Guest Post #9 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of another world is a new feature on my blog where I welcome fellow writers or bloggers to talk about their experiences of Covid 19 and lockdown. I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – that 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, hopes and fears during this strange and unsettling time. This week please welcome Suzie Ankers to The Glorious Outsiders. Suzie is a member of my writing group (Chasing Driftwood Writing Group) and is currently working on her debut novel, a thriller. The stresses and strains of lockdown prompted her to write the following poem.

My Daughter Turns Fifteen

It approached like a dark circling tornado,

Full of the threat of violent destruction and menace,

We watch the news in nervous anticipation whilst around us other deny its very existence,

We become doomsday preppers gathering our medications and food to withdraw from society,

Then we wait and life for a while, continues unabated.

Two weeks later and the landscape of the world has changed,

The once busy shopping centres lie empty as a silent killer stalks their aisles,

Our airports and ports keep inviting further unbidden guests to our homes and families,

The doors to my own business remain resolutely shut but my shame escapes,

There is a huge sorrow and fear in the air as my colleagues prepare the NHS for its onslaught,

They are being sent to war without shields and weapons,

Those low paid workers are now the new heroes of our society brought to its knees.

I watched your silent anguish as everyday you swallowed pills which you knew increased your vulnerability,

Whilst your brother and sister railed against the injustice of their false imprisonment you had no such complaints,

The creases in your forehead an indicator of your climbing anxiety,

The news spews forth the dire nature of the battle we have entered into and the fact that we are unprepared,

As we watch our prime minister, an expectant father, now fighting for his life,

I guess you wondered if this is what Corona had in store for you.

Fortunately, the storm abated,

The blue skies of summer heralded the way of greater freedoms, but we didn’t realise we were in the eye of the storm,

Still you hung back and waited until we could at last change your medication,

Fearful of the very thing that makes us human, social interaction.

Your brother left for university,

He partied his way to newfound freedoms,

I saw you watching and shaking your head and yet there was resigned joy in the fact that he had managed to get some semblance of normality,

Beneath that we held a knotting fear in our stomachs,

Would he pay for wanting to be like everyone else?

What risks would he have to navigate in his future career as a Physiotherapist?

Your sister, the most sociable of her family had missed groups,

As soon as she could she reclaimed the reigns of her social life but guided her horse skilfully around the hurdles of the new rules,

Even she was chastened by the virus for wanting normality,

Her boyfriends brother tested positive for Corona after returning from holiday and we missed out being in contact by a hair’s breadth,

I questioned my boundaries and yet I knew this is not the summer she sought,

She had plans of festivals, illicit alcohol, boys, and music. Parties on the beach.

Instead she got family time and more family time,

Yes, we tried teaching her to drive but how could we replace her peers?

Finally, you return to school and I am so proud,

You are the only child in your class to wear a mask,

I see the worry though in the dark circles around your eyes,

I hear the anger as they confirm cases at school and still walk around the corridors without masks,

I sense the rising frustration that people are not taking things as seriously as you believe they should.

I watch you attend your first interview wearing clothes that make you look like a middle-aged woman,

I realise what a warrior you have become and how you have had to wear an old head on young shoulders,

My heart swells with pride as you patiently explain yet again that you wear a mask to keep vulnerable members of society safe.

The interviewer nods yet I wonder if he really understands

I lie in bed at 3am unable to claim sleep worrying about the future,

That’s when my husband holds me and I hear his heart beating deep inside his chest,

It marks the rhythm of time passing and I think how we have made it this far without arguments and together,

He whispers to me that I am a good mama but not even I can protect my children from the air,

My heart does a somersault and my eyes search the ceiling for answers that just are not there.

Thank you so much to Suzie for sharing her words with us. Suzie’s bio is below.

Suzie joined the creative writing group a year ago. For her the act of writing is akin to the joy of reading and transports her into another world. She has three teenage children and works as a Therapist supporting children with Autism, ADHD and Sensory issues. She lives with her husband and children plus their energetic cocker spaniel named Beau. This piece was inspired by her daughters return to school post lockdown and it proved cathartic to write down all her anxieties.

Indie Author of the Month – Sim Alec Sansford

It’s time to celebrate another indie author and this month I am welcoming Sim Alec Sansford to The Glorious Outsiders. Sim was one of the masterminds behind last years very first Blandford Literary Festival – a fantastic literary event I was honoured to be a part of. Sim has also just released his debut novel, Welcome To Denver Falls. Here, Sim tells us how it feels to finally be a published writer, how music is a massive inspiration and how supportive and welcoming he has found the writing community to be.

  1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

My latest release is my debut novel, Welcome to Denver Falls.

The story follows photography student, Harper Andrews, who leaves the comfort of her college campus behind, and ventures to the mysterious town of Denver Falls. Plagued by haunting dreams and unsettling visions, Harper faces a race against time to unlock secrets of the past in order to save her future.

There is a lot of suspense and a little romance, but it is really a tale about friendship and self-belief. That’s the message I hope resonates the most with readers.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

My first experience with publishing was in November 2019, when I published my first short story, The Storm, online. Growing up, as a young writer, I found it difficult to know where to turn for support. This prevented me from sharing my work. In early 2019, I heard about a local writing group in my town and decided to put my fears and anxieties aside. I took my short story along with me, and the reaction from the other writers was an incredible confidence boost. I was fortunate to make some great friends who ultimately talked me through the process of publishing my work online. It was a mountain to overcome the fear of sharing my work but, it is most definitely the best thing I have ever done.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

To be completely honest, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to write. There was something about books that I found absolutely magical and I knew right away that I wanted to be part of that magic. Whether I was writing, editing or even publishing, I knew someday, somehow, I was going to be part of that world… and I guess now I am, and that’s a really amazing feeling.

4. What is your typical writing day like?

To sum it up in one word: emotional.

I don’t think I have experienced anything else in my life so far that can cause such a whirlwind of emotions. For the most part, my writing days are pretty exciting. I love nothing more than escaping into the mind of my characters and quite often they will end up surprising me by taking things in a different direction than intended. Then there come the nagging thoughts… that sentence doesn’t sit right… But if that character does that it will change this?… Does that sound like something they would say?… How would a reader respond to this?… And so on. On a good day, I can just sit for hours typing away on the keys and before I know it the story has written itself. The trick is to not sweat the small things, just write. The rest comes later in editing.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

Usually, it starts with an image. Just a quick snap shot or a short scene played out in my head. Quite often triggered by music which is something I rely on quite heavily when I need to set the tone for a story or a character. My latest release began as a small scene in a daydream; a young girl in a forest alone, then a man appeared and asked her if she was lost. It was only a small image, but from that I found myself asking a hundred questions… Who is this person? What is she doing in the forest? Is she good, evil, both? Where is the forest? Who is the man? What are his intentions?…

From there I slowly map out a plot in my head and create a playlist of songs that help capture the mood of the story. These songs then help me add new scenes, be it by interpretation of the lyrics or the way they make me feel. I tend to map most things out in my head starting with a beginning, middle and end. For the rest of the story, my way of expanding plot is just to write. I see where the story takes me and slowly over time new ideas and characters are added.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Definitely the connections I have made with other writers, readers and creatives. I have met some incredibly talented people that I am proud to call my friends. Their knowledge and experience have been invaluable to me and I am able to provide them with new perspectives that perhaps they have never considered. It really is a fantastic community to be part of.

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

Being self-published comes with a lot of challenges, mostly financial. Without the push of a major print, it can be expensive to promote your work, and it is often disheartening if you spend a lot of time and money on an ad campaign that returns few results. The important thing to remember is one new reader is one more than you had before. You have to stay positive and stick at it.

8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

Of course, I love all of my characters, but I have to say that Abigail Millar is my favourite. She first appeared in my book, The Willow, where her story serves as a prequel to Welcome to Denver Falls. It was actually only after I had written the book that I realised just how much I had in common with her. While I have not ever made three wishes on a creepy willow tree in the middle of the woods, she really resonates with me. She’s strong and determined, and I love that.

9. Where do your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from music. I am a big fan of reimagined songs and love the new (often creepy) twists that the artist put on them. Bands like Until the Ribbon Breaks, and Denmark + Winter do this particularly well.

10. What can we expect from you next?

Currently, I am continuing the story of Denver Falls in the form of a second book, and a weekly series on my blog titled Welcome to Denver Falls: Soul Mate.

Though I do have a few old projects that I would love to bring to life. Particularly a supernatural dystopian romance I have been working on since my teen years. I have an eclectic group of characters in that story, and I’m positive readers will love them as much as I do. However, for now, my focus is on Denver Falls.

11. Tell us three facts about you.

I would be completely lost without music.

I’m a little bit psychic.

I value friendship over everything.

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

JUST. DO. IT.

I waited far too long to put my work out there for fear of the reaction… Are my stories any good? My characters compelling? Will people steal my ideas? Do I need to stick to a word count? What if I never get published? The truth is, the only person standing in your way is you.

Pick up the pen. Grab your phone or computer. Whatever you have to do, but just start writing. Don’t worry about the end goal too much, just enjoy the journey.

Writing, like life, is all about growing and changing. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. It is your world and you’re in control.

Thank you so much to Sim for joining us on the blog today as our Indie Author of The Month. If you would like to find out more about Sim and his work his bio and links are below!

Born and raised in the county town of Dorchester, Dorset, Sim began scribbling away stories on scraps of paper since before he can remember. He spent a lot of his childhood on adventures walking the dogs in the woodland surrounding Thomas Hardy’s cottage with his family. Something about the cottage and ‘the man what wrote stuff’ who had lived there sparked a fire inside him, it was from there he began to focus on writing more seriously. 
In 2012, Sim signed up to Open University to study Creative Writing alongside working full time. He isn’t quite sure how he made it out alive, but he graduated with honours and began using the skills he had acquired to edit and redraft old work. 

http://www.simalecsansford.com
Twitter.com/simsansford 
Instagram.com/simeon_alec
Facebook.com/SimAlecSansford

Guest Post #3 – Dreaming of Another World

Dreaming Of Another World is a new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks back. I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world could be glimpsed during lockdown and that perhaps we ought to use this unique time to change our ways. I reached out to other writers and bloggers to ask how lockdown affected their vision of the future. Has the experience changed them and if so, how? Are they going to make changes to their lives because of what has happened? This next post is from author LE Hill, a former journalist who used the lockdown isolation to finish and publish her first novel. She also runs a writing based Community Interest Company, like me! Enjoy the post and if you would like to know more about LE Hill and her novel The Girl I Left Behind, the link is at the end.

By L E Hill

Five months ago, I was sitting in the café at John Lewis in Glasgow drinking coffee and catching up with one of my close friends who I see only once or twice a year. It was almost deserted and as we chatted we realised it may be the last time we caught up for a while.

Earlier that morning, when I arrived on the early train to Glasgow, I met my brother briefly and we hugged albeit wondering if we should. I’m so glad we did – who would have thought hugging or showing affection would become so taboo. We talked about our kids and the prospect of the schools closing at Easter. Little did we know what lay ahead.

Later, I met another dear friend who by coincidence was also in town. She had flown up from London for the weekend to visit her mum and had packed a bag as her employers had advised her to work from home for the next few weeks. She ended up being back for almost four months.

I stayed with my parents that night and as I said goodbye the next day before getting the train, I wondered when I would see them again – especially as my dad has ongoing health conditions. We were all waiting the imminent announcement that we were going into lockdown.

That morning I willed the train to go faster to take me home to my own family. As I looked out of the window and watched fields flash by, I could feel the creep of anxiety begin. I felt as though I was on borrowed time and wanted to get into what would soon become my bubble.

My biggest concern was how it would affect my children – particularly the abrupt end to their academic year; cancelled exams; cancelled activities; having their freedom curtailed and having to think about things that didn’t event enter my head when I was their age. Yet I watched in amazement and with pride as they and their friends adjusted and adapted and showed great resilience despite everything in their world being turned upside down.

For the first couple of months of the pandemic I didn’t have much time to dream. My mind was hectic – too busy making sure my kids were okay, worrying about my parents and trying to juggle work. All of my freelance community work dried up overnight – as meeting places shut down and everyone stayed at home. Perhaps that lull did in some way fuel my thoughts and trigger something which had been at the back of my mind for a while. I did indeed start to dream.

I have always wanted to write books. I have written – since I was a child –. yet up until lockdown I hadn’t written very much at all for about a year. I had completely lost all confidence in my ability to write. I just didn’t feel good enough.

I know the joy that creative writing can bring – I teach it to community groups in a bid to help people share their stories and build confidence. I work with older people, those living with dementia and their carers and survivors of domestic abuse. I love watching people smile as they discover the joy of writing, sharing their story and realising that they can do it. Yet I could not.

Over the years I have written four books. Two will probably stay in a drawer forever, but over the past couple of years I have been tirelessly trying to get two novels published. I naively thought that if I signed to an agent and publishers showed interest then I was on the home straight. Not so. Despite strong interest and requested and detailed rewrites for two, the interest then faded away. I soon learned all about the term ‘being ghosted’. I lost my confidence, forgot about how much I used to enjoy writing and decided that my dreams of having my work published were pointless.

But during lockdown I thought a lot about the fragility of life. I read the devastating stories of loss and anguish and how much Covid-19 had affected so many people. I also regularly reminded myself how lucky I was that my family were well and safe.

So – I gave myself a shake. I’m not getting any younger and who knows what is around the corner. I finally accepted that I didn’t need anyone else’s approval to get my book out there. Just my own.

A friend designed the cover, I planned a launch date and on July 11 published my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind.

It’s not perfect, I have loads to learn but isn’t that what life is about? I have no expectations either. I just want to write. And I have been. I have started to enjoy journaling, writing Haikus and have managed to rewrite another book which I had put away in a drawer.

I bumped into someone locally who had bought The Girl I Left Behind and she told me that my book had got her back into reading again; a friend from university – that I hadn’t spoken to for years – contacted me to tell me how much she enjoyed it.

Even my dad, who never reads anything other than the sports results, has been reading it. For me, that is what it is all about.

I keep reminding myself that I am where I am supposed to be today and things generally work out for a reason. My years of dreaming about having my work in print have finally come true.

Author Bio

LE Hill has always loved reading and writing and her short stories and poetry have been published in various anthologies. She has been shortlisted in national writing competitions and been a writer in residence with Women’s Aid East and Midlothian. A former journalist, she spent much of her working life in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. She has also worked in marketing and communications and has an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University and a PhD from Stirling University.

She is particularly interested in creative writing for health and well-being and runs a small social enterprise in East Lothian, Sharing A Story CIC, using shared reading and creative writing sessions to reduce social isolation and build confidence.

Website: http://www.lornaehill.co.uk

http://www.sharingastory.co.uk

Twitter: @lornaehill

The Girl I Left Behind, available here: https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B08C

Thank you so much to LE Hill for writing this piece for my blog! I still have spaces to fill for this feature so please get in touch if you have a story, poem or non-fiction piece on the theme of dreaming of another world…

Guest Post; Dreaming of Another World

Welcome to a brand new feature on my blog; Dreaming of Another World. A regular slot handed over to fellow authors and bloggers. 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. Our first piece is from author Grahame Peace. You can find out where to follow Grahame at the end of the blog post!

After months of planning, my partner and I, along with my youngest sister and her husband, had been looking forward to travelling to Nice in early April to celebrate my other sisters sixtieth birthday with her family. In May we also had plans to go to Paris with friends and realise a lifelong dream and visit Versailles. All that came to a sudden halt in late March 2020 due to the lockdown in the UK and across Europe due to Covid-19. Along with that, we had to cancel theatre trips, meeting up with friends and family, and our regular trips to the gym.

I’m sixty-two and suffer from asthma and allergies, putting me in one of the Covid-19 high-risk groups. Funnily enough, my partner and I had both been ill in late November 2019, we’d never experienced an illness like it, and as information came to light about the coronavirus, we are both convinced we had it. We had all the symptoms, although, without testing, we’ll never know. One good thing came out of that, once we were feeling better, we both rushed for flu vaccinations, and we’ll be going for another as soon as they become available in September.

None of us could predict what would happen next as the lockdown started here in the UK and across the world. I retired from my job in the National Health Service (NHS) in 2014, so I know first-hand the many daily challenges facing NHS and social care staff, how I feel for my hard-working, and often undervalued NHS and social care colleagues. It’s good to see them finally being valued and getting recognition for their work; one can only hope they get all the resources they need and are going to need in the future.

Since retiring writing has been my fulltime (F/T) occupation, and I treat it like a F/T job, working every day for several hours at my computer. The lockdown had no immediate impact on me from a work perspective. My partner was soon put of furlough but was used to working from home, so being at home every day wasn’t unusual. A positive outcome from that meant those jobs in the house and garden could now receive our full attention, not that there were many. During lockdown, my youngest sister and her husband have built two greenhouses and created a fantastic vegetable garden; they even discovered a hidden stream on their land.

Like many, I became obsessed with the news as well as trying to find out as much as I could about the virus. I was distracted and found it hard to concentrate on my writing. I still do, although I persevere. But how dire the news has been, with the daily death toll not just here in the UK but around the world. Along with awful predictions about what life could be like for years to come, and the worry for many as they lose their jobs. I still find it impossible to make any future plans, and I’m grateful to have my writing to keep me occupied; it’s also a much-needed distraction as I lose myself in imaginary worlds. I have a vivid imagination, which is both a good and a bad thing!

During the lockdown, we’ve hardly seen friends and family, but thank goodness for Zoom, what a fantastic piece of technology, it’s like something out of my favourite childhood TV programme ‘Thunderbirds’. We’ve tried to entertain ourselves with lots of reading, internet shopping, re-watching most of our extensive DVD collection and binge-watching various TV shows and series. Along with long daily walks in the countryside, even in the pouring rain, just to keep moving and get out of the house and into the fresh air. We also started shopping for our elderly neighbours. How I feel for people shielding who live on their own; they don’t see anyone for days on end as one day merges into the next.

During the lockdown, I finished and published my tenth book, The Ghost from the Molly-House. A Christmas Wish, this is book seven in the series and set in 1850 in Victorian London. As with all my books, I did a lot of historical research into the period, it truly was a world of the haves and have nots. Doing all the research helped me to realise that even with a global pandemic, how lucky we are to live in 2020. Life was grim and incredibly cruel in Victorian times, but that’s history for you! I’m now busy researching and working on my next book, The Ghost from the Molly House. Lady Fenella and the Fleet Diamonds, which is set in 1937. I hope it will be out later in the year.

Life is slowly returning to some form of normality, my partner started work again on 20th July, and things are opening up again. Not that I have any desire to go anywhere or back to the gym until I see how things unfold in the coming weeks, particularly as we’re starting to see spikes of Covid-19 cases all around the world. I’ve even started cutting my own hair; and going to a supermarket feels anxiety-provoking with panic buying, social distancing, long queues, plastic screens, hand sanitiser, and now face masks; I dread it, but needs must.

For me, one of the good things about the lockdown has been nature, the wildlife in the garden, the bird song in the morning, and the considerable reduction in pollution and traffic on the roads. I’m sure that’s had a positive impact on my asthma; for a period, I even stopped using my inhalers. It also created a sense of community; our neighbours have all come together. We had an outdoor, socially distanced VE Day celebration, which turned out to be a lovely evening enjoyed by all.

One downside I’ve witnessed has been litter. As I’ve walked through the countryside and watched the news, I’ve been astounded by all the litter, and rubbish people leave everywhere. Things like drinks cans, beer and plastic bottles, garden and building waste, and, of course, fast food packaging, without a thought for the environment and the poor people who have to clear up after them, it’s staggering.

Seeing how some political leaders have behaved over Covid-19, has made me feel increasingly worried about the future. I base that opinion on their actions, political spin, and fake news. It’s not inspired confidence, just at a time when the world needs to come and work together. The pandemic has brought out the best and worst in human nature with incredible acts of kindness, but also unbelievable acts of selfishness.

They say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, I do hope this pandemic will prove to be a wakeup call to everyone in the fragile world we live in; we can’t live in isolation, we’re all part of a global economy and like it or not, what happens in one part of the world, has an impact everywhere else. The days of things like the British Empire are long gone. Lockdown hasn’t made me dream of a new world; it’s just highlighted the need for the world I’ve always dreamed about; a world of peace, harmony, tolerance, respect, kindness, love, consideration, and equality. But someone somewhere will always want the last fish in the sea.

Thank you so much to Grahame for writing this piece for my new feature. You can follow him via the links below! If you are interested in writing a piece for Dreaming of Another World then please get in touch. I am looking for stories, poems, essays and non-fiction on the theme of another world. Did lockdown inspire you to change your ways or even your life? Would you like to see a change in society after Covid 19? What are your hopes and fears for the future? Anything written in response to Covid 19 and/or the climate emergency will be considered! Many thanks.

Website: https://www.grahamepeaceauthor.com/ Amazon UK Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grahame-Peace/e/B00JNA07HE/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gpeaceauthor Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamePeace