Saturday, June 25, 2011

Self printing - the new self publishing

Okay. I’ve decided to do it. I’m self printing my novel ‘The Heron’s Flood’ with Create Space, Amazon's subsidiary where one can avail of a print on demand system. I’ve done my research (many thanks Catherine Ryan Howard in particular). I am having the book professionally edited ( many thanks to the lovely Emma) I have my artwork (many thanks Ken Walsh) and with Ginnie Gale of Create Space's help I should have my book up and out there before the end of the summer. It will be available in print form and as an e book. I will be having a launch in Swords and probably another in the city, more of which later in year.

I’m so excited. I spent about four years all told on this novel and until I publish it I will not be able to move on. I have to dust my hands of it once and for all. The worst that can happen is it will have cost me a couple of hundred euro. Although I haven’t been able to get any publisher to take it on I know it’s good. I mightn’t know much about much but I love a good yarn and I know one when I write one! Every agent and publisher I sent ‘The Heron’s Flood’ to asked to see more and then turned it down because they didn’t feel it was commercially viable – probably because it’s not literary fiction nor is it 'chick-lit' but somewhere in between and it didn’t fit any of the genres into which books that aren’t literary fiction or the horribly patronising term 'chick-lit' seem to have to be slotted.It fell between two stools and they didn't know what to do with it. It’s bewildering. As a writer you have something to say. You say it as best you can and the world of publishing then tries to label it.

It’s a story. That’s all. A book I’d like to read. It has characters I can empathise with. It’s sad. It’s funny. It gives hope – even in the darkest of hours there is hope. It’s about people, about love, about life from the everyday to the horrific to the high-days and holidays. It deals with domestic abuse and depression – tough subjects but subjects which touch many of our lives in different ways but it deals with them as everyday commonplace events in the flawed everyday lives of my characters. It is shocking what people can become used to, accept and feel nothing can make a difference. Until something snaps. And then..........

I hope my novel might make people understand what it is like to be caught in a repetitive cycle, a cycle that is too hard to break out of because of conditioning. If it gets even a dozen people to purse their lips and say ‘Hmm, I can see now how that can happen’. It also poses a big moral question, a great bookclub topic. Is it always wrong to take a life? Under what circumstances can we as a society say

‘We understand, go, you will not be punished.’

I drove Jemser mad for a couple of months pondering this.

'Jesus, Evelyn', he said 'you’re getting all worked up over fictional characters!' And I was, because for me they are as real as the people who sit around my house every evening - living breathing thinking sentient beings. Actually my characters are more living breathing sentient etcetera than some of the creatures sitting about my house making it look untidy!

So there yiz re. Yiz better all buy it!! And nominate me on Joe Duffy’s Christmas book list. So I can make loadsa lolly, pay me debts, go on a four day week with the paid employment and produce loadsa more books by writing one day a week. I’ve hooked up with a lovely Polish illustrator so there will be kiddies books coming soon too!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump........

I am a complete cynic when it comes to magic, fairies, angels etcetera. But I have been moved recently from cynic to ‘well, maybe…’. We must be open to everything, for without openness and a willingness to observe and learn how on earth can we grow into the beautiful rounded human beings we ought to be?

My dear friend Sam Stone, a man with a wonderful story to tell is life partner of the beautiful Debra Reynolds from Naas in Co Kildare. Debs is a ‘hedge’ witch – so called because she belongs to no coven, rather she practises her craft alone and has a deep and abiding belief in the possibilities of a good potion or incantation delivering to one ones heart's desire. Debs and a friend recently set up a card-reading business, they arrive at your house where you have gathered together a group of friends/family and host a card party for these ‘Soul Sisters’. For a fee of thirty euro a head Debs or Karen Pickering (her friend) will read either Angel cards or Tarot cards for you.

There is something about both these women. Something indefinable – which we of course immediately attempt to label, define, put in its box and file under ‘that’s that’. You would immediately feel you have known these ladies all your life when you meet them. They are intuitive, spiritual, good people and you know they will listen to you, assuage your fears and above all give you hope for the future. Yes, there’s a fee – but it’s a damn sight cheaper than a therapist’s or counsellor’s fee or than handing over your life, morals etcetera to any organised church.

They say God is dead in the Western World, since Darwin’s theory was expounded and people became more literate and educated and realised that the creationist theory put forward in the Bible might be just that, a theory, story, parable. This, coupled with the cover-ups on child abuse in the Catholic Church, means that many have turned their backs on organised churches. People want the freedom to think for themselves, to connect with their inner selves and above all to find peace and contentment in the hurly burly now, now, now world we of the first world live in.

Debs and Karen provide this moment’s stillness. They listen to you, observe reactions and – as both ladies firmly believe in their powers as seers- read the cards as they fall. If you are open to what the ladies are trying to do you will gain a lot from your session with them. I’d certainly recommend them to any of my friends.

Apart from all that it’s a great excuse to gather together a bunch of friends and neighbours, chat and laugh and have a few drinks. As it was my house of course there were songs that had to be sung. And no better man to sing them than my Jemser! Sam (Deb’s hubby) went to the pub with Jem while the ladies weaved their magic and they rejoined us at the end of the reading sessions.. We had a great night. There is so little time to share with our friends and neighbours now that the moments we do get together are all the more precious. I had to work today so I scarpered to bed at the witching hour and left Jemser singing with the rowdiest bunch of North County Dublin housewives you have ever heard. They left once everything alcoholic in the house had been drunk and every song they all knew was sung. I know it was bright out when I heard the front door slam for the last time!

So ‘gwan- do yourselves a favour – get your pals together and contact Debs at . You won't regret it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Assisted dying..........

I watched an incredibly moving tv programme this evening on assisted dying. Terry Prachett, the great English novelist has early onset Alzheimer disease and in the programme he explores the whole concept of people with intensely debilitating terminal illnesses ( although life is a terminal condition anyway) having to travel abroad to get help in committing suicides.

Terry’s big fear is of the day he cannot write. Unable to communicate. He already has an assistant to whom he dictates his work as he cannot manage the keyboard anymore. As writers we have a duty to mull on these matters, to articulate for others what they may find hard to articulate. We have a duty to present both sides of the argument, tell the truth and shame the devil (great cliché). Tell our characters’ truths and through them analyse humanity to enable us to understand ourselves.

Terry talked to people all over Europe on the matter. An upper middle class wealthy English man with motor neurone disease. This man and his wife travelled to Switzerland so that he could be assessed. He got the green light and despite his wife’s misgivings he drank the killing draught. He was incredibly calm and dignified and I was glad he was able to die in this way on a beautiful snowy Swiss winter day with nice gentle Swiss assistors. He made some intelligent comments on how time moves at different.

’Be strong my darling’ he said to his incredibly brave wife, then with a few grunts and moans he drew his last breath. It was a beautiful death – if that can be said.

Terry talked about some aspects of assisted death that make him nervous. He talked very movingly of his wife who wouldn’t come on the programme, she feels differently to Terry and wants to nurse him through the illness to the end. He wants to spare her this. He talked to a man in a hospice who feels the choice should be there. He talked to the widow of another writer who did die by assisted suicide. He talked to a 42 year old man with MS who suffered deeply from depression and has failed twice in trying to take his own life. Once with three months supply of morphine – which certainly should have done the trick. His first thought when he ‘woke up’ after five days was ‘oh f**k’.This man had an assisted death planned for that weekend. He was rather flippant about it – self defence I assume. Terry’s assistant put it to him that his decision was selfish as did the young man’s mother. But the man explained why he had to do this and his mother accepted that decision. He was incredibly brave. So was she. He did go through with it and his mother went home to the UK alone.

Suicide is a very very lonely place – there is only you and the mess you know you’re leaving behind. As human beings we should all have the right to die with someone holding our hand. It is the very time we should not be alone. Not afraid and alone.

Dignitas in Switzerland also assists those who suffer from ‘a weariness of life’ to die. Dignitas believe it is a basic human right to die when one chooses, they say the very knowing you can go often gives people strength. It’s an expensive business though – 10k, but it is a non-profit organisation apparently. The dying house is based in a very beautiful part of the world, in a little blue house in the Swiss Alps – a very peaceful place. Even though it’s in the middle of an industrial estate.

I hope I never have to assist anyone to die, I do not think I could live with myself afterwards. But equally I hope that the option will be open for me if I ever become that miserable because of any mental or physical illness.

Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Android phones and cerebral sex.........

Modern life continues to fascinate me. Cloud computing. Devices that 'talk' to each other. A language I only understand point ten percent of and struggle wildly to keep up with if two tekkies start talking to each other.

I needed to upgrade my phone. My faithful old Nokia was creaking and something had to go. So I went into one of the ubiquitous phone shops and chose the most reasonably priced relatively up-to-date phone I could. The young one was very obliging and her fingers flew over it as she set things up for me. I was hanging onto my old number etc so she went to remove the old SIM card. She burst out laughing.
'That must be at least ten years old',
'It's twelve actually.' I replied. I bought my first mobile phone when I was expecting sn#2. I had held out against them up until then, I didn't particularly want to be contactable 24/7, but being heavily pregnant and 39 made me err on the side of caution.

Anyway she placed my now obsolete Sim card into this tiny reader and a virgin Sim card beside it closed the lid, hit a few buttons and zingo the data on one went to the other.

'Isn't that deadly!' I marvelled. 'Y'know, I read somewhere that they reckon we'll all be having cerebral sex in the future. Won't that be great. None of that aul' messin', we'll just bang foreheads and zingo - orgasm passed from one brain - which is where it starts - to another.'

She looked at me mouth agape and then laughed again.

'Well my fella certainly mind-f**ks' me,' she said. Then clapped her hand over her mouth. 'I can't believe I said that. OhMiGod! I'm morto.'

'Not to worry,' I said - 'sure, you're in your aunties. I won't tell anyone if you don't. Men don't have internal monologues anyway, they are for the mostly part physical creatures. We on the other hand have a much deeper spiritual dimension to us.' I was wildly generalising of course but at least I gave the child a laugh on a dull Wednesday lunchtime. I probably should have told her I blogged.

My phone is very nice. Or will be when I figure out how to use it.

I wonder will I be still about when they work out this cerebral sex thing and would it be possible without using intuition and instinct. I think I'd like a go of it. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This will be the summer....

This will be the summer he will remember all his life. The summer he turned seventeen. The last really carefree one. For many many more summers he will hopefully be working or travelling. This summer is that last pause before he runs from adolescent to man.

This will be the summer he starts to control his breathing, to spare his voice. This will be the summer he writes and writes and writes, thousands of words, hundreds of song lyrics and melodies. This will be the summer the band gels and starts to get gigs. They have already been invited to Listowel to a few different venues. An event organiser approached them and asked them to open for some band at a festival in Cork.

This will be the summer he spends stravaging around the town with his huge circle of friends, playing football, music and X-Box games. Eying beautiful girls. Laughing, talking, singing - always singing. This will be the summer of long days and even longer nights. This will be the summer he may well drink far too much as he camps out at Oxygen, his first big music festival. The summer he dreams of maybe one day playing at a festival like this. This will be the summer he practises his frontman patter.

This will be the summer he starts to network, the summer he meets other long established musicians and songwriters. My baby boy is well and truly gone, my teenager is just leaving. I hope some day the man comes back to me. And we can reminisce about this summer.

I love you son.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm not c*rs**' ennymore - it's lazy

How am I goin' to express myself without 'bad' language? Despite my articulating vociferously that no language is bad.... it's just what we regard as bad is someone unable to find the word they're reaching for - I'd love to know what the Shakespearian equivalent of 'f**k Harry Potter land it's 'he who shall not be named'.

Anyway. I had a great day. Actually I had a great week. And I'm .. ..extremely tired ( as opposed to bl**d**' bol***e*). What am I to do? Apparently both my beloved ellipses and 'bad' language are banned. I suppose I could just shut up.

Ah no. ( a suggested ellipse break.. ....) today was the Flora Women's Mini Marathon. Over 40k wimmin running, jogging, walking and mostly TALKING around Dublin to raise cash for all the worthy causes out there.

JM&HSJ ye could see the oestrogen in the air - it was actually very scary. I often wonder what would happen if people - you, me and all we know decided to sit back and not do anything to support the cause that effects our particular family. Would our aged, dying, sick - our children, our local communities/passions send out their men to battle with our elected leaders?? The men would gladly go but would anything be changed? War does change things, mostly when the men are so depleted that as a race we have to say 'STOP'

So - today ( a nephew claimed there were forty thousand Sunday Dinners not cooked in Ireland today) - Sisters Are Doing It For Us All. And congrats to all. Our little group, a baker's dozen, raised over two thousand Euro for the Donegal branch of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. That's a lot of hours for some beleaguered family. An hour for a carer to go for a much needed walk.Two hours for a family to gather relaxed for a meal. Three hours for the primary carer to snatch much needed sleep. It cannot be emphasised how vital each and every one of these hours are.

Thank you all our sponsors. We may have walked and talked - but you put your hands in much depleted, well taxed and extremely hard earned wallets/purses/pockets. WE LOVE YA!!! xxx

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The last piece

Well, our trip to Listowel ended last night and we have to head back to the heady world of work, school and (in Jemser's case) ironing and cooking. It was a fantastic few days and my babies are already making plans to return. The weather helped of course, but the reason we all enjoyed it was because we were all happy. We all had our own things to be at and at them we were! The last day of the workshop got a little heated from time to time today, I felt profoundly sorry for the only man in the room, a nice gentle young man- although he lives with three females so was probably well used to dealing with oestrogen! I learned a lot from both Marina Carr and the other participants in the workshop.

Had a chat with Billy Keane and for the craic I'm putting Debs Reynolds (hedge witch supreme) and her beloved Sam Stone (fence sitter) in contact with Billy. Debs and Sam run a NFP organisations called SoulSearchers in which they investigate reported hauntings in various pubs around Ireland. Sam uses technology to try and explain away Debs' assertions of hauntings in any building. Another excuse to travel to Listowel. As we had sworn off family holidays it was great that Listowel offered something for each one of us - and it's all so bijoux that it worked a treat.

My three males all busked, son#2 tinkling out 'The Entertainer' on the somewhat randomly abandoned piano in the Square. He was chuffed with himself and it's lovely to see someone who is not a natural performer taking their courage in their hands and just letting it all flow. Well done #2! We love ya. For me that little moment was the icing on the cake, it reminded me of the sigh of satisfaction son#1 would give as he sat, as a very small child, and held in his hand the final piece of a jigsaw. 'Now Mammy', he'd say 'the very las' piece.' And I'd clap as he popped it in. Thank you my lovely Listowel. See y'all again very soon.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Queen of Stories in the Kingdom........

Another wonderful day in the Kingdom.

The workshop with Marina Carr ( whose paternal family it transpires hails from the same small village in Co. Donegal as Jemser) continues to impress. The talent around the room is scary. My brain is always stretched in Listowel. Sometimes the ideas spinning about are so elusive, like bubbles - you can be afraid to catch them for fear they'd burst.

The older lads are having a complete blast. they wrote a song. And Mick Hanly said it needs no fine tuning. They thought they had died and gone to Heaven. They made cash busking. They were invited to support another performer tomorrow night. They have girls eying them up. They definitely think they've died etc.

The Queen of Stories attended a storytelling session in Listowel library given by the lovely Roisin Meaney from Limerick. The children were superb. Bright and beautiful and full of life. They liked the Queen and she liked them. Roisin may well invite the Queen along another day.

The younger lads paid two trips to Ballybunion beach, X-boxed, squabbled and made-up and stuffed themselves with rubbish. Another successful day. Jemser drank pints, sang and rambled. He may never go home.

So off out now to the Saddle Bar in Listowel to hear my boy child sing his own song. It really gets no better than this

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Poetry and music and lots of lovely chats..........

We are all enjoying our Listowel Writer’s week. Today went swimmingly. I attended the lovely Marina Carr’s workshop of writing for theatre and was surrounded by lots of interesting people. Each with our own tale to tell. We talked of internal monologues, of Shakespeare, of Pinter and Strindberg, Lorca and Friel. All surnames because they need no other name to identify them or their work. Of course they are their work. We banged about ideas, some so light and elusive that they slipped away before I could grasp them and study – see them for what they wee, break them down and build them back into a pattern that satisfied me. There are a few actors on the course and they livened things with their interpretations of our work..

Jemser was taken to play the most beautiful golf course in Ireland in Ballybunion by the son of our landlady. He had a great day. He said he felt he had never ever played a golf course until today. And he played well. Which always helps.

Son#2 and pal – once the hair was straightened - did Mick Hanly’s songwriting workshop – Mick aided and abetted by Micky McConnell, two of the best songwriters in Ireland, nay – the world. The boys had a blast and are fully geed up for tomorrow – a little tired from too much alcohol last night and the nervous strain of busking for an hour on Main Street this afternoon. Me heart was fit to bust with pride. They earned a few bob – more than the minimum wage and it’s untaxed of course so they’re quids in. Can you say that anymore? Should it be Euro in? Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Son #2 and cousin played X- box in the am and in the pm I took them out to Ballybunion where they played in the breakers – ‘twas deadly they said. But of course they wanted to go after half an hour because ‘there’s, like, nothing to do’. I bring them all the way to the county Kerry, give them the Atlantic Ocean and there’s nothing to do. And don’t you just hate it when your mother’s voice instead of you comes out! Anyway we headed back to Listowel and I fed and watered them. They enjoyed rambling around the town, highfived John B.’s statue and bought expensive plastic crap in a shop (their own money) which within the hour they were sorry they had spent.

So that’s it. I’m off to see Mick Hanly gigging in the Saddle Bar. Are yiz jealous?

Writer's Week Listowel#1

June 1st 2011

Posted late because of my WWW ineptness - not wrestling.

Ok. Landed in the Kingdom of Kerry – to me capital Listowel- but people have other favourite Kerry towns. Found the gaff we were booked to stay in for four nights and was pleased fit to burstin’. We had been done proud by the Writer’s Week Accommodation Officer Norella and our landlady Marsella. After last years’ jaw dropping disappointment (on my part) over our Sydney accommodation I had given up believing Internet descriptions of temporary housing. But this lovely wee house within a ten minute walk of the buzzin’ metropolis that is Listowel over the next four days is perfect. Even better, the landlady sourced a hair straightener for son#1 when it was ‘discovered’ that because I finally left him to pack for himself – the big lummox – he forgot hairdryer and hair straightener. I cannot believe it!! This kid spends at least twenty minutes on his fringe every morning, Jemser and I have had to take out bridging loads to cover the cost of gels, mousses and bloody hairspray over the last couple of years. Not to mention the ungents, ointments and doctors visits for scalded foreheads because of said bleedin’ straighteners! What is it about hair? And shoes? There must be a PhD in there somewhere.

In the background as I type (under the lovely influence of a wet substance not boiled) there are two eleven year olds who, with the incessant sounds of bullets and people in pain question each other as to ‘why are you settin’ those zombies on me’. The answer, although extremely original is scary – so I won’t tell you.

Other than that, meandered down the town to opening night – official ceremony too long sorry lads – but it is. Picked up, as is my wont – somebody said I'm like the Pied Piper, children seem to attach themselves to me. I love them, love discussing the absurd with them. The lovely siblings of Max from Dingle who was awarded a prize in the limerick competition kept me company with their Mam for a while as they waited for their big brother to receive his award. Go Max!! I met the cutest little babog then, Nia, in the lobby who hasn’t hit her first year yet sitting with her Dad waiting for Mam – who is a literary agent - was out networking. It’s hard enough being a writer – I can only imagine how hard it is being an agent – that elusive conduit to the publisher who can deliver the written word to the reader in the preferred format.

However difficult the Internet has made life for publisher I think I sympathise most with the agent. You believe in your client. Think he/she has a product you both love and think you can sell. Then have to battle against the clamour of every other bloody agent who believes the same thing. You have clients getting pissed off waiting in the slowest of slow games – the written word – setting up on their own, discovering that – actually I’ll never hit the million but I can write, people will read and I can also afford to eat and send my kids to college. So **** all you who said 'No'. I can! Is feidir linn.

The bigger publishers will survive. They have enough resources to adapt. The tiny publisher will also survive, it was never about having enough to eat there. But the agent? The medium sized non-specialist publisher?? Hmm……….I will watch with interest.

I’m glad I’m only a writer. I’m just doing what I must.

Talk soon.