Tuesday, December 18, 2012


So what do we writers do when our back list titles are left languishing by both publishers and booksellers? Well, ideally, if the publisher isn't motivated in that direction, we get rights back - ideally covers too - and  make them available as e-books.

For writers used to presenting a book manuscript as a Microsoft Word and having
it appear on the bookshelves, the DIY of e-publishing can be daunting.

But not impossible. If you're short of time or not into digitalising, employ the experts. Okay, so it costs money - varying amounts, and of course you've to find that expert. But as writers we're used to research -and e-book publishing is a project that needs to be researched.

I bit the e-publishing bullet a few months ago with these titles, and can report that so far I'm pleased with sales which wouldn't otherwise be happening if they weren't available in e-book format.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


James Joyce's iconic short story The Dead, adapted for the stage by Frank McGuinness opens in the Abbey Theatre later this month. Professor Frank McGuinness is an award winning poet and playwrite.
Frank McGuinness
The Dead, the last story in Dubliners, illustrates the importance for Joyce of dates, places and names. This story is regarded as having changed the face of modern literature with its usage of what is now called 'mix narrative', and in its construction Joyce takes language to the maximum of its ability, with plot not playing much of a role.

The short stories comprising Dubliners were written between 1902 and 1907 and were inspired by the time he spent in Rome. The structure of the collection is thematic: opening
 stories are of childhood; move onto adolescence; then adult life and finally public life.  

Aspiring authors take heart: Joyce had difficulty getting a publisher interested with the result that the collection wasn't published until 1914.

He is now the most written on author in the area of international literary studies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Belated congratulations to all the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Award winners.

Novelist and playwright Jennifer Johnston whose books are a constant delight,
was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Joseph O'Connor. John
Jennifer Johnston with Joseph O'connor
Banville's 'Ancient Light' took Eason Novel of the Year; 'Just Mary', much loved
politician Mary O'Rourke's autobiography, was RTE John Murray's Show Listeners'
Choice; Crime Fiction Book of the Year is 'Broken Harbour' by Tana French - no
surprise there, it's unputdownable; a writer to watch and Newcomer of the Year is
Donal Ryan with 'The Spinning Heart';  Eoin Colfer's 'Artemis Fowl: The Last
Guardian' takes Children's Book of the Year, Senior, and the last in the series,
we believe.

The Bord Gais Energy bookshop of the Year is Bridge Street Books in the town of Wicklow. It is run with passion by Hilary Hamilton who is surrounded by a dedicated team of book lovers who are as passionate about reading as they are at recommending 'reads' to their customers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Pleasures of Winter by Evie Hunter, pen name of Irish writing duo Eileen
Gormley and Caroline McCall, was launched last night with great gusto. Dubray's
book shop in Dublin's Grafton Street was packed to the rafters with well wishers,family, friends and writing colleagues. As a token of Caroline and Eileen's thanks, Penguin's Patricia Deevy accepted a rose, a white feather and an unknown object in a dainty box which caused blushes and laughter in equal measure.

As the wine and conversation flowed and the tills rang with sales, The Pleasures moved for the second week into no. 3 in the Irish best seller list and its running at similar in iTunes. Yes, it's succeeding where so many other titles failed in knocking all those Shades...off their perch.                                    

Monday, November 12, 2012


The self-publishing revolution is well and truly here and those in the
know talk about tearing down the walls between author and reader.

There are streams of self-help books on how to convert your manuscript
 to bestseller. But for my money Irishman David Gaughan's is the best. Let's Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You Should. It is comprehensive and written in clear, understandable language, so you 
don't have to be a whiz to follow the instructions and there is a load of
 information and contacts. It has shifted in the region of 4000 copies and is a Sunday Times bestseller as well as the 2012 winner of the Best Non-fiction Independent E-books Award.

The prophets of the book industry predict the continuous growth of ebooks and self-publishing. But there is still a fair bit of resistance: a lot of it generational but some of it purist, with the idea of electronic reading dividing establishment readers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Neilsen Bookscan's figures for 2012 year to date figures for the Irish consumer market make grim reading. Overall book sales are down nearly 7 per cent on 2011.

Fiction sales have dropped 2.1 per cent to €25.5 million and non-fiction is down a whopping more than 14 per cent to €35.6 million, although non-fiction sales are expected to rally for Christmas.

But the good news is that sales of children's books are up 1.1 to €21 million.

Friday, October 26, 2012


English author, broadcaster and Orange prize winner Kate Mosse is coming to Dublin. She is best known for her Languedoc Trilogy, with 'Labyrinth' - her best known title translated into 37 languages, as well as 'Sepulchre' and 'Citadel'. These books secured her name as one of the most dedicated and popular writers of historical fiction.

She is giving a talk on Saturday 3 November at the Pavilion Theatre in Dunlaoghaire and I hear there's still a few tickets available

Thursday, October 25, 2012


In these days of economic stress getting published if increasingly difficult. But perseverance pays off. Note the following and never  give up hope:

• "We do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market"(Moby Dick, Melville)

• "The work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples" (Virginia Woolf, then
 editor of the Hogarth Press, rejecting Joyce'sUlysses).                                                  

• "No reader interest" (W.H. Allen & Company's reason for rejecting Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, which would go on to sell over ten million copies).

• J.R.R. Tolkien's manuscript of The Lord of the Rings was refused by three 
publishers; in 1954, only 3,500 copies of it were published.

• One Hundred Years of Solitude by García Márquez was rejected by Seix 
Barral in Barcelona and impolitely returned to him initialled by "an obscure official".

• The first Sherlock Holmes book, as Conan Doyle recalled, "returned with the regularity of a homing pigeon".

The world would be a poorer place without the above titles. I interviewed Frederick Forsythh when he was living in Ireland and if I remember rightly he had about 18 rejections before finally hitting the jackpot!

Monday, October 22, 2012


So Hilary Mantel has won the Booker. Surprising it is too having an
 English woman winning with a sequel - but what a sequel. Bring 
up the Bodies explores the mystifying and terrifying destruction
of Anne Boleyn and gives a new meaning and twist to historical fiction.

Elsewhere in prizeland, the Orange Prize has lost its long-term sponsorship, is being renamed the Women's Prize for Fiction and rumour is that it will be funded by private donors including Cherie Blair; author Joanna Trollope and Christopher Foyle of Foyles bookshops. The 2012 award worth £30,000 was won by Madeline Miller for The Song of Achilles.

The Pen/Pinter awards went to British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy who nominated A Woman in the Crossfire by Syrian writer, Samar Yazbek, who fearful for her daughter's safety has fled Syria and is living in exile. Interestingly this award is unique in that a British winner is selected by a panel of judges and then chooses an 'international writer of courage' to share the prize.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


 The Pleasures of Winter, hailed as 'erotic and sensual',  is the book tipped to knock '50 Shades...' and it sequels off the bestseller list. And I am holding an advance copy hot off the presses.

Evie Hunter is the writing name of Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall, both talented writers who work successfully on their own and together within a varied range of genres, though most recently both are tickled by erotica.

The story is one of the obsession and torment of ace reporter Abbie Marshall with Irish actor Jack Winter.

Monday, October 15, 2012


There's nothing like a book launch to gladden the hearts of authors, particularly in these difficult-to-get-published times.

First time author John O'Keeffe had a packed launch for his debut novel Searching for Ami in Dublin's Royal College of Physicians, attended by Dublin's medical glitterati, family and friends. The hallowed book-lined walls of its library rang with laughter and echoed with chat and reminiscences as wine was drunk and nibbles consumed.

The formality of launch speech was by ombudsperson Emily O'Reilly; publication was by Red Rock Press; the reviews so far are hailing Searching for Ami as  a superb and compelling thriller; it's available in all good bookshops and online.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Voting for the best bookshop in Ireland is open to all and it's an online exercise.

All you have to do is log onto bordgaisenergybookclub.ie and vote for your best loved bookstore.

Don't we love our bookstores and aren't we delighted to enjoy browsing, getting advice on the best, most compelling and spiciest reads from the every knowledgeable staff?

So in these recessionary times why not give them a boost by casting a vote...

More than 240 stores are vying to be named Ireland's favourite bookstore in the competition which is decided by your online vote.

You have until Sunday October 14th to cast your vote, and there's a selection of prizes including holiday vouchers and free electricity for some of the lucky voters

Friday, October 5, 2012


Felicity's Wedding has joined A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton. Both are now available in digital form and, so far, the feedback is good.

Felicity's Wedding is the story of a contemporary Irish family. Felicity's wedding is the catalyst that causes havoc, wrecks relationships and forces everyone to reassess their lives. It is based on fact, on a story I heard as an 11-year old child with a penchant for eavesdropping.When first published is was book club choice in Germany.

A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton is too based on fact but has ended up as a somewhat fictionalised account of the short, colourful life of Kate Kelly who lived from 1854-1882. She was mistress and muse and only love of French painter Jacques Tissot and their very open love affair scandalised Victorian morals.

Monday, October 1, 2012

lovewriting.patriciaoreilly.net - Writers' Blog: HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY CONFERENCE

lovewriting.patriciaoreilly.net - Writers' Blog: HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY CONFERENCE: The Historical Novel Society held its 2012 conference in the University of Westminser in the heart of London. A great weekend was had by all...


The Historical Novel Society held its 2012 conference in the University of Westminser in the heart of London. A great weekend was had by all the 200 plus delegates primarily from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the USA.

Information was exchanged, tales told, publishers and agents analysed, book sales scrutinised, trays of sandwiches devoured and a great time had by all.

Phillipa Gregory one of the keynote speakers defined HF as a narrative of the past, with facts as a starting point. She gladdened the audience's heart stating that being the story of inner life, growth, maturity and feelings, the novel is he finest form of art. Sure didn't we all know that - but nice to have it confirmed.

Main Panel Sessions with Q & A were the topical What Sells HF? The Lying Art - tensions and issues at the fact/fiction interface;  Brawn v Heart and The Many Faces of HF. The panelists were lively mix throwing out tips on getting published, the current market, the power of sandals, sand and sword v the Tudors, and the situation regarding e-books and their marketing came up again and again.

More tomorrow.....

Monday, September 24, 2012


It's with sadness and a certain amount of pride that I note The Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction, Part I - Plots is oversubscribed, so we can take no more aspiring writers for this session.

The good news is there are still places for Spring and Summer 2013 where we'll be covering Characters and Editing.

This course which is geared towards writers and would-be writers is part of UCD's Adult Education Programme. It takes place in Carysfort Campus - the nicest campus and with the best coffee in the country - on Wednesday mornings from 10 o'clock to noon.

Further details from Adult Education: phone (01) 716 7123 or www.ucd.ie/adulted. And of course you're welcome to contact me at patricia@patriciaoreilly.net

Saturday, September 22, 2012


In the current publishing climate publicity is everything. It used to be that a good book would find its level - but no more. And self promotion which has become almost mandatory is increasingly necessary and it can be so embarrassing. The concept of blowing one's trumpet doesn't sit well on most of us.

But a well designed website works wonders.look no further than best selling author Cecelia Ahern's website owned by Greenlight Go Ltd which in turn is 99 pc owned by Cecelia with the other 1 pc owned by her husband. Started in 2010 the company by September 2011 had accumulated profits of €1.5m.

Not  satisfied with this success the enterprising duo have set up Red Robin Productions to make and produce movies.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


With the so called 'silly season' over, it's time for book launches again. Some publishers get in early to capture the lucrative Christmas market, others are more inclined to wait until November.

Last evening saw the launch of Marita Conlon McKenna's Love, Lucie. Despite having made her name as a children's author, this is her first children's book in a while. Judging by the attendance, enthusiasm, marketing, posters and general air of excitement at the launch which was held in the Grafton Street branch of Dubray, it will be yet another success for her.

Also in the pipeline is Emma Donoghue reading from her latest short story collection, Astray. This is taking place in Dublin's gorgeous Hugh Lane Gallery at 2 o'clock on Saturday 29 September. Her play The Talk of The Town IS about Irish writer Maeve Brennan. She took New York by literary and social storm during the 1950s. Emma's play showing in the Project Art Centre - opening night 27 September.

Friday, September 7, 2012


According to the Sunday Times - main section - Shades of ...
is the biggest publishing phenomenon since Harry Potter hit
the bookshelves.

But no longer is EL James, the English housewife author of
those Shades having it all her own way. In a surprising move
for such a traditional publisher Penguin Ireland commissioned
two Dublin women from to write an Irish equivalent.

Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall took the call to arms seriously. They spent much of the summer locked in writing combat battling to get the required 95,000 words. In keeping with the dedicated writers they are, they succeeded.

The Pleasures of Winter is scheduled to lift sales of the Christmas market for Penguin who has not had a happy summer and autumn sales-wise. Meanwhile Eileen and Caroline, prolific and skilled writers of various genres, are busy penning another...Well we'll just have to wait and see.....Won't we?


As someone who has come the route of print journalism - spread thinly,
I should assure on the broad bases of the Irish Times, Independent
Group, Irish Examiner and the majority of magazines ranging
from women's to business - I'm following with keen interest the
rise and rise of digital journalism.

Recent ABC figures make grim reading with sales of most titles heavily down: The Irish Independent  plummeted to below 100,000, The Times in region of 70,000, Belfast Telegraph around 40,000. Given the additional slump in advertising, now is not a good time to be involved in newspapers.

Enter salvation in the form of Leslie Buckley who last year made Irish corporate history by being voted off Independent News & Media (INM) and now in an extraordinary reversal of fortune he has been reappointed INM as chairman.

His plan is to bring the newspaper business into the digital sector. It's already being done and well buy the Irish Independent under the editorship of Noirin Hegarty who did such a  splendid job at the now defunct Sunday Tribune. Another newspaper on the up and up digitally is the Daily Mail, edited by Martin Clarke; it has loads of celebrity gossip, lifestyle features and women's interest stories than it's print cousin.

(Note: I am indebted to Stephen Price's column in the Sunday Times for some of this information)

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing writing things right; I wonder if I'm getting through to the writers who attend my seminars/classes/online; wonder if I'm acknowledging and directioning their talent. When I receive a "thank you" like the one below from Vincent who is a joy to have in the group, it has me re-doubling my efforts.

'It is nearly two years since I first attended your Nuts and Bolts class, attracted by the title and falling into the category of “would-be writer with an unquenchable drive to write but lacking ideas and devoid of creativity and imagination”.

I remember some things you said to the letter, some less so and some not at all. I have tried most of the techniques you gave us, discarded some, adapted others and embraced the remainder. Allowed to do so by “THERE ARE NO RULES” message you preached.

One of the first things you told us was to aim to write for two hours per day. At that stage twenty minutes was probably the most I could manage at a sitting and if I managed to do two hours writing in total before the following week’s class I would be doing well.

That did not mean I did not mull over the task in hand over the full week, thinking about the way I would approach the homework before ensuring in was completed over the Tuesday night / early Wednesday morning. I tried to get a routine going aiming for 30 minutes a day to start, and then build up to the two - and completely failed.

Without the classes I found that I lacked the discipline to write and my writing fell away completely between terms.

Then in March I decided to aim for fifty hours per month – with the self-imposed threat hanging over my head that I would cease writing altogether if I did not reach the target. This was a manageable target and one that allow me to miss a day now and again. I am pleased to say that I have now managed to get my 50 hours for the fifth consecutive month. And a day doesn’t seem right if I don’t put in at least some time.

This is a rather long-winded way of saying thank you. I hope you can recognise the success you have achieved in getting me to this stage as much as getting others to a much higher plane.'

'Nuff said...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Type of Beauty goes Kindle

A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton who lived from 1854 to 1882 and packed so much living into her short life has hit the e-book market. It's a great read - if I, as its author, may say so.

Kate is such a delightful character that when I finished researching, writing and the interminable editing I missed her company.

All I need now is for e-readers to buy. When first published it was well received on all fronts, garnered good reviews and I'm having a great time giving talks, seminars etc about Kate and the Victorian era.

Getting A Type of Beauty professionally uploaded is an interesting exercise. I used eBookPartnership.com - Matt and Diana Horner were both professional and helpful.

Friday, August 31, 2012


This day next month, all being well and places being filled, we'll have had our first session of The Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction - Plots & Plans in Carysfort Campus on Wednesday 26 September. It's part of UCD's Adult education programme

The more I think about this course, the more pleased I am that over the year from September to May we will have the opportunity to complete and self-edit a work of long fiction. Of course, that's for those attending who wish to achieve that. Others may just want to write short pieces or short stories and feel their way along the many pathways of writing.

One aspect of these Wednesday mornings I'm sure of is that the combustive power of the group will benefit anyone even remotely interested in writing. You can' get but be caught up in the heady joy of creating...

So until the 26th of next month at 10 o'clock....

Thursday, August 23, 2012


There's little more pleasant than discovering an on-line connection, espectally if it comes unexpectedly and out of the blue.

Today I came across Kirsty Stonell Walker, art historian, based in the UK with a fascination for 19th century artists and their women. She's particularly interested in Kathleen Newton, of course the subject of my last book titled A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton who lived from 1854 to 1882, now available as a Kindle edition.

Kirsty has a great blogsite, with wonderful illustrations but it was quite impossible for me to prove I wasn't a robot - those letters are completely indecipherable!! And so I couldn't leave a complimentary comment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


These days there's little good publishing news on the writing grapevine. Money is tight; agents aren't taking on new authors and publishers aren't willing to gamble on sales from unproven writers.

But writers are still writing and unknowns continue to polish their skills.

Out of the blue comes Irish Penguin flapping excitedly. The publishing giant suffered all summer when sales of their 49 bestsellers plummeted while erotic best seller Fifty Shades of Grey and its follow-ups dominated the holiday sales market. Here it has to be said that Penguin's e-book sales have grown by  a formidable 33%. Basking in that success it determined to capitalise on the lucrative Christmas market. With this in mind it commissioned blush fiction writers Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall to pen a blockbuster that would knock Fifty Shades... off its perch.

The two Irish writers who are primarily published in e-format by USA publishers holed up both together and separately. They wrote and wrote. Within a few weeks and on time they delivered the 95k manuscript which is due out in November. The title is believed to be The Pleasures of Winter...

What more could we want???

lovewriting.patriciaoreilly.net - Writers' Blog: E-BOOK JOY, AT LAST

lovewriting.patriciaoreilly.net - Writers' Blog: E-BOOK JOY, AT LAST:   A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton  is now available in a Kindle edition that I'm proud of, not that I can take much credit as...


 A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton is now available in a Kindle edition that I'm proud of, not that I can take much credit as its professional look is thanks to ebookpartnership.com, the company run by Diana & Matt Horner.

Having self-published A Type of Beauty - well with the help of a UK publishing consultancy, the next logical step was to have it available as a Kindle edition. I duly adapted the pdf version and downloaded it and the cover. Inside it looked a mess and didn't sell well, whereas I am consistently delighted with sales of the paperback.

But now...e-hope is riding high as both mobi and epub editions make it available even more worldwide than previously.

Friday, August 10, 2012


It's that time of the year again. And I've never known it to come around so quickly.

On Monday, yes that is Monday 13 August booking for UCD's Adult Education courses opens. So for anyone interested in writing that novel that has been running around in your head for as long as you can remember, now is the time to book the course titled: Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction. 

We're in Carysfort Campus on Wednesday mornings. We're going for the three terms: autumn term covers Plotting & Planning; in the Spring we're refining People & Places and best of all we've a few golden weeks in the summer term to edit and get the completed - yes, completed - novels of course participants out to agents, publishers, e-book conveners, whatever. But out there and being read is the name of the writing game.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


UCD's Adult Education Programme 2012-  arrived today  in the post, with 'Opening Worlds' as its tagline. It's thicker than ever, crammed with all sort of wonderful courses that will open participants' minds to unlimited possibilities. That's what I love about adult education - truly the syndrome of lifelong learning.

This year I've a new course titled Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction with focus over the 3 terms interlinked and complimentary, running from September to May. My idea is that those attending Carysfort Campus on Wednesday mornings from 10 o'clock to noon - coffee break too - will end the year with a book, if they so wish.

Yes, a completed book. But participants will have to work as novels don't write themselves!!!

Over the first term we're looking at Plotting & Planning, the current trend in publishing being away from primarily character-led fiction and into page-turning plot. But as writers we can't get away from Characters and setting various scenes in the right Locations adds immensely to any story; so over the second term our title is People & Places. And I am delighted to be able to tell all of you who so often ask - we've a few intensive weeks of Editing in the third term.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Unbelievable isn't how Fifty Shades of Grey and its follow-ups are dominating the summer book buying market. Not only massive sales worldwide but it's the topic of book conversation and has spawned a whole new industry in the adult toy business.

So far I've avoided it but couldn't avoid hearing that Box of Grey is a newly set up company who delivers  bondage kits to your door. And I hear on the grapevine that the business is shuddering to an impressive climax....

Friday, July 27, 2012


The programme for this dropped through the letter box this morning, though I'd already booked for the talks I wanted to hear. The Festival runs from Tuesday 4 September to Sunday 9 September and takes place in and around The Pavilion in Dunlaoghaire. As well as eminent speakers on literary matters, it includes several workshops and one-to-ones on various aspects of writing, as well as an increased section dealing with poetry.

There appear to be fewer internationally acclaimed award-winning writers speaker at the Festival this year. A pity as these names are a huge draw and they are guaranteed to attract the interest of novelists and authors

Writer of award winning historical novels, Phillipa Gregory speaking on Friday evening is my first choice. She holds a PhD for her work on 18th century novels and their readership, and in Ireland she's probably best known for her Tudor series including The Other Boleyn Girl. I've also booked for the two Americans:  Elizabeth Stroud and Richard Bausch who are opening the Festival on Tuesday evening. Elizabeth won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, as well as a raft of other accolades. Richard has written 10 novels and seven collections of stories, and his work receives enormous critical acclaim. My last but by no means least choice is titled 'when Borgen met Mad Men', chaired by Rachel Flanagan. I adored the Mad Men series and can't wait to hear what the Emmy-award winning creator of that and other highly popular TV series such as Murphy Brown, Living Single has to say on the creative process.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


We keep hearing about the state of the book publishing industry - how awful it is, how in the doldrums, how it will never recover. And then there comes a glimmer of hopeful light. For me it was the news that a book can become a bestseller before it's even published. This phenomenon is due to Amazon's Pre-Order System. Its a huge boost for authors waiting on tenterhooks for their books to hit the shelves.

Broken Harbour by Irish author Tara French - author of superb crime novels - has achieved this distinction. Last week Broken Harbour hit number 99 on Amazon's US chart thanks to the strength of its pre-orders. It may not be due for publication in the States until next week but already it has garnered a rave review from The New York Times

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Sunday Independent's Eoghan Harris is in fine fettle as he mounts one of his favourite hobby horses: the neglect of PLOT promoted by what he calls, 'lit crits'.

He points out that from the time of Aristotle, through to Shakespeare onto Elizabeth Bowen and bang up to date with the the customers of Xtra-vision, plot is one of the most important components of fiction but that it's being neglected for character. He maintains the main function of character is to produce plot.

Literary agents Darley Anderson agree with him. Some time ago the word went out that if anyone had a great story line they should approach the London agency. And no it was not necessary to write the story: having a plot was enough. I never heard what, if anything, happened.....

Sunday, July 15, 2012


When I was a regular contributor Sunday wouldn't be Sunday without listening with ear glued to Sunday Miscellany. Then with the passage of time I moved onto other writing and stopped contributing. However I caught the programme this morning. It's magic remains potent, with some well remembered broadcasters like Cyril Kelly and Mae Leonard still contributing as well as a range of new voices.

I think fondly of Sunday Miscellany, one of RTE 1's longest running, most successful and best loved programmes. After all it was where I cut my broadcasting teeth under the generous wing of Maxwell Sweeney, producer at the time. He brought me to the radio centre and with the greatest of patience explained the difference between writing features pieces for newspapers and magazines, which I was doing at the time, and for the listened word. He taught me well as I went on to write scores of SM pieces, made radio documentaries and wrote a few plays as well as short stories, all for the radio.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I'm hoping to attend the Historical Novels Society's conference in London which takes place at the University of Westminster over weekend of 29/30 September.

The society is primarily USA-based but has a strong UK arm. Courtesy of the indefatigable Dianne Trimble we have an Irish arm - democratically operated too as we meet in both Belfast and Dublin.

HNS's London conference has an incredible line up of authors and industry experts with loads of opportunities for networking and socialising, as well. With the changing face of publishing we writers need to know everything we can about the industry...and more.

Speakers include Sarah Dunnat, internatonal bestselling author of 11 novels, translated into 30 languages: J D Davies, author of ‘The journals of Matthew Quinton’, series of naval historical fiction and Elizabeth Chadwick, author of 20 award-winning novels.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I love being invited to talk about my writing and I especially love being asked to do so within the hallowed literary portals of a library - any library is good, but recently I was in a special library: Loughboy, on the outskirts of Kilkenny. Brenda Ward of the city library was the organising force behind the visit. She was ably assisted by Catriona from Loughboy and a team of librarians from other libraries in Kilkenny. 

Liz Walsh proud owner of the award-winning Stone House Books, one of the increasingly few independent bookshop owners, was on hand with examples of her personally selected book choices.

We had a packed house - as expected mainly women, but the scattering of men made it democratic - wine, nibbles and a lively audience. As well as my talk and questions, there was a quiz and a short story competition - very short - only 6 words. And what talented 6 words emerged.

The libraries are serviced by Kilkenny County Council and run comprehensive programmes, including Multimedia & Music Collections, Online Courses and Mobile and School Library Service. reader Developments include: Author Visits, Literary Readings, Book Clubs and Class Actvities. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The current edition of The Author carries a most interesting titbit of Irish literary information - heartening for writers whose publishers are debating the commerciality of publishing their manuscript.

Apparently our Office of Public Works commissioned Dr Desmond McCabe in 2002 to write a history of the OPW. The completion date was 2004 and the budget a whopping  €76,184. Time passed and costs mounted to €400,000. Dr McCabe's request to extend the deadline to 2019 led to the decision to scrap the project. 

But  our canny OPW thought again; it could not allow all to be lost. So in October 2011 a book titled St Stephen's Green 1660-1875 by Dr Desmond McCabe emerged from the ashes of the project.

Copies retail at €35. To date less than 500 have been sold. The net cost to each Irish taxpayer works out at €900. Nice work Dr McCabe, if you can get it!

Monday, June 25, 2012


In these times of tumbling readership figures, publications ceasing and bookshops closing it's great to see success. 

Congrats to Dublin Review of Books, the iconic free online literary journal that has been going for five years. The Review celebrated the occasion with its 22nd edition. According to its website, www.drb.ie, it has published over 230 essays and been visited one or more by 120,000 readers from 190 countries. While more than a third of those visits are from Ireland, almost 27% are from the US and another 13% from the UK, a readership reflecting the journal's international flavour.


The novel took off in the late 17th century and thrived, more or less, up to a few years ago. Recent figures show that UK print sales dropped 26% in the opening weeks of this year. While such figure are not readily available for the Irish market, we are all aware that book shops are closing, vanishing from streets and shopping centres with depressing frequency.

In Ireland we consider ourselves to be a literary nation, but a recent report from Nielsen show that book sales are declining faster here than in any other country surveyed. And it not all the fault of e-books, either. More research shows that about 20% of Americans failed to read a book in any format over the past year - the lowest since polling began in 1978.

At some point over the past decades reading ceased to be something one automatically did - like washing teeth - and it became a hobby, as listed by "celebrities". Sad but true.

Monday, June 4, 2012

PARIS - Eileen Gray's apartment

 I'm staying at #CentreCulturalIrlandais in Paris for a few days to run a final research check on my latest book. It is the story of the meeting that took place between #EileenGray and #BruceChatwin in November 1972. She was the Irish designer and architect who after years of being forgotten and living reclusively became darling of international media, due to sale of her screen, #LeDestin to Yves Saint Laurent for a record-breaking price for a "modern" antique. He was the golden boy of British journalism, newly appointed to the Sunday Times magazine. His brief was to interview Eileen Gray.

I love writing fact-led fiction or novelization, as I've seen it recently described.

Before leaving Dublin with a series of maps I plotted Bruce's likely route to Eileen Gray's apartment. I wanted to be sure of the most minute detail - cobblestones or asphalt, street width, buildings and above all atmosphere.

I retraced his footsteps from the Louvre, crossing the Seine by Pont des Arts, imagining the way he looked through the slats of wood at the cold green river beneath his highly polished shoes - according to his wife, Elizabeth, he had a thing about polished shoes, with the domed elegance of the Institute de France facing him. He'd have turned right onto Quai Conti and into Quai Malaquaise where'd he'd have crossed the street to rue Bonaparte, walking up along the left footpath to no 21, the impressive hotel particuler, where #EileenGray lived for more than 70 years.

The high green gates leading to No 21 are opened, trucks are pulled up outside, workmen moving backwards and forwards, carrying various plastic-wrapped packages through the canopied entrance to the right, where I believe Eileen had her 4-roomed apartment. It looks as though the tiny entrance hall and that apartment is undergoing a giant renovation. I ask for permission to go into the apartment. The men look at me incomprehensibly - I go in anyway. It's quite wonderful - her ghost still lingers - I'm sure of it, but I can't stay as the 'boss', a sturdy, no-nonsense man is thumbing me out of the door and down the stairs.....

Monday, May 21, 2012

More Sadness for the Irish Book Publishing Industry of Irish Booksellers

Irish booksellers say shops will close and jobs go as a result of the library services contract, worth €950,000, going to Bertrams, a large British firm which will provide both adult fiction and non-fiction to libraries in the Dunaloghaire/Rathdown, South Dublin and Fingal areas.

It is the first time councils bundled their library services into one big contract and Irish booksellers are fearful other authorities will do the same. Booksellers argue, and rightly so, that it is environmentally inefficient for Bertrams to import books from Ireland, apply library date labels, stamps and barcodes; cover or laminate teh books, and then ship back to Dublin. Even worse it looks as though Irish publishers could be expected to give bigger discounts to Bertrams as a wholesaler.

Dunlaoghaire/Rathdown is unaplogetic, saying it is legally obliged to pursue EU procurement procedures when buying library books.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Term: Editing

Good news from UCD's Adult Education - we're breaking ground by running courses during summer term. And  here are four weeks of intensive editing. This course complements previous 'Anatomy' courses, but also stands alone.

Title: Anatomy of Successful Editing - 17 April to 8 May 2013

In order to bring your writing or anyone else’s writing to a professional standard and particularly if you are aiming for publication of a potential bestseller, you need to acquire the ability to objectively overview and edit or re-write proficiently. While it can be difficult for writers to do a final edit on their own work, they are advised never to send out their manuscript until it is as good as they can make it. Editing is a skill that can and should be part of every writer’s talent bank
Professional editing can divided into:
(i)                Structural Editing: As well as over-view of whole, structural editing ensures structure of story, point of entry, arc of plot and development of characters with regard to plot and timescale maximising and enhancing the story. Structural Editing also makes sure loose-ends are drawn together before the resolution, and that the story throughout is in keeping with the mood of genre and era.
(ii)              Copy Editing: frequently emerging writers consider copy editing to be the only type of editing. It involves syntax, grammar, punctuation, style, technique, as well as analyzing choice of words, phrases and dialogue.
During this 4-week course we de-mystify the process of editing. The course is suitable for writers who have a body of work for editing or people interested in acquiring editing skills.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Writing Workshops in UCD: 2012/2013

Where: UCD Adult Education : Carysfort Campus
When: Wednesday mornings 10.00 am to 12.00 pm
Title: Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction (1): Plotting & Planning - 26 September to 28 November, 2012
Writing successful contemporary fiction is an acquired skill. The purpose of this course is to assist writers to complement their creativity by finding and use the skills of Plotting & Planning to construct dynamic storylines and to realise their writing dreams.
Successful Plotting is the keynote of contemporary fiction and thrives on good Planning. Plot is what happens in the story, the sequence of events that occurs as characters attempt to solve problems or reach goals. But successful Plotting needs shape and form. This is where the Planning part of Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction comes in to ensure vibrant arc of story, dynamic beginning, middle and end; purpose, reason for being and ensuring at the end of the plot that change has occurred. Skilled Planning of Plotting maximises storyline.
The 10- modules of this course are tailor-made to suit anyone interested in writing from beginner to the more experienced writer. Only requirement is an interest in writing good fiction.  This course focuses on optimum ways of sourcing dynamic Plotting sequences and facilitates best methods of structural Planning. Primary concentration is on structuring fictional storylines (Plots) using narrative and dialogue to best advantage; structuring, various methods of plotting. Areas covered: different genres of novels, short stories and radio & stage plays. Sessions arranged to allow time for writing and constructive, individual analysis of participant’s work.

Title: Anatomy of Writing Successful Fiction (2): People & Places - 30 January to 20 March, 2013
No matter what sort of fiction you write, your story has to be populated with characters (People) and their actions have to occur in locations (Places).
Characters (People) are the royalty of fiction and one of the greatest challenges facing an author is to create compelling characters (People) that interest the reader, fit the story and respond to your plot. Whatever the action of your story, it needs to matter to your characters.
Locations, Settings, Backdrops (Places) all add spice and provide authentic backgrounds for your story. Creating a setting may be easier than creating a character but it requires serious research and planning. We have tips on writing about the pluses and minuses of places that exists and don’t exist; on creating the perfect backdrop for your characters’ actions; on how to imagine a town/city/street/house/room. A sense of place is not only about the best location to set a scene, it also creates an era, atmospheres.
The 8-modules of this course are tailor-made to suit anyone interested in writing from the beginner to the more experienced writer. Only requirement is an interest in writing good fiction to suit today’s market.  This course concentrates on practical and creative ways of inventing memorable characters (People) and Places. The main focus is on best fitting your People & Places to your storyline using narrative and dialogue, as well as style and technique to best advantage. Areas covered: different genres of novels, short stories and radio & stage plays. Sessions arranged to allow time for writing and constructive, individual analysis of participant’s work.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Veiled Woman of Achill

For writers, readers and the writing community, there’s noting quite like the launch of a new title .Recently launched in Limerick was Patricia Byrne’s The Veiled Woman of Achill, published by Collins Press, Cork.  Patricia writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She has worked in enterprise and regional economic development in the mid-west  of Ireland.

The Veiled Woman of Achill is set in the 1890s. A true playboy drama, it tells the story of landowner Agnes MacDonnell’s brutal attack and the burning of her home, Valley House, on Achill Island. Her attacker was a tenant, James Lynchehaun, the island’s wild man. The crime, trial and escapes as well as the island tensions of the time are expertly captured by Byrne who has a family interest in the story. Her great granduncle wrote extensive journals, including his account of the life of James Lynchehaun, and accounts of several fundraising trips across the United States.

Byrne writes robustly and with attention to historical detail.

If you’re interested in a good Famine read, The Veiled Woman… won’t disappoint.

Monday, April 2, 2012


It is generally agreed that great literature is life-enhancing. Now neuroscience shows this claim is truer than we imagined with brain scans showing how our brain is stimulated when we read an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange.
The “classical” language regions of the brain are involved in how the brain interprets written words. Scientists now realize that narratives activate other parts of our brains, suggesting why words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those dealing with smells. Researchers in Spain had participants read words with odour associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned. The words “perfume” and “coffee,” caused the subjects’ primary olfactory cortex to light up; whereas with “chair” and “key,” this region remained dark.

Recently it was discovered that when people read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, becomes active. Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex, while same-meaning phrases, “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands,” did not. Confirming the golden rule of fiction to show, not tell.

words describing motion stimulate different regions of the brain from the language-processing areas. The brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Paul kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements. This activity was concentrated in one part of the motor cortex when the movement was arm-related and in another part when it concerned the leg.

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life - the same neurological regions are stimulated. Fiction — with its similes, metaphors and descriptions of people and their actions offers a rich replica of life. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

The novel is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

 a psychologist at York University in Canada, concluded there was overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks navigating interactions with other people. Scientists call this “theory of mind.” Fiction offers an opportunity to engage in this, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies.

Studies show that readers of fiction are better able to understand, empathize with people and see the world from their perspective, even accounting for the likelihood that more empathetic people read novels. A 2010 study found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind.

This material originated by Annie Murphy Paul and passed to me by Mary Ann Williams, currently studying writing at Trinity College Dublin.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I am frequently asked about poetry. Poetry has a high profile  in Ireland, currently much higher than than short and long narrative fiction. Poets are beloved of media and public alike, and have platforms at the literary get-togethers at the various workshops and festivals that take place throughout Ireland.

I have to decline to comment on poetry, as I don't know what's regarded as good and what's bad. But I do enjoy reading it and my taste varies from contemporary to the work of poets from centuries past.

Out of the Fog, an Illustrated Poetry Collection, is Galway-based dentist Brian O'Connell's second anthology. His first was Inside. Both are published by Blurb (http://www.blurb.com/) and available to read or/and to buy from that website. Illustrations are by his wife, Pam, a successful artist in her own right and who has showed internationally.

The verses in Out of the Fog are dark, short, poignant and cut-to-the-quick. Titles include Shadow, Invitation beyond Pain, funeral, Bi-Polar, Lazarus. There is no laugh-aloud or feel-good factor in them. They are sparsely written, with each appropriate word moving forwad the subject matter.

Brian O'Connell and his poetry would be a welcome addition at any of the many poetry festivals that will be taking place throughout the country over the next few months.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crack out the Champagne for Jake's Prisoner

Congratulations to Caroline McCall on the publication by Ellora's Cave of her second time-travel romance titled Jake's Prisoner. Following in the footsteps of  her debut novel, Time Slip, it's racy, sexy and  for fans of futuristic literature, unputable-down.

It's the story of heroineTanith Jasson's betrayal by human Jake Svenson on the orders of his Captain. Tanith being a strong Cyraelian woman with "a little extra something" takes her revenge and in the process has a series of gripping adventures.

Cover features Beckham lookalikes - not a bad ploy!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


One of the many privileges of the work I do is that occasionally a writer, perhaps unknown to me, sends me a copy of their latest book. This happened recently. I returned from a trip to find not only one but two books: Book 1 and Book 2 of Dr Jan Taki's first foray into fiction.

His titles are Kembali - Return of the Mystic and Kembali - Into Unchartered Waters. Book 3 is due to be launched within the next few months.  These beautifully written stories are thought-provoking and gripping. It is well worth taking a wander through the Magic Forest with its Dragon and Unicorn which may be beyond our conception of reality, as may be the worlds of Malaysian and Indonesian magic with Sky Walkers and Talking Ants. Taki's stories are indulgent fantasies of  delight.

Dr Taki is self-publishing and aiming for the e-book market in the future. Originally from Singapore but now living in Ireland, he is a medical doctor and practitioner of accupuncture, as well as writing poetry, painting, student of martial arts and a linguist.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I frequently stand in front of a group of writers and tell them that instead of being at one of my writing  classes they should be at their desks writing. But it's not totally true. I've experienced the success rate of writers who learn the basic skills in a class and go on to terrific things.

It's edifying to be able to report success. And I can. Over the past year several of the emerging writers I've worked with have had a spate of publishing contracts followed by the mandatory and so enjoyable book launches as well as short story prize winners.

On 1 February I'm back on my favourite campus. UCD's Carysfort with a writing course titled Building Story People - Creating Fictional Characters. Characters are the royalty of fiction. This course facilitates the creation of memorable characters and ensures participants acquire the skills to do so.

Due to popular demand I'm also running an updated version of online course titled Writing Historical Fiction which already has resulted in success. Congratulations to Patricia Byrne whose story, Veiled Woman of Achill which will be published by Collins Press in the spring.