• Interview Questions Posed by Author Judith Barrow

    What am I working on?

    I am currently formatting the 4th & 5th Books of the series I began writing in 2006; The Celestial Sea Voyages. This is a story that came to me quite unexpectedly—a story that continues to unravel on a daily basis, so while I am organizing past material, I am also keeping a running account of present-day ‘happenings.’ The 1st & 2nd Books; THE CELESTIAL SEA and DRY DOCK are both available through Amazon/Barnes & Noble or Troubador Publishing. The 3rd Book in the series; SETTING SAIL, will be out this summer. The tale is a mystical love story; a sacred romance and moral quest spanning human heart and hemisphere, wrapped in an unusual blanket of intimate, honest sharing. As the years go by, so too the story organically grows, surprising the writer as much as the reader. Through logging the tale, the scribe realizes that ‘something other’ is driving the storyline; something she has no say in directing. Should she be concerned? Should she end the chapters and close the laptop? Fonts are mysteriously changed without her knowledge, codes are added and even passages moved or altered. Live Magic—the real thing—runs through the pages with hope, trust, and ultimately, unconditional love as all involved come to terms with what is---a most extraordinary live epic.

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

    I think the above passage may have answered this question. I have read no other series remotely like The Celestial Sea Voyages, and as a result, it doesn’t easily slide into any specific genre. Written in the present and from a deeply personal angle, the reader is beside the protagonist for every step of her unusual and ultimately thrilling adventure which begins in New Zealand’s North Island. Although set in a modern-day environment, the language has a touch of old-fashioned nuance which gilds the drama with poetic brush-strokes. Primarily a romance, the spiritual element certainly makes it very different from much in that genre. The series was launched in August 2012 as the antithesis of the BDSM trend. I enclose a passage from the series synopsis:

    “Pick a subject for adult readers--a subject to cause a stir; something to feed story-hungry minds. What would you choose? Romance? Adventure? Spirituality? Sensuality? Betrayal? Religious Quandary? Erotica? How about Domestic Hilarity? Live Magic would be different. A Battle between Honour, Integrity and True Love might be novel. What about Psychology? Karmic Enlightenment? Or a Mystery Wrapping an Unborn Child? That could be interesting. Forbidden Love is a good subject too; would that grab the reader? How about a story including all the above? A story that might be true from beginning to end; a story directed by the ‘Something Other’ that makes the magic real and sails a Mystical Boat across uncharted seas?

    If you are interested--read on. Most of the books in this unusual epic are complete. The others are recorded and part written. As the subject, I have had no pre-knowledge of the storyline’s intention; suffice to say the conclusion of the 7th book surprises the writer as much as the reader and leads naturally into the second series—and beyond. All I can say is that the writing reveals a glorious--exciting--and heart-wrenching tale."

    Why do I write what I do?

    There is only one reason I began writing--to save the quantity of literary correspondence that appeared to be accumulating on my mobile phone; literary expression that I couldn’t just ‘delete’. I began weaving these text messages into my diary writing—a way to not only ‘save’ the precious moments, but ultimately to make sense of them. I had no idea that the recording would, in fact, turn out to be a story-in-the-making. So, I can in all honesty say that I never set out to be a writer. In a way, the story turns itself inside out as the leading characters gradually come to the realization that they are, in fact, writing a story—and perhaps the series is the reason for their connection. And this is where the live magic steps in—for what purpose I, as the recorder, am still unclear. But there is a reason, and whatever drives the chapters knows far more than I do! I am merely The Scribe who continues to chart the progress of the story which after 7 years of intense labour has now gone into print. I have grown so accustomed to keeping my diary that I continue doing so—as well as continuing to log and format the remaining books still to be launched. I find that my perception and observation skills have increased no end. I ‘notice’ much that I might never have ‘seen’ if I wasn’t recording daily moments in such detail.

    How does my writing process work?

    I begin my day very early in the morning—usually before 6 a.m--with a cup of tea and my laptop in bed, watching the sun rise over the rural village roof-tops where I live in the heart of Somerset. My two small terriers love this ‘writing/meditation’ time. They curl up either under or on top of the duvet, depending on the temperature! I like to review the previous day’s diary entry with perhaps some additions I may have left out. I then tap in the new date and often record my dreams and ponderings from the night I have recently experienced. My dreams are often colourful, hilarious and sometimes prophetic. Dreams of a very specific nature might hold clues or important revelation that resonates with past chapters or dates—so this takes some time to investigate—and then, yes, you guessed right, I write about my findings in the current diary entry. This means that past passages are often brought forward to be discussed and reviewed in a new light. Alongside the regular and not-so-regular, daily observations this makes for something hopefully interesting! My domestic chores and daytime job three times a week mean I am busy for much of the time, but when I am not I relish stealing a few more moments with my laptop. And so do the dogs!

    Alongside this daily record I am usually working on one, if not two, past volumes. For instance, two weeks ago I finalized the edit on the formatted pages of the 3rd Book; SETTING SAIL, and sent them back to the publisher. This book will be out by the end of July/beginning of August this year. At the same time I have been completing a preliminary edit on the 4th Book; CALM WATERS, while simultaneously logging hand-written script that will make up the 5th Book; NO HORIZON? My laptop does really well, with so many documents open at once—all together with Facebook and Twitter promotions, not to mention e-mails addresses etc. Well—all I can say is that there is no way I would manage this level of both communication and writing if it wasn’t for modern technology—so I hereby say a big THANK YOU to those brilliant folk who have made it possible for writers to really ‘get down to it’!

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  • The Elusive Llandudno Railway Station

    My poor father got on the wrong train on Friday---thought he was travelling to Llandudno via London—an important dinner where he was the guest speaker; the arrangement was a year in standing. His hotel was booked and as a ‘Train Expert’ he was very organized and precise about the arrangements. “I arrived in Warrington; followed the directions to Platform 2; stood under the board that indicated the next train was the one I needed; bang on time it was, and boarded quite regularly. I sat down next to a woman and asked if she was going all the way; “to London?” She replied. “No, to Llandudno,” he responded, surprised. “Llandudno?” She exclaimed. “This is the fast train to London—no stops. We’ll be there in four hours!” My poor father—aghast is the only word to describe his reaction. He spoke to the guard who confirmed the fact that he was indeed on the wrong train. “Funnily enough, another passenger in a different carriage has made the same mistake. I can offer you a free coffee, but to stop the train will cost you one hundred and fifty pounds/minute. Sorry!” My mother was contacted and had to make the tricky call; the Llandudno Historical Society would not be seeing their guest speaker that night. I telephoned my mother at six p.m—just to make sure she was okay on her own, only to find that my father answered the phone! “I thought you were in Llandudno?” I exclaimed. Oh dear.

    Needless to say, in the three days since that episode ‘Llandudno’ has become a family joke and will continue to be so---for ever I reckon, although I don’t imagine the good folk of the Llandudno Historical Society are chuckling. My Pa’s next important speaker’s appointment is planned for the end of November—at the University of Alaska in Anchorage! Should we be concerned?

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  • Puppies on Board!!

    The Pipkin is huffing a lot tonight---and looking at me strangely---staring up the chimney—trying to gain access to the zippered tent on the lawn holding ALL the downstairs furniture, (badly-timed asbestos ceiling removal in process), and generally wanting me close beside her at all times. “I reckon it might be a ‘code red’ night,” I telephone my parents who are equally excited about the iminent arrivals! "Oooo, yuk---her breath smells just like the French supermarkets,” my 14 rear-old daughter, Rinky pipes up, extra sensitive these days; foreign smells being top of her 'Disgusting List.' Why the dog's breath reminds her of a recent Fench trip is beyond me! Poor hound must wonder why on earth we felt it necessary to clear the house in preparation for the birth; "was it really necessary to remove the ceiling as well as the furniture?

    The Pipkin has been in labour all night---I stayed beside the cage disguised as a den for her whelping in my bedroom---can't have it downstairs because of the builders. She wants me with her at all times; either on my bed or me in hers! I woke up at one point to find that I was the one in the cage while she was dozing on my duvet! Oh dear---now I am really tired and grotty, and my hair is all tangled where it’s been brushing against the cage roof. This process is dragging out rather.

    It is now three p..m of the following day and The Pipkin is becoming quite distressed. I keep placing her in her cage—sitting alongside her to calm her down. Now she is moaning, poor love---obviously in pain. I massage her back and talk gently all the while. She definitely wants me nearby. Ah---now she’s sitting down and every now and then she looks to the den roof, beginning to strain. “I think this is it,” I tell Rinky who is on standby, wanting to be party to the great event but hanging back at the same time. “Either that or she’s about to howl to the moon.” “I don’t want to see the gory detail!” Rinky cries, burying her head into my pillows. “The vet says we should telephone if no puppy appears after half an hour of vigorous straining,” I tell her, watching my furry friend as the not-so-vigorous straining begins. After half an hour things pick up and she relaxes into full-on birthing, eventually standing up as the first pup is delivered! It’s relatively dark in the covered cage, but I can see well enough. The Pipkin nibbles open the sack, releasing the amniotic fluid and a brown and white patched male takes his first breath! How tiny and perfect he is. The Pipkin isn’t cutting the cord, so after ten minutes I phone the vet to ask what I should do. “Tie a piece of cotton on the cord close to the pup---to stop the blood flow. Then snip above with sterilized scissors.” I thank the helpful woman and realize that all my thread is stored in the back of the tent! This is where my quick-thinking mind comes in useful. “Dental floss,” I direct my surprised daughter to the bathroom cupboard where she finds the vital component and I eventually manage the task—not so easy on all fours in the semi-dark! After another ten minutes The Pipkin begins straining again and after a while a second puppy appears---long and brown this time! “It’s a female!” I relay the information to Rinky who peers over the edge of the bed in great excitement. “She looks just like an otter!” And so we progress into the evening---a new puppy arriving every so often; a small black male with a white splash on his chest and tan sideburns and socks, followed by two larger females---both black with white tums. Rinky dives into her brother’s room at every arrival, relying the good news. He keeps a low profile, poking his head around the door once to comment on the commonly-occurring smell of marijuana wafting in through our windows—again! “I told you Somerset was the dope capital of England. At least it’s keeping the dog calm!” that is certainly true! The Pipkin appears very dozy and content. Perhaps we should thank the mystery dope smokers, wherever or whoever they may be! Phone calls between each arrival to both Ma & Pa and my sister Mizzie keep us all very excited and busy. I am reminded of one of my Pa’s favourite jokes---an expectant father mistakingly telephoning the cricket commentary office instead of the maternity wing of the local hospital, waiting for news of his wife’s delivery. Each time he telephoned the numbers increased until the final call when he was told; “all out and the last one’s a duck!” The big black females look like expensive German sausages when they arrive—or large black puddings perhaps! I have to help burst the sacks and cut the fifth and final umbilical cord, rising to the challenge easily enough. Goodness me—we are all shattered and sore by the end of the evening and my upper arms are complaining after being caged on hands and knees for so many hours. As for my hair---matted is only half of it! The final pup arrives at nine-thirty and then----and then we ALL sleep, dreaming about twitching paws, tiny tails, dental floss and wafting dope smoke, my young nephew's hilarious lunchtime remark ringing in our ears; "we're hoping for a natural birth!". Real life has to be the funniest!

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  • The Church Fete

    Now--about the Church Fete. I shall record the details here as they were fun and plentiful! I arrived in the vicarage garden at the early hour of 8.30 a.m, as suggested, only to be met by Vicar Julian himself, walking his dog across the playing field alongside. He told me I was rather early and wouldn’t be needed until much later. The Vicarage is a fine old house; somewhat run-down inside as are most in-use vicarages, but simply lovely with a rambling garden opening onto the golf course that makes up a fair amount of the large village. The stone house, Georgian in style but probably older, is protected by a high, buttressed wall on the road side; the only remaining evidence that a grander church building once stood there.

    The sun was pounding down, even at breakfast time. It was very hot walking back home in the morning sun--and then re-appearing as instructed at 11 a.m. after another scorching walk. Jess, who was helping to run the show, was annoyed with Julian and his wife Charlotte for turning me away earlier; “we could have done with her here all day!!” I was quietly relieved that I hadn’t stayed earlier. It was a tiring enough afternoon in the big heat. Jess tends to bluster about, muttering under her breath about everything; she makes me smile, another amusing choir member who rides about town on her old-fashioned bike with a basket on the front. Most of the choir members are over sixty.

    My goodness--the bric-a-brac stall took up most of the garden length--clothes, toys, small pieces of furniture and every kind of trinket, kitchen utensil and ornament! I set about trying to gain some sort of order; an almost impossible task; grateful that the midday sun eventually gave way to the shade of the leafy trees. I put aside a few items for The Playgroup--namely small trinkets suitable for children’s birthday gifts--and then I attempted to sort through the big heap of clothes. A large amount had come from the Vicar’s wife. Charlotte tends to buy cheaply and re-sell on-line, so there were one or two special things amongst the jumble. The most eye-catching item was a pair of saucy, high-heeled red shoes with lattice tops and silver stud-work. “Goodness--these are brand new!” I exclaimed. “I never wore them,” 'Charlie', admitted, surprising me. The Vicar’s wife prefers the abreviated version of her name. Charlie is a painter--specializing in church redecoration. “I trained in London,” she told me. “Is that how you met Julian?” I asked, genuinely interested. A small woman with a twinkle in her eye, Charlie’s long, dark hair that she wears with a fringe reminds me of a cheeky Shetland pony. She speaks with a Scottich accent. “Oh no--we met on-line,” she smiled coyly. “Internet dating; it really does work! We were married 5 years ago. I’ll go and fetch more hangers for the rail.”

    I enjoyed working with Charlie. She spent some time with me on the bric-a-brac stall under the gently-moving trees that thankfully protected us from the heat, although she was busy doing many other things too; taking photographs and providing anyone who asked for anything with cold water to extra carrier bags. I saw virtually all my friends from the village. Neil the retired Bishop was the first to appear, quickly offering to buy me a cup of tea. “Here’s a piece of cake for you too--keep you going. You’ll still be singing with the choir in September?” I like Neil; he always stands when he sings, even when the other tenors are sitting down. Bonnie the choir mistress arrived a few minutes later, fingering the clothes rail with her coy smile, asking how I was doing and telling me that the recording of the choral piece especially written for us hadn’t come out well enough to distribute. “It wasn’t done properly,” she admitted; “too rushed. It’s better in the memory, I can assure you!”

    Bonnie is a small woman in her late fifties. She speaks with a slight foreign inflection. I was surprised when someone told me recently that she is English. Bonnie was awarded the great honour of spending a year under the tutelage of a renowned Polish musician ten years ago. “She was only away for a year,” my informant continued; “but she returned with a Polish accent she has never dropped!”

    A large marquee in front of the vicarage provided tea while another large tent on the golf course was selling alcohol as well as books; an interesting combination. Loud music interspersed with Primary School country dancing ensued while directly across the lawn from my stall was ‘Madame Zita’ sitting inside her Fortune Telling tent. “She looks the part, don’t you think?” Mallory Hern was the next to appear. I first met Mallory when we arrived in the town two years ago and took The Pipkin to the Pet service in the church. Mallory is a regular church goer; always dressed to perfection with polished shoes and suits from Jermyn Street; the epitome of an English gent. A small man with a clipped speaking voice and beautifully presented ‘everything’ he is very dapper! “You remember my friend, Jeremiah Barnsley?” Mallory introduced me to his chum and we shook hands formally. Both men are fine art historians, retired but still involved with university lecturing. I have met Jeremiah before; he lives in London and often spends the weekend here. Both men were beautifully tuned out, wearing open-necked, pressed shirts and chino trousers--and panama hats of course! If the village had a mayor, Mallory would be it. He heads up the local council and various other important ‘bodies’--including the horticultural society. He has a fine garden, including a spectacular rose walk.

    “Your turn to visit Madame Zita,” Mallory teased his friend. “She’s very good--spot on; apparently I grow roses! Here’s a lolly for you,” Mallory turned to me, producing the fruity treat with a flourish, explaining that a small boy had given it to him earlier. “I was judging one of the competitions in the big tent. One of the children was so pleased he’d won he came up to me afterwards and gave it to me as a thank you!” Mallory has invited me to visit his fine house and see his gardens. “I didn’t know you were an Interior Decorator,” he said. “You’ll enjoy seeing inside my house too.” He is off on his travels again soon. I told him I was a writer--Mallory likes to paint, so that was a happy artist’s meeting. The next friend to arrive at my stall was Retired Vicar Derry and his theatrical wife, Ellen. They appeared halfway through the afternoon; both wearing sunhats. They also sing with me in the choir. Derry keeps the website up to scratch and acts as choir secretary. “Good grief--I think I should buy that dreadful picture just to take it out of circulation; like I do with porn!” Derry picked up a rather drear piece of Victorian art in a dark frame--a sepia toned picture of Christ kneeling in a pool of light. “It is rather oppressive,” I commented, adding that it was bound to be in fashion somewhere!

    “Here are some cabbage plants--can you sell them on your stand?” “I’ll take them up to the produce stall; they’ll do better there,” Charlie smiled at the elderly gent in his high-waisted trousers and floppy hat who was keen to contribute. There is something endearing about older gents who find it tricky keeping their trousers up! Did he have egg down his shirt? Possibly. And so the afternoon continued under the shady trees of this delightful, historic place; never a dull moment and so wonderfully diverse that I had to find a camera to remind me of the moments. I love to record the amusing and unexpected detail that make up our funny old lives!

    Now--who appeared next? Ah--the rough diamond fellow with two dogs in tow; a man with bashed in hat and dark T-shirt. He was bronzed like his HUGE Rottweiler/Mastiff that he had on a big chain while clutching a gangly puppy in his arms. Both dogs were causing quite a stir! He wanted to chat. “His brother dropped dead at three years old---not fit enough, I reckon,” he mumbled through uneven teeth, indicating the larger pooch. “My dogs run up my long drive every day--keeps ‘em healthy. This one’s a Jack-Russell. Yeh--I know his legs are rather long for a terrier, so perhaps he’ll be bigger. I don’t mind big dogs!!” And then dear Daniel walked past; the very shy and oh, so sweet church organist who often plays for the choir. He always seems so surprised that I acknowledge him. I gave him a big welcome and he grinned sheepishly. His patterned, summer shirt was rather out of keeping. He is usually buttoned up to the chin and very proper. The tropical number was flapping in the wind and I could see his tummy. He is another older man in his seventies I would say. I like him.

    A woman and her foreign friend in their mid-thirties were the next to approach the stall. They fingered the clothes on the rail and then spied THE RED SHOES! Well--they fell on them with great glee, the foreign lady with very short hair discovering they fitted like a glove. “How much are they?” She asked, turning them over in her artistic hands. “Two pounds? Oh no--that’s far too cheap. I’ll give you a tenner for them. I’m always being told I look masculine. These will change all that!” The shoe party continued apace with others watching from the next door jewelry stall while one small child accompanying the purchasers just had to try on the shoes in question. The transaction completed, I decided this was just the right moment to whisper quietly; “by the way--they were the vicar’s wife’s shoes!” Gales of laughter erupted, just as the vicar himself appeared in his Fete outfit--dressed up in Moorish Arab garb---a white robe and little cap, ringing a hand-bell to summon the second round of country dancers. The next time I spied him he had changed back into his clerical black, sporting shorts instead of trousers and one of those old-fashioned, pastors’ black hats; you know the kind I mean—flattish with a single black tassel dangling over the side. The vicar is a funny fellow; a natural comedian with an unusual manner ---jucular and friendly. He was swigging back the cider and getting more sun-scorched by the hour!

    “Can we hide the water balloons here, behind your table?” Flo and Mel---parents from the Playgroup I run in the village, dragged a large bucket behind the clothes rail. “Shh---don’t let anyone know they’re here,” they told me. “We need the balloons for the children’s games. Oh—can I try on that pretty blue cardigan? It’s perfect!” Flo looked lovely in the crocheted top which she decided to keep on as it matched her dress perfectly. My friend Mary from the choir was running the jewelry stall next to me. Her arrangements were orderly and refined---unlike my chaotic jumble. She had a shady gazebo keeping off the worst of the heat. “We could be in the South of France!” She exclaimed, fanning herself down. Mary is always very well dressed. She runs the choir’s sociable events. “Look at these earrings—have you ever seen anything so strange?” I leaned into the gazebo finding the MOST EXTRAORDINARY pieces ever! They were so odd I had to take a picture of them. Had someone’s dog digested a few electrical components and a dollop of play-dough only to regurgitate the lot? “Oh look--you’d better go,” Mary shook me from my intrigued reverie. “Someone’s waiting for you at your table.”

    A woman I have seen before was holding out a Chinese patterned box, asking about the price. She turned to her Down-Syndrome son standing beside her. “Are you sure you want this? Have you spent all your money?” The young man with downy moustache and beard rummaged in his purse, producing the two pounds required. He gave me a big smile and opened the box which was full of odds and ends. He was rather chuffed with the white, rubber mouse lying amongst the paper clips and marbles. Its tail was missing, but the new owner didn’t seem to mind. Straightening his denim hat and taking his hand, his caring mother led him away into the tea tent. A moment of quiet saw the kind lady from the vicarage kitchen delivering iced water, making sure the stallholders were properly hydrated, so I sat down for a minute or two, enjoying the fun spectacle and continuing to wave to familiar folk.

    And then I met Rrami--a leggy, sun-bronzed fellow with a skinny frame, stubbly face and twinkly eyes. He was interested in several objects on the stall; fingering the items carefully with slow, considered banter as he debated their worth. We chatted as he browsed. “I’m a musician--and a poet,” he shyly informed me. “But I had a rough childhood and my confidence is low. I did dare to play my recorder in the church recently though--when nobody was about! Yes--I have my music on Sound Cloud---do you know about that? You are a writer?? Oh, give me your details. Perhaps I should try twitter. I’m low on confidence, you know. Should I buy this slide viewfinder? How much is it?” What a poppet! I waved Rami goodbye and pocketed his Sound Cloud details.

    “Why do we have to listen to Julian’s 1970’s noise?” Mary was tut-tutting about the dubious music that was obliterating the sound of the pretty hand-bell instruction taking palce beside the tombola stall. “I’d rather listen to the bells, wouldn’t you?” I had to agree as another round of ‘I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester’ drowned out the far prettier melodies.

    And so the afternoon continued. My neighbour with the disabled husband was running the tea tent and another neighbour was organizing the raffle; the denture repair man whose property is as neat as a row of polished teeth. I could go on, but I think that’s enough for one day. I helped clear away and eventually strolled home in the early evening cool, deciding that Mallory’s lolly might be good company. I never usually eat sweets but today was special. Un-wrapping the treat and allowing the juicy flavours to fill my mouth I smiled contentedly. Leaving our New Zealand home has been a big deal, but after two years I can honestly say that I feel I belong in this splendid and quirky corner of England.

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  • The Love Project 'Mother'

    For several years now I have been considering the fact that our Western culture employs only one word for the many different facets of 'Love'---our greatest treasure on Earth. Other cultures use different words--why don't we? I think it is time we redefined the faces of 'Love'. We should invent new words--or reinstate ancient ones now lost.

    Poet Andrew Barber has written a simply beautiful essay on the first, and very important 'Love' in our lives--that of 'Mother'. (http://avbarber.wordpress.com/)

    In this blog post I have attempted to define the different roles that 'She' plays in our lives. Here is a simple ditty that I hope says a lot. If you think of any definitions I have omitted, do post your ideas! I hope this might develop into an exciting project shared by many. What 'Love' facet shall we look at next?

    ‘Mother.’

    Mother Blessed Virgin; haloed, ever mine,

    Mother warm Earth; under feet to define.

    Mother conceiving; her womb as a temple,

    Mother as nurse with first-born; sigh-simple.

    Mother provider; babes wake through the night,

    Mother my guide; mopping tears, holding tight.

    Mother as cook, wooden spoon and egg-timer,

    Mother as crafter, thimble and wool-winder.

    Mother my taxi, washer-woman the best,

    Mother encouragement—flee me the nest.

    Mother of bride, consumed by soft tears,

    Mother as friend, maintaining the years.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! Here's to a LOVING and Blessed 2013

    Marina X

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