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Read about WALKING ON RIPPLES in The Irish Times here.
I was sitting at the Albedo table in the dealers’ room at Eurocon in Barcelona, trying to sell copies of the latest magazine, when I overheard a snippet of conversation. “He’s a serious planet hunter, you know,” said one passer-by to another. My ears pricked up. Planet hunter? Well, it was a science fiction convention. I’ll have to get those ears tested – closer hearing revealed they were talking about gardening. The phrase used was ‘plant hunter’ not ‘planet hunter’. On such mis-hearings ideas grow so my latest short story, Diary of a Planet Hunter, will be colliding with the market-place as we speak. Pure science fiction, of course.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end, to be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again? Well, who would’ve believed it? I put on and listened to the Nobel Laureate’s BLONDE ON BLONDE last night, his most famous and masterful work. Brilliant stuff. I also listened to Deirdre Purcell talk about her latest book on Seán O’Rourke’s programme on RTE radio last week. It’s October, the great book publishing month when publishers and authors would bite the hand off you for a bit of promotion, particularly on our national broadcaster RTE. O’Rourke gave his guest twenty-three minutes of great publicity, a very generous slot on a programme that guarantees a great many sales. Deirdre Purcell used to work for RTE, and still does occasional pieces for them as far as I know. Back in October ’14 when WALKING ON RIPPLES came out, I recall the author Eimear O’Callaghan being interviewed by O’Rourke on his flagship programme about her book BELFAST DAYS – A 1972 TEENAGE DIARY. O’Callaghan got another twenty minute slice of very healthy exposure on national radio. Like Purcell, she also used to work for RTE. Coincidence, no doubt, that they both should get such generous slots. That’s my evil mind working overtime again.
I’ll soon be off to exorcise that evil mind at the European Science Fiction Convention in Barcelona with the Albedo crew (Bob, John, Frank) and our German-American friend Sharon – five of us sharing an apartment for four days and nights. What fun that should be. Curse my luck, FC Barcelona are playing in Seville that weekend, which is about as far from Barca as you can get without leaving Spain! Gory details (or perhaps not) of the convention when we return.
So, a well known and established Irish publisher has decided to charge writers one hundred euro per submitted manuscript. Sean O’Keefe, owner of Liberties Press, defends this decision (implemented a couple of months ago) on the grounds that ‘the publisher provides a unique service to the author: editorial, promotion, design work, as well as attention and care. Unfortunately, these things all have to be paid for …’ Pardon me, but a lot of people, not all of them dimwits, believe that the publisher should pay for these things – otherwise we’re in vanity press territory. Interestingly, ‘Material sent by recognised literary agents will still be considered for publication for no fee, but all others require a cheque or money order …’ O’Keefe goes on to say, ‘Those that do not (pay the charge) will receive a standard email response; those that do will be considered carefully, and a report, of at least one page, will be sent to the author, providing a critical assessment of the manuscript, comments on commercial possibilities, and suggestions for next steps …’ Now that smacks of pay-for-publishing if ever I heard it. Towards the end of these new guidelines O’Keefe, who is well used to adverse publicity and controversy over several Liberties Press titles published in years past, states ‘there may be some authors, and other publishers, who disagree with our approach. They are of course free not to send material our way.’ He is right: they are free not to send, and, if they have any sense, they won’t.
The Shorelines Arts Festival is only a fortnight away – here are details of my reading:
PORTUMNA BOAT CLUB, PORTUMNA CASTLE MARINA, SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 18, 10.30 am
– a nice early start to the last day of the festival. The reading will be more or less the same as for the West Cork event – two travel extracts from WALKING ON RIPPLES followed by the short story “Lost Notes” before rounding the morning off with a couple of amusing angling anecdotes. For anyone staying the night before I see that Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill are in concert on the Saturday and of course there will be other events to enjoy on the Sunday. Here’s a Festival video
Early Birds in County Galway – the lit-fest life continues this summer with a reading as part of the Portumna Arts Festival in September. The event, featuring WALKING ON RIPPLES, will be part of the appropriately named Shorelines Arts Festival and is scheduled for Portumna Boat Club at 10.30 am on the morning of Sunday September 18. That’s right: 10.30 on a Sunday morning – they get up early on the sabbath in that part of Galway, so I’m told. More details in a few weeks.
Please no more charity shops! Recently I had the good fortune to read A TALE OF TWO CITIES on my Kindle. Not having read Charles Dickens since being force-fed by the Christian Brothers in school many years ago, I found myself reading an action-packed novel featuring great and unforgettable characters such as Sydney Carton and Madame Defarge. Best of all, the text has hardly aged since Dickens published it in 1859. If only that were the case with all books especially three I recently bought in charity shops. I must stop buying books in charity shops. They are in there for a reason – they are unloved. Since Dickens, my summer reading from these shops has been downhill all the way, consisting of a novel from the 1980s, one from the 1990s, and a short story collection from the 2000s. All three have been, like the Cork hurling team, largely disappointing – a pity because these are biggish names (Jeanette Winterson, Peter Robinson, Claire Keegan). I have formed a resolution now – to buy a brand new book fresh off the shelves of a proper bookshop. At least then the money (to be more correct: a tiny fraction of the money) may end up in the author’s back pocket rather than in the pocket of some other deserving cause. A triple review, capsule-reviews of sorts, can be found here
The nights are closing in – but the West Cork Literary Festival is only weeks away! I’m looking forward to a night in the Bantry Bay Hotel followed by a reading the morning after. Here are details of my programme: the event will open with two short factual extracts about fishing abroad – no worries, this is about the countries visited rather than fish caught. Then it’s straight into the fiction with “Lost Notes” – one of the chapters from WALKING ON RIPPLES. This short story won the Maurice Walsh Award some years ago and, like the rest of the book, has a watery theme ideal for West Cork. Towards the end of the story I pause to talk about the art of writing, which goes down well as most attendees will be into writing as well as reading. The event will round off with two light-hearted factual excerpts describing fishing related events – an amusing note to end on, to balance the rather darker “Lost Notes” short story. That’s the plan – whether we stick to it is another matter. The whole thing should take about three quarters of an hour. Hope to see you there. Here’s the venue & details:
BANTRY BOOKSHOP, WILLIAM STREET, MONDAY JULY 18, 11.15 am
Writers Beware! Been meaning to put this item up for weeks but only getting around to it now. All the talk in the literary world lately has been the horrendous story of how Belfast author Eilis O’Hanlon’s work has been plagiarised on Amazon. Along with husband Ian McConnell, O’Hanlon co-authored (under the pseudonym Ingrid Black) a series of four detective novels published by Penguin and Headline from 2003-08. The first of these, THE DEAD, sold well and won a Shamus award in the USA. Eventually it went out of print only to re-emerge in August 2015 as an e-book called TEAR DROP written by a Joanne Clancy. Both books are identical, though characters’ names and background settings were changed or transposed in none too subtle a fashion. Not only was THE DEAD plagiarised, so were its sequels. All four were scheduled to appear as e-books on Amazon. The first book generated Kindle sales in excess of $15,000, making it one of Amazon’s most downloaded books at the time. Happily, Joanne Clancy’s ‘work’ has now been disappeared. That is of little consolation to the real authors and serves as a salutary lesson to all writers. The sorry saga reads like a real-life whodunit. Startling and gory details, including fascinating text comparisons, are available here.
I’ve been invited to appear at this year’s West Cork Literary Festival to be held in Bantry, Co Cork. The festival runs from July 17-23. My slot is scheduled for the Bantry Bookshop at 11.15 on the morning of Monday July 18. Billed as a solo reading, it will most definitely centre on extracts from WALKING ON RIPPLES. The exact nature of the extracts will be revealed in early July. All I know for certain now is that my schedule is for 45 minutes which is great, plenty of scope there – a scoop of good old Rebel Red will go down well after an event that length, you may be sure. Festival details here.
On a separate note, an old magazine article about the chapbook BROKEN HEROES is now online on this site. The article, which appeared originally in Sensor, can be accessed by scrolling to the end of the Two Chapbooks page here.
The USA podcasting service Pseudopod reports that the short story I sold them in January will go live on July 29 (a link will appear here once the story goes onstream). Meanwhile, Overload, winner of the Best-in-Issue prize way back in Albedo One #17, has made a welcome re-appearance in the reprint anthology DECADE 1: THE BEST OF ALBEDO ONE, which was finally published last month. Mention of all things Albedo leads to the delightful news that four Albedo One’rs (current editors Frank Ludlow and Bob Neilson, plus two eds emeritus: John Kenny and myself) will be in attendance at Eurocon in Barcelona from Nov 3-7. The flights are already booked – four nights in Barca! Who knows, fingers crossed, with a bit of luck, Messi & Co might be playing a home match in the Camp Nou that weekend.
Another short story sale to report from the USA. This latest, a short piece of under a thousand words, was written a couple of months ago and has been taken by Pseudopod – the online podcasting service that, happily, pays their authors a pro rate. More news on the date the story goes live when I get word from the States. I’m looking forward to the podcast being available, and also to the appearance of “The Street” in Space and Time, ‘the longest, continuously-published, small press genre fiction magazine still in print!’ – according to the contract letter, no less. My new novel, working title MOUNTAIN FALLS, has been through several drafts and is now as good as I can cook it. Of course it’s not commercial enough to readily find acceptance in this very commercially-driven publishing world, but it’s out there fighting for a place in a difficult climate – more power to its literary elbow.
Being a sucker for all things South American, specifically magic realism, I recently snapped up a copy of a novel by Argentine writer Pablo De Santis. VOLTAIRE’S CALLIGRAPHER first appeared in translation in these parts in 2010. It’s a short but tough read. Once the story gets going though, the reader is enveloped in a fascinating eighteenth century world full of secrets, automatons and of course – calligraphy. One of the reasons I picked up the book is because of the following quotes on the back cover: ‘Murder and mayhem … colourful characters and cases create a hazy atmosphere of intelligent escapism’ (Washington Post) & ‘A beguiling historical whodunit’ (New York Times). These quotes appear under a brief (and accurate) synopsis of the plot of VOLTAIRE’S CALLIGRAPHY and would appear to refer to the above-named novel. However, when I got home and began to read, I discovered that the above newspaper quotes referred not to the book I was holding in my hands but to another, and better known, novel by De Santis called THE PARIS ENIGMA. This ‘secret’ is not revealed on the book’s covers. You have to read the interior praise-pages to discover that you are, in fact, being hoodwinked by the manner in which these quotes are used. Now I know what to do for my next trick: I’ll gather all the ace quotes from the best reviews of my past titles, put them on the back cover of my next book and not reveal their attribution until the opening pages. Should result in a few extra sales! As for VOLTAIRE’S CALLIGRAPHER, HarperCollins should know better – there goes my chances with them, I guess.
All of last year’s posts are now on the News Archive 2015-2011 page above.