A Vacation for Your Mind

In my opinion, their are few things lovelier than browsing the shelves of a book shop. All those wonderful unread stories sitting patiently waiting to be explored, it’s like being able to choose a vacation for your mind, something I think we all need right now.

With continuing restrictions thumbing fresh pages and getting that wonderful woody hit of paper is not always possible. However, you can still do your bit to support those small businesses who have been hit badly by this pandemic. Before you take the ‘major corp’ easy option and press the ‘buy now’ button, take a breath and think. Is there a local business that needs you more?

Local books shops are a part of our communities – your community! Local booksellers are a font of knowledge, and can often recommend new and exciting books you may not otherwise have thought of. By definition of where they are (ie. near you), they can point you in the direction of local authors or books with a local twist. Even if you can not visit the shop in person there is still a way you can support them.

Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local independent bookshops. Their aim is to build up the network around local book shops and those who support them in an effort to keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and community. You can use the map to look up your local bookshop, buy online and the store you’ve chosen gets 100% of the profits.

If you’d like some recommendations please take a peak at the books I’d be happy to recommend here. All the books featured within my Bookshop.org store front I have read. I’ll be adding to the lists regularly. So, what are you waiting for? Happy Shopping!

Disclosure: If you buy books linked to my site, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops.

One, two, three, four, five…

As writing goes mine has been a bit underwhelming of late, but I’m happy to report I am back on the wagon again. There are plenty of excuses as to why I’ve been walking in treacle, but none of them really stack up! So, before the bow strikes the violin here’s the good news – 2 new books are in the pipeline – one is a contemporary thriller (natch), the other is a literary historical fiction novel which dips its toe into the 15th century! I am loving working on two books and wonder why I’ve not considered it before – after all, multitasking is one of my super powers!

Perhaps immersing myself in two completely different worlds has become my way of travelling during this pandemic! Hey, whatever gets you through right? I’m enjoying having the choice of which book to work on too dependent on my mood, the position of the sun in the sky etc.etc. Sometimes it’s just nice to escape back to the 15th century! I’m at about 6,000 words on both so still a way to go yet. Please feel free to remind me it was my choice to go tandem when I start complaining!

I shall keep you posted on the adventures of both… until next time…

Autumn Ramblings

The strangest of years is almost at an end and I’m left wondering where the year went?

It’s hard to believe we’ve been locked down since March! OK, so I’m stretching the truth just a little, but it certainly feels that way. There was a glimpse of normality over the Summer before the hatches were firmly battened down again. I’m not sure what normal is anymore, but whatever it is I’d like it back thanks very much!

Like a lot of people my refuge has been nature. I’ve found beauty in the smallest wonders and it’s given me a welcome boost. I’ve stayed connected because of it – thank you nature!

During Lockdown V.1 we were all working from home. Different rooms of our house became makeshift offices where four diverse companies came together under one roof. My kitchen became our work social space and we would meet occasionally during coffee breaks, or lunchtimes. Chatter revolved around ‘how’s your day going?’ and ‘What time you finishing?’ We functioned, we worked, but live? Not much. Evenings were spent trawling Netflix, reading books, silently wondering when we’d be released from the holding pattern our lives had become.

With the appearance of Summer restrictions eased, and for a while we did ‘normal’ – meals out, meet ups with friends, shopping for things other than food, but that came to an abrupt end as numbers of Covid cases once again rose, and we prepared ourselves for Lockdown V.2.

There are some differences this time around. Now there are just two of us working from home, the nights have drawn in and there is less time to be outside. My writing has begun to increase again, as has my crocheting and sewing – I’ve become a dab hand at running up a quick face mask! My tbr pile has increased ten fold and I don’t think I need to buy anymore books until 2025! Although, you can never have too many books 🙂

We are almost out the other side now, and I am hesitant. I’ve gotten used to my new small world, it’s a routine of sorts and whilst I look back on the freedoms of previous years with longing, change is never easy.

As we move into another period of uncertainty I shall endeavour to write more, and eat less (seriously – it needs to happen), everything else is up for negotiation. The one constant throughout has been the small world at my doorstop. It has carried on regardless. Buds have blossomed, and leaves have fallen, and for the first time in a while I’ve been lucky enough to see and really appreciate every single season. Whatever happens next remains unknown. Me? I’ll be opening my front door and taking in a deep breath. I’ve even brought a bike!

I leave you with a few pics from my recent adventures – oo’s and ah’s are optional!

I looked back on my walk to the Tor and my breath was taken away…
At the top of the Tor a beautiful view and a wild pony greeted us.
One of the many mystical stone circles of Dartmoor – such beautiful Autumn colours.
Pebbles on the beach
Extreme social distancing!

Thank You

Today is #WorldKindnessDay and I just wanted to say thank you to all of the wonderful people who have supported me, I don’t say it often enough!
You are valued, and special, and appreciated in ways I can’t even begin to explain. Whether you have given words of encouragement, read one of my books or given a much needed smile I want you to know that I am forever grateful. It means a lot, thank you, you are all amazing people xx

Photo by Howie R on Unsplash

A Rising Tide

It was just another Friday afternoon when I checked my emails. Nothing about the day gave any hint of extraordinary. I had begun my weekend wind down and was thinking about squeezing my ambitious writing plans into the limited time I had available. Most writers still have day jobs, me included. We cram ‘normal’ into space we’d prefer to use for writing and dream that one day we’ll be able to unshackle ourselves from being beholden to ‘the man’. But this Friday was not that day; this Friday was about planning and sorting and organising in anticipation of my carved out two-hour window on Saturday. I checked my email and my world lit up…

A quick back track – about 18 months ago I entered a short story competition, I didn’t win or get placed but my short story did make the anthology, and for that I was grateful.

OK, back to Friday. The email was from the chair of the short story competition. He wanted me to know he’d felt that my story was by far the best both then and now, and he wanted me to see the comments he’d made at the time which had not been forwarded –

A superb and sensitive piece of writing. I loved the gentle way in which the story unfolded. By far my chosen best entry.  Such a caring piece of well-observed storytelling. A delightful, fabulous story. Full of sensitive humour; warm, insightful descriptions and heart-warming, painful truths. I cried.  A winner!

Please write again Nicole… more and more…

I was blown away, literally blown away. I have never ever received such an email. My flushed cheeks reddened further, and I felt a little overwhelmed. Here was someone who did not know me, who had nothing to gain by contacting me, yet his email’s effects are still positively reverberating. I do not write to be validated, my words order better on paper than in my head, and through them, I can explore diamond truths hidden just beneath the surface. Most of the time, I do not know why I write; I just know that I must. But writing is a lonely pursuit and feelings of inadequacy, of being a fraud are never far away. Receiving this feedback was bloody marvelous! Whenever things get covered in mire or my work gets rejected for the umpteenth time, I will look at this email – hell, I might even frame it!

I have shared my experience to encourage you. You may never know the affect of your words, but know that kindness is a gift to pay forward, and it matters! If you have read something that has touched you, tell the author – no matter how long it’s been. Your words will always have an impact and kindness and encouragement are what we all need.

Lockdown, Loneliness & Writing

Even before lockdown the stats will tell you that we are the loneliest generation to have roamed the earth. There are over 9 million lonely people in the UK. I find that really sad.

During some research for a short story I’m writing I came across a few projects and organisations who are trying to improve on those numbers. One of them is also looking to break a world record with the written word, more on that in a bit.

Scientific evidence shows that expressive writing in particularly can foster a sense of connection with others, even when we’re not directly engaged with them. Writing provides a way of ordering our thoughts and feelings. It is often easier to write about things than to speak about them, I know this can be true for me sometimes. By picking up a pen and writing about things whether it’s our fears, our hopes, or our dreams, we are helping to understand ourselves a little more and building a sense of connection with the world around us. Writing is powerful – truth!

Here are just a few of the organisations who are doing their bit in the battle against loneliness.

The Campaign to End Loneliness was set up in 2017. They believe that people of all ages need connections that matter. They research, lobby, campaign and inspire people to connect and bring communities together. In 2018 they launched Be More Us – a movement that celebrates small moments of connection. You can watch the video here.

The Loneliness Project is the first in a series of digital archives which seeks to build community and empathy by publishing weekly stories about loneliness. They want to receive letters on what loneliness means to you. There are no rules, no submission guidelines and it is open to everyone. It is free to enter.

Dear Loneliness is an interactive art project that aims to break a world record for the longest length of a letter!

As part of an artistic instillation they intend to create the world’s longest letter by covering a room in over 1,000 feet of handwritten and scanned letters about loneliness, with the ceiling and floor covered in large mirrors that create the illusion of letters on loneliness stretching into eternity. They want to receive letters on what loneliness means to you. There are no rules or guidelines and it is free to enter.

Being lonely is wretched and knowing what to do or where to try and find some solace can be hard. Picking up a pen and checking out the above organisations could be a start…

Change…

I’m not gonna lie, this week has been a struggle both personally & professionally. We seem to have stepped into a world where humanity and what it means to be human have been trumped (literally) by the fissures which cut in and divide us. I have watched with sadness and disbelief as things I never thought possible have stampeded across all of the goodness and kindness that exists. Our world is broken, we are broken. The more I watch events roll out in front of me, the more I’m convinced we are at the pinnacle of a ‘now or never’ moment. We have but a small window, an opportunity to stand up and help to heal our broken world.

But I’m afraid we’ll miss it, that we’ll be so caught up in ourselves that we won’t understand or see our one chance for real change. But you know what? Self awareness is a wonderful thing, and I have been heartened to see a collective consciousness take hold across the world. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that unity affects change.

If by reading this it’s made you think about how you, as one person can help to rid our world of the two deadly virus’s which plague it, Corona Virus and racism then that is a good thing. I’m not saying come up with an overnight fix which can fast track us to utopia, but by shining a light in the dark corners we can make it known neither are welcome here. We have been given the ability to write a new book, to write our chapter of history. What is it we want to be remembered for?