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October 2014: WALKING ON RIPPLES was published by the Liffey Press on October 3 and is now in full distribution – available in all good bookshops, as they say. It looks great: the addition of a miniature cover image on the spine, as well as flaps inside front and back covers, lend a quality to the product that places it firmly as a ‘gift book’ in the upcoming gift book market. WALKING ON RIPPLES is the latest entry in the well-stocked category of fishing books in the great literary or ‘romantic fishing’ tradition. In other words, it’s not a ‘how-to’ manual about angling, it’s a fishing book in a well established line of other books – reflective, speculative, full of allegory, memory and metaphor. Many writers have produced works like this, including Chris Yates, Thomas McGuane and John Gierach, to name a few. The best known is undoubtedly Norman Maclean’s A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. What makes WALKING ON RIPPLES stand out as something different, however, is the fact that five of the eleven chapters are entirely fictional. There are stories here about a kayaker who is a child murderer; an angler who fishes not for fish, but for the souls of those who have taken their own lives; the story of a fisherman whose sad and tragic disintegration becomes evident through his fishing diary. There’s also a story about a Stone Age tribe discovering ocean tides for the first time, resulting in the birth of a whole new religion. For good measure there’s a story about a sentient goldfish – a fish with genuine human feelings. What more could you want? I almost forgot: there’s also a ghost story so it’s quite a blend; in places not a particularly light read, but the darkness adds to the mix, making it all part of that rich literary angling tradition. More info here:
September 2014: Recently had the pleasure of checking the final set of proofs for WALKING ON RIPPLES and everything is looking good for publication by the Liffey Press later this month. The e-book will follow a month or so later – the electronic version is being processed by Faber in the UK. WALKING ON RIPPLES comes in at a whopping 166 pages (of which 159 pages form the main body of the text). The cover blurb describes it as ‘part fiction, part memoir, part travelogue – a lyrical tribute to the joys of fishing’ and I’m delighted that the cover image succeeds in conveying the book’s contemplative nature. Here is what it says on the back cover: ‘Some fishermen thrive on numbers. Good luck to them. That’s what floats their boat. Give me an hour, or two or even three, with nothing. Then one little fish to save the day. Give this to me any time, more fun than the relentless reeling in of bucket loads of suicidal fish. Grant me time to take a break from casting, to sit on flat rocks and contemplate the land, the water, the birds that fly and cartwheel in overhead sky. Allow my eyes time to examine what floats as flotsam in the ripples at my feet. Let me jettison the jetsam of my life, and get on with taking in the great world that surrounds. The inhaling of things that matter, like smell of salt spray; tang of it in my nostrils of a windy day when I stand thirty feet up to be truly safe from breakers smashing into the rocks beneath, a day when my eyes witnessed but refused to believe what happened next.’
August 2014: I’ve only just heard of the sad and sudden death of Sarah Lundberg who passed away a couple of weeks ago. To say her death comes as a shock would be an understatement. Sarah ran the Seven Towers publishing house in Dublin as well as numerous reading events in town and elsewhere. I first met her in the Irish Writers’ Centre back in 2007, and in my all too brief meetings with her never found Sarah to be anything less than friendly and helpful both to me and numerous other writers. May she rest in peace.
August 2014: Four quick indicators of how Ireland has learned little from the economic crash. One: house prices in the Dublin area are now, on average, more than 24% higher than they were this time last year. When asked about this, the leader of our banana republic declared that he does not accept there is a property bubble. Two: the government – after years of imposing stringent charges, paycuts and denying salary increases in the public service – has just announced a payrise of between 16 and 24% for that most put-upon of low and middle income earners: hospital consultants. The iniquity continues. Three: one of our great banks, AIB, has just announced a pre-tax profit of 437 million for the first six months of this year. Those with long memories will recall similar obscene profits generated by banks prior to the bust. This return to form by a bank (which had to be bailed out by Irish citizens) is being reported on in the business-compliant media but is not being analysed as rigorously as it should be. Four: two former directors of another financial institution, Anglo Irish Bank, have been found guilty of giving illegal loans to ten developers (known as the ‘Maple Ten’) to buy shares in Anglo. They were sentenced last Thursday to … community service. In handing down his punishment, the judge told the pair, ‘Thank you, Gentlemen. Enjoy your community service.’ I kid you not. This last item was the sixth topic on Thursday’s main evening news on our national broadcasting service. Again, no analysis. No mention of the judge’s comments. A minor detail glossed over. Move on. In the same bulletin far more time was devoted to Ladies Day at Galway Races.
On a saner note, why not get away from it all and enjoy Eurocon, the European Science Fiction Convention, taking place in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin from Aug 22-24. I’m aware of one panel discussion I’m scheduled to take part in, called: ‘Made in Ireland: Fantasy Classics by Irish Authors’. The panel will discuss Wilde, Yeats, Dunsany, Swift, Stoker, etc, on Fri 22 at 3 pm. See you there or for refreshments afterwards.
July 2014: A new review is on the Book Reviews section above – Dermot Bolger’s 2012 novella THE FALL OF IRELAND, available in all good bookshops as they say. And while we’re on bookshops, on a recent stroll through Malahide I noticed that the town’s one-and-only outlet had, of course, disappeared. ‘Gone over a year now,’ a local explained to me, amazed I didn’t know it had closed ages ago – gone the way of all small bookshops, so it seems. But it’s not all bad news. Waterford lost a highly regarded second-hand bookstore, Gladstones, several years ago but now a relatively new one, equally good if not better, has taken the Gladstone’s place. Walk down Michael Street towards John Street and there it stands on your left. This Michael Street bookshop contains a great selection of second-hand books upstairs, new ones downstairs, and a friendly, knowledgeable voice behind the counter. Many of the titles are non-commercial fiction, non-fiction and poetry and are otherwise hard to get, with delightfully few of those glitzy covers (ordered in by accountants) that dominate your eyeballs in chained bookstores. A discussion on poetry was taking place between owner and customer as I browsed the shelves. What more could a person want? Oh, there’s a large array of genre material and a small selection of vinyl as well – bliss.
June 2014 NEW BOOK ON THE WAY …
… and a new departure because WALKING ON RIPPLES, to be published this autumn by the Liffey Press (Dublin), will be my first book largely featuring non-fiction. Largely? Because the book also features fiction. Confusing? Yes, but put it this way – WALKING ON RIPPLES is made up of eleven chapters, five of which are short stories. The remaining chapters are factual, consisting of articles based on fishing and fish I have caught over the last twenty-five years or so, both in Ireland and abroad. The short stories are also based on fishing or fish or various maritime events, which unifies the whole book into a sort of fiction-memoir, a blend of fact and fiction centered on angling. But don’t get the wrong idea – WALKING ON RIPPLES is not just about fishing, it’s about everything. More details will follow as the book’s schedule draws nearer. One more thing: items of scrolling news appearing on this page will no longer be preceded by the exact date of posting. From now on, news items will be datelined month only because putting down the precise date makes each new post seem to be, after a short while, too … eh, what’s the word? … dated.
May 18: Two very pleasant reading experiences to report on this month. On Sunday May 4 I was invited to take part in the launch of issue 77 of Cyphers Magazine in Strokestown House, Co. Roscommon – part of the 2014 Strokestown International Poetry Festival. A successful launch it was too – and a festival that by the looks of it would be well worth spending a whole weekend at. Two days later, the May ‘On the Nail’ reading took place in Limerick. Such a friendly event, I can’t think of a better organised or more smoothly run reading than this – complete with restaurant, bar, stage and book table – and well attended too. Below is a photo of poet Paddy Bushe, MC Ann O’Regan and myself at the venue on the night of the reading (photo: Dominic Taylor).
Apr 20: I’ve been invited along as guest reader, together with poet Paddy Bushe, to the May ‘On the Nail’ literary gathering in the Loft Venue at the Locke Bar, George’s Quay, Limerick, on Tuesday May 6. I will be reading and discussing the short story “Lost Notes”. The event kicks off at 8 pm – sharp! – so the poster says. Thanks to Dominic Taylor and the Limerick Writers’ Centre for this.
Mar 12: Artist Starves in Garret: Shocker – that was not the headline though it might have been. In an informative article published by the Irish Times on March 1, Gemma Tipton revealed that a recent survey by Visual Arts Ireland yielded interesting, but unfortunately unsurprising, results. In the case of 580 exhibitions surveyed, not only were 43% of artists asked to contribute to exhibition expenditure, but basic production and installation costs incurred by the artists were not covered. In a staggering 77% of instances fees to artists for talks and workshops were NOT paid. Tipton points out that this survey was based on exhibits in publicly funded spaces rather than in private or commercial galleries – which goes to show what little respect the state has for art, despite tiresome clichés trotted out by hypocritical politicians bending our ear about the great Irish creative process; they’d much rather spend public funds topping up already grossly overpaid salaries. However, Tipton also makes the telling point that some of the fault for this scandalous situation rests with the readiness of too many artists to sacrifice being paid for the sake of exposure.
This excellent piece, which is well worth reading, begs the question: are there parallels between the world of the visual arts and that of the writer? Consider that Tipton goes on to say how artists are often told, ‘We aren’t in a position to give you a fee but we would like to show your work.’ Sounds familiar? You bet it does to writers whose work is often taken by magazine publishers with no payment whatsoever. Recently I read another piece which stated that a mere 3% of writers earn enough from their work to make a living. It seems you can apply a similar statistic to the art world. So for every John Grisham or Louis le Brocquy there are thirty-three others trying vainly to eke out an existence. Take the following example from my own writing career: a while back I was offered what seemed a reasonable reading fee to take part in an event about 180 kilometres from where I live. Nearer the date I was informed that no overnight accommodation would be provided, no restaurant vouchers, no travel expenses. The expectation was that it would be acceptable for this writer to sacrifice well over 50% of the fee on hotel, petrol and subsistence for what would effectively be two working days. Imagine a banker, lawyer, or executive saying yes to conditions like that? That experience of mine is due to the fact that many artists and writers shy away from implementing business model terms and conditions to their work simply because the world of commerce is anathema to them. And rightly so – the crass world of business has little in common with the creative world – but that attitude is a double-edged sword which leads to writers and artists being exploited.
Why do we put up with this? It’s partly a cultural problem caused by living in a society (perhaps I should say ‘living in an economy’ because these days life is increasingly about economy rather than society), where we are conditioned to accept ludicrous overpayment to certain elites whereas artists and writers are undervalued. Has it always been thus? Where are the great artistic patrons of former times? Where are the fine publishers of the past, willing to take a chance on the non-commercial, to publish something just because they deem it worthy of seeing the light of day rather than thinking through the pockets of the marketing men and other bean counters that run today’s publishing industry? Where are the grand independent bookshops – why have so many of them closed? Answers, as ever, on the back of a fiver – no, make it a tenner, the world of commerce is intruding and the garret needs a coat of paint. Gemma Tipton’s Irish Times article can be accessed here:
Feb 10: All of this week, starting today Monday, I’m the featured writer – what they brilliantly, and modestly, call the Makin’ It Happen Author – in the BAB (Be a Bestseller) inbox magazine. To view the item you have to register at www.beabestseller.com Thanks to Jennifer Aderhold and Michaela Zanello of BAB for this.
The short story collection LOST NOTES is now in full distribution. Print copies can be ordered from Amazon, Book Depository, Books Express, Alibris, etc. Prices vary but some include free delivery. Print distribution in independent Dublin outlets as follows: Winding Stair Bookshop (Ormond Quay), Books Upstairs on College Green, Connolly Books of Essex Street and Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines. And of course it’s available from this site for 10 euro (or 8UK or 14US) including post & packing. Click the Lost Notes page on the menu bar for more details about this offer.
Jan 7: I’m no longer an editor of Albedo One Magazine, having taken the decision last summer to step down following publication of issue 44 towards the end of 2013. I was one of the founders along with John Kenny, Bob Neilson and Philippa (aka Brendan) Ryder at the magazine’s inception in Phillipa’s house in Knocklyon in February 1993, and felt that twenty years at the helm was long enough. I’ve also withdrawn from involvement with the Aeon Award for Short Stories despite being one of the organisers of that competition since its beginnings in late 2003 through to the conclusion of the 8th successful running of the event, also at the end of last year.
This is quite a change. I won’t know myself now with all the free time to devote to my own writing – and therein is the principal reason for my stepping down from both positions. The day-to-day running of the magazine and short story contest – reading submissions, dealing with enquiries, single order sales, back issues, postage and subscription renewals – all this ate into valuable writing time. Not that it was overly stressful or too time-consuming, but opening up emails every morning and dealing with magazine and contest matters had become a definite distraction, an energy-sapping deflection from what I should have been sitting at the PC for: to produce my own work. Also, as regular visitors to this site will know, my focus in recent years has shifted from genre writing to work of a different nature. I needed to clear the decks to dedicate myself more fully to this new direction my writing has taken. I look forward now to spreading my wings in different areas of the literary landscape.
So that’s it – a new year, a fresh start. Happily, it’s an amicable departure so I’m staying on as part of the Tuesday night meetings in town and wish Bob and Frank the best of luck in keeping Albedo One and the Aeon Award on the road for many years to come.