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 #6 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming Of Another World is a new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote during lockdown. I wondered whether other writers and bloggers felt like me during this strange time – that another world was possible and could just be glimpsed thanks to the stillness enforced on us. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be posting a piece written by a guest – sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences on how lockdown changed their perceptions. Did it change their life in any way? Did it change their view of society and how it operates? Did it make them yearn for something else? This week please welcome author and blogger Marjorie Mallon. This feature was also inspired by her This Is Lockdown collection, of which I was honoured to be a part of.

Thank you Chantelle for a wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts about Dreaming of another World.

It’s been the strangest of times. Each morning I open my bedroom curtains and stare at our country park trees. We live on the edge of the park with such a beautiful vista of trees, flora and lakes…

During lockdown, it was so silent, no traffic noise, the skies were blue, no airplane trails.

Now, with restrictions easing, we return to a semblance of ‘normal.’ ‘Normal’ has become a careless word; applied to this dear planet we call home. The sky has lost its virgin blueness, the sound of traffic is back, humming with incessant noise, a reminder of the pollution it will bring.

How to cope? I create. I don’t paint; I wish I could. I admire artists so much! Instead, I wander off and indulge in amateur photography. Or I commune with nature. I have a new hobby! I plant vegetables, grow wildflowers from seed, and bake bread. I’ve had great success with courgettes, cucumber, herbs, and spinach.

How to cope? I create. I don’t paint; I wish I could. I admire artists so much! Instead, I wander off and indulge in amateur photography. Or I commune with nature. I have a new hobby! I plant vegetables, grow wildflowers from seed, and bake bread. I’ve had great success with courgettes, cucumber, herbs, and spinach.

My tomatoes are slow, green, and tiny, but the plants are growing. I hope the tiny green tomatoes may yield some edible ones soon!

Somehow the daily routine of planting, digging, and nurturing my vegetable garden has become an unexpected pleasure! As has taking up yoga again, which I’ve always had a fondness for. Both of these activities make me feel a deep connection to the earth, (a journey that I began with tai chi and mindfulness training.) This connection to mother nature blossoms as I check my vegetables, or adopt a yoga pose.

I’ve always enjoyed baking cakes and puddings. Progressing to bread baking isn’t so much of a stretch! It’s satisfying to eat your own creations, to knead, and watch them rise.

My way of staving off anxiety and depression is to keep busy. I write, immersing myself in new projects. I normally write YA Fantasy, poetry, flash fiction, and short stories. Recently, I compiled and released an anthology, my first entitled, This Is Lockdown. Chantelle, (along with many other talented writers, authors and creatives,) kindly contributed to the anthology with a piece on her thoughts and fears at this time.

After I published the anthology, I missed the daily routine of writing diaries, short pieces and poetry. I can’t say I enjoyed the editing and formatting stage, but at least it kept me occupied! For a while, I felt quite lost.

Now, it’s time for new writing projects… and old editing jobs that I have neglected. Anything to take my mind off COVID19. I’m gearing up for Halloween! Autumn is my favourite season. It seems appropriate to write horror short stories and poems. COVID19 is a horror story set in an all too familiar reality.

And yet, there have been so many unexpected positives. I’ve spent so much quality time with my grown-up daughters and my husband. I wonder how I’ll cope when my daughters return to their studies and I’m left with hubby dearest! My eldest is starting teacher training in Scotland, my youngest is returning to University in Manchester. I will miss them both so much.

I’m incensed at how this virus has affected our youngsters’ education. With university fees so high, £9,000, (predominantly now on-line,) plus crippling rent and all the rest. How will studying online impact students? Especially those with mental health and support issues who can’t cope without the help of face-to-face interaction from their personal tutors and lecturers?

Students who graduated this summer have had no graduation ceremony and are struggling to find jobs, sending off fruitless application after application.

And the stress of home schooling followed by the exam fiasco. I can’t begin to imagine how stressful that must have been for pupils and parents.

The elderly, and those shielding, suffer such loss of confidence. I saw my dear father this summer. A year ago, he was in great spirits. At his ninetieth birthday party he sang to our waitress in Russian, a language he’d learnt during his National Service. Now, he seems diminished, his confidence shattered by a virus that he cannot fight. I’m so saddened, I just hope that somehow he will continue to dance in his living room, tell jokes and stories as he has done so many times before.

And culture, music, drama, the bedrock of society. What of them? Who is keeping these much-loved darlings alive? I can’t imagine a world without them. I don’t want to imagine that. Yet, the pubs have opened at the first opportunity… Crowded, full of people drinking alcohol and forgetting to social-distance. Local pubs vary in their responses., some of them implement a high level of COVID safety, while others disregard safety.

How crazy is that?

Somehow, I just hope that we will find our way to a new, kinder normal. I’ve noticed some positives: neighbours expressing concern for one another, chatting, greeting each other in the street.

I don’t think we have a choice; we must learn from this. Surely, if COVID19 has taught us anything it has to be – an awareness of our fragility?

We must nurture our planet, or in time future generations will suffer for our stupidity and neglect.

We need to get back to basics. Slow down, reflect more, and care for our environment, mindfulness has much to offer. I recommend it.

I fear for the future, truly I do.

A huge thank you to Marjorie for coming on the blog and contributing to this feature – but also for inspiring me to do it in the first place and for being supportive and enthusiastic about my idea. If you would like to find out more about Marjorie and her writing, her author bio and links are below! Please get in touch if you would like to take part in Dreaming of Another World.

Author Bio:

I am an author who has been blogging for many moons at my lovely blog home, Kyrosmagica. My interests include writing, poetry, photography, and alternative therapies. My favourite genres to write are: Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories and I love writing various forms of magical poetry and micro poetry – haiku and Tanka and flash fiction.

It is one of my greatest pleasures to read and I have written over 180 reviews.

I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, second child and only daughter to my parents, Paula and Ronald. I grew up in a mountainous court in the Peak District in Hong Kong with my elder brother Donald.

I’m a member of the professional international writing group: The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators.

I run a supportive group for authors and bloggers with author D G Kaye on Facebook: Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club

I’ve contributed articles/writing to various sites including: Literary Lightbox (Inspiration) and poetry to Spillwords – Magic of The Dragonfly.

I work for an international sixth form and live in Cambridge, England.

Authors Books= Kyrosmagica Publishing

YA Fantasy http://myBook.to/TheCurseofTime

Poetry, Prose and Photography: http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

Anthology set during Lockdown: http://mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Anthologies:

Forthcoming Releases:- Spellbound compiled by bestselling author Dan Alatorre features my short story The Twisted Sisters. It is available to pre-order and releases 14th October by Great Oak Publishing. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08DM83XKR/