Friday 29 December 2017

The Rising of Bella Casey

Had a read of this whilst away on holiday. I stumbled upon it on the publisher's website whilst looking for something else, and the brief synopsis caught my attention:

From a piano abandoned on the strife-torn streets of Dublin in Easter 1916, Mary Morrissy spins the reader backwards through the life of one-time enigmatic beauty Bella Casey, sister to the famed playwright Sean O’Casey.

An ambitious novel about love, history and literature.

As you may be aware, I'm currently trying to manufacture pianos in Africa, so anything to do with pianos pretty much has me. The Rising of Bella Casey weaves in a few lovely descriptions:

It was a Broadwood, an upright Broadwood, intact in all this ruin, offering itself to her. Indian rosewood case, inlaid panels and candle sconces, the lid open to show a perfect set of teeth, a music holder with a scrolled inset in the shape of a treble clef. She laid her hand gingerly on it. The wood was silky to her fingertips and she felt a rush of the sublime.

It was a Chapell [sic.] upright with turned columns and panels of fretted silk in the top door, with the name Elysian carved in gold above middle C.

But her proudest possession was a vertical Cadby, on which she'd made a downpayment at Butler's Instruments. It would not have been a proper home without a piano...

Home would always be where the piano was.

The descriptive was beautiful. You could become a pick-pocket of the imagination, listening to the smacking stammer of bunting, feeling a chilly estrangement tinged with shame whilst your breath came in globes on a cold night. Really nicely written. It also introduced me to the concept of gur cake, an Irish staple.

The Rising of Bella Casey stems from an interesting mystery surrounding the  Irish dramatist and memoirist, Seán O'Casey. It reimagines the life of his elder sister, Bella, tracking her fall from a bright young schoolteacher to an impoverished mother of many in a tenement building. In his memoirs, Seán O'Casey killed his sister off a full ten years before she actually died. This novel attempts to offer an explanation why.

A really nice surprise of a book. Bought on a whim, read with interest. It was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2014.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Lotus Temple

Had a lovely time in India, exploring the Golden Triangle and Goa with family. I'll post more about that soon, but something that was particularly interesting was a visit to the Lotus Temple in Delhi.

For those of you who read Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, you might be as interested as me to know that this is a  Bahá'í temple. Those Rosy Hours touches on the genocide against the Bahá'í that followed an assassination attempt on the Shah of Iran after he executed the Báb, Sayyed ʿAli Muhammad Shirāzi, in 1850.

Later the Bahá’u’lláh, the head of the Bahá'í faith, was expelled from Iran along with all of his followers. 

“Haven’t you heard, Shahzadi? Your brother exiled the Baha’u’llah months ago. The Bábí can no longer call Iran their home. Their marriages will be annulled, their books will be burned, and any who resist will find themselves chained in the Síyáh-Chál at Tehran. You no longer need to fear the insurgence. They have left like lambs.”  - Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran

Through writing that novel, I knew a bit about the origins of the Bahá'í faith and the period in history which led to their expulsion from Iran, but I really didn't know what came after that, or much about their specific teachings. 

It's actually evolved into a really fascinating concept. You can be Bahá'í whilst also being a follower of any other faith or religion. The temple itself is built of white marble, extremely cool beneath the hot sun. There are no icons there and everyone maintains silence within. The idea is that you fill the space with your own thoughts and prayers. They provide the silence, you bring it to life.

I've taken the liberty of scanning the information brochures provided at the temple.

You can also find out more about the Bahá'í via

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Happy Holidays

Heading off to India tonight to meet up with my dad and Marilyn. We're doing the full tourist trail - down to Goa for a few days on the beach, then up to Delhi for the Golden Triangle. Other than Skype, I haven't seen my family in almost two years, which is how long it's been since I last left East Africa. Really looking forward to it, especially the food. Hoping to pick up some new clothes in Mumbai on the way home as I'm looking a little threadbare. 

It's dad's birthday on 15th, and we'll be spending Christmas in Mumbai, then home to Rwanda in time for New Year and my annual Oath, Boast & Toast.

Wishing everyone a cool Yule and plenty of nommy muncies.

Sunday 10 December 2017



I know I'm late to the part on this one, but if you enjoy murder mystery whodunnits, you need to listen to Serial. A very clever podcast which tells a different part of the murder investigation each episode. Thanks to my friend Dani for putting me onto it. [NB: sorry about the jovial tone. I only realised halfway through that it's a true story.]

Saturday 9 December 2017


Aw. I really enjoyed this TedX talk. Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Here's my attempt to draw cartoons when I should be writing.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Revved up on Writing

Wanted to get the Still Life manuscript up to 60k before heading off on holiday. 

Sometimes social media can be useful. After announcing to the world that I was going to write 3,000 words, I felt as though I had to do it - so I did. Here's the timeline...

2:04 PM
Right. I'm going to sit here until I've written 3,000 words.
This may take some time.

3:00 PM
1,000 down, 2,000 to go...
3:51 PM
2,000 down, 1,000 to go...

4:35 PM
3,000 words done. MS now at 60,100. I rest.

What I personally find interesting about this is the time perception v. reality conundrum. It felt as though the first 1,000 words were the easiest to write, the second 1,000 I was flagging a bit and the last 1,100 were slow going, but my Twitter feed proves otherwise. It took me about an hour to write the first 1,000, 50 minutes to write the second 1,000 and only about 40 minutes to write the final 1,100 as I even took a 5-10 minute break to dunk biscuits!

Not a bad day's writing. Now I probably won't do any more until I get back from hols. But it's a nice round number to leave things at.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

The Piano That Saved Christmas

(Picture shared with permission from Autisme Rwanda)

A really special week so far, thanks to Pianist Without Borders, Fabio Tedde, Autisme Rwanda, and Ilse Lasschuijt. Here's a Christmas story about music, autism, and the kindness of strangers: The Piano that Saved Christmas. Part of my side project, Kigali Keys, attempting to build pianos in Africa.

Sunday 3 December 2017

Crystal Clear

Crystal Palace

Finally returned to writing after a long hiatus. Just polished off 2,000 on Still Life, a story exploring postmortem photography past and present. Looking at the age of Victorian England and the Great Exhibition, through to very modern maternity wards.

It is extremely difficult to go back to writing after you've taken a long break. As most writers will tell you, it's a muscle, and if you don't use it you lose it. Well, not entirely, but it takes some work  getting back into shape.  

The weirdest part is when you think you remember where you left off, then return to find an extra couple of chapters you hardly remember writing. That's when you really know you've been away too long.

However, it is nice to return to a solid manuscript. It's now at around 57,000, so just reaching the edge of a novel. I think it's easier to find enthusiasm for finishing something off than for building it up. Less of a marathon ahead. I've got a fairly clear idea where I'm going and the characters are fully formed. I'm also feeling more at ease with the Victorian era, which means I can write more words before I need to stop and Wikipedia something.

I have about a week left to press on with it, then taking a break. Off to India for Christmas. Hopefully that'll refresh my brain, as there's quite a few projects I want to work on when I get back. 

After a long period of distraction and side projects, it's really nice to come back to the page.

Friday 1 December 2017

Notes From the County


Coming soon.

I know I have been silent on matters of writing for quite some time. There's a story behind that, but it'll have to wait. Let's just focus on the fab cover for a moment, shall we?

The work of José Bethencourt Suárez, a talented cover designer.

For those of you who haven't been following the Creeper's journey, this is a tale set in Hookland, a mythical county in England where all the folklore you've ever heard of (#FolkloreThursday) takes on a life of its own.

Hookland (@HooklandGuide) is the brain child of bestselling author David Southwell. We were introduced through my publisher a while back, and I fell in love with his idea. A place where every type of mythos, from UFOs to pixies and ghouls, has a home.

David's currently working on the Phoenix Guide to Strange England, a guidebook for tourists to Hookland, and an inspiration for anyone who wants to jump aboard the creative commons ghost ship. The beauty of Hookland is that artists of any ilk, from writers and dramatists to photographers and finger painters, can come and play. Every story told, and each piece of art, helps to build the county.

As far as I know, this is the first novel set there.

It's a story about bricks and mortar, and the memories held within.

This is also my first attempt at self-publishing in print, which I'm sure I'll talk about later on. It's going to be available through Amazon CreateSpace and on Kindle. Possibly also Smashwords.

Just waiting for Mr. Southwell to complete the forward, which will appear as Notes from the County, for anyone curious to learn more. Also hoping to feature a map of Hookland.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a tingle of nerves, not having published anything in quite some time, and making my return in such rich literary landscape. I am hoping to write a few more tales there. But I think I'm ready. Shut my mouth, sharpen my pencil - release into the wild.

Keep an eye out for dates and pre-order.