Friday, February 29, 2008

The Perfection of the Morning

The rain is lashing against the window panes. I've a turf fire burning brightly. Ah yes, it's a day for writing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

For Narnia and the North!

It's out! Through the Wardrobe, edited by Herbie Brennan (a good bud, see my Blog) and featuring 'your favourite authors,' including me, talking about CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. Along with being the editor Herbie Brennan, of Faerie Wars fame, has written a piece in this and so has another friend, Canadian writer Susan Juby. I'm looking forward to reading it as soon as my author copies arrive. This is by Benbella Books in cahoots with Borders. You may remember that they did a similar collection on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, called The World of the Golden Compass. I think this cover is much better than the other book's; old-fashioned but perfect. And I much preferred writing the paper for this book, though it is rather personal. Hmm. May regret that, but too late, publish and be damned. Of course what I wrote was more personal this time around because I love CS Lewis, while I only admire Philip Pullman. Also I much prefer Lewis's work and consider it of far greater value, both in story and soul terms. Reading Pullman wouldn't change my life. Reading CS Lewis did.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Japanese Gripe

In keeping with the Japanese theme (see my blog), I am going to gripe here about the way my royalties arrive from Kodansha/Random House, Japan. As far as I can tell, the statements and royalty monies are sent in order of importance of my agent or publisher, i.e. first I get my statement from HarperCollins, Canada (it arrived yesterday), then I have a lonnnnnnnnnng wait - sometimes even to the end of the year! - to get my other statements via my (small) Irish publisher and my (smallish) ex-Canadian agent. It must be pointed out that the statements are actually due in March. This would seem to reflect how Japanese bureaucracies function, i.e. they are hierarchical and elitist to the extreme. The big publisher gets the statements right away while the small publisher and smallish agent get them at the end of the year! What really annoys me is the bizarre truth revealed by a lawyer. Apparently failure to send statements and pay royalties on time is considered a "minor breach" of contract and therefore the contract still holds. Pardon my French, but how the hell can "failure to pay" be a "minor" breach?!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


At lunch last week, I promised Herbie Brennan that I would tell him when I began to 'officially' write People of the Great Journey, as opposed to making notes, blocking out chapters, doing research etc. But just a short while ago, I realized something. I am already writing my book. This is how I write. I am like an acrylic painter. I work in layers. Right now, as I block out the chapters, inserting all the material I have to date and making a few more notes as I go, I am laying down the first layer, the very foundation of the book. The chapters themselves are not solid. When I write more in future layers, future drafts, the chapters will grow in size and birth more chapters. Sometimes I write up to seven or eight drafts before the final polish which goes off to the editor. Then there is yet another draft in response to the editor's remarks and my own cooler view of the manuscript after a time away from it. Because this is the way I write, it was 'easy' (I use that term loosely!) for me to do the major revisions on The Chronicles of Faerie. For me, I was simply writing another - if very intensive - draft.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Here are the books by Haruki Murakami that I have read in the past few weeks:
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (for the second time)
Kafka by the Shore
Sputnik Sweetheart
South of the Border, West of the Sun.
I am addicted to him. The last time I went this mad about an author and had to read everything s/he ever wrote it was Don De Lillo. I remember writing to Dermot Healy (oops, dropped a name there) when I heard he had a copy of De Lillo's The Names which I could NOT find anywhere (this was before computers, etc) and I begged him to loan it to me and to please post it to me and he did. Anyway, I am now going through Murakami's list. One of the things I love about his books is that his main characters are always reading books, in fact they are usually lying around on a sofa reading library books, which is what I am usually doing when I am reading him. The Bray Library has ordered three more of his works for me from Greystones and Carnew, even as I borrowed the last one they had, today: Underground, a non-fiction work about 'the Tokyo gas attack and the Japanese psyche.' He is a master of magic realism. As one critic says, he takes a baseball bat to the inside of your brain. Now my excuse for reading him is that this is research because he is the favourite writer of one of my characters, Suzume, a Japanese student; but of course the real reason I am reading him is that he is a genius.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Heading off to Clare at the end of the week to take part in the launch of Frank Golden's new book of poetry, In Daily Accord. This will be a great launch, more like a New York 'happening' of the 50's-60's: a performance of three voices reading the three-line poems - Frank himself, me (under the name Valerie Whelan as Frank forgot to use my pen-name) and poet, John Doorty. While we are reading - interweaving and inverting the poems - images of Frank's paintings and sketches will be projected onto the walls around us, and there will be music composed by Andrew Collins. I'm really looking forward to this. If Frank is happy with how it goes, he may bring it to the Dublin Fringe Festival. (Watch this space.) The book's cover art is by Scottish painter Hazel Walker, who now lives in Clare.
Venue: The Burren College of Art, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare. Date/Time: Saturday, February 23, at 7:30 p.m.
Maybe we'll see you there?
Here is a sample of one of the epiphanies (as I call them):
My ducks taken by the fox
My tomatoes diseased and dying
Only my potatoes growing like women.
And here's another one:
He says she has to apologize first
For breaking his windows and putting glue in the locks
She could have got off easy but not now.

Monday, February 18, 2008


It's official. Bookmark has made it to the short list for the Irish Blog Awards. In fact, I was surprised to see it has made two short lists, as I didn't realise it was up for Best Blog as well as Best Arts and Culture Blog. The first is sponsored by PutPlace ( and the second is sponsored by Poetry Ireland ( Go see the lists, as there are many fascinating blogs of every kind there: (I spent far too much time perusing them over the weekend when I had a gazillion other things to do, mais je ne regrette rien.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Song of the Banshee

Found this on the Endicott Blog. (They are amazing. Go see: I love Sheila Chandra. The way she weaves her own Celtic-Indian traditions reminds me of what I am trying to do in The Book of Dreams.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Light-Bearer Land

Here are two more pics from the hike last Sunday. Again, this is territory through which Dana wanders on her adventures in the Wicklow Mountains. For those of you who find the hardback of The Light-Bearer's Daughter too expensive (though it is truly gorgeous, all shining and golden), the paperback will be out in the Fall of this year and it glitters too. You know, I think this tree is truly Tolkien. (Photo credit: me)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dealing with the Competition

Turns out I am competing with someone I know for the Irish Blog Awards, Arts and Culture Section. Here he is: He's more generous than me. You get to read some of his work. We're both on the long list. Things are heating up now. I'm figuring out ways he could meet with an accident. So, where's the short list?

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Went hiking in the Wicklow Mountains today, Dana's territory in The Light-Bearer's Daughter. Can you see Mrs Sootie Woodhouse in the forest? Too late, she just scurried under a fallen branch! But surely you can see the sleeping giant, there in the distance behind Lugnaquillia? The light is spilling over the beautiful valley of Glenmalure. A funny aside: as we hiked into the valley, Dave and I were discussing Dawkin's book The God Delusion and I was arguing my usual point about materialism being as restrictive and fundamentalist a position as any right-wing religious stance. Suddenly we came upon this godspell. (Photos: Michael McGovern)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Top Ten List for the Environment

It's out in Booklist, the journal of the American Library Association. Go see: I'm really thrilled that The Light-Bearer's Daughter is there beside Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Some people may be surprised to see a fairy tale in such company, but that is the truth behind this kind of story. It's not just that fairies are nature spirits and therefore ideal spokespeople against our destruction of nature. Fairy tales, like myths, have always been a magical looking glass that mirror the depths of our psyche and the universal facts of our existence and our reality. Indeed, they are ultimately morality tales. And, as Big Bob says in the book: It's no longer a matter of politics or economics. The ecological crisis is a moral issue. It's a battle between what's right or wrong for the Earth!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Irish Blog Awards

Bookmark has made the longlist for the 2008 Irish Blog Awards in the Best Arts and Culture Blog category, yahoo! Winners will be announced March 1st. Here's where you go to see the long list: January 31st post in But I am really cross with myself for not nominating Swedish Paddy (as I think of him) for the Best Personal Blog. He's at He's a scream. A gas ticket. Gotta remember next year. Someone remind me if I don't.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Im Schatten Des Elfenmonds

The German edition of The Hunter's Moon arrived today. The title translates to 'In the Shadow of the Faerie Moon.' (Nice.) It's a handsome trade paperback, with the same metallic cover as the American edition. Das Buch ist schon. (There should be two tiny dots on that o.) I've already heard from German readers who are very happy with it and I'm sending it off to Finn's cousin Conor in Austria, whose first language is German. (Conor's Dad is Finn's Dad's brother, an Irishman, and his wife is Austrian.) Conor's a big Tolkien fan so I'll get a serious and hopefully good response! Fingers crossed das Buch will be a big seller in Germany, one of the largest book markets in the world. As a fellow writer and dear friend says, 'art for art's sake and money for godsake!'

Monday, February 04, 2008

Dharamsala Here I Come

When talking with the Rinpoche yesterday (see blog), I suddenly realised that I have to go to India with him next year - he goes every year, also to Mongolia - because a young Tibetan monk walked into my book a few weeks ago. Since this young monk was reared in Dharamsala, like so many who are exiled from Tibet due to the Chinese occupation of that country, I really need to see where and how he grew up. Rinpoche suggested I attend teachings by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and of course that would be brilliant, too! And since I am going to India, I might as well travel south to visit my friends in Pondicherry and Auroville, Tamil Nadu. Oh, what an exciting thought! A new book is like a magic carpet. It takes you to exotic places within and without yourself.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

More Moon Magic

I posted below about the synchronous relationship of Savina Yannatou's music with my new work-in-progress, People of the Great Journey. Because I loved 'With the Moon I'm Walking' (a traditional song from the Greek island of Kalymnos), I ordered the Terra Nostra album from my local music shop. Was surprised to discover that it is an album of folk songs from all over the world. So there I was listening to it and working on my book and I was struck by a song in English which sounded familiar. Well, the hair stood up on the back of my neck when I checked what it was: 'A Fairy's Love Song' from the Hebrides (yes, indeedy, the setting of my new book). I have it somewhere in Scots Gaelic, sung by RĂșnrig, I think, my favourite Celtic folk-rock band hailing from the Western Isles and with a new lead singer from Cape Breton Island, Canada. You know, call me mad, but I do accept these little messages from the cosmos as signs that I am on the right path and doing the right thing. Here's a pic of Savina who is as beautiful as her voice. Don't know what that weird mask thing is.