Welcome to a special edition of Q & A this week as I feature Marjorie Mallon, my Fey sister and friend with her hot new release – This is Lockdown: Covid19 Diaries. Marje and I also run the ABRSC blogger group on Facbook, and the Spiritual Sisters page, links at the bottom of this post.
This book has been a labor of love for Marje who has written this book with a collaboration of several author’s entries, including mine, and her documented diaries of her experiences living through the Covid19, along with heartfelt testaments from others, poetry and short stories told in Flash/Nonfiction forms in this beautiful anthology that will serve to document the times in our lives. I just finished reading this book and I will have a review up for this Sunday Book Review.
I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, (a passionate Scorpio, with the Chinese Zodiac sign a lucky rabbit,) second child and only daughter to my parents Paula and Ronald, only sister to my elder brother Donald. I spent my early childhood in a mountainous court dwelling in the Peak District in Hong Kong.
It’s rumoured that I now live in the Venice of Cambridge, with my six-foot hunk of a Rock God husband. My two enchanted daughters often return with a cheery smile.
Sometimes when the mood takes me, I adopt an alter ego, M J – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheroes!
When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practice Tai Chi and Yoga. If the mood takes me, I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.
My favourite genres to write are: YA fantasy, magical realism, and various forms of poetry. I blog about books, writing, photography and inspiration at: https://mjmallon.com.
I enjoy writing articles celebrating the spiritual realm, my love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious. One of my greatest pleasures is reading. I’ve written over 150 reviews at my lovely blog home:
I’m a member of a professional writing body. SCBWI , the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators.
Universal Link: mybook.to/Thisislockdown
An anthology and compilation of diaries, short stories, flash fiction, contributions from the ‘isolation writers,’ plus poetry written during the time of lockdown in the UK. This Is Lockdown is written from a writer’s perspective highlighting the simple pleasures of day-to-day life during such an uncertain and frightening time. It also gives a glimpse of the blogging, writing world. The book showcases several authors and their thoughts on what it is like to experience ‘isolation’ as a writer. I also discuss the handling of the pandemic and my thoughts on what might happen next. In the final part of the book I include my latest short story idea: a YA romance and various short pieces of poetry, and flash fiction inspired by the pandemic.
The full list of authors are: Richard Dee, (Sci Fi , Steampunk, Amateur Detective author,) Catherine Fearns, (Amazon Bestselling Author of Police Procedural/Mysteries and Music Journalist,) Lynn Fraser, (Author,) Jackie Carreira, (Writer, musician, designer and aspiring philosopher,) Willow Willers, (Poet and Writer,) Sharon Marchisello, (Murder Mystery, Financial non-fiction author,) Fi Phillips ,(Author, Copy Editor,) Jeannie Wycherley, (Dark stories, Suspense, Horror,) Chantelle Atkins, (Urban Fiction, Teen/YA,) Tracie Barton-Barrett, (Speaker/Author,) Peter Taylor-Gooby, (Crime, Love Stories, Political Fiction,) Ritu Bhathal, (Chick Lit, Romance, Poet,) Alice May , (Author, Artist and Speaker,) Miriam Owen, (Blogger, Doctoral Researcher,) Drew Neary and Ceri Williams (Ghost Horror, Supernatural,) Katherine Mezzacappa, (Historical Fiction/Romance,) Sally Cronin, (Huge supporter of indie community/Blogger/Author) D G Kaye, (Memoirist/NonFiction,) Adele Marie Park, (Fantasy, Horror, Urban fantasy,) Marian Wood, (Blogger, Poet and Writer.) Samantha Murdoch, (Writer, Blogger,) Beaton Mabaso (Blogger, African storyteller,) Frank Prem (Poet, Author) Anne Goodwin (Author, Book Blogger) Sherri Matthews (Writer, Photographer, Blogger,) Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago-Val – Community Masks for The NHS .
So let us get into some Q & A with Marje and learn more about her inspiration for this book and more about her writing.
Thank you so much to my lovely friend Debby, a contributing author, for inviting me over to talk about This Is Lockdown.
Do events in your daily life inspire your writing ideas?
Yes, absolutely, Debby. This Is Lockdown was inspired by Coronavirus and the situation we are in. Events in my daily life inspire my writing ideas. Normally, I am a visual writer inspired by the unusual, or the beautiful. In this case, my writing muse came from a deeper, more internal place. I looked within, but also observed what I could on my frequent walks in our Cambridgeshire village in the UK. I’m lucky to have a river nearby and a beautiful country park with lakes, swans, geese and ducks. The pace of life slowed down, and I noticed curious stone frogs and the like, which I probably wouldn’t have noticed before.
D.G. – Our senses are heightened when we stop and take a pause, so no doubts Marje. I’m sure every single person on this planet has been affected in different ways. This is a beautiful book for documenting history. <3
What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
I’m becoming more and more fond of it! I appreciate the freedom it gives. I can publish what I like, when I like. I can choose my title, cover, (even create it myself if I wish,) and format it in the way that I want. All those decisions are mine. For me, self-publishing is also a great confidence booster. You develop the tools to become a writer/publisher/marketing expert. There are so many new skills: formatting, creating a cover (I created the cover for This Is Lockdown myself,) designing promotional graphics (I use Canva ,) for blog tour headers, review memes. With self publishing, I am the boss! I love that.
D.G. – I agree with all you said. And wow, you did a fab job with the cover!
Is there something you wish you were better at with the self-publishing process?
It is a never ending learning process. I’ve always wanted to be a perpetual student! I am getting there. I’ve learnt so much during Lockdown. I’ve been lucky to have the time during my furlough from work to dedicate to writing, and to blogging. Normally, I work long hours in an international school in Cambridge, leaving me little time to do anything. There are many new skills I’d love to add to my tool box –
I’d love to learn how to design a paperback cover.
And, I’d love to become more skilled at increasing readership to my blog
newsletters. I just started my newsletters during Lockdown. It has been on my to
do list for forever! I feared this more than anything. So, when I created my first
newsletter, it made me feel like cracking open the champagne. To date, it was the
hardest blog admin I’ve ever done.
Oh, and I’d love to do more videos. This is the first one I’ve done, (my
daughter created it for me, for our local village, Online Fayre.) It isn’t perfect (we
were on a tight time frame,) but it’s our first attempt and I’m proud of that. She
did a wonderful job.
D.G. – Fabulous Marje! There is just so much that comes with the self-pub business. If we learned all the dynamics, we’d never have time to write!
How has writing changed your life?
Massively, I am not the same person I was. I have changed so much. I’d describe myself as a much more contented person. It is as if I have been waiting for this moment all my life! Sometimes, I wonder why have I wasted so many years being that ‘other’ person. But then I let it go. Life is too short for regrets. It is enough that I have found myself NOW.
D.G. – You’ve got that right girl!
Do you agree with the general consensus that writers are loners?
Ah, yes and no Debby. I enjoy my own company, but I wouldn’t say I’m a loner. I am quite sociable; I love going out with friends and family for meals and entertainment. I miss engaging with a wide circle of friends: old friends that I’ve had since the children were young, old school friends, blogging pals, writer friends, (in person at blogger bash, and SCBWI events,) you name it! And yet I’d say that writers are happy to be alone – that’s the difference. We have our writing, our books, our muse… Isolation for writers and creatives isn’t easy, but we cope better than most.
So, I discovered a way to connect during COVID19. This Is Lockdown was my way of coping. I reached out to the writing and creative community. I’m so glad that I did! This project has been such an enormous boost to my morale at a time when I needed it most. Coronavirus continues to be the most frightening time of my life. I hope it helps others to connect in this way. This Is Lockdown is a true account of diaries, poems, writings, short pieces and thoughts on isolation. It is a touch of positivity amongst all the sadness. Also, it highlights a wonderful initiative by Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago-Val. They share their story of the fundraising masks for the NHS. To date, they have raised £30,000 for the National Health Service.
Here I am wearing one of their colourful masks:
D.G. – I concur. I too am both and extrovert and introvert. I need my social outings, but also my quiet time to work.
The fabulous authors/bloggers and creatives together, the contributors are:
Richard Dee , (Sci Fi , Steampunk, Amateur Detective author,) Catherine Fearns ,
(Amazon Bestselling Author of Police Procedural/Mysteries and Music Journalist,)
Lynn Fraser , (Author,) Jackie Carreira , (Writer, musician, designer and aspiring
philosopher,) Willow Willers , (Poet and writer,) Sharon Marchisello , (Murder
Mystery, Financial non-fiction,) Fi Phillips , (Author, Copy Writer) Jeannie
Wycherley , (dark stories, suspense, horror,) Chantelle Atkins , (urban fiction,
teen/YA,) Tracie Barton-Barrett , (Speaker/author,) Peter Taylor- Gooby , (Crime,
Love Stories, Political Fiction,) Ritu Bhathal , (Chick Lit romance, poet,) Alice May ,
(Author, Artist and Speaker,) Miriam Owen , (Blogger and Doctoral Researcher,)
Drew Neary and Ceri Williams (Ghost Horror, Supernatural,) Katherine
Mezzacappa , (Author name: Katie Hutton,) (Historical Fiction/Romance,) Sally
Cronin , (huge supporter of indie community/blogger/author) Debby Gies ( D G
Kaye ), (Memoirist/NonFiction,) Adele Marie Park , (Fantasy, horror, urban
fantasy,) Marian Wood , (blogger, poet and writer.) Samantha Murdoch , (Writer,
Blogger,) Beaton Mabaso (Blogger, African Storyteller,) Frank Prem (Poet,
Author,) Anne Goodwin (Author, Book Blogger) Sherri Matthews (Writer, Photographer, Blogger,) and Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago-Val – Community Masks 4 NHS.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 July 2020
Behind The Mask by Sherri Matthews
Based in the UK
© Sherri Matthews
Covid-19 struck and with it lockdown. I didn’t jump into baking bread, online classes and endless quizzes on Zoom. Instead, my brain went into meltdown. Then, Survival Mode.
Stock-piling at the supermarket stripped shelves bare. For the first time in my life – in my generation – I worried about finding basic essentials for my family. Lockdown plunged me into my new role as Hunter/Gatherer. I shifted into action.
My immediate quest turned to hand sanitiser. None. Liquid soap then. None. Right. Bar soap? None. Didn’t people wash before coronavirus? Shelf after empty shelf mocked me with their special-offer price tags to non-existent products and a slow-rising panic clenched my chest. A rapid mental inventory of the soap I had at home told me we could manage. I keep a spare. Dishwashing liquid works, my middle son texted. Of course, yes. We have that. Never mind no fresh meat, bread or eggs. At least we could safely wash Covid from our hands.
My sons. My adult children. Three of them. My youngest lives at home with me and my husband. Lockdown separates us from our two older sons who live far away. We cancelled March, hoped for May. Then July. Maybe. More like August. We don’t know.
Anxious thoughts lace my outings to The Wasteland. But this isn’t an episode of the Walking Dead and there are no zombies here. Reality means I must keep safe. My husband too. He works from home now. I am carer to my youngest who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Now, too, for my eighty-something mother who needs shielding. Who will look after them if I succumb?
Food shopping is my mission. An expedition for which I need gear. Survival gear. A mask, primarily. It is black. The material heats my breath and fogs my sunglasses. Wisps of too-overlong lockdown hair itch my eyes. Don’t touch your face! I mantra as I manoeuvre through the aisles and try to focus on my shopping list, blinking hard to clear the blur and people-dodging when they come too close too many times.
My mask and sunglasses double-up as a dark disguise – they hide the stress and, yes, the anger I know is tight upon my face. It keeps at bay those spewing germs from the woman who sneezes and the man who coughs openly as they walk by. It stops the words I want to say but know I will regret. To them and those who huddle in the aisle chatting, laughing, not a foot apart. I need to get by. Excuse me, please. To them I want to say, don’t you know this is a pandemic?
Three months into lockdown, food supplies are plenty. Sanitising hand gel and soap is back!
Families and friends can gather, no more than six. But tell that to the crammed in beach-goers and not a mask in sight in the hottest May on record leaving tons of weight in litter, gridlocked roads and major incidences in their wake. How can we win like this?
An invisible enemy designed to bring us down circulates with relish. Will we humans prevail in our efforts to destroy it? Many will never know normal again. Loss and grief does that. We are forever changed.
My normal means hugging my boys again, my family gathered together on that wonderful day, safe and well. In this I have hope. Always, we must hope. And until that day, it doesn’t hurt to wear a black mask.
© Sherri Matthews
Shopping Hell (2)- Flash fiction
A woman is standing in front of me in the supermarket queue. She’s young, barely twenty, wearing a bright red jacket, a face mask, her hair is dark, her eyes accusatory. Turning her head, her body twists, she glares at me, her body language screams you are too close, as if I am invading her territory. Her glossy red jacket screams help! I’m staying away from her, following the social distancing rules, but still it is not enough. She fears me, her eyes peer at me above her mask and I know this is true. I hope and pray she will stay well. She is a similar age to my daughters, but fear has made her an anxious stranger.
© M J Mallon
I have also written my thoughts and contributed this Etheree poem:
Anxiety exacerbates within.
The pandemic reigns on human life.
We grieve the lost art of living.
While idling in neutral,
We remain suspended,
A new concept.
It was a thrill to have you over today Marje. Wishing you lots of success with the book, and may we all stay safe and be able to start a new life soon!
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