes to other book ideas… – I was tempted to add ‘finishing some almost ready books’ to this goals list but I think I would be setting myself up to fail. I got over half way through a first draft of the sequel to The Mess Of Me recently but then decided The Day The Earth Turned had waited long enough and I wouldn’t let The Mess Of Us jump the queue….In 2019 I wrote the first draft of a YA novel with the working title We Hate The Cool Kids. I would also love to tackle a second draft of this but again, it will have to wait. And then there is the spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series…in the fifth book I introduced two characters called Alfie and Tom. They took on a life of their own and I started to plan a spin-off book for them. I’ve actually written fourteen chapters of it in a very small notebook and they are always in my head! But no, no, no, The Day The Earth Turned series and my two collections will take priority in 2021! I have to draw a line somewhere! I will, however, keep adding notes to these books whenever I think of something. They are all very much alive and crowding my head and their time will come.
  10. Continue to Practice Self-Care – it wasn’t until the perimenopause set in last year, followed by Covid 19, that I realised how bad I am at looking after myself. I’m talking about really small, simple things – the small pleasures that calm you down and make you smile, like long baths with a good book and a drink of wine! I started making more of an effort in 2020 and I will carry this on. I will insist on time for myself in this busy, hectic life and I will make sure I get it.

So, that’s my list of goals set for the year ahead. I do hope 2021 is a better year for everyone. We can only hope! Are you setting yourself any goals for the next year? Please feel free to comment and share!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay