Donkeys defined Santorini – the volcanic Greek island north of Crete, when I first visited in the 1980s. No doubt they still do; straggling up from the caldera, through the narrow streets of Fira and up to Manolas on the neighbouring isle of Theresia.

In my book “On the Island of Fire” – four fantasies for children set on Santorini published with Smashwords – Alizides, a donkey, appears in the first tale “The White Wings”. He dreams he is Pegasus who helped Bellerophon defeat the formidable Chimaera and for some magical moments he is transformed from beast of burden to hero.

I have visited the volcano several times – its eruption in around 1600BC – was catastrophic and it  remains capable of devastation. In the second story “The Earthquake”, a boy, wandering on the volcano, meets Typhon, the tangled monster causing chaos inside the crater.

The sea. where fishermen venture in gale force winds, breaks on black sand and it is easy to imagine momentous events beneath the waves.  In “Falling Stars”two children stumble upon Atlas, resting from his task of supporting the world, and one wonders what fishermen might have encountered on their precarious forays after fish.

The final tale recalls harpies – those mythical creatures, part bird, part woman. In “The Harpies Move Home” a group takes off for a fresh location, rattling holidaymakers on Santorini en route. I hope you enjoy these tall stories and if you have not already been to the island, venture there – to be instantly seduced – without delay!

If you would like to read or download this book, please click on the cover image above: this will take you to Smashwords download page. Here, by scrolling down, you can also view my other works.


Marie Quirke-Smith has a mischevious sense of humour and rapid response to atmosphere and character.

As a writer this leads her into explorations of society, a potent sense of place and an incisive insight into people. Her book A PLACE IN THE CHOIR has been published as a paperback and is now on Amazon Kindle. It traces the life of Ellie and her Catholic upbringing, spicing her expriences with humour and trenchant domestic detail.

Marie, who comes from Ireland and now lives in Crete, explains, ” The idea for this book developed when issues arose about scandals within religious institutions. I wondered why this happened. How were the entrants to religious life chosen and how were they trained?

“I write about nuns in particular but I must emphasise that the nuns who educated me in boarding school bear no resemblance to a couple of unpleasant characters in my book. My teachers were dedicated holy women, highly educated, caring and forward-looking.

“The novel is to some extent semi-autobiographical – it’s difficult to write without shadows from one’s own life intruding. But the book is essentially fiction and whatever may ring true to life within the pages is purely coincidental.”

What are Marie’s current views on Catholic education? She says,” I think Catholic educaion continues to have much to offer even though the church itself is on a learning curve and its influence has waned. Education is an ongoing process and any eductiona institution needs to re-evaluate its role from time to time. Each has its own ethos which will influence how people interact and affect the way they live.

“I had an idea in my mind at the beginning of the book but the story took on a life of its own as I wrote. Since the paperback edition was published I undertook a acomplete revision of the novel. Now I feel I have a  more authentic offering.

“I began to write the book in Ireland. When we moved toCrete I didn’t have time to continue on a regular basis.”

But it was finished and she is now writing a sequel. “This has suddenly taken off,” she admits, “The main character faces huge challenges which will have to be tackled. It’s an interesting story based in Ireland and Israel in the 1970s and 1980s.”

She shares a common dilemma with many writers: “I want to write when Ican’t. Sometimes when I’m having a meal with friends I want to be at home writing. Often I’m not mentally present because I’m coming up with ideas which I go crazy trying to recall later.

“I have a problem too – that all the odd jobs must be completed and the house tidy before I sit down to write. So I’m often tired by the time I sit down, then it’s time for a cup of tea – even lunch – any excuse to put off the inevitable.

“But the urge to write is relentless and a day doesn’t go by without writing a few sentences. It’s often some  scene which ignites me – like watching the simple contentment of a man quietly drinking, then joined by friends in a cafe.”

Now she is writing a novel about Crete. She says,” Crete is an influence beyond price. The slow pace of life, the hospitality of the people, the freedom to have the life you desire, the beauty of the mountains, the tranquillity and sometimes power of the sea. Sheep bells and birds song in the early morning. The sound of olive trees rustling in the wind. The valleys, villages hanging onto rocks, wild flowers, sandy beaches and sun umbrellas. The ever changing colour of the sky, those little churches on the hillside, the friendships formed, care for the elderly, love for the children, lights on the night ferry leaving for the mainland, old cities with their harbours, forts and fishing vessels. Village festivals in August – food,wine and raki. And the value of family ties; weddings, baptisms and name days.”

She has come a long way from her first writing as a child when she was given a pencil of her own and wrote about the animals on the farm where she lived. She has responded to social situations, delved the motives of those involved, vividly absorbed a sense of place and infused her characters with convincing traits and intriguing behaviour.

It is these qualities born of a natural talent that will render her books timeless.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 240 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.



2---Sven,-Fifi,-SnurkI hope you are enjoying the adventures of Fifi and the Swiftifoots, especially the extraordinary pictures by Diana Munz. I have been talking to Diana about her work and she has given me fascinating insights into how she creates. She says, “Drawing has always been  a central part of my life. I don’t remember my first pictures but I remember the first years in playschool where I drew cats, trees and birds. Our playschool was an inspiration, the teachers showing us different tehniques and encouraging us to create. At home my dad often drew pictures with me and my brothers.

“I seek inspiration everywhere. I’m not influenced by any artist in particular but the pictures of Swedish artists John Bauer and Elsa Beskow appeared in many of the books I read as a child and they still fascinate me. “I have a picture in my mind before I start but smaller details emerge as I draw.”She generally uses black pigment liners with different thicknesses and thick sketch paper.

Diana is self taught and would some day like to have formal training.  But would this impede her imaginative flow?

“I have tons of ideas – both for photo art and black and white drawings. I’m planning some black and white still  life studies with food and other arrangements.” She is drawn to inspired commercial photography and the more creative imagery of glossy magazines.  But it is her imaginative transformations that reveal a rare and intriguing talent.


 FIFI AND THE SWIFTIFOOTS and how they found the FLOWERS OF PARADISE is my tale for children, about mushroom people, a lost fairy and the creatures they collect on a house-hunting trek through time. It is published FREE with Smashwords. I’m sure you will particularly enjoy the wonderful illustrations by Diana Munz,  a Swedish artist living in Stockholm, with an exceptional  and quirky imagination. With a few strokes she creates worlds packed with enigmatic detail – each picture is painstaking and labour intensive. I think she deserves wide recognition and I hope an enthusiastic response to this book, will encourage her to develop ever more daringly.



In this tale, Fifi lands  with a broken wing in the waterlogged forest of the Swiftifoots. They help her mend it, but are then flooded out, so decide to look for somewhere drier to live. Fifi tells them of the Land of Paradise Flowers beyond the Moonmarsh Mountains and off they go, only to find they are travelling back in time. They meet a string of creatures as they have evolved, from Porlock the Sponge and Legs the Squid to an army ant and a flying frog. Some of these accompany Fifi and the Swiftifoots and there is a dangerous encounter with Man before they reach their destination….

The biological facts are correct, so there is much to learn about animals as the fantasy unfolds and many characters are brought vividly to life in the singular technique Diana has combined with skilled draughtsmanship. Don’t delay in downloading this story!


I have been reading excerpts from A PLACE IN THE CHOIR, the revised novel by Marie Quirke-Smith and quote part of chapter one here because her excellent writing deserves a wide audience. This bittersweet tale traces Ellie’s life from child to young woman , as she moves from a farm in the wilds of Ireland to a convent in America. If this does not grab you, Marie’s keen observation, succinct use of language and persuasive development of plot, will. Don’t be misled by the calm of Ellie’s bucolic beginnings.

Chapter 1     Belonging

Belonging means everything, and I belonged with the farm. It was where my life began. During all those years which followed our leaving of it, my distinct memories of the land and its surroundings helped to give meaning to my existence. I was born into a soft, midland cradle of green fields, woodlands, apple orchards and meadow. Whenever I recalled my childhood, I pictured again those three giant chestnut trees at the bottom of the long field. Here our blood-red cattle sheltered in the heat haze of summer. Sometimes, lying on my back in the soft grass at the edge of the scented meadow, I watched thinning clouds tango across the sky. When I was four years old, I knew where the sweet briars grew and where the field mice hid in the autumn leaves. My mother loved to take my brother, Tom, and me for walks through the woods or along the headland. Depending on the time of year, we’d look for hazelnuts, pick the first violets, chew sweet briars and suck wild strawberries until our eyes watered from the bittersweet taste. Sometimes, we disturbed birds and rabbits as we laughed and talked…. 

A PLACE IN THE CHOIR  is now available on Amazon Kindle and read Marie’s blog “The Musings of Mawsie Maw for news about her next novel, set in Crete.


3rd-proof---Dip-and-Ben-covA WONKY HOUSE AND WONDERFUL WINGS

Hello there!

I have two new children’s stories for you! THE DIPSY DREAM HOUSE and THE FLEETING FAME OF BENJAMIN SPROCKETT – quirky tales of the improbable, published with Smashwords and FREE to download by clicking the link on the cover graphic to the right.

Have you ever wanted a house that would look after itself? Needing no painting, cleaning, repairing? Bobette in THE DIPSY DREAM HOUSE is determined to find one, and with her nephew Scrotty and Blimp, his ginger cat, she visits an estate agent – only to be pitched, through one of his programmes, into the past, where the trio find grand but unsuitable properties inhabited by  the ghosts of children and their strange pets. Together they carry on searching unsuccessfully for a house.When they magically return home, children and animals are restored to life and the old house has a sudden appeal….

bens-join-circusIn THE FLEETING FAME OF BENJAMIN SPROCKETT Benjie is a boy with wings – reared in the hills by the grey fairies. He flies away one day and ends up in a circus where he becomes CLOWN NUMBER ONE. He gets too fat and is displayed in a box, has several mishaps and is eventually promoted  to star turn, flying round the Big Top. But his days as a flying boy are numbered, when his two mothers turn up to claim him!