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A Journey in Words

Welcome, I would like to share my journey in writing and getting published.  You will have to excuse me if this seems a little sticky to begin with, as I wonder what to write for a first blog.  Fiction writing appears to be a breeze in comparison to writing about myself and my aspirations.

So the book is finished, technically this is not the end but the beginning.  The beginning of a journey, where my book will be out there for others to read, but before that can happen I have to decide whether to go the conventional route and look for an agent or go it alone and Independently publish. Both options have their pro’s and con’s, and I have to wonder what my heroine Maeve Binchy would suggest, but first let’s see what she advises about writing this first blog.  Referring to Maeve’s Times containing some of her short stories, flicking to a particular one she wrote advising how to write.  Ah yes, she was a blogger before it was ever invented. Keep it simple, be yourself and find your own voice, advises Maeve.  Maeve’s writing is the epiphany of a writer projecting their own voice.  Smoothly, throughout each page turning novel she ever wrote, pulling you in and making you feel you know the characters.  So when in doubt look for inspiration from those who aspired our dreams initially.  Then dig deep into your soul and find your own voice, and allow it to flow across every page you write. Imagine soft ripples on a calm ocean, aim to make writing as smooth and relaxing for a reader as this.

You might ask how do I find my own voice.  Write as you speak, and if you are worried about jarring your writing with accents and slang then simplify this. Imagine soft ripples on a calm ocean, aim to make writing as smooth and relaxing for a reader as this.

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So back to the decision about Agent’s or Self-Publishing, simple really, I have absolutely no patience whatsoever, it has to be the self publishing route, after-all my dream is to hold my book and see it on bookshelves, the sooner I get working on that the better wouldn’t you agree?

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #IrishFiction Under a Dark Cloud by Mary Crawley

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to welcome Irish author Mary Crowley to the Cafe and Bookstore with her latest book Under a Dark Cloud

About the book

Under a Dark Cloud is a grippingly emotional story of shattered dreams, haunting nightmares and bitter memories. Kelly Henderson wants reprieve to emerge from Under the Dark Cloud that shrouds her life.

Kelly Henderson returns to Bunreen, a small town nestled in the South East of Ireland, weeks after her husband’s tragic death, wanting to re-establish a relationship with her mother and sister. However, as the taxi approaches her old home, she is harshly reminded of the night her mother Lorraine banished her to live with her father in Scotland, when she was only fifteen years of age.

Kelly’s’ heart is heavy and her grief raw, but she must keep strong as she soon discovers there are more secrets within the family. While Lorraine’s indifference to her…

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Eurocycles Junior Tour of Ireland 2019

Fast paced, corkscrew hills and plenty of banter along the way!!

The dust has settled, and the van is unpacked after a hard but wonderful life experience, six days spent supporting my son Steven Crowley and his teammates from Comeragh Cycling Club, Miceál Hayes, Niall Hogan, Luke Griffin, Ciaran Frisby and James O’Shea at the Eurocycles, Eurobaby Junior Tour of Ireland held in Co Clare.

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I better start with explaining a bit about the tour so you will get a better picture, not that I am an expert on the specifics, so this is all coming from a parent’s point of view.  The Junior tour is a six-day international cycling race for under 18’s, which as far as I’m aware the criteria is to be aged between 16 to 18 depending on where the cyclist’s birthday lands by the end of the year. (Again, showing my lack of insight on the logistics). The race is traditionally held in Ennis Co. Clare and is in its sixth consecutive year, whilst our riders competed for the first time. Though not the first team from Comeragh CC to enter this event as they have had teams entered over the past three years. This year there were 140 riders competing coming from Europe, England, Scotland and even a couple of teams over from America to mention but a few. There are six gruelling stages for the riders to complete ranging from 48 km loops to 127km with steep hills and inclines to contend with, depending on the course and the stage, with the final stage being a very fast loop around Ennis.  While the first stage took place on the Tuesday, I did not join my family for the fun until Wednesday evening so came in on the third stage.

The day comprised of roll out from Tracey’s Hotel, driving the van out to a spot to watch the cyclists pass where we acquainted with a lovely couple who had travelled over from California with their son. They opted to follow us to the next viable place to watch the riders since we were classed as having better local knowledge than they had. Our co-pilot and navigator Katie brought us around some pretty narrow and winding shortcuts, but the van held her own and did us proud, our new American friends declaring the drive as Awesome and like a Disney ride. Our next stop we handed the riders bottles of water, all in good spirts and looking fresh considering the miles they had already covered and the hills they were climbing at the time.

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Then it was a race for us parents to find a viable road leading to the finish line before the riders themselves, no speed limits broken!!  However, we were stuck in a queue of traffic, everyone with the same agenda, though this is not what was causing the build-up it was the tour buses trying to get around the very sharp bends, still this did not dampen the good humour only added to the euphoria as we made it just in time to watch our riders sprint for the finish line.
Each stage being pretty much a repeat of this with early rises (on my holidays!!!) and late to bed for the parents and technical team which brings me to mention the behind the scenes work that goes into this event. The riders themselves will have been training and preparing for months but they are not alone and could not compete without the support they get from the club, this comes in the form of Colm Dillon, team manager and mechanic, driving the support car for the riders. Soigneur Cian Power, and logistics co-ordinator Sinead Power. Although this may now sound like an Oscars speech, I cannot omit to mention Pat Power and Aaron Dillon who were also present supporting the riders and giving them valuable advice from their own experience in racing. 66794830_408164663379228_8933452707763585024_n

The cyclists’ siblings, the lovely sisters’ who navigated, supported, took photographs and videos, handed out water, got squirted with water and never once complained. Would you believe they are only twelve years of age all three of them, so they definitely deserve a mention Katie Crowley, Hannah Hayes and Amy Hogan. Well done ladies you did your brothers proud.

 

Although by day we did not get much time to explore and enjoy the wonderful views and landscape of Clare, we did get to walk around Dromoland Castle since we were staying at the Dromoland Inn, and yes I was tempted to stick in this picture and lead you to believe we stayed at the Castle itself but somehow, I don’t think you’d have been convinced!!66801832_424523311480887_1718553360161832960_n

 

 

 

 

There is not much left for me to say about these crazy six days, only it was not only an experience of a lifetime for the riders themselves who did us very proud, three of them from here in Tramore, but an experience for the supporting parents and siblings and the grandparents who travelled up from Tramore to see the races, giving something to reminisce over in years to come.

 

Here are a couple of videos taken on stage 5 and 6

 

Peace Proms, bringing the magic of music to our schools

It’s been a few months since I have felt such a need to sit down and write about anything, I suppose because the focus has been on the new novel and a few pieces of short fiction. However last night I attended the Peace Proms for the fourth year, and this year it was held in the WIT Arena here in Waterford. For those of you who have never attended or haven’t a clue what I’m even talking about firstly let me explain a bit about it so you will understand why I was so compelled to write this blog about my experience.
The Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland (CBOI) was established in 1995 as a peace initiative and is composed of over 100 exceptionally talented young musicians from all over Ireland and Northern Ireland. Over the past 21 years, the CBOI has played an important role in building and nurturing vital cross border and cross community relations. Peace Proms is a free music education resource involving choirs from primary schools which culminate in a large-scale performance along with the Cross Border Orchestra. The programme promotes ‘peace through music’ and engages almost 30,000 children from 500 schools throughout the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland, giving them the opportunity to sing in a large-scale production with a choir of up to 4,000 along with a full symphony youth orchestra. There are also performances by individual vocalists, a pipe band, violinist, Scottish dancers, Irish dancers, all conducted by one of the UK’s most celebrated and outstanding young conductors, Mr. Greg Beardsell. Amazing right!!!

Just think in one performance you could have 4000 children from different schools brought together having never met before, along with the orchestra and vocalist all singing in perfect harmony, if you don’t believe how this could be possible take a look at the clips below.

 

 

Phenomenal isn’t it!!! and that’s only the tip of the iceberg


This year the youth orchestra performed in Liverpool, Dublin, Belfast, Limerick and our very own Waterford. In past years they have travelled to Kilkenny and Galway, the selection of venues giving children from all over Ireland and the UK a chance to participate in something which they and their families watching will cherish for the rest of their lives.
There are simply no words that can project the immense feeling of seeing this show live. My first experience of the Peace Proms was in the hub in Kilkenny four years ago. It was the first time my daughter was part of the choir along with her school. Sadly, I hadn’t managed to get tickets as I didn’t realise how quickly they would sell out. Fortunately for me, one of my daughter’s teachers invited me to attend the show as a school helper, yes, I was in the choir along with all the children and their teachers. I cannot thank Miss Gillian Connolly of Fenor N.S. enough for the memorable experience. Sitting amidst the school choirs, I was privileged to witness the excitement of the children and thought what an amazing concept. Nothing prepares you for the talented performances from the young orchestra to the individual performers, strangers all knitted together from every part of the country to perform together as one, how wonderful is that.
For the last three years I have made sure to be online and secure tickets, each year I have not been disappointed, the shows are magical, the talent jaw dropping, and this year was no different, only we were treated to a special privileged performance by local talented youths Christopher Halligan and Jess Reinl of Mount Sion Choir, singing Shallow. I had heard their performance played on our local radio station WLR, and thought they were amazing, but hearing them sing live last night at the WIT arena with the orchestra was a breath-taking performance to say the least. I wish Chris and Jess every success for the future, with talent like theirs they deserve to do well, and the rest of the world deserve to hear them sing.
I have always believed music is a fabulous way to feel good, no matter how tough life gets or how crap a day you are having, switch on the radio, a song will get you swaying and singing along. Peace Proms is the epiphany of feel good, bringing strangers together with music, singing, clapping dancing, feeling happy and a life time experience for everyone involved. To all the performers and organisers, to Greg Beardsell who is a master at his job and wonderful with all the children, to all the teachers who put in their own time getting each choir ready to come together, along with attending the performances themselves, I’d like to say a big thank you for all your dedication, as a parent I am grateful my child has had the opportunity to be part of the Peace Proms. This year was the last year my daughter was part of the choir as she finishes primary school and moves onto secondary, but she has memories to treasure forever. She has also said she would love to go next year and watch as part of the audience, doesn’t that tell you how fantastic the show is, as I already said there are no words to explain the experience, so I suggest you get tickets and go see for yourself.

On a Rollercoaster Ride, Next Stop the Launch

It’s been a whirlwind of excitement over the past few weeks, August seemed to disappear with a succession of trips to northern parts of Ireland, first for the Errigal Youth Tour, giving me a chance to get pictures along the Wild Atlantic Way and the places which inspired the setting for A Sweet Smell of Strawberries.  Two weeks later we were back up to Ballymoney for more cycle racing, however, it gave me a rare chance to meet up with one of my oldest and dearest friends’ whom I had not seen since we were in school.

Back home to the sunny South-East, leaving the rain behind where it’s time for organising the launch in The Book Centre, but at least I haven’t had time for nerves to kick in as Steven had one final race of the season, The Munster Championships held in Blarney Co.Cork, so not too far to travel then. I think the van sighed with relief too since she hates pulling the caravan and is completely against steep hills!!

The day began with the usual early start, added to by lashing rain for good measure as we packed the van. Why change old habits since it always rains while we pack and unpack for journeys.  Still, it did not dampen our spirits and by the time we pulled in for registration the sun had come out.

Wow, what a day, what a race, Steven flew in over the finish line with the widest smile in the world, having won the race with an amazing clear run over a minute and a half ahead of the rest of the bunch.  What an end to his last year as a youth rider, becoming the U16 Munster Champion, and what a proud mother I am.

 

So you’d think September and the whole back to school scenario would be a little mundane and boring in comparison to August’s adventures. Not in our house as we have The Book Launch of A Sweet Smell of Strawberries in the Book Centre at the end of the month to look forward to, which coincidently and to her delight happens to be the same day as Katie’s birthday. Just 22 days to go and the build-up is exciting, to say the least with Kieran Foley featuring the book in The Munster Express.  Vanessa O’Loughlin of writing.ie is featuring my write up on getting published next week which I will of course share on here for everyone to read and yesterday I received a call from Mary O’Neill in WLR to do an interview for her art programme On The Fringe, so we are now very high up on the rollercoaster filled with a mixture of Ahhh and Yipee!!

One thing which has been absolutely lovely and made my heart soar is the lovely reviews, comments and messages I’ve received from well-wishers and people who have read the novel, loving it.  For me, this has been very special because it is one thing to write a book which I loved writing, but another to have people enjoying reading it, for me that is literally the cream on top of the strawberries.  So, I’m taking this opportunity to thank you all for the wonderful support and look forward to seeing both new and familiar faces on 28th of September in The Book Centre, Waterford.

 

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Errigal Youth Tour 2018

It’s been a whirlwind, to think this time last week we were northbound for our yearly trip to Co. Donegal, and today I’m unpacking the caravan and hoovering crumbs from the van. Our third and final year attending the Errigal Youth Tour, a cycling event for riders aged between ten and sixteen years, considered one of the toughest weekends for competitive youth cyclists at international level with entrants from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Isle of man, France and even as far as Malta arriving to race together.

The first couple of days of our stay we dedicated to relaxing and toured the area much the same as we did on our last visit, taking time to revisit some of the sites along the coast for our own enjoyment and for another very special reason.  As it is the stunning coastline of the Wild Atlantic Way in North Donegal that inspired the setting for “A Sweet Smell of Strawberries”.  From the pictures below, I am sure you can understand why.  The idea for the storyline itself had already embedded itself in my mind, now I’d set the scene, everything fell perfectly into place once I began to write. Credit goes to my son Steven since he is the reason we have travelled up here for the last three years. Our beloved middle child, always ready for a laugh with a smile that melts girls hearts, which brings me back to this year’s trip.

 

After a couple of days relaxing and taking in the sights, along with revelling in retail therapy in the many shops Letterkenny has to offer, we roll into the weekend and the beginning of the three-day event which comprises of four stages and three age level entries, U-12’s, U-14’s and U’16’s.  This year for the first time saw girls having their own separate races due to the increased levels in entry, a delightful sign of the times with one of our own local girls cycling in the U-12’s for the Comeragh Cycling Club. There were five other local riders competing, one in the U-14’s and four in the U-16’s including Steven.

Order of Events:

Stage One – Road Race on Saturday

Stage two – Time Trial (TT) on Sunday morning

Stage three – Road Race Sunday afternoon

Stage four- Critique in Letterkenny marking the final stage of the tour.

It was a gruelling three days for the riders, with children and parents alike, filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation which goes with the territory.  We met new people, reacquainted with those who had been there before. Cheered with, and for, everyone. Congratulated those who had done well, consoled the disappointed and felt the pain for a mother whose child had been involved in a crash, a feeling we all dread and know only too well.

The atmosphere as always was electric, it would be hard not to get carried along on the buzz of it all even if you didn’t have a child competing and credit for this must go to the volunteers who give their time organising this event every year.  The fact they cater for the safety of the riders, the races are run with precision and professionalism, as well as being mindful of locals needing to go about their daily routine, there are no words which can describe the length these people go to ensuring everything runs smoothly with every detail taken care of, their dedication can only be applauded which is why this event is so popular.

I am delighted to say my son Steven did well coming 17th overall and 4th ranking Irish cyclist in his age group U-16.

Again,  thank you Steven, for the memorable experience and unless my daughter changes her mind about becoming a competitive cyclist, for now, I will have to say goodbye to Errigal, Churchill and Letterkenny in Co. Donegal, thank you for the memories and the inspiration.

The Little Things

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

There is a saying that, we should treasure the little things because one day we will realise they were the big things.  This saying comes to fruition when we look at our children and realise they no longer are children.  I wrote a story a few years ago called “Letting Go” published in writing.ie, when my eldest made his graduation.  So now we come to the end of a significant chapter in life, the youngest knows the truth about fairy tales and the bearded guy, admitting when we had the talk she has known for some time, though is happy for me to keep up the charade as she does enjoy the whole magical element.  Like a big girl, I have accepted the inevitable.

However, when we went to watch her perform on stage in a school show last night, where she had to wear make-up, the real wake up call came.  She looked so grown up, not my little girl anymore, but a beautiful young lady.  I am very proud of the young woman she has become, just as I’m proud of all three of my children’s achievements in their young lives and hope they will continue on a path that is filled with happiness.

So here is to the next chapter, and I will make sure to relish every part of it, as, after all, it is the little things that make life a big adventure of love filled moments.

 

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Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com

 

Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens

 

The beautiful and tranquil gardens that pay homage to writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), who was born in Greece and died in Japan, sit nestled here in Tramore overlooking the bay. On a beautiful evening like tonight, there is no better place I can think of being than right here. A place of inspiration, depicting both charm and a sense of calm.

Why build a homage to the writer in Tramore, you might ask?  Son of Charles Bush Hearn and Rosa Casimati, a formal young Protestant Irish military surgeon, and a beautiful and exotic Greek girl. Patrick Lafcadio Hearn spent his summers visiting Tramore with his guardian, due to his father’s foreign posting and his mother’s ill health. Aged just two Patrick went to live with his Grandmother Elizabeth hearn in Dublin. It was Sarah Brenane, the younger sister of Elizabeth Hearn, who provided the link to Tramore. She was a key figure in the boy’s life from the age of two and was effectively his full guardian from 4 years of age. Sarah loved holidaying in Tramore throughout her life and brought the young Patrick with her, where he became fascinated by the sea and learned to swim. In Tramore, he also absorbed all the local folklore about fairytales, ghost stories and shipwrecks from the household servants and from a local fisherman –  material which fired his vivid imagination and inspired his future writing.

The idea to erect the gardens first transpired when Professor  Bon Koizumi , the great-grandson of Lafcadio Hearn, with his wife, Shoko, visited Tramore to retrace the steps of his famous ancestor who had spent his childhood summers in this lovely seaside town. The Gardens tell an intriguing and unique story. in their style and planting, they reflect elements of the gardening traditions of the countries and cultures traversed by Lafcadio Hearn during his varied life.

Tonight walking around, the most wonderful sounds come from the trickle of water and the swish of a breeze rustling through the trees and bamboo.  Each part of the garden like walking into a new room telling its own story.

From the pictures above you can see the mystical element of fairies and folklore that Lafcadio Hearn would have been fascinated to hear about as a young boy.

A new addition under construction at the moment in the gardens is a wooden pergola, next to it the bamboo bridge as you can see from the pictures below.  Both stunning additions beside the tall sweeping bamboo growing in this area.

The Lafcadio Hearn Japanese gardens depict a magical scene throughout the year.  over Christmas, we visited to see the winter wonderland light show, a must see. Visit the garden’s website to see the wonders it has to offer. A visit to Tramore without seeing these gardens would not be the same.   http://lafcadiohearngardens.com

 

Echoes in Tramore

 

Those of you who know me well will understand that to learn, I am physically standing in a room which was used to shoot one of the scenes of Maeve Binchy’s,  “Echoes” is amazing.  To think, I have been visiting this very house every week for over ten years, without knowing.

The revelation transporting me back to the hot, balmy summer of 1987, when Echoes was being filmed in Tramore.  And before you think it’s my wild imagination, yes, summers were hot back then, the proof is in the film. Watch the scene with “Angela” played by Geraldine James walking down Castlebay main street, Queen Street in Tramore talking to sister Immaculata.

Anyway back to the filming of echoes in 1987, when Queen Street in Tramore and parts of Dunmore East, a neighbouring seaside village were transported back to the early fifties.  Excitement amongst local’s heady, as the lucky ones were picked to play extras in the filming.  My uncle Phillip Power being one of the lucky ones, pictured in the scene I spoke about above standing in the background, leaning up against the wall talking.

After the film crew packed up and the actors moved on, life might have returned to normal in our picturesque seaside town, but the excitement was still there and we could not wait until the series was screened on channel four in 1988.

My late grandmother, my other heroine, told me Maeve’s writing of the novel would be far more magical,  so I decided to read the book. She was right, from then on I was hooked and read every, Maeve Binchy book, I could get my hands on.  ‘The Glass Lake’ a particular favourite, I stayed up all night reading that book because I could not put it down and turn out the lights until I reached the end.  Her magical pen telling of tales far from the constriction and boundaries of old Ireland.

So back to this fine dining room, and the spectacular house it is part of.  The current owners, whom I’m lucky enough to know well, having inherited it from their parents. Kindly, wined and dinned the actors and film crew who used their home back in 1987.  Of course, I intend to go home and watch ‘Echoes’ again for about the fourth time, this time, I will be looking out for this very room, kept just how it was back then, steeped in its magical history and beauty overlooking the Doneraile, and as you can see from the photograph above, one of the finest views in Tramore. The view from the house and gardens capture a panoramic scene of their own, taking in the whole of Tramore Bay, The cove and Metalman, Brownstown head, Tramore beach and the Backstrand.

 

Above: A picture of the great Maeve Binchy my heroine, and a picture from Echoes. Below: An extract from Maeve’s website describing the story of ‘Echoes’.  How she describes Castlebay is an exact description of Tramore at that time.

Two very different children are growing up, shouting their hearts’ desires into the echo cave, praying that their destiny will lead them far away from the town in which they live. Castlebay, in winter empty and grey with wind and sea spray, becomes all bustle and colour in the gaudy days of summer – and Tom O’Brien’s shop on the edge of the cliff besieged by holidaymakers.”

Character Building

This week we took the Brigin’s for their annual trip to the library along with our new Cygnets.  Thanks to our local librarian Tracey once again for being a wonderful host.  It brings much joy to see children so interested in books and authors, reminding me of books I loved in my younger days. Classics like Roald Dahl’s, Danny the Champion of the World a favourite.  Moving on to Joan Lingard’s, Across the Barricades in later years. I never fail to become particularly interested in one of the characters in a book be it the main protagonist or a supporting character, I find myself drawn to them and their personality.

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When I was writing “A Sweet Smell of Strawberries”, I was mindful of making my main protagonist Sarah realistic in terms of having flaws. Wanting to create a person who is believable to a reader, yet when I was writing the first draft I pulled back not wanting to put in her bad traits as I didn’t want her to be disliked.  by doing this I was not fully creating my character and of course by the time I completed the second draft I knew the book was completely lacking in its storyline.  Yes, the storyline was there but it had no depth. Hence in solving the problem, I edited out two characters put in to make Sarah look good persay and really had no purpose or place in the book.  When redrafting, I then allowed Sarah to unleash her own character, allowing her to have the affair she longed for and be in the arms of the man she truly loved. Needless to say, in allowing my character to roll free the storyline was enriched by her true presence.  I still like her, possibly even more now for being herself, flaws included and I’m sure readers will love her too.