Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oíche Shamhna Shona Dhaoibh

aka Happy Halloween!!

This is one of my favourite holidays, I think mostly because it reminds me so much of my childhood.

Although many people think of Halloween as an American holiday, it is actually of Irish/Celtic pagan origins. And funnily enough, a lot of the pagan practices described online connected with Halloween are still practiced (unbeknownst to many, I think ;) ).

Turnip Jack O Lantern, early 20th Century, Ireland
 As a child, Halloween was always a huge event in our house - with our friends and cousins coming to us for a party.

Surprising by today's standards, we had no fake cobwebs hanging from the ceiling or plastic skeletons or ghouls moaning in the garden. It was 90s Ireland - where kids still made their costumes from black plastic bags, masks from Kellogg's cereal boxes and had those glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth from the local pound shop.

The day was always filled with so much excitement, as we made our costumes and waited for twilight. Then, with some parental supervision (or a coerced older sibling) we would wander through our sparse neighbourhood trick or treating. I remember calling on older neighbours, who would comment on us 'souling' or 'guising' and make us sing a song, tell a story or even do a bit of Irish dancing - earning us a pound or two or in one case, some apples from their trees.

Bags full to the brim with apples, chocolate and fizzy bars, we then would wander home by torch/flashlight - telling our local ghost stories. The haunted room of the local castle, the lady who wandered the abandoned big house across the river, or of the headless horseman, an avid member of the local hellfire club, who wandered our road at night looking for victims. . .

With no street lights, we walked our road till we saw the glow of the jack-o-lantern, sitting outside our porch. I still remember my father cursing in the kitchen from earlier that day, as he tried to carve out the turnip to make it. I don't know when we started to use pumpkins - maybe there were none left that year or maybe my father felt nostalgic for his own childhood. I think that feeling was short lived though, going by the colour of his language and the lack of turniped jack-o-lanterns ever since.

Irish Barmbrack
Once inside, it was like a child's paradise. My mother never spared expense when it came to goodies and treats for occasions. The table was covered with chocolate ricekrispies, treatsize chocolate bars and of course, tayto crisps. In the centre of all this food, sat the Barmbrack, a fruity sort of cake which held a ring inside - guaranteeing marriage in the coming year. Somehow, whether through luck or pure guile, I always managed to get that ring.

On that one particular Halloween, I remember a scary film sounding in the background - but I know our focus was more on the old baby bath my mother filled with water. Apples floating on the top, money sunk at the bottom. My brother and cousins would dive for money, until they were utterly soaked. I preferred the drier option of trying to bite a chunk out of an apple which hung by a piece of string from the door frame.

For me though, the highlight of every year was the bonfire. Some years we had sparklers - my mother fearing bangers would blow our fingers off, but every year we had the bonfire. That year, my father had cut down our overgrown evergreens and had saved them to burn for this night. The bonfire was huge, crackling fiercely each time more rubbish and tree was added. We yelled and screamed, pretending to be witches, banshees and demons as we ran round and round the fire - leaping and dancing, sometimes barefoot - pretending we were those pagans from the past until my mother yelled from the backdoor to come inside, before we caught our death.

Years later, I still remember that night. The flames and our screams with our cardboard cut-out masks as we danced around like mad things under the frosty night sky.

Now that is my idea of Halloween.

So I'm curious, what does Halloween mean to you? How did you spend Halloween as a kid? Did you do any of these things or do you have different family traditions?

Published!!!

YaY! I've some excellent news!!

My short story, Eternally Yours, has just been published by new e-zine The Bohemyth!

I'm so pernickety I almost never submit my stories because I feel they are never up to proper standard so I'm thrilled that this actually got accepted! I know I've a long way to go as a writer but I'm so happy this story found a home :)

I would love if you popped over and let me know what you honestly think of it!

 The Bohemyth is a weekly online literary journal which is focused on contemporary short fiction with literary bent and also photography. Although based in Ireland, they are open to contributions from everywhere! They are open to submissions, so I highly recommend popping by and looking at their submission guidelines :)

I'm so excited and I feel its really serendipitous that this is happening on Halloween :) 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To kill a Warlock, HP Mallory

BLURB: "The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch.

Dulcie O’Neil is a fairy. And not the type to frolic in gardens. She’s a Regulator—a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld to keep them from wreaking havoc in the mortal world. When a warlock is murdered and Dulcie was the last person to see him alive, she must uncover the truth before she’s either deported back to the Netherworld, or she becomes the next victim.

Enter Knight Vander, a sinfully attractive investigator sent from the Netherworld to work the case with Dulcie. Between battling her attraction to her self-appointed partner, keeping a sadomasochistic demon in check, and fending off the advances of a sexy and powerful vampire, Dulcie’s got her hands full. As the body count increases, Dulcie finds herself battling dark magic, reconnoitering in S&M clubs and suffering the greatest of all betrayals."

The one thing many people say about this series is "If you love the sookie stackhouse series, you'll love this!". Well I would say, if you love the sookie stackhouse series, you'll love this even more!

I downloaded the e-book of 'To kill a warlock' for free on Amazon.com. I then read the entire series, in a matter of days (of absolutely no sleep - but who cares!) and I can easily see why HP Mallory is a bestselling independent author.

Dulcie, is an independent and strong (fairy) woman. She has her issues like the rest of us, but she tries to battle them. What I especially liked about her character is that she is very in-control when it comes to men, she may get all weak-knees (especially around a certain Knight) but she still stays firm. She doesn't jump straight into things with men (which is rampant in other PR/UF books) - she's cautious, which is so much more realistic (and endearing). I really loved this character and totally got where she was coming from.

H.P. Mallory is certainly amazing at creating well-developed and charismatic characters. Even the villians feel very fleshed out - no black and white but plenty of grey as to motives etc. which I really enjoyed. In actually fact, I never saw the twist (which is saying something because I usually have it within a few chapters) so I was thoroughly shocked, but also delighted that, despite the twist, the characters stayed true to themselves.

This series is smart, fun and at it's heart - pure escapism in the best possible way. So I would highly recommend you read these books, if you want a bit of fun and Knight (yum!) in your life.

 I would usually say 'this book was money well spent' but this doesn't work for this series - the first e-book is free and the others are extremely reasonable! So go on to amazon.com and enjoy this fun read :)

I'm giving this book (and the series so far): 5 moons



Also book #5 Malice in Wonderland is coming out 19th November. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Can't touch this. . .

See that light in the distance my friends. . . that is the end of the tunnel!!

Just completed my final study (*cross fingers*) of my PhD.

Not to tempt fate or anything but I think this pretty much sums up my feelings. . .
 



Aw the roller-coaster that is the PhD - happy today, hysterical tomorrow :)

Here's hoping it doesn't go pear shaped !

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And something I made earlier

by Emily Cross :)
So Proud of myself and my little symbol (yes, yes, I know I know, I'm very sad) - but I am, in no way, a photoshop/graphic person (although I would love to be) so I'm really chuffed at how this turned out.:)

YaY!

And what the hell does this symbol thing have to do with anything?


Well, someday far into the future you might find out - when you know, the planets align, world peace is achieved and I actually get published :P


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

BBC Book challenge

The BBC said most of us only read 6 of these 100 books, which I find amazing. I've read 18 completely.

How many have you read?


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adam
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo




Sunday, February 5, 2012

Making a Book Cover

Nifty video by Orbit on the making of a book cover!



Friday, January 27, 2012

Matched

In a future society, the officials decide everything, from what you eat for breakfast to who you should love. Cassia Reyes, is a normal teenage girl, who through a technical mishap discovers that the officials are not always in control, especially when it comes to who you love.
Matched, similar to the Hunger Games and Delirium, is a break through dystopian young adult series, which has received a huge amount of positive reviews. A well deserved amount in my opinion.

Ally Condie does an exemplar job at building her world - which in some respects has elements of our own. If we use IQ and personality tests to assess people's suitability for certain jobs, who is to say this won't develop further into who we  should love (on-line dating sites are prime example). The point being, that like all exemplar writers in this field, Condie builds a world that is not hugely dissimilar to our own, she takes elements of our world and skews them to an extreme and for this reason the story and moral of Matched has more impact. Definitely in my opinion, world-building is one of the strongest features of this book.

Regarding characters, Cassia was an alright character - she has her flaws and good qualities, however to be honest I didn't really engage with her. Not because of how she was written but just the character herself, which is no reflection on Condie's writing. My favourite characters are Grandfather and Bram as both strike me as free spirits in their own way. For instance, Cassia's eyes needed to be opened through the mismatch, her grandfather's words and Ky's lessons while Bram from the get go seems to always be pushing the barriers in his own small ways. I just found him to be delightful and a touching character especially when it comes to the antiques incident.

My feeling is that although this book centres around a match/mismatch, romance is not the main theme, which is refreshing. Now, there obviously is romance in this book, and it's nice to see both male leads on equal footing (smart, handsome, decent), although you do feel sorry for Xander at times. In some ways, regarding Ky too, I find it sad that it took the mismatch for open Cassia's eyes, but I'm glad this is explored in the book - that it is not taken as a given by the character, that Cassia questions herself regarding her feelings.
But my most favourite aspect of this book and the main theme (imo), is the use of poetry, especially one of my all time favourite poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" , as a catalyst for Cassia. It demonstrates that in the void of Cassia's world, where only 100 poems, novels and songs exist, the timeless impact of certain works remain. That, regulation of the arts and elimination of creative self-expression is the beginning of the end - a regulation on the evocation of emotion and the human spirit. Condie does an exemplar job of showing us how these forbidden poems fester in Cassia's mind, riling up her spirit, in a quiet but deep way and provoking her to questions the society and consequently  to seek out Ky more and more.

My only detraction from the book, is I felt the ending could have been stronger. Ky's disappearance and then Cassias leaving didn't leave me on the edge of my seat. However the last chapter was touching as she associates each word as bringing her closer to Ky, reiterating the importance of self-expression without restraints/monitoring.

Off topic: Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of trilogies - whether sometimes an extra-long tightly written book would be better than three?

Back on topic, this is definitely one the better Dystopian YA fictions out there, and I recommend fans of dystopian romance to have a gander. I'm giving this 4 out of 5 moons :)


Toodles for now, 





Sunday, January 15, 2012

Christmas Writing booty

After having my 'smart' phone (for the amount of problems I have had with this phone, I seriously question the term) for just under a year, I've discovered the wonders of bluetooth. Who knew I could just magically send stuff to my laptop without that cable yoke that was with the phone- certainly not me, friends!

So see below the wonders of bluetooth and BE AMAZED at my fabulous grainy pics!

#1 - Santa was kind enough to bring the best everyday fountain pen EVER - the Charcoal Lamy Safari. Dream to write with. . .






#2 Santa was very good to me (because I'm a very good girl, obviously) and also got me this beautiful cross journal. Absolutely obsessed with their journals (and now you can see why).

#3 For those of us who believe bed is more than a place for sleep - one of the big bros, really hit it on the nail this year for my xmas pressie with this wooden laptop table from argos! (I liked it so much that I bought another for my college apartment).

#4 And of course the mandatory pic of a cute dog.  I give you, Teddy -  the most photogenic of the family, yet the hardest to get a photo of. . .


I know what you're thinking, I'm wasting my time with all this writing stuff - photography is obviously my true calling, HA!

Anyhoo - Toodles for now & happy writing/reading to all and to all a good night :)




Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A broken promise. . .

Promises are a funny thing. I rarely break promises to others, yet I always break them to myself.

Jaysus, that line sounds more like the beginning of a self-help memoir  than an "I'm back" blog post.

So yeah, I decided to return to the world of blogging after a very long hiatus because as you know, the internet is in very short supply of wannabe writers who like to blog.

We're practically an endangered species. 

Anyhoo . . .  what's this broken promise malarky (yes, I still use this word, and no I'm not a 90yr old irish stereotype) I'm melodramatically yabbering on about you ask? Well over a year ago, I made a promise on this blog (always a good idea to post stuff on the internet that will come back and bite you in the arse) that I wasn't going to make another blog post until I completed the first draft of DarkShines. Ahem. . .

*cough*

Yeah. . .  probably getting a fair idea of where this going. . . 

I'm sure you're all very surprised to hear that DarkShines is still in its first draft (i.e. not finished). I wish I could say I was half way through but no that would be lying. . . I made so little progress in 2011 with DarkShines, that I would be more willing to tell you my current weight (post-christmas) and post a naked video of myself doing the macarena than tell you my word count.

So yeah. . . 2011 was kind of a shit year, here's to 2012 being less shit and you know, non-apocalyptic :)

And here's to finishing this bastardy thing (my new name for WIP).

Belated Happy New Year!

I shall see you all around the blogosphere,

Toodles






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