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The Wrong Shoes

Jerry locked the car and turned to Susie. ‘So, where are you going and when do you want to meet up?’ 

‘I’m going to look for the shoes first but don’t worry about meeting up – you’re coming with me!’ 

‘But I was going to watch a bit of the match!’ 

‘Well you’re not now, so come on. I’ve a lot to do.’ 

Jerry sighed. He had learned the hard way that arguing with his wife just didn’t work. Somehow or other, he would end up paying, and paying for her shoes was bad enough, never mind getting on the wrong side of her. He followed her out to the street. 

‘I’m not putting up with you sulking all day, Jerry!’ 

‘I’m not sulking.’ 

‘How do you expect me to concentrate if you’re sulking?’ 

‘I’m not sulking!’ Jerry envied men who could stand up for themselves. He wondered what would happen if he dared to walk away. Perhaps if he waited until she was in the shoe shop, she wouldn’t notice him slipping away? 

‘Come on, Jerry! We haven’t got all day!’ Susie pushed open the door of the nearest shoe shop. ‘Sit down there and help me choose!’ 

Jerry groaned. He knew she intended to keep him firmly in her sights. Flopping down onto the uncomfortable stool, Jerry awaited his fate.  

She arrived in the form of a helpful assistant. 

‘Good morning, Madam. How can I help you?’ 

‘Hello, I’m looking for shoes to match this dress.’ Susie scrolled through the pictures on her phone before thrusting it under the assistant’s nose. ‘That one there. I’m going out for cocktails with my husband’s boss.’ 

‘That dress is beautiful! Perfect for cocktails! Is it by that up and coming designer from Meath?’ 

‘Yes, it is! How did you know?’ Susie was impressed. 

Jerry wondered if he could take out his phone discreetly and keep up with the match live-updates. As he tried to slip it out of his pocket, a glare from Susie stopped him. With a sigh, he resigned himself to perching uncomfortably on the stool and trying to look interested. 

‘I saw it in a magazine the other day. That colour will suit you perfectly. I’d never be able to afford a dress like that.’ 

‘It was a bargain! I got a great deal on it!’ 

‘Did you? I saw it priced at five hundred euros.’ 

‘Yes, I know but it was marked down in the sale and I got it for four hundred and fifty euros!’ 

Jerry’s coughing fit momentarily distracted the two women. 

‘What’s wrong with you now, Jerry?’ 

‘How much did you pay for the dress?’ 

The women rolled their eyes and turned to a display shelf. 

‘I think those heels would suit the dress very well.’ 

Susie looked doubtful. ‘I’m not sure, perhaps that pair there?’  

‘Oh yes! They would look amazing with the new dress!’ 

Now it was Jerry’s turn to roll his eyes. 

‘Would you like to try them on?’ 

‘Yes, and maybe that pair there too.’ Susie pointed to another pair like the first pair. 

‘What size?’ 

‘Six.’ 

‘I’ll fetch them from the storeroom.’ 

As the assistant went out the back of the shop, Jerry cleared his throat. ‘Er, why can’t you try on that pair right there?’ 

Susie looked horrified. ‘Try on shoes that have been on display? Whatever are you thinking?’ 

Privately, Jerry was thinking that it would have saved a lot of time and effort but obviously, he was missing something. He decided to hold his tongue. 

The assistant reappeared with two shoe boxes. Susie sat down beside Jerry and watched almost reverently as the assistant opened the first box. Slipping off her own shoes, Susie slowly slid her left foot into the new shoe. Jerry watched as she flexed her ankle, trying to see the shoe from every angle. 

‘How does it feel? Is the size alright?’ 

Susie nodded at the assistant. ‘It’s perfect!’ 

The assistant wordlessly handed her the other shoe. 

Jerry breathed a sigh of relief. That had been much quicker and easier than he had feared. He watched as Susie slipped on the second shoe and then stood up. She stayed still for a moment or two, enjoying the look and feel of the shoes then began to walk up and down the shop, checking them out in the many strategically placed mirrors. 

‘Oh, they look wonderful!’ The assistant beamed. ‘Now, here are the others for you to try on.’ 

Susie sat down once again, pointing to another pair on the display. ‘Can you bring me those to try as well?’ 

‘No!’ 

Both women turned to look at Jerry.  

‘What’s wrong now?’ Susie glowered at her husband before turning to nod at the assistant. 

‘You said they were perfect! Why are you trying on more now?’ 

The women exchanged sympathetic glances. 

‘They are perfect but I’m not sure if they’ll go with the dress.’ Susie explained patiently before turning once more to the assistant. ‘While you’re getting those, you might as well bring out the red pair too.’ 

‘Of course, Madam. What about that blue pair? Would you like to try those too?’ 

Jerry thought his brain was going to explode. He stood up to go and get some fresh air.  

‘Where are you going now?’ 

‘You’ll be here all day! I’m going to watch the end of the match. Text me when you’re finished.’ 

‘Sit down!’ Susie dismissed his outburst. ‘Oh look! These are lovely!’ She opened the second shoe box and glanced up at Jerry. ‘Sit down or you’ll distract me! Don’t you realise how important this is? I have to get the right shoes!’ 

Jerry was about to say no but the flinty look in her eyes stopped him. Deflated, he sank back heavily onto the stool. 

‘Now Madam, I also brought this black pair for you to try on. They won’t go with the dress but they are beautiful shoes.’ 

Both women ignored Jerry’s strangled gasp. 

Susie lost track of time as she slipped her feet in and out of the shoes. Jerry’s aching back found no relief as he shifted on the hard stool. He watched helplessly as pair after pair was pronounced perfect and then discarded in favour of the next pair. 

Other customers came and went and Jerry found himself wondering why only his wife seemed unable to make up her mind. The assistant was kept busy but Susie didn’t seem to notice. 

The pile of shoes around them grew steadily until Jerry thought there mustn’t be a pair left in the shop that Susie hadn’t tried on. The assistant was determined to make a sale and kept placing fresh boxes beside them in between serving the other customers. 

Finally, Susie sighed and reached for her own shoes.  

‘Well, have you decided on a pair?’ 

She looked at him in surprise. ‘This is only the first shop! You can’t expect me to make up my mind before I’ve seen everything!’ 

‘What do you mean? You’ve tried on every shoe in the shop! There’s none left to try!’ 

‘Not here, there isn’t, but there’s another shoe shop a few doors down. We’ll try there next.’ 

Jerry could almost feel the blood draining from his faced. ‘Another shop?’ 

‘Of course! You want me to be happy, don’t you?’ 

Jerry was sure the only thing he wanted just then was to go home and pour himself a large whiskey. 

‘Well? Don’t you?’ 

Suddenly, Jerry knew he had to get away. He walked quickly towards the door. He had to force himself to keep control and not run out of the shop.  

‘Where are you going?’ 

‘Home!’ 

‘What do you mean, home? Get back here this minute!’ Susie struggled to put her shoes on. 

Jerry reached the door and as he put his hand out to open it he felt as if something was pulling him backwards. 

He awoke with a start and glanced at the pillow beside him. He was alone. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he swore that he would never again complain about being single.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Letting Go

Sally yawned and stretched. Glancing at the clock she realised that she had ten minutes before the alarm. Snuggling back down, she closed her eyes and allowed the memories to wash over her. 

The nightclub had been packed and she and Julie hadn’t been able to talk over the music. Shrugging it off, they danced until their feet hurt. Julie inclined her head towards the bar and Sally nodded.  

The barman followed Julie’s pointing finger and reaching out, touched the vodka bottle. At Julie’s nod, he quickly poured shots into two glasses and placed them on the bar. Grabbing the lemonade bottle, Sally splashed a little into each glass while Julie handed over the money. 

As the girls turned from the bar with their drinks and made their way to the seating area, neither of them noticed the man leaning against the bar watching them. 

The girls had almost finished drinking when two fresh drinks appeared in front of them.  

‘Harry! I didn’t think you were coming tonight!’ Sally shouted over the music.  

‘I wasn’t, but then I thought, why not? The boss is away tomorrow so I can get away with a bit of a hangover!’ 

The girls laughed and picked up their drinks. 

‘Cheers!’ 

Conversation being almost impossible, they drank up quickly and hit the dance floor again. They had been friends since school and met up most weekends. Sally and Julie shared a flat and Harry sometimes crashed on their couch. 

The night ended and the girls got their coats while Harry waited by the door. He smiled as he saw them coming towards him but he didn’t notice the man standing just outside watching them. 

‘Who wants fries?’ 

‘Harry! You’re always thinking about food!’ 

‘I’m a growing lad!’  

After a brief trip to the burger bar, they made their way back to the flat.  

‘I thought you didn’t want fries!’ 

Julie snatched her hand away as Harry slapped at it. 

‘Ah, go on! You’ll only stink out the flat anyway!’ 

Harry laughed as he held out the fries to her. ‘What about you, Sally?’ 

She smiled and shook her head. ‘No, thanks.’ 

‘She wants more than fries off you, Harry!’ Julie teased. 

Sally blushed and turned her face away quickly. 

‘Leave her alone, Julie! Come here, Sally.’ Harry held out his arm and Sally laughed and allowed him to drape it over her shoulders for the rest of the walk home. 

‘Anyone want tea?’ 

‘It’s two in the morning! We’ll be up all night, Julie and we have work tomorrow or have you forgotten?’ Sally reminded her. 

‘That’s why I prefer going out on a Saturday night. I said we should go last night!’ 

‘You said a lot of things last night but Joey managed to quieten you when he came around.’ 

Julie laughed. ‘Well. I’ll leave you two at it then. Goodnight.’  

Sally was about to make her own excuses when Harry stopped her. 

‘Sit beside me for a minute, Sal. I want to talk to you.’ 

As she sat next to him the old memories resurfaced. ‘I think I should go to bed too, Harry. It’s late.’ 

‘I won’t keep you long, I promise. I’ve been thinking. It’s a year since Rob died and I have been patient but I think it’s time to start moving on now, don’t you?’ 

Sally hung her head, allowing her hair to fall over her face. ‘It still seems like yesterday.’ 

‘I know but the last time we talked you said you would think about it.’ Harry slipped his arm around her shoulders and drew her close. He held her loosely ready to let her go if she tried to pull away. 

With a sigh, Sally allowed him to hold her. She had to admit it did feel nice to be held. She stiffened as his lips touched her cheek. 

‘Don’t worry, there’s no rush. I just need to know that I have a chance with you.’ 

Harry’s breath felt warm as he spoke against her hair. 

Sally sighed again. ‘I like being with you but I’m not sure that I feel that way about you.’ 

As his lips gently touched hers, she thought that perhaps she did feel that way about him, after all. 

Reluctantly, he sat back. ‘Off to bed now or we’ll both be late in the morning!’ 

Sally smiled and with a quick, backward glance, went into her bedroom. As she closed her curtains she thought that Harry was right. It was time to let go. She had mourned long enough. 

She didn’t notice the man across the street staring at her over his shoulder as he walked away.  

 

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Phew! August was Busy!

August was a very busy month. I managed to finish several projects and one big one that is nearly ready to go – more about that in a minute!

As you may remember I released Fibromyalgia, My Personal Experiences on Audible in June. This book tells a bit about my story and how I cope day by day. I keep a positive outlook and hope that this book will bring a little light to other lives.

Fibromyalgia My Personal Experiences

I am delighted to announce that I have now added two more books to the Audible catalogue with another two to follow shortly!

stress aud

A Self Help Guide to Stress Relief and Stress Management

This guide contains mini quizzes to help you figure out your stress levels and is packed with helpful suggestions to get your life back on track.

iph aud

Irish Paranormal Haunts

For Paranormal lovers! Listen to the background of some of our most exciting investigations. With details of the location histories, paranormal background and my own personal experiences this book is a must for everyone who loves the unknown.

Back to the big one!

I have written the first book in the DS Louisa Williams murder mystery series.

DS Williams is finding it hard to settle into her new job. Her boss, DI Oakes thinks that a woman couldn’t possibly do a man’s job.

As well as problems with her boss, Louisa realises that something else is going on. Could her visions be the result of an injury or is she just sensitive to the paranormal? She knows that she can’t let her boss find out about her extra sensory perception but how can she explain how she knows so much about the murders?

Two women are dead. Can Louisa’s instincts leads her to the murderer before there are any more victims?

Sign up to my newsletter now, so you don’t miss the release date! (Privacy 100% Guaranteed)

 

 

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A Little bit of Nostalgia

A few friends and I were chatting about times gone by and laughing about our ‘normal’ compared to what kids today are used to.

me and Noreen

Phones I pick this item first as every kid seems to be permanently glued to theirs.

We didn’t have phones. As simple as that. We knew two neighbours who did and in an emergency my brother and I were sent to ask if we could call the doctor or ambulance. The nearest phone was five minutes walk down the road but unfortunately, it was installed in a holiday home and the owner was rarely in residence.

This meant that after checking here first, we then had to back track and walk across the fields, clambering over ditches, falling into gorse bushes, getting chased by cattle until after almost two miles of struggling, we arrived at our destination.

God help the poor ailing person at home!

We would then hand over our money and watch in fascination as the neighbour wound the handle and then shouted our business to the switch-board operator before finally being connected to the doctor.

Our neighbour would then kindly give us a cup of tea and some home-made bread and jam before sending us back to our parents.

We needed the sustenance for the return journey. If the day was very wet, we would take the easy way out and walk home by the road which added an extra mile or so to our trek.

As we grew older, we moved to a house with a phone already installed! The luxury of it! Now if we were sick we could summon the doctor almost straight away!

The other use of the phone was, of course, the obligatory phone call from the latest boyfriend.

Oh, the days of sitting on the stairs in the draughty hall, whispering sweet nothings while my father shouted from the living room, ‘Don’t be on that phone all night! My family might be trying to ring!’ (This was our version of call waiting.)

And then, there were the days when you had to screw up your courage and ring your best friend (to moan about the latest boyfriend). I became quite adept at this. I quickly realised that if I waited until the start of the nine o’clock news, I would have at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted chat before my father started roaring about the cost of phone calls.

It was the same in every household and we all grew accustomed to trying to gossip over the shouting of someone’s father.

Water. These days we hear so much about saving water, paying for water, keeping our water clean. In our day it was more a case of, ‘Go and fetch some water.’

Fetching the water didn’t mean going to the tap and turning it on. Oh no! We had to pick our way over a gorse-covered hill, trying not to slip on the alternately muddy and rocky path until we reached the pool of clear water tucked under a fuchsia tree.

My brother and I were usually sent for the water. At five years old, I was too young to go on my own but I still had to carry a bucket back with me.

Me Kerry and Dad

We had to lean as far out as possible so we wouldn’t stir up mud in the shallower water as we filled our bucket.

The walk back down the hill was even more difficult now with a heavy bucket to contend with. We mustn’t spill the precious water or we’d be sent straight back to refill the bucket.

I remember the day the strange man came to walk around the field beside the house with two metal rods in his hands.

I was fascinated and followed him around for ages. Finally, he smiled and turned to my father. ‘There’s a fairly good water source here but there’s a very strong indication on the hill there.’

We all followed his pointing finger.

The drill came a few days later and suddenly we had plumbing!

Well, we had a tap in the kitchen anyway, and water for the cows but it was another while before we had a flush toilet or running water in the bathroom. Hooray! No more soaking in the old tin bath in front of the fire!

Television. Where would we be without our entertainment? Satellite, cable, digital, smart.

We had black and white.

And sometimes green (as the tube failed the picture would get progressively greener until my father announced that it was time for a replacement).

We had one channel. The six o’clock news was the ‘must see’ programme. Everybody sat down after the angelus (the angelus was a bell that was rung and broadcast to the nation at six on the dot to turn people’s thoughts to God for a whole minute and then after blessing ourselves, life would go on) and no one was allowed to speak while the news was on.

I remember when we got the second channel. RTE2. Oh, the excitement! Top of the Pops! Luckily for me, this was broadcast while my parents and brother were milking the cows and I was mostly able to watch it uninterrupted.

In the winter this became a bit trickier as the cattle were fed earlier and there was not much milking to be done but my Dad loved music and if I made him a cup of tea, he would sit and let me watch it.

Then, the most exciting thing of all happened!

My father bought a colour television!

You can not imagine my shock when I saw my younger sister watching Sesame Street and discovered that Cookie Monster was blue! Blue! I always thought he was a murky grey colour!

Music. We were lucky growing up as my parents both loved the music of the time and encouraged my brother to play guitar. He went on to become one of the best guitarists in Ireland and it was a sad day when life got in the way and he stopped playing.

We had our own way of downloading music.

We would sit for hours waiting for our favourite song to come on the radio and as soon as it was announced  – or we heard the first few bars – we would press the record and play buttons on our tape recorders and capture the magic.

Most of our recordings were accompanied by day to day noises in the background and I will never forget my brother’s recording of ‘Mull of Kintyre’ with my father’s voice, ‘Is he one of the Beatles?’ and loud shushing noises over-riding the first verse.

We were fierce high tech with our tape recorders! Previously we only had vinyl and we could not record these. Ask any kid today if they know the difference between 45 and 33 and they will look at you blankly but to us, they were the most important numbers in our lives! (For the benefit of those of you unenriched by the magic of vinyl, singles were played at 45 rpms – revolutions per minute – while albums were played at the slower speed of 33 rpms)

And then, along came the unbreakable, everlasting cd!

Now we would never have to listen to skipping, jumping or scratching ever again!

We all saved up and bought cd players and then! The Sony Walkman! I never had one of these. I worked in the local record shop by this time so I had music on tap all day. Bliss!

To my friends, the Sony Walkmans were revolutionary! Before this if we wanted to listen to music as we walked along the street, we had to carry a ‘ghetto blaster’ with us. As these were usually about two feet by one foot, you can imagine how cumbersome they were! At the time, we didn’t care, but the Sony Walkman changed all that.

Now, we could listen to music privately through our headphones (no ear buds for us!) as we walked along. We could even hang the Walkman off our belts so we didn’t need to carry it!

Me and Dad

The cd sound was so much better than the tape! We began to really appreciate music at last.

Oh, yes, and we were disgusted when we found out that cds don’t last forever either, And that they can skip, jump and scratch too.

It’s fun looking back. It makes us realise just how far we have come.

We have gained so much but perhaps we have also lost a little of the magic too.

 

 

 

 

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Story Ideas

Aspiring writers often wonder where they can get ideas for their books. I wondered myself at one time but now ideas seem to flow easily and my only problem is not having enough time to get them all down.

For me, the secret is to just write. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Pick up a pen, or open a blank document on your writing device of choice, and just begin.

Write gibberish, write ideas, write thoughts, write to yourself, write to your significant other – it doesn’t matter. Just write.

It doesn’t have to make sense at first. That will come in time. The important thing is to develop the habit.

Write about your day. Write as much detail as you can remember. Write your feelings and thoughts. When you have done this, you will have written your first story!

Write about a happy experience or a sad one. Pour out your feeling on the page. Don’t worry about spellings, grammar, syntax or any of that boring stuff. There will be time for all of that later. Just get it written.

Use the beauty of nature for inspiration. Just let the words flow.

20170810_162113

Barley Lake, Co Cork

Use historic buildings to stimulate your imagination. Who might have lived here? When? What did they do? Write a list of questions and then try to answer them.

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Muckross Abbey, Co Kerry

Use funny pictures, scenes or sightings to help you create a story.

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Gracie, my pony, waiting patiently outside my front door

The ideas are endless. Look around and write about life, love, past, future, night, day.

Get your words down on paper – and when you do, I’d love to read them!

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Through a Rose-Tinted Lens – an excerpt

Granny Maura proved to be such a popular character in the Girl in the Shadows series that I devoted a book especially to her!

In the fourth book in the series, we return to the past – a prequel – back to when Granny Maura was a girl.

This book tells the back-story of Grace’s beloved Grandmother as a young girl. The similarities with Grace are marked and it’s easy to see where Grace got her sense of fun.

This chapter, entitled The Copper Pot, gives  a brief glimpse of life as it was in rural Ireland at the beginning of the 1900s.

Sit back, relax and enjoy!

“Stir yourself Maura!”
The voice drifted up to the children’s loft.
“Come on, girl! Don’t be making us late now!”
Maura rubbed her sleepy eyes. Once again, her brothers and sisters were up before her and her mother was not best pleased.
“Maura!”
“I’m coming Mammy!”
Maura slid off the straw pallet letting the coarse blanket fall to the floor. She pulled her much-mended dress over her worn chemise and reached for her thick wool socks. She looked at them distastefully for a moment.
“Maura!”
“Coming!”
It was late summer and the thick socks would irritate her young skin and make her feet sweat. She knew that her mother would insist on her wearing them so she pulled them on and made her way over to the ladder. Lowering herself carefully to the floor below, she turned and jumped off the final rung.
“Maura! I told you! You’ll fall and break your head one day!”
“Sorry, Mammy. Where is everyone?”
“Where you should be! They are all in the fields gathering the spuds already.”
“So early?”
“Early? Child, they have been out there for the past half hour. Stir yourself now. The oats are getting cold.”
Maura seated herself at the table and began to feast hungrily on the lukewarm porridge. Breakfast was her favourite meal of the day. For a few hours, the hunger pains would be held at bay.
“Drink your water, child!”
Maura drank the cool water. Even on the hottest day there was always plenty of cool water to drink thanks to the stream that ran behind the house. Maura’s mother kept a bucket of water just inside the door and a cup always on a hook just above it so that a thirsty throat would not have to wait long to be slaked.
“Come on, girl! ‘Tis time we were in the fields too!”
Maura wiped her mouth on her sleeve and went to sit on the settle beside the fireplace. Her mother bent to put on the young girl’s shoes, first putting fresh leaves inside to cover the holes in the soles.
“Now then! Your father will be waiting on us.”
Together they walked down the rough lane leading to the fields.
“I thought ye got lost!” Maura’s father greeted them. “G’wan over there with your sisters and let you pick up the smallest spuds. Throw them into the sacks. Let your sisters carry the sacks or we’ll be here all day.”
Maura skipped over to where her four sisters were busily picking up the fresh potatoes as fast as their brothers were digging them.
“Here Maura, pick up those small ones and throw them into that bag.”
Margaret, at fourteen, was the eldest sister and the others all looked to her for leadership. They had all experienced the sharpness of her tongue in the past and they all knew that she wasn’t above giving them a quick clip around the ear if they didn’t do her bidding. At five, Maura was the youngest of the family but even she, knew better than to cross Margaret.
The work was hard on the back and before long Maura began to grow bored.
“My back hurts!”
“Hush, Maura! We all have sore backs! Just keep working and we’ll be finished quicker.”
A small potato hit Maura on the back of the head. She whirled around rubbing at the spot.
“Who did that?”
Her four brothers laughed and pointed at each other.
“Get back to work!”
Maura jumped as her father shouted at them all.
“They’re throwing spuds at me, Daddy!”
“Well pick them up and put them in the sacks!” Her father was having none of it.
“But my back hurts!”
“Your backside will be hurting if you don’t stop your blather and get back to work!”
Maura sighed and began to pick up the potatoes once more. She knew that her father meant it. She had seen him beat Thomas and Steven more than once. The two younger boys had long decided not to get on the bad side of him but the two eldest always seemed to forget to mind their manners. She knew that Thomas would soon be leaving to work for a farmer a few miles away. At fifteen he was old enough to go into service and after that it would be Margaret’s turn. Maura felt sorry for the family that would take her as, of all of them, Margaret was the bossiest.
Just when Maura decided that she never wanted to see another potato, her mother called her.
“Maura! Come give me a hand with the food.”
Throwing the last few spuds back onto the ground, Maura ran after her mother as she returned to the house to gather up the bit of food.

The whole family was delighted to see Maura and their mother returning with their midday meal.
“Sit under the tree out of the sun.” Maura’s father pointed to a tree near the fence.
The children made their way over to it gratefully and sank to the ground. They waited for their mother to hand out hunks of sharp home-made cheese and slices of soda bread. Their eager hands, filthy from the work, took the food and began to tear it apart before popping it into their hungry mouths.
Maura was given the job of dipping the cup into the bucket of water and passing it to her family in turn. They all drank eagerly, trying to ease the burning that the dust and hot sun had inflicted on them all.
“Isn’t it a grand life!” Maura’s father leaned back against the tree and surveyed his small farm.
No-one answered as they rubbed their stiff backs and aching legs.
“Aren’t we the fortunate ones! Fresh air, sunshine and the smell of the good earth around us! Sure, what more could you want?”
Maura privately thought of lots of things she wanted. Her mind wandered as she imagined having her own puppy and a pony and a new dress to wear to Mass and a slice of that soft white bread that Margaret once told her she had tasted at a rich neighbour’s house. Her imaginings were rudely interrupted by her father.
“Right! Back to work! Come on now, I want this finished before this evening! I want to start cleaning the copper pot tomorrow.”
“So soon, Dad?”
“Well the weather looks set to break soon and I don’t want to miss any day.”
“What are you talking about Daddy?”
“Nothing child. Gather up the bucket and cup and take them back to the house for your mother.”
Maura sighed heavily.
“Stop making that noise or I’ll give you something to make a noise about! Go on now!”
By the time Maura returned to the field the boys were finished with the digging and had begun helping their sisters pick the last of the spuds. She stood back and watched as her father, Thomas and Steven hoisted the heavy sacks onto their backs and set off to place them in the potato loft ready for sorting. When the last potatoes had been picked, Michael and Liam dragged the rest of the sacks to the edge of the field while the girls returned home to help prepare the evening meal.

The next morning Maura was awoken by loud crashes and bangs. She leaped out of bed and with her sisters, stared out of the small window. Their father was cursing roundly at Thomas while Liam was setting the copper back to rights and replacing the heavy lid.
“Bad cess to you! Look at the dent you’ve put in it! Blast you to hell! If it affects the poitin we’ll all suffer!”
There were so many old dents in the pot that Maura wondered how her father could see the new ones.
“What’s Daddy doing with the big pot?”
“He’s going making drink to sell.” Mary was full of the news.
“Hush Mary! Sure, you know she can’t keep her mouth shut!”
“Why would I keep it shut, Margaret?”
“Never mind child! Come on, let us all go and get the porridge started.”
The girls began to dress and Maura tried to slip back into bed.
“You too, Maura! ‘Tis time you learned how to get the bit of breakfast!”
Maura sighed and began to get dressed, muttering darkly to herself. A sharp pain in the back of her head put a stop to her complaining.
“Mammy! Margaret hit me!”
“She’ll hit you again if you don’t stop your roaring!” Maura’s mother had no sympathy for her youngest child.
Annie put an arm around Maura’s shoulders. “Twill be alright. Come on. Let’s get the breakfast ready so we can fill our bellies.”

After breakfast the men returned to their job of cleaning the copper pot. First they polished it with rags until it shone, then they lit a fire in the middle of the yard and set the pot in the centre with a bucket of water in it.
“What are they doing now?”
“They are boiling the pot so that it is clean inside.” Mary’s knowledge knew no bounds. “The pot must be perfectly clean so that it doesn’t ruin the poitin.”
“What’s poitin?”
“Tis none of your business, that’s what!” Margaret overheard their chatter. “Go and get the twigs and sweep out the kitchen. Wash the ware as well and then me and Sheila will start making the bread.”
With a collective sigh, the younger girls began their daily chores.

While the girls worked, their mother took some of their clothes out to the stream and began to wash them. It was hard work and the clothes were so worn that the dirt seemed to be ingrained in them. The hard soap did little to remove the stains but at least they would be better than they had been at the start. Maura came to the door and watched as her mother wrung the clothes and threw them over the bushes around the house. Soon the whole yard was festooned with pants, shirts and underwear of various shades of grey.
By this time the pot was boiling merrily and the fire was being allowed to go out.
“Is she clean enough, do you think, Dad?”
“I’d say she is now. We’ll give her another wipe out tomorrow before we take her up the hill.”
“Are we taking her to the same place as last year?”
“We’ll take her close to it, Thomas. I’ve found a good spot against McCarthy’s fence. Tis well sheltered and we’ll be able to keep an eye on it easily enough.”
Maura wondered what all the fuss was about and decided to ask Mary for more information as soon as Margaret was out of earshot.
“Right lads! Fetch the sacks of turf from the shed and we’ll take them up there now so they’ll be ready when the weather changes.”
“What will we cover them with, Dad?”
“Erra, we’ll stick them under the furze bushes and they’ll be fine. Come on, Liam! The bag won’t ate you!”
Maura watched as they hoisted the bags of turf onto their backs and set off up the hill. She had only been up the hill once. There was a steep rocky pathway leading to a furze covered hill interspersed with patches of grass. Her mother had taken her with them when she and her father went to bring in the cows one evening. Maura’s legs had begun to ache before she had even reached the top. She felt sorry for Liam’s short legs as he struggled behind the others.
“Maura! Come in here now! Break up some of the sticks for the fire and I’ll mash a pot of tea.”
“Yes, Mammy.”
That night in bed Maura could wait no longer.
“Mary,” she whispered. “Mary!”
“What do you want, Maura?” Mary was almost asleep.
Maura nudged her. “What’s the story of the big pot?”
Mary sighed knowing from experience that Maura would keep on at her until she got what she wanted.
“Daddy makes this fine strong drink that the neighbours all like. They say ‘tis powerful stuff so they pay Daddy money for it. He makes it with potatoes in the big pot.”
“But we boil potatoes over the fire and they make potatoes not powerful strong drink.” Maura was confused.
“Well, I suppose he puts other things into the pot with the potatoes.”
“What things?”
“I don’t know. ‘Tis a secret!”
Maura eyes opened wide. A secret! She must find out all she could!
“Why do they have to boil the potatoes and things up the hill?”
“I don’t know. ‘Tis something to do with the wind and the smoke and the constable and the money.”
The more Mary spoke, the more confused Maura became. The only thing was to watch carefully and see for herself what was going on. She snuggled under the coarse blanket and fell asleep thinking of ways to get the details she needed.

The next few days passed as normal. The copper pot was taken up the hill and more sacks of turf went missing from the shed. Maura’s father called his two eldest sons and the three of them set off up the hill with sacks of barley and oats.
“Liam, are ye taking more turf up the hill today?”
“No I think Daddy took the most of it with Thomas and Steven last night.”
“What are ye doing with it?”
“Just putting it under a furze bush.”
“Yes, I know, to keep it from getting wet, but what happens to it then?”
“I suppose Daddy will use it to light a fire under the copper pot like he did in the yard.”
“Didn’t you see it before?”
“No last time Daddy said I was too small to help and I’d only get in the way.”
“What is he doing with the barley?”
“I don’t know.”
Maura sighed. She would have to question Michael then.

She got her chance later that evening. Michael was sent out to bring water from the stream.
“Maura, go out with Michael and bring in the clothes off the bushes. Michael help her with any that she can’t reach.”
Michael walked towards the door grumbling. “Come on Maura! I’m not waiting for you!”
To her family’s surprise, Maura did not complain about bringing in the washing. She quickly followed Michael out the door.
“Michael?”
“What?”
“Tell me about the copper pot.”
“Why?”
“Because.”
“Tis the big copper thing we took up the hill.”
This was going to be difficult but Maura wasn’t ready to give up.
“What does Daddy put in the pot?”
“Potatoes.”
“Does he put anything else in?”
“Some water and a bit of east and of course the barley and oats.”
“East?”
“Yes, he says it’s what makes it work.”
“Makes what work?”
“The poitin.”
“Is that the powerful drink.”
“Tis.”
“Have you tasted it?”
“I have.”
Maura was scandalized. Michael was only ten.
“The priest wouldn’t be happy. He’s always giving out about the demon drink!”
“I don’t drink the priest’s bottle! Daddy just gives us all a taste. He says it will make men of us.”
“The priest’s bottle! Does the priest use poitin at Mass?”
“He might but I’d say he’s too fond of it to keep it for Sundays!”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he’s always the first to order a few bottles and ‘tisn’t long before he’s back looking for more.”
“Is that what the church collection is for, do you think?”
“I do, Sure, how else does he get money?”
Maura thought about this for a while as Michael piled the dry clothes into her arms.
“Mary said something about the constable. Does he buy some too?”
“No! Daddy gives him a bottle now and again if he catches him.”
“Catches him?”
“Yes. Daddy’s not supposed to make the poitin.”
“Why?”
“Tis the law.”
“The law? Like when we’re not supposed to steal apples from old Mrs O’Regan’s apple tree?”
“I think so.”
“Will the constable arrest Daddy?”
“Not if he gives him some poitin.”
“Ah that’s grand so.”
“Tis, but Daddy doesn’t like giving away good poitin that’s why we only light the fire when ‘tis windy.”
“What has the wind to do with it?”
“The wind blows the smoke away and makes it hard for the constable to know where it’s coming from.”
“Is that why the pot is hidden on the hill?”
“Tis. We put it next to the boundary fence too and then if different constables come upon it, ‘tis hard for them to prove who owns the pot.”
Maura laughed. “So, it is a secret then!”
“Tis I suppose.”

The next evening Maura’s father again called his eldest sons to follow him. After half an hour they came back struggling under the weight of the sacks of barley and oats.
“Why are they all wet?”
“We’ve soaked them ready for the malting.”
Maura stared at her father. “What’s malting?”
“Questions, question. Always questions with this one! Watch, child and you will learn.”
Maura watched as her father poured the grain on a corner of the well-swept floor of the potato loft. He spread it out by hand.
“Keep away from it now, Maura. Lads, it will have to be turned every day until it’s ready.”
“Ready for what, Daddy?”
“This is the malting stage. This is where the quality of the poitin will be decided.”
Maura’s eyes opened wide. This grain wouldn’t be used for bread-making it was going to make this demon drink they were all mad about.
“Out now! Thomas, you’ll turn it tomorrow evening.”
“Alright Dad.”
Every evening one or other of the boys turned the grain. Maura was not allowed into the loft now but she could smell the grain. The scent had become somehow richer and deeper.
Finally, her father announced that the grain was ready.

That evening the wind changed direction and became stronger. Her brothers were sent to the potato loft to put the grain back into the sacks and then carry it up the hill. As night fell, her father became restless and kept peering out of the door.
“What’s wrong with Daddy?”
“Nothing.” Sheila reassured her. “He’s just watching the weather. Come on ‘tis time for bed.”

Maura was awakened by the sound of the door slamming downstairs. It was dark but she could make out the shape of the window. She slid out of bed, careful not to wake her sisters, and looked out. She could see a lamp moving towards the hill. She knew that her father had gone to light his fire. She remained seated on the floor staring out at the light as it grew smaller, sometimes disappearing behind bushes and trees but always moving upwards. Finally, the cold night air began to seep into her toes so she slipped once more under the coarse blanket and settled down to sleep.

In the morning, Maura waited for her father to mention the copper pot but he was nowhere to be found. He did not come in for his breakfast and when the rest of the family had finished theirs, Maura’s mother sent Thomas up the hill with a bundle for their father.
“Don’t linger now! Go straight there while the tea in the bottle is still warm!”
“Yes, Mam.”
Maura stood at the door watching her brother make for the hill.
“And what do you think you’re doing?”
Maura jumped as Margaret pounced. She twisted away from her sister’s grasp but it was too late.
“Sweep the floor and take out the ashes.”
Maura went over to the fire and picked up the poker.
“What are you doing? Put that down! You know you can’t mess around with the fire!”
“But you told me to take out the ashes!”
Margaret made a strangled sound. “Those! In the black bucket! Can you not see anything, child?”
“Girls! Stop fighting. I’ve a headache.” Maura’s mother sat down by the fire with her head in her hands.
“Mammy?”
“Go along now and do as your sister tells you. I’ll be grand. ‘Tis just from tiredness. I couldn’t sleep without your father in the bed beside me.”
“Did he stay on the hill all night. Mammy?”
“He had to. The fire has to be minded or it will go out.”
Maura picked up the bucket of ashes and carried them out to the side of the path. As she tipped them out, she thought about what her mother had said. Daddy, all alone on the hill. All night. This poitin seemed to be really hard work.

That night Thomas and Steven were sent to mind the fire with dire threats of thrashings should they fail in their task.
“The fire must be kept burning so take it in turns to sleep else ye’ll not wake up and it will be too late. No poitin means no money for clothes and food so mind ye do what ye’re told and keep that fire going! I’ll tan both the backsides off both of ye if ye fail.”
Both boys nodded solemnly. They knew what was at stake.
“When the first run is finished, ye know what to do.”
“Yes, Dad. We have to run it again.”
Their father nodded. “Off with ye, now then.”

Maura lay awake listening to the wind blowing through the trees. She thought of her brothers sheltering under a furze bush and decided that it probably wasn’t so bad. They had a bottle of tea and hunks of bread and cheese with them and their mother had handed them some sacking to keep out the cold. Maura wished she was old enough to stay out all night minding the fire. She wondered if Margaret and Sheila would be sent the next night. Perhaps she could go with them!
Sleep was a long time coming but finally, Maura lay dreaming of the glow from the fire falling on her sisters’ faces as they sat telling stories and sharing their food.

The early morning sun woke Maura and she jumped out of bed.
“What has you awake so early?” Margaret rubbed her eyes.
“Tis a beautiful morning, Margaret!”
“That may be, but you’re usually the last to notice it!”
“I’m so excited about tonight!”
“Tonight?”
“Yes, I want to go with you!”
“Go where? What are you talking about, child?”
“When you go to mind the fire with Sheila.”
“That’s men’s work! ‘Tisn’t suitable for women! Whatever will you think of next! Sheila! Did you hear her?”
“I did! Isn’t she a scream!”
Maura got dressed sourly. Why couldn’t she go and tend the fire? What difference did it make that she was a girl? Why did boys have all the fun?
She was still out of sorts when her brothers returned for their breakfast. Her father had left the house, carrying more turf, and when he reached the boys and found all well, he had sent them home.
“What? No questions this morning, Maura?” Thomas teased her.
Maura shrugged and continued spooning porridge into her mouth.
“Let her alone while she’s quiet, can’t ye!” Sheila laughed. “Wait ‘til I tell you what she said!”
The teasing continued until their mother had heard enough.
“Out! Outside all of ye! There’s work to be done! Thomas, let yourself and Steven milk the two cows and after ye’ve left them out, come in and go away to bed for an hour. Ye’ll need to catch up on some sleep after last night. Then ye’ll need to go and collect the bottles. Be quick now.”
“What bottles is Mammy talking about, Margaret?”
“Never you mind!”
Undaunted, Maura turned to Michael.
“What bottles?”
“The neighbours collect bottles for us so we can put the poitin in them ready for selling.”
“Oh! Will the poitin be ready soon?”
“Twill! But you must not talk about this to anyone.” Maura’s mother warned her.
“I know. Else the constable will have to get a free bottle.”
“Lord alive! What are you talking about! You’ll get the lot of us hanged!”
“Hanged?”
“Never mind. Just get on with your work and mind you hold your tongue if anyone speaks to you.”
“Sure, who would be speaking to me, only my own family?”
“Yes, but in the next few days we will have people calling from hereabouts looking to buy the poitin. Hold your tongue no matter who they are!”
“Sure, Mam, that’s like telling her not to breathe!” Thomas was laughing.
“Well, we’ll have to make sure she’s not on her own then. She’ll have the law down on us if we’re not careful! Now go out and milk the cows. They won’t milk themselves!”
Later that day, Thomas and Steven set off with two empty sacks and returned with two sacks full of old whisky bottles. Maura’s mother called the girls outside.
“Alright girls, I want all these bottles washed and put back into the sacks.”
The boys carried them to the stream and the girls spent the next few hours washing and drying all the bottles before replacing them carefully back into the sacks ready for filling with poitin. When they were finished, Thomas and Steven were called and they hoisted the sacks onto their backs and started for the hill.
“Is the poitin ready, Mammy?”
“Not yet, Maura but ‘tis no harm to be prepared. It should be ready by tomorrow and all will be in order.”
The next morning Thomas and Steven were sent up the hill after milking the cows. They drove the cows ahead of them as they walked and before long they could smell the sweet smell of the turf fire. The wind carried the scent but made it difficult to tell the exact place it was coming from. Their father had chosen well.
Maura’s mother came into the house after feeding the hens. She looked at her family sitting around the breakfast table.
“Go with them Michael and help them bring down some of the bottles. Mind them though! No broken bottles or ye’ll feel the strap tonight!”
“Can I go too Mam?” Liam was hopeful.
“Arra no, sure you’ll break them as soon as look at them!”
Maura smiled. It was nice to hear someone else being given out to for a change.
“Liam, you and Maura can clean a space in the parlour for the bottles. Move the furniture away from the walls so that we can hide the bottles behind the settles. You’d better help them Margaret. You’ll soon get them organised.”
Maura and Liam exchanged disgusted looks as they followed Margaret into the parlour. Within a few minutes the sound of Margaret’s voice carried clearly into the kitchen as she instructed the children.
“Sheila, Mary, Annie! Come with me! We’ll fetch some of the bottles while the young ones are busy.”
The girls followed their mother out of the house.

Margaret insisted that they sweep behind the settles and wash the floor before she was satisfied. Maura and Liam grumbled but they were quick to do her bidding nonetheless.
“Tis women’s work!”
“What did you say, Liam?” There was nothing wrong with Margaret’s hearing.
“I said that ‘tis women’s work!”
“Oh! And do you think that you are a man? When you are, you can do men’s work but until then, you’ll do as I say!”
By the time the room was ready, the first few bottles had arrived into the house.
“Will we stand them up, Mam?”
“Do. I don’t want to risk wasting all the hard work. Stand them back against the wall and they’ll be fine.”

It took a few trips up and down the hill, but soon all the bottles were hidden safely away.
“All we have to do now is wait for the neighbours!”
Maura’s father rubbed his hands together.

Want to read more? Through a Rose-Tinted Lens is available as an eBook or Paperback from Amazon

Through a Rose Tinted Lens

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The Start of it All

People often ask me how I first got started on my writing. Well, the truth is, I have always loved reading and writing. There was no particular starting point.

If I had to pinpoint a time, I suppose it was when I saw an advertisement for a creative writing course in my local town.

I jumped at the chance and couldn’t wait for the evening of the first class. The excitement! The joy! The anticipation!

I remember walking into the building and looking for directions to the room. I could feel fluttering in my stomach but I was still excited.

I walked up the stairs and there, in front of me, was the door.

As I reached for the handle, the first doubts began to creep into my mind. What was I doing here? I was no writer! Yes, I loved to put my thoughts down on paper but that was a far cry from being a writer!

I took a deep breath and opened the door.

Ellen, the tutor greeted me enthusiastically and before I knew it, I was sitting among the other students waiting to find out what it was all about.

To my delight, a neighbour of mine came into the room to join the class. At least I knew someone!

By the end of that first class I had already learned some valuable lessons.

Ellen brushed aside my insecurities and made me feel that, yes! I could do this!

As I listened to the first assignment, I suddenly realised that I knew exactly what I wanted to write and I couldn’t wait to get home and begin.

Within a few short weeks, we had become a team, sharing thoughts and ideas while being guided by Ellen’s expertise.

I grew to love hearing her read our assignments and the constructive advice that followed.

That class taught me to discipline myself. To sit and write. To just do it no matter how little time I thought I had. To enjoy it and look to forward to it.

Every week I turned in a new assignment – short stories – and every week I left with a better grasp of how to craft them.

Towards the end of the course, we held a public reading of our works which included a wonderful short play written by one of the students. Carol has since gone on to be a regular contributor to local newspapers and her pieces are well-written and fresh – a joy to read.

I also made a wonderful friend – Ruth, my neighbour. All these years later and I still remember her wonderfully quirky sense of humour which came through so clearly in her writing.

She has a passion for animals and rescued cats ad kittens long before people were aware of the problem. Her calm gentleness and quick laugh are some of the things that still inspire me whenever I sit down to write.

Most of us were in class simply for the love of writing but a few of us have taken it a step further.

Wherever it has led, I still think of that creative writing class as the time in my life when I realised that to succeed, you first have to try.

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Marketing – Every Author’s Nightmare

So, the book is ready to go. The cover looks great. The blurb is written and the social media posts are scheduled.

Now what?

Blog tours, interviews, press releases, emails ready to go out to the list.

That’s all very well if you know what you are doing or if you have a following or some die-hard fans or even some previous success, but what if you’re a newbie? What if you don’t have an email list? Or a huge social media following?

Where do you start?

At the bottom.

Literally.

Start building a list, reach out to your social media followers and get going!

Sounds great, right?

It also sounds difficult, confusing and likely to fail.

How do we, as writers, become marketers?

The first thing we need to do is reach out to people who have been there, done that already.

Pick someone we admire. Read, watch and listen to every word they create. Take notes. Put some (or all) of their advice into practice and do the work.

Actually, DO it.

Not just absorb it, put it into practice!

Right! I’m off!

If anyone wants to share my journey and help one another on the way, reach out!

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Looking forward to sharing with you!

 

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Happy New Year!

Have you made any resolutions? Have you decided to turn over a new leaf? Or have you simply decided that 2017 is going to be your year?

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I recently discovered these fantastic journals. If you are interested in goal setting or really pushing yourself to achieve your dreams, why not have a look at these.

It doesn’t matter what area of your life you want to improve – health, wealth, fitness or leisure – there is a journal for you.

They are not dated so you can start using them at any time!

These Journals are a little bit more expensive than I would normally pay but the benefits of goal setting on every area of my life more than pays for the difference.

I will make a few pennies from your purchase but I have to say they are fantastic and I love using them.

 

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Blah Blah Blah

Been feeling a bit “Blah” lately – probably because of a reaction to the flu jab – so been finding it hard to concentrate.

Started plotting a new novel but it’s not coming together yet – I’ve never actually tried plotting one before – perhaps try again in a week or two.

Did some marketing but lack of funds kind of limits that! Still, did the usual social media whirl etc.

Started a Thunderclap for “A Little Book of Horror” – due for release October 12th

Pre-order Here or Support Thunderclap Here (it’s FREE)

Finally sent off an assignment for a course I’m doing.

Still feeling “Blah”.

Opened up new novel file – I’m twenty thousand words into a new historical romance – and a couple of hours and two thousand words later, I’m not feeling “Blah” any more!

The secret?

Just do it!

Stop procrastinating and just make an effort. It will come. Give it the right time and place and anything can be accomplished!

Must get back to the novel now!

#amwriting #histfic #romance

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