The Emerald Diaries - Secrets of an Irish Clan

Other submissions by mary murphy creates:
If you want to read their other submissions, please click the links.
Delilah Speaks (Mystery & Cozy Mystery, Book Award 2023)
Resistance Speaks (Sci-Fi, Book Award 2023)
Neala Speaks (Short Stories, Book Award 2023)
Heckie Speaks (Short Stories, Book Award 2023)
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Golden Writer
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Logline or Premise
Does she hail from a matriarchal lineage of madwomen? Or an ancestry of female power and purpose? The discovery of an aged mysterious book sweeps Norah into a whirlwind, exposing ancient Irish family secrets and traditions, all stemming from her foremothers through the ages of Ireland.
First 10 Pages

Chapter 1

Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland


Three crowing cockerels, vying for ascendancy at the rupture of dawn, did their utmost to rouse Norah from night’s deep slumber. She foiled them, however, and hugging her pillow, she curled into a fetal position under the white duvet and groaned, unwilling to emerge from its pleasurable warmth. Here she remained, drifting in and out of consciousness until the insistent alarm clock finally nudged her to full wakefulness.

Sighing deeply, Norah rose, slid two naked feet into well-worn slippers, wrapped herself inside the faded red fleece dressing gown that lay in a heap at the bottom of the bed, and shuffled down the hallway to the kitchen. She filled the kettle with water, dropped a black tea bag into a slender porcelain cup, and leaned wearily against the counter to wait.

A grin flashed upon Norah’s face as she eyed the piles of neatly stacked post on the kitchen table. She was indeed grateful to her mother for having collected it in her absence, but it was so typical that her mother had organized it with such attention to detail. Magazines in one stack, business-looking envelopes in another, personal in yet another, and the all-pervasive and inevitable rubbish in the last. Norah was not yet in the mood to rifle through it all and gently closed her still sleepy eyes.

The gusting wind smacked a blossoming tree branch hard against the kitchen windowpane. Norah flinched, and shuffled once again, this time to the sitting room to start a fire in the woodstove.

It felt good to be home. The ten days in Canada at the International Writers Conference had been a whirlwind; and a trial of patience. True enough, there had been some positive aspects to the trip, but mostly, it was the usual politics of who knows whom in the foreground and petty nitpicking in the background.

Norah just wanted to write. Having never been one to join in the peculiarities of the writer’s world, she was seen as talented but shy, and to some, aloof. Norah would be the first to agree with this assessment. She knew her leanings were that of an introverted extrovert. Once behind a podium, or when interacting with customers, her genuinely bubbly nature bloomed brightly, but her day-to-day preferences aimed toward solitude and privacy.

Writing for newspapers, magazines, and alternative publications had been a superlative way to launch her career, and she would be forever grateful for all those opportunities. Norah’s dreams had been substantially bigger than that, though. She had, after all, completed a full-length novel the previous year entitled Dreaming in Lilac. It was a fantasy, in which the main protagonist viewed life in shades of black and white, as though looking through an old monochrome camera viewfinder—but whose dream world was teeming with gloriously vibrant colourscapes. This champion becomes preoccupied with finding ways to enter REM sleep; to return to his preferred arcadian state. As the story unfolds, the dichotomies of the two worlds collide, producing a cascade of extraordinary experiences.

Having thrown that novel into the publishing wind, to the powers that be, it had been whisked away on a swift current. Norah’s debut novel had won two literary awards and could be found in most bookstores in English-speaking countries. Her new contract was due to go to press in late summer and consisted of twelve short stories, each pertaining to a month of the year.

Norah sat on the floor in front of the roaring fire with her tea, and let her eyes wander about the room. Her Great-Grandmother, Caitlín Norah Sinnott, had purchased the house in 1915. There were times when Norah felt she could hear the voices and see the shadows of not only her long past relatives, but the shadows and voices of all those that had lived there before. It was not so much that the rooms were housing ghosts; it was more an acute sense of the strong and energetic lives that had occupied and loved the place, a perceptible presence of those who had left their indelible mark in the very air she breathed.

Úla, Norah’s mother, had never been interested in ownership of the property, even though it was she who was next in line to inherit it. Úla had her own home not far away and was only too happy to see Norah become the new owner of the family home.

It was a two-bedroom, one bath home, with a large airy sitting room and small front parlour. It had been well looked-after and had received many upgrades over the years, one of which was a fully enclosed, double-glazed glass reading porch that extended out from the sitting room. This was the location Norah elected to furnish as her office. There was ample room for her mahogany desk (another item that had been handed down), and all the accoutrements of being a writer.

Standing high above the porch, the day-lighted, bare deciduous trees allowed the scant sun to enter in the dark and dreary winter months. In the foliaged seasons, the trees created a sweet, scented canopy; a bursting green umbrella that Norah found to be extraordinarily inspiring.

The privacy of the home is what pleased her the most, however. It was only ten minutes into town by car, but the acreage on which the house sat felt secluded and remote. One had to exit from the main road onto a narrowly paved one. This road wound its way up for a few kilometers and rose abruptly to a crest of a hill.

Here the view was spectacular, overlooking a verdant valley and the distant Irish Sea. Immediately over the crest of the hill, on the west side of the road, stood a barely visible postbox and a dirt and gravel drive. The twisting driveway was not much more than a path really, lined on either side with tall trees that joined their branches in the centre as they stretched themselves toward the sky. The drive ended at a clearing, where the single-storey house proudly stood. Off to the left was the original barn. It too had been amended over the years and kept in admirable condition, though as the repository of all things, it was in definite need of sorting.

Norah prized the two voluminous oak trees that framed the barn. As a child, she spent countless hours with her Nana, burrowed up in the tree house reading books, playing cards and fabricating stories. Now, the branches of the taller tree stubbornly cradled the well-loved, and long-abandoned, semi-dilapidated structure.

There was a good acre of land at the front of the house boasting fruit trees, flower beds, lines of rose bushes, and a variety of herbs and plants that Norah did not know the names of. All these features had been planted, more likely strewn, in a wildly whimsical fashion by her previous relations.

Over the front door hung a wooden sign with the words ‘Fáilte Abhaile’ (Welcome Home) in scripted lettering. The rear of the house opened up to several acres of wild grasses and wildflowers.

Raspberry and blackcurrant bushes surrounded the property. There was an abundance of white clover and knapweed, as well as bell and ling heather. The rich black soil kept all the shrubs, trees and flowers strong; thus providing a paradise for the local wild birds. Robins, chickadees, jackdaws, finches, and skylarks, along with Norah’s favourite song thrushes, thrived and relished the delectable banquets provided. The land itself was mostly level but sloped gently downward to the rear and ended at a deep tree line and hedgerow. Beyond that was farmland that belonged to her neighbours John and Mary Dogherty.

Norah’s Nana, Bríghid, always kept the bird feeders full throughout the winter and the two would often ‘top them up to the brim’ together. Her Nana dearly loved the song thrushes, which is why Norah loved them best.

Sitting quietly on the grass while watching the antics of all the birds brought them both great joy and when the song thrushes landed her Nana would light up.

“Would ya look at that handsome fella. Greedily gobblin’ up my seeds. Now he’ll fly up to those branches and chatter away like nobody’s business. Yes, we hear you loud and clear, you.”

Norah would oftentimes nestle her head beneath her Nana’s arm; she felt secure there. Not to mention the fact that Bríghid always projected the fragrance of fresh lavender from the soap she made and used. Norah, to this day, could not smell lavender without falling backward in time to those significant moments.


Úla = Oola

Caitlín = Cat-lean

Fáilte Abhaile = Fawl-cha ah-wall-ya

Brígid = Bree-id

Chapter 2

Norah had just swallowed the last sip of tea when the telephone chimed. It was Dónal.

She and Dónal had met six months earlier and were now on the verge of making major life changes. Norah, now thirty-four, had ventured into a few serious relationships but none seemed to sate her appetite for a deeper connection. The consequences of her choices were not always easy, and there were times when loneliness would pull her into a murky, dark emotional abyss. She was convinced that committing herself to someone who was mis-aligned with her general life direction could and would only lead to ultimate failure. And failure in this area was not something she was willing to risk.

Mostly, she enjoyed her single life, untethered from anyone else’s needs, and with responsibilities only to herself and her work. Meeting Dónal was what some might call a simple twist of fate. Norah had only just moved into the house. She had walked down the drive to the postbox very early one morning and as she neared the end, she heard the ringing of a mobile phone, followed by a deep male voice.

“Hello, Dónal here. Hello, Dónal here.”

Norah wondered why he repeated himself like that, and also wondered what someone was doing wandering such a remote road at such an hour. Since trees obscured her drive, the man walking along the road was startled when she stepped out, and he stopped in his tracks.

“Ehh, morning,” he said.

The equally startled, and startling, grey parrot on his shoulder spoke with the same voice.

“Hello, Dónal here.”

Norah and Dónal both laughed.

Dónal’s car had overheated near the top of the hill, and he had decided to explore the area while the engine cooled.

“Do you need water for the radiator?”

“That’d be much appreciated. I’ve a water bottle in the car, but I doubt it’ll be enough to feed the thirsty beast.”

“Come along then, I’m sure I have a bucket or something. I can drive you back to your car if you like.”

“That’s most kind of you . . . ehhh…”


“Norah. My name is Dónal in case you’ve not guessed by now.”

Again, they both laughed, and Norah said, “Beautiful parrot.”

“Thanks. Her name’s Luain and she’s an African Grey. They’re remarkable birds, acquiring not just vocabulary, but sounds as well. Once they reach the age of two, they really begin to increase their lexicon. Luain here is picking up more and more words as she ages.

“Yes, well, I was sure I heard a mobile phone ringing. It’s uncanny how real it sounded.”

Coming to the top of the drive and into the clearing was always Norah’s favourite part of returning home, and as they did so, Dónal said, “This is quite the place you have here, Norah. Is it yours?”

“Yes it is, I’m happy to say.”

“Absolutely brilliant. Look at this land. I was going to comment on the number of trees as we were walking, but I was too wrapped up in talking about Luain. That barn, all these roses and flowers. Look at all that lavender and calendula. Foxglove, yarrow, comfrey and so much more.”

“You certainly know your plants, Dónal.”

“That I do. I’m charmed by plants and their healing properties, and I love my very meager herb garden.”

“Really? So did my Nana, who lived here before me. Actually, my family has a history of gardeners and herbalists. Is that what you do for a living?”

“Yes and no. My name is Dónal, but people teasingly call me Jack, as in Jack-of-all-trades. I’ve always had several passions and was never able to settle on just one career. I like it though; it makes my life full and interesting. I work part time at Carring Park, keeping the gardens tended in the spring and summer. They allow me to run with ideas and experiment with varietals, etcetera so that’s fulfilling. I also do carpentry work, assist a local taxidermist, and have been working with a beekeeper.”

The two settled into an easy and jovial patter. Dónal’s eyes sparkled as they walked around the property, and Norah eventually invited him in for tea.

Sitting at the table, Dónal asked, “And you Norah? What are your passions?”

Leaning back in her chair, Norah stared out the window for several seconds, formulating her answer. Dónal sat patiently awaiting her response.

Norah liked the question. In fact, she liked him. As she began to speak about her writing career, Dónal leaned forward, his eyes laser-focused and intent on listening. This surprising body language inspired Norah to expound on her process. Men often seemed put off by her career as a self-employed writer, as though it was not a legitimate way for a woman to earn a living. Mostly, when she told a man (whether a potential mate or not) about her work they would cross their arms, take a step backward, and condescendingly say, ‘Oh really?’ Humans could be so amusing…when they were not so irritating.

“I love how words make us feel. If the words I write succeed in evoking emotions, then I have done my job. Whether speaking or writing, I think our words affect those around us. Words can make us laugh, think, wonder. The bottom line in my writing is that I enjoy the alchemy of conjuring precise words to allow my readers to form emotional relationships with scenes and characters.”

“Do you think about that intentionally, when you write? I mean, do you pick a direction and move toward it?”

“Sometimes. Mostly I endeavor to jump into the currents of the muse and fly with them. That’s not to say I don’t think about where I might go with a thought or character. It’s just that despite that initial idea, I may be suddenly swung in a totally new direction. I’ve learned that characters take on a life of their own when you let them. Sometimes they’re my sanctuary when I no longer wish to participate in my own daily realities. They’re alive to me, living breathing mortals. More often than not, I find that I have to scoot out of my characters’ way so that they can narrate their own story. I’m really their secretary taking notes.”

They both laughed.

“There have been oodles of times when I’ve been downright shocked by the choices they make, or the circumstances they willingly submerge themselves into. Sometimes, as their secretary, I’m tapping away at the keys, and thinking, ‘No! Don’t do that; think about the consequences,’ or, ‘clever, clever, I never would have thought of doing that.’”

Dónal nodded approvingly. “Sounds rather magical really. The alchemy of words as you say.”

“Yes, Dónal. It is exactly that.”

“I venture you become attached to some characters more than others?”

“Absolutely. Yet, I have to say, even the characters who I would find distasteful, should I meet them in real life, still feel connected to me in a peculiar way. I have a responsibility to objectively enter the psyche of these characters in order to write with an understanding of their choices. They have to trust me to listen and write with neutrality, though I dare say, it’s not always easy, and I’ve had to contain and edit some of the dictation.”

Three hours passed before Norah drove Dónal back to his car, and in the end, she had agreed to go out for a bite the following evening. Neither was interested in anything too formal when it came to dining, and they agreed that O’Leary’s pub would be just the ticket.

Dónal collected Norah at eight, sharp. O’Leary’s had a relaxed atmosphere, a decent menu, and it also boasted an ample dance floor. The owner, Pat O’Leary, was a reasonable musician himself, and took great pride in providing diverse nightly music for his customers.

Time flew by as swiftly as a swallow on the wing. Before they knew it, the large, antique grandfather clock in the corner of the pub chimed ten. Five musicians arrived and began to play at a quarter past the hour. Within minutes, some of the locals were up dancing to lively reels.

“Do you enjoy shaking a leg, Norah?”

“Indeed, I do. But I’m no match for the pair already on the floor.”

“They won’t even notice us. Come on.”

Norah gulped the last of her wine and took Dónal’s hand. Dónal was extremely light on his feet and although Norah was laughing with glee, she was also feeling rather clumsy by comparison. When the tune concluded, the fiddler stood and began to sing an a cappella song, sending everyone back to their seats.

“Much as I’m truly enjoying myself, I really must think about getting home. I’ve some deadlines that I’ve been avoiding.”

“Right then. Let us retreat from this establishment and deliver you to your secretarial duties.”


Dónal = Doe-nal

Luain = Loo-in