Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Book Finished - Hurrah!

People of the Great Journey, the book I was born to write, is finished. It's an adult fairy tale, a work of "spiritual fiction," the book I have most enjoyed writing in my life to date. I also think it is the kind of book that you curl up with in an armchair by the fire, for a delicious read. The final scene is set by moonlight at the Callanish Stones, as shown here in this beautiful image. (Found it on the web, but haven't been able to find it again since so can't credit photographer. Apologies! If it's yours, let me know and I'll add your name here.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Voyage Of The Dawn Treader


Can't wait to see this! This was one of my favourite books, even as CS Lewis was and is my most favourite author since childhood. Here's a hilarious hing. The author meant his books to introduce or reinforce Christianity in children, but I entirely missed the point, probably because I was being brought up Roman Catholic! (Loud laugh.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Orm the Barmaid

I wrote two pieces for the magical GreenMan Review a few years back and they've been reprinted in its companion blogspot called Sleeping Headhog. You can read the first piece here: http://sleepinghedgehog.com/edibles/orm-as-gmr-barkeep-part-1/ and the second piece here: http://sleepinghedgehog.com/edibles/orm-as-gmr-barkeep-part-2. It's not easy serving non-alcoholic drinks to bad fairies, cluricauns and headless horsemen. Worst of all though, are one's fellow fantasy writers ... very demanding!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Celtic Warrior Princess

Well, it was a no brainer - the title change. Only a short way into the edit of the first book in my new series I realised that the word"princess" is loaded with all kinds of implicit notions like sophistication, manners, restrained emotion and good behaviour which couldn't be further from the character of my tempermental barbarian wild child, Fenora. Just add one word to "princess" - i.e. "warrior" - and all those notions go right out the casement window. Language is a virus, as William Burroughs once commented. Words are signifiers - was that Foucault? Derrida? well, all those semiotic/semiology types - and they come loaded with cultural layers of what is being signified. This gal is not a prissy princess. Far from it. Oh and go visit my new Facebook page for The Celtic Warrior Princess - www.facebook.com and search "Celtic" and click if you like. She's just up new. (Image: (c) James Brady, Ireland)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

To be Shee or Sidhe? That is the Question

Here's a delightful all-woman Celtic folk and trad band called "The Shee." I found them on youtube when I was googling "Shee" as the antiquarian spelling for the "Sidhe" or fairy folk. I'm thinking of using this spelling in The Celtic Princess because, let's face it, the average non-Irish-language-speaking person would not in a million years know that you pronounce "Sidhe" as "Shee." And don't be annoyin' me, ye purists. J.M. Synge himself used that spelling.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Eckhart Tolle's Ego

Someone gave me A New Earth to read when I was walking in darkness earlier this year. Parts of the book spoke to me and I began to realise it was because those parts were bowdlerised Buddhism. His own theories such as the'pain body' struck me as nothing short of absurd. My biggest objection would be his presentation of the ego as something akin to demonic, a tormented flaw of the mind. In my experience, the ego is a child - an easily frightened one - and yes, if let run rampant can certainly behave demonically even as a child can; but, like a child, it needs a firm and gentle hand, compassion and understanding, reassurance and guidance. It is not the enemy. It is that part of consciousness which allows us to navigate material existence and it needs to be both strong and flexible to face the 'slings and arrows' of life. The other thing that strikes me about Tolle (aside from the fact that I find him creepy) is the amount of money he is making while supposedly awakening the world. Of course one has a right to earn a living but he has already made millions, why does he need to keep making more? For example, why charge for his online television? If he really wants to help people awaken, why not allow them to view the television free? And when he is speaking, why does he not insist that his promoters provide a certain amount of cheap seats for people on low incomes? Do they not need to awaken also? Mother Amma does not charge at all for her hugs and darshan, yet she raises huge amounts of money for hospitals, schools, charities and so on. I have a name for certain New Age gurus like Tolle and all those shark-teethed smooth-talkers of The Secret. Remember the commercial salesmen who used to cross America in wagons selling magical elixirs that cured everything? Snake oil merchants.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love - the Movie

Read this book last year. My sister Pat gave it to me. There was no point passing it on to my women friends as they had all already read it! So now I'm just back from seeing the film to which I brought my friend Sherron for her birthday present. I've put the book cover here instead of either of the trailers as, quite frankly, both of them nearly put me off the movie! It's as if they went out of their way to find the few times Julia Roberts was not convincing as Liz Gilbert, the author. I'm also glad I ignored the critics and the general word on the street which claimed the film was rubbish and didn't have the depth of the book. (I've sworn off all film criticism after I was convinced not to go to Avatar and then bought the DVD and discovered what I had missed.) Anyhoo, contrary to the lousy trailers and the word on the street, the film is FANTASTIC and I would highly recommend it. As far as I'm concerned, it is very true to the book and has the same emotional and spiritual depth as well as the same gorgeous feast for the senses in terms of food, fun, frolic and luscious scenery.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Book of Dreams Ending

From time to time, readers email me to say they are unhappy with the ending of The Book of Dreams because it isn't clear what Dana and Jean choose to do at the end. Now I'm not calling anyone thick, because you couldn't possibly read a 700 page book if you were, but I do have to say there's a failure to think here. (I blame television.) All the clues are right there in the Postscript:
1) It's a year and a day later. Throughout the series it is repeated that a year and a day is the time period for ending a spell or enchantment. Ok, that one is subtle and could be missed.
2) Grandfather won't go to bed and is gazing out the window into the night as if he's expecting visitors. Ok, this could be cancelled out by Roy saying they've made their choice, we've got to let them go, but who's the medicine man here and knows more than everyone else in the book? Yes, Grandfather.
3) Roy has a dream that he's playing soccer in the Northern Lights with Jean and Dana and then he plummets out of the sky, like a falling star. "Did the others fall with him?" asks the book. Ok, I don't answer the question, but doesn't asking it give a pretty big hint?
4) Finally - and could this be more obvious? - Roy wakes up to the sound of voices talking and laughing outside, feet crunching on the snow, and then a knock on the door. Ok, you could argue this might be two Mormons or the Avon Lady, but then why is Roy jumping out of bed, pulling on his jeans and yelling with excitement? Hmm?
A failure to think, that's what it is. To quote my beloved CS Lewis's Professor Digory, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools." (Photo credit: Wolf Summer, Norwegian film)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Printer Perfidy

Thank God for the Internet. It really does help you fight corporate malfeasance (great word) and all forms of product deception that try to make you buy things you don't need. When your printer says you have used up your ink - don't believe it! And when it says you will damage your printer if you keep printing without changing the cartridge - don't believe it! And then, later, even months later, when it insists that you have really used up ALL OF THE INK NOW and the printer seizes up but then tells you, one assumes by law, how many times to press the Resume button to get it going again while threatening THIS IS IT, FINALLY, YOUR LAST WARNING I WILL REALLY BREAK THIS TIME IF YOU DO THIS - don't believe it! And then several weeks or months later again, when your printer really and truly is out of ink, it will stop printing, probably mid-page. Then and only then do you need to replace the cartridge. I found all this information online from many users who insist that their printers are still running fine after ignoring the increasingly hysterical attempts by their printer to make them change the cartridge before it needed to be changed. I can also say this is my experience too. It's now two months since my printer first started warning me that I was out of black ink and two weeks since I fiddled with the Resume button to get it going again after it seized up. Yep, there's still ink in the old boy yet. Truth is - printer companies make their money out of cartridges, not printers, so they will do anything to convince you to change your cartridges as often as possible. The perfidy of the corporate world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sirens Conference: Fantastic Women

Here's a magical conference taking place October 7-10 in Vail, Colorado for all you American fairy-lovers (or indeed non-American fairy-lovers if you are in the vicinity!). Alas I will not be in attendance but I'm told my books will be featured there. The guest speakers include famed Queens of Faerie Holly Black, Marie Brennan and Terri Windling, all fantastic writers of fabulous fables. There will be talks, panels, papers, feasts and a fairy ball. For more information go to http://www.sirensconference.org/.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kirkus a Dead Corpus?

Rumours of the death of Kirkus Reviews are apparently not exaggerated. While many writers are unhappy about the loss of a major reviewing vehicle, can't say I'm weeping. Of course it's personal. The Book of Dreams was panned by some unknown Kirkus critic. But it's also a matter of principle. There's something very wrong with anonymous criticism. Like blows to the genitals and stabs in the back, it's an act of cowardice. If you believe in your words, then stand by them. And needless to say, it allows for all kinds of abuse. Kirkus printed some pretty nasty pieces in its day. When I reviewed for John Banville at the Irish Times he once said to me, "if you can't say something good about a book, don't review it." I confess I learned from him that day as I had written some biting reviews myself for Books Ireland - but at least I put my name to them! The truth is there are no experts in this field. Critical history shows us many a classic that was savaged in its day. (Moby Dick comes immediately to mind.) No matter what critics insist, reviewing is entirely subjective and reviews always say more about the reviewer than they say about the reviewed. Rest in peace, Kirkus. I think this could be classified as a little dance on your grave.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

David McCallum --Kidnapped

I don't think I read Kidnapped when I was young, actually, as I'm sure I would have remembered it. What an amazing story! I would highly recommend a read. A little bit of difficulty, perhaps, getting used to the dialect at the beginning but that soon passes. The characters are truly amazing - the unscrupulous uncle, the idiosyncratic captain, the motley crew and most of all the truly courageous young David and the utterly unique hero that is Alan Breck, the Jacobite Highlander. I wish I had seen the television series, shown here. But poor David Balfour, what a terrible time he had on Erraid as opposed to the wonderful sojourn I had there.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Kidnapped on Erraid!




The Scottish island where I took a working holiday (check out my t'other blog) was well known to Robert Louis Stevenson who spent his summers there, as his father was an engineer working on the nearby lighthouse. (The window pic is the living room in one of the lighthouse workers' cottages, where I stayed with two friends.) Stevenson used Erraid as one of the settings for his book, Kidnapped, a great adventure story not unlike Dickens. Stevenson is most famous, of course, for Treasure Island. There's a story told on the island that Stevenson's father wanted him to be an engineer but Robert had other dreams and he lay down on the Wishing Stone on Erraid - will post a pic of it soon - and made his wish to be a writer. Now I have to be honest and admit that I didn't know Stevenson was Scottish. Oh, and here's a pic of Balfour Bay, named after the main character in Kidnapped, which has a fabulous strand and is lovely to swim in, though freezing cold.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Time to Read

I'm going like the clappers these days with a gazillion things to do, places to go, people to see so I have no idea how I am managing to read a load of books on top of it all. I must be going faster than the speed of light. I recently re-read Doris Lessing's Briefing for a Descent into Hell. In some ways it was research for my new adult novel which is also 'inner space fiction' as Lessing calls her speculative work (including the Canopus series) - "for there is never anywhere to go but in." The book, in a nutshell, is about life, the universe and everything, the story of a man having a psychotic break or an episode of enlightenment, depending on your world view. Here's a fantastic quote at the beginning of the book from Rachel Carson, marine biologist and author of The Edge of the Sea, which I must find as she is evidently a stunning writer also: ... this miniscule world of the sand grains is also the world of inconceivably minute beings, which swim through the liquid film around a grain of sand as fish would swim through the ocean covering the sphere of the earth. Among this flora and fauna of the capillary water are single-celled animals and plants, water mites, shrimplike crustacea, insects, and the larvae of infinitely small worms - all living, dying, swimming, feeding, breathing, reproducing in a world so small that our human senses cannot grasp its scale, a world in which the microdroplet of water separating one grain of sand from another is like a vast, dark sea.
I rarely re-read books and am quite amazed by the trend amongst younger readers these days to do so. My daughter continually re-reads her favourites while also picking up new work. The only books I have faithfully re-read over the years are - surprise, surprise - the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Mind you, this summer I did read Garth Nix's Abhorsen series again (was reading Lirael in Lough Derg, weird) to my utter enjoyment and I'm pretty certain I will re-read Briefing again in the future.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Hunter's Moon Reader Trailer #2

Found this on youtube when I was showing my sister Pat some of the other reader-made trailers for my books (The Hunter's Moon, The Summer King, and The Light-Bearer's Daughter). Very exciting! I really enjoy the creativity of my readers and I'm honoured that they spend this kind of time and effort on my stories. Gives me warm happy feelings. I notice she uses the beautiful music of Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt whom I met years ago at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co. Monaghan and whom I mention in The Book of Dreams. There's no such thing as coincidence.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Outsider

I decided to read this book after I heard that the amazing Jordanian sculptor and poet, Mona Saudi, cited it as a major influence on her as a young artist. The author, Colin Wilson (whose book The Occult I found tedious and devoid of insight) was the original 'angry young man' who produced this beautifully written work of critical and philosophical thought at the age of 24. Can't say it did much for me, particularly his opinions on Herman Hesse, one of my favourite writers. You can see Wilson's block. He names and describes a type among artists - 'the outsider' - who seeks the meaning and purpose of life, attempting to answer the crucial question 'how should we live our lives?'. No doubt considering himself one of this type, he recognises their plight, yet as soon as he finds someone who has an answer, i.e. Hesse, he dismisses the answer as romantic nonsence. Wilson simply cannot deal with mystic or spiritual reality. Notable is the fact he does not even mention Hesse's Journey to the East. Also he says no human has achieved self-realisation - now that's a Western blind spot! Even back in 1956, the Buddha was known and Buddhism itself names many realised human beings. My final complaint, of course, is that he seems to be unaware that there ever existed a writer who was a woman! Immediately coming to mind are Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Isak Dinesen, and Doris Lessing, all fitting the outsider description. What we need are a few more angry young women! So, my opinion on this book: worth a quick perusal for its historical value but otherwise of no great interest.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ballinamore

Sometimes life brings you full circle. It was decades ago when I first came to Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim to work in my aunt and uncle's hotel, The Commercial Hotel, Main street. Years later, my first book - The Druid's Tune - would be set in this town and on a farm just outside it, before my characters time-travel to ancient Ireland. And now here I am posting this in the library in Ballinamore because I am spending some time in nearby Jampa Ling. Firstly, I was thrilled to see The Hunter's Moon on display here in the library (and they didn't know I was coming) and then to find that there are also copies of The Druid's Tune and The Singing Stone in the local studies section. (They are the Irish published versions by O'Brien Press.) It always cheers up an author to see one's work in public. I'm also listed as a Leitrim writer! Had to smile at that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Through the Wardrobe to be Reissued

Benbella is reissuing Through the Wardrobe: Your Favourite Authors on CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia in November, with this gorgeous new cover. It will be out in honour of the third Narnia film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (can't wait!) The book is edited by my dear friend Herbie Brennan who also wrote an article for it. I really enjoyed writing about my favourite author, CS Lewis, and I thoroughly enjoyed the other articles and essays. The pieces are not academic (thank Aslan) but are more of a love fest, with everybody talking about the books and characters from different angles. A great read!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

One Down, One to Go and Then ...

Well, that's the edited draft of The Celtic Princess (Book One) done and dusted and off to Canadian and American publishers. It has also gone to UK and Australian/New Zealand publishers who requested to see same, so stay tuned for more news. Now I am taking June off to catch up on the gazillion things that haven't been done due to deadline, i.e. clean house, tend to overgrown garden, see friends, catch up on emails and correspondence, plan research trip to Isle of Erraid (more about that anon), de-clutter house (this is a biggie, I am chucking out the old to make room for the new!), head out to Co. Clare to visit friends and then up to Co. Donegal for annual pilgrimage to Lough Derg ('extreme prayer' as Finn calls it), then it's the whole month of July in a Buddhist retreat while also completing the final draft of my new adult work, People of the Great Journey. I'm half-way through it and looking forward to getting back to it. THEN, when that's done, I'll take another break before getting stuck into second book of The Celtic Princess series. It's called The Celtic Princess and The Dragon King. The storyline is already plotted and notes made, but it is early days yet. The first book was originally called The Celtic Princess and the Stone of Destiny - a totally appropriate title referring to the plot - but I decided to just begin with the series title, also it sounded a bit too like a certain other book, if you know what I mean.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nightwish - Over the hills and far away

Here's a fantastic video by the Finnish band Nightwish. They fired their lead singer, this amazing woman Tarja Turunen, some time ago and she now sings solo. (Posted one of her fantasy videos months back.) This is the kind of music I would love to see scoring a film version of The Celtic Princess. A writer's dream.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Celtic Princess

With three contracts signed, sealed and delivered it's time to make the Big Announcement. In fact, my agent - the amazing Marianne Gunn-O'Connor - has already posted the news in Publishers Marketplace, so this is an echo. Yes, my new YA series has legs at last and will be out next year in Canada with Scholastic, in Japan with Shogakukan, and in the United States of America with Penguin Putnam. Very exciting! Stay tuned for who will publish it in the UK and other territories. The Celtic Princess is a mythological adventure series about the 16 year old daughter of the High King of Tara who strives to be a warrior to avenge her father's murder. She is helped by a handsome slave-prince and her beloved wolfhound. I'm also developing the story as a graphic novel. Here's some early artwork from the gifted James Brady, blogged with his permission (copyright: Jim Brady).

Monday, April 19, 2010

OR Melling on Facebook

I'm not one for social network sites chiefly because of all the work it would involve. As is obvious this past while, I am having enough trouble trying to keep my blogs up to date! Don't ask me what I am doing with my time. Well, actually, I'm working one day a week in a beautiful garden on the side of Bray Head, writing two books, taking occasional courses in script-writing, meeting with friends, meditating, reading, visiting my favourite Buddhist Centre, running a spiritual library in a convent twice a month, looking after my cat, occasionally looking after my daughter (studying for exams), visiting my family, helping to run a dance co-op, um, I think that's it. ANYHOO, even though I am not on Facebook, I am: http://pa-in.facebook.com/group.php?v=info&gid=93920199128. Thank you Bethany. Very nice!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nice Recovery by Susan Juby

I read two books last week. Here's the first one. (Reviewing the second on t'other blog.) It's a memoir by one of my favourite Canadian authors and writer-buddies, Susan Juby, whom I've featured before on this site. She's a hilarious comic writer who, like all great comics, touches on the pain and the dark. In this book she details her own pain and dark, the story of her life as a young alcoholic 'with a minor drug addiction on the side.' She is so brave and honest about the nightmare of those years that you just want her to get well. And thankfully - is this a spoiler? - she does! It's a great read for any age, though you will, of course, be tempted to hand it to the nearest young 'drinky pants' you know and are worried about. Here's her website: www.susanjuby.com.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Book of Dreams

The paperback edition of The Book of Dreams (revised edition) is now out in America and amazon.com-land. It's another beautiful shiny edition published by Harry N Abrams Inc, New York. Here's what the American Library Association's Booklist said: "a satisfying conclusion to a fascinating romantic series steeped in folklore and archetypal questions of identity, love, family, and shared connections across time and cultures." Thank you, Booklist.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

K. Reed Needles is Robertson Davies

Here's a wonderful one-man show at Hart House Theatre, University of Toronto which I would go to if I were in Toronto right now. Scripted and directed by John Krisak, it features K. Reed Needles (I used to know him without the K) as Canadian writer Robertson Davies whose Deptford Trilogy I absolutely love. It's on from March 3-6. I'm afraid I can't credit this photo as I found it on my U of T Alumni newsletter and no credit is given. (Corrections happily accepted.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ogham Alphabet

If you are interested in things Celtic, here's a fascinating site my sister Pat pointed out to me: http://ogham.lyberty.com:80/oghamintro.html.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pat's Art Blog


I've already mentioned my artist sisters and here is another one. You can visit her blog at: http://patburnesphotos.blogspot.com. A lot of her work (all of it?) is inspired by Bray, County Wicklow, our home town. In fact, one of her exhibitions was called Topophilia, which means "love of place." I guess it runs in the family. Many of my books begin in Bray. Here is a photo of Bray Head, which features prominently in The Summer King (photo credit: Pat Burnes, pinched off her blog site!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Roving Art - "Placement"

The Book of Dreams features characters based on two of my artist sisters - Yvonne and Deirdre - but, in fact, I have three more! On my Links page, I've listed my sister Lorraine's website which she shares with her sculptor husband. (Art doesn't run in our family, it gallops.) Here is a sample of one of her most recent projects called "Placement. " Her paintings are printed onto labels which are "placed" here and there around the world, by herself, family and friends, and some who remain anonymous. I did this placement on the Aran island of Inis Oirr, off the west coast of Ireland, in summer 2009. Amazingly enough, I did NOT arrange the black bicycle against the hedge or the trophy for currach racing. It was all there just waiting for me to add the perfect little image of a cow. Go here to see more placements in Ireland, Toronto, London, New York, and Prague:http://www.lorjames.com/.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Fifth Sacred Thing

Found this book in my sister Pat's library and was surprised by how good it was. Truly compelling characters and plot. I read it in two days despite its size. Starhawk is a New Age feminist non-fiction writer and political activist. I didn't expect her to be able to make the jump to fiction, but she does it with ease and panache. Mind you, she could have done with a better cover and title. Both put me off the book at first and I had to force myself past them to read it!