Well this is unbelievably weird, isn’t it?
I nearly titled this piece “Seasons greetings from The Masque of The Red Death,” but was worried about whether my humour would be misconstrued.
By the time you read this I will be starting my fifth week of lockdown. And it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, hasn’t it?
I have asthma. It’s mostly fine, but the worst attack I ever had took place on a trans Atlantic voyage where I struggled to pull a full breath into my lungs for three days before collapsing and ending up under the ship’s doctor. But that’s another story…
My husband has some health issues that mean he also has to isolate.
My dad – my lighthouse in hard times – has some health issues that mean he has to self isolate alone in Dublin.
I watched my mam, at the end of her life, struggle to breathe, and it terrified me.
So please believe me when I say that I will stay in til hell freezes over if it saves a life. If you think this is gonna be a moanfest about lockdown, jog on. I know this is a horribly scary time for a lot of people, and I also know how lucky I am to be able to safely isolate without – at this moment – worrying how I’m going to put food on the table. But I wanna live, and I want my loved ones to live, and so here we are.
I’m very lucky to have enough space to isolate without going mad, and to have someone with me to hug me when I get too anxious about the world, but sometimes the anxiety just gets too much, the darkness too deep, and at those times I cling to the flakes of glitter in the middle of all this gloom.
The day before I went into lockdown I took part in what turned out to be the final panel at Crawley WORDfest. It was an absolute joy to be interviewed by Carolyn Murphy alongside N.J. Crosskey. The crowd at Revive Store and Café were attentive, intelligent, beautiful <of course; cos all booklovers are beyoodiful> and generous and I sold books, chatted to readers and writers and had an evening that I’ve been gripping to my heart ever since. When all this is over there will be more real life events with real life people to talk and sign and touch (but not that way; I’m happily married innit). And I can’t wait.
But that’s not to dismiss the brilliant work that’s gone on around virtual events. William Shaw has been doing Facebook Live events every day at 4 on his Facebook page and had me, on Good Friday, with Judith O’Reilly and Trevor Wood talking about Books, connection, Integrity and the fact that this situation has forced so many authors to roll up their sleeves and adopt that technology we’ve been avoiding for so long.
Which brings me to FahreNoirAtTheBar, a YouTube channel which a bunch of my fellow writers and I have set up. We’re all published by Fahrenheit press, and realised that the crisis was impacting us all in different ways. Personally, mentally, and creatively. And so we decided to get together and create something. Cos that’s what creatives do. On FahreNoirAtTheBar you’re going to find some amazing authors reading excerpts from their books. Or talking about the stories behind the books.
So far, we’ve readings up there from Jo Perry, Anthony Neil Smith, Cal (no relation) Smyth, Ariana Den Bleyker, Ian Ayris and Myself, and future plans include more authors drinking cocktails, sharing drama, excitement, comedy, and maybe even sharing goodies and prizes too.
Go on, I’ll wait..
Anyway, the ‘viewing figures’ have been really encouraging, the comments uniformly positive, and the collegiate, supportive and kind way that so many writers came together to make it happen; the enthusiasm with which they have filmed and uploaded their clips. These things are slivers of pure, sparkling glitter in the night.
It’s early days yet. We have amazing ideas for what comes next. Of course we have: Did I mention we’re creatives? We also (luckily) have some amazingly smart experienced heads who have cautioned us against barrelling into madness, and so we’re going to slowly and steadily expand the site.
Thankfully, some of my crazier ideas have been supportively but definitively taken out the back and given one in the head by my colleagues in our loose revolutionary collective (think The Committee of Public Safety, only with fewer powdered wigs, and better personal hygiene. I think. I mean, they’re all on Zoom and YouTube, so they could be HONKING for all I know…)
But I digress.
Our books are still out there.
They’re in ebook if you want an immediate hit.
They’re in paperback if you like the physical <and who – in these times – doesn’t freakin’ LONG for a bit of the old physical>, with the added bonus that – if you order the paperback straight from fahrenheit-press.com you’ll get an email with the download link for the ebook so you can start reading while you wait.
At least one of mine is in deluxe limited edition numbered hardback (if it hasn’t sold out) which comes with a unique forward I wrote about the impact this novel had on my life.
One of my dumbest housebound purchases – after I’d gone online in the early days to discover that tinned goods were going for more, per gram, than Peruvian flake in the week before New York Fashion week – was four hundred quid’s worth of Gin. I cancelled the order, mostly cos I don’t think I have the space to store four large one’s worth of gin, but also because – really? Me and a truckful of gin? How will that end well?
But books? Oh books are still eminently purchasable, consumable. Eminently right; for where else – when you are confined to your home – can you hang out at a dive bar in Borough, or drink in the casino on a reservation, or be in the middle of the Balkans, or in the mind of a serial killer, or in a car en route to Vegas for a quickie divorce?
Read them. Buy them. Immerse yourself in them.
Stay home, stay well, stay sane, and know – always – that you are loved.