This beautiful hill-top town in Tuscany is responsible for much of the magic that has inspired my writing – both this poem and The Twins of Orion (see under Writing: Children on this site). I also mention the incredible 442 – their bravery in Italy in 1944 recognised by more purple hearts than any other American regiment. Ever.


There’s a picture on my wall; a post-card


Of a narrow street

Where buildings rise and reach to kiss;

close but never close enough,

beneath a cloudless sky.


The colour picture focus falls, bright

on figures ambling by,

dreamlike browsing paintings hung on shaded wall.

They , unhurried

waft through colonade of potted flowers;



Shadows cling

where cotta roofs



cream facades.

And  iron clad

mouths of glass gape wide

in uneven scatter  across uneven stone.

As ancient

windows, mottled black,

look out.

Dare we look in?


History sits at peace

on pavement; here

resting in the morning sun.

And watches the feet of a gentler time,

a happy time,

a time of trinket laden memories.

The lives of man

here settled.



Calmly strolling through a


Do they notice?

The strong, resilience of this

Mediaeval town

atop a Tuscan hill.


stands proud behind

Sangallo’s walls.



Listen. Hear it’s quiet roar.

At its peak

the Rocca ramparts


its fortress fingers


crenelations into Italian skies.


It stands

it stood

it witnessed

Seige and fight and battle.

Ancient sentinel of  the Chianti league

guardian of land, law and power.

And site of purple heart citations

as on a sunny July day in 1944

it heard

the distant rumble of approaching guns

it felt

the artillery of war

it bled

the blood of buildings smashed,

of lives destroyed

and  evil purged and fled,

as  ‘Going for broke’

the 442nd swept through Italy

in a wave of bloodied allied victory.



pastel painted feet

in shoes

stand and shuffle,

where once dirty soles


across polished stone

polishing feet

polishing away history.


I shut my eyes

and breathe

and dream until I

smell the dust-dry air,

feel the warming sun,

open my ears

and children shout.

I hear their feet skid and run

and the thud of their ball

on that polished stone.

The Twins of Orion

Children dream in technicolor and to write the stories that children might dream is the greatest fun that an adult can have.

Just imagine a little man stepping out of the steamy cloud above your hot chocolate; imagine going on an adventure with him and meeting pirates, cannibals and real World War Two soldiers; imagine receiving an ancient curse and fighting to save yourself, your family and your planet and imagine entering a science-fiction fantasy world where the characters are named after the stars in the constellation Orion and boast about bungee jumping into black holes. This is The Silver Scorpion and it is the first book in a proposed Twins of Orion series.


“I loved the plot and I found it very exciting.  Please write other books because these are the sorts of books I enjoy.” Girl, 13yrs.


The Twins of Orion is a fantasy adventure series for children. It is fictional, though some of the history is based on real characters and events that actually happened. The sci-fi is not real. It would be fun if it was: imagine speaking to spirits; fighting monsters and travelling into space.


Book 1, The Silver Scorpion, is written. It is edited. And re-edited. And is being edited again. It has been read by several children, like the one above, whom I don’t know.

It isn’t published. Not yet. It’s still being edited. It will be submitted soon. Just exactly when I have finished editing it. Whenever that might be.


Where did the idea for this story come from?

It was inspired by two places – Castellina, a small town in Tuscany and Cambridge, a small city in England.

In Castellina, a tragedy is remembered on these steps,


this small, steep road is the scene of a terrible crime at the end of the Second World War


and a mediaeval knight in full armour gallops down this ancient stone tunnel.


In Cambridge, the market, the river and the colleges all feature in the story. It is also where waifs, playing ‘chicken’ with fireworks, are first encountered.


Lamps are a common theme throughout the book – waifs (the spirit children) gather round them to keep warm.

When you next walk past one – look for small faces reflected in the glass. Watch for movement in the shimmering, flickering light. Listen for the ringing hiss from the bulb – is it just the lamp or a cold whisper from a spirit child? I always look and listen and imagine.




Who are the principle characters?

There are three main characters – Alicia, Gussie and Min  although each would probably claim the lead role, while declaring the others mere support acts. Alicia is 13. She’s not a typical teenage girl – she loves the outdoors and is independent, feisty, and to her surprise discovers that she is quite brave. Gussie is a waif – the unloved and forgotten spirit of a dead boy. Min is a star – or that’s what he tells everyone. He and his family make up the constellation Orion. Again, that’s what he tells everyone. He can be anything you want him to be and anything he wants to be.


How did I write the story?

I wrote it like this


and carried a small book around in my pocket, so that I could jot down ideas wherever and whenever they popped into my head. Walking is terrific for clearing the brain and some of my best ideas pop up when I’m out for a walk.

Inspiration comes … Stopsketch – scribblestroll … like this –


Later, I copy into my laptop. And edit. I’m still editing. One day, I’ll finish. Probably.

I have started book 2. But it doesn’t have a name yet.


What’s in it?

Adventure – Fireworks – Pirates – Cannibals – Spirits – War – Soldiers – Stars – Monsters – Family – Ghosts – Wine – Food – Soldiers – a Pig – Pizza – Mediaeval knights – a Rooster – Pasta – twins – lots of pairs of twins


Where is it set?

It is set in real places in Tuscany and Cambridge. Book 2 will also travel for a wee while to Scotland, where it will find tales of smuggling, island hide-outs and sheep rustling. Book 3 (yes – planned in a vague I-know-where-it-will-go-probably sort of way) will delve deeper into the history of the knights who fought for fortune in Mediaeval Italy and book 4 will … I’m getting ahead of myself. In book 3 or 4 or 5, the curse introduced in book 1 will pass from Alicia to someone else. I know who that will be. I think. I don’t know however exactly how it will be passed. But if I get that far, and the story returns to the via delle Volte, in Castellina, expect Alberico, the terrible spectre of a mediaeval knight on horseback, to reappear – you have been warned.


What is the story about?

All the hints above – plus a curse, a mysterious talisman, kidnapping, wartime bravery, loyalty, and trusting others. Oh! … don’t forget the pirates, the cannibals, a dying dog (that will make you cry – I can’t read it without welling up), a starving rooster and the twins who bungee jump into black-holes. There’s a monster, too, who takes over people’s minds and will do anything, even kill, to win the mysterious talisman.


Where can you read the story?

Nowhere yet. But I will post some excerpts here soon.

So do come back

Copyright cnicholson 2015

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