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The fifth book is almost here!

Pre-orders are now open for the previously unpublished book ‘The Fortunate Ones,’ the fifth and final book of The May Series. The book is due to hit the press in a week or so, with delivery in October. All pre-orders will be signed by Phyllis!

“The Fortunate Ones is the fifth and final book in the
‘May’ series and gives a vivid picture of the life and
adventures of a New Zealand farming family during
the 1920s, 30s and 40s. May and her husband start
married life on their bush farm in the King Country
and then purchase a dairy farm in the Waikato.
Times are hard and the family have to move on to
a sharemilking position. The stories of this growing
family going out to make their own way in the world
makes captivating reading. As World War II ends
and the family anticipate their mens’ return, the
future is brightening. May and her family all agree
they are indeed, The Fortunate Ones.”



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Are you NOT a lily-livered girl?

May heard the wonderful tongue twisting phrase ‘no lily-livered girls’when she was a teenager, and it stayed with her all her life. It became a common saying in our family as we talked about our courageous girls and women, and was therefore a natural title for the fourth book in the May series.

There is a dramatic story in the third chapter of ‘No Lily-livered Girl’ when May and her friend Iris visit Mrs Revell, an old lady whose husband was in the militia during the New Zealand land wars in the 1800s. Mrs Revell recounts the story of hiding in a well for twelve hours, on a makeshift platform, clasping her young baby to her breast, when she was 18 years old, while her husband and two other men kept 40 Māori warriors at bay through the night. The terror of the night leaps off the page.
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Pioneer Times at Papakowhai School

Over 20 years ago I was Deputy Principal at Papakowhai School in Porirua and my classes studied Mum’s books as part of a unit of work on ‘Pioneer Times’. Searching through the archives I stumbled across a full page newspaper article torn from Te Awa-iti, the local Porirua newspaper, dated April 27, 1990. Staring out from the faded page were many of my ex-pupils attired in pioneer costumes and the memories came flooding back.

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Stilts and a Colonial Afternoon Tea . . .

My tech savvy 9-year- old twin grandsons have observed with interest the reprinting of the May books and of course have their own special signed copies. Last week I asked them if they would like me to read them a chapter from “A Comet in the Sky”. Once the family were ensconced in our squashy old sofa and chairs I read to them from Chapter 8 – the story about the stilts. The boys snuggled in eyes growing round and the adults sat quietly, as the story unfolded of the trouble that ensued when May took the stilts to school.

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A treasure trove . . .

I have recently taken possession of the treasure trove of research files, notebooks, photo albums of press clippings and book launches, and boxes of letters from readers, that make up the writing archives of my mother Phyllis Johnston.

Managing the project of having Mum’s books reprinted has been exciting and within a few short months the first two books have been reprinted and the third book, “A Comet in the Sky” goes to the printing press tomorrow. Thank you for your support in purchasing the books and spreading the word, as the on-going book sales make it possible to eventually reprint the entire May series and other out-of- print works.

My daughter, Nia Chesswas, is doing a stellar job of marketing and distributing the books from her business “The Bead Hold” based out of Stratford in the Taranaki. Nia and her husband Allan are raising fine children in the valley only ten minutes from where “No one went to town” was set. On those rainy winter Taranaki days when my daughter despairs of ever getting her washing dry, I remind Nia that her great-great grandmother Anna Tarrant, May’s mother, was living in a ponga hut in the remote high steep hills of Taihore, cooking over a fire in a camp oven, boiling up water in kerosene tins to wash the clothes, sewing by candlelight and managing health issues…a far cry from her life in England. Anna Tarrant was not raised for this kind of life and she had to adapt as best she could. May Tarrant, the heroine of the books, had a very practical upbringing in rural New Zealand, while doing her best to be the well mannered, modest girl that her mother so wanted her to be.

Continue reading A treasure trove . . .