The Secret Wound - A Novel for Life

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In writing my first novel Eden Burning I definitely wanted to explore the theme of forgiveness. Growing up in “The Troubles” I was “troubled” by why it was so difficult for people to forgive. Eden Burning is a historical thriller which brings to life an extreme conflict situation within two families – one Protestant and one Catholic in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. It also investigates how conflict is structural – embedded within stories passed down from one generation to another which harden the human heart. Yet Eden Burning is a novel of hope which allows forgiveness to emerge in unexpected ways. To buy it on Amazon, click here.

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In writing The Secret Wound, I knew that my interest was now predominantly in the area of writing about the impact of personal wounded psychological structures within individuals. I understood these to come from not only genetic inheritance but from unmet early emotional needs which caused the characters to seek fulfilment in ways which would never bring deep happiness. Unmet early emotional needs drove individuals in adult life to seek safety and security, power and control, respect and a search for deep affection. These needs, although valid in childhood, are inappropriate to the development of a mature human being and can lead to great distortions in individual responses to life leading individuals to potentially carry out the most terrifying of actions or to the most subtle manipulation of others. These distortions are revealed within the characters of The Secret Wound. To buy it on Amazon, click here.

Themes of a search for Truth also appear in both novels. I am reminded of Richard Rohr’s comments in The Naked Truth – “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” A little disturbing in one way for the author of a thriller novel – yet also an inspiration! If the author can open up to a Witness way of seeing the world without judgement – you learn to love all of your characters – without a sense of meritocracy – that this one is better than that one. This takes the author into the world of unconditional love. The author’s plot and characterisation now move into exploring paradox. Each character has aspects of being good and bad, dark and light, expansive and contractive, profound and superficial, selfish and generous, open and closed, truthful and lying.

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My third novel with its working title of The Painter will take this to even more mystical dimensions within a murder, mystery and psychological thriller. I want to explore how at least one of my characters can move towards the ultimate goal of human life which is to see the world through non-dual consciousness. There is a Painter who has a great gift in painting from childhood. He becomes so famous that his exhibitions are visited by the King and Queen of Spain. However, his life becomes dissipated, his talent blurred. He employs a Gardener. The Gardener creates the most wonderful of gardens – so wonderful that the visiting gentry love his garden more than the Painter’s art. Jealously is seeded. One day the Painter lies sleeping in an absinthe induced drowsiness. He opens one eye to see the Gardener correcting his painting. Rage is seeded. What happens next? We will find out who the Gardener really is why he kept his painting prowess a secret. The reader will gain insight into what is most scary lies within you – not outside.

A lovely review by Matthew Smith on The Secret Wound

Thank you to The Quiet Knitter Blog for posting this lovely review by Matthew Smith Director and Founder of Urbane Publications

https://thequietknitterer.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/celebrating-indie-publishing-urbanebooks-fridayreads-3 

Published: 9th June 2017

Deirdre Quiery’s follow up to the critical success of Eden Burning, The Secret Wound draws the reader into a complex web of relationships within the ex-pat community in Mallorca, discovering their dangerous secrets…and a potential murderer in their midst. One of their number carries a dark and deadly secret from their past, and has murderous plans for a fellow ex-pat. Can any of the close- knit community discover the brutal plans before they are all put in mortal danger? Deirdre Quiery’s gripping thriller is not just an addictive page turner, but provides a compelling exploration of human emotion and desires, and the terrible costs of jealousy and ambition. Perfect for fans of Jane Corry and Amanda Brooke.

My Thoughts & Review:

The idea of “The Secret Wound” intrigued me from the outset, it’s a book that holds a multitude of secrets but also heavily features the theme of forgiveness and the idea of finding oneself.  Sounds like quite a lot in one book doesn’t it?  But somehow Deirdre Quiery pulls it off.

We first meet Gurtha who is struggling with the loss of his mother Nuala, her murder leaving him confused and questioning the meaning of life.  On the advice of family friends he heads to Mallorca to take time away from his responsibilities, to try and find himself and more importantly find the answers that make up the meaning of life.  It is during Gurtha’sday stay in Mallorca that the tale of “The Secret Wound” unfolds and we see things are not as they first seemed.  That’s all I want to say about the plot, otherwise I might give something away!

Beautifully vivid descriptions of settings really bring this book to life, small details about Gurtha sitting in on the bed and hearing the bells ofthe sheep on the mountain side, the noise of the birds combine with the description ofLa Torretta to conjure a vivid and atmospheric image in my head.  Even descriptions of the sky are wonderfully poetic “The sky was a flowing emerald with streaks of ruby.  Golden light reflected onto the waves, twisting in turquoise and yellow hues into waves which looked like molten olive branches.” Beautifully flowing descriptions transport the reader into another world.

There is a thought provoking quality to this, indeed Gurtha’s realisation “human beings do have a conscience and it will triumph in the end” leads him to think that living a simple life will be more fulfilling and rewarding, that he would be best relying on a moral compass in life.  The way that Nuala lived her life also gives pause for thought, highly thought of for the best of reasons – knowing when to speak up and when not, not judging people but knowing the right thing to do, being content with what you have and enjoying life to the fullest.  I can’t help but wonder if we all were a little more like Nuala there might be less unhappiness around.

You can buy a copy of “The Secret Wound” directly from directly from Urbane Publications here, or alternatively via  Amazon UK | Book Depository

Why as a Writer I Love to keep a Journal

As a writer every moment is a special moment. It is as if my eyes are clicking at and simultaneously penetrating every movement. I am an observer and I am the observed. I am connected intimately with this moment. It is like William Blake saying “Kiss the joy as it flies”. The word on the page is the kiss.

I love the world of reverie – the mulling over of life and its occurrences – ideas which come into my head which make unusual connections. These thoughts may never be included in a novel – yet they have a concrete reality which they would never have without a journal.

Keeping a journal is for me like breathing. I can’t imagine being a writer without being a reflector on life with thoughts stored within pages bound with love.

In writing “Eden Burning” and “The Secret Wound” – the journals were the seeds of inspiration in which I record dreams, writings which inspired me and scenes which are ordinary yet always have the potential of becoming transformational. Sometimes the journals are incredible witnesses of a truth of which I could never convince anyone.  

I will tell you one such entry which I recorded in 2000 in one of those journals spread on the table.

I had a dream in which I was lying in a bed in a hospital with a needle in my hand connected to a bag of liquid. My eyes were closed. I could hear my sisters talking and laughing. Then I realised that I was dead. I couldn’t speak with them. My face was hardening. The next day I began to share this dream with my mother. I stopped mid-sentence as I realised that it was her in the dream – not me.

A few months later she came to visit my husband Martin and I in Oxford. She was a little frail but nothing we were told to worry by a heart Consultant in Cork who had checked her out. Her first words on seeing me were, “You are meant to see this.” I didn’t know what she meant by that. I didn’t ask. In a way, I knew what she meant but I also knew that it was not something to be discussed. Those are the thoughts which I recorded in my journal.

That night, I had another dream. There was a large clock – black and white – hanging on a wall. It showed the time of five minutes to four and then it jumped to five minutes past four. I wakened from my sleep – my heart thumping. I looked at the alarm clock. It showed thirty minutes past five in the morning. I knew that my mother would die between five minutes to four and five minutes past four. Maybe it would be that afternoon?

I had a big meeting with the President of the Company I worked for and the President of the Prudential Insurance Company. I drove to work and told the President of my company that I could not stay – I had to return home.

Jump forward. My mother is in hospital. They say that there is a simple need to calibrate her medication. There is no need to panic. Five days later, she is on a life support system. She cannot talk. The white and black clock is in the room. It shows thirty minutes past three. I call the nurse and ask if she can bring my sisters to the bed. We sit together and talk in a natural way about what is happening in our lives. We want our mother to be able to die without feeling the distress that we are holding on to her. We even laugh. The needle is in my mother’s hand.The clock ticks towards five minutes to four, her breathing changes. At five minutes past four she is dead.

Journalling for the writer can be the bridge from the past to the present, the present to the future or it allows the writer to sink into the present moment with great depth and mystery.

Photographs and Memories and “The Secret Wound”

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I’m looking through a window across a garden towards an unknown Chateau which seems to be empty. Two memories surface from the past within this one act of looking. There is the memory of sitting in a car, about to drive away from visiting my mother. I turn to look at the house – to the upstairs bedroom window. My mother is standing there looking out at me. She doesn’t wave. I don’t see her smiling. She is only watching. What is she thinking? I feel a surge of melancholy move through my body – like water in a damn rising to burst through the restraints of the damn wall. I feel the tears run down my face triggered perhaps by an unknown memory. I keep watching until the car pulls out of sight from the house. My mother’s face, now only another photograph imprinted somewhere within me. I did not know that would be the last time that I would see her alive. Yet something, somewhere within me knew.

                In my writing, I draw on real life, real people and then recreate them. In “Eden Burning”, I talk also about this when Tom’s mother dies and he sees her scattered in the faces of everyone he meets – someone has her lips, another her hair, yet another her smile. That’s what I feel that I do as a writer – I take reality like pots of different coloured paint and then make a new painting. So Nuala in “The Secret Wound” has the rainbow colours of my mother.

                A second memory which surfaces looking towards the mysterious Chateau is of a book which I read when studying Spanish literature at University. The author wrote the story from the perspective of the consciousness of a tree in the garden of an old house. The tree tells the story of how it observes through the centuries people coming and going – their loves, confusion and despair. The tree is a neutral observer – an open embrace of branches which accepts all of the to-ing and fro-ing with judgement – a calm, unruffled witness of a flurry of emotional activity and movement.

                In writing “The Secret Wound”, it is important for me as the author to be like that tree - to accept each of the characters which I have created with my pots of paint without judgement. Even more than that – I want to observe deeply what they are doing, thinking and feeling – to learn who they are and who they might be. Each of my characters will have to change – that is life. The question is how will they change? Will they be driven by their dark secrets into an even blacker place of being – or will they be able to scramble out towards the light within a world which will sparkle for them – a world which will be vibrant and full of a bursting potential for welcoming all of the tears and all of the laughter which inevitably spring from being human.

FAKE NEWS AND WRITING THE SECRET WOUND

‘The Independent’ newspaper published an article in which Donald Trump is quoted as saying that ‘fake news’ media is ‘the enemy of the American people.’ The following day we heard Donald Trump in a speech to his followers inform them that a wave of optimism is sweeping America. Each of us has the possibility of responding to either of these statements in agreement or in disagreement. That very fact made me wonder about the role of the author in being ‘fake’ or ‘true’ in what they write.

As an author, I find the whole debate about what is ‘fake’ and what is ‘true’ fascinating. In writing we even come across the word “faction” – meaning a novel which is based on a fusion of fact and fiction. Yet we are unaware that most of us create ‘faction’ in the stories we tell about our own lives.

In The Secret Wound, I explore the story of Gurtha who following the murder of his mother Nuala, travels to Mallorca for 40 days to find ‘the meaning’ of life – searching for a sense of direction which will help him deal with his loss and provide a compass guiding him going forward towards the end of his life’s journey which concludes with him understanding the meaning of his life.

As part of the research for the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the psychology of how individuals can experience the same reality in entirely different ways. Some ways of perceiving the world can be more ‘sane’ than others. What I mean by that is that they are more in touch with ‘reality’. I began to think about my characters in The Secret Wound – the ones who might be more damaged and distorted in their seeing and the ones who may be saner. What happens when characters within a spectrum of insanity and wisdom collide?

Of course it got me thinking about how do you decide who is damaged and who is sane? Or indeed is there anyone sane? How would you know? How would you know what is ‘fake’ and what is the ‘true’? It seemed to me that it was not so much about what my characters saw but how they saw. Each character could experience the same event in different ways. I was reminded of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development from pre-conventional morality, conventional morality and post-conventional morality.  

Being an optimist at heart, I wanted to explore within The Secret Wound, how even the most damaged ‘seeing’ of a created character, had the potential to change. Let’s imagine that pre-conventional morality is seeing from a sociopathic perspective, conventional morality is ego-based and post-conventional morality is a capacity to see beyond the ego - to see from ‘oneness’. 

Here is what Cynthia Bourgeault says of this ‘oneness’ in her articles on ‘Non-Dual Consciousness’,

“I believe the West’s key contribution to the understanding of non-dual perception is that this highest-order … level of consciousness is not a mere extension of the mind. It implies and requires a shift to an entirely different operating system which is anatomically located in the heart – or better yet, in entrainment or in tune with the heart … ‘putting the mind in the heart’.”

Maybe we can distinguish what is ‘fake’ from what is ‘true’ by observing if there is a connection to and a seeing from the ‘heart’. It is not my heart – but rather the one big pulsing, thumping, groaning heart of the world. If I can help my characters drop into that space of the beating life of everything – they become real and not ‘fake’. If I can only help one character do that – how wonderful!

St Valentine’s Day and The Secret Wound

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St Valentine’s Day is a wonderful reminder of the importance of love imprinted within our DNA. I have always been fascinated by love – what it really means – what it looks and feels like. I remember as a teenager looking into the hallway on St Valentine’s Day to see if anyone had sent me a Valentine card. It was rather unlikely as I didn’t know any boys. Growing up on the Crumlin Road in the middle of The Troubles meant that I went to school with an armed escort, returned with an armed escort and never went out – except to go to Holy Cross Church Mass. God became a kind of Valentine. Every song I heard on the radio that sang of love – seemed to me, to be God singing to me or me singing to God.

                So my understanding of love in the absence of a Valentine’s card landing on the hallway floor – was that love still existed – but that it was mystical and that there was someone, some being that I couldn’t see that loved me and I was drawn to love it in return. I use the word ‘it’ because it was never for me male or female. It was beyond that – it was love itself – not boxed into a human form.

                My sisters knew how important it was for me to receive a Valentine’s card. One year they played a prank and sent me a card from an anonymous ‘lover’. I remember being so enthused in opening the card, my heart pounding, believing that someone out there truly loved me and I didn’t know who they were. Hearing my sisters’ laughter, I realised that it wasn’t true. There was no Valentine. Yet that didn’t stop me believing in love.

                I felt that we are all programmed for love. In Eden Burning I talk about how this love can be totally buried within a world of distortion and hatred but it can never be ‘extinguished’. We can never stop breathing love because it is our essence. Eventually in Eden Burning the most twisted of characters are capable of recovering this centre of being.

                In The Secret Wound, my second novel published in June of this year by Urbane Publications, I continue to explore the hidden nature of this love.  The novel is set in two locations – Belfast and Soller – Mallorca. The expat community circle on the surface of life until within a dramatic 40 day lens – their world is transformed – the surfaceruptured and the characters fall into ‘love’ – seeing the world as it really is for the first time.

                This week, in New Zealand, it was moving to see the love which inspired human beings to save hundreds of beached whales. That reveals our DNA for love. Yet the story also shows us how our thinking mind can fail us – for some it was an act of compassion to blow the suffering whales up, to slit their veins so that they would bleed to death or to drug them - all in an attempt to minimise their suffering. Yet the high tide came and Nature swept most of them out to sea. 

In The Secret Wound we discover the distortions of love which human beings are capable of creating through the twistedness of past pains – their secret wounds - inherited or inflicted through personal choices. Yet we discover the flow of love which moves through the expat community despite their efforts to dam it. It is a wave of love which destroys and renews.

Secrets within The Secret Wound

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When writing my first novelEden Burning I was fascinated by ‘secrets’ – the hidden lives of others which may or may not ever be known – their secrets - many of which are taken to the grave.  I remember my mother, in the middle of a riot, pointing down the road at a neighbour, standing outside his shop and making a comment about his life. As a teenager, I wondered, ‘How do you know that is the truth?’ We’re all filtering the world into a lie. Of course I didn’t know about psychology then and wouldn’t have used those words, but I had an intuition that nothing that we thought or felt was ‘real’. It was invented.

                I’ve changed my mind since then and am of the opinion that there can be a reality to what we think and feel.  Our thinking can manifest itself as wisdom and our feelings as compassion. They are both real. But they are not ‘me’. I can’t take the credit for them. They are universal emergent possibilities within the human condition. They are as real as breathing. They are not a secret but a truth expressed in different ways by different individuals.

                In writing, I create the fiction – the lie if you like – but I attempt to touch what is real. It’s a little nugget of gold buried within the story. As I am writing, I don’t know where it is. I know that it will appear but I don’t know exactly where or when.

                So, I begin with secrets which may lead to the truth. In The Secret Wound the hiddenness of past secrets are eventually revealed and in this happening – the world is changed. I think for the better.  We get in contact with what is real. That can only be good.

                I was strongly reminded of this last week when my friend, Lilo from Denmark died.  Lilo arrived in Mallorca about the same time Martin and I did – 15 years ago. We met within our first week. We walked around Lake Cuber at mid-night when there was a full moon and Lilo shared her thoughts that UFOs had been seen in the area. I stifled a laugh but looking at the craggy mountains, highlighted by the silvery moonlight and the sandy earth around the lake, I could imagine why someone might have thought that a possibility.  It was a perfect site for a moon landing – so why not an alien landing?

                Lilo was an Existentialist. There was no life after death. Life had no meaning or value other than what you chose to give it. Lilo chose the pleasure and joy of life as meaning. She loved Mallorca with its sun, the beauty of Nature – to be able to walk and swim.

                Yet Lilo had her secrets. When I did a talk in the Irish Pub in Soller to introduce the locals to Eden Burning, Lilo was there.  When it came to question and answer time, she asked,

                “So this novel is about forgiveness?”

                I answered,

                “Yes. That is an important theme. Not the only theme but an important theme.”

                She replied,

                “I don’t believe in forgiveness.”

                I knew then that there was a secret in Lilo’s life which she had not revealed in 15 years. When she died, her friends uncovered her art.  In Denmark she was an artist and a sculptor. When she came to Mallorca, she did not talk about her art or exhibit it. Yet, it was magnificent.  When we had previously talked about art, she said, ‘All artists are mad.”

                So there is a secret in Lilo’s life which has gone to the grave, but it doesn’t mean to say that it will not surface in a novel … Watch this space.

                Meanwhile in The Secret Wound  the secrets of the past are unfolded and you know (or do you?) what is real in the lives of Gurtha, Nuala, Paddy, Cornelia, Barry, Stephanie, Todd and Angelina.

In Search of Meaning - The Secret Wound

 

I remember as a teenager loving to read the writings of Albert Camus. There are two books which I visualise reading – ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ and ‘The Outsider’ -  sometimes translated as ‘The Stranger’. I didn’t study philosophy at school but I was asking questions about the ‘meaning’ of life.

                I also loved Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafta. I have that beetle image in my head. I wasn’t so keen on Sartre and Simone Beauvoir. All I remember about reading their books and reading about Sartre and Simone was that they didn’t seem to wash a lot, were smelly and drank a lot of coffee on the South Bank.

 

                It was Albert Camus who attracted me most. It had something to do with the honesty of his life. He loved to present the reader with dualisms – happiness and sadness, darkness and light, life and death. Maybe that came from his poor childhood. His father was killed in the First World War in 1914. He lived with his mother in impoverished conditions and to go through University had to take on a number of part-time jobs. He joined the Communist Party because,

“We might see Communism as a springboard and asceticism that prepares the ground for more spiritual activities.” That seems rather paradoxical but it was a sign of not accepting anything at a surface level of understanding.

He was expelled from the Communist Party, became associated with the French Anarchist Party before becoming a Pacifist during World War II.  So he was a man not of only of thought but of commitment to social action and community - prepared to grow and change his mind if it brought him closer to truth.

What’s the link with ‘The Secret Wound’? When I started to think about ‘The Secret Wound’, I had the idea of trying to write about a myth which had never been written before – a journey which had never been taken. Of course that seemed impossible. Then I thought about most myths and they are like Camus’s ‘Sisyphus’ about an individual’s struggle in life – whether it has meaning – whether they overcome the challenges which they face along the way. That triggered a thought that perhaps there could be a story which was about going ‘beyond Good and Evil’ but which did not mean a breakdown in morality but rather an experience of a love which did not judge Good and Evil.

The Existentialists explored the meaningless nature of life. The Existential Nihilists thought also that life was without objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value. That was not Camus’s point of view. He said,

“If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something which still has meaning.”

 

Writing The Secret Wound in Mallorca

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Sometimes we don’t know why we do the things we do. When I look back at critical decisions I have made in my life – they were never easy to make. The first of such decisions was the one to leave Northern Ireland and move to Nottingham. I was a District Manager with what was then the Gateway Building Society. I was happy. There was a decision to be made when my husband’s company pulled out of Northern Ireland and he decided to study to be a Chartered Accountant. He could have studied in Belfast but something made us think that I could apply for a job in Nottingham and he could also study there. We didn’t know whether that was a good idea or not and so we made a list of reasons for going and reasons for staying and weighted them out of 100. It turned out there were equal reasons for going as for staying and when we added up the weightings – the totals were exactly the same. I applied for the position and thought I would let fate decide. If I was offered it – we would go. If not – we would stay. We moved to Nottingham.

                Fourteen years ago I remember that strange feeling of being happy again. By then we were living in Oxford. I had this odd idea that you couldn’t be happy for the rest of your life or you wouldn’t learn anything. You wouldn’t grow. My husband and I went on holiday for two weeks to Mallorca. We decided that this time, we would make our decision on what our next move would be after spending the first week of the holiday in silence. By then we had learnt how to meditate and had attended several silent retreats. We created a retreat schedule, placed it on the fridge door, bought all the food in for the week, decided who was cooking what, when and stayed in silence. It was almost total silence – only one word was spoken – when my husband let an expletive out as he squashed a mosquito to death in the early hours of a morning.

                At the end of that week of silence, I produced two sheets of blank paper and we had to write down what we wanted to do before breaking the silence. I wrote go back to Ireland with work and my husband wrote that we should come to Mallorca. I was pretty surprised at that. I had already made him give up his job which he loved, telling him to ‘throw away his game boy’ to find out the meaning of life. I was able allow him to take six months off because I been awarded a bonus for achieving my sales target for the year. For both of us to give up our jobs seemed a step to far for even me.

                Yet when we talked about it, I realised that it was fear that was holding me back from taking such a big risk. As soon as I felt that fear – I knew that we had to come to Mallorca. A few months later we had sold our house and left with Ziggy the cat and two suitcases. We were on our way to Mallorca to rent a property in an olive grove – in a house which had no running water, no fixed line telephone, no TV. That is the house that Gurtha rents in The Secret Wound for forty days. Over the next eighteen months we invited more than a hundred people to lunch. We began to understand how different Mallorca really is to the UK and Ireland. We decided to integrate as much as possible with the local Mallorquins.  We met Pep the gardener who chopped off his fingers in an accident whilst cutting an olive tree – picked them up – put them in a plastic bag and drove to the hospital in Palma. That very same Pep took an axe with him to Palma as an influencing strategy to get money back which he hadn’t been paid for oranges. He jumped over a fence with the axe and wielded over the head of a prize pig and with a couple of phone calls – the debt for the oranges was repaid.

Over the fourteen years in Mallorca – there was an opportunity to step back, be in nature, to read, paint and write. Eden Burning was my first novel – published by Urbane Publications in 2015. The Secret Wound will be published in June 2017. I loved having the opportunity of weaving two worlds together – that of Belfast, the land of my birth and that of Mallorca – the land of adventure.

INSPIRATION for 'THE SECRET WOUND' by Deirdre Quiery

Published by Urbane Publications in June 2017

As a child myths and symbols fascinated me. As an adult I grew to also love synchronicity – that nothing is a coincidence – we fall into patterns of relationship which have meaning. For example, I bought a notebook for 2017 in which I wanted to write my thoughts and inspirations for my third novel. The cover is filled with the writing of the author Balzac who lived (1799-1850). The writing on the cover shows neat scribbles with lines through words. Overall it looks like more lines through words, than words left on a page.

It reminded me of editing ‘The Secret Wound’ over Christmas 2016 and the New Year 2017. I would get up at five in the morning and begin the editing process. While the world celebrated with friends and family, I worked with my husband Martin editing and watched the sky lightening. There was little to pull me away from the process of sinking into the world of ‘The Secret Wound’ and carving it into shape with the exception that I had become fascinated by Balzac. I allowed this to be my single distraction. 

I looked again at his fearless ‘x’-ing out of paragraphs, his inserting of drawings like windows into his scrip, his wavy lines linking up one paragraph with another. I discovered that he had several career moves – starting as an apprentice in a law office, attempting to be a publisher, printer, business man, critic, and politician and had failed in all of these. I loved the man even more. 

I started out selling buns in the ‘Nutty Krust’ bakery in Lurgan, Northern Ireland after studying Spanish and Portuguese at Leeds University. Then I worked for a while in an Estate Agency as a Secretary. I loved organising everything – all the filing cabinets and systems but when a builder came in one day and asked me to get him a cup coffee, I told him to get it himself. I knew that I wasn’t suited to that job. I became a Nurse for a while and enjoyed working on a surgical word – in particular helping a young guy who had come of his bicycle and was pierced like a sausage on a railing – get ready for theatre. I later was a clerk in a Building Society, then a District Manager with sales targets and teams to work with, then a Strategic Account Manager in a Global Talent Consultancy and a Consultant delivering Leadership workshop around the world. I studied for a Masters in Consciousness Studies and fourteen years ago left the UK behind to write in Mallorca. 

Balzac’s characters are morally ambiguous and fully human. He liked to use detail to create his characters as real people – neither fully good nor fully evil. In writing ‘The Secret Wound’ – that is what I wanted to do – to enter the expatriate community within Mallorca and to explore the intricate web of human relationships where my characters would be neither fully good, nor fully evil – although some you will see are more wounded than others.  

‘The Secret Wound’ tells the story of turmoil and chaos that unfolds over forty days within the expatriate community in Soller, Mallorca. Secrets from the past are revealed. Truth emerges and relationships are changed forever. 

'The Secret Wound' is now available for pre-order on Amazon and can be found by clicking here. 

    

The Power of a Meditation Retreat and Writing

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It’s five in the morning. The bells will ring at six. I got up early. The meditation hall is empty. I love to be there alone. The energy of everyone on retreat feels like a powerful heartbeat. The room is pulsating with the potential of life. At six when the bells strike the air with a deep and urgent call, the pigeons will fly out from their nests, the swallows and sky larks will slice through the morning sky – another day of movement and possibilities.

I love being on retreat with others. This year at Monte Oliveto near Siena, Tuscany – the theme of the retreat was “Change”. Change is very important for a writer. You have to be prepared to die to every word on the page and be born to the next. You need silence to be able to catch like a fisherman the next word or image. Change – at the deepest level is about transformation – changing your relationship with yourself and others. Meditation helps you do that – helps you die and let go. John Main said, ” You will then soon discover that life is always marvellously fresh, continually exciting, because it is always expanding. Your sights are always expanding into infinity, not contracting into this or that passing object of satisfaction. That is why a person meditates.”

For a writer you know the importance of expanding into infinity – of letting your characters become deeper and more real with every scene that you write – of capturing the emotion that plummets to the depths of the ocean or soars like the skylarks high towards a disappearing moon at sunrise. You hear the laughter of those you have created and are splashed by their tears. You wonder what they will want to do next. You find out in the silence.

I love the community aspect of being on retreat also as inspiration for writing. You watch the shuffling swollen feet of a stranger head towards the slowly boiling kettle. You can only wonder what their world is beyond the monastery – what brought them here? The young monks singing their Gregorian chants in a world which mainly ridicules their existence. Yet as a writer you are humbled and filled with wonder at this discipline of living in community and thinking of others. That is what the writer has to do – to think of others – to turn with love to every person who breathes on the page. You have to stay with them a long time – perhaps forever – with fidelity and commitment. You learn to taste the beauty of doing that on retreat.

The Writer – an Archaeologist of Self and Others

I have always loved archaeology – the desire of man to understand from scratching below the surface of a dusty earth – an unknown but real buried past.  Above is a photograph of the site of Troy – a city in Turkey besieged for ten years and finally conquered by a Greek army led by King Agamemnon in search of Helen a Queen from Sparta – in Homer’s “Iliad”.

What a story! What passion, focused desire, tenacity. What led up to it? What happened during the ten year siege? How did Helen feel? What happened to her afterwards? The reader wants to know. The first recorded archaeologist Henrich Schliemann began excavations in Troy in 1870. What drove him to investigate this place of a history of more than 4,000 years? Another great story.

This morning I was reading Thomas Keating writing on “The Human Condition”. He described the human journey as being that of an archaeologist – excavating the “self”. In the Near East centuries ago, Thomas reminds us that after a battle was won after burning down the old city a new culture was built on top of it. These ruins of ancient cities built on top of one another when excavated and discovered are called “tells”.

Our journey in life is to “excavate” the self – to dust of the surface with extraordinary care and pick our way gently to the layers below. On the way down to the centre, we will face our demons. The collapsed cities of our inherited past, the screaming terror of an existential fear of existing which we ran away from, the hurt, pain, disappointments, sorrow, despair which moved us to act in ways which caused us to curl up in shame.

We unfold with gloved hands, these artifacts of who we are with gentleness, curiosity and love. We bring them to the surface and place them in glass cases to be known by others, loved and admired. We keep digging.

Eventually we arrive at the place where the first brick was laid – the first creation of the culture, identify of our lives. We have the courage to remove this. What do we find?

I will share that with you in my second novel “The Secret Wound”which I am finishing this summer and which will be published by Matthew Smith in Urbane Publications in Spring 2017.

The author is not only someone who is prepared to excavate the site of their own identity but is prepared to create new worlds, built on multiple cultures and allow the reader to join them in the mutual discovery of hidden secrets, amazing treasures and the mystery of human existence.

As an author you become a creator who has forgotten his/her creation and is fascinated by the act of creating and uncovering the characters and motivations which drive us to such amazing acts of barbarism, love and an unquenchable drive of the human spirit to keep going. The author wants to experience again and again the mystery of squirming, fluttering and floating on the surface of life and painstakingly discovering the mystery of its depths.