Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Podcast – Tales from the Garden – Pearly Girl and the Stone Band by Sally Cronin


Over the coming weeks I will be sharing the stories from Tales from the Garden which I hope you will enjoy in audio

Tales from the Garden is a collection of short stories I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid where we lived from 1999 to 2016. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden.

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.

In the garden were a collection consisting of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.. but with musical instruments attached which inspired this story in the collection

Pearly Girl and the Stone Band

Images ©Sally Cronin

I hope you have enjoyed the story and will join me again next week for another.

You can find out more about my books and reviews: Sally’s Books and Reviews

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life’s Rich Tapestry – #Fantasy- The Enhancement Project by Sally Cronin


I have a new collection of poetry and short stories coming out later in the year, and as Life’s Rich Tapestry is now one year old, I thought I would share some stories from the collection over the next few weeks. This story was inspired by the photo prompt as part of a challenge curated by author D.Wallace Peach on her blog: Myths of the Mirror

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

The Enhancement Project

They had been working through the night to save his life. The atmosphere in the operating theatre was one of frenzied concentration, with only clipped instructions from the lead surgeon as he worked to stem the bleeding. Scrub nurses moved around the three doctors in an orchestrated dance, slapping instruments into waiting hands, or wiping a brow of its sweat.

Doctor Shanda Graham watched from the gallery and clenched her hands in front of her. If she was religious she would have prayed, but all she could do was focus on the skill and experience of the surgeons working on the man on the table. His enhanced body armour had protected him from the blast on his right side and his robotic arm was undamaged. However, he had extensive and catastrophic injuries to the left side of his head that had likely caused severe brain damage.

Shanda had been part of the cyborg project for the last five years, designing and implementing the enhancements to the selected participants of the project. All were members of elite military units who had been severely injured in combat, and following the world war of 2080, there had been no shortage of applicants. They were men and women ideal for the task, being physically and mentally honed for war, and now for the protection of the survivors from remaining external threats and those closer to home.

Solar power had been installed across the city rooftops in 2050 and with foresight the governing body had stockpiled medicines and other essential staples in the years leading up to the final conflict. However, strict rationing was in place and this had created a criminal element that was determined to take control of the dwindling supplies. Unlike the rest of the population, striving to survive peacefully, they were unwilling to participate in the projects that brought water and food to the 50,000 inhabitants of the city; taking what they needed with violence instead.

The streets of the city were unsafe to wander, as roaming gangs preyed on anyone careless enough to be caught out after dark. During the day, the ringleaders and their followers, barricaded themselves into the high rise office blocks, vacated when the world markets crashed, and financial institutions ceased to exist overnight.

To counter this threat to the lives of the people in their care, the city elders had formed a civilian militia from adults over the age of sixteen who were not employed in other essential work. Each unit was commanded by a six man team from the Cyborg regiment who undertook the training needed for the militia to be effective. This strategy had been partially successful, as even the feral gangs feared the enhanced capabilities of the Cyborgs.

However, the battles for the streets were fierce, especially as the gangs had obtained discarded weapons in the early days following the war, when the city was in chaos.
Until tonight the governing body had thought that they were making progress in clearing the city of this threat to peace. The present riot had begun outside one of the food growing centres that had been established in all the former green areas of the city. Heavy metal fencing and guard towers protected each unit, and the thousands of citizens who would arrive each morning to work the fields and water processing plants above the aquifer deep underground. Workers were unpaid but had identification chips in their arms that entitled them to enough food for themselves and their families.

As the gangs were not eligible for the chips, and the water and food they guaranteed, attacks in the green zones were frequent and often bloody. As work in the processing plants went on day and night, citizens were at increased risk coming and going from work, and cyborg units were stepped up to protect the perimeters of the compounds and in the main streets.

The commander of the cyborg regiment was Colonel Brandon Saks, and he had been the first of the enhanced humans that the implementation team had transformed. He had been a special forces major, on the front line with his team in the final battles of the war. Severely injured, he lost not only his right arm, but also a considerable amount of his rib cage. Robotic prosthetics had already been employed for over fifty years, with military personnel acting as guinea pigs. The advancements in that time had been extraordinary, and confidence was high that continuing the project would save the lives of experienced soldiers who would be needed to survive post war.

As one of the senior surgeons undertaking the ambitious project, Shanda had focused her attention on the progress of the first of their participants; the handsome and stoic Major Saks. This led to a closeness that was not permitted, as fraternisation with patients was strictly forbidden. Over the many months that he was in recovery and re-training, they had fallen in love. They had to keep it secret even when he moved into his role as head of the militia, as technically he was still a participant of the project under her continued care. Five years later they still only met infrequently when their duties permitted, in safe houses dotted around the city.

As she thought about his smile and touch, Shanda buried her head in her hands, knowing with his head injuries he would be lucky to wake up, let alone have his memories intact.She stood, resting her hands on the glass of the gallery, looking down into the operating theatre, to see the lead surgeon stand back from the table and turn away. Brandon was alive, but Shanda could see that he now carried a great deal more metal on his left side, reaching from his chin to his forehead. Clearly there had been no way to reconstruct his face and skull with organic material. It was now a question of time and healing, and they would not know the extent of the brain damage until they woke him from an induced coma.

She walked passed the staff in the dimly lit corridor to the intensive care unit, nodding at the doctor in charge, approaching the raised bed where Brandon lay attached to tubes and monitors. They would expect her to be there, having been part of the team that had completed the original enhancement and worked with him so closely; she sat on a stool and reached out to hold his remaining hand.

The battle to rid the city of the feral gangs raged for the next four weeks. Fuelled by anger, the militia and their cyborg commanders were driven to succeed in honour of their fallen commander. Their orders were not to kill unless unavoidable, but to expel those who had committed violence outside the city walls; to fend for themselves in the wastelands. In some cases however, when brought before the magistrates, younger men and women, who had not participated in the violence of the insurrection, were given the option to join the militia or the food plant workers.

In the intensive care unit, Colonel Saks was considered healed enough to be brought out of his coma and to have his brain damage assessed. Shanda had been at his bedside every minute she was not working, and there were knowing looks between the medical staff at this devotion. But she didn’t care. It was time that everyone knew how she felt about this handsome and extraordinary man, and she would bear the consequences.

She stood in the corner of the room as the surgeon checked the new enhancements one more time for infection or instability. Satisfied he motioned for the sedation to be lightened and watched the monitors as his patient resurfaced into the world again. Shanda closed her eyes and held her breath, convinced that the man she loved was gone from her completely.

Then she heard a sound, and looked up to see that the surgeon had turned to look at her, as had all the medical staff. He was smiling and as her eyes moved to the man lying in the bed; she could see him looking at her, saw his lips moving, and above the rapid beating of her heart, heard him say her name.

©Sally Cronin 2019

About Life’s RichTapestry: Woven in Words.

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

John Maberry – 31st October 2020Reviews of five books we recommend.

My review of Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words, is short. We will add a few lines from the book after the review, for your consideration. 

The book lives up to its title–indeed, Sally Cronin has woven a rich tapestry of life in words of many kinds. A variety of poetry–in forms unfamiliar in name to me, microfiction and short stories. What’s more, the graphic imagery of the short poems is inspiring to a person like me who has never really found poetry either appealing or easily understood. This time, for a change, the words grabbed me. I found meaningful passages that could be useful as well in prose writing as in poetry. Examples I must return to in settings or other places where showing and not telling is essential.

The microfiction and short stories were equally compelling. [As noted in the promo for the book coming up next from Eagle Peak Press, we will consider a combination of ingredients as Sally Cronin did—and more in this book]. She is a writer worth reading.

Here a poetry excerpt (not necessarily representative of the content of the whole):

Memories

“Memories are sharp

and as clear as the blue sky

smiles etched on my heart.”

Or consider this brief excerpt from the intro to a short story titled, “The Junkyard Dog.”

“Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously.”

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK – Amazon US $4.53: Amazon US

A selection of other books

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Sally Cronin, Buy: :Amazon US – and:Amazon UK – Follow Sally:Goodreads – Blog: Smorgasbord InvitationTwitter: @sgc58
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed these stories from Life’s Rich Tapestry.. as always your feedback is much appreciated.. Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Author Updates – #Reviews -#Poetry Miriam Hurdle, #FamilySaga Judith Barrow, #Fantasy, #Paranormal C.S. Boyack


The first review is for award winning poetry collection Songs of the Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude written by Miriam Hurdle.

About  Songs of Heartstrings

Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude depicts a road traveled with optimism, hope and appreciation amid heartache and unpredictable circumstances. It also celebrates genuine love and fulfilling relationships.

The poetry collection includes nine themes: Songs of Nature, Songs of Dissonance, Songs of Physical Healing, Songs of Marriage, Songs of Parenthood, Songs of Tribute, Songs of Reflections, Songs of Challenge, and Songs of Inspiration. Each of these themes covers various aspects of her life experience.

The poems are inspiring to the mind, heart, and spirit. The readers will resonate with these experiences. Hurdle illustrates the poems with her photograph and watercolor paintings.

A recent review for the collection

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 July 2020

What a lovely collection of poetry, photography and paintings. I really enjoyed this poetry collection. Songs of Heartstrings tells the story of the author’s life and the many difficulties she has overcome. It is heartfelt and personal. Miriam Hurdle’s poetry touches upon human frailties: struggling through cancer, learning to love again, rejoicing in the gifts of parenthood, music, exalting in the joy of nature, friendship and the sadness that returns with loss.

There is much that I related to, especially the poems of nature and the sea. Both of which mean a lot to me. It’s clear that Miriam Hurdle takes a great deal of comfort from religion and she shares her faith in her poetry.

The reader is enriched from reading Songs of Heartstrings with a sense of shared reminiscences and a deeper connection. Miriam Hurdle’s poetry is simply that, truthful, personal and real. My recommendation: Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.

Read the reviews and buy the collection also in Spanish and Portuguese: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Read reviews and follow Miriam: Goodreads

Connect to Miriam via her website: The Showers of Blessings

The next author is Judith Barrow with a review for her compelling family drama – The Memory.

About the book

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

The new novel from the bestselling author of the Howarth family saga

One of the recent reviews for the book

HeatherGirl 5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful storytelling  Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 June 2020

Having long been a fan of Judith Barrow’s ‘Mary’ sagas, I was looking forward to ‘The Memory’. It did not disappoint.

The story of Irene and her ‘special’ sister Rose grabs you and pulls you in from the start. It’s a brave writer who tackles the themes of a Downs Syndrome child and the agony of caring for a parent with dementia, but Judith Barrow is utterly convincing. With her masterful eye for telling detail, and her understanding of the complexities of family relationships, Judith Barrow brings this story alive. At first glance, it should be depressing. But it is not. It’s certainly no light read, but all the more satisfying for it. And, without giving any spoilers, it is also a journey of self-discovery that is ultimately uplifting.

‘The Memory’ is another triumph of storytelling from Judith Barrow, one that will stay long in my mind. I’m already looking forward with eager anticipation to her next novel!

Read the reviews and buy the book : Amazon UK

And:  Amazon US

Also by Judith Barrow

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

and: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Judith: Goodreads

Connect to Judith via her blog: Judith Barrow

The final author today is C.S. Boyack with a review Viral Blues

About the book

Someone knows about the hat. The creature from another dimension that helps Lizzie fight against the creatures of darkness.

They are summoned to a cryptic meeting with a secret society, where they meet other people with enhanced skills. It turns out someone, or something, has been tampering with the world’s vaccine supply. The goal doesn’t appear to be political or financial, but biblical pestilence.

Can this group of loners come together in time to make a difference when even the proper authorities are obstacles?

Check out Viral Blues, for your dose of paranormal adventure, with a strong sample of dark humor. And in recent superhero style, don’t miss the secret last chapter after the back material.

A recent review for the book on Goodreads

Jun 09, 2020 Jaye Marie rated it Five Stars

I wasn’t sure about the premise for Viral Blues, considering the state of the planet right now. I thought it might be just a little too close for comfort, but the cast of characters soon grabbed me by my coat tails and pulled me into the story with wonderful enthusiasm!

Such an interesting idea, bringing all your favourite characters together in one book. They all fit together well, apart from the Hat, who has never been a team player but did his level best to rule the roost!

That extra chapter at the end was worthy of being compared to some of Hollywood’s best (and cringe-making) finales. It is extremely well written but nasty in the extreme, but villains should always get their comeuppance, shouldn’t they? And what happened to Danny O’Malley was wonderfully poetic!

Read other reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

A small selection of other books by C.S. Boyack

 Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And :  Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow C.S. Boyack:  Goodreads

Connect to Craig via his blog Cold Hand Boyack

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm.. thanks Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – The Jericho Prophesy- Book One of The Eternal Realm by Fiona Tarr


Delighted to showcase the new release of Fiona Tarr. The Jericho Prophesy is the first book of The Eternal Realm.

About the Book

The battle for divine power rages within the Eternal Realm.

As the conflict escalates a prophecy is born that will set god against god amidst the mortal world below.

When the young priestess Rahab saves two foreigners from execution, she sets in motion a sequence of events that could see the death of everyone she knows and loves.

The future of humanity hangs in the balance as two bloodlines converge to battle over the city of Jericho. Now the Goddess Asherah must protect the prophecy and ensure both ancestral lines survive.

If either bloodline dies, the Host of Heaven will continue to battle for eternity…..

A truly wonderful read with the plot very skillfully woven throughout the book. Claire Simpson

“Great book by a great author!! Definitely a Must Read!!! Ellen Engelbrecht

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CNBWX9F

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CNBWX9F

Universal Book Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/mBMjrp

Also by Fiona Tarr

A recent review for Destiny of Kings – Covenant of Grace Book 1

A mad king bewitched by dark magic!

This story is based on the bible’s story Saul and David. I am not a religious person but loved the way the author told this tale. It was an enjoyable read infused with magic and fantasy.

An intriguing tale told in a different light that kept my interest to the end. The descriptions and overall writing is brilliant with witchcraft’ sins and good vs evil the story is a great fantasy read!

Read all the reviews and buy the books including a box set: https://www.amazon.com/Fiona-Tarr/e/B00KOL7XI2

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fiona-Tarr/e/B00KOL7XI2

Read more reviews and follow Fiona on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8423164.Fiona_Tarr

About Fiona Tarr

My fantasy novels are fast paced, character driven historical stories with strong mystical, spiritual and theological themes mixed with elements of the classic heroic/epic fantasy genre. My writing was first inspired by the heroic fantasy style of David Gemmell, but I have most recently been compared to Traci Harding & Robin Hobb.

I always appreciate legitimate feedback so please don’t forget to review my work when you have read it.

It turns out writing is in the blood. My Great Uncle was George Johnston (My Brother Jack) and although I don’t claim to have his renowned literary style, I do write a mean fantasy novel.

I find culture, faith, philosophy and sociology intriguing and these topics are at the heart of my fantasy.

I live in Noosa, Australia with my husband and two sons and I run a small business involving tourism and watersports. Occasionally I dabble in advocacy, mentoring and spend time on my personal entrepreneurial pursuits. When I am not writing I am either kitesurfing, stand up paddle surfing, travelling or volunteering in some capacity. I love cheese, chocolate and living a creative life.

Connect to Fiona on her website and social media.

Website: http://atime2write.com.au
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/fionatarr.atime2write/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FionaTarr

Thank you for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share the news of Fiona’s new release everywhere.. thanks Sally