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Backstories for ‘Speaking Of’

Where did this title and these stories come from, you ask?

This is a question I am frequently asked concerning my book releases and song lyrics. Below is a brief explanation of the content within this book, should you be interested.

The first story I wrote for this book was, This Black Earth Speaks. I loved the idea of those below-ground speaking. Then, I decided to introduce story titles and occasional chapter titles with ‘speaking’ as in, Neala Speaks, Delilah Speaks, etcetera. This book is muti-genre, and I soon realized this thread would be a lovely way to connect the dots, to tie the contents, even though the genres are quite divergent. Subsequently, while speaking with my daughter, Fiona, I said, “Oh, speaking of flowers … ” and a light went off. Speaking Of. There now, that is the title for my new book.

Wandering Irish graveyards has long been a sentimental activity of mine. I find great solace in visiting the departed; not just family members, but strangers, who’s headstone engravings might be all but faded away. One day I wondered: what if, in death, one was laid next to a kindred spirit, or, perhaps, the antithesis of that? These characters jumped at the chance to answer my theoretical query. I am agnostic but I do like the idea that we can communicate with the departed, and have had enough wild experiences to think there is some universal, unfathomable force beyond our understanding. I simply repudiate the idea of a humanlike overseer.

I love these two main characters in very personal ways. This story was to be the beginning of a sequel to my novel, The Emerald Diaries, but, at this point, there is no sequel; therefore, I placed this story inside this release. 

My dear friend Bernadette relayed a dream where a psychic came to my house to do a reading. I thought it was a great short story idea. While I did write a short story, I quickly nixed it as it felt contrived and unauthentic, meaning I was trying too hard to convey ‘a storyline’. I let it go for a little while before beginning anew, allowing the characters to speak and develop naturally. My fingers flew across the keyboard, and Delilah brought me places unanticipated. The short story expanded. I tried several times to bring it to a conclusion, but characters kept presenting themselves, each linking ideally with the next.

The short story became a long Novella (just short of a novel in terms of word count).

This story does not shine an ideal light on certain people within it, as they are deceivers, liars and charlatans. However, it also does not reflect my own views and experiences on things ‘unearthly’. I (and several of my family members) have had occurrences, mystical and astonishing.

A humorous side note:
Delilah takes place in upstate New York, USA. I searched the internet to get as close as possible to detective/police hierarchies. I found that, in America, different states have different titles for the same job. This is not only state by state but even regions within the state. I spent an exhaustive amount of time trying to contact (via phone) police stations, detective agencies and the like to get some clarification on upstate New York police hierarchies. I was transferred copious times and was given loads of phone numbers. To be honest, I felt apologetic at times, as I was hoping to connect with an administrative person who could advise, but kept getting front desk officers, all of whom were exceedingly busy! After numerous tries, I ended up where I began, with the same front desk officer. He was a lovely fellow, and he gave me yet another number. 

I rang it, and a man answered, “Hello, how can I help?” I was so relieved that the background was quiet. I asked if he had time for a question. The amiable man said, yes, he was not at all busy. Hoorah! As a bonus, he had a fabulous, typical, heavy New York accent, which I love to listen to. I proceeded to jump enthusiastically into the details of the novella, expressing my frustration with not finding consistency and my desire to show a semblance of accuracy.

I acknowledged that I don’t live in America but would very much appreciate any knowledge or assistance he might be able to offer. Indeed, as hoped for, he did have a response. His reply to me was as follows, and I quote. “Oh man, that sounds ace (I assumed that was a good thing?). I wish I could help you, I really do, but this is a car stereo repair shoppe.”

Sigh. I dialled the wrong number.

In the end, I did get an answer from a New York officer. I was close enough, he said. Since it is a work of fiction, and as long as I included a, ‘this is a work of fiction and of my own imagining’ disclaimer, all would be fine. Any gaffes in titles are unintentional and mine alone.

This is a poem I wrote for my dear brother, Ronan, for his fiftieth birthday.

My fabulous cousin Marie (Arimé being an anagram of Marie) lives in stunning county Donegal and is a gifted visual artist and gardener. Marie was indeed given a commission for a painting to include fifteen swans. She was slightly perplexed about how to incorporate that many swans onto an average-size canvas. This conundrum aroused my whimsical side.

A lovely Scottish neighbour of mine used to be a tailor. He has relayed a few remarkable stories about that life, which inspired me to write a story with a tailor as a main character. This storyline bears no resemblance to any of his reminiscences. These few characters presented themselves one day as I sat at my desk, blank paper in front of me. Unexpectedly, things took on a shadowy tone, but there ya go. That’s what happens when a writer walks hand-in-hand, down the path, where characters lead.

The functioning of my brain (all brains, really) is transfixing, and I often give credit to my internal workings that create characters, be they printed words or song lyrics. Reflecting on this truth and thinking about future possibilities (I mean FAR future), I wondered if one might have to share writing credit with the brain. That pushed me into sci-fi, as you might imagine, but once I took to tapping my keyboard, an entire world opened. I come from a place where rebelliousness and resistance to occupation has been a constant over centuries; thus, I inherently side with the resisters in this story.

 I think we all know people like Ava.

This title is the name of a traditional melody. I thought it would be an exciting challenge to take the title and write stanzas for it. I mean, really? Who on earth would go around smashing windows? As with all characters that come my way, I let him speak.

While trying to return a broken item via phone, I imagined this was happening on the other end. While this flash is conjured, the content, from my end, sadly, is not.

One can obviously read this book in any desired order, but this coming-of-age story is best read after Delilah Speaks. It will be apparent as to why. Also, the comment about the number of gods in the world in this story (relating to Nate’s way of thinking), came from hearing/reading several others using this parallel, including Ricky Gervais and Richard Dawkins.

Simply stated, this is a romantic imagining. Two people enveloped in warmth and love, with an over-arching sense of gratitude.

I hold great affection for the islands off Ireland’s west coast and am in awe of the people who reside there (both present and particularly in the past), with their visceral connection to the sea. There lives within the Island people a vast and rich ownership of oral folklore, song, music and the beautiful language that is Irish. Even in this ‘new day’, there is an undercurrent, untouched by modern influences. My soul is filled when my feet touch that land.

My mother used to tell me that she always knew she was pregnant when her first sip of tea in the morning made her instantly nauseous. I am the youngest of six, so my mother certainly possessed extensive research on the matter. When writing about Dervla, it seemed a nice spot to insert that bit of history.

A side note. I spent time as an apprentice midwife many years ago, working with one particular truly gifted nurse/midwife. Most of the deliveries were home-based, and some were hospital-based. One birth event was very intense as the umbilical cord separated from the placenta after the child was born. The woman’s weak contractions failed to release the placenta from her uterus. This is called a retained placenta. The midwife had to ‘go in after it’. This is called manual removal. Under her adroit care and experience, and within a few contractions, she was able to sweep her fingers behind the placenta and separate it from the uterine wall. It was intensely scary, but the midwife (and I) had to remain calm, focused and supportive. This procedure, with no anaesthesia, is excruciating for the mother, as you can imagine, but it was successful. The life-threatening complication was thwarted due to the midwife’s fast actions and vast experience, accomplished with no ill effects on the mother. For years, I have thought this event would make for a good, tense scene in a story.

 I’d like to say this is a work of fiction, but sadly, I did severely discombobulate many facts when re-telling my son and daughter about their step-father’s experience as a young one.

In this version, I make it sound as though it was intentional misdirection, but the truth is that it was not. I did however, disenchant my son of his desired gift. All names have been changed in this story.

This is a silly poem about whether a person is a proper tea drinker. Meaning, a Tif: tea in first, then the milk, rather than a Mif: milk in first, then the tea … tsk tsk. All in good fun, but this debate does rile the TIFS (like me) and the MIFS equally.

This is based on a true story. I did find exquisite handmade cloth dolls at a charity shoppe. One did fall to the side, catching my eye. I did try to pick only a few but could not separate them. A woman at the counter did ask to buy a few, and I denied her, as I genuinely did not want them sent asunder. They do live, carefully packed away in our barn, and will be handed down to my great-niece, Cara, when she is a wee bit older. I apologize, in advance, to Cara’s parents for the future delivering of so many dolls to their small home. The rest of the story is fiction, but I like to think the maker of these dolls would be happy with my imaginings. These cloth dolls are truly extraordinary, in every way.