Looking Forward in February #writing #reading #books of the month #crimefiction #romanticfiction #nonfiction

Small shoots of hope

Here in Scotland, the days are lengthening, the ice and snow have at last disappeared, and the Covid vaccination programme is progressing well. And our government has a staged plan in place for the gradual easing of the protective lockdown. So, there’s a lot to be positive about – even if the full lifting of the lockdown is still some way off.

It’s been good to be able to get out for walks more easily as spring approaches and to see all the hopeful signs nature provides as this long hard winter comes to an end. It has also been good to see the return of Scotland’s youngest children to school and nursery.

So, yes, although a full return to normality with holidays away from home, eating out, and seeing friends and family remains a bit of a way off, there is hope.

Slow and steady does it as writing progresses

In the meantime, I plan to continue making the most of online/video contact with loved ones and to continue cutting myself some slack when it comes to my work as a writer. As I said in last month’s post I’m not being a slave to the daily word count but continue to measure my writing achievements by time spent at the desk – even if that time is short and I don’t write very much. One hundred words feels like as much of an achievement as 1000 did before the pandemic messed with my concentration and creative flow.

And pleasingly both the current novel and novella-in-progress are steadily growing and developing.

I’m also hopeful that my work rate will pick up even more now that the day care nurseries are due to re-open very soon and my grandma-day-care provision will no longer be required. Although I have to say it’s been a joy and a privilege to provide this essential care.

The continuing comfort and joy of reading

And as I also mentioned last month, reading has been such a comfort throughout these hard times – and it continues to be so. My intention in 2021 is to be a bit more adventurous in my reading and to read more widely – and maybe even reread some older classics and/or favourites. But I must admit the escapism provided by contemporary romance novels means that this remains my favourite genre.

However, my three books of the month for February come from three different genres and even the romantic fiction one isn’t entirely escapist as it is set during the Covid pandemic.

February’s Books of the Month

ROMANCE

Love in Lockdown by Chloe James

From the back cover:

Do you believe in love before first sight?

Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

Can they fall in love during a lockdown?

CRIME

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin

From the back cover:

‘He’s gone…’

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days.

Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect.

He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective?

As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…

NON FICTION

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

(this was a re-read of a much-loved old favourite of mine and a lot of what Woolf has to say about women in society still resonates today)

From the back cover:

An extended essay which was based on a series of lectures that Woolf delivered at two women’s colleges which are part of Cambridge University. The essay explores women both as writers and characters in fiction.

And that’s it for February. I hope you too are feeling positive. Please do feel free to share the titles of any good books you’ve read this month and/or what keeps you positive – in the comments section below. Stay safe and sane everyone.

Staying Safe & Well: Gardening, Writing & Isolationships #health #lockdown #gardening #writing

It’s day 28 of Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK. For me, it’s a case of so far, so good. Yes, it’s taken a bit of getting used to this new normal and I’m finding one day at a time to be the best approach. But I’m grateful that I live in a beautiful part of Scotland, that I can take a daily walk on uncrowded paths and trails, and that me and my loved ones remain healthy. I’m also grateful to be able to continue working.

 All round wellbeing

It’s not only trying to remain physically healthy that’s important during this time of isolation, it’s also vital to look after our mental and emotional wellbeing too. In my previous post, I mentioned how much of a comfort reading is proving to be at this time and I shared some recommended reads. But reading’s not all that’s keeping me going.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Staying connected

As for many folk, the existence of the internet is proving to be a boon at this time too. I’ve been able to see and interact with my children and grandchildren at family meetings on zoom, keep in daily touch with my four sisters in our WhatsApp group, and email, text and have video calls with friends. And being able to socialise like this – even if our relationships are more isolationships for now – helps so much.

Happiness in horticulture

I’m also grateful to have a garden and I’ve recently been spending time digging, planting and weeding. Working in the garden, sun shining and birds singing at full throttle all around me, is such a therapeutic activity at any time, but at the moment it’s especially enjoyable. It’s been good to see how well our newly established garden is faring after its first year. Most of last year’s planting is thriving and our new trees are looking especially grand. At the weekend I dug over and weeded the beds, I cut out the dead wood and old foliage from the shrubs and I got seeds planted – some in pots and trays and some in containers and beds. I also planted some new rockery flowers and came up with a list and a plan for some further new planting.

Seeds for a new book

And, as I was working in the garden, I was able to think about my writing. Of course, I’m getting excited about the new book and I’m currently busy with getting all the final launch details in place, but I’m also starting to think about future projects and getting started on my next book. I’ve got lots of ideas – all recorded in my ideas notebook. Most will probably never see the light of day, but there are a few which I want to explore. The ideas are mainly characters who’ve come to me with snippets of backstory and I intend to ask them a bit more about themselves before deciding if they’re novel worthy.

So as I gardened with actual seeds, knowing some would come to nothing and others would be discarded in the thinning out process, and as I pulled out and disposed of actual weeds and deadwood – there was a similar process going on in my writer’s brain. There were metaphorical seeds – some which might grow and flourish – and grow into something splendid – and some that wouldn’t get to germinate or would be discarded at a later date. And there were some unsightly metaphorical weeds there too.

Yes, you can take the girl out of writing but you can never take writing etc, etc. 😊 The writing brain is running continuously in the background, no matter what I’m doing – and I have to say that at the moment I’m especially glad of having an escape route into an imaginary Covid-free world.

What’s keeping you well?

I hope you’re all safe and well and finding your own ways of coping mentally, physically and emotionally at this difficult time. What’s working for you?