David J O’Brien: Author and Guest Blogger

Five Days on Ballyboy Beach by David J O'Brien - 500I’m delighted to welcome  David J O’Brien on my blog again. His wonderful new novel, Five Days On Ballyboy Beach, is just out and already receiving glowing reviews. I’ll pass over to David who is here to discuss the role of research in the process of writing. Please click on the cover or links below to purchase this or his previous and highly recommended novel, Leaving the Pack.


Thanks for hosting me today Jeff.

I had thought about one of the questions you asked me when hosting me on your blog after the release of Leaving the Pack – whether my novels required a lot of research. Well, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach required a bit. The characters go snorkeling, canoeing and surfing, which are hobbies that I have very little experience of.

I don’t like doing a lot of research for my novels. I don’t enjoy it all that much. I think it takes up too much time from the writing. Even today with all the information we have at our fingertips, it’s hard to do quickly, and efficiently – at least for me. If I do embark on a bit of internet investigation, I usually end up with the day gone and only random facts in my head. I mostly rely on things I already know, on information I’ve already picked up as I go along through life.

When writing, though, there will always be things that the character knows that the writer doesn’t. What I tend to do in this case is leave all the stuff I don’t already know, or am not certain about, until the end of the first draft – leaving little gaps where the absolutely necessary information has to go, and fill them in as I edit and write the second draft. Of course, I always end up with extra stuff that I can’t help trying to slot in during the second draft, too.

What I tend to do more if I don’t’ know much about a subject, is ask a friend who does. Most of my mates know more than I do!

For Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, I had to ask for help with the details of wetsuits used in different activities (much of which didn’t make it to the final edit, showing that often we’re just wasting time trying to add in those authentic details!) and types of surfboards.

At the same time, there is no way that I could have written (or would have tried to write) anything about surfing had I not had a least a little idea of what it feels like to ride a wave – or attempt to anyway! I did spend a weekend trying to stand up on the west coast once, and have sat in a few canoes, and even snorkeled in the frigid waters off Ireland. On these scant experiences, I wrote the novel. However, I also asked a friend to read the surfing description – there’s an excerpt below where you can see how well it turned out – when I had finished the first draft.

Nevertheless, I didn’t reveal all of what I had written, in order to maintain the surprise when he reads the whole novel, so any errors or inauthenticities that may remain are entirely my own. At the end of the day (as the footballers say) I can shrug my shoulders and say, I didn’t know – it’s fiction!

Five Days on Ballyboy Beach by David J O'Brien - 500


Blurb for Five Days on Ballyboy Beach:

A startling revelation – the long-time friend you never viewed romantically is actually the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
But what do you do about it?
For Derek, a laid-back graduate camping with college friends on Ireland’s west coast in the summer of 1996, the answer is … absolutely nothing.
Never the proactive one of the group – he’s more than happy to watch his friends surf, canoe and scuba-dive from the shore – Derek adopts a wait and see attitude. Acting on his emotional discovery is further hindered by the fact he’s currently seeing someone else – and she’s coming to join him for the weekend.
As their five days on the beach pass, and there are more revelations, Derek soon realises that to get what he desires, he’ll have to take it. Events conspire to push him to the forefront of the group, and, as unexpected sorrow begins to surround him and his friends, Derek grasps his chance at happiness. After all, isn’t life too short to just wait and see?


Five Days on Ballyboy Beach by David J O'Brien - 500


Excerpt from Five Days on Ballyboy Beach:

Back on the beach, the others were still ensconced in their sleeping bags. It was very quiet, so we didn’t disturb them. We got ready to get in the water instead.

We took the boards off the cars; Bill’s usual five-foot short board, and Pat’s old eight-foot long elephant gun Malibu board for me. Then we put on the wetsuits. Carrying the boards under our arms, we walked down to the water. The waves were now less the abstract entities out at sea they had been that morning and more like living beings, pouring fourth to crush the land and anything that happened to put itself in the way.

This was the reason we were here. Regardless of drinking, walking, girls, discos, canoeing, sunsets and stars, this was why we had chosen to come to this place, and everyone bar me had taken time off work; to surf. We watched the waves roll in—the bigger ones in sets of three or four, and sometimes five. The biggest of these were usually the second, and sometimes the third. These were the ones to catch. The sets appeared as anomalies on the horizon, obscure objects disturbing the straight line between the sea and sky, slowly growing darker and larger as they approached. They were about four or five feet high—just right for beginners like me—and broke in two places. A few metres out from the cliffs, where the reef pushed them up constantly, they rose steeply and broke away from the cliff. Some seventy five metres further along, where a sandbank rose, the white curtain of water fell in both directions. To our left it joined that of the reef break, and to the right it fizzled out somewhat near the rocks, at the point where the stream, as it flowed into the sea, and the rip current combined to gouge out a relatively deep channel.

We waded out into the surf near the rocks to take advantage of the rip, holding the boards above the waves as long as we could, then dropping them and jumping up to slide onto them before paddling out. Bill forced his board down and ducked under incoming waves, while I rode high over them on my much more buoyant board. I was out of breath by the time we got past the breakers, and I sat up on the board to catch it.

Bill had already recovered his breath when the next set loomed. He chose the second wave, turned his board toward land and started paddling furiously. After a few seconds he looked around to gauge its distance. The wave rolled under me, and as it reached him, raising him up, he put his hands on the board and pushed down on it, forcing it down the other side of the wave at the same time as lifting his body up enough to get his legs under him and plant his feet firmly on the waxed surface. Then he stood up on the board as it slid down the crest of the wave. He leaned to the left and brought it along the wave, away from its break-point, going up and down along it twice, before he lost his balance and fell into the water with the wave washing over him.

It took a while for the next set to appear. My heart raced as I watched it and waited. I let the first wave pass, holding on to the board as it bobbed me up and down, then turned as the second was about six feet away, slid forward a little on the board and paddled as fast as I could. I breathed hard and kept pushing as I felt the wave roll underneath me. I accelerated suddenly, and as I did, I found myself leaning forward down the wave. Grabbing the side of the board, I quickly lifted my body up off it and put my feet on the board. I tried to stand up, but the wave pushed me down its face and the white foam rained all around me as I fell forward. The board slid over my head, blocking the sunlight momentarily. Suddenly all was blue and noise.

I surfaced after a few seconds and swam after the board, holding on to it as the last wave of the set swept over me as well. When it had passed, I slid back onto the board and paddled out again, as fast as I could before another set could arrive and push me back towards the shore again.

Just as I got out to the break-point, another set approached fast. I took a few deep breaths to get my wind back while the first two went under, and started out again after the third. I felt it rise up and paddled harder, but I caught sight of the white foam bubbling on my right where the wave was breaking, and, despite trying for a few more seconds and pushing down on the board to force it over the top, it rolled onwards. I was left lying on the board, panting. I turned around and paddled back out, moving left a few metres where the wave had begun to break. The first wave had brought me along the beach a little, so when I had gone back out I had been in the wrong place.

Bill was sitting on his board, waiting for me. “You popped too late on that first one,” he told me.

“Yeah. I guessed that all right,” I replied, still out of breath.



David JM O’Brien’s website

Five Days on Ballyboy Beach

Tirgearr Publishing

David JM O’Brien on Facebook


Author Interview: Sarah Louise Smith

sarah-louise-smithI’d like to welcome author Sarah Louise Smith to my blog.  Her new novel Independent Jenny is out today. It’s another fabulous read for anyone who enjoys romantic fiction.  Click on cover images or links below to purchase Sarah’s books.

Sarah Louise Smith lives in Milton Keynes, UK, with her husband, a cute cat and a loopy golden retriever. She has an extremely lovely step-daughter and spends most of her free time writing, reading, cooking, and taking long walks.

She’s the author of three chick-lit novels: Amy & Zach, Izzy’s Cold Feet, and her brand new novel,  Independent Jenny, all published by Crooked Cat.

Sarah’s website/blog: www.sarahlouisesmith.com

  What are the main themes explored in Independent Jenny?

Loyalty. Trust. Love.

Tell us more about Jenny and her dilemmas.

Jenny finds out in Chapter 1 that her husband Ross has cheated on her and goes on a journey whereby she’ll get a crush on her brother-in-law (the lovely Aiden, who happens to like her back – awkward!), is begged by Ross for forgiveness, goes on holiday with her friend Hayley to clear her head, but only gets more confused when she meets the lovely Will – an ex-boyfriend who is also now married. Essentially, it’s about a woman who gets betrayed and goes on a rollercoaster of emotions.

Independent Jenny

You have two main settings. Why are they important?

Jenny’s hometown of Bath and her holiday location of the Isle of Skye are almost like two additional characters in the novel. Very different – a busy city and a rural, quiet island. I love both of these places and really wanted to write about them, and I think my love of them comes through Jenny, too. She loves her hometown, but also adores Skye. They offer her different things; her business and friends are in the city, but the beauty of Skye is so romantic, too.

Do you see any connection between your novels?

Obviously with chick-lit (aka romantic comedy) you get a lot of similar themes; love being the main one. I’ve also had a few characters pop up with cameo’s in each of my books so they’re connected in a fictional sense too!

This is your third novel. Does the writing process get easier or harder?

Easier, for sure. It took me a long time to write Amy & Zach; I didn’t know how to structure a story or how to even reach full-novel length. Izzy’s Cold Feet was a little easier. Independent Jenny I felt much more confident about how I would tell the story, and my next novel is being written in record time!

Sarah Louise Smith

Tell us about your current work in progress.

It’s about Ellen, who tells a lie during a romantic fling. But when the fling turns into something much more serious, it’s too late to go back.

Sounds great – look forward to that one. You have some skill and experience in marketing. Any good tips for other authors?

Use social media, blogging and so on regularly. Be engaging, find relevant/fun content, and create a brand for yourself. Believe in yourself and your product, but don’t push it on anyone.

How do you manage to hold down two careers?

With great difficulty! My house is often dusty, and my friends often get neglected. But I love both my marketing executive role and my writing career – and right now I seem to be able to just about have both. I don’t complain about my lack of free time though – I consider myself incredibly lucky.

Independent Jenny

About Independent Jenny:

“I slept with someone else.” Those five words changed everything.

After her husband Ross drops a bombshell, Jenny’s emotions go hay-wire. Things are made even more complex when his brother Aiden makes a confession of his own…

A holiday escape with her friend Hayley seems the perfect way to figure out what – and who – she wants. But Hayley has a hidden motive that results in Jenny spending time with her ex-boyfriend Will, who is now married.

Should Jenny forgive Ross? Can she ignore her feelings for romantic Aiden? And why can’t she get Will out of her head?

One thing is for sure: Jenny doesn’t want to be alone. Surely any man is better than no man, right?

Izzy cover

You can purchase paperbacks or e-versions from all the usual online book sellers.

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Louise-Smith/e/B00AX55ZOI/

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/author/sarahlouisesmith

Follow Sarah on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahSmith16

Find Sarah on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahlouisesmithauthor

Thanks, Sarah. Best of luck with Independent Jenny.

Top 10 Tips on Writing.

ML Jeff2On my blog, I frequently interview authors and one question I like to ask is ‘What advice do you have for less experienced writers?‘ Ithought it would be interesting to pick out what I thought were the most useful comments from over the last few years.

So here are my Top Ten Tips on Being a Writer from a selection of indie authors that have appeared on my blog.


Write, write and write. Read, read and read. You must write every day but set a realistic goal – maybe ten minutes a day. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage it sometimes. It’s a long hard road but worth it.                                                                                           Gill James

Just write. Don’t get distracted by social media and television and everything else. Sit down and work hard.                   Sarah Louise Smith

Keep at it. The more you write, the more you will learn. And find some writing buddies (either online or in a writing group). It’s very easy to lose all sense of objectivity with your own stuff – a fresh pair of eyes can work wonders.                                                                  Sue Barnard

All the hard work we put in to our writing pays off when every time we complete a project. Turning up to greet the blank page every day is important too, so discipline is a key factor.                 Mary T Bradford

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until you cannot bear to look at the manuscript – and then rewrite again. Diamonds in the rough look like lumps of worthless rock, but underneath lies a sparkling and valuable gem. That is what a first draft is – your raw material, ready to be polished until it shines like a diamond.                       Lorraine Mace

mr platt

You must believe in yourself and your ability because if you don’t, no one else will. Take time to learn your craft, and never be too proud to take a bit of advice from others.                                         David Robinson

Don’t give up, especially if you get some bad feedback. Writing and reading are so subjective; what one person doesn’t like, another person loves.                                                                                    Zanna Mackenzie

Keep sending finished things out while you write more stuff. If your first novel is getting bounced back at you, go ahead and start your second.                                                                                                        David O’Brien

Generally I’d say develop a tough skin, because you will need it. Don’t worry about rejection. Everyone gets rejected and if they don’t I’d love to meet them! Even the Harry Potter books were rejected at first.                                                                                      Catriona King

Never give up. Getting published is a matter of getting the right manuscript on the right desk at the right moment. But be prepared, because getting published is only the beginning.       Charlene Raddon


Please click on an author’s name to link to their website for further information.


Treading On Dreams: Review

Treading on Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - 1800-300dpi

4.5 stars

To me this was a coming of age story with a bit of a YA feel to it. Donny and Hazel, fraternal twins, head off to college. Hazel is a bit of a wild child ready to spread her wings while Donny has been the one to be a parent pleaser and quieter. The landlord of the house they live in is a bit older and filled with a zest for life while their other housemate is a dedicated female that Donny becomes obsessed with. While at college they meet a number of interesting people, party, fall in and out of love and one of them even gets so desperate that suicide seems the best option. There is a happily ever after for some but not for all in this book. There are friends that help both Donny and Hazel to grow and finally move down the life path that opens for them. This story is well written, told from Donny’s perspective and includes drama, happiness, sadness and more. It is a very “British” book and for me that made it even more fun since I am American. 
(Cathy Geha, Library Thing)
Other reviews:
This was a wonderful book and I was sad to see it end. (Belinda Wilson, WilsonTH Blog – 5 out of 5 stars)
The journey is intriguing and Jeff Gardiner depicts it with adept skill! (Viviane Crystal, Crystal Book Reviews)

Interview with an Author: Mary T Bradford

I’m pleased to welcome Mary T Bradford to my blog today. Please click on the links below to find out more.

??????????My Husband’s Sin
is the debut novel from Mary T Bradford. She is an Irish author, married and mother of four children. She has been writing short stories for many years with which she has enjoyed publishing success in Ireland and abroad. While working on a story it happened that the story kept getting longer and the word count continued to climb, resulting with Mary having her novel. My Husband’s Sin is published by Tirgearr Publishing.

Recently Mary has dipped into play-writing and one of her plays was shortlisted in the Claremorris Fringe Festival in April of this year and was performed by the Half A Breakfast Theatre Group. Another of her plays had a Staged Reading in July at Friar’s Gate Theatre in Kilmallock, Limerick in Ireland. Her short story collection, A Baker’s Dozen, is also available on Amazon.com. Or in local bookshops.

When not writing, Mary enjoys crafts. In particular, she enjoys crochet and cross-stitch and catching up on her reading from the stack of books on her bedside locker.

My Husbands Sin by Mary T Bradford - 500







What are the main themes in your book?

In my novel, My Husband’s Sin, there are a few themes but the main one is loss. Losing a parent or indeed any family member is a difficult time for everyone concerned. In my  book, the main character, Lacey Taylor, suffers loss greater than the others when after her mother Lillian’s funeral, a letter she is given destroys her life further. She now suffers betrayal as well. But it only takes a small crack to appear in a family for it all to come crumbling down.

Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas?

Lacey, the main character is the one who has the most to lose and when her life crashes down around her, she has a choice, either to lie down and accept what has been dealt to her or get up and fight. But whichever decision she goes with, her siblings are also dragged into the mess Lillian Taylor creates. Willow is the eldest of the Taylor family and her mother was her best friend, accepting the truth proves very hard for her and so her marriage suffers. Robert, Lacey’s only brother, reels from the revelations and questions all his relationships, especially when it comes to trusting others. Sally Taylor, an independent strong woman, tries to heal the rift that has been created but struggles to keep it altogether in her own life. So there you have the Taylor family.

Why did you write this novel?

I always promised myself that I would write a novel. I have written many short stories and had tons of ideas but none of them ever stayed with me and nagged me like this one. It started as a simple story and just kept growing, the word count grew and the characters kept insisting on me sorting out their dilemmas and after some moments of writing delights and writing disasters, I ended up with My Husband’s Sin.

How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or a complex process?

Wow what a question! I am not a plotter when it comes to writing in general. I have either an idea or a name to begin with and after some thought, I may have an end. Then to get from the start to the finish, I have no idea, honestly. I put down on paper whatever is in my head and take it from there. As I am writing, the characters or indeed objects pop into the writing and it is they that lead my stories. In My Husband’s Sin, a black metal box appeared. I had no clue why or what it represented until much further on, it turned out to be an essential part of the novel.

Whether writing a novel is a simple or complex process I think depends on the writer. Some like to do a lot of research and make maps and plans and know each detail before they commit to paper. Others, I suppose like me, put it down and get it out and then when doing the next draft, and the next, and the next… finally get to the end.

What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

I would say, stick with it. All the hard work we put in to our writing pays off when every time we complete a project. Turning up to greet the blank page every day is important too, so discipline is a key factor. If it is only a few sentences that you manage it is better than nothing. All those sentences add up and soon you will have a story.

What are you working on currently?

I have my fingers worn to the bone at present because I have three projects on the go. Yes I am a nut to take it all on. I am writing my second novel which is totally different from My Husband’s Sin; it is not even in the same genre. It is a good versus evil story about a priest who is sent to do battle with the devil and it all takes place inside a locked room.  So who wins?

I am also writing a western novella for a group that I am involved in. The group are called Writers of the West, it is an exciting project. Finally, I am busy seeking a home for a play I have ready for production.

Name a book/film that means a lot to you?

I love the film, The Green Mile. It is such a good story and the actors are all fantastic. Of course I cry every time I watch it. When it comes to books there are too many to pick from.

What would be your perfect day?

A perfect day, let me think, it would be warm, not too hot, by the sea, with a picnic of cold meats/ white wine/salads. A book of course and would I want company? Well if, Kevin Costner or Charles Bronson were available, or maybe Michael Bublé, he could serenade me, right?

I want to thank Jeff for hosting me today and helping me promote my debut novel My Husband’s Sin. I enjoyed the variety of questions and my visit immensely.

 Thanks, Mary.My Husbands Sin by Mary T Bradford - 500

Interview with an Author: Yvonne Marjot

I’m delighted to welcome Yvonne Marjot to my blog. Her new novel The Calgary Chessman is an insightful exploration into human emotions and relationships, with a very strong sense of place. Below is an interview and extract from the novel. Please click on the cover images and links to purchase a copy.

TCC first copy at Green Rooms Aug 2014 croppedYvonne Marjot was born in England, grew up in New Zealand, and
now lives on an island off the West Coast of Scotland. She has a Masters in Botany from Victoria University of Wellington, and a keen interest in the interface between the natural and human worlds. She has always made up stories and poems, and once won a crate of port in a poetry competition (New Zealand Listener, May 1996). In 2012 she won the Britwriters Award for poetry, and her first volume of poetry, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published in 2014 by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

She has worked in schools, libraries and university labs, has been a pre-school crèche worker and a farm labourer, cleaned penthouse apartments and worked as amanuensis to an eminent Botanist. She currently has a day job (in the local school) and teenage children, and would continue to write even if no-one read her work, because it’s the only thing that keeps her sane. In her spare time she climbs hills, looks for rare moths and promises herself to do more in the garden.

You can follow her work via the Facebook page and group The Calgary Chessman, @Alayanabeth on Twitter, or on the WordPress blog The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet.

Blurb for ‘The Calgary Chessman

On a windswept beach on the Isle of Mull, Cas Longmore is walking away loneliness when she unearths a mystery in the sand. To Cas, torn between Scotland and her New Zealand home, the object seems as odd and out-of-place as herself.

Intrigued, she begins to search for its origins, thinking it will bring a brief respite from isolation. Instead, the Calgary chess piece opens the door to friendships and new hope. Her son, meanwhile, brings home his own revelation to shake her world.

TCC cover art front

Amazon UK

Amazon US

What are the main ideas or themes in The Calgary Chessman?

The main theme of The Calgary Chessman concerns the process of overcoming feelings of loneliness and isolation, the healing period that a person goes through following the end of a relationship, and the need to re-discover feelings of strength and self-worth. There’s also a theme about parenting, and the journey a young person takes as they enter adulthood. The chess piece of the title introduces an archaeological mystery, and it is the solving of this mystery that provides the main plot strand of the novel.

Why is the setting so important?

The Calgary Chessman’s setting on the Isle of Mull, and particularly the isolated and very beautiful Calgary Bay, and its secondary setting at the equally beautiful Huna Cove in New Zealand are critical to the story. Not only does Cas Longmore discover a mysterious chess piece in the sand at Calgary Bay, its location stands for her own sense of loneliness and isolation following the breakdown of her marriage. The unearthing of a mystery from the distant past leads to a journey of discovery. Longing for her past is reflected in the magical and rose-tinted memories she has of Huna Cove, the bay near her grandparents’ farm in New Zealand.

What else could you tell us about your main characters and their dilemmas.

Cas Longmore, my main character, is a New Zealander who finds herself living on a Scottish Island, after separating from her husband. She is lonely and plagued with self-doubt as she begins the process of learning to live independently again. She feels out of place and confused, and isn’t sure what will give her life meaning. While searching for the origin of the Calgary chess piece, she comes to realise that she does have friends, both old and new, and that she is fully capable of leading her own life.

 Her son, Sam, has played a major role in her life, but he is almost ready to take on adult responsibilities. In the meantime, though, he has one last revelation for his mother – one which will create ripples that spread outward throughout their family, and will echo down the years to come.

How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

That’s a simple question with no easy answer! I would say that the germ of an idea that sparks a novel is easy to find – you know the moment you have one (it’s a good idea to write it down straight away, though. Otherwise you may find it has slipped away). The two most difficult parts are, firstly, working out the major events of the book (I like to know my beginning and ending before I start to write the middle) and, secondly, having the willpower to sit down and write when there are so many other distractions. This, for me, is the hardest thing of all. You wouldn’t believe how many ‘more important’ things there are in my life. But when the writing impulse strikes and the fingers are flying across the keyboard, then it’s like taking dictation from my subconscious. The words just flow. There’s no better feeling in the world than that.

You are also a poet. How important is poetry to you?

 Writing poetry is a vital part of my life. I have written poems as far back as I can remember. Poetry is a very intimate art, though – it’s really a conversation with myself, and choosing to share it with others can be a difficult decision. I have found, though, that since I began sharing my poetry I have become a better writer, and I have received a great deal of support from readers and other poets.

 Novel-writing is different. I write my books specifically for others to read, and to that end I have opened myself up and invited criticism. If readers don’t enjoy my books, then I have failed in my task, and it’s up to me to get better at it. I’ve only been writing prose (apart from odd short stories) for the last ten years, but I’ve become completely addicted. I can’t imagine ever wanting to stop.

What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

 Write, write, keep on writing. The more you do the better you will become at setting your thoughts down on paper. Think as you are writing about who will be reading your words – a story aimed at ten-year-olds will have a different style to one written for adults. There are lots of books about writing, some better than others, and each writer has his/her own favourites. I have found that if one of the writers I love to read has produced a book about the writer’s art, I enjoy that book more than many other textbooks about writing.

 Above all else, you must read. Read things you loved as a child, read new books that catch your eye, read great classics that you’ve always meant to read but didn’t get around to. While you are reading, observe how the writer speaks to you, how they use language to get their point across. Other writers are our best teachers, and the better the writer the more you can learn by reading them.

What are you working on currently?

I’ve just done a bit of editing of the sequel to The Calgary Chessman (The Book of Lismore). It’s likely to be published in 2015. In the meantime, I am working on a dark post-apocalyptic vision of New Zealand, interweaving the life stories of three people living in very different circumstances. Its working title is Fire Under the Skin which is a quote from the poet Sappho.

What would your perfect day be?

I’ll wake at sunrise from a good sleep, to a day free from work and family commitments. I’ll win the battle against the temptation to stay in bed and read other peoples’ books. I’ll sit at the computer and begin to write, and the ideas will flow onto the page like ink pouring from a bottle. At about 11.30am I’ll walk down to the waterfront of Tobermory, buy a newspaper, and sit in The Chocolate Shop with a latte, read the paper and do a puzzle or two (usually Sudoku or a crossword). If I’m really lucky, a poem will occur to me and I’ll jot down the beginnings of it.

 When I get home I’ll spend an hour or two replying to emails, social networking or planning a blog post. Then I’ll spend an evening with my sons, eat a nice meal, watch a bit of telly, or if the weather’s especially warm and I feel energetic, drive over to Calgary Bay for a swim in the sea. I’ll fall into bed at around 11pm feeling comfortably tired and fall asleep instantly, and while I’m asleep an idea will come to me for the next stage of the work-in-progress.

 Of course, this marvellous scenario never actually happens!

Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

My favourite film is Blade Runner – still the best SciFi film ever made, and an astonishing creation based very loosely on the Philip K Dick story ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’. It’s darkly beautiful, endearingly bleak, a harsh vision of a future world in which humanity can be found in surprising places. It’s about how human beings judge those who are different from us, about how we find hope in the most dismal situations, about how redemption can be achieved through the smallest of actions, the world changed by the most insignificant of decisions. I never tire of flogging its merits to anyone who is foolish enough to grant me the opportunity. I suspect I’m in safe hands here, though – hey, Jeff?

You certainly are, Yvonne. It’s a masterpiece that I never tire of watching. Great choice. If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?

Take care of yourself; you are your own best advocate. Believe in yourself; you are a worthwhile human being. Take care of others: we show our humanity best in how we treat other people, be they in our own local community or on the other side of our tiny, fragile globe.

 If there is one ‘lesson’ contained in The Calgary Chessman it is that we cannot control how others behave towards us. We can only decide how we are going to respond.

_MG_4463 edited


I quartered the beach, down to the water’s edge and back to the machair, gradually becoming calmer as I wandered. I kept my head low, glancing out to sea occasionally when the waves came close, not focusing beyond the headland where haze on the horizon prevented me seeing even the closest islands. The greenish grey of the sea blended imperceptibly into the sky, and all the colours of the landscape were subdued. For a moment, I felt disorientated, as if gravity had inverted and I was walking upside down on a great curved dome, feeling that at any moment I might fall into the flat, featureless surface above me. I shook my head and kept my feet moving.

Slowly some memories seeped into my mind; images of a small boy flickered across my inner vision, like photos in an old album. It’s easy to forget what treasures are tucked away in there, behind the grey divide. Sometimes they feel so immediate that they shock me right into that other world which was once so real. It’s so much easier to live in the past than to face what is in front of me.

My foot scuffed against a tuft of grass and I came back to myself. I’d walked the beach up and down, and fetched up against the edge of the machair again. Last night’s high tide and wind had dislodged a whole chunk of cliff edge, and the lump had slid down the dune-face, exposing a vertical slope of fresh, white sand. In it was a dark hollow, a deep space about the size of my fist. I put my hand in to see if it would fit. My knuckle grazed something hard. Scratchy. Not like the rounded pebbles and wave-smoothed pieces of driftwood lying on the beach.

I pulled my hand out quickly and shivered, thinking of sheep bones. Okay to look at, found scattered on the grass while out walking. Not so nice to touch, unseen. With a faint hiss, the little hollow collapsed and something rolled out of the hole and landed at my feet in a damp clump. I bent down to dig it out. My fingers closed on a pale ivory-coloured handful, a little darker than the sand, squat and squarish and about eight centimetres tall. Not a sheep bone. I pulled out my hanky, spat on it and rubbed the object. I stared at it.

Calgary Chessman covers

News about my novels, short stories and non-fiction.


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