The Heirloom – a treasured inheritance

heirloom twitterBooks, I am learning, have a life of their own. Long after the story has left my pen, I watch it dip and rise on the tides. It amazes me – the power of a book to go on its own journey, as if the author is but a distant spot on the horizon.

Such has been the experience with my debut novel, The Heirloom (which is conveniently 99p at the moment on Kindle!) When I first published this timeslip story, I just couldn’t get any traction with it. I was a first-time, self-publishing author and no-one knew I even existed. I hadn’t a clue how to reach readers or where to promote my book.

Fast forward a few years and The Heirloom has now become my most popular selling title! I cannot tell you how happy it makes me, to know that people are not only discovering this story, but really enjoying it!

I spent waaaaay too long researching this novel, but judging from the reviews, it seems to have paid off. It all started when two completely different ideas collided. I love history and was interested in the Spanish Armada ships that crashed into Irish shores during one of the worst storms in history. Miraculously, a letter from one of the knights who survived, has outlived its author and gives a harrowing account of his time in Ireland. In Galway (where the book is set) there is still a monument to the 300 Spanish sailors who were massacred by the English on Fort Hill cemetery. Through the kindness of strangers, Captain Francisco de Cuéllar was given shelter and managed to return home to Spain (after many adventures!) Here is a trailer for a short film based on his time here, which is kind of amazing because I like to pretend this is a trailer for my book!

Armada 1588 : Shipwreck & Survival (Film Trailer – English) from Omedia on Vimeo.

But of course, that’s not the end of my story. Given my love for timeslip novels (it began with Kate Mosse, blame her!) I wanted to write the story in a format that brought the reader into the present day. I feel so strong that our past is the answer to all of the mysteries we face in our lives and I love exploring those links in fiction. So, when I discovered a book called Many Lives, Many Masters written by the American psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss, I knew I’d found my key.  It tells how one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas and through the use of therapy and hypnosis, they resolved to cure her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks.

Well, I’ve always had an over-active imagination and the idea of remembering past lives really intrigued me. I wonder where I lived, or who I was, in previous lives? Books like Cloud Atlas ignite my passion for this idea and the beauty of it is, no-one can really say for sure whether or not it’s possible… In more recent times, there have been increasing studies into inherited trauma and whether transgenerational inheritance can really affect a person’s biology. But that’s for another story.

For now, I’m just delighted to see my story about past and present lives colliding on the wild shores of the west coast of Ireland finally charting a steady course to a whole new readership. These reader reviews have made my heart soar and reminded me that stories can go on forever and heirlooms are made to be passed on.

“I loved this book! Following the history of Miguel and Annora was fascinating.”

“It almost seemed like two books in one, which is great for avid readers. Skillfully the author links the life stories of four well-developed characters across centuries.”

“Once I started this book I found it difficult to put down. I like the way it slips easily from modern Ireland to the time of the Spanish Armada.”

“A beautiful story of love, loss and courage . This beautiful story wraps history and a great love into one. Good read!”

“Anyone who likes a mystery that takes you to another country plus searching for family tree i could not put this down. 3 o’clock in the morning is not a good time to go to sleep!! loved it.”

Betwixt – A gothic short story

woman-2375822_640 Credit: Enrique Meseguer

I love gothic novels. Everything from Edgar Allen Poe to Laura Purcell, Bram Stoker to Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I find the blend of dark romanticism, ominous characters, decaying grandeur, curses and the supernatural simply irresistible. My favourite novel as a teenager was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Set on the desolate and uninviting moors, with its harsh climate provided the perfect backdrop for a gothic romance and reminded me so much of Ireland, that I felt strangely connected to it. I was also really drawn to the anti-heroes Heathcliff and Cathy – their willful nature, their intensity. But it’s the structure of the story and the supernatural elements that infuse it with a sense of mystery and fear.

I was less enamoured by my penchant for the macabre when staying at a friend’s cottage in the middle of the Irish countryside, miles from anywhere. It was the longest night of my life (I was supposed to stay there for a week. Plans changed!). Nestled (or buried – depending on how you want to look at it!) at the base of a hill , it was a traditional thatched cottage with dinky windows and a half door. The smell of turf almost knocked me over as we walked inside, but I tried to be cool with the gloom and the damp. And the fact that, despite it being the height of summer, inside was a million degrees cooler than outside.

That night however, I stopped being cool with everything when the noises started. Every creak made me jump. It didn’t help that the room was full of religious icons, leering over me. The distinct sound of a chair being scraped across the floor left me rigid in the bed. I had to risk my arm being snatched by who knew what to switch on the lamp. I gave up on sleep and sat in an armchair by the smokey fire until it was light enough to pack up and go back to civilisation. But not before my companion told me the history of the house, and how we were not the first to leave the place in a hurry.

This, dear reader, was the inspiration for my gothic short story, Betwixt which is currently a number one bestseller on Amazon! I wrote it in 2015, before The Story Collector, as a little side project, so it’s a thrill to see it doing so well and garnering such positive reviews. Like all indie authors, I struggle to get my work promoted and break into new readerships. So I have made this short story permanently free on all platforms (Kobo ~ Apple) so readers can get an introduction to my writing before buying all of my books!

Betwixt is the perfect quick read for this time of year – it’s atmospheric and haunting and inspired by a true story (eek!) So download your FREE copy now and if you enjoy it, I would love if you could share the love by passing it on to a friend and/or leaving a short review. They make a HUGE difference to how books are ranked on Amazon, which in turn can really impact on an author’s career. True story! You can have all the PR in the world, but it is readers who have the greatest influence. So thank you to everyone who has made this book number one and to those of you about to read it, let me know what you think!

Come Away

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Come away, O human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand

THE STOLEN CHILD

William Butler Yeats

This poem has been knocking on the door of my subconscious for quite a few years now and I’m proud to have it gracing the first page of my book, The Story Collector.

Growing up in Ireland, it’s easy to take things for granted. To me, Yeats was just another poet whose lines I had to learn off by heart at school and coldly analyse for exams.  But it was during the 80’s, when my brother bought a record (remember those!) by The Waterboys called Fisherman’s Blues, that it all changed.  The band were aiming for a more stripped back sound and spent some time in County Galway, writing and recording the album in an old house in Spiddal.  I’ve always loved that record, but one of their greatest triumphs was in marrying the words of WB Yeats to music.   Some poems have music in them and Mike Scott reveals the lyrical prose with a haunting recording of the poem.  It features Tomás Mac Eoin, a local Sean-nós singer, narrating the verses and as Scott himself remarked, once they ‘had the poem fastened snugly to the music, worlds merged.’  For me, that recording brought the words to life and I’ve been enchanted by the poem ever since.

The idea that the fairies can lure beautiful boys and girls is an old one, and Yeats captures the romantic picture they might paint of life in the wilds of nature.  My novel also features an old Irish lullabye, Seoithín seothó.  I first heard it on the radio, sung by Roisin Elsafty (another Galway woman!) and I was mesmerised by its beauty.  The song tells the story of a mother lulling her baby to sleep with soothing promises to keep them safe from the fairies,  who are playing in the moonlight on the rooftop.  There is a wonderful fascination with The Good People in Irish ballads, where people are helplessly drawn to their beauty, despite the dangers.  I love that sense of push and pull, the lure of the unknown.  But again, this song came to me long before the novel, weaving its way in amongst my memories and waiting until the right moment.

Novels are funny creatures, because you realise you’ve been collecting knowledge all through your life without understanding where it may lead.  A few years ago, I visited Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’ tower home in county Galway.  I was with my sister, who is the poet in the family, and so I figured this pilgrimage was more for her than myself.  But once there, I experienced such a sense of ease, of playfulness and yes, magic!  I could completely understand how he had been inspired to write about The Good People.  Maybe the spell was cast even then to write The Story Collector!

The summer home of W. B. Yeats and his wife George, Thoor Ballylee is a 15th century tower house built beside the Streamstown River, it’s idyllic setting is simply mesmerizing.   We arrived late on a sunny evening, crossing the little bridge just as the sun began to set.  At once, I was under the spell of the place.  Surrounded by trees whose leaves whispered in the breeze, I could feel a sense of timelessness and calm in this beautiful place.  It wasn’t hard to imagine why he loved to escape to Thoor Ballylee and  I’m sure he was never short of inspiration there.

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We spent a long time there, exploring the pathways that led through the woods and down by the stream and discovered the sweetest little picnic tables across the road that resembled little toad stools.  I’ve never felt such an instant connection with a place and I really cannot wait to return.  As Yeats wrote in a letter to a friend about leaving Thoor Ballylee, “Everything is so beautiful that to go elsewhere is to leave beauty behind.”

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The Story Collector is now available in eBook and Paperback

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Dubrays ~ Foyles ~ O’Mahony’sWaterstonesWH Smith

My Book Has A Face!

Up until this week, my novel was a manuscript bound by little more than hope and a dream.  But now, The Story Collector has been enveloped by a design that I have to say, I love!  So without further ado, here it is…

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I am not exaggerating when I say my publisher (Urbane Publications) was AMAZING during this process.  Sooo open trying new ideas and making sure everyone was happy with the design.  This was beyond what I had expected and I just knew when I saw this cover, it was the one.  It was love at first sight!

But more importantly, it is the perfect introduction to the story.  It has a dreamlike quality that sets the tone for what is to follow.  In fact, that has been the overwhelming feedback I’ve received so far – that it draws you in, which is exactly what a cover should do.  So, what am I drawing you in TO?  Well you may ask!  Set in Ireland and wrapped in folklore, this book is very dear to my heart… but don’t take my word for it, read the blurb.

A beautiful and mysterious historical romance from the author of The Heirloom and The Mysterious Bakery on Rue de Paris.

Thornwood Village, 1910. Anna, a young farm girl, volunteers to help an intriguing American visitor, Harold Griffin-Krauss, translate ‘fairy stories’ from Irish to English.

But all is not as it seems and Anna soon finds herself at the heart of a mystery that threatens the future of her community and her very way of life…..

Captivated by the land of myth, folklore and superstition, Sarah Harper finds herself walking in the footsteps of Harold and Anna one hundred years later, unearthing dark secrets that both enchant and unnerve.

The Story Collector treads the intriguing line between the everyday and the otherworldly, the seen and the unseen. With a taste for the magical in everyday life, Evie Gaughan’s latest novel is full of ordinary characters with extraordinary tales to tell. Perfect for fans of Jess Kidd and Eowyn Ivey.

So there you have it folks, after months (nigh, years!) of banging on about this book, I can finally say that publication is imminent!  14th June to be precise, but for the impatient ones of the bunch, here is a link to pre-order a paperback version right this very minute on Amazon.

I have been so lucky to meet some fantastic and supportive writers and readers since my last publication and I just want to say thanks for all the shares and for helping me to spread the word.  I hope I’ve played my part in this process too, writing reviews, sharing links or just being a cheerleader when someone’s having a wobble.  It takes a village to make a book, so I guess that makes you the village people 😀

Finding The Otherworld

Life is funny.  I never thought I’d find myself down an old country lane, asking a tatooed mechanic, “Is this the right way for the portal to the Otherworld?”  Only in Ireland, as they say.  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

As anyone who has read my stories will know, I have a bit of a thing for magic, mystery and the unseen.  Maybe it’s down to my over-active imagination, or it could be my love of folklore, but either way, Ireland is fertile ground for superstition.  Of course it was the Irish who invented Halloween (need proof? here) or what we call Samhain.  It is the time of year when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest and beings from the Otherworld can cross over and scare the bejesus out of us.

But surely this is all myth and not really grounded in reality?  Well, being cursed with a nose for curiosity, I found myself on a bit of a road trip recently, in search of the real portal to the Otherworld ~ Oweynagat.  Oweyna-what I hear you ask?  Well, this is the anglicised version of Uaimh na gCait, which translates as Cave Of The Cats and can be found in Rathcroghan, a Royal Site in County Roscommon, where the Kings and Queens of Connacht reigned and were buried.  Rathcroghan (Crúachan Aí) is a unique complex of archaeological sites and is believed to have been the birthplace of Queen Medb, Connacht’s Warrior Queen (waaaay before Beyonce).

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Copyright M. Casey

As with many things in the West of Ireland, directions are all relative.  The signs are there, but good luck seeing them.  Rathcroghan is said to be one of the most significant but least appreciated archaeological landscapes on the island of Ireland, so while you won’t find as many tourists here as compared to Tara and Newgrange, you mightn’t find the site either!  A series of mounds are spread out across the townland of Tulsk and the fact that most of them are on private land which is currently being farmed, you could quite easily drive past.  Thankfully, there is a lovely new visitor’s centre to keep you on the straight and narrow, but you will still have to run the gauntlet of some menacing sheep to get to the top of the mound.

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A really helpful sign that we spotted on the way back!

But getting back to the cave and its historical connections with Samhain.  Oweynagat is said to be the portal to the Otherworld and to prove its credentials, when Christianity came to Ireland, this cave was referred to as The Hellmouth of Ireland.  Now that’s a reputation to be proud of!  It is said that The Morrigan (an ancient goddess of war in Irish mythology) emerges from this cave on Halloween night on a chariot pulled by a one-legged chestnut horse, along with various creatures such as three-headed monsters and red birds that wither plants on sight.  Luckily, I visited during the height of summer, so it didn’t get too scary.

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Enter at your peril!

Needless to say, my companion and I drove in circles for quite a while before ending up on a long and winding road to what can only be described as middle earth.  Unsure as to how we should proceed (see my previous point about the lack of signs), I spotted a guy fixing cars in his shed and had the dubious honour of asking him whether this was the place where we could find the portal to the Otherworld.  As you do.

‘Ah, the wee man is it?’ he replied in a Donegal accent.

‘Erm, I guess so,’ I responded.

All we had to do was open the gate into the adjoining field and there we would find (let this not be underestimated) A GATEWAY TO ANOTHER DIMENSION.  It’s not everyday you do that, so I was glad I’d brought a flask of tea and some tuna wraps!  Thanks to hundreds of years of under-investment in the west, many of our archaeological treasures have been left untouched, and to be honest, that’s part of the charm.  This unassuming place has a magical atmosphere that you can sense immediately.  The entrance to the cave is guarded over by a hawthorn tree, a sacred tree in Irish folklore, so I knew we were on the right track.  The entrance has a stone lintel, inscribed in Ogham (the ancient Irish alphabet) with the text that translates as “Frach, son of Medb”, referring to the queen associated with the area.  Resembling what the mountaineer Dermot Somers terms as a “crack in the floor of time”, the narrow entrance to Uaimh na gCait, or Cave of the Cats, consists of a man-made souterrain and a natural limestone cavern.

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It’s a bit of a squeeze to get in and in the end I slid into it (rather gracefully) on my backside.  I had such a sense of anticipation, bearing in mind that I was still wondering, ‘Is this the right place?’ and ‘Will I be cursed for trying to enter the Otherworld?’  There’s something so visceral about returning to the earth; a sensation that defies language and yet calls to our subconscious in a very primal way.  The history of the place, the myth and lore surrounding it and the fact that there was no-one else there but us, made it feel very special indeed.  Stupidly, I forgot to bring a torch and my companion revealed at the eleventh hour that they suffered from severe claustrophobia, (hardly a crack team!) so I didn’t get very far into the cave, but it didn’t matter.  Just being there, in that ancient spot, imagining all of the comings and goings sent my creative juices into overdrive!  All of the great believers have been here, even Dr. Douglas Hyde, our late president, carved his name in the stone.  Bloody vandal.

So next time I’m going to bring a torch, a chisel and an even bigger flask to see me through to the other side.  I would highly recommend a visit, if you’re in the West of Ireland.  These places have been relatively untouched over the years, so if you’re looking for an authentic experience of Ireland’s ancient past, Rathcroghan is a gem.

And if you like all things otherworldly, keep an eye out for my new novel, The Story Collector, which will be published by Urbane Publications in June 2018.  Pre-order here.

 

The Future Of Libraries

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In a recent Irish Times article, I read that library staff voted against co-operating with the new government initiative of ‘staffless’ libraries.  Many authors have come out against the scheme and at first, I thought I agreed, but having considered the benefits, now I’m not so sure.

The other day, I was in town and thought, ooh, I wonder if they have that new book in I’ve been looking for.  I threw my full weight against the door, assuming it was open, but my unstoppable force met an immovable object.  This was 11:30 am.  Galway City Library doesn’t open until 2pm on a Monday.

Here’s the timetable:

Monday 2.00pm to 5.00pm
Tuesday 11.00am to 8.00pm*
Wednesday 11.00am to 8.00pm*
Thursday 11.00am to 8.00pm*
Friday 11.00am to 5.00pm
Saturday 11.00am to 5.00pm

Now, I have to say it’s great that they stay open until 8:oo pm on three evenings, but wouldn’t it be great to pop into the library on a Sunday afternoon?  Or what if you want a quiet place to read/write/study on a Monday morning?  What if your idea of the perfect Saturday night is to spend a few quiet hours searching the spines of the non-fiction supernatural section of your local library?  (Sounds like the perfect meet cute if you ask me!)  We have become so  accustomed to having unlimited access to things, so why not libraries?  As I see it (and I am prepared to be corrected on this) staff would still continue to work their regular hours, however patrons could use a key code to access the library out of hours.  The fear seems to be that this initiative would eventually make their jobs obsolete, but I’m not sure that necessarily follows.  I recall the same reaction to the introduction self-service checkouts, but did they actually replace people?  I don’t think so, they just gave customers another option.  I still prefer to deal with an actual person, but sometimes convenience wins the day.

The fact is that libraries need to adapt in order to remain relevant in a world where life online seems to be taking over.  So rather than hold fast to the way things have always been done out of fear of the unknown and change, I think we should embrace it and allow our public spaces to evolve.    Public libraries are just that – PUBLIC.  They are public spaces that should be open to the communities they serve.  If staffless libraries are an extension of library services, rather than a replacement, then I fully support them.  To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised that our government is trying to encourage people to make more use of the library, rather than announcing a raft of library closures.  I understand that staff members are concerned about what this might mean for their jobs in the future, and maybe I’m being naive here, but I don’t see how keeping the doors open (in a manner of speaking) after they leave for the day, will threaten their livelihoods.  Librarians do a lot more work than simply checking out your latest Liane Moriarty, and I have no doubt that this work will continue regardless.

My main concern would be one of security.  I suppose, as a woman, I would have reservations about entering an unmanned (or unwomanned?) building with a locked door.  Then again, I’m not sure how many black-belt librarians there are, even if trouble broke out during normal business hours.  I guess it’s something that needs to be looked at, but it does seem to be proving a success in Scandanavian countries, the part of the world we all seem to be looking to nowadays for hygge, furniture and crime novels.

It’s a controversial idea and people have very polarised views on the subject.  It’s quite similar to the mass hysteria that greeted the arrival of eBooks.  People lamented the death of the book as we know it, but as it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth.  Yes, it shook things up a bit, but the fact is that bookshops still exist, readers still read paperbacks and best of all, readers have a choice that they didn’t have before.  eBooks and eReaders have got more people reading, which is what really matters, in my opinion.  I recently joined an online bookclub and it soon became clear to me that the vast majority of members hardly ever visited their local library.  People seemed clueless about BorrowBox and the eBook lending scheme that has been running for quite some time now.  For some, it was almost a revelation that you could read books for free!  I think we need to encourage people back to the library and this scheme might do just that.

I have read the most wonderful testimonies from people who have a very good relationship with their local librarian, but for me, it’s all about the space.  A library is one of the most sacred spaces we have in our towns and cities, where anyone, from any social background, can enter for free and spend as long as they like nourishing their mind and their soul in the company of books.  It’s one of the last escapes that exist; a quiet and special place, where you are not expected to do anything, be anything or buy anything and I really believe that increased access to such an amenity can only be a good thing for society.

 

Meanwhile, you can download both of my novels here:

new heirloom1+1 Amazon (Paperback)Kindle

 

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue de Paris (7) - Copy Amazon (Paperback) ~Kindle ~Nook ~ iTunes ~ Kobo 

 

 

 

Summer In Ireland

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Ah yes, it’s that time of year again when the hope and expectation of beach barbeques, ice creams and bikinis is dashed by plummeting temperatures, howling gales and NEVER-ENDING rain!  If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,  then call us crazy because we keep searching for the mythical season that is summer.  Having said that, Ireland is home to the ‘All Seasons In One Day’ phenomenon, so really, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.  I found summer at eight o’clock one morning last week, but she swiftly disappeared by eight thirty under a steely grey cloud, soon followed by rain and thunder.

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The weather forecaster becomes public enemy number one.  ‘Sunny spells’ sounds more like a witch’s curse used to torture us with tiny glimpses of the summer we could have had, if it wasn’t for the big blue blob that relentlessly sweeps in from the west.  ‘Just tell us something good!’ we cry.  ‘Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies you harbinger of doom!’

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Sorry, where did you say Ireland was?

It can be depressing, living under these grey skies.  One individual even wrote a book about how many shades of grey there actually are!  Poor cow.  Apparently it’s a trilogy.  They’ll never sell.  But you can’t let it get you down, you’ve still got to get out there and make the best of it.  What is it the Norwegians say?  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.  Right, well I’ll just pack away the flip-flops for another year then.

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Summertime at the beach!

Although we shouldn’t grumble too much.  We did have those two glorious weeks at the beginning of June where the sun shone like an Unidentified Flying Object in the sky and Irish people had the rare opportunity of drying all of their washing outside.  Comedian Colm O’Regan noted a kind of washing ‘ennui’ setting in as people realised they had washed and dried everything they owned, but the sun was STILL shining.

And yeah, I sunbathed.  I sunbathed my ass off!  If you can call sitting out for 15 minutes and squeaking “Jesus, that’s almost TOO hot” before running back inside, sunbathing.  But the point is, I wanted to sunbathe.  My body ached for it.  The warmth, saints preserve us, the warmth!!   But of course, it couldn’t last.  We all knew it.  We had cheated the jet stream for long enough and now it was payback.  Once again, Colm had his finger on the nation’s pulse:

However, I’m fortunate in that I’m working on my novel, so this is perfect weather to be stuck inside for days on end, just me and my manuscript, typing away and …. LET ME OUT!!!!!!!!

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I can see clearly now the … nope, it’s still raining 😦

Ireland was obviously at the back of the queue when it came to Global warming.  There we were, expecting soaring temperatures like the rest of Europe, but oh no.  By the time our lot showed up, all that was left was – you guessed it- MORE RAIN.

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Still, I guess we’re saving our skin from all those harmful rays and while you’re stuck inside on your caravan holiday like Father Ted, you can use that time productively to identify all the different types of rain there are.  If the Eskimos have 50 words for snow, surely the Irish can beat them when it comes to rain.

  1. Sideways Rain – what’s happening outside my window as we speak.  Helped along by a northerly gale, this is the kind of rain that leaves you soaked all down one side of your body, so your outfit resembles a dip-dye version of what you left the house with.
  2. Misty Rain – the kind of rain that doesn’t really fall.  It just sort of hangs there and while it may look harmless (causing you to leave the brolly at home), it’ll drench you in one second flat.
  3. Thundery Rain – Not even a brolly can save you now. In fact, your brolly has become a lightening conductor – THROW IT AWAY IMMEDIATELY!
  4. Swirly Rain – When the wind plays a game with you so you never know which angle to hold the brolly.
  5. Sneaky Rain – The kind of rain that looks like it has finished, so you leave the house confidently, without raincoat or brolly, only for it to start raining two seconds later.
  6. Summer Rain – It’s warm and smells funny
  7. Spring Rain – Slightly cooler and smells fresh
  8. Autumn Rain – Likes to keep itself to itself.  Figures we’ve had enough rain all summer and we’re all too depressed to cope with anymore.  Plus the farmers have finished harvesting, so there’s no fun raining on them anymore.
  9. Winter Rain – Cold and falls like bullets.
  10. Picnic Rain – Waits until you’ve driven for an hour, set out your blanket and all the fiddly bits before the sky turns dark and the heavens literally open.
  11. Chubby Rain – That one might not be real.
  12. Stubborn Rain – ‘It’s down for the day’, you think to  yourself.  Two weeks later you still haven’t been able to leave the house and are living on tinned goods.

Well, that’s as far as I got.  Please feel free to add to the list, which is by no means exhaustive.  Answers on a postcard, but write it in pencil because the ink tends to run with all the bleedin’ rain!

 

PS.  To all of my readers who have kept both of my novels in the Top 100 Bestseller List in each of their categories since April – Thank you so much!  It feels really good to reach such a wide readership and just to let you know, my third novel will be available by the end of the year – come rain or shine 🙂

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue de Paris (7) - Copy

 

The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris on Amazon.

 

 

new heirloom1+1  The Heirloom Kindle

Dear Britain…

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Feel the fear and do it anyway, that was the self-help battle cry of the 90’s.  And when it comes to politics, it’s a maxim that voters need to live by.  With the UK’s EU Membership Referendum (or Brexit) looming ever closer, I’d like to send a little message from Ireland to our neighbours across the pond and it’s this: whatever way you decide to vote, don’t let your decision be motivated by fear.

Negative campaigning seems to be the most popular approach when it comes to influencing voters.  ‘Put the fear of God in them’, is what our Irish rugby captain Paul O’Connell used to say in his pre-match speech and it seems to work.  Let me remind you of our last European referendum in Ireland, the Lisbon Treaty.  It became clear by the end of the campaign that half of us didn’t even understand what we were signing up to, but the common consensus was that we didn’t want to lose even more of our autonomy to Europe.  So we voted no.   Seeing as we were the only ones who had the opportunity to vote on the treaty, we were giving a voice to the 500 million European citizens who were denied a vote on Lisbon.  We were the catalysts for a forward move towards a social Europe, a Europe that cherishes it’s citizens.  I was so proud of our nation.  Despite our size, it seemed we had an equal voice in Europe and if we weren’t happy, they would respect our sovereign decision.

But that was until Europe told us we got the answer wrong.  We were supposed to have voted yes.  So our government decided that we were going to keep having this referendum until we got the right answer.  That’s European democracy at work right there!  And that’s when the scare tactics really began in earnest.  Along with the promise of jobs, investment and a ‘fairer’ Europe, apocalyptic tales of Ireland’s isolation on the fringes of Europe were rife.  How would we survive out in the cold?  Unbelievably, the referendum was rerun and under the guise of attaining special conditions like keeping our tax rates and our ‘highly restrictive’ abortion laws (thanks for that Europe), Ireland voted yes.  It’s amazing what a bit of fear can do.  And talk of money.

They did the same thing in Scotland – worrying the heads off people that they would be kicked out of Europe and would have to reapply for membership.  Well guess what Scotland?  You might be out of Europe now anyway, except you’ll have Wales, England and Northern Ireland for company.  The problem in these debates is the polarising views – left and right – that end up with people shouting their extreme positions at each other and the majority of people who are probably in the middle don’t have their voices heard at all.  What I think citizens really want is a certain amount of autonomy when it comes to making their own laws and deciding where their money goes.  No-one seems to understand what goes on in Brussels and the European Parliament.  All we know is that we get ‘directives’ from people who have never even stepped a foot on our soil and couldn’t possibly know what our citizens need.

What began as a mutually beneficial economic agreement has turned into a power hungry, elitist governing power that can tell farmers in the west of Ireland not to cut the turf on their own land or fishermen not to fish their own waters (giving the rights instead to European trawlers) yet refuse to step in when it comes to negotiating deals with pharmaceutical companies (Ireland pays up to 40% more than UK for the same drugs).  Not only do they issue directives, but they can block you from making decisions for your own people.  Eleven European countries have objected to Ireland’s recent decision to put health warnings on alcohol products.  Finally, our government is addressing this massive health problem of alcohol addiction that has been affecting our citizens for decades, but the European Commission fears that it will be a barrier to free trade!  It’s this kind of interference that makes me question the role of Europe and where this path is leading us?

If the British public do vote to exit the EU, what is there to be so afraid of?  Maybe it will be better!  The truth is, nobody really knows.  Nobody can guarantee economic stability.  Look at what happened to us with our banking crisis – in many ways, being in Europe made things worse for us.  Germany refused to let our banks burn the bondholders (because most of them were German) and we ended up saddling the public with billions worth of private debt.  Even the IMF have admitted that the European Central Bank gave us a terrible deal, and we had no control over inflation rates or interest rates that might have eased the austerity measures imposed on us.

It would be erroneous of me to suggest that Ireland didn’t gain from it’s membership in the EU, but is that a reason to keep supporting a system that is hungry for more control and more ‘unity’?  Perhaps we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I think we need to ask the citizens of Europe what they want from the union and instead of terrifying them into giving the right answer, actually listen to what they have to say.  If Britain speak up now, I think it will be for the betterment of Europe.  It might be the catalyst for actual reforms and maybe we’ll come up with something better, instead of clinging to what we have now because we’re too afraid to leave.

Ye Olde Kindle Countdown Deal

Cross collage - Copy

It’s summer.  You all want a good read.  Something you can really get your teeth into, historical fiction with a modern twist?  I’m only too happy to oblige!  Get your peepers over to Amazon UK and Amazon US where you can download a copy of my novel, The Cross Of Santiago for only 99p/c until June 7th.  It’s got it all – Spanish knights, battles at sea, mystery, family ties, heirlooms and a love story that spans four centuries.  

Adopted as a baby, Amanda Morrison knows nothing of her biological family. But when a lawyer reveals that she has been bequeathed a mysterious heirloom from a long lost aunt, she unlocks the door to a distant past and a secret love. Can her past life really be haunting her present and what can she do to put things right?

The Cross Of Santiago is a tale of two women living in different centuries, whose lives seem to be entwined by fate. A perfect read for Outlander fans.

But don’t just take my word for it!  Readers have left the following reviews….

5 stars

Very good read and also an interesting change of times

Published 2 months ago by christine gaster

4 stars

An epic romance across the centuries!  This book has two settings and I loved both.
If you know nothing about the Spanish Armada and how so many of the ships were shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland and Scotland; then worry not, this book will fill you in. I had forgotten so much of this part of history that it was fantastic to revisit it and I ended up having great discussions about the battle and their mission with my husband who is a history fiend.

Trish @ Between My Lines


5 stars

Really enjoyed. Kept my interest.

Published 12 months ago by Martha Smith

“The Cross of Santiago” is an intelligent and well written historical romance book. I love historical fiction with a bit of romantic story-line thrown in and this book sure fits the bill.

OnlineBookClub.org full review here.

4 stars

This book has a lot of mystery. I was adopted and so I can relate to Amanda as a character. She wants to know about her past, about her birth family, and her family’s history. I have been there and so this book was a good read for me because I could REALLY relate to her. I think books that the reader can relate too are the best kind. They help you feel that the story is more REAL, rather than it just being a story that is being read.

Boundless Book Reviews

4 stars

The historical parts based around the Spanish Armada seem particularly well researched and it was interesting to hear the story of the Armada crashing around the coast of Ireland. The characters all feel fleshed out and interesting enough to want to read about and the story doesn’t get bogged down by too much history, there is a nice balance.

The Bearded Bookworm

While you’re at it, you may as well pick up a copy of The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris, also at the delectable price of 99p! 

Token Paddy’s Day Post

Feck it

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Daoibh!  It’s that time of year again when the Irish culture is both celebrated and bastardised the world over by well meaning ambassadors and not-so-well meaning drinks companies.  Contrary to popular belief, our national pastime isn’t drinking porter and it frustrates me that with every passing year, our day to shine in the world’s spotlight is sabotaged by leprechaun hats and a drink that was invented by a unionist and is now controlled by a British multinational drinks company.  And as the rivers run green and landmarks throughout the world are bathed in bright green lights, let us not forget that Saint Patrick was in fact, Welsh.  Thanks Wales.  Up to that point we were just a bunch of stoners honouring the moon and trees and stuff.  Good times.

Chicago River Turns Green

But I’m not going to spoil the party (much) with a long-winded rant.  I have some very happy memories of St Patrick’s Day as a child.  It was the one day when God, who had made a very Irish agreement with Patrick, gave us all the day off from Lent.  All of us kids raced down to the corner shop as soon as the parade was over and stocked up on every kind of penny sweet we’d been denying ourselves for the previous few weeks, then proceeded to gorge ourselves on chocolates and sherbets for this one sweet day of reprieve.  That, to me, is the heart and soul of the Irish psyche; we like to do what’s expected of us, but by God we’ll do it our own way.  At least, that used to be Ireland before Europe got their hands on us.  800 years of British oppression and we never lost our ‘cute hoor’ mentality until the Germans got involved.  Perhaps it was the bailout that did it.  There’s nothing to shake a country’s confidence in itself than almost going bankrupt and losing its sovereignty.  Although it was small signs of rebellion such as this that kept all our spirits up!

But the group of people to whom this day matters most is the Irish diaspora (or #teaspora as they’ve been lovingly referred to) who are probably celebrating our 17th March holiday this weekend.  I’ve spent Saint Patrick’s Day in Athens, Toulouse, Montreal and London and I’m not ashamed to admit that nothing makes you pull on the green geansai quicker than a Paddy’s Day abroad.  We are a maudlin lot and really hate to be away from home; yet we can’t get out of here quick enough!  As our national carrier states: We are a nation with the travel gene. Still, it’s all fun and games until there’s an economic recession and we are compelled to leave (yet again) in order to make a living.  Thankfully, we receive a kinder welcome now than our forefathers did (yes, there were signs that read ‘No Blacks, No Irish’).  But we can be friends with England now, because the Queen said so, which is a relief as half my family are Londoners!

So, what does the future hold for our country?  Well, on this very special 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising, I believe that Ireland’s future lies (as it did back then) in the arts and creative sectors.  The rebellion was fought by a group of dreamers who had the vision and the courage to shape a new Ireland, free from the shackles of the past.  Today, we have so many talented storytellers, who don’t have to rely on the traditional ‘top of the morning, is it yourself that’s in it?’ image to get noticed.  Just look at this years Oscars; we had two novels adapted for screen – Room by Emma O’Donoghue and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin; a best director nomination for Lenny Abrahamson and a best short win for Benjamin Cleary.  A culture, when trying to reflect upon its own nature, will invariably have a jaundiced view.  However, it is our stories that offer the greatest insight into who we are as a people. So if you’re a stranger to Irish authors, why not celebrate our national day this year by discovering writers such as Niamh Boyce, Martina Devlin, Ken Bruen, Anne Enright, John Banville, Paul Murray.  There’s more to Ireland than Joyce and Yeats, and if we’re talking music, there’s more to Ireland than U2 and Enya!  If you’re looking for a place where music, film and literature meet, why not check out Roddy Doyle’s timeless classic ‘The Committments’.  Only after you’ve watched Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins so you can find out how the Republic of Ireland was born, in a Hollywood kind of way!

So Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone and I hope you’ll celebrate whatever ‘being Irish’ means to you.  Maybe it’s just a time to welcome spring, from which all hope is eternal 🙂

The Cross of Santiago-Amazon - Copy You can read The Cross Of Santiago for free on Kindle Unlimited.

‘When a long-lost aunt bequeaths a mysterious golden cross to Amanda Morrison, a strange series of events ensues. On a quest to find the truth about her family’s past, Amanda unlocks the secret to an ancient love story, destined to find its happy ending. Set in Ireland’s medieval past, this is an epic tale of love, redemption and the power of a soul’s promise.’