Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Fresh Start

So neglectful of updating this blog, so my half-year resolution is to change my slothy ways... My excuse is that for the last several months I've been slaving over a novel. Now that I'm done, a fresh start!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Standing In The Doorway watching Dylan do his thing...

Tim Out Of Mind...

Whether this qualifies as Dylan's finest album or not is probably not important. What IS important is that, for me, this album contains all the wisdom and beauty in the world. I've probably listened to it once a week since its release back in 1997 and I'll be surprised if that pattern doesn't continue for at least another hundred and fifty years...
I don't really know what it is about this one. I won't say that it's without weakness (and when I heard the left-off cuts on Tell Tale Signs - especially 'Red River Shore' and 'Mississippi' - it was all I could do to resist making a mock-up album, just for the hell of it) but there really is something in amongst these tracks that hits every one of my many wildly swinging moods.
For me, 'Time Out Of Mind' is definitely the finest album Dylan has made since 'Blood On The Tracks', and if he hadn't already produced 'Blonde On Blonde' or 'Highway 61 Revisited' it might be the best he's ever done. Then again, maybe it's the best he's ever done anyway... I think this is one album that he really did pull out of the ether. He and Daniel Lanois achieve such a wonderfully rich and echoey sound, and then there is all the other stuff going on in the background too, not least all that haunted-by-the-ghost-of-Buddy Holly business. But in the end and through it all, it's his voice (fuelled by the best set of lyrics that he's written in an age) that does it. He sounds ancient on this, in the same way that Johnny Cash sounded ancient on the American Recordings albums, and he never fails to move me with these songs.
My favourite track on the album changes constantly, and on any given day it might be 'Tryin' To Get To Heaven' or 'Love Sick' or 'Make You Feel My Love' or 'Not Dark Yet'. Today though, it's Standing In The Doorway. I love how nostalgic the verses get and how far he lets them go before snapping them coldly back, bending them until they scream out and give with the biggest unspoken BUT that I've ever come across in either story or song. Time and again he does this, and yet the trick loses none of its sleight-of-hand magic.

Last night I danced with a stranger
But she just reminded me you were the one
(BUT) You left me standin' in the doorway cryin'
In the dark land of the sun. (bitch...)

That's the stuff of Hemingway or Raymond Chandler, in my opinion. Stripped bare but still dense with meaning. That does it for me every time...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

100 Stories For Haiti

This seems like a brilliant idea! Some very decent and enthusiastic people have put a lot of hard work into producing an anthology of short stories (in ebook and print format) in an effort to raise money for relief efforts in Haiti. All proceeds will go to the Red Cross relief effort in that devastated country, and everyone should pick up a copy if they possibly can...

The speed of this entire project is quite astonishing, actually. About two weeks ago, the call went out for stories. Over 400 writers from all around the world submitted and a frenetic editing process began. In the next few days the finished manuscript will be at the printers and soon after that will be on sale for everyone to buy.

100 Stories for Haiti is coming out as an ebook on, and as a paperback through Unbound Press. Both editions will be available online, February/March, 2010.

Here are the stories set for inclusion:

All-Or-Nothing Day by Nick Harkaway
A Lesson in Magic by Robert Freese
A Miracle Cure by Jim Harrington
About Time by Mo Fanning
Amplified Distance by Siân Harris
An Immigrant’s Christmas Eve by Billy O’Callaghan (my story!)
An Island’s Story by MG Farrelly
And the First Note Sang by Catriona Gunn
Anna and Nineteen by Claudia Boers
Apple Pie and Sunshine by Mary Walkden
Attachments by John O’Donnell
Authority by Katy Darby
Back to the Land by Nicola Taylor
Birds of a Feather by Lauri Kubuitsile
Call Centre by Elizabeth Reeder
Channelling Blues by Sylvia Petter
Chatting in the Closet by Tim Maguire
Clubs and Societies by Deborah Fielding
Coming, Ready or Not by Jac Cattaneo
Contact by Jason E. Thummel
Cor-Blimey Corinne by Douglas Bruton
Dinner For Two by Trevor Belshaw
Doctor Kerr and the Silliness of Age by Douglas Bruton
Dragons by Fionnuala Murphy
Emergency Response by MCM
Emily’s Stone by Julia Bohanna
Enohn Jarrow, A Warning by Emily George
Escape from Crete by Ozzie Nogg
Fleeting Thoughts by Nadene Carter
Floating by Sylvia Petter
Folding Paper by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt
Going, Going … Still Going by Danny Gillan
Home by Gillian Best
Hope in a Strange Corner by Tony Cook
Impact by Dan Powell
Indian Dance by Martin Tyrrell
One Morning by Greg McQueen
Jacob’s Ladder by RJ Newlyn
Jeremy’s New Pet by Justin Stanchfield
Journey of Hope by Pam Howes
Juno Out of Yellow by Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Justice for Cody by April L. Hamilton
Larger Than Life by Sherri Turner
Life Behind a Motorway Billboard Hoarding by Kate Tough
Lily’s Room by Alison Dunne
Lola Loves Loving by Martin Reed
Marco’s Ice Cream by Clare Reedaway
Mother’s Theorem by Katherine Spink
Mr Trick Speaks by Joel Willans
Mugs by Tania Hershman
Named After by Teresa Stenson
Naming Finbar by Vanessa Gebbie
Patio Lights by Joyce Meadows
Père Noël Pops the Question by Kathleen McGurl
Potifar Jones’ experiment with time and Brains Beer by Alun Williams
Real Men by Jan Wright
Reshaping the Past by Rosemary Gemmell
Second Chances by Ellie Garratt
Seedlings by John Ravenscroft
Serenity Rules Okay! by Kath Kilburn
Sick Joke by Charlie Taylor
Sixty Years Together by Ryan Spier
Snapdragons by Alex Irvine
Something Different by Karen Milner
Sprawl by Alasdair Stuart
Stay by Patti Jazanoski
Surf’s Up by Glynis Scrivens
Talking to the Angel by Kath Kilburn
The Archeologist by Andy Parrott
The Baby by Rachel Shukert
The Beautiful Game by Jean Blackwell
The Cloud Dragon by Sarah Ann Watts
The Encounter by Francesca Burgess
The Forgetting by Layla O’Mara
The Garden by Gwen Grant
The Kids Are Alright by Jennifer Domingo
The Language Student by Jean Blackwell
The Last Boy on Earth by Maire Cooney
The Last Bus to Montreal by Jenna Wallace
The Law of Attraction by Teresa Ashby
The Layman’s Solution to the Causal vs. Final Conundrum Or How Two Men Became Insomniac and One Man Slept by Jane Roberts
The Painting by John Booth
The Path of the Faerie King by Robert J. McCarter
The Ring of Truth by Joanna Campbell
The Show by Victoria Biram
The Stories We Tell Ourselves by Curtis C. Chen
The Walk of Life by Joanne Fox
The Wonderful Thread by Steve Moran
This is What You Must Do by Kirsty Logan
Three Drink Minimum by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon
Three Questions by Dave Creek
Tom Jones Knew My Mother by Barry Cooper
Turning Things Around by Paula Williams
Unheard Voices by Emily George
Updating Dora by Linda Barrett
Voice in The Night by Ian Rochford
Waiting for Sarah by Elaine Everest
When Tania Sings by Douglas Bruton
Wrong Direction by Charlie Berridge
Haiti Before the Earthquake by Susan Partovi, MD.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Salinger, and other happenings...

I'm useless at this blogging stuff. Too much of a chore, or a distraction, especially when there is real writing to be done. But here I am, sitting in a little gap-time, so a few words...
First off, the earthquake in Haiti. Wouldn't you have to be made of stone not to be broken up by that situation? Hispaniola, once the diamond of the Caribbean, fought over by virtually every country that has ever amassed a naval fleet, now descimated. Imperialist plundering, civil political unrest, violent coups, the Docs, and now this. For country already so shockingly poor (and surrounded by so much wealth... a fact that to me seems equal parts shameful and heartbreaking), the devestation has been truly catastrophic. Words really fall short, but if it is possible to taking anything good from all of this then it has to be the way that, while governments have procrastinated, people have rallied, and have dug deep to give what they can. And even now, more than two weeks later, small miracles are still happening. Yesterday, a little girl was pulled from the rubble. She had survived by drinking bathwater...
J.D. Salinger died on Wednesday, aged 91. Catcher In The Rye made him, of course, sold in the tens of millions necessary to keep him in the reclusive style to which he wanted to be accustomed, but the one that did it for me was his brilliant collection of stories, 'For Esme - with Love and Squalor' (published as 'Nine Stories' I think, in the US). It was these stories that put him on the shelf in my mind with Hemingway, Updike, Flannery O'Connor and a few select others. I reread those stories all the time, and they really are beautifully crafted.
Salinger was a good one. In these times, when everything seems to be style over substance, his work resonates, and if Catcher put him in a position to follow his dreams then he certainly did so with vigor. Down the years, rumour had it that he continued to write every day, that he was piling up hordes of work, including at least two complete novels. If those rumours had any basis at all in truth, maybe some of it will begin to surface now...
Here in my own untidy garret, the graft continues. I've been writing, which is what I'm supposed to be doing. I have a nice piece of novel written, as well as some new short stories.
2010 started with a bit of a bang for me, actually: I got word from Ann Luttrell in the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork that their application to somebody or other has been successful and that I, along with a few other Irish writers, will be attending the 11th International Conference on the Short Story in English, to be held this coming June in the sunny climes of Toronto. Exciting news? Stunning would be more on the nose.
January brought with it some nice acceptance notices too (we'll ignore the usual and inevitable slew of rejections, shall we?). So, work forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (a paying gig - how nice!), the Los Angeles Review and the Southeast Review. Also, I'm thrilled to have made it onto the shortlist for the 1st Annual Writing Spirit Award. The winner will be announced soon, so I'm keeping everything snugly crossed...
Finally, for now:
If anyone gets a look at this and is feeling like they need something to read during these dark wintery evenings, they might give a thought to picking up a copy of my latest book, In Too Deep. Shameless plug here, but I heard from the publishers recently that sales are limping along at a nearly legless pace and I suppose I must do what I can, when I can:
Here it is on

And here, for

Friday, October 23, 2009

Christmas In The Heart

For the better part of a week now, I've been immersing myself in Bob Dylan's wondrous new release, Christmas In The Heart. Yes, a Christmas album. Now I know there are people in the world who would rather run barefoot over a mile of upturned plug tops than listen to three quarters of an hour's worth of syrupy crooning, but I am not one of them. I adore Christmas, and one of the things I adore most about Christmas is the tat. Give me glitter, give me fake snow and plastic trees and cheesy decorations, and I'm rolling like Porky in a chocolate bath.
But Bob Dylan making a Christmas album? Hardly seems real, does it? Some things are just plain right from the off, Bing with that pipe, for instance, but others seem about as stable as a souped-up cracker. Ole Bob has been rolling pretty well of late, rapturously received chart-topping albums, a hit radio show, a neverending tour that seems to be getting better by the day. But a Christmas album? We know (from the little that we really know of him) that he has always been a contrary sort, the sort who will gladly shatter your perceptions at the turn of a card. But we also know that he is someone who likes to do his own thing, blaze his own trail, as it were, and damn the consequences.
A Christmas album is a risk. Bob's voice has been going downhill for years and is probably fast approaching the bottom by now, and Christmas songs, tacky though they may be, and trite and sentimental and all the other cuss words that people without hearts like to throw at them, are undeniably well written. The have to be, in order to have survived for so long. The best of them have lain down challenges to even the very finest voices of the past hundred years.
Bob sounds great. He's grizzled, warbling, and he steps out of melodies like they are oncoming traffic, yet somehow, some impossibly how, he makes it work. The music is all that it should be, bright and shiny, full of fun, tight as November's jeans in January, but what makes the whole thing work is Dylan's deep and unwavering charisma. I've woken three days straight now with 'Must Be Santa' scratching at my throat and churning my blood to butter, and if I wasn't such a happy elf perhaps I would be reaching for the twelve-gauge by now. But happily for me, and for all those within buckshot's distance, that's not the case. I love it, LOVE IT!!! I am pleased, thrilled, overjoyed to report that Bob's still got it, whatever it is. If you like Christmas the way all good children, even the grownup ones, should, then you will surely love Christmas In The Heart. So go on, bolt out and buy it.

P.S. - If you need further convincing, please note that all royalties go to charity. So not only will a purchase be filling your head with yuletide sounds (and in October, no less - who could ask for more than that) you will also be helping out some of the worthiest causes around.
Well done, Bob, on both counts, and here's hoping for a sequel next year!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Simon Van Booy, King of the Short Story

It has been quite a while since I have last posted a blog and this is just a brief stop-off to shout the news that my good and lovely friend, the brilliant Simon Van Booy, yesterday won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the world's richest prize for a short story collection.
The whole festival was really great, full of sweet people (Leisl Jobson, Madeleine Darcy, ZZ Packer etc.). I was very honoured to be asked to read (sharing the bill on the night with Simon, in fact) and I have to offer my congratulations to Patrick Cotter, head honcho of the Munster Literature Centre, for organising such a wonderful week (ably assisted in his endeavours by Jennifer and Marina).
The readings went down a storm. Simon's book is a truly incredible piece of work, and it had to be, in order to edge out the competition. So, commiserations to those who missed out (especially to Shih Li Kow, who I very much enjoyed meeting and whose collection, Ripples and other stories, is for me one of the must-reads of the year) but a huge and hearty stuffed-with-Clonakilty-black-pudding congratulations to Simon!
There is so much ground to cover, but last night was a late one and I have to get some real writing done, so I'll post again soon, maybe even with a picture or two!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reading In September

The Munster Literature Centre have announced the line-up for this year's Frank O'Connor Festival (check out for full details).
I'm scheduled to read at the School of Music in Union Quay (Cork...) at 7 p.m. on Friday, 18th September, sharing the bill with Simon Van Booy, one of the shortlisted writers for this year's Frank O'Connor Award.
I don't do many public readings, tending as I do to turn into a quivering mess when stood in front of expectant faces, but it will offer a chance at some (much needed) publicity for my book of stories, In Too Deep, and I suppose at the very least it will be an experience. Please come along if you can...
The line-up for the entire festival looks pretty good, actually. Some middle- to heavyweight hitters will be on show and it should make for a pretty good week, all things considered. Also on the Friday, at 4 p.m. in the City Library, Nuala Ní Chonchúir will be officially launching her third collection of short stories, Nude.
Wait, let me clarify. It's not that she'll be launching her new collection in the nude; that's just the name of the book. Nude. Got it? Good.