Finishing your Book-The Big Picture


I can’t believe how long it’s taking me to finish my debut novel. I feel like a tortoise, plugging along, as all the gazelles go whizzing by.

Call me the tortoise of the author world.  turtle-279399_640

I could laugh when I think of how, a couple of years ago, I thought I was finished. But then, after seeing an ad offering a free first chapter developmental edit, I sent off my manuscript and was so impressed with the editor’s work that I hired her to go through my entire manuscript. She said some very nice things but also gave me a lot of food for thought. She was well worth the money.

So it was back to the drawing board! The editor lives downunder, on the other side of the world. It’s amazing, when you think about it.

Although she was full of praise, there were several things she recommended I fix. Between one thing and another, it took me almost another year. I can hardly believe it myself.

Of course there were many interruptions, family things, trips, learning social media etc. Oh yes, and reading lots. You’d think I had all the time in the world.

The good news is that I’ve learned so much in the process of editing. I hadn’t added enough tag lines in dialogue. My book probably read more like a script than a novel. I needed to intersperse more description, but not lose the flow, because that was one thing everybody who had read Where She Belongs commented on positively.

It’s all about the flow.

Another thing I did was to hire a really good cover designer. All of this takes time. It was up to me to search through various photo communities, choose a few pictures I liked, look through book sites for covers I liked. I wanted to do my own cover, but I decided to leave it to the experts.

It feels good when you see your cover; it’s something to work with and it gives the whole thing a feeling of being real.

I then sent the changes back to the editor. She gave me the thumbs up but said I’d need another proof read to catch niggly little issues. This is what I’m doing now.

I’ve transferred my manuscript to my Kindle and am reading through it, line by line. The spacing was a huge issue, so I had to go back into the manuscript, do a search and replace to remove the annoying habit I have of inserting two spaces between sentences. I’ve been updating the manuscript, removing the old version from my Kindle, uploading the newest version, finding other formatting issues etc. repeating the whole procedure. Now it’s looking much better and I’m half way through…and my eyes are heavy from all this screen work.

But I’m almost there. I’ve decided to publish with Amazon. I honestly don’t have the energy to go looking for an agent. Now I’m impatient to see my book in print. I’m tired of making excuses to friends and family who have no idea how long it actually takes.

The good thing is that I can now apply what I’ve learned to the other two novels I’ve half finished. This time I’m prepared to go a bit faster. I’ll never be a gazelle, but I’m leaving the tortoise behind.

Here’s a picture of my book cover. I expect to have it up and running by the end of March at the very latest.   .

Where She Belongs Cover SMALL AVATAR





I’m Day, I’m Night


Sometimes I’m green, I’m an ecologically-minded queen
I buy organic seeds and nuts, wouldn’t touch saccharine
Never a fanatic, I tend to be dramatic on occasion

You see, I don’t fit the mould; I’m of no particular persuasion
I love to fly high in the sky but worry about carbon emissions
Don’t agree with wars, would never buy munitions

Yet, there are times when we need to protect ourselves from invasion
I’m African, Asian, globally minded, sometimes Caucasian
Consumerism is such a modern-day illness but I enjoy
Buying all those shiny, glittery things, don’t destroy
My plastic cards though. I might see something I can’t do without.
I like the illusion of freedom and sometimes wonder what it’s all about

You can check my whereabouts, my shopping bouts, and my actions
What books I read, the things think I need. You’ll see my latest transactions
on Amazon, E-bay, monitor my movements. Make me feel I’m anonymous
I’d like to have a navigating system ‘because I want to feel autonomous
I only ride my bike on balmy sunny days, prefer the comfort of my car
Haven’t yet got solar panels but I admire them from afar

Rarely use the microwave, never nuke my food covered in plastic
Somehow I guessed long ago the consequences could be drastic
So getting back to my ecological side, I slide sometimes indeed
Would like to eliminate, exterminate injustice; spread to those in need
Some things I do right; do you understand my plight?
Never quite consistent, ever so persistent, I’m day, I’m night.

The Walnut Picker



I used to watch her as she filled her bucket with
Freshly-picked walnuts in the old courtyard
It felt as if I was viewing a film from the past
Or an artist’s masterpiece; so perfect was the scene
Somehow I sensed her presence when autumn days
Set in and the sun prepared for its winter retreat

She too sensed mine; she’d look up at the sandstone
Building from sixteen-thirty-nine and wave shyly
Then look at her palms and laughing, showed her
blackened hands; no longer worried about decorum
For her days of vanity had long passed and
Her floral dress billowed softly in the gentle breeze

I cannot describe the sadness I felt this year when I
Saw her empty bucket lying on its side
The shivering trees sent signals of loss as
Fruits spread over shadowed ground
The scene without the walnut lady was sad
And I sensed that something was amiss

Someone said her mind betrayed her in the end
That she spends her days picking imaginary fluff from
Childhood memories. The walnut tree stands erect
In memory of her happy face as she picked the perfect
fruit off its limbs; waiting for her smiling face
And the loving touch of blackened walnut-picking hands.

The Hill of Uisneach

Handy photos autumn winter 2012-13 220

On my recent holiday to Ireland, which was action packed, my sister suggested going to visit The Hill of Uisneach, a local place steeped in mythology and history. I’d been feeling tired, trying to fight off a cold so the thoughts of climbing hills didn’t appeal to me in the least. Still, it was a nice gesture so I said I’d love to go.

It was a muggy day, not too cold but, as is often the case, the sky was laden with swift-moving clouds in tones of dirty white to grey to slate. Ah, but when the sun peeked through the moody sky, it cast a beautiful light over the landscape.

The drive itself took about fifteen minutes. My brother was wise enough to take a map and I sat back and enjoyed the rolling hills and forty shades of green.

The landscape became hillier as we approached the site. Gorse and mayflower were blooming in abundance and we passed a hedge of wild Hortensia nestled amongst the verdant vegetation. There was no sign of this historic site, but my brother looked up from his map. “It must be around here somewhere,” he said.
We pulled up to a little lay-by near a small bungalow directly on the main road.

“Why don’t we just knock on the door and ask,” I said.

“Fire ahead then,” both answered in unison.

I, being the older one, reluctantly got out of the car. I noticed on the other side of the road there was an impressive wrought-iron gateway with stone pillars and a brass sign which gave the name of some stately-sounding house like Lugnaghsea House or something to that effect. Feeling like an intruder, I had to walk around to the side of this smaller lodge house to find the entrance. My brother and sister looked on.

The open vegetable patch at the back and the compost heap, along with a few colourful bits and bobs indicated that this was the house of a person immersed into alternative, grow-your-own vegetables and ‘let’s get back to nature’ trip. The back garden was separated by a fence and a gate which opened up to more hilly fields and low stone walls.

Before I had a chance to find the buzzer, the patio door was opened with gusto and a youngish fellow came out.

“Hi,” I said. Sorry for intruding, but we’re looking for the Hill of Uisneach.”

“Yep, it’s right behind this house,” he said. “Just climb over the stile, take the path along the gorse bushes and head straight up towards… .”

I heard the word palace, cat stone, centre of Ireland and became mesmerised as my imagination took me off to far-away mythical lands. I assumed my siblings were taking it all in too as they were out of the car at this stage. Pity I hadn’t done a bit of research before coming, I thought, but I could always do it later.

“Just hold on a second and I’ll give John, the landlord, a call,” he said.

“Oh, doesn’t the land belong to the State?” I asked.

“No, he bought the land about ten years ago. He’s has lots of cattle in the field.”

He clicked the numbers onto his mobile and I heard him tell the landlord about us and our quest. “No, I don’t think they have a dog,” he answered. He finished his call and told us it was fine, we could go ahead and check it out.

We thanked him profusely and climbed over the stile. My sister went marching off, followed by my brother, while I wandered behind them.

My sister turned around. “Where do we go to now?”

“Why, weren’t you listening too?” I asked, slightly ashamed of my lack of concentration. I pointed in the general direction and we laughed as we looked ahead.

A herd of cattle stood on the hill and even as we proceeded those few meters, they lined up in unison. It was like something out of the Showdown at the O.K. Corral. The head cow looked like it meant business, and I wondered if it was a bull ready to stampede, or whatever bulls do. I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance if he decided to attack but decided to take a photo anyway. Sadly that photo is buried somewhere in the archives.

In the distance, a man on a motorised buggy came speeding toward us.

My sister and brother were already chatting to the fellow in the buggy as I made my way towards them, doing my best to avoid cow pies and squelchy bog land.

Although I had five pairs of shoes in my luggage, I’d not taken my walking shoes and was wearing my favourite leather boots.

The man was friendly, and informative, if slightly bemused. He pointed behind him, saying ‘The palace is up above.’ He then turned to me, saying, ‘Now, don’t get your hopes up’ Ah, that Irish humour.

What a strange image that conjured up – palace – in the middle of a landscape of fields. Wise man, I thought. Buying this land. It’ll be a place of pilgrimage in a few years. It’s already started.

He told us a group of locals had come to celebrate the Bealtaine Fest a couple of weeks previously and that a group of foreign pilgrims came there a couple of months ago. How right he was when he said most of the locals have never been there. I had grown up in the vicinity and had never been there either. None of us had. And yet, he told us that a group of Germans had walked from Fore (another local historic site) all the way to this place. They knew more about it than the locals.

“This is a serious spiritual place, if you’re into that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s even older than The Hill of Tara. When you reach the summit, you’ll be able to see all the bordering counties. You’ve got Lough Ennell over to the left, the Slieve Blooms in front of you, and … .”

I was already there in my mind, wandering through the mystical navel of Ireland, as someone eloquently named it.
He pointed out the lake, the palace, and the cat’s stone which we did finally find. It was a pretty large boulder, a marking stone, a place of worship, a secret meeting place? Take your pick.

According to various sources, the original stones at Stonehenge were transported from this place to the U.K. I wouldn’t even begin to imagine how that feat was achieved, but then again there was magic in the air in those days when giants and Lilliputians roamed the forests, the glens and the rocky coastal paths. There were portholes to other dimensions, gods of strength and courage, potions that enabled you to perform otherworldly feats. Before the Age of Reason set in. The imagination was the doorway to miraculous lands. They say the stone is so named because it resembles a cat holding onto a mouse.

Now, I have a pretty good imagination but there’s no way I could see any resemblance. We never did find the palace, not that I expected to. Of course it referred to the remains of an old castle so it was probably one of the small groups of stones we came across.

When we entered the sacred enclave, like a fairy fort, in the centre of which was a circular formation of small stones, my brother said.

“Here, can you feel the energy.”

Well, I had to be honest. I didn’t feel anything particular, no tingling, no sense of long-dead ghosts, but I did feel as if I was in an altered state of reality. It was similar to the feeling I had when I recently went to another sacred place in Germany. It was as if this place was suspended in a protected honeycomb of serenity.

“Feel that rush of warm air.” My brother said. Well, I never could be sure whether he was having me on but I sensed he was serious. So we all stepped back out and in again through the portal to fairyland.

“Yes, now that you mention it … .” The power of suggestion never ceases to amaze me, but I tried to feel it, not to get talked into it.

We continued on, as a soft mist enveloped us, finally reaching the summit where we had a fantastic view of the surrounding lakes and hills. The purple hills appeared to touch the low-lying rain-filled clouds. Then the soft mist transformed into soft rain and finally into continual rain and we squelched our way back to the car, each of us locked in this special moment and drenched in long-lost memories of ancient druids and another time on this island.

A Query Poem

Where She Belongs Cover MEDIUM WEB

Dear Mrs. Agent
I’ve written a book
It’s character driven
There’s even a hook

The theme is of love
Of finding one’s place
The story developed
From Spain as a base

The woman, unhappy
Decides to flee
Returns to Ireland
Beside the sea

No, wait
There’s more
You won’t be bored
I thought I heard a little snore

Before you dismiss me and turn all leery
I’ve having some problems writing my Query
I’d like to do it but don’t want to grovel
Can’t write a Query but have written a novel

My fingers get stuck on the keys all the time
When I try to explain ‘bout the storyline
It’s about love, but there’s a lot more than that
She finds a job and even a flat

It’s not really a flat, it’s a house by the sea
She’s starting off new, mixing sadness with glee
Sad for her man she’s left behind
Happy for the contract and the job she’s just signed

Life always knocks us with surprise
Something to teach us and open our eyes
While she’s getting to know the characters there
A niggling doubt begins to flare

What’s wrong with the old lady who lives next door?
Why don’t they like Maggie, her boss in the store?
Scratch the friendly, colourful scene
All’s not perfect in the landscape of green

But then there’s Tom
The handsome bomb
Well, he’s a charmer alright
And a modern-day knight

It gets complicated
When Javier joins the scene
The husband she left
The one that was mean

Before I reveal too much of the plot
I’ll reveal, she’s got herself in a right knot
Thank you for reading through to the end
Perhaps you can connect with a publisher friend?

Liz Doran
The End

Writing Retreat in Venice


I took this photo at the Danieli. Angelica and I treated ourselves to tea, cappuccino and biscuits

I really wanted to go to that Writer’s Retreat in Venice, the one I had so flippantly signed up and paid a deposit for at the beginning of the year.

Venice, oh Venice. I wanted to go there before it was completely taken over by massive cruise ships, or even worse, before it sank. Well, after watching a couple of documentaries on the place, I was convinced the time was NIGH!

Rather than merely visit as another tourist, I wanted to see Venice from the inside.

Janys Hyde, the English woman organising the retreat had lived in Venice for many years. I was also familiar with the name of the retreat speaker/teacher, Roz Morris, because I was working my way through her book Nail Your Novel, along with several other guides, in an attempt to snazzy up my first novel before looking for a publisher.

At the risk of overdoing the clichés, I was killing two birds with one stone, getting to see Venice and getting expert editing tips. Without further ado, I clicked the button and signed up.

I immediately heard from Janys, the organiser who, of course, was thrilled to have had an immediate response.

Roll forward to September. Everything fell into place perfectly. I booked my room, the least expensive I could find, through airbnb. At €50 per night, that was a pretty good deal. Thanks Gianna! Later I decided to add an extra night as I realised I wouldn’t otherwise get to see much of Venice. What a shame that would be.

The entire trip was surreal, and although I’d seen many pictures and films set in Venice, nothing can beat actually being there. It suddenly dawned on me, too, that I had spent a couple of days in Amsterdam before heading for Venice and polished off the whole trip with another couple of days in Amsterdam with my husband and our good friends. What’s with all the water, I thought to myself? Me, who tends to look for the deeper meaning to events and happenings in life. But then, as Janys said, when I lost the painting I’d bought in Venice, ‘it just means you lost the painting, dahling.’ So, being in two cities built on water just meant nothing!! Okay, what do I know…

Amsterdam is also built on stilts, but you don’t have the feeling or the threat of imminent drowning when you’re there. Come to think of it, I only had one such moment in Venice when I had to literally jump onto a packed boat and nothing to hold onto. That’s when I lost my painting.

I’ll skip to the Writer’s Retreat for now. It was held in a lovely venue on the island of Giudecca, pronounced Dew Dekka (according to one of the locals). Giudecca is one of many Venetian islands and a ten-minute Vaporetti (boat) trip from Venice.

Oh my Lord, upon arrival in Venice, I felt swamped by throngs of people. People, people everywhere. I live in a small village in Nordrhein-Westfalen and so I tend to forget what it’s like being amidst so many people until I visit London or Dublin once a year.

The stage was set. Our retreat location, which doubled as a gallery and multi-purpose venue for Giudecca, was bright and airy.


I took this photo in Giudecca, over the little bridge I crossed several times every day.

Janys busily rushed around getting everything ready the next day. There she was, setting up the props, laptop and projector and making sure we all had seating. It was time to meet the other course participants and, Roz, our mentor/teacher.

I had met the lovely Angelica the previous day as we had flown in from Amsterdam on the wings of an eagle. I had also met Janys upon arrival as she had kindly kept tabs on us and made sure we found our way to our accommodation on time.

Janys lives on the island of Giudecca and she did Trojan work carrying foods and all sorts of accoutrements like laptops, a pult, biscuits, lasagne, serviettes and fruit, not necessarily in that order, back and forth.

The coffee was brewing before we even got started with our istruztioni.
I won’t reveal too much about the actual tips and discussions we had, but it was useful and entertaining too.

If you want to know about Lady Roz’s editing system, I strongly advise you buy her book, Nail Your Novel.

Another course member, the kindest woman with the dulcet voice, Tammy, whizzed in on her speedboat from Milano. Lady Roz galopped in on her trusted steed, accompanied by her number one guard, Henry, a knight of the old order.

It was a wonderful writing retreat in a gorgeous location. The knight, Henry, told us about some of the battle fields upon which he had fought and won his honours. He gave us an idea about the fine print we needed to read and absorb should we ever make it to the fine halls of publishers. It’s a strategy. You must plan ahead, he said, Well, he didn’t really, but it all seemed rather tricky.

Another famed author, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, stopped off for vittles in her gilded carriage and graciously shared nuggets of wisdom whilst encouraging us to persevere in our quest to write and publish our tomes.

We drank wine in goblets and sat under the vines in sunshine as we shared and partook of Janys’s al fresco lunch in the garden of the venue.

The good news is that Janys is busily planning next year’s retreat. She is also planning a photography and a watercolour class on the island of Giudecca. I wouldn’t hesitate to attend again, in fact I’m almost reluctant to spread the word because it was such a harmonious group and I’m sure space will be limited when the word gets out.

Sadly, I’m having problems uploading any more photos at the moment. Perhaps I can add some more later and show you the venue and a couple of panoramic scenes of Venice.


Supporting a Very Helpful and Fun Writer


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The Books that Find Us

 My German friend rang me the other day telling me she had found a book for me. It was on the free book shelf outside the Spanish shop.  

I’m drowning in books. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I’d like to clear the decks before I add any more. Still, it was lovely of her to think of me.  

She did her best to pronounce the author’s name, ‘Nuala O’Faolain. She’s Irish.’  
Several years ago, I had read Are You Somebody, an autobiography by the same author. My brother had met her a couple of times and had given me her autobiography, which of course I read. I must admit I don’t remember much about it except that it was a tad on the sad side. 

The book my friend found for me is called My Dream of You, the German version. Curious, I began a search to see what it was about. 

book cover

On a whim, I also bought a used English version and suggested we take turns reading in each other’s language. That way, we could both improve our language skills. 

My Dream of You is about an Irish journalist who has been living in London for almost three decades. She shares an office with a gay American man called Jim and they often discuss their latest ports of call. Both of them are travel journalists and have developed a strong friendship after having worked together for twenty years.

The book begins with the protagonist on a journalistic assignment in Morocco. She meets a man at the airport who invites her to share his taxi back to town. You guessed it, she ends up in his hotel room, and they open a bottle of whiskey and spend the night together. It was not a passionate night, but she said they were both delighted with themselves after their little rendezvous. This made me laugh. All the more reason why she is disappointed and surprised when he rings her the next day, after having invited her out to dinner, to inform her he has to leave suddenly. 

Jim, her lovely American colleague dies suddenly of a heart attack. One moment he was there, the next moment he is gone. Just like that. I felt a pang of pain as I read that part. How much do we take for granted? All the friendships we expect to last forever. 

The loss of her friend catapulted her into an abyss of despair, the quiet type. She locked herself away in her basement flat near Euston square for a few days, occupying herself with reading. 

One of the paperbacks she reads sparks an intent to further explore an infamous court case that took place just after the Great Potato Famine, in the mid-eighteen hundreds. The Talbot affair is about an illicit affair between Mrs. Talbot, the lady of the manor, and her coachman. I won’t spoil any more. Suffice it to say that she decides to return to Ireland to do some further research. But that is not all. On her trip, she faces some of the demons she has left behind in her country of birth as she comes to the conclusion, while looking at some monkeys in a zoo, that she has never truly examined her family as closely as she has those monkeys as they go about their business, oblivious or numb to the curious stares of the people behind the cages. She is fifty, feeling frumpy and used, and her world is falling apart. It’s time for a change.

I knew immediately I would enjoy this book, not necessarily because of the subject matter, although I do see parallels to my own novel which I’m close to publishing. No, it’s her writing style, and then the fact that my friend said she felt magnetically drawn to that one book on the shelf of books and knew it had to be that one. I know that feeling. I’ve had it many times. It’s as if you are remote controlled. Serendipitous events like that usually hold some deeper significance. 

I began reading the first couple of pages. My friend followed with her English version. Sometimes we compared notes or compared the translation. She was quick to pick me up on my mispronunciation or when I got sloppy with my endings. German grammar is not easy! It might have helped if I had cleaned my reading glasses. As is often so with good friends, we enjoy an easy banter and like to tease each other. ‘Your glasses are dirty again,’ she’d say, tutting in mock despair. ‘Here, give them to me.’ She returned with clean glasses a few minutes later. 

I can see clearly now…

Then it was her turn to read. She sighed after a couple of particularly difficult words. ‘I’m no good,’ she’d said. ‘Nonsense, continue,’ I’d egg her on. We soon became so involved in the story that we forgot to correct each other…well, only occasionally. 

Nuala, the author, does tend to introspection and my friend burst out at one stage, ‘Get on with it.’ She wanted more action and was getting frustrated with the endless flashbacks. 
She was a wonderful writer. Her novel is informative and interesting. I’m reminded of the fact that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve heard it said many times that Irish people tend to romanticise Ireland. It’s true. 

So I’m wondering if there is a deeper message in this synchronistic choosing of that particular novel. If so, what does it mean? I’ve had enough dreams and intuitive flashes in the past to know that they do indeed help point us in the right direction, but I’m at a loss as to the significance of my friend’s book choice and her determination to get it for me.  

When I compare my novel, I realise I have romanticised everything, although I have included a healthy dose of realism in my fictional story too. Really, there is no comparison, apart from the vague similarity in story line. Nuala sees everything with critical eyes. I cannot help but think her life was tinged with melancholy. I love the way she gives the reader layer upon layer of rich narrative. She is excellent at describing every little thing, not only mood and atmosphere but also the valley, the hedgerow, the awkward love scene between two out-of-practice single middle-aged people. You’re cringing and laughing at the same time. It is not an easy read. We’ve just covered a section describing the absolute misery of the Irish Famine victims and those left behind. There’s no romance in that!

Now that we’re half-way through the book, I have no idea whether I’ll continue to enjoy it and whether it will have a sad or a satisfying ending.  I do know that Nuala is a most accomplished writer and I’m so glad my friend found her novel on that free bookshelf.

My Review of The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce

I thoroughly enjoyed The Herbalist. It had been sitting on my Kindle for several months. I had read a few pages but wasn’t in the right mood or couldn’t get into it at first.
Then one day I began reading it again and soon became totally immersed in the setting and the story.

I can clearly imagine how an exotic character like the Herbalist would have repelled and attracted the locals in a small town in Ireland, or anywhere for that matter, a mere few decades ago. That’s the part that seemed incongruous to me i.e. the fact that a man like him would have chosen to live in a midlands town in Ireland back in the 1930’s.

When a book really interests me I want to find out as much as I can about the spark that ignited the idea for the story. I discovered that the author had found a small newspaper cutting while working on the archives of a local library (if my memory serves me correctly). The cutting reported on the trial of a man with an exotic sounding name who was accused of duping the locals with his treatments and herbal potions, or something to that effect.
Fiction is fiction and if you want to immerse yourself into a story and enjoy it without every detail having to be perfectly authentic, this might be the book for you. I know Irish life, I grew up there and I was able to roll with the story. Human nature being what it is, people gossip and people tend to go with the crowd. You’re either loved by many, tolerated or shunned. Boredom and lack of stimulation can make people behave strangely. Even in the sixties, Ireland was a country run by clerics; women were repressed and had little freedom, and this is all brought home in this dark but entertaining story.

My favourite character was Aggie, although I don’t seriously think a character like her would have been tolerated in any small town in Ireland, and she certainly wouldn’t have been having parties on her houseboat. Forgive me if I’m wrong on that score. Never mind, we can suspend belief and just enjoy the ride.

Yes, the author did use her unique style, switching characters and point of view and zooming in and out of scenes. But I genuinely loved her language, her creativity and her humour at times. I’ve marked a few examples here:
It reminded her of when the thread ended on the spool and the needle ran on regardless, puncturing seed holes of light.
I was growing myself some women’s intuition.
There was a lot wrong with her face: a wide mouth, a chin an inch too long, flared nostrils. And yet … she was perfectly lovely.
Grettie would have had Mass said for a splinter in her finger.
I struggled into the fur – it was soft as sin.
Ned had a dusty old job sweeping the roads but was always neat as a pin.
Rose was lying on the ground for anyone to see, all lonely under the moon.
Was I to live like a shunned sow, like the Carver sisters in their flour-bag dresses…
…it was a low-class thing. Low-class things are so exciting. Low class, my arse…
Okay, that’s enough. You get the picture. I’m very glad I returned to this book. It was a marvellous read. Dark yes, but amusing too. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Any News? Or How Much is That in Old Money?

Today’s musings: The Internet is both a blessing and a curse and why people like me shouldn’t have a Kindle.

The plus side of having instant access to world events is the resulting transparency. We are no longer held in the dark about the goings on of those behind the scenes.

I remember my grandfather always being so hungry for news when I was a teenager. He never missed the six o’clock news and would rush to his room to listen to his transistor radio, which by the way was on full blast because he was hard of hearing. This might have been at least partly due to the fact that he was fond of cleaning his ears with his pipe cleaners. Yes, he loved his pipe. Back then I wondered why he was so keen on finding out the latest news about the upcoming budget or the war in the Middle East or even the price of milk. In truth, he was probably more interested in Irish news than in world events. He listened to the news religiously but I can’t remember him ever discussing it. He was a tall man who towered above most other men his age. I don’t remember him speaking much either, and he usually answered in monosyllables. But he took his nettle juice every year and planted according to the moon’s rhythm. R.I.P. Pada.

Later, when I went to work and live in Dublin and returned for a visit, he would always ask things like, ‘So….how much would gas be up there now?’ Or ‘What’s the price of a sliced pan?’ Although amused, I’d tell him how much I spent for rent and groceries and electricity, or whatever he wanted to know. Invariably he would answer, ‘How much would that be in old money?’ Since I come from a family who love to outdo each other in witticisms and puns, this has become a private joke—you wouldn’t get away with anything, especially mispronouncing a word—I remember once telling my older brother I was going to take an aerobatics course. Well, I never lived that down. This, ‘How much would that be in old money?’ has become synonymous with our upbringing in so many ways. It makes no sense to anyone else.

What has all of this to do with the internet or smart phones or the immediate accessibility of information? How would Pada have fared in today’s world? His life was so linear, routinized and manageable. I don’t think he would have availed of these new methods. He would have continued reading his daily paper and listening to the news every morning and evening. I think he would have been overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of global news and corruption stories we are now facing.

We are bombarded with so much information about everything and anything. I do see the irony of this post as I, too, am blogging about blogging. Nevertheless, I’ll continue. We have conspiracy blogs, fashion blogs, food blogs and political blogs, everything your heart desires. We also have immediate access to currency converters, knowledge sites like Wikipedia and the Gutenberg Project where we can read all the classics. And while I credit this outpouring of information for bringing awareness of world events, inequality and injustice and generally offering more transparency to all of us, it can fry our brains if we don’t control it.
Take writing, for instance. I’ve always had a longing to write and I’ve always been an avid reader. I enjoy writing poetry and have several journals filled with all sorts of life events, musings and sketches etc., but it’s only been in the last few years that I have taken it seriously. Now I expect to publish my first novel by summer this year (if I don’t get cold feet) and then continue with the other two.
Before the dawn of the internet, there would be a buzz about a certain book like Johnathon Livingstone Seagull or The Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend (brilliant fun) and then books like The Stand by Steven King (I put off reading that one for almost two decades, but it was captivating), Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles or Erma Bombeck’s If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I doing in the Pits? These books would be passed around and we’d all be on the same page.
Oh, to be an author, I’d think. I could work from my lovely villa by the sea and watch my gardener trim my box trees hedges as my peacock wandered leisurely though the immaculate lawn. But I felt as if I wasn’t ready; I didn’t have the maturity or life experience to write a novel of substance (it’s debatable whether I still do).
One of my favourite books on writing, besides Steven King’s, is Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. Her message was simple, ‘Write What You Know.’ I can’t remember much about it because it was a long time ago, but I do know that it was inspiring.
I can hear my son saying ‘Too long, didn’t listen.’
Never mind…the point of my writing this is to emphasise how important it is for our mental health to switch off and take some quiet time. There are so many voices telling us what to do, what to eat, what to wear, how to write etc. etc. I could go on forever. Our brains are not able to cope with this constant stimulation, at least mine isn’t.
I regularly have to drag myself away to spend some time walking in the woods, gardening or meditating with no music, no internet and no television. This works wonders for my sanity. There are enough conversations going on in my own head so I don’t need hundreds of others.

It’s just another drug to keep us high.

The most insightful inspirations come when we turn off all electronics and listen to our inner voice. And yet, it cannot be denied that the Internet is a valuable tool. But is it making us more intelligent or turning us into a new genus of human unable to survive without being plugged into some information device? Have we already lost control? If we’re not doing Sudoku or the Daily Crossword puzzle, watching a movie or browsing for news, we feel as if something is missing.

I must emphasise how grateful I am for modern technology. It enables me to keep in touch with family and friends separated by land and sea. When I think back to the first time I came to Germany there is no comparison. It was always lovely to receive and write letters. That’s something I miss, but having instant access to friends and family is wonderful.
Oh yes…getting back to why people like me shouldn’t have a Kindle. I have a hard time making up my mind. I am also impulsive and keep downloading books. The problem is that I flip between them, depending on my mood, and this not good for my brain.  As a special treat, I love to read a real book and feel the paper on my fingertips, but I try not to buy too many of them these days because I’m drowning in them and can’t bring myself to get rid of them.

I believe that if something becomes too common or too easily available, it loses its value. And we must value our own work. I’m going to try to focus on one book at a time, okay maybe three. That’s my promise to myself. I also promise to make up my mind about a book cover very soon and get my own book out there. Recently I uploaded a sample of my novel onto my Kindle. It was quite a thrill to see my words in print. So, what I’m saying is…I’m ever so grateful for the fact that I can self-publish…Amazon is great for this, but I need to get a handle on it and a grip on myself. It’s like being in a bookshop and wanting to read ten books at once, or not being able to decide between five meals on the menu or…you get the idea.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Do you like pound shops where you you can buy everything for a pound or a dollar? Or do you prefer to spend more and value your purchase more? Would you rather save up for that designer handbag or buy a cheap imitation?