The Night of the 6th January, 1928

Little Christmas – traditionally the day when the 12th and final day of Christmas is celebrated. However, it was on this night, ninety-three years ago, that a tragedy unrolled onto the busy streets of London. For one night, the roaring twenties became the raging twenties as the ferocious river stole the homes of four-thousand people and, most tragically, the lives of fourteen souls. I wrote about it on the Elsetime blog tour with the wonderful Victoria, The Book Activist:


Cover Art by Holly Ovenden

It might come as no surprise to you that one of my favourite past-times is treasure hunting – searching the pebbles and mud alongside a river or the sea for something sparkling: an old button once part of a queen’s gown, perhaps, or a key to a mythical treasure chest, or a war medal from a hero who saved countless lives. It’s no wonder a hobby so rich in possible stories was the inspiration for Elsetime with its tale of a young mudlark called Needle, searching the foreshore for treasures he could sell. Glory, an impetuous jeweller’s apprentice sprung to mind too, and I imagined her taking those muddy finds and transforming them into treasures to behold under the eyes of her strict mistress, Mrs Quick. They had to be from the 1920s, my imagination assured, but I wasn’t, at that stage, quite sure what was going to happen to my new-found friends.

Then, I found a newspaper clipping. It told of a real-life tragic event: The Great Flood of London in 1928. At its epicentre was Needle’s haunt – the stretch of foreshore alongside the Tate Gallery (now known as the Tate Britain). I needed to know more, and my research began.

Photo credit: Daily Mirror 1928

Ninety-three years ago, at the source of the Thames, families enjoyed a snowy Christmas akin to picture-perfect postcards. But, quick as a wink, the snow thawed, sending torrents of water along streams and brooks that fed the Thames. A deluge of rain in the days that followed raised the level of the great river higher and higher as it twisted and turned its way towards the bustling centre of London and out towards the sea.

Freezing cold water raced down stone steps and into the homes of poor basement dwellers, trapping them before they even knew their fate. Muddy water inundated the basement galleries of the Tate Gallery, destroying many fine pieces of art, including several priceless Turner paintings and drawings. Big Ben was surrounded, the Underground submerged. The moat at the Tower of London filled for the first time in nearly a century.

Fourteen souls lost their lives that night and, as my research deepened, so too did my shock and sadness when I read the names listed on that Daily Mirror 1928 newspaper clipping. One name stood out: Mrs Quick – a name I had already chosen for the owner of The Frippery & Fandangle Jewellery Emporium where Glory worked. As I stared down at her name, it felt like a message from the past. Though Elsetime and its characters are merely figments of my imagination, I knew one thing for sure: the Great Flood would star in this story of mudlarks, mysterious crows and jeweller’s apprentices – it was a story I had to tell.


It took several years for the buildings of London to recover and a lifetime for those who lost loved ones. The run-down slums were demolished and replaced by fine buildings, the walls repaired and heightened by a further few feet. But to finally put the fear of another flood to bed, proposals for a Thames Flood Barrier began with haste amongst inventors of the day. However, like the carving of the hole in Needle’s treasured hagstone, it took much determination and many, many years before it was finally built in 1982.

To this day, other than markers showing how high the waters rose, no monument or plaque is known to exist to commemorate the fourteen souls lost to the Great Flood of London, 1928.

Elsetime Internal Illustration by Holly Ovenden

2021 SCH-M-OCKING!

Perhaps it’s all down to a writer’s far-fetched imagination, but one thing I am pretty sure of is that we all have a big, glass, corkless bottle inside of us. This bottle, inch by inch, gets filled up each time we are faced with a challenge, an upheaval, or any major event, be it good or bad. My stress-bottle, as I call it, came close to overflowing thanks to 2020, but, thankfully, I’ve come to recognise the signs when that level teeters too close to the top.

Life happens, and that bottle will always fill up, so I need to empty it, and often, to make room for whatever might come. Doing things I enjoy – things that allow me escape the news and the predictions – ensures that I decant an inch or two from my bottle, just enough to keep stress levels in check. Reading helps me keep that level down, a good movie or episode of The Repair Shop earns a few millimetres more, and being creative works too – be it handmade Christmas decorations, writing a poem or stone painting. But, for me, to toss out a good half bottle at a time requires something more:

Just like twelve-year-old Needle in Elsetime, I have a nagging passion for treasure hunting – strolling along the waterside, scanning the stones and mud or for a glint of gold or a sparkle of water-tumbled glass. I do not live near a river rich in finds such as the Thames, so I beachcomb along the sunny south east coast of Ireland instead. When I do happen upon a marble, a shard of painted teacup or even a tiny plastic toy, I stare down at it in the palm of my hand and wonder about its history: Who owned you? How did you change their lives? How old are you? Are you lost, or were you thrown away?

Some call this hunting foreshores ‘mudlarking’, but Elsetime’s Needle calls it ‘schmocking’ – SCH-M-OCK! (you have to pop your lips open at the M bit, and that’s the sound Needle hears when he pulls treasure from the soggy mud). Needle would not have been the only treasure hunter of his time – mudlarks were a common sight along the banks of the Thames during the 1800s. They were often young boys and girls, described by a visitor of the day as being “dressed like scarecrows who used to sprawl about over the mud, just as you may have seen dark little crabs.” These mudlarks were searching for anything they could sell or use, be it rusty old nails or a chunk of coal. It was their means to survival.

Likewise, Needle’s father kept a box in his satchel of his favourite mudlarked things – a green glass marble from the 1700s, a curious green medicine bottle filled with gloopy liquid, a fine bone comb and, strangely, a plain wooden doorknob. Each item tells a story, and you can find out all the details in Elsetime!

My oldest find:

An echinoid fossil and, boy, is it old! Echinoids have lived in the seas since about 450 million years ago, which is about 220 million years before dinosaurs appeared.

My rarest find:

It has to be my purple sea-glass, found by my trainee-schmocker (twin 1). Purple sea-glass is ultra-rare!

My favourite find:

An old glass bottle that warns of poison inside. Found with the help of trainee-schmocker (twin 2). I captured it in the painting of my twins’ favourite things but, unfortunately, I later broke it – boy, I was in big trouble, and how I wished for an undo button that would work!

My most valuable find:

When my Agent, Jo Hayes of The Blair Partnership, offered me representation, I was dumbstruck and ran from their offices to a tiny park down the road where I sat under a tree. At my foot, I found a gold ring. This find was special: in Chapter One of Elsetime, which was already written, Needle finds a ring just like it! Magical!

What I REALLY want to find:

Just like Needle, I want to find the rarest thing of all: treasure from the future! And when I hold it in my hand, and listen to its story, it will tell me of future hugs and holding hands, of family dinners and happy, healthy, carefree get-togethers.

Now that would empty my bottle for sure 😉

Happy schmocking, everyone!

Hello World!

Ever imagined what it would be like to launch your first book? Well, I’ve one word for it: WHOA! Two weeks ago, my children’s book, Elsetime, was officially launched, and WHAT A HOOT IT HAS BEEN! Though we were unable to celebrate at a typical launch party, after a whopping big breakfast and several gorgeous bouquets of flowers, I had a wild time visiting bookshops for signings. To kick-start the bookshop tour, I had my own celebrity-ish-moment (lol!) as I stopped footpath traffic for a photo-shoot with The Wexford People and Eason of Gorey.

We hit the road and, as we drove, what a buzz it was to hear my first podcast recording with the fabulous Nikki Gamble of Just Imagine / Exploring Children’s Literature. My kids where baffled: “Is that really you, Mom?

Trish and Meriel at Halfway Up The Stairs in Greystones gave me the biggest, warmest hug-like welcome. Then something magical happened: Young readers began to turn up as they escaped from school – to have a child hold out my book and ask me to sign it was a dream come true.

Halfway Up The Stairs is a dedicated children’s bookshop and you would never guess they are only celebrating their first birthday this month – their shelves are stocked like a boutique museum of brilliant books, curated by the most amazing and dedicated booksellers who really know their stuff.

Trish Hennessy of Halfway Up The Stairs, Greystones

Next stop was to one of my long-term favourite bookshops – Bridge Street Books in Wicklow Town where Hilary and Joanna welcomed me with open arms and let me scribble on their Elsetime stock.

Joanna Hamilton of Bridge Street Books, Wicklow

My phone buzzed and binged with well-wishes from old friends and new, both online and off, until it finally ran out of battery by mid-afternoon. A fancy take-away was soon followed by online bubbles with my wonderful writing crew – the Big Smoke Writing Factory gang. Much like the champers, my excitement was bubbling over so goodness knows what was said – all I know is that this bunch of people makes me so, so happy 🙂

The weekend that followed would have normally been spent at the Children’s Books Ireland Annual Conference so this year they showcased all ‘New Voices‘ on a YouTube Premiere as part of Culture Night – apparently, according to my kids, being on YouTube means I am now famous 🙂

Several days of Zoom calls, press reviews, radio interviews and even a TV appearance (thank you CBI & IrelandAM) followed, along with a brilliant blog-tour by some of my absolute favourite bloggers chatting about everything from treasure-hunting crows and ‘sch-m-ocking’ for hot treasure to hearing sounds in colour – all the inspiration behind Elsetime.

My head is still in the clouds but I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped me along the way (see my Twitter thread of thanks below!). As I wrote the countless drafts of Elsetime, I often (hourly) wondered if all the effort, rejection, backache, abandoned housework, un-walked dogs, rushed meals and late-night hours would be worth it: I think you can guess the answer to that! WHOA! x


Originally tweeted by Eve McDonnell (@Eve_Mc_Donnell) on September 17, 2020:

CLINK CLINK CLINK! IT’S #ELSETIME!
If you could close your eyes for a minute & imagine we are all tiddly at Elsetime’s book launch! That’s me you can see, standing at the podium, all wobbly with nerves, & it looks like I’d like to say a few words (I’ll be quick, promise! 🤣) 1/7

To my treasure of an agent, @josephine_hayes, Jordan Lees & the super @TBP_agency team, thank you for holding my hand & setting #Elsetime off on its magical journey. To @EveryWithWords who made it all happen, @LauraSmythePR & hands-down the world’s best designer, @hollydrawsinink 😍2/7

To my dear friends, @msniamhgarvey, @Hopewrites, @colinblackrock, @CiaraRightNow, @franquinnwrites, @white_aisling, @MuinbeoArchives and @kevinmoran87 at @bigsmokewriting and to @chennessybooks at the helm – where would I (and #Elsetime) be without you? 💖3/7

Each step of #Elsetime’s way, I met precious gems: @sarahwebbishere, @SJOHart, @inkwellHQ, @BathNovelAward & Steve Voake. @CarolineBusher, @ERMurray, @KieranJFanning, @MarcD_Weegem, @MuirNiChiobhain, @orandoyler & the EWW gang, thank you for helping me feel like I belong. 4/7

To @KatePoels & all amazing book bloggers out there – I’m so glad you are now in my world! For reading early copies of #Elsetime, thank you @kmlarwood, @HelenaDuggan, @nikkithornton! To @writingloris & fellow debut authors who didn’t let *anything* stand in their way! 👊 5/7

To @kidsbooksirl, and the librarians and booksellers who are championing children’s books and #Elsetime, you rock! Big hugs to @HalfwayUpBooks, @bridgebookshop, @ByrnesBooks, @BookCentreWex, @gutterbookshop, @rocketshipbooks, @TertuliaBooks. 6/7

And finally, to my family and friends – I cannot put into words how truly grateful I am (for once, I’m as good as speechless). WE DID IT! Let’s raise a glass of OJ this morning (mine has bubbles!) #Elsetime 7/7


Elsetime is available in all good bookshops! Some of my favourites:

The Book Centre, Wexford; The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin; Halfway Up The Stairs, Greystones; Bridge Street Books, Wicklow; Bookstation, Gorey; Eason, Gorey; Waterstones / Hodges Figgis, Dublin; Dubray Books, Dublin & Stillorgan; Tertulia Books, Westport; Kenilworth Books, Coventry; The Rocketship Bookshop, Salisbury

And you can order Elsetime here too:

The Book Depository    |    Foyles     |      Hive Books

Elsetime: A Few Fun Facts!

ARE WE THERE YET?! ARE WE THERE YET?! 😊 Only 3 sleeps to go before ELSETIME is published!!! Like Glory Bobbin in the story, I am feeling a *little* impatient, so here are a few fun facts about Elsetime while we wait! 😊

A Serendipitous Find:

ELSETIME was inspired by a real event: The Great Flood of London 1928. Writing draft 1, imagine my shock (& ☹) when I found this clipping – for one of the characters, I had already chosen the same name as one of the 14 lost souls: Mrs Quick. This was a story I HAD to tell!

Crow Gifts:

ELSETIME’s crow is called Magpie. She was inspired by gift-bearing birds visiting our garden feeders! In exchange for nuts and seeds, two hooded crows would leave behind shards of metal or glass and, on the rare occasion, something special – even a tiny spiderman head!

Hagstones:

ELSETIME features one of my favourite things: a hagstone (super-rare stone with a hole!). Rich in folklore, they have been used for centuries to ward off bad luck & provide protection. Apparently, if you look through one, you will see another world. Have you ever found one?

Needle’s Colour Wheel:

ELSETIME’s Needle has a condition where he can hear sounds in colour (it’s a form of synaesthesia). Each word itself has a colour, like ‘thimble’ is a fingernail-pink word, but say it like you hate it and his mind will fill with red! What colour is ‘Elsetime’, I wonder?!

A Common Thread:

ELSETIME’s story unfolds in a town called ‘Inthington’ – taken from an old saying of my mom’s when she ever bought something new: ‘Oh, sure isn’t that the ‘in thing’!’ Writing #ELSETIME was fun! Nearly all character and street names are based on a theme! Can you guess it?

Twins’ Treasures:

ELSETIME was inspired by my treasure hunting twins – like Needle in Elsetime, they would hold each piece in their hands, imagining its wild story of times past! Here is a painting I made of their favourite finds. They tell me each piece is worth millions – lucky things!

Eve x

Counting Down & Rising Up!

1 month - NARROW

Chestnuts and rusty leaves are not the only things dropping this September – Books! Books! And, yay! more books! It’s going to be one of the busiest book months on record with many spring and summer releases pushed out to a traditionally busy period. Newspapers, radio shows, podcasts and bloggers are already in a tangle with lists of what’s on offer from all the top dogs. Booksellers, bless them, have their work cut out – a mountain of books screaming Pick me! Pick me! for every space on their virtual or wooden shelves. The list of children’s books alone reads like a sweet shop stock-take and, in the middle of it all (on September 17th to be precise!), is my debut middle-grade novel, Elsetime. HOORAY!

Internal 3Despite the crowds, Elsetime has already been showered with the most incredible kindness from book reviewers, booksellers, readers and authors. It’s been on a beach with a bookseller, sobbed on (in a good way!) by a fellow writer, hugged by a blogger, and reviewed by a newspaper reviewer who had so much to say, they continued their jolly review by email. A sneaky early batch of Elsetime books found its way into the hands of a few readers (I am convinced a box of the divils time-travelled) and their feedback was the wind beneath my wings! I feel so very blessed!

But, I am fully aware that there will be so much clatter in the coming weeks that we may not be able to see the wood for the trees. I guarantee that, amongst it all, debut writers like me will be rising up on their tiptoes, waving their books and shouting Pick me! Pick me! as loud as their newbie nerves will allow.

Internal 2I’ll be clearing a space on my shelves especially for debut authors this autumn: Catherine Randall’s The White Phoenix – another debut based on a real-life tragedy – and Loris Owen’s The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith, a story bound to keep my brain firing on all cylinders. I’ve already fallen in love with the cover of October, October by Katya Balen, and I’ll be setting the Halloween mood with Phil Hickes’s debut, The Haunting of Aveline Jones. For younger readers, Have You Seen The Dublin Vampire by Una Woods is sure to hit the sweet spot.

Fantastic books being released this autumn by my Everything With Words family include a haunting debut YA, The Wolf Road, by Richard Lambert; adult fiction, Inside the Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock; and book two from brilliant middle-grade author, Robin Scott Elliot: The Acrobats of Agra. All cover design and internal illustrations by the wonderful Holly Ovenden. Don’t they look GORGEOUS? 🙂

EWW books

So let’s RISE UP on our toes, debut sisters and brothers, and have a fun-filled September to remember! And readers, should you give in to all that temptation, don’t spend it all in one shop (unless, of course, it’s your local independent bookshop 😊)

Eve x

P.S. Find out more about Elsetime and where you can pre-order it here, or if you would like to arrange an event, see more details here! x

preorder Sept 2020

Going with the Flow…

17 SEPT 2020In Elsetime, treasure-hunting mudlark, Needle Luckett, wears a hagstone – a stone with a hole – tied on a string around his neck. Folklore says that, if you are lucky enough to find such a rare and protective thing as a hagstone, and look through its hole, you might see another world. And that is exactly what I did on 31st December 2019.

“Is that you, 2020?” I asked it.

I concluded that the world I saw through that tiny hole looked no different. But, in hindsight, perhaps it was. I saw an empty beach.

Is that youIt took patience and many years for the flow of water to carve out that hagstone’s hole. And it will take patience for us too, until we finally see a new and better world for all of us. Like everyone, my plans have change:

Everything With Words have pushed out Elsetime’s publication to 17th September 2020. (If you are a book reviewer/blogger, review copies are available by emailing Mikka at info@everythingwithwords.com )

Of course, we can only hope that our world is free by then, and what a party we shall have! And, for those of you a little less patient, find out where you can pre-order a copy of Elsetime here 🙂 In the meantime, just like the water carving its hagstone’s hole, I guess all we can do is go with the flow…

Stay well, everyone!

Eve x

Cover - square dark background

Cover art & internal illustrations by Holly Ovenden

ELSETIME – Cover Reveal!

Cover - square dark background

Wooohooo!!!! I can finally reveal the cover of my book, Elsetime!! It’s a children’s novel, ideal for kids 9-12 (and bigger kids, all the way up to 100 😉). Cover and internal illustrations by the incredible Holly Ovenden.

A haunting story of friendship, courage, time-travel and a very special crow. It is January 6th 1928, the day before the Great Flood. Glory Bobbin, a twelve year-old orphan, works at The Frippery and Fandangle Emporium creating jewellery with her secret assistant, Fusspot the crow. The river is about to burst its banks and a snow storm has engulfed the town when she meets treasure-hunting mudlark, Needle Luckett, who has travelled through time to reach Inthington. Can two children and a crow save the fourteen lives endangered by the flood? Can they change the future?

Out June 2020 by publisher, Everything With Words.

* Psst! Please keep an eye out for the launch date – there’ll be a wee launch party and I’d love you to be there!

 

Eve x

Birds

preorder

The Great Flood of London, 1928

heading for jan blogHello 2020! You were a long time coming but you are finally here – the year my debut children’s novel, ELSETIME, finally hits the shelves! A sneak peek at its stunning cover (OMG!) on New Year’s Eve made me realise – YES! This is actually going to happen!

I admit that, until the moment I set eyes on the cover art, the idea that my book would soon be in the hands of readers didn’t feel real, but there is no denying that the tragic event on which ELSETIME is based was very, very real indeed. For it was on this night, the 6th January, that The Great Flood of London occurred in 1928.

Ninety-two years ago, at the source of the River Thames, families enjoyed a snowy Christmas akin to picture-perfect postcards. But, quick as a wink, the snow thawed, sending torrents of water along streams and brooks that fed the Thames. A deluge of rain in the days that followed raised the level of the great river higher and higher as it twisted and turned its way towards the bustling centre of London and out towards the sea.

As Londoners partied away the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or snuggled their loved ones into bed in old basement flats, the raging river met its match: a powerful storm in the North Sea. At the turn of the tide, waves swelled so high at the mouth of the Thames, beyond anything they had ever seen before. Seawater tunnelled its way up the river, clashing with the deluge of snowmelt and rainwater. X marked the spot where the river narrowed and its depth deepened following foolish dredging to allow passage to larger ships. Not long after midnight, the embankment walls near the Tate Gallery (now the Tate Britain) gave way.

“Daggers of moonlight pierced down on wave after wave as they heaved over the embankment wall, each racing fast as a panicked horse. Motorcars were tossed aside, debris thrashed and smashed together in clumps.”  ELSETIME

For one night in 1928, the roaring twenties became the raging twenties as the ferocious river stole the homes of four-thousand people and, most tragically, the lives of fourteen souls.

Icy cold water raced down stone steps and into the homes of poor basement dwellers, trapping them before they even knew of their fate. Muddy water inundated the basement galleries of the Tate Gallery, destroying many fine pieces of art, including several priceless Turner works. Big Ben was surrounded, the Underground submerged. The moat at the Tower of London filled for the first time in nearly a century.

Of course, it took many years for London to recover and a lifetime for those who lost loved ones. It was decades more before the great Thames Barrier was finally installed, and, thankfully, there it still stands, protecting the Twelfth Day of Christmas party-goers and children tucked up in their beds on this night, the 6th January, 2020.

Wishing you all a happy and, above all, safe and sound New Year.

Eve x

 

ELSETIME, published June 2020 by Everything With Words

Twelve-year-old Needle Luckett digs long-lost, forgotten things from the mud and pebbles of the River Notion, transforming them into treasures to behold. Holding the muddy finds in the palm of his hand, he can feel their wild stories of times-past until, one icy cold day, he unearths something peculiar: it’s treasure from the future – a future where the most precious find of all might be forever lost, or forever found.

I cannot wait for you to meet Needle and an impetuous jeweller’s apprentice called Glory Bobbin; a crow named Magpie and a hard-nosed taskmaster; a distinguished inventor and a deadly flood – all living their lives in Inthington Town just a stone’s throw from each other but with many decades between.

A Yellow Day!

yellow wordOne person I’d love you to meet is Needle Luckett – he’s twelve years old and spends his time twisting, carving and etching long-lost and forgotten things dug from the muddy foreshore of the River Notion, crafting them into treasures to behold. He has another special gift too – he can hear sounds in colour. If you’re angry with him, red daggers fill his mind. If you feel sad, every word you utter is the deepest of blue. But, like me, his favourite sound is yellow – the colour of happiness. And these past few weeks, like Needle, my own head has been filled with every shade of joyous yellow imaginable… why?

Because, FINALLY, Needle Luckett will no longer only exist inside my (and my agent, Jo’s) head! He will be there, in black and white, for all to meet when my debut novel, ELSETIME, is published June 2020 by wonderful independent British publisher, Everything With Words. You can read the announcement in The Bookseller here. (The Bookseller! How mad is that?!)

ELSETIME is a middle-grade adventure, aimed at 8-12 year olds, and was inspired by, amongst other things, a real life tragic event: The Great Flood of London in 1928. I cannot wait for you to meet Needle and an impetuous jeweller’s apprentice called Glory Bobbin; a crow named Magpie and a hard-nosed taskmaster; a distinguished inventor and a deadly flood – all living their lives in Inthington Town just a stone’s throw from each other but with many decades between.

eve photo yellowI haven’t had the chance to ask Needle what colour I’m sounding right now because, as well as feeling happy, it’s mixed with something else – gratitude. It has taken a cast of the best real-life characters to get ELSETIME to this starting point along with so much serendipity (remind me to fill you in) that it would be considered too unbelievable even for a work of fiction. For the moment, THANK YOU to everyone who helped me along the way, and long may the yellow last! Hooray!

Eve x

Where do I start?

Eve PhotoWelcome to my very first blog post!

It only took me a while* to figure out how to set up this website (is it even called a website?) so forgive me if I blow my own trumpet and say that doing so was one of my greatest achievements in life. (It was SO darned difficult – like, what on earth is a widget?)

To bring you up to speed on my writing endeavours, I’ve had a howl of a time writing, re-writing and re-re-writing** and I kept at it until I finally hooked a literary agent – Jo Hayes at The Blair Partnership. Together, we worked hard on Elsetime (my middle-grade book for 9-12 year olds) and whizzed it out to the mysterious world of publishers a few weeks ago.

Thank the gods for shellac nails (also a new thing for me), is all I’ll say.

Eve  x

 

*Several years. Don’t think less of me.

**An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When rejection is dragging you back, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming (said someone wiser than me).

header3