February’s Featured Blogger: Author, Mary Smith

February’s featured Blogger is author, Mary Smith.

Mary is the author of No More Mulberries, a novel set in Afghanistan and a collection of short stories, Donkey Boy & Other Stories. Her non-fiction work includes a memoir of her time in Afghanistan, Drunk Chickens, and Burnt Macaroni.

Thank you for being here , Mary.

You write in your biography that you’ve always written, but was there a moment of inspiration?

Hi Rob, thanks so much for choosing me as your blogger of the month. Your first question stumped me because I honestly can’t remember any one single moment of inspiration – I just always wanted to write.

What did you read as a child and what was your favorite story?

I read a lot as a child. One of my favorite (sorry, I can’t do American spelling so you might have to change some words!) books was What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I read it over and over again, couldn’t wait to get to the end so I could begin it again. I also read loads of Enid Blyton’s books – The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. As a child, I usually had my head stuck in a book.

You lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan for ten years and worked for a small health organization; what prompted your decision to live and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan and how does your work there inform your writing?

I drank too much whisky one night and under its influence accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan with two sisters who were returning to visit family in Karachi. While there, I visited the headquarters of the Pakistan Leprosy Control Programme. I had an introduction because in the UK I worked for Oxfam which helped fund the leprosy work. I was welcomed and spent three days seeing various aspects of the work and was really impressed. I wrote in my journal at the time that I knew I was coming back to Pakistan although I didn’t know how or when. Anyway, before I left I was asked if I would help set up a health education department. I came home, handed in my notice and returned to Pakistan on a three-year contract. During my time in Karachi, I met a number of Afghan students who were studying to be paramedics before going back to Afghanistan to open clinics. I spent a lot of time with them, teaching English, listening to stories of their mother country which they all loved with a deep passion. By the time my contract ended it was inevitable I’d sign on again to work, this time, in Afghanistan.

My time there has definitely informed my writing. I so wanted to share my experiences with everyone – all the people who will never have the opportunity to go there and see for themselves. I’ve written a memoir (Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni) which covers the latter part of my time in Afghanistan when I was setting up a project to train village women as health volunteers. I’ve also written a novel (No More Mulberries) set in Afghanistan and quite a number of poems.

 

cover of Burnt Macaroni
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni by Mary Smith

Who are the writers you read for pleasure and study?

I love the novels of Kate Atkinson, Margaret Elphinstone, the late Iain Banks and so many more. And poets, Seamus Heaney, Tom Pow (who was my tutor on a creative writing course), Norman McCaig. I could fill this post with lists.

Why did you take up blogging?

My father had dementia and his wife (my stepmother – or stepmonster as I call her in the blog) left him because she felt she “was entitled to a peaceful life.” I did not want my dad to go into a care home so I moved in with him, which changed my life entirely. I had thought I’d have time to continue as a freelance journalist and doing the PR for a charity as well as work on a book I wanted to write. I soon discovered this was not going to happen. I was exhausted, especially when I first moved in and had very little professional help, and spent much of my time in a zombie-like state. Creativity went out the window. Blogging was a way to ensure I did do some regular writing and way of trying to make sense of the situation.

Who is your audience?

The majority of my audience for the blog (My Dad’s a Goldfish) are people who are caring for or have cared for a family member with dementia. Some are also blogging about it. So many lives are affected by this nowadays and I think many of the people who read my blog do so because it helps them feel they are not alone, others are going through similar situations. Until fairly recently, although dementia was on the increase, little was said about – about how it really is to be care for someone who spends the night wandering around the house looking for things, who needs help going to the toilet, who doesn’t know who you are. Blogging helps me – and my followers – to see the funny side of situations which, at the time, are far from funny. I also have followers who are friends, writers and other bloggers whose blogs I follow

the cover of Donkey Boy and other stories

Do you consider your audience when you publish a post? (Another way to put this is how much does your audience influence your work?)

Yes, I do and I have been careful not to dilute the Goldfish blog with posts on other things. I don’t think my Goldfish audience expect to find re-blogs from other posts unless they’re dementia related or travel pieces or whatever. For this reason, I have recently started a second blog on which I can post all sorts of other things which have nothing to do with dementia.

The cover of No More Mulberries

I admire the way you balance promotional and personal blogging. What advice do you have for other writers who want to use blogging for personal and promotional blogging?

Thank you for saying that. I think it’s mainly because, as I explain above, I try to keep the Goldfish blog about my dad and dementia – though I do sneak in the odd post about my books. I’d advise anyone who thinks starting a blog is going to help them sell shed-loads of books to forget it! I think writing is about our need to communicate with others. We want to share our words, our thoughts, with others but if we only blog about the books we’ve written followers won’t stay around for long. Does that make sense? I feel I’m waffling a bit here – just cut this bit if you want

Tell us about your latest Book.

My latest book is a collection of short stories called Donkey Boy & Other Stories. It came about because I was feeling bad about not having published any fiction for such a long time. I always intended to write a sequel to No More Mulberries but somehow got sidetracked into doing other things – a poetry collection and a couple of local history books. The one day when looking for something on my computer (my filing system is a disgrace) I noticed a folder which contained some short stories. I decided they should be out in the world working for their living – or at least being read by a few people – and put them together. It’s an eclectic mix of stories about a diverse range of characters: a donkey boy (he drives a donkey cart for his father) in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse. I’m delighted by how well received it has been with readers and reviewers. And it’s only 99c – so much cheaper than a cup of coffee.

Book cover for Thousands Pass Here Every Day
Thousands Pass Here Every Day by Mary Smith

Thank you, Mary.

Below are links to Mary’s blogs and books.

Blog links: My Dad’s a Goldfish: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com  New Blog – MarySmithsPlace: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com

This is the smart url link for Donkey Boy & Other Stories. It will open at the Amazon site in whichever country the reader is: www.smarturl.it/dbaos

Drunk Chicken and Burnt Macaroni: http://smarturl.it/dcbm

No More Mulberries: http://smarturl.it/nmm

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marysmithwriter

 

In This Black of Your Night

In this black

of

your night.

I touch you,

I smell you;

I feel your hot

breath on my cheek

when you whisper

that I am evil

that God watches

that I will surely

go

to Hell

for what you’ve

done.

I remember

and I forget

Why I’m wicked

Why I’m frightened

Why I bleed in pain.

So I lay here,

in this darkness,

in this fear,

in this black

of

your night.

First posted 10/2015

(C) Rob Goldstein 2015-2018 All Rights Reserved


 

 

 

 

Switching Stations: Snagged on a Run in the Hosiery of Time

 

Tonight’s Cast of Characters:

John Steed as Captain Mach 10
Zsa Zsa Gabor as Leesa
Newt Gingrich as Queen Stretchmark I
Sean Hannity as Simp the Oracle
Clint Eastwood as Gore Vidal and
Gomer Pye U.S.M.C. as Aryan #5

Illustration based on a digital photograph staged in virtual reality that depicts a male and female avatar dressed in star-fleet costumes posing side by side
Captain Mach 10 with First mate, Trish

Stardate 90210.1. Dear Diary, the Chachka entered the arousing Areola Nebula at 0.100 and now we are trapped in a rope of unknown origin. I’ve ordered First Mate Leesa to steady the helm: she does her best:

Leesa: The ship won’t steer, dah-ling!

Mach Ten: What kind of rope is this?

Leesa: Humidity reads high, dah-ling!

Mach Ten: So sheer! So snug! Change course 32º mark nine zero two one zero!

Leesa: Course changed 32º mark nine zero two one zero, dah-ling.

(A horn blares followed by the sound of a crash. Leesa and Mach Ten reel from one side of the ship to the other. All goes quiet; we see Leesa’s breasts followed by a wide-angle shot of the Chachka’s interior. The decor is Chinese modern with a great big Chinese coffee table to accent a huge coral sofa with bright green cushions.  The helm is really just an alcove with a curved wall.)

Leesa: (tugs the hem of her uniform) Humidity reads normal, dah-ling.

Mach Ten: (Opens a quadraphonic space-map.) Where in the Areola are we?

Leesa: (Her beauty is unperturbed) Let me see, Dah-ling. (She pours herself over the map) I think we are in the Rayon Belt.

(The ship is suddenly filled with the sound of screeching  feedback followed by the amplified voice of Queen Stretch Mark I.)

Illustration based on a photo staged in virtual reality that depicts an African-American Avatar as the character of Queen Stretchmark I.
Queen Stretchmark I

Queen Stretchmark I: FEDERATION PRUDES! YOU HAVE WANDERED INTO MY LATEX FIELDS! YOU ARE ENMESHED! THERE IS NO ESCAPE! A HIGHLY TRAINED ARYAN SLAVE BOY WHOSE SMOOTH LEGS AND BULGING JUNK IS READILY VISIBLE IN HIS RED TIGHTY WHITIES WILL BE BOARD YOUR SHIP TO ACCEPT YOUR UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER.

Mach Ten: (Shaking his fist) YOU LIBERTINE TYRANT!

Queen Stretchmark I: YOU AMUSE ME CAPTAIN. I HAVE HEARD MUCH ABOUT THE PERSNICKETY MACH TEN AND HIS CONFLICTED SEXUALITY. ENOUGH! YOU
WILL BE BROUGHT TO THE SHEER SURFACE OF MY LATEX PLANET.

Leesa:
I’ve always been a bit bi-curious about this Queen, Dah-ling.

Mach Ten: She’s seductive and deadly. We’d best do as she says

(Chimes. Aryan#5 appears on deck.)

  Mach Ten: Oh the pain, the pain…

(Petroleum waves crash onto a Lycra shore. White spandex clouds drift above a rubber mountain. Cut to the Queens Throne room. Snow white carpets make a stunning background for pie-crust tables. Corner cabinets, all chiseled out and painted a lovely pink show off wedge wood and Chinese things. There are couches with deep soft cushions in which one can curl up and get lost. To the Queen’s left is Simp the Oracle; to her right is Gore Vidal. both men wear nothing but bicycle tights. Enter Aryan#5 with Leesa; an arm laced behind her back, a lock of blond hair lingers on her forehead to suggest a struggle.)

 

Illustration based on a photo staged in virtual reality that depicts an African-American Avatar as the character of Aryan #5
Aryan #5

Aryan #5: Howdy ur Haighness!

Queen Stretchmark I: Where is the male?

Aryan #5: He’s a feisty little feller–

Leesa: No! Oh Pleaze, dahling! These silk cords, they feel so tight!

Queen Stretchmark I: Silence! Why have you come to my planet?

Leesa: You trapped us in a huge pair of cheap intergalactic stockings
and brought us here you silly old queen!

Queen: Ha! You’ve come to bring reason to my planet! Reason kills!
Kill them!

Leesa: Getta clue, dahling! We’re the most unreasonable species in
the universe.

(Simp the Oracle giggles and winks at Leesa; Leesa winks back)

Gore Vidal: My dear, I think you were snagged on a run in the hosiery of time.

Leesa: (Rolls her eyes) Thank you for stealing my line!

Queen Stretchmark I: Call the male!

Aryan #5: Su-prise, su-prise, su-prise!

Queen Stretchmark I: (In a determined whisper) He’ll play dress up! I’ll make him!

To be continued….

Illustration based on a photo staged in virtual reality that depicts my alternates, Bobby and Matthew watching the physical me read Antonin Artaud
Next Week on Mach 10

Next week on ‘Mach Ten’:

Mach Ten: How is it you people speak English?

Aryan  24:  We’re so smart ur species little pea pickin’ brains couldn’t understand
us so’s when the Queen got here we scanned his brain and saw what was in it.

Mr. Haney: What you see is what you think, Mr. Mach Ten! Hey! Can ah interest you
in a book?


(c) Rob Goldstein 2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Dream #12

The snake yawns wide and shows its venom glands.

He is a large scaly ES on the queen sized bed in room 314.

“Ssunlight is an abomination.” sighs the snake.

“Oh fuck off!” snaps the dog with a twitch of his tail. “The whole
day  is an abomination!”

“I know where the Garden iss.” says the snake.

“So you’ve said,’ replies the dog, “where is it, again?”

“In Manhattan, marked by the statue of the unknown bodybuilder.
Every Christmass true believerss ice skate to celebrate his musscles.”

“So, how come you don’t live there?”

“I got tossed by a blast of righteousness.  God did a shimmy-shake and
I landed here with Frank. God was jealouss: I got a piece of the woman.”

The dog’s tail twitches again.

“Howss about you?” asks the snake. “How did you get here?”

“I was a happy Lab, bounding and slobbering and bouncing when suddenly a Toyota Celica flattens me. Frank peeled me up and nailed me to this here wall.

Frank’s a good sort really, taking us in like this.”

 

(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2017 all rights reserved

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