Howdy Amigos!

Howdy amigos! Happens that you’ve caught me in a dreadful happy mood. You see, those good folks at Alfie Dog Fiction published my first short story collection, ‘Sweet Talk’ on 24th September. Finally, after years of grafting, little old me will have a real book signing – ain’t that just as exciting as any old rodeo? ‘Sweet Talk’ is a collection of 21 feel-good stories, guaranteed to leave you feeling as happy as a mustang off its reins. There’s young and mature romance, sibling rivalry, humour and plenty of tales starring pesky animals like cats, stick insects and birds.  That’s why I love writing short stories – I can experiment with any subject matter or genre.

Hence the Old West American tone of this piece. Recently, I woke up with the voice of – now whadda us modern folks call it? – a cowboy in my head. So, goddamn it, I created two characters, Connie and Elijah Boswell. Dreadful in love they were, during the gold rush of 1849. That lady was as fine as cream gravy. Their wicked neighbour Nathaniel was one to watch – a regular wolf, after gambling and whiskey. But good old Elijah, in his broad-rimmed hat, kept that particular outlaw in check. In fact, Nathaniel could have easily ended up in the bone orchard, thanks to Elijah’s rifle.

Hell, yeah, more fun than a hog in mud, I had, writing that story, set near Sacramento River. And fair dumbfounded I was, when The People’s Friend bought it.

So, listen up, y’all - what I’m saying is: go for it. Have fun. Let yourself loose. One story from ‘Sweet Talk’ is set just after the Second World War. Hell, I ain’t never written nothing earlier than the eighties, prior to that. But thanks to some fancy information I found about soldiers and rationing coupons, it all fell into place – same with two stories all about Irish luck and a Scottish poet. I just slapped on my research hat.

I’ve wrote stories about kids, men and women, sexy santas, divorced parents and awkward bosses… Don’t limit yourself. Vary settings, eras, characters and themes. Draw on your own life and that of others.

Most importantly, write from that there heart. Makes me sound as sweet as my ma’s plum pudding to say that, don’t it? But I speak the truth.

So, get a wiggle on and have a go. Best of luck folks! And if you know someone who’d just love a collection of warm, heartfelt stories to dip into, why not order them a copy of ‘Sweet Talk’?

Samantha Tonge has sold almost 80 stories to women’s magazines and her work appears regularly in The People’s Friend. She also writes romantic comedies and her agent is currently subbing her latest novel, ‘Doubting Abbey’, to publishers.

         For more information about Samantha why not visit:

‘Sweet Talk’ is available here.

Good news alert!

”Samantha has just agreed a 3 book deal with CarinaUK, Harlequin’s digital-first imprint. Her debut novel, “Doubting Abbey” will be published late autumn 2013.”

You are never alone when you have a book to keep you company by Mary Dinan

As I walked by the sea I saw a solitary figure, head down and fully focused. I wondered if she was lonely but then as I got closer could see she was reading a book. She looked as if she was enjoying the experience. I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew she wasn't lonely. How can you be lonely with a good read? She had entered into another world.

It was then I had a thought. 'You are never alone if you have a good book.' A book can fill almost every void. It can advise, comfort, entertain, inspire, and provide a means of escape. A book can change your life and has changed people's lives. God released one of the most read books in the world, The Holy Bible which has changed countless lives.

A book is an ever reliable friend that you can pick up and put down at will. A good book can really lift the spirit no end; even a cover on a book can lift your mood in an instant.

It's a great gift for a child to learn to love books from a very early age, as they will never be lonely while they have a good book and the thrill of going to a library as a child has stayed with me even to this day. I remember the joy of finding another Famous Five book by Enid Blyton and how I loved escaping into the world of ginger beer and Timmy the dog; joining the children who went on adventures.

Growing up, I remember taking a great interest in self-help books. I read them all, Dale Carnegie - How To Win Friends And Influence People, Wayne Dyer - Pulling Your Own Strings, Susan Jeffers - Feel The fear And Do It Anyway and the list goes on...As an only child these books were my big brothers and sisters. I turned to them for advice when there was no family about.
Books and reading are a gift.

A literary great is laid to rest

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's last words in a text message to his wife were 'Noli timere' - Latin for 'do not be afraid.' His recent passing has had a huge impact on the literary world which is so much poorer now he has gone.

His death has left a void which will never be filled by even the most talented of writers. But Heaney, the legend, still lives on in the hearts of many, as does his poetry with its lyrical beauty. A man who never let go of his roots, Seamus’ observations on life in my native Northern Ireland put the country on a world pedestal for scrutiny.

Heaney, a Catholic nationalist raised in an area called Mossbawn in South Derry (county) had views which clashed with the majority of pupils in my school. When our English teacher, ironically called Mrs Heaney (no relation!) introduced Digging to us, we read it as townie Protestant-like pariahs looking down on this poor rural nationalist world. We learned about his fervently Irish background and the fact he’d written the following shocking words: Be advised my passport's green. No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen.

The life that we were reading about was a world away from ours: as middle class Protestants, none of us could identify in any way with potatoes, bogs, Mass, rosaries, or priests. Granted, he wrote at a time when Catholics felt marginalised, like second class citizens, but with his unkempt white hair and warm smile, there was something so endearing about him. We didn’t study any more of his poetry, so it’s fair to say, we only really skimmed the surface.

However, his poetry become more and more alive as I matured and studied at university, and I soon grew to identify with his sense of loss, his love of nature and his reflections on childhood. Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 for what the committee described as "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”

He was universally loved around the world and no one could deny that. Often people don't get excited about a celebrity until that person has passed away. Then the bandwagon is filled and it's on its way. Like Kurt Cobain or Michael Jackson: suddenly, a slew of super fans come out of the closet. Thankfully, with Heaney, we have always loved and cherished him, as a fellow countryman, a patriot of poetry and a lover of language.

I must admit I only found Heaney’s poetry mildly interesting as a student at grammar school. Yes, shame on me. But his poetry grew on me the more I studied English Literature until I came to truly love his work. And when that alert came through from Press Association, while I was in Dublin, not only did I feel a sense of sadness and loss, but I started to sift through his poetry. Death of a Naturalist, Human Chain, Beowolf, North. The images lit up. I read slowly and I realised his work is stunningly beautful.

It gave me shivers up my spine as I read: Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops. And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him. For the first time in six weeks. Paler now.

I’m so disappointed I never the chance to meet him. It just wasn’t to be. Last Monday, he was laid to rest in the land which had inspired him. The cortege through the village of Bellaghy was headed by a lone piper, mourners snaking their way along the country roads. Earlier his friends and family bade farewell to him at a funeral service in Dublin.

This video, courtesy of my newspaper The Mid-Ulster Mail, shows the literary great being laid to rest…..

Who do I think I am?

Smiling, it appears, is not an option.

Well, this is me, sitting in the attic and doing my best to look authorial and as non unphotogenic as possible.

I'm woking with a client at the moment to bring her short story collection to life and what struck me most of all was the authenticity of the emotions on the page. I mean, I know we talk about being authentic and moving the reader and all that groovy stuff. But I, as the reader, felt something when I read her words. I laughed out loud several times and I choked a little when I read about death and loss. (Which, if you know me, despite my track record in that department, is not my usual response.)

So, what gives?

Well, I think what gave was the pretence, which can happen when you create fiction a lot of the time, that this whole business of creating characters and words and worlds is all in the mind. 

It isn't - that's bullshit. If there's no emotion, the characters don't live. They simply exist. And we've all known, at some time or other, how soulless that can be. And while we're ensouling our characters, sometimes we need to ensoul ourselves. To really inhabit the landscapes of our creation and to put purselves in touch with the source of it all. Because, often, that source is our own experience.

I had a dream last night, which has inspired me to write this post. 

In the dream, I'm a small child, taking an exam. To my right is a boy I knew from school and he's continually looking over at my efforts to see what I'll write. He's smug because, I think, he's already finished the paper. Or perhaps he isn't taking the exam. Anyway, I ask him politely to mind his own business, but he persists. 

Finally, after maybe the fourth time, I say out loud (in the dream): "That's it. Enough. I'm not doing this." And I close the exercise book, push back my chair and stand up. Smug kid is a little taken aback, but he sits and watches me. Another boy to my left mutters that it's the wrong thing to do. However, I have the bit between my teeth now (in a way I never actually did as a child), and I make my way to the front of the hall where an English teacher towers over me and asks what I'm doing. I explain that I've quit the exam and he tells me it will cost £100 to do it again, and immediately starts planning how he could get funding for me. (He was a great teacher in the real world too.)

I push open a door and find I'm in a deserted London, close to Bank. As I looked down the gentle slope of the road, all I can see is grey stone buildings. And there's this tremendous sense of setting off in a new direction without security or community, and I can hear the echo of that other boy who was to the left of me, telling me not to do it. So I smile a little and start walking.

I doubt this is a dream that Messrs. Jung or Freud need trouble themselves with. As a writer, what struck me was how intense the emotions were. That sense of blood pumping through my veins and a maelstrom of conflicting ideas and fears, all subsumed by my will. 

In the end, that's all it was. No direction, no plan, guarantee, no strategy and no angle. Just the will to move forward. You know, I think there's something in that.