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. 

5 Ways This Crazy World Helps My Writing

I could also have titled this post; ‘5 Ways Writing Helps Me Deal With This Crazy World’, because it works both ways. Writing helps me cope with this world and everything going on in it, and the world helps my writing by providing so much inspiration and material! Win win, if you want to put a positive spin on it. I could also have called this post; ‘How The Hell Do Non-Writers Even Survive?’, because seriously, I have no idea. If I didn’t have writing, I don’t know how would I cope. Anyway, here goes. The world is a messed up place but I don’t let any of it go to waste;

  1. Anxiety– I use the mess in my stomach and pretend I’m one of my characters. I play out the scene. I feel the churn and the dread weighing me down. That tightness in my chest. Like it’s hard to breathe. Like you don’t want to think about anything for too long or you might start crying and never stop. I take all that and put it into my characters. I become them. I play act. I change my worries and fears to theirs. I make use of it.
  2. I explore darkness – through my characters. Their stories are nearly all ones I have stood on the edge of. I’ve stood there and peered into the darkness. I’ve wondered about it and thought about it and been tempted by so many things inside the dark. But I have my characters and I explore it through them. I don’t have to go into the darkness, because I do it through them instead.
  3. I leave behind a legacy – For someone who is not religious, I’m not particularly scared of dying, but I do think about death a lot. Because the world is so messed up, and humans so delightfully flawed, I sometimes like to think of my books as my legacy. I’m leaving my thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears and hopes inside my books and these will live on after I do. My response to this world and this life is my writing. All my books, all my stories, my characters are all little bits of me, all part of me and who I am and when I die, my ancestors will be able to know me better than anyone, by reading it all.
  4. I weave the craziness into my stories – I make sense of the world and politics and social issues by writing about them. Anything that angers, upsets or confuses me is woven into my stories. My books all deal with social issues and I love delving into gritty subjects in this way. It gives me a chance to sort through my own thoughts and beliefs, and this dying world gives me a lot of material.
  5. People watching for material -It’s weird being a writer because on the one side you are naturally introverted and shy, but on the other, you are constantly baring your fragile soul to the world. You often distrust people and try to avoid them, yet they are endlessly fascinating to you and provide juicy material for characters and stories. It’s great though because you can go out into the world, soak up all the messy people then come home and expel it all through words.

So, there you have it. I don’t like this world or the people in it a lot of the time. I’m terrified of where we are all heading. But at least I’m getting the constant urge to write! What do you think, folks? Please feel free to comment and/or share. Does writing help you deal with the state of the world right now, or the worries in your own life? Or is the world happily providing you with enough material for a lifetime?

 

Elliot Pie Wins Two Chill With A Book Awards!

Hi guys,

I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. I do actually have some draft and half-finished posts written, but have not had the time to polish them up. I’ve been very busy with work-related projects, and my own writing.

However, I wanted to write a quick post to let you know that Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature has won two Chill With A Book Awards! Having won a Reader’s Award, it was automatically entered into Book Cover of The Month award for March and won that too!

Chill Logo Cover of the Month Award 2019

I am, obviously, over the moon. Many years of work went into this novel, with numerous rewrites, and revisions. It came very close to being picked up by two traditional publishers but in the end I published with Pict Publishing, an all-women indie publishing collective. It’s just always nice to have the hard work recognised, as it gives you a confidence boost and the kick up the bum you need to keep going!

Anyway, I better get back to work and I promise I will have some new posts for you in the upcoming weeks!

 

New Release! The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 3…

This week’s post is just a quick one letting you know that I have a brand new book coming out on 22nd February!

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part Three started life as a screenplay around a year ago. At that time, I had The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Parts One and Two merged into one large book, and the sequel which is set seven years later, This Is The Day also available. However, as I’ve said before, this story and these characters who have been with me since I was twelve, would just not leave me alone. I had this niggling idea for new material, which would move the ending of the original book,  slotting a brand new book between that one and the sequel.

It was a crazy idea, as the new material would mean making subtle changes to Parts One and Two, and the sequel, which would mean unpublishing them all, revising, revamping with new covers and then releasing again. I wasn’t sure it would be worth the risk so I decided to write the new material in screenplay form first.

I did this for a few reasons. First, I’ve always dreamt of these particular books being on the screen. I think they’d make an amazing gritty TV series with a killer soundtrack. I’ve been interested in screenwriting for some time and had Scrivener downloaded with a few screenplay ideas in motion. I also read some books and completed an online course. Also, this was a quick way to get the new material out of my head and onto paper. I used a notebook and carried it around with me, often writing into it while sitting in carparks waiting for school to finish. I’d scribble into it during brief moments of peace at home, writing alongside a coffee before I rushed back out the house. I sat with it in the evenings too, and it just kept growing.

It was so much fun and such an obsession! Of course, when it was done, I knew I had to turn the material into a novel, I just had to. There was no going back now. This was going to happen. I wrote the first draft quite quickly and after a few more sent it to my trusted beta readers. While waiting for feedback, I separated parts one and two and went over them both, cutting the word count, and rejigging a few scenes here and there so that Part Three would make sense.

Parts One and Two were originally published separately so I already had them on my Amazon dashboard, plus they already had reviews. I had to contact the cover designer to see if he could whip up new covers, or make changes to existing ones. A lot of work basically! I then had to redo This Is The Day, making more changes, adding scenes and changing the title to Part Four…

I thought I was crazy more than once but now that the brand new Part Three is ready for release, I’m really excited and certain that I made the right choice. By the time I got to the end of the Part Four edit, I already knew there was going to be a Part Five and Six.

This was very exciting! Part Five has already been written, in rough into a notebook, and Part Six is plotted. I’m not working on either of these just yet, due to other projects, but you would not believe how excited I am to get my teeth into them when the time comes!

If there is one thing I’ve learned from being an indie writer, it’s to leave things open. In fact, I’d say that ALL of my books have a potential sequel coming. Once I’ve created these character I never want it to be over, and it doesn’t have to be.