Good Reads for Challenging Times

After each of my fellow IWSG Anthology authors were In the Spotlight over the last few months, our spokesperson Louise Barbour has initiated a new series of weekly posts.

First up, today’s post on the IWSG Anthology blog carries Louise’s wise words during the Covid-19 crisis, and her thoughts on her love of reading. Plus, some of the favourite Middle Grade reads of us Anthology authors.

#IWSG – Covid-19 Reality

As the first Wednesday of April approaches, I’m attempting to write my IWSG monthly blog post. But I’m more than Insecure.

First off though, I’m grateful the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group as they do such amazing things for writers, from the annual Anthology to friendly advice for all us vacillating writers. Many thanks, Captain Alex, for keeping me inspired to keep scribbling. Even at this difficult time.

I’m attempting to focus on my short ‘Feathered Fire’ in the imminent IWSG anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost due out on May 5, 2020.

Expect great stories – the weekly interviews have demonstrated the wealth collected. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy, and if you are tempted, these are the purchase links:




Barnes & Noble:  



Anyway, on to the monthly question which I wanted to evade this time. Too much backlog? Yes, so as usual apologies in advance for the slow visits on my part – I’m still wading through earlier IWSG-day posts, including last year’s. And now there’s the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge posts and fear…

April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

‘Stay safe, sensible and positive’ are my words of encouragement – to others. But some days they sound false when I absorb too much news.


My wife and I are safe in the sense of being in self-isolation. However, we’ve hardly been out since we arrived here in Boise, Idaho, USA on October 1st, 2016. Primarily, we went for medical visits – when we could afford those. We’ve only had one weekend away – last September to a cabin. The biggest drawback is getting me and my wheelchair out. So, it’s easier to escape into other realities – reading, writing, and gaming.

Some family members did visit, which helped. Great until the kids sneeze around us, forgetting that grandma and grandpa are vulnerable with chronic illnesses. We’ve both got seasonal colds, contracted six weeks ago from sick kids who recovered in a few days. Now, we are keeping them away, although it’s taken far too long.


We’re trying to be ‘sensible’ in everything we do. When the family held a birthday party for my wife and a grand-daughter on March 7th, I was already concerned about the spread of Covid-19. Except almost everyone thought I was paranoid. Forget even flu-precautions like hand washing or hand sanitiser.

And as Covid-19 spread, the lax approach continued.

Then one of my wife’s son was diagnosed as having Covid-19 symptoms. He went into isolation. But not all the family were concerned or willing to take precautions, even when Idaho’s governor announced a lock-down. Sense finally prevailed a few days ago, and measures adopted by laxer family members.

In time? Too late?


There are glimmers of light everywhere amidst the tragedy unfolding. Places where the virus is being checked by what is called ‘social distancing’ but should be called’ physical distancing’. You are being social reading this rant and when you comment.

There are amazing people – doctors, nurses, scientists, first-responders, volunteers etc – essential fighters in this struggle. They are keeping the ‘positive’ alive.  They are the front-line fighters, we need to focus on.

I was worried about my family back in England and further afield, searching for a positive there. I was relieved when I discovered they were safe, when I got to speak to one precious niece – uplifting news.

And yesterday, we heard my wife’s son was clear – his test results a false positive.

That’s positive news though.

Every day, I’m reluctant to check the news. Will the chaos overwhelm the positive?


How we respond is crucial.

Sometimes, I read an article that makes me realise the ‘sensible and safe’ approach is the only way forward – as in this Smithsonian piece:

The closing statement was powerful and close to home:

“…But letting up too soon would only worsen the consequences, Lilian Alessa, director for the Center for Resilient Communities at the University of Idaho, tells Nicoletta Lanese at Live Science.

“We literally have to have absolute compliance,” Alessa says. “Without that, this is our new normal.”

So, I must be ‘positive’, even as a person more at risk due to my chronic condition, Multiple Sclerosis – and Leukemia. One MS blogger I follow, Dave Bexfield posted an inspiring article – The World Needs Our Help.

“So, I am calling on all of my friends with multiple sclerosis and other disabling conditions to unfurl your capes. More than ever, the world needs more superheroes. The world needs us–the world needs you.”

His words remind me that I’m an MS Warrior who has learnt about adversity and illness – and survival.

My fight pre-dates my MS too.

As a campaigning green for decades, I learnt to never give up. In many ways, this crisis is probably Gaia/Mother Earth defending herself.  Take heed humanity. My politics don’t grant immunity, but they give me hope that people might learn from this.

Stay sensible, safe and inspired, please


The awesome co-hosts for the April 1 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, JH Moncrieff, Anna @ Emaginette, Karen @ Reprobate Typewriter, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

(As always, you must agree these guys are the best. Especially as they all have concerns, fear and insecurities. But they fight on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.)

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

A for Assault

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

A for Assault (2019 Challenge) is Act One of Azure Spark, an investigation featuring my Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl and her partner Kama Pillai, the main characters in my Snowdon Shadows series.

The case evolved into a novella as I edited the posts into three acts. I will post all three during April: Act Two on April 11th, and Act Three on the 23rd.

I suspect not everyone got to read ‘Azure Spark’ so this will be another chance. Enjoy.