Guest Post #7 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a new feature on my blog where I welcome a fellow writer or blogger on to talk about their hopes for the future, post Covid-19. During lockdown, I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – like another world was possible and could just be glimpsed once we were forced to stay still. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be publishing a post written by a guest – sharing their thoughts, feelings, experiences and hopes during this strange time. How have they coped during lockdown and has it changed their lives in any way or made them yearn for a different kind of world? Today please welcome author Misha Herwin, where she talks about how working on her children’s fantasy series The Adventures of Letty Parker, helped her escape into another world while this one ground to a halt.

Dreaming Another World – my thoughts and feelings re lockdown

Initially it seemed like no big deal. Three weeks, or maybe more, of having to stay at home had a certain appeal. I would miss seeing family and friends, but it wouldn’t be for long and think how much writing I could do. My brain whirled with plans to finish one book, then revisit a series I’d begun but never completed. Added to which there would be the “Dragonfire” books to reissue. I could hardly wait to get started.

Euphoria lasted maybe a week, maybe less. The first blow was not being able to visit Mum on Mothering Sunday. This was followed by a creeping sense of anxiety and unease that grew stronger as time passed, government directives became increasingly confusing and the death toll rose daily. Suddenly everything I had taken for granted was freighted with peril. The days passed in a miasma of getting little done yet feeling exhausted.

What saved my sanity was transporting myself into another world. An alternative time and place, an England where Queen Victoria is still on the throne and Bristol is a city of secrets.

Letty Parker is, at thirteen years old, an enterprising business woman who runs a detective agency, “Letty Parker and Associates; Mysteries solved and the Missing found.” Her associates include, Jebediah Hill the leader of a gang of pickpockets, Mango, Jeb’s sidekick, Hepzibah Harrington, who comes from a very respectable merchant family and Gabriel. Gabriel is half-human, half Nephilim. When Letty was a baby he saved her from drowning and being eaten by Barbary eels and now acts partly as a guardian angel, but one who is never sure of his role in life and is constantly trying to find where he belongs.

The city these disparate characters inhabit is based on a real place, but has many fantasy elements and it is these that transported me from the grim reality of lockdown to a place where I could wander the narrow twisted streets of old Bristol, peep through the window of a dusty apothecary’s shop, where skulls grin from the shelves and drying herbs hang from the ceiling, or wander down to the dockside and watch the sailing ships come in from the Indies with their cargoes of sugar, tobacco and slaves.

(c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

For not everything is right with Letty’s world. The evil trade is still practised, two rival gangs rule the streets and the Dark Ones have seized power in the city. The Dark Ones are ancient beings, the Nephilim, who living for centuries view humankind as having as little individual value as ants. Long term they want progress. Gabriel’s Aunt Venetia lights her house with electricity and has installed a telephone. His father the Count believes that science will ultimately prove to be of benefit to mankind and is prepared to go ahead with his plans for the city whatever the cost.

Letty in contrast believes in fairness and friendship. She risks her life to save the street children who were kidnapped by Mother Jenkins and to rescue Hepzibah from the clutches of the Dark Ones.

She is also prepared to face down the mysteries Bear. Half man, half beast, leader of one of the street gangs, he and his followers live in an underground cavern. To reach his lair, Letty has to use the iron cage that descends from the Downs through the cliffs at Hotwells.

Using real locations like the cliff railway, I can see exactly where my characters are, smell the river mud, and hear the gulls wheeling over the masts of the ships docked at tobacco wharf, taste the suppers of steak pie and rumbulin at the Llandogandcrow Inn, where Jeb and Mango meet.

Layers of story overlie reality and when I was free to visit, I would find myself in company with Letty and friends as I walked along the river, or the bus went past the Christmas Steps.

The world expanded with the third book, “Island of Fear” when Letty inadvertently finds herself setting sail for Jamaica. This story was inspired by the time we lived in Kingston at the end of the nineties and the tales told by Mrs Winn an old Maroon story teller. On a grey day I love being back on a hot tropical island, where hummingbirds flit among the bougainvillea, owls call in the rain forest, the sea is blue, the sand white and the nights are dark and mysterious.

I might not have to deal with pirates, cursed jewels, evil plantation managers, duppies and dark magic, like Letty does, but it takes me out of the present situation and reminds me of the time when I was living a life that was like nothing I could have imagined.

Building Letty’s world and inhabiting it has given me an escape route. It’s also been a challenge, as all writing is. There has been the research, although it’s a fantasy world it has to be grounded in time and place, especially as some of the characters actually exsisted. Brunel and his suspension bridge make an appearance as does Sarah Guppy one of my favourite Victorian inventors.

Then there is the editing and the days when the writing isn’t going well and I have to find ways to get back into the flow. This has happened less frequently as the months have gone by and my need to be back in a world where I am more or less in control has grown.

None of us can foresee what is going to happen next and looking back into the past is not always the healthiest option, so this is my way of staying sane.

Thank you so much to Misha joining the blog today and sharing her thoughts on lockdown. If you would like to know more about Misha and her books you can find her author bio and links below!

Misha Herwin was born in England of Polish parents. English was not her first language but once she learned to speak it, she has never stopped. At twelve she wrote and staged her first play in a theatre made from a cardboard box. Since then things have improved and her plays have been both performed in England and Jamaica, where she lived for a while. As Misha M Herwin she has written two novels “Picking up the Pieces” and “House of Shadows”, both published by Penkull Press. “Dragonfire” “Juggler of Shapes” and “Master of Trades” are her fantasy trilogy for kids. “City of Secrets” is her most recent book and is the first in a fantasy adventure series for children. Her stories for adult readers have appeared in a number of anthologies including “A Fairy’s Story,” in “Bitch Lit”, and “The Satan Stones” in “Ancient Wonders,” by Alchemy Press. Her latest “The Loop Line” is in “The Darkest Midnight in December”. Her children are grown up and she lives in Staffordshire England with her husband in a house with a dragon in the garden.

https://mishaherwin.wordpress.com//

@MishaHerwin

The Adventures of Letty Parker are available of Amazon, Apple and other outlets, including bookshops.

City of Secrets: Book One in the series “The Adventures of Letty Parker.” https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=city+of+Secrets+Misha+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Bridge of Lies: Book Two https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Bridge+of+Lies+Misha+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Island of Fear: Book Three https://www.amazon.co.uk/Island-Fear-Adventures-Letty-Parker/dp/1916437389/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Island+of+Fear+Misha+Herwin&qid=1595000707&s=books&sr=1-1

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

This Is Lockdown – Q and A with MJ Mallon

Author MJ Mallon has put together a collaborative collection of writing, poetry and musings on the subject of the Covid 19 lockdown. One of the features in the book is ‘isolation writers’, where writers recorded their personal experiences of being a writer during a pandemic. I was lucky enough to have a piece I wrote included in this collection, so I wanted to help spread the word about This Is Lockdown and MJ Mallon kindly agreed to the following interview. Find out what inspired her to put this together, how easy and hard it was to pull off and what is happening with her own writing.

  • 1. Tell us about This Is Lockdown – what can we expect to read if we purchase this collection? I collated This Is Lockdown in two parts. The first section comprises my personal diaries, photography and poems It features the ‘isolation writers,‘ who share their pieces on isolation during COVID19, their poetry and writings. The second half focuses on my YA short story: The Poet’s Club, and a more mature love affair, plus various pieces of flash fiction inspired by news reports and social media during this time. This Is Lockdown is an authentic account of the difficulties and sadness of this time but there are also tales to lift the spirits, wonderful community initiatives such as Masks4NHS, (who contributed a piece documenting their fund-raising success.)

2. What made you decide to put this collection together?

This collection started off as a series of features on my blog. I posed this question: 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.

The popularity of this series of blog posts gave me the idea to put this collection together.

3. How did you approach authors/bloggers and what sort of response did you have?

I approached authors and bloggers via social media, specifically my Facebook group: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club and Book Connectors. The response was overwhelmingly positive. I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to connect with the writing community in a mutually helpful way during this time.

It gave me focus and drive to do something worthwhile whilst on furlough from work. I suddenly found myself with nothing else to do apart from housework, gardening, or the dreaded de-cluttering!

4. What sort of audience do you think will enjoy this book?

Ah, that’s an interesting question. Everyone. I hope. Firstly, I think it will appeal to writers, bloggers and creatives. Also, it will interest all of us – our experiences of the impact of coronavirus are similar wherever we live in the world.

5. What has been the easiest and what has been the hardest aspect of putting this together?

For me, the easiest part is writing! The hardest part is the formatting (especially as there are so many photographs in the collection.) I had to do a fair amount of rearranging, deciding on fonts, format, and headers. I’d say that it was the most difficult formatting job I’ve attempted to date.

There are many author photos, images I’d taken on walks, or in my garden, a photo of my daughter, two contributed photos of cats, food, etc. I changed the dpi (dots per inch,) of each photograph to ensure that it would be a high resolution for publishing.

6.What has your own experience of lockdown been, in terms of your writing?

Difficult. At the moment, I struggle to write in my normal style: YA Fantasy/magical realism. So, instead, I created realistic fiction

7. Tell us about your own writing and publishing journey so far

I started my blog Kyrosmagica – crystal magic – six years ago. Via my blogging journey I’ve joined in flash fiction, short story writing, poetry, and photography challenges. I’ve virtually met bloggers and writers who I now call friends, and I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting many of them in person at the Annual Bloggers Bash in London, which sadly didn’t happen this year due to circumstances not related to COVID19.

My debut novel, a YA fantasy set in Cambridge, is inspired by two amazing sculptural modern artworks: the Corpus Christi Chronophage clock invented by Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE, and the beautiful crystal grotto in Juniper Artland in Scotland, designed by Anya Gallaccio. These two creations give the book its raison d’être – its light and darkness.

The Curse of Time #1 Bloodstone is a coming of age story about a young girl, Amelina Scott. She lives in a weird family dynamic, with her much loved black cat, Shadow, Esme, a girl stuck in a mirror and her parents Mark and Eleanor who look like they’ve walked out of a horror wax museum. Ryder is delicious to look at but has a shadowy aura that excites and frightens her.

There are snippets of poems introducing each of the chapters and many themes interwoven in the book: music, magic, art, mental health/self harm, deception, and hypnotism. .

I’ve also contributed to these short story anthologies:Goodreads: Nightmareland, a bestselling horror anthology compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre, and the Ghostly Writer’s group organised by Claire Plaisted.

8. What was your latest release and who would enjoy it?

My latest release, Mr. Sagittarius is different too! It’s a collection of poetry, prose and photography inspired by the beauty of nature. It explores many themes: sibling relationships, love, the circle of life, myths and magic. It was recently featured under the heading Inspiration at Literary Lightbox.Here is the link: https://lightboxoriginals.com/lollipop-leaves/

9. What is your normal writing process?

I often awaken with ideas in the morning and rush to type them on my laptop! I don’t plot, I tend to write everything down and then add the detail, or rearrange. This helps to create imaginative and unusual effects!

10. What can we expect from you next?

First on the agenda is to finish the second in the Curse of Time series. I hope to publish the second book in this three-part series in the Autumn/Winter of 2020. I also have several other projects in mind… a poetry, photography book entitled Do What You Love, and a MG story about a dragon and a girl.

11. What advice would you have for any aspiring writers out there?Write, read, and repeat! Live, Laugh, cry. Experience the world through your eyes, ears and soul. Believe, and you will get there. Work at it and don’t let anyone crush your dreams.

12. What advice would you have for anyone thinking about putting together a collaborative collection such as This Is Lockdown?

It is my first attempt at a collaborative collection. My advice? Contribute to several anthologies before you attempt one yourself. This helps to give you an idea of the process and what you will need to do. There is a considerable amount of work involved, so make sure you have the time to devote to it. You will need to be organised. I use Canva to create content to share on my blog, and I manage my blog tour with featured posts by bloggers and authors I know in the writing community. It is important to ensure your cover and graphics are enticing. You can outsource blog tours, covers, formatting but it will be costly if you do. Keep costs down by creating your own ebook cover, making connections and using Kindle Create. 

Contributing Authors:

The wonderful contributing authors and creatives are many in number!

Richard Dee, (Sci Fi , Steampunk, Amateur Detective author,) Catherine Fearns, (Amazon Bestselling Author of Police Procedural/Mysteries and Music Journalist,) Lynn Fraser, (Author,) Jackie Carreira, (Writer, musician, designer and aspiring philosopher,) Willow Willers, (Poet and writer,) Sharon Marchisello, (Murder Mystery, Financial non-fiction,) Fi Phillips , (Author, Copy Writer) Jeannie Wycherley, (dark stories, suspense, horror,) Chantelle Atkins, (urban fiction, teen/YA,) Tracie Barton-Barrett, (Speaker/author,) Peter Taylor- Gooby, (Crime, Love Stories, Political Fiction,) Ritu Bhathal, (Chick Lit romance, poet,) Alice May , (Author, Artist and Speaker,) Miriam Owen, (Blogger and Doctoral Researcher,) Drew Neary and Ceri Williams (Ghost Horror, Supernatural,) Katherine Mezzacappa, (Author name:Katie Hutton,) Historical Fiction/Romance,) Sally Cronin, (huge supporter of indie community/blogger/author) Debby Gies (D G Kaye), (Memoirist/NonFiction,) Adele Marie Park, (Fantasy, horror, urban fantasy,) Marian Wood, (blogger, poet and writer.) Samantha Murdoch, (Writer, Blogger,) Beaton Mabaso (Blogger, African Storyteller,) Frank Prem  (Poet, Author,) Anne Goodwin (Author, Book Blogger) Sherri Matthews (Writer, Photographer, Blogger,) and Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago-Val – Community Masks 4 NHS

Buying Link:

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CD1MCFB?pf_rd_r=NPA6S5SQJ30A6VYX87Q5&pf_rd_p=e632fea2-678f-4848-9a97-bcecda59cb4e

Amazon US link:

Thank you so much to MJ Mallon for agreeing to this interview. If you would like to find out more about her and her work, the relevant links are just below!

Author Bio:

My favourite genres to write are: YA fantasy, magical realism, and various forms of poetry. I blog about books, writing, photography and inspiration at: https://mjmallon.com

I enjoy writing articles celebrating the spiritual realm, my love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious. One of my greatest pleasures is reading. I’ve written over 150 reviews at my lovely blog home: https://mjmallon.com/2015/09/28/a-z-of-my-book-reviews/


I’m a member of a professional writing body. SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators.

Links:

Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Authors Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L
Twitter:@Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time 

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club – #ABRSC: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829166787333493
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon 

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/m-j-mallon

Collaborative Group: https://www.facebook.com/pg/5SpiritualSisters/