An Omen? Or just the flutterings of a dumb bird?

A Raven sits on my mantelpiece, surveying all and sundry with a haughty eye. Arkyne, as I call him, is cast iron, in body and, yes, I believe, in spirit. He travelled here from a curio and antiques store in a small town called Cashmere in Washington, USA. As I recall, the suitcase didn’t make it onto our flight home from Seattle, well not until two days later, and I worried so for Arkyne, if he would ever get here. My treasured dark-winged harvester.

So, the other day, while we were out, we got a call from our neighbour that our house alarm was going off. Turning back from our journey, all the usual scenarios went through my head, but reaching home, there was silence, the house unturned, except for the strange and unusual code that flashed on the alarm keypad.  A number we had never seen before.

And then I ascended the stairs, and coming at me, invoking my best Tippi Hedren screech and dramatic pose, were two flapping black wings and a haughty eye, heading straight for mine! As I cowered against the impending gouging, my hysterical cry of It’s a bird! somehow translated to It’s a burglar! as it reached the ears of my better half, now downstairs in the kitchen. Thundering up the stairs he bounded, my defender, prepared to face down this unseen intruder, his face – and mine – creasing to confusion as neither burglar – nor bird – presented on the landing!

As my heart rate fluttered downwards, for a moment, I will admit, my very dark and fertile imagination wondered if Arkyne was still on the mantelpiece; if we had somehow found him out. Had we come upon his free gaff flight of fancy? Was this how he spent his time when we were not at home?

Yes, my better half gave me that same pitying get a grip look that you would probably like to give me right now.

We found the dark-winged intruder perched on my favourite chair. My husband opened the window, ordered him off the premises, and out he flew, though not before he hovered for a minute, eye to eye with the source of his liberation. Perhaps to say thanks? Perhaps to depart some omen, some warning, some message… or perhaps, it was simply a look of sympathy to the poor man having to live with this dumb bird!

Going Indie: And Why Not?

I like the term Indie Publishing. I’m an Indie Filmmaker – putting skin in the game to get my films made. I am a storyteller. I write screenplays. I write fiction. So when it comes to novels, why wouldn’t I take the independent route as well? Just like the film industry, you only learn in the ‘doing’ when it comes to writing and producing work, and the past couple of years have taught me a lot in terms of the publishing industry in all of its tranches; traditional, assisted – and self-publishing – of which I have now well and truly dipped the proverbial toe.

I’ve also experimented through the gamut of submitting the traditional way, to writing online and publishing my efforts for feedback, to publishing a finished work in ebook format, to going through the whole shebang with the paperback. I’ve made mistakes and thankfully, my readers have been both encouraging and forgiving. I have learned so much from them, and am grateful. There are also organisations that are invaluable to the advocacy and learning process of self-publishing, The Alliance of Independent Authors being at the forefront of ensuring professionalism and a code of standards.

While working through all of the above, I also sent out a sample of my novel to three of the biggest agents in Ireland; one has yet to reply. The other two did, in quick time, and with professionalism and honesty. While both gave positive and constructive comments on my work, both also stated that they are working in very difficult market conditions, which without doubt, limits the selection of work they can afford to take on. I completely understand that, and have so much admiration for publishing companies who take a chance on new writers and who keep supporting established ones. My experience as a Librarian for almost twenty years, working on a literary festival for seven, I’ve also talked to so many authors from all sides of the industry, whom I greatly admire, and reckon I’ve garnered a pretty comprehensive knowledge of how things work. It’s a tough game. Authors work hard. Publishers work hard. Respect. For now though, I don’t have the advantage of a publishing house at my back for the essentials of editor, proof reads, cover design, marketing and promotion, but I’m managing all that, and continue to learn from it.

Ultimately, the culmination of all of that accumulative learning and ‘doing’ is the fact that I am now in a position to make an informed decision on what is right for me at the present time; to stick with Indie Publishing. And here are my top ten reasons for doing so:

  1. Print-On-Demand! The risk is mine – and mine alone.
  2. Ebooks! Accessible and cheap. I read now more than ever with my Kindle!
  3. I connect directly with Readers and Writers – and learn from them.
  4. The start-up investment is manageable – and balanced by higher royalties.
  5. I retain complete control over everything I publish.
  6. Without contracts, I can write what I like, when I like.
  7. I have the freedom to experiment and to move outside any genre.
  8. The services and support to get it right are out there.
  9. I’m in the exceptionally good company of dedicated and supportive Indie, Traditional and Hybrid authors, more and more of whom are self-publishing back catalogues and/or moving into Indie publishing with new work.
  10. It is fun. The learning, the doing, the achievement. And the possibilities are endless.

I’ve never been a fan of labels, I want to express my writing in the genres and formats that feel right for me. and whether I work on a screenplay, a novel, or a short story, in the end, I am a storyteller.

LADY BETH is available from Amazon Stores.

ARKYNE,STORY OF A VAMPIRE is available from Amazon Stores.

From the Wilde Side: Inside Reading Gaol

For the first time ever, Reading Gaol has been opened to the public, particularly poignant as it coincides with a magnificent Artangel – Inside: Writers and Artists in Reading Prison, an exhibition of new works that have been created in response to the prison’s architecture and history. Leading artists, writers and filmmakers that include Steve McQueen, Marlene Dumas, Nan Goldin, Robert Gober, Jeannette Winterson and many more have produced work that has been installed in the prison cells, wings and corridors.

img_2327

At last I saw the shadowed bars

Like a lattice wrought in lead,

Move right across the whitewashed wall

That faced my three-plank bed,

And I knew that somewhere in the world

God’s dreadful dawn was red.

From ‘The Ballad of Reading Goal’ by Oscar Wilde.

I have to admit, it was a spine-tingling moment to stand in Prison Cell C.2.2. – no matter how much it might have changed (or not!) over the years since 1897 when Wilde was released from his two-year sentence. I also still find it difficult to believe that the prison was only closed in 2013!

For much of his time there, Oscar was not even allowed to write, but with a change of Governor, was eventually given access to enough paper to complete De Profundis, a letter written to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas.

“Inside the great prison where I was then incarcerated, I was merely the figure and the letter of a little cell in a long gallery, one of a thousand lifeless numbers, as of a thousand lifeless lives.”

From De Profundis, 1897. Oscar Wilde.

The current exhibition provides audio recordings of De Profundis from Colm Tóibín, Patti Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Neil Bartlett, Kathryn Hunter and many more.

img_2323

The books that Oscar requested and was eventually allowed to have in his cell. He deliberately avoided asking for any titles that might have been viewed as contentious.

You can check out further details of the ‘Artangel’ Exhibition HERE

Her Whiskey Rose

Many years ago, I bought my mother a present – a whisky rose, named so for its rich burst of colour and translucency, a blend of amber and peachy hues that was even more striking in the setting she chose for it, to the side of the front door, along the garden wall.

Over the years, her much-loved whiskey rose battled for strength against the sapping dominance of the vines and shrubs that overshadowed its delicate nature, binding it, bending it, stealing vital light and nourishment, and yet, her whiskey rose fought on, surviving, year after year to bloom again, brazen, vibrant, smiling at the sun with her unique blush.

My mother is nine months gone now, and after her funeral, my brother, Austin, dug up her whiskey rose and brought it home to replant it…and there she is, our whiskey rose, resilient as ever, turning her face to the light, proud and vibrant, and she is there.

Shortlisted…

Thrilled to be shortlisted in the ‘Personal Blog – Books and Literature Category of the

Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016!

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me during the public vote period.

I am very, very appreciative!

Find out more about Littlewoods Ireland HERE

Littlewoods-Blog-Awards-2016-Website-MPU_Vote-Now

The Dublin Ghost Story Festival…and some thrilling chills!

You know you’re in for a good time when you enter the majestic halls of the Grand Lodge of Ireland to be greeted with a glass of the finest James Joyce Whiskey, fifteen years old, no less! Now, I’m not a whiskey drinker, but it was nothing short of delicious, and was generously provided by Brendan Kilty SC, of The James Joyce House.

The tone was set, and did not disappoint, with a weekend of wonderful events, from the eerily toned duo of stories of M.R. James, beautifully told by Robert Lloyd Parry, and set in the very grand, and atmospheric surroundings of the Freemason’s Hall.

Author panels included guest of honour, Adam Nevill, and an array of sublimely talented writers, A.K.Benedict, Brian Goldrick, Paul Kane, Maura McHugh, Marie O’Regan, Sarah Pinborough, John Reppion, Lynda E. Rucker, Angela Slatter, and the highlight for me, David Mitchell!

Day Made!

There was also a very well-organised book fair (from the rare to the bestsellers) and a giant author signing for the launch of Uncertainties, Volumes 1 and 2, all presented by the Master of Ceremonies, author John Connolly. Congrats to John, and to Brian Showers from Swan River Press, for a brilliant weekend. I certainly hope this festival will continue for years to come.

Swag Bag

Now to enjoy the contents of my Dublin Ghost Story Festival Swag Bag!

The Spellery Magazine…

Check it out…and not just for the fact that I am featured in the latest edition! Love the cover too!

Take a peek HERE

Or pop over to their FACEBOOK Page

15067db9339e4ffebe57c50975e031f9