CJ on Facebook

May 2020: life in lockdown

Well, how to start a newsletter after everything that’s been going on? It’s worse than starting a novel. So much has happened, on a global scale, it’s almost impossible.

So, I’ll dive right in by saying I hope you’re all okay, and that your loved ones are too. I send you love and warmest wishes that you will come out the other side safe and well.

Looking back, I see my last newsletter was in March, just after the book launch for The Snow Thief. Ten days later, lockdown was announced.

You’d think being in lockdown would be great for a writer, but for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I get my inspiration not from looking out of the window but being in the world, walking, talking, people-watching in cafés, on the street, on the train. Since walking has been out of the equation (I’m suffering from the dreaded plantar fasciitis) the only creative activity I was legally able to undertake outside the house was driving to my local supermarket once a week. Woo hoo!

Celebrating VE Day in our front garden – luckily nobody can see my waistline on Zoom. (© CJ Carver)

Interestingly, straight after lockdown, I found my creativity stalled for a couple of weeks. The whole atmosphere had changed and it felt weird, oddly serene and silent. It was like getting snowed in. But it wasn’t. And when I went back to work I stared at my manuscript and thought, how do I write a contemporary thriller without mentioning Covid-19?

It would either have to be set before the Coronavirus, or after. I couldn’t imagine not mentioning it, pretending it never existed. That would be unrealistic. Besides, what a great way to show character. How an individual acted during lockdown would certainly show their true colours.

When I went back to work I stared at my manuscript and thought, how do I write a contemporary thriller without mentioning Covid-19?

Personally, my true colours turned me into a pudding maker. Although my hub and I love them, I never normally cook puddings. You can imagine what our waistlines are like now. Lovely job! Luckily nobody can see the damage when we Zoom.

I’ve been really pleased with the reviews for The Snow Thief, all five stars (phew!). My publisher tells me I need a handful more reviews before it gains momentum and wondered if I could call on anyone who’s read it to pop a review on Amazon? I hate to ask, but this book means so much to me, I’m being more bullish than usual!

Just go to the book page and click on the “ratings” button (next to the five lovely stars) which takes you to the review page… and on the left is a grey button “write customer review”. A review will not only make my day but will help get the message about the situation in Tibet to much a wider audience.

I have now finished my current manuscript and am having a swift re-write before it goes to my agent. This one is set in Wales, and is about an ex-soldier, a paramedic, who’s running from life. And where better to hide, than in the wilds of Wales? Trouble is, Tom Berry is not the only one in hiding, and late one Saturday night, he makes a shocking discovery which forces him to try to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist.

The soul of the book (or theme, or premise, if you will) explores community and family, and how some people find it easier when faced with something awkward or unpleasant to choose not to get involved and look the other way, where others cannot help but confront even the most challenging things. The latter is Tom Berry to a tee, he’s a bit like me in that he can’t just walk past and let things slide.

Other news? Ha! Like most people, not much! We haven’t been allowed to fly the RV-8 until recently and believe me, there’s nothing more frustrating than being grounded when you’ve just finished building your own aeroplane. Still, the heavens have now opened and yesterday we beetled off to the Isle of Wight for an engine maintenance flight. Bliss. (You can just see her wingtip on the left).

(© CJ Carver)

I was very touched when I found a little hand-painted rock on our wall one day. And yes, we live by the church! It made not just me smile, but everyone passing by our cottage.

(© CJ Carver)

Celebrating VE Day felt very peculiar considering the pandemic but we joined in with the village celebrations, sitting in our front garden with tea and cake, but instead of bunting, we hung some Tibetan prayer flags to help send blessings into the air and beyond. I wonder how many Victorian sponges were made for the event?!

(© CJ Carver)

Like many in lockdown, I’ve read loads of books. Some not so good (I threw one across the room the characters wound me up so much), but others have been fantastic, like Manda Scott’s A Treachery of Spies. No wonder it’s won several awards and garnered some top reviews. It’s beautifully written too, sophisticated and smart, but still a page-turner. Set between the UK today and the Jura in WWII, it was a fantastic old-fashioned espionage story. If you like Robert Harris, who blends historical fact with fiction, then this one should make you happy.

Next up is a true story that blew me away, Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson. I’ve always been a sucker for true-life adventure stories but now we have personal locator beacons, sat and mobile phones and the like, they are now few and far between. Claire Nelson was in one of the hottest places on earth and there she was alone, with no signal, and she’d taken a wrong turning off the trail when she fell, shattering her pelvis. This story is more than a survival story, it’s a moving memoir about what brought her to the desert, the difficulties she had with her mental wellbeing, and how the accident prompted her to change for the better. Cracking.

Lastly, I headed down under with Chris Hammer’s Scrublands. I love books set in outback Australia (as well as writing them myself!), and sinking into the relentlessly searing atmosphere peopled by unforgettable characters. The book hits the ground running with its prologue – a young priest opening fire on his congregation in Riversdale – and doesn’t let up until the last page. The best bit for me was learning exactly what to do during bushfires. I used to live in Australia, but I didn’t know half of it. Let’s hope I never have to put my new-found knowledge into practice.

All that remains now is to wish you some good reading to distract you through these testing times, and to keep safe.

All the best,


© CJ Carver 2020