Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Friday July 21st – Damyanti Biswas, Nicholas Rossis, Mary Smith and Yoli


Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Welcome to today’s selection of post that I have read that you might find interesting and entertaining.. I would love to share all the posts that I have enjoyed today but you would be here until Christmas….. however, feel free to send me the link to your latest post to sally.cronin@moyhill.com so that I can include.

The first post is by author Damyanti Biswas who is sharing some tips on how to make Blogspot posts more user friendly for readers who would like to share.

I used to blog via Google’s Blogspot, or Blogger, for about 8 years– it ran parallel to this one until last year, when I merged the two blogs into this site. In all those years, I made tons of friends on Blogspot.

I still visit as many of you as I can (never enough, but still), and sometimes I wish I could talk to all you friends on Blogspot, tell you my wish-list as a visitor, commenter, and friend.

Here’s a list of things I’d appreciate from my Blogspot friends in order to make it easier for us to stay in touch: (Some of you have them all covered– this is for those who may not have thought of these points)

  1. Make it easy to follow you: Blogspot doesn’t provide a good follow system any more— have you considered adding a Feedly widget? Here’s a post on how that will help your commenters and followers.
  2. Give us an option to comment via Name/ URL: A lot of Blogspot blogs do not allow a visitor to comment unless they’re logged into Google plus or Blogspot. By allowing the Name/URL option as well as OpenID, you vastly increase the number of bloggers who can easily comment on your posts. Check out how to do this, here. If you’re afraid of spam, you could enable comment moderation!

Read the rest of the sharing tips here: http://www.damyantiwrites.com/2017/07/19/i-need-help-from-my-blogspot-friends/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

The next post to catch my eye was from Nicholas Rossis who has been on a retreat to a Greek Island that has been left largely untouched by modern technology and heaven forbid… Google.. Worth reading for the photographs and the desciptions of pterodactyl seagulls and sandy beaches and also as a test for your own addiction to being online.

If you shuddered and went into a spasm when you heard there was no Internet seek help immediately!

You may have noticed I’ve been unusually silent in the past few days. The reason is that I took a much-needed break to a nearby island, Evia. However, it turned out I had accidentally stumbled upon the land that time forgot: no Internet anywhere—including our hotel and the one café in the area—and a very spotty cell connection that made receiving emails almost impossible.

Head over and view this idyllic getaway and take the test! http://nicholasrossis.me/2017/07/19/the-land-that-time-forgot/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Mary Smith​ shares one of her early posts on caring for her father with Dementia.. following this blog is a must for anyone caring for a parent or as some do, both parents who are experiencing mental illness. You are not alone.. millions now are in the position of carer as their parents live longer lives.  Mary writes with humour and it is clear that she loves her father deeply. However, as dementia takes more of the mind it leaves huge gaps that result in frustrating and sometimes hurful behaviour.. Very tough to remember the man or woman who was when the person they are now do not know who you are.

Here is an extract from the post on My Dad’s a Goldfish

After some time the step-monster announced she thought it would be a good idea if the Goldfish went into the local residential home – “only one day a week so he can have lunch and a shower.” Wee-sis and I were horrified at this thin end of the wedge being shoved in. He’d hate residential care.

Since the dementia started he has become terribly confused – to the point of hallucinating – whenever he’s had to go into hospital, not knowing where he is and not understanding why he is there when we explain he is in hospital. We’ve had some of the most bizarre conversations when the Goldfish has been in hospital. Once, he was convinced the nurses’ station was a bakery and told Wee-sis to go and ask for a cake as they were just about to take one out of the oven. On another occasion he thought he had been taken to a hospital in the north of Scotland for blood tests and had been away overnight. “You’d think they would be able to do the tests here,” he complained, “instead of wasting all that time and petrol to go to Perth.”

Read the rest of this poignant and also informative post about care of someone with dementia: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/my-dads-a-goldfish-going-back/

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

My next post is from Yoly who is a mum to six children, three of whom are fostered. She clearly is very aware of road safety with so many to look after and in this post she recounts a story that illustrates her pet peeve.. dangerous driving.

Everyone has a pet peeve. What is your pet peeve? I’m going to share a funny story of how mine almost got me in trouble with the law.

It was time to take my kids to school. I had to park across the street to drop then off in front of the school. I had to walk with them since they were too young to cross alone. I crossed with them and came back to the car. As I’m in my car, I see this black SUV fly by me. I couldn’t believe how fast she was driving while seeing all these kids running to school because the bell had rung. I was burning inside, I couldn’t let it go.

I decided to follow her to give her a piece of my mind

Find out what happened and how the cops got involved: https://thechallenge2017.blog/2017/07/20/what-is-your-pet-peeve/

Smorgasbord Book Promotion – My book review of No More Mulberries by Mary Smith


I am a reader first and a writer second. However, these days there is not a balance between the two.. I have been intending to read No More Mulberries by Mary Smith for some time and took the opportunity to download during her free offer recently. There are an impressive number of excellent reviews for the book and I knew I was not going to be disappointed.

About the book

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

My Five Star review for No More Mulberries.

First let me say that this book should be made into a film as it has all the ingredients of a action packed love story.

It is visually stunning and I found myself completely involved in the people and locations such as the village of Sang-i- Sia that Mary Smith uses as the backdrop to the unfolding story. Combined with the increasing conflict between the various factions in the region it has an element of danger that brings even more tension to the central theme.

All the characters had wonderful depth and some of the minor personalities stood out for me as well. Including Ismail an old and trusted friend from her previous life in Zardgul and his gentle and wise wife Usma.

There is a love triangle between midwife Miriam, Iqbal her second husband and Jawad her charasmatic first husband who died tragically, and whose death she has not fully come to terms with. Through flashbacks, Mary Smith masterfully takes us through each of their lives, revealing the secrets and events that have brought them to a crisis point in Miriam and Iqbal’s marriage.

I came to admire Miriam who felt out of place in her native Scotland and embraced the cultural differences of living in a small Afghan village with enthusiasm and humour. She does everything she can to be accepted by learning the language and adopting the role of a traditional wife and mother.  Relationships can be daunting at the best of time, but add in the inability to communicate,no running water, basic cooking facilities and harsh extremes of weather in an isolated enviroment, and fortitude is required.

I did sympathise with Iqbal who clearly loves Miriam but finds it very difficult to deal with the ghosts of his past, and the ghost of Jawad who he feels is the third person in their marriage. He wants to be a good father to Farid who was just a toddler when his father died, but Miriam has also been trying to keep the memory of Jawad alive for her son, who is now confused. The light in their marriage however is provided by the delightful little girl, Ruckshana who is unaware of the tension and shines her love on all of them.

This is a complex relationship but the story is written in such a way that you come to understand and empathise with all the players in the drama. Mary Smith brings her extensive experience of living and working in Afghanistan and Pakistan into this story, creating a wonderful tapistry of life, love, danger and redemption.

I highly recommend you read the book.

Read over 130 reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/No-More-Mulberries-Mary-Smith/dp/1849234205

Also by Mary Smith

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith

Connect to Mary via her website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/

If Mary’s book is on your TBR I hope you will read sooner rather than later… and if it is not as yet part of your future, please head over and buy. Thanks Sally

 

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – Mary Smith, Richard Ankers, Charles E. Yallowitz and Robbie Cheadle


It is a bumper edition this week with a FREE offer and three NEW books on the shelves. First Mary Smith whose book set in Afghanistan, No More Mulberries is FREE to download until Sunday 9th of July.

About the book

Set in Afghanistan, British-born Miriam finds her marriage to her Afghan doctor husband heading towards crisis. She has to journey into her past to understand how unresolved issues are damaging her relationship. It is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

One of the 133 reviews for the book.

Recommended!  on March 26, 2015

Miriam is a midwife and left her native Scotland to marry an Afghan after waiting a year to seek approval from his parents. Their love prevailed and they had a son, Farid, together. When Miriam goes back to Scotland to visit her father she receives the devastating news her husband, Jawad, has died. She can’t go back as a single woman but Afghanistan is the home of her heart and she wants to help its people. When she meets an Afghan doctor, Iqbal, who needs a wife she finds herself thinking that the ways of an arranged marriage with common interests and goals at its core isn’t such a bad way to start a marriage. She also wants her son to know his homeland and so she marries her doctor and they set off on a new life where she looks forward to helping him run his clinic in his poor village.

However, customs, traditions and culture can not be so easily ignored. Even though they have a daughter, Ruckshana, together, and he seemed to be less inclined to follow strict Islamic traditions when they met, once he is surrounded by rural life again saving face becomes his priority. Or so she thinks. Iqbal’s own past and fears catch up with him and, in the shadow of Jawad’s ghost, he falters.

This novel is chock full of Afghanistan culture and is an absolutely brilliant read. It really is hard to believe this is a debut novel. Educational as well as entertaining from a fictional point of view, Mary Smith shares her unique perspective on the politics, culture and people of Afghanistan brought about by her years working in the area. The sights and sounds of the country come alive in this tale and I was engrossed from the start. This is a book which makes you think and also, if you look deeper, gives you answers to questions we ask when faced with a culture which is so different to our own. Mary Smith brought the country of Afghanistan alive for me in a way no news article could ever do.

Download your copy of No More Mulberries FREE until Sunday: https://www.amazon.com/No-More-Mulberries-Mary-Smith/dp/1849234205

Also by Mary Smith

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith

Connect to Mary via her website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/

The next author celebrating not just the release of his latest books but fantastic new covers of his other two books, is Richard Ankers whose third book in The Eternals Series was published this week.

About the book

Queen Serena and her allies have fled the Nordic massacre, taking Princess Linka with them. For Jean, it’s heartbreak; for Merryweather and the abandoned Aurora, far worse. Not even the return of a broken Prince Grella and a dramatic escape from an obliterated Hvit softens the blow of their loss. Tempers flare and the pursuit resumes.

Leaving the Arctic ice behind, Jean and the others must reconcile with both current and past deaths, as they close in on the Baltic home of the hated Duke Gorgon. Here, their enemies gather and confrontation is inevitable.

Under Merryweather’s frustrating tutelage, Jean marches from one infuriating revelation to another, but as the lies unravel and the truth unfurls, he discovers the Britannian is not the fool he’s taken him for. The enigmatic Merryweather appears the key to the greatest mystery of all. But will he ever show his true colors?

In the stunning climax to The Eternals Series, a brooding Jean must do what he’s never done before: place his trust in others. For only at the end of all things, as the sun dies and Shangri-La falls, will Jean know what it means to step Into Eternity.

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Into-Eternity-Eternals-Book-3-ebook/dp/B073PT8XYR

Also by Richard Ankers

A recent review for Hunter Hunted, Book Two of the Eternal Series.

Having thoroughly enjoyed my initial foray into author Richard Ankers unique vision of a futuristic vampire tale brimming with gothic imagery, steampunk ingenuity, and engaging, well-developed characters; I was eager to immerse myself yet again into the shifting landscapes of Earths far distant future. Told in first-person voice by the lead character who is neither grotesque vampire nor human, Eternal Lord Jean relates his tale through a seductive combination of cynical mirth and revealing honesty.

In this second installment of the distinctive trilogy that seamlessly pairs a vampire tale with dystopian, sci-fi and steampunk elements, Jean finds himself in the legendary city of Hvit, home to the incomparable Nordic Royalty: Albino Eternals who live amid the wastes of the Arctic in a close-knit community and unexpected brutality. Jean quickly discovers how valuable any alliance with the Nordics can be, particularly the newly introduced, mysterious Nordic Princess Aurora.

For me, the graceful, immensely powerful, often stoic Nordics ‘stole the show’. I found myself repeatedly reading the passages that described their super-human (and even super-vampiric) capabilities; their enigmatic home deep in the ice of the Arctic plain, and their shocking hunting prowess. Nordic Prince Grella became an immediate favourite, as his brooding personality and unpredictability left me eager to know more about him.
Jean’s quest to understand the truth about those who try to manipulate him, as well as the truth of his own life, leads him full circle, which is as metaphorically ingenious as it is compelling reading. I highly recommend delving into this little-know gem of a tale!

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Richard-M.-Ankers/e/B01GEM7690

Follow Richard Ankers on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15271976.Richard_M_Ankers

Connect to Richard via his bloghttps://richardankers.com/

The next author with a new book is Charles Yallowitz with The Life and Times of Ichabod Brooks. Enter the world of Windemere with 11 action adventure short stories featuring a man who is out to make an honest living.

About the book

Some heroes seek fame. Some seek fortune. Others simply want to save the world. Ichabod Brooks only wants to put food on the table for his family.

Known and respected as the man who can get any job done, Ichabod has seen his share of adventure. Most of which have been highly exaggerated by bards. Still, the man has his famous reputation for a reason. Whether it be climbing a temperamental mountain for eggs or escorting orphans to their new homes, Ichabod takes every job seriously and makes sure he is as prepared as he can be. Not that it helps since things always take a turn for the worse.

Two of the early reviews

What a great collection of short stories! Ichabod is an interesting character that has many years of adventuring under his belt. I liked the different fantasy creatures the author came up with and the flow of the stories. I really think Ichabod’s wife needs her own set of stories though and after you read these you will see why. Creative stories, fun adventures and smart writing. I hope there are more of these books to come. Recommended to anyone that loves fantasy adventures.

This is a fun collection of short stories involving my favorite Windemere character. Ichabod has to test his skills against monsters, competitors, devious employers, and false employers, all while keeping his loyalties to his family at the forefront.

I love short story collections, and recommend this one fully. I was provided an advance copy of this book with no anticipation of a review.

Buy a copy of the book: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Times-Ichabod-Brooks-ebook/dp/B073NR7XK

A selection of books also by Charles E. Yallowitz.

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Charles-E-Yallowitz/e/B00AX1MSQA

Read more reviews and follow Charles on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6965804.Charles_E_Yallowitz

 Connect to Charles via his blog –  www.legendsofwindemere.com

Time to end on a sweet note with the latest children’s book by Robbie Cheadle. Silly Willy goes to Capetown also contains the recipe for five fun party cakes.  Bake and Write are the key words.

About the book

When the George family go on holiday to Cape Town, Cautious Craig cannot believe what he has to endure at the hands of his naughty and wilful younger brother, Silly Willy, Willy throws tantrums at the most embarassing and inappropriate times, causes a commotion on the aeroplane and tries to steal a chameleon from Butterfly World. What is a poor older brother to do in these situations.

Buy the book and bake the cakes: https://www.amazon.com/Silly-Willy-Goes-Cape-Adventures/dp/1911070770

The latest review for Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Dough Bees story and cookbook

Who could not pick up Robbie and Michael Cheadle’s story-and-baking book, Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Dough Bees Story and Cookbook (TSL Publications 2017) after reading this blurb:

“A greedy snail damages the flower fields and the fondant bees are in danger of starving. Join Sir Chocolate on an adventure to find the fruit drop fairies who have magic healing powers and discover how to make some of his favourite foods on the way.”

This is a fun poetic story about the adventures of Sir Chocolate interspersed with wonderful recipes parents and kids create together–foods like Cheesy Bread and Butter Biscuits–accompanied by cute real-life pictures of the sugar dough creations, I have never seen a book that blended recipes and reading. How clever is that! Kids love cooking with parents, and now they can blend that with a favorite pastime: reading.

One more note: Robbie and Michael are mother-and-son. Not only will kids be inspired to cook with parents, but write and publish a book.

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ

Connect to Robbie and Michael at their blog: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Thank you for dropping in today and if you are an author on the shelves of the bookstore then please let me know if you have a new release, great review or an offer. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

If you would like to join these authors and more than 200 others on the shelves of the bookstore then please take a look at what I need to showcase your work.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore/

Smorgasbord Poetry – Water God by Mary Smith


I am delighted to welcome Mary Smith today with her poem Water God from her collection Thousands Pass here Every Day. The poem is dedicated to her son and a reminder of his childhood.

WATER GOD
(To David)

Sun-gleam on wet bronze limbs,
seal sleek you slip
into the deepest pool.
From the rocks I watch,
afraid of your fearlessness,
breath held as brown water
closes over you.
Surfacing, you laugh,
a careless toss of your head
scattering miniature rainbows –
my water god of the Otter Pool.

Other children splash,
playing safe
in sun-warmed shallows.
Their mothers silently question
my carelessness of you.
They do not know
how deep the fear,
how powerless
the mother of a deity
who believes he’s indestructible –
my water god of the Otter Pool.

©MarySmith 2017

Two reviews for the collection

This is a poetry collection you will want to keep going back to. Mary Smith’s work is subtle and delicate, possessing a quiet, sure strength. The poems are well crafted but never over-written, a difficult balance to get right. Many of the poems have a quiet magic with wonderfully understated effects. The book also has a wide range of subjects, moods and forms so there is much variety and the reader is continually stimulated with fresh insights and discoveries. Highly recommended.

This is a wonderful first collection by Mary Smith. I know her work as a novelist through her novel No More Mulberries and I was delighted to find she has included several poems about Afghanistan. These poems provide vivid snapshots of life and landscapes and of a people who come across as resilient and life affirming despite the war.

She writes, too, about her native Scotland, in particular the wonderful wild landscape of Dumfries & Galloway and she explores themes of memory and identity, drawing on her own childhood experiences. Whether writing about the small boys in Afghanistan who, with their flocks of sheep, `helter-skelter down a mountainside/in a cloud of dust’; losing a parent to dementia; Afghan women laughing at her lack of education; or Glasgow’s Ramshorn Kirkyard where `the dead draw us in, entice the living/to consider past lives’ Mary Smith brings a warmth and compassion to her work.

Some of the poems, like the very amusing `Erratic’ and `Smeddum’ are in Scots, though most are in English, in this collection which readers will want to dip into time and time again.  

Read the reviews and buy the collection: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thousands-Pass-Here-Every-Day/dp/1907401911

Other books by Mary Smith

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Read more reviews and follow Mary Smith on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Connect to Mary on her blogs and social media.

Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Website:www.marysmith.co.uk
Blog: https://takefiveauthors.wordpress.com/mary-smith/
Blog: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/

My thanks to Mary for her contribution to the poetry posts and if you would like to share one of your poems then please email me at sally.cronin@moyhill.com

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Short Story Festival and weekly round up – and The Mummy!


Welcome to a slightly shorter round-up this week as I get back into the swing of things after my weekend in London.  You can read all about the day at the 3rd Annual #BloggersBash in my post earlier today: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/thebloggersbash-2017-time-to-turn-virtual-hugs-into-real-ones/ and I hope that next year more of you will be able to join the party.

David came with me for the weekend and we flew by City Jet into London City Airport and if you are travelling to spend the weekend in London then I can recommend this as an airport. Small and easy to navigate and there is a Docklands Light Railway station that links to Bank station and Central line into the heart of the City.

We opted to stay at the Travelodge which to be honest is cheap and cheerful. But we reckoned we were only going to sleep there and at the weekend the airport is on restricted hours meaning you can get some sleep! They were very friendly and the rooms are fine and economical. We spent what we would have on accommodation at central London rates on eating out during our stay… and perhaps the odd G&T!.

Friday night was very nostalgic. We both worked in the Docklands from 1987 to 1996 and when we first started Canary Wharf was still a hole in the ground. The amount of construction in the last twenty years is astonishing and we barely recognised the place. The year that I left to move to another part of the company, a floating Chinese Restaurant opened in the wharf where our office was based. The Lotus is like a paddle steamer and so 22 years after my leaving lunch.. we enjoyed a feast for two… including our favourites Crispy Duck and some Sake…

On Saturday we split up and David headed off to see his brother and family and I headed off to the hugfest in Central London.We had booked to eat at Zedel’s Brasserie in Piccadilly Circus after the #BloggersBash but David sent me a text to get a cab to The Cafe Royale where we downed a couple of G&Ts before heading off to eat.

The weather was sweltering all weekend but we had pre-booked tickets to see The Mummy and after a lengthy walk around Marble Arch and Oxford Street we retired to the air conditioned Odeon.

To be honest I would only give The Mummy 6 out of 10. The movie had some great stunts and special effects but they were linked with a very suspect script. It was not Tom Cruise’s finest work and Russell Crowe spent most of his time mumbling into his beard with a dodgy English accent. The Mummy herself however did a pretty good acting job!  If you like action with little plot then it is worth going to see.

We were not up with the lark but with the first plane taking off at 7.00 on Monday morning. We had breakfast in the airport and a pleasant hour long flight back to Dublin where thankfully we remembered which row we had left the car in at the long term carpark! It was a great weekend with plenty of highlights and I do have one tip for you if you are going to London for sightseeing and are going to use public transport of any kind. Buy an Oyster Card online before you go (can take a while to get to you) or buy at a station. This will save you at least half on your fares and you can use on the Docklands Light Railway, Underground and buses. https://oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/entry.do

I will be updating the directories with all of last week’s posts but I wanted to mention the wonderful writers who took care of Smorgasbord while I was off gallivanting. The Short Story Competition was a huge success and I must also thank Paul Andruss for providing his usual fantastic post on Friday morning.

For those of you who missed the finale of The Stevie Wonder story with William Price King here is the link.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/william-price-king-meets-some-legends-stevie-wonder-highlights-from-the-last-20-years/

You will find links to all the contributors blogs and social media in their individual stories and if you missed.. here they are.

Thanks to Paul Andruss, Sheila Williams, John Howell, Phillip T. Stephens, Mary Smith, Wendy Janes and Robbie and Michael Cheadle. 

You will also find three of my stories from my previous collection and hope you enjoy.

Thomas the RhymerFrankenstein

Paul Andruss with the background to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/writer-in-residence-frankenstein-by-paul-andruss/

Boy with a Harmonica

Sheila Williams with a story set in France during World War II with a supernatural twist.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/smorgasbord-short-stories-festival-9th-12th-june-boy-with-a-harmonica-france-1943-by-sheila-williams/

Albert

Sally Cronin –  Meet a man who was the perfect candidate for the job set in the near future.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-june-12th-june-albert-the-perfect-candidate-by-sally-cronin/

Saturday 10th June.

The Matmakers

Geoff Cronin – As a boy Geoff befriends the travellers who come to the beach near his home every summer.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/the-black-bitch-and-other-tales-the-matmakers-by-geoff-cronin/

The World Darkly

John Howell with a story that makes you rethink your approach to finding lost property!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-the-world-darkly-by-john-w-howell/

The Last Emperor

Sally Cronin with a story of redemption and loyalty in the Magic Garden.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-tales-from-the-garden-the-last-emperor-by-sally-cronin/

Sunday 11th June

Flinches

Geoff Cronin explains the old country ways of bird catching.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/the-black-bitch-and-other-tales-serialisation-flinches-by-geoff-cronin/

Search and Seizure

Phillip T. Stephens with a futuristic look at border and customs control.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-search-and-seizure-by-phillip-t-stephens/

From Hackney to Hollywood

Wendy Janes takes us on the trail to stardom from Shakespeare in Hackney to the chat show sofa in Hollywood.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-from-hackney-to-hollywood-by-wendy-janes/

Monday 12th June

The health benefits of laughter and an invitation to join the academy with your favourite jokes, videos or images.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/smorgasbord-health-2017-laughter-the-best-medicine-the-health-benefits-and-the-laughter-academy/

Sir Chocolate and the Stolen Moon and Stars

Robbie and Michael Cheadle bring us another adventure story starring Sir Chocolate in verse and also Michael’s original concept for the tale.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-sir-chocolate-and-the-stolen-moon-and-stars-by-robbie-and-michael-cheadle/

Trouble with Socks

Mary Smith with a story of how simple things can become very important to us.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-trouble-with-socks-by-mary-smith/

Elaine

Sally Cronin with the story of a woman planning to surprise her husband on his birthday.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/smorgasbord-short-story-festival-9th-12th-june-elaine-by-sally-cronin/

 

My thanks for all your support during the week and over the weekend. Sally

Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th – 12th June – Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith


The first short story today as part of this celebration is by Mary Smith from her upcoming short story collection due out later this year. We all have trouble with socks, especially when one of a pair goes walkabout. In this story there is a bigger issue than just one missing sock.

Trouble with Socks by Mary Smith

I’m glad it’s nearly bedtime. It’s been one of those days – the kind that make you wish you’d not bothered getting out of bed in the first place.

Can you believe it, it was a pair of socks which caused the trouble? I was sitting in my room holding them when Margaret came in, clucking and fussing because I hadn’t put them on – telling me I’d get my ‘tootsies’ cold. Considered pointing out I’m fifty-two, not a toddler of two, but sarcasm’s wasted on Margaret. Instead, I explained I hadn’t put the socks on because they weren’t mine. They’d brought the wrong ones back from the laundry. Not, I might add, for the first time either. Today was the third time.

Trouble with Margaret is she never stops to listen. She’s an auxiliary here – a support worker. Been here for twelve years, she told me the day I arrived. She came into to my room to “help me settle” and fill in some kind of admission form. “Now, Mr. Kirkpatrick, what would you like to be called while you’re here – d’you want the full Mr Kirkpatrick bit, or George, or even sir?” She gave a giggle at the sir to show she was joking. I said I’d like to be called George. “Right you are, my darling,” she said.

“My name’s George.”

“Yes, my darling, I know. It’s written it down here on your form.” It was downhill ever since then, really.

Anyway, while I’m pointing out she’d given me someone else’s socks; she asked if I have a problem getting them on. I repeated they weren’t my socks. I did one of these assertiveness training courses once. There’s an exercise called the ‘broken record’ where you just keep repeating the same thing over and over again until the other person gets the message. Only I don’t think our assertiveness trainer had ever come up against someone like Margaret.

Before she finally realised that I was telling her they weren’t my bloody socks, she’d told me that I only had to ask if I needed help in putting them on, commented on what a nice colour they were and assured me, twice, that they were ‘nice and clean’.

It was the ‘bloody’ that got through I think. “Now, now, darling,” she said, “we don’t need language.” Thought about asking how else we were going to communicate – but decided not to confuse the issue since I felt I’d made a breakthrough. She’d got the message.
Triumph was short-lived. She said, “Well, no one else has complained about getting the wrong socks. Why don’t you just keep them, darling?”

By this time I was beginning to feel I am a two-year-old: one that’s about to have a tantrum. This is what I’d been afraid of before coming in here – not the tantrums – being treated like a child, being made dependent on others for everything. I wanted to go straight home from hospital, but they said I needed to gain some weight first, build up my strength. Said I couldn’t manage on my own.

I admit I’d lost a lot of weight when I was ill – some of it in hospital. The food wasn’t great and it was so hot and stuffy I felt I couldn’t breathe most of the time. I couldn’t wait to get out and back home. Trouble is my wee cottage is a few miles out of town and up a farm track and they said it would be difficult to find carers to come out to me. I told them I have friends who would help out but it was clear my choice was to remain in hospital (bed-blocking) or move into a care home for a few weeks.

Apparently I was lucky to get a place in this nursing home – supposed to be the best in the area. God help those in the other places is all I can say.

I managed to stop myself from stamping my feet and told Margaret I didn’t want to keep the socks because I wanted my own. “Are you really quite sure, my darling, that these aren’t your socks?” she said, “I mean, well, how can you tell, with not being able to see?”

Refrained – just – from telling her it’s my sight I’ve lost, not my marbles. Explained how my socks feel different because they are cotton, not acrylic. I’m allergic to acrylic – my legs swell up if I wear man-made fibres. I toyed with the idea of pointing out that even without my sight there are lots of things they would probably prefer I didn’t notice. I can hear perfectly well and sense movements. But I didn’t want to embarrass her. I know Margaret wouldn’t dream of hitching her skirt up to her waist so she can adjust her tights if she thought I could ‘see’ what she’s doing. And that other one, Susie – she’s forever fiddling inside her bra.

It was only because Margaret was determined to have my ‘tootsies’ covered up before she took me into the lounge – after all a member of the public might be there and talk about residents not being properly dressed – that made her go off to search for my socks.

They gave me the wrong jumper once. It only came to my waist and the sleeves stopped at my elbows – felt like the Incredible Hulk or something. Had a hell of a job getting it off. I can cope with some mistakes – everyone makes mistakes sometimes – but there’s something faintly repellent about wearing someone else’s socks. Socks are kind of personal aren’t they? Even when they’re ‘nice and clean’ as Margaret insists.

While I waited for her to come back, I puzzled over why it’s so difficult to get the right clothes back to the right owners – and why the staff can’t seem to see why it matters to us. Hanging on to the few bits of dignity left to us – dressing in our own clothes – becomes really important. I dread the day might come when I’d have to be in residential care permanently. Just put me to sleep, please.

Margaret came puffing back with a pair of socks – my socks. “There’s no elastic in them, George darling,” she says. “D ’you want me to mend them?”

I told her I’d taken the elastic out myself because they were cutting into my ankles. Then we had a tussle over who should put them on. She gave up just as I was about to throw myself on the floor in a rage. If you’re treated like a child, you start to behave like one. So, leaving me to it, very reluctantly – I know they like to think they’re being helpful – she went out. Off to drag some other poor sod along to the lounge for morning coffee, as they like to call it. More like morning dishwater, if you ask me – which they don’t. I drink it anyway, with plenty of sugar and I eat the biscuits – at least three. I’m determined to put weight on as fast as I can. At home I can make coffee the way I like it and I’ll never find anyone else’s socks in my drawer – nor have to sit in a room making polite conversation to a bunch of strangers.

I heard Margaret’s voice outside my room when she came back to collect me. I could picture her making a face in the direction of my door because the other one – might have been Susie – asked, “What’s he rabbiting on about today?”

I heard Margaret reply, “His bleedin’ socks.” Felt like calling out, “Language, Margaret, darling.” But I didn’t.

There is a point beyond which it’s best not to go. Forget the wrong socks – it would probably be old Mr Jones’s underpants tomorrow. Now, that would be really gross, wouldn’t it?

©MarySmith 2017

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Books by Mary Smith

And two Local History books

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Read more reviews and follow Mary on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith

Connect to Mary on her blogs and social media.

Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Website:www.marysmith.co.uk http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/mary-smith/
Blogs:http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/ and   https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

My thanks to Mary for letting us have a taste of her new short story collection and please do share across your own networks.  Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories Festival – 9th to 12th June – The programme of events.


As you may have already heard there is a #BloggersBash going on in London this weekend and having been unable to go the last two years, I am delighted to be heading off tomorrow.

As usual when taking a break I invited some guest writers to contribute their fiction short stories to keep you entertained while I was offline. And I am very grateful to Sheila Williams, John Howell, Phillip T. Stephens, Wendy Janes, Mary Smith and Robbie and Michael Cheadle for their wonderful tales.

There will  also be the regular posts from Paul Andruss and the start of the serialisation of Geoff Cronin’s second book written when he was 84 years old with more stories of life in Ireland in the 1920s onwards.

On Monday morning I have also scheduled a health post and an introduction to a new series.. The health benefits of laughter and the Smorgasbord Laughter Academy.

The Programme – Friday 9th June

Thomas the Rhymer

Frankenstein

Paul Andruss with the background to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Boy with a Harmonica

Sheila Williams with a story set in France during World War II with a supernatural twist.

Albert

Sally Cronin –  Meet a man who was the perfect candidate for the job set in the near future.

Saturday 10th June.

The Matmakers

Geoff Cronin – As a boy Geoff befriends the travellers who come to the beach near his home every summer.

The World Darkly

John Howell with a story that makes you rethink your approach to finding lost property!

The Last Emperor

Sally Cronin with a story of redemption and loyalty in the Magic Garden.

Sunday 11th June

Flinches

Geoff Cronin explains the old country ways of bird catching.

Search and Seizure

Phillip T. Stephens with a futuristic look at border and customs control.

From Hackney to Hollywood

Wendy Janes takes us on the trail to stardom from Shakespeare in Hackney to the chat show sofa in Hollywood.

Monday 12th June

The health benefits of laughter and an invitation to join the academy with your favourite jokes, videos or images.

Sir Chocolate and the Stolen Moon and Stars

Robbie and Michael Cheadle bring us another adventure story starring Sir Chocolate in verse and also Michael’s original concept for the tale.

Trouble with Socks

Mary Smith with a story of how simple things can become very important to us.

Elaine

Sally Cronin with the story of a woman planning to surprise her husband on his birthday.

I am sure you will enjoy the stories from my guest authors, and as I shall be offline completely for the weekend from tomorrow, I will catch up with you on Monday evening. 

As I will not be here to click the share buttons.. I would be very grateful if you would do so for me.  Thanks Sally.

 

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – Mary Smith, Steve Boseley and D. Wallace Peach


Welcome to the Cafe and Bookstore update and hot off the press we have a new book by Mary Smith written with Allan Devlin. Castle Douglas Through Time records the town’s history in a series of old and new photographs. The gathering place for tourists exploring this beautiful part of Scotland.

NEWSFLASH – Mary was my guest on Saturday in the interactive interview series Book Reading at the Cafe.  After reading this I am sure that you will have even more questions for Mary and she would love to receive them.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/18/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-book-reading-at-the-cafe-and-interview-with-mary-smith/

About the book

The market town of Castle Douglas, beside Carlingwark Loch in the southern Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway, is relatively new, though the area has been inhabited from prehistoric times and the Romans had a military base close by. In the fourteenth century, Archibald the Grim, the 3rd Earl of Douglas, built Threave Castle nearby.

The town came into being thanks to fertiliser found in the loch and wealthy merchant William Douglas, who laid out the present town in 1792. Though his dream of creating a cotton industry failed, Castle Douglas became a flourishing market town. The opening of the rail line to Dumfries in 1859 improved the town’s connections.

Though the railway closed in 1965, the A75 trunk road ensured the town’s survival as a major stopping point for travellers. Today, it is a major tourist destination, with many visitors using it as a base for exploring this beautiful part of Scotland. All these changes are recorded in this unique and fascinating series of new and old photographs, making this book essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Castle Douglas.

Buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Castle-Douglas-Through-Time-Smith/dp/1445659697

Also in the local history series

One of the reviews for the book

This is a lovely and very absorbing book and one that I’ll keep going back to. Mary Smith does a superb job with her succinct commentaries on the photos, written with a deft and light touch, while Allan Devlin’s present day shots are vivid and arresting, contrasting with the sepia tones of the older photographs, many of which were taken in Victorian and Edwardian times. I feel I have learned a lot more about Dumfries and its surrounding areas from reading the book and it has whetted my appetite to explore the town more than I already have. You don’t have to live in Dumfries and Galloway or know the town of Dumfries to enjoy this book. It is fascinating in itself and hopefully will prove an enticement for people who have never visited Dumfries to do so.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dumfries-Through-Time-Allan-Devlin/dp/1445637677

Also by Mary Smith

 

 Read the reviews and buy all the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Connect to Mary via her website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/

Steve Boseley has re-issued his mystery thriller, Die, Blossom, Bloom with a brand new cover.

 A pensioner with a newfound love of gardening, TED HARRIS is haunted by the memories of his wife’s death. A regular competitor in the village ‘In Bloom’ competition, GERALDINE BUTLER-THOMPSON is keen to put Ted down at any opportunity, and is more than happy to share her thoughts on his garden. As Ted’s life with his wife is revealed, we get a glimpse into the love that they shared, before things started to go wrong.

The choices that he made haunt him still, and Butler-Thompson pushes him to reveal more than he is willing to, leading to a showdown with JORDAN, Butler-Thompson’s grandson. This confrontation pushes Ted towards what he sees as an inevitable conclusion, and a final showdown with Butler-Thompson. The annual ‘Haverly in Bloom’ competition is the backdrop for this thrilling tale of love, murder and suspicion that is sure to leave you horrified.

The latest review for the book

A gripping look at the flowery passions and life in an idyllic English village that seems like it’s straight out of Midsomer Murders. When I read the first few chapters, I had to look up Boseley – and specifically his age, as his portrayal of the elderly hero’s daily struggles were so convincing that I felt certain Boseley himself would be in his 70s, or even older.

Even though the story starts with a killing, its true meaning only gradually appears in a masterful narration that soon turns surprisingly dark. Too dark, perhaps, for some readers, as this is not a novella for the squeamish. The pace picks up and soon readers find themselves in the uncomfortable position of rooting not for the “good” guys but for the murderer. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say I wish it were different.

Based on Die Blossom Bloom, I’ll be reading Boseley’s second book soon.

Buy the new edition: https://www.amazon.com/Die-Blossom-Bloom-Steve-Boseley-ebook/dp/B01DFNN35C

 Also by Steve Boseley

 

Buy all the books: https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Boseley/e/B01DHXE01G

Connect to Steve via his website:  http://www.authorsteveboseley.com

Then next featured author is D. Wallace Peach with her latest release which is Catling’s Bane Book 1 of the Rose Shield Tetralogy… a blend of science fiction and fantasy.

About the Rose Shield Tetralogy

Welcome to a world of three moons, a sentient landscape, rivers of light, and tier cities that rise from the swamps like otherworld flowers. A planet of waterdragons, where humans are the aliens living among three-fingered natives with spotted skin. Where a half-blood converses with the fog and the goddess plans her final reckoning.

Follow Catling’s journey as she grows from childhood into the deadly force that shapes the future. She is the realm’s shield, an influencer, assassin, healer, mother, and avenger. And all she wants is to go home.

The books of The Rose Shield Tetralogy – Catling’s Bane – Oathbreakers’ Guild –
Farlanders’ Law – Kari’s Reckoning –

Books 2,3 and 4 are available on Pre- Order and you can read more about the series and follow the links to Amazon from here: https://mythsofthemirror.com/2017/03/17/the-rose-shield-catlings-bane-is-live/

About Book 1 – Catling’s Bane

In the tiers of Ellegeance, the elite Influencers’ Guild holds the power to manipulate emotions. Love and fear, pain and pleasure, healing and death mark the extremes of their sway, but it’s the subtle blends that hook their victims’ hearts. They hide behind oaths of loyalty and rule the world.

A child born in the grim warrens beneath the city, Catling rues the rose birthmark encircling her eye. Yet, it grants her the ability to disrupt the influencers’ sway. Established methods of civil control disintegrate before her. She’s a weapon desired by those who reign and those who rebel.

To the Influencer’s Guild, she’s an aberration, a threat. They order her death and thus the betrayals begin. One woman protects and trains her, plotting to use her shield to further imperial goals. No longer a helpless child, Catling has other plans. As chaos shakes the foundations of order and rule, will she become the realm’s savior? Or its executioner?

One of the early reviews

D. Wallace Peach creates an utterly original, lush and cohesive world inhabited by well-developed and multi-dimensional characters we instantly care about (even the minor ones), all the more so as the plot unfolds. And what a plot it is — no copycat fiction or cliche devices here. The concept of “influence” as an accepted part of life is not only entertaining but thought provoking; and the author’s attention to detail on how influence works grabs hold and will thrill true high fantasy readers who value intelligent rationale for magic. All I can say is … prepare to lose some sleep over this one. And the final chapter leads to a cliffhanger that will leave readers desperate for Book II.

I am a lifelong reader of fantasy, and out of what I’d guess to be nearly 1,000 books read to date, this book series is in my top five. Catling’s Bane is easily on par with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle series), Karen Miller (the “Mage” series) and Glenda Larke (Stormlord series). I’m confident that many readers will, like me, add this one to their top shelf.

Buy Book 1 – Catling’s Bane: https://www.amazon.com/Catlings-Bane-Rose-Shield-Book-ebook/dp/B06XK3PCRZ

Also by D. Wallace Peach

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Connect to Diana through her website: https://mythsofthemirror.com/

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Reading at the Cafe and interview with Mary Smith


Sally's Cafe and Bookstore

Very excited to have author, blogger and friend Mary Smith here today for a book reading and interview. This has been a special week for Mary with the release on Thursday of her latest local history book, Castle Douglas Through Time. The second in the series with her first Dumfries Through Time, both co-written with Allan Devlin. The book will be featured in the Cafe and Bookstore update on Monday 20th March

Mary spent over ten years living and working in Afghanistan and Pakistan and her highly acclaimed book No More Mulberries has received 90 reviews.

Please remember that this is an interactive interview and Mary is welcoming questions about her life and work in the comments section. Mary is busy promoting her new book but will be available later over the weekend to answer them.

But first a little bit about Mary Smith.

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

About No More Mulberries

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.

When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.

Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.

The latest review for the book

Having travelled through villages in Iran in the 1960’s and visited villages in the North of India, I have some idea of what cultural differences Miriam, the protagonist of this novel, is facing.

The book opens in a village in Afghanistan, with her sharing a lifestyle of limited freedom with her doctor husband, Iqbal. Being a qualified midwife from Scotland, she helps him in the clinic they work in. Slowly, through flashbacks, Mary Smith reveals that her first love was Jawad whom she met in Scotland where he was a student, whom she wanted to marry and was given a year’s separation by his family before they were allowed to marry. In this time she became a Muslim by choice. Later on a visit to Scotland with her son Farid, she is notified that Jawadhad been killed by locals. She is devastated, wants to return to Afghanistan and finally marries Iqbal without love.

All mayhem breaks out when Jeanine, their boss demands that Miriam comes to a month’s clinic at Charkoh. Iqbal is threatened by the loss of his wife for a month as Charkoh is where Jawad was killed and because he loses status in the local community by allowing his wife the freedom to attend.

The interplay of Western and Eastern values is sensitively handled by the author and makes for fascinating reading. The background of local politics and the Taliban cruelty is sufficiently introduced with overtaking the story of Miriam’s personal growth.The reader learns about local customs regarding rights of women and contraception.

What I enjoyed most of all was the conflicts between Eastern and Western values which unravel to reveal the essential humanity of all the characters.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-More-Mulberries-Mary-Smith-ebook/dp/B005RRDZ12

Also by Mary Smith

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Now it is time to turn the post over to Mary with and I am sure that you will have many more questions that you would like to ask her.  Please leave them in the comments.

Welcome Mary and congratulations on the new book…

Tell us about your chosen genre of books that you write and why?

Hah! Good question, Sally. I write contemporary women’s fiction, memoir, poetry and local history. One day, I may finally settle for one genre over another but I am enjoying doing different things and not being pinned down.

What genre do you read and who are your favourite authors?

As with my writing, I’m not pinned down to any reading only one genre. I’ve loved all Kate Atkinson’s books and wish she’d do another featuring Jackson Brodie because I’m totally in love with him. I’ve just finished A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart and When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (a neurosurgeon who died of lung cancer, aged 37 and whose wife completed the book). I’ve enjoyed everything Terry Tyler has written – she has such a distinctive style. The book I’m reading now is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

What are your plans for 2017 for your books and blog?

This month, Amberley Publishing has published my second local history book, Castle Douglas Through Time. This is a picture-led book done in collaboration with photographer Allan Devlin with old images of places in and around the town paired with ‘today’ photos and accompanying captions.

I have a very slim collection of short stories currently with an editor and I hope to have that out in the not too distant future.

My main project for 2017 is to convert my blog, My Dad is a Goldfish, into a memoir. I started writing the blog when I moved in with dad who had dementia. Many people have said they enjoy it, find it helpful, especially as I tell it like it is, and have asked about a book. It’s proving more difficult to restructure the blog material into book material than I expected but I’ll get there. I hope it will come out this year.

Oh, and I also want to start a new blog. I share a blog with four other writers and I have my Goldfish one but I can’t really re-blog other bloggers’ posts on those. I’d like a blog in which I can part in some of the things that go on in the blogging community – flash fiction or poetry prompts, interviews, what I see on walks and, as Sue Vincent put it, “somewhere we can blether.” So, watch this space!

Your life was anything but ordinary Mary. Did you find it difficult to adjust when you returned to Scotland after ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan and what stands out in your mind as being particular daunting?

I found it incredibly difficult to adjust to life back in Scotland. I never experienced culture shock when I went to Pakistan – I suppose because I expected everything to be different. Coming home was when culture shock hit. I was so giddy in the supermarket, so seduced by all the wonderful array of ready meals that I piled my trolley. I can’t remember what I ‘cooked’ the first time but my son (who was five) and I each took a bite, screwed up our faces and declared it disgusting. I missed colour – everything seemed so dull and grey here.

Have you done travelling or is there still somewhere you feel you should visit and why?

Oh, I hope I’ve not done travelling. I was truly privileged to spend ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan and I’m never going to be able to spend so long in a country again. I’ve been to India a couple of times and would like to explore more of it – and Vietnam. Must remember to buy a lottery ticket!

You have interviewed some interesting people as a journalist. Who did you enjoy talking to the most and why?

That’s a difficult question to answer as I’ve interviewed many people, some famous, some not at all well-known. I suppose at the top must be Barbara Dickson who was coming to perform in Dumfries. I was so nervous because people said she could be difficult but she absolutely lovely and we chatted for ages, much monger than I expected to have.

I enjoyed interviewing author Margaret Elphinstone shortly after The Gathering Night, came out. It’s set in Mesolithic Scotland and I was amazed at how much research she does – even to making a coracle so she knew how it would be to use one.

You can read some of the interviews on Mary’s website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/articles.asp

I asked Mary for an extract from one of her books for the reading today.

The extract I’ve chosen is from Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni. It’s part of what I read when I recently gave a lecture to Sexpression, a university-based charity which teaches young people about sex and relationships.

This is from the chapter on a birth spacing class with village women in Afghanistan:

Someone declared that a woman could not become pregnant unless she was sexually satisfied.

Nichbacht, the wool spinner, snorted. ‘If that was true, how come there are so many children running around.’ This smart rejoinder provoking much laughter from the women made Iqbal [translator] blush furiously.

Poor Iqbal often had cause to blush as the women teased hi unmercifully, telling him that as an unmarried man he wouldn’t know about these things yet. When condoms were handed round during class, the women promptly blew them up like balloons, laughing and making jokes that he refused to translate for me.

On one occasion he was so embarrassed he left the room, leaving me to demonstrate – with an inadequate vocabulary and the help of a broom handle – that a condom cannot be fitted correctly if it has been stretched to its full extent and snapped like a rubber band.

I suspected what really did for him, was the sight of his mother, Aquila, dangling an unrolled condom from her forefinger, asking laconically if her classmates knew anyone with anything large enough to fill it.

My thanks to Mary for an interesting and entertaining interview and here is a reminder about where you can buy Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni and her other books.

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Connect to Mary on her blogs and social media.

Facebook addresshttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/marysmithwriter
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5239367.Mary_Smith
Website:www.marysmith.co.uk http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/mary-smith/
Blogs:http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk/ and   https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

I am now throwing open the interview to you and I am sure having read about the interesting and adventurous life that Mary has led that you have plenty of questions to ask her. Because of the launch of her new book, Mary will come back to you later today and over the rest of the weekend.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Afghan Ceilidh by Mary Smith


blog-sitting

It is lovely to welcome Mary Smith as a Blog Sitter today, whilst I am probably recovering from a hectic schedule here in Portsmouth.. I know that the blog is in very capable hands. Today Mary is sharing a photograph from her time in Afghanistan and which holds great meaning for her.

Mary Smith - web ready

About Mary Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She longed to allow others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Afghan Ceilidh by Mary Smith

an-afghan-ceilidh

Of all the many photos I brought home from my years working in Afghanistan, this is one of my favourites. I call it Afghan Ceilidh.

Though nowadays a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is often a night of (sometimes wild) Scottish dancing, traditionally, it was an informal social gathering in someone’s house. Whenever and wherever a group of Scots folk came together in an evening, songs and storytelling, especially after a few drams had been taken was inevitable. An Afghan ceilidh is exactly the same, though instead of whisky, tea is drunk.

This photo was taken on one such occasion and when I look at it, memories flood back. On the left of the photo, Tajwar’s sewing machine has pride of place on top of the family’s tin storage trunks. When she sewed, she placed it on the floor and complained loudly about how much her back ached. We sit on toshak (mattress) arranged around the room on the Afghan rug. On the right of the photo I’m leaning on a bundle containing bedding. At bedtime, the mattresses are re-arranged and blankets – imported, colourful blankets emblazoned with peacocks – are distributed. The thermos, one of many, contains black tea.

The children love these occasions and have a wide range of games they play. The littler girls dance and sing songs. The bigger ones, like the one with the gleaming smile in the centre, might start to dance but then be overcome by shyness, giggle and sit down. A favourite game of the boys is cor-jangi (blind fighting). Two boys are each blindfolded and kneel facing each other. Each is provided with a rolled up patou (a man’s heavy wool shawl) with which each tries to wallop the other, but must, all the time, keep hold of a cushion in one hand.

If you think the woman sitting below the sewing machine and the other to the right of her don’t look happy you’d be right. They are terrified of the ‘devil’ wearing the mask – with a cushion stuffed up his jumper. I was always astonished at how fearful they became during this game even though the boy was a family member. He comes in, usually when the lamps are burning low, and adopting a hoarse voice ask if anyone has seen ‘Deyo’. The bigger children give cheeky replies but the smaller ones and some of the women pull back in fear. Later, they laugh – shamefaced – but still not wholly convinced there was nothing to fear out there in the dark.

I look at this photo and remember stories and songs, silly games and so much laughter – and so much black tea. We drank gallons of it so I always had to make a couple of trips out in the dark to the latrine later in the night. I look at my son – my filthy son – sitting on my lap and think of the freedom he had as a small child roaming the mountain with the boys herding the sheep and goats, coming home when hungry. I remember friendship and the joy of being accepted.

Afghan ceilidh

At an Afghan ceilidh
instead of whisky
we drink tea, black, no sugar
from small Russian glasses,
eat dry roasted ‘baqale’ –
spit their slipped-off skins
on the floor ‘til the rug’s
rich reds are covered
by a new carpet of greenish grey.

A hurricane lamp’s pool of light
projects small girls’ dancing shadows
on bare mud walls.
Songs, stories, laughter ripples
while outside is black dark silent.

(baqale – broad beans)

©MarySmith 2017

About No More Mulberries

51n0hsdxdll-_uy250_

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.

When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.

Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.

Just one of 132 reviews for the book

At first, what struck me most about this highly descriptive, lyrically written, “No More Mulberries,” was the author’s ability to completely transport me back to the faraway country of 1990s Afghanistan, not only geographically, but also culturally, and ideologically. It’s a country where ‘saving face’ is the order of the day, where its population is rapidly falling victim to the Taliban, and where primitive beliefs are so pervasive, that a child with leprosy is almost drowned by his father, in order to ‘kill’ the disease. In addition, Smith shows us––through the eyes of the ‘outsider’ widow Miriam from Scotland, her second Afghani husband, and their children––that there’s another side to this land; how the people are so gracious and hospitable that offering one’s home and food to strangers is a given, and not accepting a dinner invitation is tantamount to receiving a slap in the face.

But ultimately, what held me captive was the slow, unwinding mystery being played out of how Miriam’s first husband died, and what brought her to her second husband. Although the clash of cultures is often painful, confusing, and palpable, Smith confirms that in the end, no matter where we’re from, no matter the hardships in where we’ve landed, if we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves, the rest will undoubtedly fall into place. Definitely recommend!

Also by Mary Smith

51yks9fxhfl-_uy250_ 51ujjsusehl-_uy250_ 51arfsi2ffl-_uy250_ 51pqvltyial-_uy250_

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Smith/e/B001KCD4P0

Connect to Mary via her website: http://www.marysmith.co.uk/

My thanks to Mary for sharing this very special time spent with her friends that she made when working in Afghanistan.. Please show your appreiciation by sharing far and wide. Thanks Sally