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.
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….
In 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!
You may now download my books ” Gods and Green Fingers” – about plants’ mythology and practical potential and the children’s story”Clumsilla’s Flight Through Time” FREE from my Smashwords bookpage. Future publications will also be free to individuals and libraries.
I’m back in business! The wonderful summer in Crete is dissolving in wind and rain, so it’s time to stop lazing and look lively! More short stories for children are on the way, but first I want to congratulate my colleague Marie Quirke Smith on the publication with Amazon of her novel “A Place in the Choir”.
This is the vivid account of Ellie Dardis, whose sheltered upbringing in Ireland ill prepares her for the outside world. She is deeply religious and goes to America to train as a teacher, where she is steeped in the alien effects of freedom and independence. She is consumed with inner strife and slowly sees the snags within the strictures of religion. She is further upset when not allowed to return to Ireland in time for her father’s funeral.
This is an absorbing story, told with insight, precise grasp of character and frequent humour. Highly recommended. The kindle edition is £3.68, the paperback £5.99.
My two latest stories, THE BAMBOOZLING OF BAZALOB and THE FLYING SHOES are about children who are pitched unexpectedly into bids to rescue other children in a pickle. The book is published FREE with Smashwords.
In THE BAMBOOZLING OF BAZALOB Derry and Jude set out to rescue their cousin Katie from Bazalob – a gross mix of bird, beast and fish. They travel in a giant pot found in the attic, whose spirit, Mikono, helps them in their quest. On the way they meeting bouncing Blodder, tetchy Gingali and reluctant Sydney – strange beings who nonetheless each have a role in the rescue. Luckily Bazalob is susceptible to a certain fatal fruit which the children find……
In THE FLYING SHOES Sissy and Sam climb into two giant shoes they find in a field. They are carried away to the horrible house of Slobsky, a child-eating giant. There they meet Milly and Moll, his disgruntled daughters and Wendy, imprisoned in a wheel. And another rescue mission is underway.
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In Crete I belong to a writers’ group, meeting once a fortnight to read what we or other authors have written on a specific subject and to explore ways of expression – from humour to despair. Most of us are publishing, either online or with other publishers, and here I would like to mention TIME SPHERE – a book for young people – the first by M.C. Morison – one of our members.
This is a tale of a teenager, mysteriously embroiled in the Egyptian past. It is a compelling and painstaking encounter with the classic concept of good and evil. The main character, Rhory, is borne from the predictable present to contend with black arts and the riddle of the Time Sphere, which if solved will prevent the Society of Secrets from controlling time for their own dark ends. This is a magical dimension of time travel, ideal for readers in their early teens.
The book is published by John Hunt Publishing Ltd and may be bought by visiting the “ordering” section on their website(www.lodestonebooks.com)
And I would like to recommend another book by a member of The Writers’ Group of Western Crete – A TERRIBLE UNREST – by Philip Duke.A professor of anthropology, he was a member of the team excavating the site of Ludlow – a camp for striking miners in Colorado in 1914. He relates the tragedy through fiction, while keeping close to real events. Central to the story is an immigrant family from Crete. These characters are absorbing, as are the tenacious strike leaders, including an irrepressible old lady. But the massacre of Ludlow by the National Guard is inevitable and as relevant today as it was then.
I’m resuming the publication of children’s books, which I hope will entertain and stir the imagination! Just out with Smashwords is CLUMSILLA’S FLIGHT THROUGH TIME and TAMING OF THE TOKHASHI – two stories that whisk children from their everyday lives to lands of fluctuating dangers and delights.
Clumsilla is an ungainly girl whose life is transformed when she meets Zigana, a celestial gipsy enabling travel through time and who has Clumsilla wishing her way to past and future on the fading family hearthrug (no magic carpet here!) Clumsilla arrives in the Land of Legend and Lost Moments where she finds Shirin and Laila; Persian princesses, the quarrelsome giants, Brawn and Scrawn, Beldina the witch with Bast, her cat and Huff, a dragon who fails to breathe fire. They all end up in the future and a smouldering community of Wolgs – fiendish fiery beings, from whom they narrowly escape.
TAMING OF THE TOKHASHI is another adventure through time, visiting a Far East transformed by a magical force of nature and the threat of the monster, Tokhashi. Topsy and Turvy are conjured from the evil pot of Zazhak – an unsavoury being who wants them to fetch him the Tokhashi from the Mountains of Mishap and Gloom. But he does not reckon with Viana, a kindly earth spirit who protects the children from disaster, as they move through strange encounters with a phoenix, a resurrected prince and princess, a lost Indian elephant and a selection of unruly nature gods.
If you love plants and would like to delve into their mythology before successfully growing them yourself, you will enjoy GODS AND GREEN FINGERS, the book I have just published with Smashwords. Click on the cover (right) for a link to my book page to download. In this book, I unearth the past of plants, from unassuming flowers to flamboyant curiosities, and offer tips on how to help them flourish. In between are short stories which challenge the image of the garden as a sanctuary. What happens, for instance, if someone is inextricably trapped in a maze? What fairy creatures lurk in our well tended borders? And what if a plant attacks its grower?
In this combination of useful fact and diverting fiction, I recall some of the most perturbing myths devised by man. The white hellebore, for instance, was said to have grown most strikingly on Mount Oeta, where Heracles decided to die on a funeral pyre. He had pushed his luck by taking a mistress while married to Deianeira. No longer young, she sought the centaur Nessus, hearing he had a love charm that might focus her husband’s roving eye on her.
One version of her encounter with Nessus, claims she spread the shirt woven for her husband’s return, with the mysterious mixture Nessus gave her. She was alarmed to see the remains of the wool she had used, burn and bubble with red foam when she threw it away. Had Nessus deceived her?
When Heracles put on the shirt he was racked with pain. The mixture may have had poison from the Hydra which flowed in Nessus’ blood. Heracles tried ripping off the shirt but it clung and his flesh came away with it. That was when he built the pyre. As he died, thunderbolts fell and demolished the pyre. The hellebores were no doubt smoke smothered witnesses.
Other tales are gentler and in their wake is the encouragement to grow the plants that inspired them and create ever-changing plots of coalescing colour. And there are suggestions for gardens created from rocks and based on painters’ palettes.
This book may be downloaded free for one month, so don’t delay in adding to your knowledge and understanding of plants – wild and consciously cultivated.
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