Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Oregon-Bound Airline, in 1849?



Nope, not joking. The founder of Scientific American, Rufus Porter, planned to fly pioneers to Oregon on propeller-driven balloons powered by steam engines. Two hundred brave souls signed up for the trip. But the "airline" never got off the ground.

Then there was the wind wagon; half sailboat, half wagon. Seemed like a good idea—on paper; it can be very windy in the West, after all. A prototype was built, and for a moment it barreled across the plains at the advertised 15 miles per hour. Unfortunately, it went out of control and crashed. The inventor, dubbed "Wind-Wagon Thomas," tried for years, but never succeeded.

A less high-tech approach was a simple wheelbarrow. Try to imagine pushing a fully loaded wheelbarrow for 2,000 miles. Several dozen people did try this method of reaching Oregon. For a while, they actually outpaced every other conveyance on the Trail, but human endurance does have its limits, and it’s questionable whether any who tried this mode of travel reached their destination. More sophisticated were the Mormon handcarts. Like wheelbarrows, they were human-powered, but handcarts were pulled, not pushed. 

The most common wagons used for hauling freight back East, the Conestogas, were developed in Pennsylvania by descendants of German colonists. Conestoga wagons were large, heavy, and had beds shaped somewhat like boats, with angled ends and a floor that sloped to the middle so barrels wouldn't roll out when the wagon was climbing or descending a hill. Like the covered wagons of the western pioneers, it had a watertight canvas bonnet to shelter the cargo. Conestogas were pulled by teams of six or eight horses and could haul up to five tons.

Traders on the Santa Fe Trail adopted them for their durability and size, but bullwhackers or muleskinners were preferable to teamsters—the immense distances and scarcity of good water along the Santa Fe Trail precluded the use of horses as draft animals. Teams of up to two dozen oxen or mules were used to haul the heaviest loads. Sometimes a second wagon, or "backaction," was hitched behind the lead wagon.
Pioneers on the Oregon Trail, on the other hand, such as Brianna Wight and Columbus Nigh in my book, Tender Touch, found Conestoga wagons too large for their needs: the huge, heavy wagons killed even the sturdiest oxen before the journey was two-thirds complete. The "Prairie Schooner," a half-sized version of the Conestoga that typically measured 4' wide and 10' to 12' in length, offered a solution. With the tongue and neck yoke attached, its length doubled to about 23 feet. A Prairie Schooner, including the bonnet, stood about 10' tall, with a wheelbase over 5' wide. Empty, it weighed around 1300 pounds and was easily dismantled en route for repairs. Teams of 4 to 6 oxen or 6 to 10 mules were sufficient to get the wagons to Oregon.

Hardwoods were used for the wagon box, or bed, to resist shrinking in the dry air of the plains and deserts. It measured 2' to 3' deep, and with a bit of tar, could be rendered watertight and floated across slow-moving rivers. Side boards were beveled outwards to keep rain from coming in under the edges of the bonnet and to help keep out river water. The box sat upon two sets of wheels of different sizes: the rear wheels were typically about 50" in diameter, while the front wheels were about 44" in diameter. The smaller front wheels allowed for a little extra play, letting the wagon take slightly sharper turns than it would otherwise have been able to negotiate without necessitating a great deal of extra carpentry work to keep the bed level. All four wheels had iron "tires" to protect the wooden rims, and they were likewise constructed of hardwoods to resist shrinkage. Because dry air could shrink the wood enough that the iron tires would roll right off the wheels, emigrants soaked them overnight in rivers and springs.

Hardwood bows held up the heavy, brown bonnets. The bows were soaked until the wood became pliable, bent into U-shapes, and allowed to dry. If done properly, they would hold their shape, which was important: if the wagon bows were under too much tension, they could spring loose and tear the bonnet while the wagon was jostled and jounced over rough terrain. The bonnets themselves were usually homespun cotton doubled over to make them watertight. They were rarely painted (except for the occasional slogan such as "Pike's Peak or Bust" in later years) as this stiffened the fabric and caused it to split. The bonnet was always well-secured against the wind, and its edges overlapped in back to keep out rain and dust. On some wagons, it also angled outward at the front and back to give additional protection to the wagon's interior.

Wagons inevitably broke down or wore out from the difficulty and length of the journey. Equipment for making repairs en route was carried in a jockey box attached to one end or side of the wagon. It carried extra iron bolts, linch pins, skeins, nails, hoop iron, a variety of tools, and a jack. Also commonly found slung on the sides of emigrant wagons were water barrels, a butter churn, a shovel and axe, a tar bucket, a feed trough for the livestock, and a chicken coop. A fully outfitted wagon on the Oregon Trail must have been quite a sight, particularly with a coop full of clucking chickens raising a ruckus every time the wagon hit a rock. The brake lever was usually located so it could be pressed by the driver's foot or thrown by someone walking alongside the wagon, and it was ratcheted so the brake block would remain set against the wheel even after pressure was taken off the lever.

Many emigrants braved the Oregon Trail in simple farm wagons fitted with bonnets. They were smaller than Prairie Schooners and offered less shelter, since the bonnets weren’t cantilevered out at the front and back. But, in other respects, they were quite similar.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

PLEASE WELCOME AUTHOR JAZ HARTFIELD



ONE NIGHT IN AMSTERDAM by Jaz Hartfield

‘One Night in Amsterdam’ is an adult romance set in Europe’s most famous red-light district. Chloe organises a hen party for her best friend; Dean is the groom, enjoying his final weekend of freedom before ‘settling down’ with Tamsin. The two groups happen to meet and when Dean is smitten by Chloe he wonders if he needs to feel guilty about having one final ‘fling’.  Both characters have arrived in Amsterdam unhappy about their ‘normal’ lives.

When we first meet Chloe, she is going through the motions of another one-night stand:

“Bloody hell! You’ve got lovely tits, babe.”
Chloe bit her lip, not to suppress a moan of pleasure but to stop herself from voicing her sense of disappointment. Every bloke she went with always told her the same thing. ‘Lovely tits’. Like a mantra. As if these idiots had nothing else going on in their heads. He could at least tell her she was beautiful, or be original and appreciate her legs or arse. She thought they were pretty spectacular too. No, it was always her tits.
He cupped them and brought them to his lips as if slurping fresh water from a running stream. Over his shoulder, she took a glance at the photograph of Mike with his wife and three cute children. She felt a bit guilty lying in his bed, knowing that the four other people in the photograph were at a school concert, whilst she enjoyed a quick thrill with their husband and dad.
When Mike began twisting her nipple as if turning up a thermostat, Chloe considered walking out on him. He’d been quite sweet until now, buying all the drinks and food. She liked being pampered, and he seemed to enjoy looking after her, so she had no real reason to complain. The fact that Mike also happened to be her line manager played a part in this decision too. Rumours abounded of redundancies and this seemed an excellent ploy to avoid that eventuality. The idea of finding another job, however much she hated this one, was depressing. The only real reason she might need a new job was because she was running out of men to sleep with.

Dean finds himself engaged but unready for the discipline of being completely faithful to one person for the rest of his life. Perhaps Tamsin isn’t the right one for him? As he makes love to his fiancée, he can’t help his mind from wandering...

Closing his eyes, his wayward thoughts drifted to Belinda from his office. She was about twelve years older than him, but always wore low necklines and tight trousers, and he’d often wondered what it would be like to have sex with someone more experienced than himself.
Warm pleasure started to envelop and gush inside him.

Then it starts to go horribly wrong:

It had been happening more and more when making love to Tamsin. Imagining himself having sex with her younger sister had become a difficult habit to break. Did this make him a bad man? Jade had suddenly blossomed into this eighteen year old sex bomb, a younger version of Tamsin. She’d even started flirting with him, which drove him crazy with lust. But what did this mean? Did he still love Tamsin? The last time Jade stayed over, she’d walked about in her red bra and panties, driving Dean insane. What was worse – she knew it too.
Was that normal?

So when Dean and Chloe meet on their drunken weekend of debauchery, both are looking for that perfect night… for their desires to be finally fulfilled...

Blurb for ‘One Night in Amsterdam’

Chloe organizes Jo’s hen weekend in Amsterdam, glad to get away from the usual boring or married men that she sleeps with. Perhaps she’ll meet some cool guys up for a bit of fun. If not, at least she’ll make sure her best friend gets very drunk while they all party in style. 

Dean is getting married to Tamsin, but having serious doubts. His mates take him to Amsterdam for one last weekend of debauchery before settling down for the rest of his life. But is Tamsin the right woman for him? 

When Chloe and Dean meet in Amsterdam’s red-light district, they are immediately attracted to each other. Dean tries to justify one last fling before marrying Tamsin. Chloe feels bad about having sex with someone else’s intended. Yet, a night of amazing sex is exactly what both of them want. So, why shouldn’t they just enjoy one night of fantastic, guilt-free sex?

Author Bio:
Jaz Hartfield is a writer and actor who loves travelling. He’s always looking for his next thrill, having tried bungee-jumping, parachuting, white-water rafting, pot-holing and deep sea diving. Jaz has lived in many different places; his favourite parts of the world include New Zealand, Kenya, Ireland and the Lake District in England. Having been on a stag weekend in Amsterdam, Jaz is unwilling to admit whether this story has elements of the truth in it or not.


Links:








Thursday, November 6, 2014

GREAT NEWS! KETA DIABLO HAS A NEW BOOK OUT!!!

Keta Diablo writes wonderful western romance, plus several other genres. She's a very busy gal. But here is here latest release,Chasing The Dead, Book One of the Bannister Brothers Series.


Title – Chasing the Dead, Book 1
Series – Bannister Brothers
Author – Keta Diablo
Genre – Western Romance (Paranormal)
Publication Date – October 17, 2014

~*~
About the Book
The Apache kidnapped me to dispel an evil ghost from their village. If I tell them I don't possess the same skills my madre did, they'll cut my throat and feed me to the dogs. Celesta was the best spirit chaser in all of New Mexico before she died.

The most I can hope for is that Emmett, my fiancé, will rescue me. Is he capable of such a thing? Poppy must not have thought so because he sent Deacon Bannister to save me. Deacon…the man who walked away days before our wedding a year ago. The man who still melts my bones after one look.

We're running for our lives from Uday, the vaporous ghoul tracking us. He wants Sacheen, the beautiful maiden banished from the Apache village who travels with us. The warrior killed her father when Sacheen refused to marry him, and then Sacheen's brother killed Uday.

The ghost's powers grow stronger every minute on our journey back to El Vaquero...and so does my love for Deacon.
~ Madrid Arrende ~

~*~
Excerpt
A shadow hovered near the fires, ducking in between stalks of cacti and other scrub brush. Maddie drew a deep breath and ambled forward with Elan beside her. Amid the dissonant chants and prayers, warriors brandishing spears and shields hollered into the gray mist. Maddie squinted, hoping to catch sight of the ghoul the others couldn't see. Only powerful shamans and spirit chasers had trained themselves to look upon the face of a dead spirit. A ripple of fear spread through her limbs and shivered down her spine when la fantasma appeared before her.
A mass of black patterns and swirls marred his enraged face. His eyes were hollow and black until a den of serpents slithered from the sockets–a deception the spirit had learned in his brief time in the underworld.
Maddie swallowed hard and sneaked a glance at Elan. Standing tall and looking formidable, she had to admire the man's courage. "It is you he seeks to destroy, Elan, to forge a path to Sacheen. I will go forth on my own now."
Elan shook his head, his expression one of disbelief. "Why would you put yourself in such danger? We wait and see what the dead man will do."
"No. It is what he wants, for all in the village to fear him. Only then does his true power unfold. I will meet his challenge; let him know I am here to banish him back to the dead." "Although I cannot", she whispered under her breath.
The ghost twisted and turned, retreating back from the fire, only to appear seconds later at another location in camp. He screamed and howled, the otherworldly sounds rumbling through the village like a murderous dust storm.
 Maddie shrugged aside Elan's grip on her elbow and walked forward. "Madre, be with me," she said to the ground. The moon had not shown its face this night but a smattering of a million stars gave enough light for Maddie to focus on the grim outline of the wretch. "Lift up your eyes dead spirit and hear my words."
An inhuman screech sent a blast of wind in her direction. It lashed her face and whipped her long hair into a frenzy.
"You are small and weak. I do not fear you!" she screamed, bewildered by the words spewing from her mouth. "The wolf has sung your passing and the bear has grumbled low. Sing your death song and return to the underworld."
The wailing chants of the shamans echoed behind her.
Ignoring her warning, Elan suddenly appeared beside her, only to be struck to the ground when the ghoul unleashed a stream of lightning spikes from the sky. Elan moaned, clutched his broken arm and attempted to rise.
"Stay down!" Maddie ground out between clenched teeth.
Her mother's voice rode the crest of her fear. Be strong, Madrid, try again.
Her knees shook and her spine curled, but she took another step forward. "Your breath has moved to another world. You must remain with it. Do you hear me, dead spirit? You are no longer welcome here. Your relatives have said farewell and so must you, never to return."
A refrain from the Apache against her back bolstered her courage—a roar of cheers and the synchronized trampling of moccasins beating the ground.
 Torrents of rain fell from the sky, pounding Maddie into the earth beneath her feet. Wet dirt spiraled up her nose and debilitating pain wracked her body. A hand clamped over her arm. When Maddie realized it belonged to Elan, a sigh of relief mingled with the cold blast of air surrounding them. Sacheen's brother pulled her against his wet body and crawled toward camp, dragging her with him.
A triumphant scream from the ghost rent the air, pitching the warriors into a cowering retreat. The cold, gray dawn swept over camp. Shivering with despair, Maddie turned to Elan. "His power is great."
Out of breath and still clutching his arm, he nodded.
"Maddie raised a fist to the sky. "We have failed this night, dead spirit, but we will not the next time we meet."
~*~
Connect with Keta Diablo:

Buy Chasing the Dead

Saturday, October 25, 2014

CONTEST!!

CONTEST! 
Hey, everyone. I've decided my book cover design site, Cover-Ops, needs a better name so I'm having a contest to find the perfect one.

To enter, go to www.cover-ops.blogspot.com and leave a comment giving your suggestion.

Contest will run through November, winner to be announced Dec 1. Open only to individual authors. No groups or publishers.

PRIZE will be FREE BOOK COVERS for the life of the site. Don't miss out on this opportunity. www.cover-ops.blogspot.com


 Examples of covers available at Cover-Ops.

Contemporary Romance
Contemporary Romance



Native American
Mystery or Fantasy
Historical
Western
Historical
Historical







Monday, September 29, 2014

A TASTE OF STILETTOS AT HIGH NOON

Today on Stilettos at High Noon, another segment of the series,

NINETEENTH CENTURY HOUSE ARCHITECTURE SERIES

This  time we're discussing Greek Revival style homes.

Greek Revival is an excellent example of a style that gained popularity by exploring parallels between an earlier culture and the present day. With British influence waning considerably after the War of 1812 and the nation rapidly expanding westward, the style was fundamentally an expression of America’s triumphant sense of destiny and the sense that our newly formed nation was the spiritual descendant of Greece, birthplace of democracy. Americans’ sympathy and support for Greece’s war of independence from Turkey also contributed to this idiom’s influence. Popular from 1825to 1860, in more isolated parts of the country, the style was prevalent right up to the Civil War.
In time, Greek Revival even became known as the national style, so pervasive were the temple-fronted façades on the nation’s churches, banks, town halls, and houses. Appropriate to the nation's emerging sense of self, one of the country's first Greek Revival buildings was the Second Bank of the United States, built in Philadelphia between 1819 and 1824. Fostered by building handbooks used by carpenters and builders, the style moved West with the early settlers and acquired subtle regional differences along the way. Not surprisingly, the fastest growing regions ended up with the largest number of Greek Revival homes. Popular fascination with Greek Revival began to wane toward the late 1800s as architects in the East explored other styles, such as Gothic and Italianate. 

To read the rest of the article go to http://stiletttosathighnoon.blogspot.com.

 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

NEW WESTERN HISTORICAL BY ELLEN O'CONNELL

You'll love this new western historical romance by Ellen O'Connell.

Discounted pre-order price until September 30th - $2.99
Standard price after release - $4.99
Also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers to borrow after September 30th release date
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NKYJCKW/




Blurb

Bounty hunter Bret Sterling kills Rufus Petty, thief and murderer, less than ten feet away from a frightened, half-starved woman. Rufus should have surrendered. The woman should have kin to help her. But Rufus went down shooting, and the woman has no one. Bret figures by the time he finds a safe place to leave Hassie Petty, he’ll earn the five hundred dollar reward several times over.

Hassie doesn’t mourn Rufus, but the loss of the ten dollars he promised her for supplies is a different matter. The bounty hunter gives her nothing, takes everything, ties the body on one horse and orders her on another. Afraid if she defies him, he’ll tie her down tighter than Rufus, Hassie mounts up and follows the icy-eyed killer.

Mismatched in every way, the sterling man and petty woman travel the West together, hunting thieves, deserters, and murderers. Wary traveling companions, friends and partners, lovers, Bret and Hassie must decide what they want, what they need, and the price they’re willing to pay for love.

Excerpt

Hassie wiped her wet eyes and runny nose on the sleeve of the purple dress, unwilling to look at Bret again. She let go of his arm and tried to put some space between them. Tried. His hand clamped around her upper arm like a vise. “Let’s go.”

Too afraid to resist, she let him propel her out of the street, up on the walk, past groups of curious bystanders. The pain in her side had subsided. Her throat and chest still burned, although her heart and lungs had slowed. Fear and humiliation burned worst of all, fear of what he was going to do, fear of what he thought. Humiliation over her situation, her failure.

The sight of the hotel changed her mind about resisting. She jerked and pulled against Bret’s hold, desperate not to set foot in the hotel again. He ignored her, all but lifting her off her feet by the arm. Unable to bring herself to fight him the way she had fought the Restons and Zachary, she gave in.

He threw the door open so violently it crashed into the wall, cracking the etched glass panel that had graced the top half. Across the silent lobby, up to the shining mahogany desk.

Bret smashed the silver bell with the butt of his pistol so hard the bell fell apart with a sad little ting. Undeterred, he used the gun like a hammer on the polished surface of the desk. Hassie flinched at the sounds as one deep gouge after another marred the wood.

Mr. Reston emerged through the door to the owners’ private rooms, his usual smile fading fast when he saw who stood at the desk. He reached for the door behind him as if to flee back through.

“Not unless you want to lose a hand,” Bret said. “Get out here, and get your wife.”

Pasty-faced and trembling, Reston called his wife and moved behind the desk when ordered.

At the sight of Bret, Mrs. Reston’s face hardened, but she smiled. “Good afternoon, Mr. Sterling, we thought you left town.”

“I bet you did. You round up everything Mrs. Petty brought to this place and get it out here. Now.”

Defiance and anger flashed across the woman’s face. “I understand you’re upset, but we did exactly what we promised. Hassie did not work out here. Guests were already complaining about dealing with a du—mute. Sally Nichols offered to take her, and a job with Sally would be much more suitable.”

“How much did you sell her for?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We didn’t sell....”

“One hundred dollars,” Hassie said, knowing no one would understand the words, but hoping like her mother, Bret could understand the rhythm of an expected phrase.

“Hear that,” Mrs. Reston said self-righteously. “No one could understand that. She sounds like an animal. If we’d heard that before we hired her, we wouldn’t have done it. You left. We did the best we could.”

“I understood. You sold her for a lousy hundred dollars. Now you get her things.”

“We don’t have anything of hers. She didn’t have anything worth a nickel. Go talk to Sally.”

The glass globe of the lamp on the wall to the right of the desk exploded. The sound of the gunshot hurt Hassie’s ears so much she covered them, even though it was too late. Glass showered down over Mrs. Reston. Mr. Reston squealed and disappeared behind the desk.

Mrs. Reston twisted around to look at the ruined lamp, the scratches on her cheek disappearing amid the bright red that suffused her face. “Do you have any idea how much those lamps cost? We had them shipped from New York City.”

The lamp to the left of the desk exploded. Another squeal sounded from under the desk.

“Run to the brothel if you have to. If you don’t get her things and get them fast, you’re going to need a whole new hotel shipped from New York City.”

Still angry but a lot less defiant, Mrs. Reston crunched across the broken glass back to their rooms.

Bret banged the pistol on the desk again. “Get up here, Reston.”

Mr. Reston’s hands appeared first, gripping the edge of the desk, then the top of his head, then his wide eyes. One eye had a bruise developing underneath, a nice complement to the scratches on his wife. The sight gave Hassie considerable satisfaction.

“Please,” Reston whispered. “Please, I didn’t want, don’t want....”

“I don’t give a damn what you want. Mrs. Petty had almost forty dollars this morning. We’ll round it off and call it forty. I want it back. Now.”

Reston stood all the way up and turned as if to follow his wife back to their rooms.

“No,” Bret said. “You get it out of that drawer right there in the desk.”

“I don’t have forty there.”

“Find it.”

Mr. Reston fumbled with his keys, opened the drawer and counted out thirty dollars. He dug in his pockets and added a ten dollar gold coin. Bret finally let go of Hassie’s arm, scooped the money up, and shoved it in a pocket.

Mrs. Reston returned with Hassie’s carpetbag and thumped it down on the ruined desktop. “There. That’s all we have. I tore some of her clothes for rags and threw the rest in the burn barrel. I’m sure Sally did the same.”

Bret pulled the bag toward Hassie. “Check and see if anything else is missing.”

Hassie opened the bag. Her Bible, hairbrush, and comb didn’t even cover the bottom. She looked up, tempted to tell Bret everything was there just to calm him down and get him to leave. Except the things missing were Mama’s things, the ones Hassie most treasured, and Mrs. Reston had a smug look on her face as if she knew a dummy wouldn’t, couldn’t complain.

Stretching to reach, Hassie grabbed the register from the other side of the desk and the pen from the inkwell tray. She uncapped the ink, dipped the pen, and wrote.

Bret read aloud. “Embroidered tablecloth, gold locket on chain, gold ring.”

Mrs. Reston disappeared before he finished the last word and reappeared seconds later with the cloth in one hand. She raised the clenched fist of the other hand.

“Don’t,” Bret said. “If you throw anything, you’ll be down on your knees picking it up.”

The tablecloth landed soundlessly on the desktop. The jewelry rattled. Hassie shook out the cloth, checked both sides, refolded it, and tucked it in her bag with the necklace and ring.

To her surprise, Bret broke his gun in two and replaced the empty cartridges with fresh rounds. “Six is better than four,” he said, his voice almost normal. “Let’s go.”



Author's Links:
http://www.oconnellauthor.com/
http://oconnellauthor.wordpress.com/


Monday, September 22, 2014

EXCITING NEW BOOK FROM DAVID J. O'BRIEN



"Go West," they say.
"Out West." The phrase, referring to North America evokes a sense of adventure, of mystery, of romance, of grandeur. Yet even in smaller countries, the pull of the West is intense on our imaginations and our desires. It seems to us that there we will find a slower pace of life, more peaceful environs, and a higher quality of life.

My second novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach is set in the West of Ireland. It's a fictional village - even the county it is supposedly situated in is uncertain. It's either Galway or Mayo, but it doesn't matter which. The important thing is that it's in "the West."

In England, "the West Country" is a group of several counties west of London on the Atlantic south of Wales. They're rural and idyllicized (Thomas Hardy's Wessex is situated there) to a certain extent, just like "the West" is in Ireland. Both places are only a few hours from the capital city, but seem many leagues (in the pre-motorised transport era sense!) away when you are there. And people are very different to city folk...

"West Coast" also has a romantic ring to it. Perhaps it is the sunsets. There's something very special about watching the sun set over the sea. We can imagine the edge of the world - or visualise the curve of our planet - much more vividly than when the sun sets over land.
Maybe when we are out West, we give ourselves more time to watch and think about the sunsets.


In this excerpt from Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, the main character, Derek, narrates as he and his friends walk along the coast towards the village at sunset.


The sun was going down as we set off, hanging just above the sea and settling into the horizon, its growing redness glowing and burning the water. There are few places better to watch the sun set than the west of Ireland. The weather is perhaps more unpredictable than the west coast of America, and maybe fewer sunsets can be seen perfectly clearly, but the presence of cloud ensures that not only the sea, but the sky, too, is set alight. This was true of that day, and I gazed out to fill my eyes with the picture every so often as we walked, not wanting to miss any change in hue.
When the sun touched the water, I suggested to Sinéad and Bill that we stop and watch the last rays while we waited for Sarah and John to reach us, which they lukewarmly agreed to. The other two had fallen behind and were very slow in catching up. I saw them stopping too, and looking out to sea. We sat on the dry stone wall that separated the road from the elongated field on our right, which twenty yards seaward ended abruptly in the cliff edge. The red ball quickly melted into the horizon and the sea burned. Above, the streaks of cloud were orange and red and pink as the sun disappeared completely, leaving only a dull glow, like a distant fire. We stared at it for a few more minutes, and then, as the last rays of the vanished sun left the highest clouds and their undersides turned from pink to grey, the other two caught up with us.
           The light was getting low when we reached Ballyboy. The few streetlights that illuminated the village were already on, and the five or so small boats left in the river were bobbing slowly on the tide. Apart from an old couple walking into The Drowning Duck, there was no sign of human life. However, the very air gave the impression of life, of being alive. Since it was such a small village, the wildlife was never far away.
           A small dog made its way down the street towards us, meandering from side to side as it pissed against each major landmark of lamp post and house corner. Two seagulls settled down to roost on top of a pale white dock light, above the swaying mast of a boat called the Aishling. Around the pale glow shed by the streetlamps, a few bats flitted into sight, squeaking now and then as they caught moths attracted by the light. Below the river walls we could hear the murmur of the water in the calmness. From time to time it seemed to splash, as if rats were scurrying and diving along the banks. The mumble of voices inside the pub was the only sound that broke the tranquillity and the feeling that the streets belonged to the animals.
          The fire glowed beneath the mantel in the end wall of the lounge of The Scarlet Haddock when we walked in. We got the obligatory stare from most of the patrons as we entered. However, I reckoned that it was getting shorter and shorter each time we went in. They look around to see who has just come in, partly, I am sure, because in a small town the chances are that the person coming in is a friend, neighbour or other familiar acquaintance, and they can call them over for a chat. The other reason is that there is a hobby down the country, among the culchies - what we Dubliners call people who live anywhere outside city limits - I’m convinced, called people-spotting. It’s similar to train-spotting, except instead of people going to a station or a railway bridge, they simply put their heads out their front door on a terraced street, hide behind the curtains in a housing estate, stand at the front gate on a country road or hang around the local pub of an evening. They don’t carry notebooks or timetables. The details are taken down mentally. Since the arrival of people is much less predictable than trains, they have to be on the job, as it were, more or less full-time – always with an eye out for a new one to pass by. When this happens, the person’s face, hair, clothes, behaviour, way of walking, actions, general direction and probable reason for being in the area are all taken note of and stored, along with the particulars of every other stranger to pass by. This information is stowed away for future use in the unlikely event, not that they’ll pass by again, but that a policeman will require it or even that one day their face will appear on Crimeline.
        In the pub, if they don’t know you, they stare at you to size you up; to see where you are from and why you might have come to their part of the world. The last part of the stare is to let you know how they feel about you being there. The stares progressively shorten as it takes less time to size you up, but that is not to say that they ever come to approve of your presence.


Blurb:

A startling revelation - the long-time friend you never viewed romantically is actually the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

But what do you do about it?

For Derek, a laid-back graduate camping with college friends on Ireland's west coast in the summer of 1996, the answer is … absolutely nothing.

Never the proactive one of the group - he's more than happy to watch his friends surf, canoe and scuba-dive from the shore - Derek adopts a wait and see attitude. Acting on his emotional discovery is further hindered by the fact he's currently seeing someone else - and she's coming to join him for the weekend.

As their five days on the beach pass, and there are more revelations, Derek soon realises that to get what he desires, he'll have to take it. Events conspire to push him to the forefront of the group, and, as unexpected sorrow begins to surround him and his friends, Derek grasps his chance at happiness. After all, isn’t life too short to just wait and see?


Links: