Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More About Stones

I enjoyed Scott Peck's The Road Less Travelled, though I found his People of the Lie lacked true insight and was a tad ridiculous in places, e.g. including a woman patient who resisted his treatment in his examples of 'evil.' Bad case of projection there, methinks. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he shares my obsession with megaliths! I've made two serious pilgrimages to megalithic sites along with close friend and Jungian psychotherapist, Dr N. We visited numerous here in Ireland one year and then headed off to the Orkney Islands and the Outer Hebrides for another search several years later. The latter trip brought us, like Dr Peck and his wife, to the incredible and mysterious Callanish Stones, an important element in my new adult work. What I like about Scott's book is his recognition of and apparent reconciliation with his shadow. He does not present himself as a hero, but shows himself with all his warts. Interesting to see that the physician cannot heal himself. He appears to have serious addiction issues around alcohol, cigarettes and sex. I rather like this about him. Most psychotherapists, New Age healers and anyone else writing non-fiction personal growth and self-improvement books present themselves as paragons, living the kind of ideal happy lives they are attempting to sell. Not our Dr Peck. He is quite human.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Magic in the Mountains

Here is a story my brother Kevin tells about an experience he had in the Wicklow Mountains. I'm including a photograph of the stone itself, which he took in 2005. The tale will reveal that a certain sensibility expressed in my books is shared by others (indeed, I would say all) in my family. "One day while rambling on my own in the Wicklow Mountains, I decided to climb Tonelagee, the third highest mountain in the chain. While I was climbing, a dense fog descended. The fog was so thick that I could only see about three feet in front of me. I was near the top of the mountain and was very aware that dangerous cliffs were nearby. For a moment the mist thinned and I briefly glimpsed a tall man in dark robes about twenty feet away. I walked toward the apparition but the fog closed in again. When I got to the point where he should have been, I found a thin flat Standing Stone about three feet high and two feet wide. The Stone is about five feet away from the cliff edge. I turned and walked the other way as the fog lifted." Some members of my family believe the vision was of a Druid. I believe it was St Kevin, after whom my father and brother were named, wearing monkish robes. Afterall, the Wicklow Mountains are also called St Kevin's Way, as they cradle Glendalough which was his holy place. (Yes, that's St Kevin in The Light-Bearer's Daughter.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Franciscan Return

I blogged earlier this year about the amazing artist's residency I enjoyed at the Franciscan Friary in Multyfarnham. Two weeks of writing in a lovely room in the cloister, sharing delicious meals with the Friars, up at the crack of dawn for Mass in the stone chapel with beautiful stained glass windows, sharing meditation and prayer with the Friars, playing Scrabble in the evenings with the other artists, walking in the gardens, and more writing writing writing. This month there will be an arts festival at the Friary and many of the artists who participated in the residency over the past years will be taking part. There will be an art exhibition, performances and readings, a symposium discussing spirituality and art, and workshops of every sort for young and old. If you are anywhere near the area or if not if you can get there anyway - Mullingar is the nearest centre, not too far away - it would be well worth a look. The admission is FREE. (That's Franciscans for ya.) Have a look at the fabulous website. It tells you all about it: www.strayingclosertoMulty.com.

Monday, November 02, 2009


The sun was setting below the horizon. A dusky light suffused the air. Along the main road, fires burned in steel barrels to provide heat and light. The streets of Creemore were crowded with witches, goblins, vampires, fairies, princesses and warriors, all trooping from house to house to collect their due. Grinning Jack-o'-lanterns flickered with orange light on every porch. Paper skeletons dangled in the windows. Shrieks and howls rang through the night. There were plenty of adults in costume too. The first full moon on Halloween in fifty years was due to rise. Everyone felt the magic. (The Book of Dreams)
Those of you who have read The Book of Dreams know that Halloween plays a big part in the finale of the Chronicles of Faerie series. It's no coincidence. Samhain - the winter feast and the beginning of the Celtic New Year - is the most important date in the Celtic calendar. At this time the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld grows so thin as to be non-existent and the ancestral dead and the Faerie Folk walk among us. (Yes, that's where all the dressing up comes from!) When a full moon occurs at the same time, as it happened this year and as it does in my book, things get all the weirder.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fibre Arts

I was doing some research on weaving for a character in my new young adult series and I discovered this amazing website: www.fiberarts.com. (Imagine spelling 'fibre' like that.) Actually I was looking through their magazine to which my artist sister Pat Burnes subscribes and that led me to the website. I love this piece by Jenny Lawrence, called Remembering Community II: Living Alone, 1999, nylon tulle on wood tray, fabric manipulated by thermoplastics. A desire and an idea is growing in my mind. I would like to learn how to weave on a loom. Have added that to my list of must-do-before-I-die.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dream Image

I had an incredible dream a few nights ago. I was in a big room in a skyscraper, like a newsroom, with desks and computers and wide glass windows. I looked out at the street and saw this marvel: four or five men were carrying tall poles that bore a huge ashen mass above them, like a dark cloud. It was thick but not solid, it kept moving on top of their poles and it was shedding bits here and there. There was a theatrical sense to the image, as if the men were mummers or maypolers on parade. Also a kind of Tarot or occult feel. Even in the dream I knew I was looking at something wondrous. On waking, I was reminded of lines from one of my favourite poems by Wallace Stevens:
These are the ashes of fiery weather,
Of nights full of the green stars from Ireland,
Wet out of the sea and luminously wet,
Like beautiful and abandoned refugees.
I believe the dream has to do with my new book, the adult spiritual novel I am writing called People of the Great Journey. In fact, I've added the image into one of the last chapters. I'm almost finished the penultimate draft. Only three more chapters to go. Then I have to do a final draft. It's already 331 pages. A big work. I'm curious to see how it will be received. Whenever you go too close to matters of the soul in this place - I mean on this planet - there is always fall-out. The materialists rule. For some reason, most of us do not want to be reminded that we are souls exploring physical reality, unless the reminder is packaged safely in a religious format. (Indeed, organised religions are materialist in practice while purporting to serve the soul.) Artists who work in 'the smithy of the soul' are often sidelined, e.g. Sharon Butala below who is, I believe, Canada's greatest writer and not recognised as such.

Friday, October 09, 2009


I know I'm a Luddite - I was the last person in Ireland to get a mobile phone - but I hate the idea of e-books. A real book involves paper and a cover and smells nice. I figure any agreement to have one's work in e-book form is like being forced to dig one's own grave before being shot. This is the death of the book as we know and love it. I wonder what would happen if authors refused to allow their books be digitised? (Aside from their agents slapping them on the back of the head.) I'm seriously considering it myself. I know it's loss of income but I don't put money over principles and I don't fear being poor since that is what I am and have been all my life. The rise of the e-book is part of the global drive to de-humanise everything, to replace workers with computers, and to reduce organic reality and human interaction to one big digital interface that Google or Microsoft or some other corporate entity will ultimately control. At some point in the nightmarish future we are all going to be inserted inside a bloody machine, unable to speak to each other, only clicking and whirring in bangs and whimpers. Hmm, I feel a sci fi novel coming on.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sharon Butala III

A wonderful interview Sharon did on Irish radio will be aired tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Irish time on Dublin City fm 103.2. Those not in the country can hear it online at www.dublincityfm.ie. Sharon tells some amazing tales about her experiences with aboriginal spirits when walking the prairies alone. I'm reading Luna, one of her novels about women's lives in the West. This is the first of her novels which I have read and I am spellbound. It's like reading her exquisite non-fiction books about the land, but now you've got people too! Highly recommended. (Though I must say I'm a tetch annoyed with her publishers. I stumbled over a surprising number of typos. What happened to the copy-editor and proof-reader? A lot of publishers are getting very sloppy these days. Some of my paperback editions fall apart at the seams. Cheap production makes poor books.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sharon Butala II

The author night was a great success. We had a full house, including people sitting on the window ledges. Glasses of wine and sparkling water were served. Sharon gave an amazing talk and took questions at the end. Books were sold - all the stock we had! - and signed. Everybody fell in love with one of Canada's finest writers. The next day Sharon went home to the Canadian West and Bray is still talking about her. People rang me, sent me emails and even stopped me on the streets to say "I could have listened to her all night!" She spoke of her beloved rancher husband Peter who died two years ago, of the lives of women on the land, of the aboriginal spirits who came to teach her as she walked the prairies, and of the tragic injustice done to the First Nations peoples when we took their land, which was also their soul. Many were moved to tears, but there was laughter as well. Have to say it was one of the most moving author events I have ever been to. My thanks to my sister Patricia Burnes of the Signal Arts Centre and the Centre itself - run by artists for artists - for hosting the evening.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sharon Butala, Wise Woman

Dana spied a range of green hills ahead. As she crossed the stony field that lay before the hills, she discovered she wasn't alone. A woman walked there also, a rancher's wife dressed in jeans and jacket, with a scarf on her head. The woman was lost in her own musings, gazing up at the sky.
"This star-ridden, green and scented universe," she murmured.
The Book of Dreams

My friendship with Sharon Butala began with the writing of that paragraph, as I contacted her to ask for permission to put her in my book and also for permission to use the quote which is from one of her own books. Later on in my story, one of Dana's aunts, Deirdre, says "I'll be damned! You met Sharon Butala." And she and Yvonne talk about two of my favourite books by Sharon, The Perfection of the Morning and Wild Stone Heart. They are non-fiction books about the writer's relationship with the prairie landscape and the native spirits of the land. Truly beautiful works. She and I have emailed each other over the years and exchanged books. This month Sharon came to Ireland on a sightseeing tour and we finally met. In fact, I am hosting an author event for her at the Signal Arts Centre here in Bray this very evening: 7:00-9:00 pm, Albert Avenue, down near the Sea Front. Sharon will give a talk on her work and read from some of her books, including her latest The Girl in Saskatoon, about an unsolved murder of a beauty queen who was a classmate of hers back in the 1960s. Yesterday I spent the day with Sharon - brought her to Powerscourt House in Enniskerry - and I have convinced her to return to Ireland in the near future. I've spoken elsewhere about the magic of writing and how JRR Tolkien, noted linguist as well as writer, pointed out that the word "spell" means both a magical formula and a story told. Words have power. Words create reality. By writing about Sharon Butala, I ended up meeting her, just like my character. Magic. (Photo: Duane Prentice. http://www.sharonbutala.com/)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Barnes & Noble Blog

Here's my little piece on the Barnes & Noble blog if you want to have a read: http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Letter-Blocks/quot-A-Labour-of-Love-To-Comfort-Noble-Hearts-quot/ba-p/390144. It's a true story as my many siblings can confirm. I confess it's the same story - somewhat edited by B & N - which you will also find on the CANSCAIP site here: http://www.canscaip.org/bios/mellingo.html. Now I must get back to this deadline. Big news coming soon. Yes, I know I keep hinting but all will be revealed in due time.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Green Man Review

Got a lovely multi-page review of The Book of Dreams in the fabulous and fantastical online review site known as The Green Man. Here's the link if you'd like to read it: http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/book_melling_bookofdreams.html. Do have a roam around the site if you are not a regular viewer. It has depths and shadows and secret leafy corners where all sorts of magical things are happening!

Sunday, September 06, 2009


I'm still convinced the book should have been called Rebecca, not Ivanhoe. She is by the far the strongest and most admirable character in the novel. Apparently Scott himself stated somewhere that she was the one most worthy of Ivanhoe's love but marriage at that time between a Christian and a Jew was unthinkable. Here's the real question: Was Ivanhoe worthy of Rebecca's love? His anti-Semitism is rampant. The author describes his "contempt" for Isaac even as he helps him and the minute he hears Rebecca is a Jewess his eyes go "cold." Whereas, the passionate Norman Bois-Guilbert, by the end of the book, is willing to give up everything - wealth, title, power, ambition - for Rebecca's love. Despite his cruelty and arrogance, Brian is presented as a passionate and tormented man (crossed in love before Rebecca as it happens), intelligent beyond his time in the way he considers all religion foolish superstition and uses the term "bigot" for the Christian anti-Semites. Truly, the two most fascinating and original characters in this book are the conflicted Rebecca and Brian, and not your standard one-dimensional heroic types seen in Richard, Robin, and Ivanhoe. Great stuff!


It's been a while since I plunged into a big fat novel that I couldn't get my nose out of. Was up till all hours this morning with the old "just one more chapter" syndrome. I'm so glad I surrendered to my sister Geni's coaxing about this one as I had actually returned it to her unread saying "life's too short" and "it looks too old-fashioned." There are reasons why books receive the hallowed title of "classic" including powerful plot, unforgettable characters, and mastery of the writing craft. Yep, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott wins on all counts and more besides. It's a rollicking adventure romance set in the time of King Richard the Lion Heart and Robin Hood, both of whom feature in the tale. I'm a third of the way through and have granted myself the delicious right this rainy Sunday to lounge on the sofa and finish the book. Here is the most amazing thing about it: the heroine. Truly, this book could be called Rebecca. Given that Sir Walter Scott displays a pervasive anti-Semitism throughout - in offensive comments about the general nature of the Jewish people stated simply as if they are facts or general knowledge (no doubt a sign of his times and culture, yet not everyone throughout the ages fell prey to anit-Semitism so I let no one off the hook with that excuse) - it is astonishing that he has created such an amazing heroine in "the Jewess." Beautiful, brilliant, multi-lingual, steadfast, loyal, courageous, modest, practised in the healing arts, her virtues are inestimable and yet at all times believable as we can see she was forged like an exquisite blade from the persecution of her tribe. The scene in which she threatens to throw herself from the tower rather than be raped by Brian de Bois-Guilbert is spell-binding. And the patience with which she deals with the innate racism of the hero Ivanhoe - who is wholely indebted to her - is heart-breaking and only further adds to our admiration of her. Here's a thought. Might Sir Walter Scott have been quietly subversive and not anti-Semitic at all? There's not only the invention of such a heroine in the first place, but the tower scene contrasts directly with the behaviour of the Saxon princess Rowena who collapses into hysterics in a similar situation and Ulrica, the other Saxon noblewoman, who gave into her Norman captor for power and pleasure, becoming a depraved old hag. You have to wonder what Scott was up to. He does express sympathy for the persecuted Jews of England and we are encouraged to be concerned for Rebecca's father, Isaac, though he is depicted as a piteous and ignoble character. Might all the generalised comments on the avarice etc of the Jewish people be a smoke-screen - reflecting the attitudes of Scott's time - through which he presents the picture of outrageous persecution and the superiority of the Jewish heroine over every other character in the book, Saxon or Norman, including Ivanhoe? Hmm.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Google Settlement

Time to opt out. This is the day and the hour. I almost forgot but thankfully Access Copyright, of which I am a member, reminded me. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous. How did matters progress from the question of Google digitising orphaned works - perfectly acceptable given that nobody owns them and they would otherwise be lost forever - to suddenly digitising EVERYTHING on the planet! And since when did American law suddenly apply to EVERY COUNTRY on the planet! Bizarre. We already have established copyright laws in all publishing territories. This kind of carry-on only serves to undermine them. Done and dusted. I filled out the form. I'm out.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aristotle's Poetics

I have finally gotten around to re-reading this classic on the art of drama. Have to say I still find his use of the term "imitation" as confusing as I did when I first read the treatise for a philosophy course on Aesthetics at college. But there are many comments on plot, character, theme, action and so on that are truly incisive and, more to the point, useful. Many modern screenwriters swear by this work. Here's a bit I rather like (Poetry meaning all forms of fiction as we know it and the poet being the writer): It is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen - what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity ... Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history; for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular. A nice rebuttal to people who believe that a work of non-fiction is somehow more valid or valuable than a novel.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Big House

One of the many fabulous things about the Akashi Records or the Great Library (also known as the World Wide Web or the Internet) is that you can find pictures of the things you create in your head. Here more or less is the big house at the centre of the novel I am writing at present. By no coincidence but, of course, magical synchronicity, it is indeed a Scottish baronial house. In my book it stands on a craggy peninsula on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mythic Ireland

I've blogged before about public artwork around Ireland which reflects its mythological heritage. This helmet piece is one I often pass when travelling north. It's beside a traffic roundabout just outside of the town of Ardee, the anglicised name for Baile Atha Fhirdhia or the Ford of Ferdia. Those of you who have read The Druid's Tune - my very first book, based on the Táin Bó Cuailnge, Ireland's greatest epic tale - will recognise the name. Ferdia was Cúchulain's foster-brother and best friend. The two were on opposite sides of the cattle-raid conflict between Ulster and Queen Maeve's Connaught and they wound up fighting in single combat for four days at the ford. Ferdia died by his friend's hand and Cúchulainn wept over him. This was one of two truly tragic scenes in the tale, the other being the slaughter of the Youth Troop of Ulster. (Apologies to the designer/artist but I've been unable to find a name. If anyone can let me know, please do.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

School Library Journal (USA)

Lovely review from SLJ just in today for the American edition of The Book of Dreams: "lyrical writing and exquisitely detailed descriptions of the Faerie world and geographical locations in Canada." Sweet balm to the wounded after a brutal review from Kirkus: "a skeleton of a story." (Some skeleton at almost 700 pages.) One of these days I'll learn to ignore reviews. As James Joyce himself observed, whether good or bad, they are all subjective opinion. There are no authorities on fiction, only readers who like or dislike what you have written. Truth to tell, but, I will always be delighted when I get the thumbs up from the younger generation. One book blog - in BetweeN the pages - gave BOD five stars. Here's their rating system: 1 star - use as doorstop, 2 star - bearable while on pain medication, 3 star - read once, do not repeat, 4 star - definitely keep it on your shelf, 5 star - use as altar. It doesn't get better than that!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Life in the High Street

Not long back from London where I was wined and dined by my fabulous producers Dawn and Keith Thompson of Diplomat Films: www.diplomatfilms.com. They have taken an option on my new young adult series based on Celtic mythology, for a live-action fantasy show. (Watch this space.) It all began with a dinner party at Helen Worth's (Gail in Coronation Street); the food and the craic was only mighty. Christopher Biggins who won I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here last year told me he loved my hair. I know I'm name-dropping but it was hilarious fun. Next day we went to a play at the Soho Theatre by a London-based Irish playwright Stella Feehily called Dreams of Violence. It reached its highest point when Paula Wilcox - as the has-been pop star now in her 60s - belted out her old hit in terrific style and then slowly but surely disintegrated as the reality of the present sank in. Brilliant stuff. After the show we went for supper in The Ivy Club with doormen in tuxedos and bowlers. Ah, the life to which I would love to become accustomed! Yes, there were business meetings in there as well and all be revealed in due time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Official Trailer

This looks interesting, especially Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Fantasy films will be on the increase, I think, in reaction to the global recession. I don't consider it an escape, though. Rather it's that people need enchantment and delight to help them through the bleakness. More than escape, it's succour. "To comfort noble hearts," as Gottfried von Strasbourg, the author of Tristan, said of his work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Off to London

I'm not long back from New York and Toronto where I met publishers interested in my new young adult series in both book and graphic novel form. Now I'm off to London to meet UK publishers and - wa-hoo - broadcasters interested in the same series in television form. It's all bubbling up nicely. Once contracts are negotiated and signed, I'll be less cryptic and TELL ALL.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Summer King in Germany

Just discovered that The Summer King or should I say Die Nacht Der Elfenkonige (Night of the Elven King?) is now out in Germany. Nobody told me - I'm just the author - but I checked on the Random House Germany site and there it was. It's always very exciting to come out in another country and in another language. The translator is different from the one who translated The Hunter's Moon (though I understand Anne Brauner is translating The Light-Bearer's Daughter) so fingers crossed she is as good. I heard back from several readers that the first translation was excellent. Here's the website if anyone wants to order: www.randomhouse.de/book/editionsearchresult.jsp?pat=OR+Melling&pub=1. It's also for sale on the German amazon. Danke!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Runrig - Cnoc Na Feille / Siol Ghoraidh

As it turns out, I've not only set my new adult book entirely in the Outer Hebrides which I visited a few years back, but those beautiful islands on the edge of the known world are also a setting in the third book of my new young adult series. I know, I know so much I haven't said yet, but all will be revealed ... soon. Here's some brilliant and atmospheric music from those isles: Runrig - amazing Celtic rock band (doubt they use that term themselves) who sing in both English and Scots Gaelic and are still going strong after all these years! (I think one of their lead singers is from Cape Breton Island, Canada, but not sure if it's the blondie or the dark-haired one.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jaunting Off

I'm away to New York and Toronto soon. It's all about meeting publishers, but also a sad personal thing in Canada as I attend a memorial for a dear friend who was also a dear friend's partner. A lot of exciting things are happening right now with my work, but I never make announcements until the contracts are signed. (Loose lips sink ships, as we say in the Navy.) Some deals have been concluded, in fact, but I want to present it all as one big KA-BOOM of an announcement. Nope, no hints. Just watch this space.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Harry Clarke, Irish Genius

Harry Clarke has a genius which manifests itself at its highest in stained glass ... I imagine that if one scraped a little the subconscious mind of the artist you would let in a flood of rich colour out of some inner luminous aether, where the fire is more brilliant than the eye can see, and the only way he could recreate that colour for us was by the art he practises.
AE (George Russell)
I had only begun reading The Life and Work of Harry Clarke by Nicola Gordon Bowe, an incredibly researched, detailed and beautifully written book, when I set off for Lough Derg. Can you imagine my shock and joy as I sat in the Basilica on my first night and stared around me? At first I thought, "this must be the work of a student of his, someone following his style, they are magnificent." Then the priest announced that we would be doing The Way of the Cross marked by the stations at each of the windows by the Irish artist, Harry Clarke. I nearly fainted. Do click on the images and expand them. You'll see the exquisite and minute artwork. My favourite window of his is The Eve of St Agnes - jewelled fairy tales in midnight blue - but at the same time, it was truly a gift to see his work in everyday use, as opposed to the formal setting of an art gallery or museum.

Harry Clarke

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Research is a Many Splendoured Thing

Truth to tell, I have always wanted to go to Lough Derg, an ancient pilgrimage place on a sacred island in County Donegal. Indeed this is research - for the spiritual novel I am writing - but it is also heart and soul stuff. The total fasting from food begins at midnight tonight and ends at midnight on Sunday. We board the boat tomorrow afternoon. (I'm going with a fellow Sagittarian, always ready for a challenge.) The first day includes 24 hour sleep deprivation. We'll be walking over stones in our bare feet, saying and chanting the Rosary, walking the labyrinth which you see here, praying in the basilica, doing stations and so on. The fast is broken once a day with tea and plain bread. (They say it's the most beautiful cup of tea you'll ever get in your life.) I can't wait. EXTREME PRAYER. I trust I'll have time to make notes but not sure if I'll be able to take photos. These pics are from their website: http://www.loughderg.org/. Will tell you all about it when I return ... if I have the strength to move my arms. [More about this on t'other blog.]

Thursday, June 04, 2009

RTE Beggars the Imagination

Many moons ago I wrote and then read out on the radio five pieces for RTE Lyric FM Quiet Quarter. They were called "From a Canadian Journal" and were inspired by a reading tour I did of the Northwest Territories, Canada. One of the pieces was later published in an anthology. Now fair play to Eoin Brady who was in charge at the time, I was contracted and paid for all of that work. Then out of the blue I get an email from the new producer of the Quiet Quarter who wants to publish the piece in a different anthology for the whopping sum of ---- zero. I explained to the woman that as I value my work I do not give it away for free. She came back with "but it's the same piece already published in the other anthology." This is when I asked her if she provided her services to RTE for free. We all know the answer to that one. Someone once told me that producers don't sleep well at night unless they've screwed over at least one writer during the day. I guess it's all about mentalité as the French say.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Tao of Equus

As I mentioned in my t'other Blog, the main character in my new adult work People of the Great Journey, has made it clear to me that she is a horsewoman. Since I am anything but, this has sent me down a path of serious research on horses and riding. Given that I am terrified of the great and noble creatures I am reading books, cleaning stables and admiring them from afar. However, this latest book I am reading - The Tao of Equus by Linda Kohanov - is slowly but surely convincing me that I must go to the riding stables near me and get on a horse. (Omigod. Breathe.) The book itself is stunning. It has moved me to tears on more than one occasion. One of her insights early on resonated for me with instant truth, i.e. that humans did not consciously domesticate the horse but rather that species chose to enter into relationship with us. This corresponds to my own belief that, contrary to the notion we are the dominant species on the planet and animals are 'beneath' us, we are, in fact, the slow learners of the world and all the higher-souled animals around us have consented to suffer at our hands in order to help us evolve. (Photo credit: Linda and her horse, Rasa, http://www.taoofequus.com/.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Iron Butterfly - In A Gadda Da Vida

I'm using this song in my new book (the adult one). My main character is humming it and then singing it. It was first a hit in the 60s but was still being played non-stop in the 70s (my day), and it went on for way longer than this. These guys are still BRILLIANT. Sigh. They just don't make 'em like they used to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gale Group Ignorance

Bloody hell, I was just reading over this long database bio thing the Gale Group sent me for some series they do on modern authors (which I can't access unless I pay) and I could hardly believe my eyes. First they put: born, Dublin, Ireland. Then they put: nationality, British. How DUMB-ASS can you get? That kind of political and historical ignorance in what is supposed to be a research and information group is mind-staggering. Hardly inspires confidence in any other data they provide, eh? All my ancestors turned over in their graves.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Pushkin Workshops

Last year I posted pics of beautiful Kilruddery House where I facilitated creative writing workshops for the Pushkin Trust Programme founded and run by the Duchess of Abercorn who lives in Northern Ireland. This year, as in many years past, I was invited up to her estate at Baronscourt in Co. Tyrone to put on workshops there along with visiting environmentalists and other artists. As always, the writing workshops were held in the little log cabin near a river. The theme of this year's workshops was "The Tree of Life" so we spent some time outdoors imagining we were trees before we came inside to write. I decided we would tackle various writing 'genres' such as comics, ads, posters, songs, sketches and riddles as well as the usual poems and stories. Great fun was had by all! (Note: I don't post pictures of the children involved. They were all standing behind me giggling as I took these shots.) I love my work.

Friday, May 01, 2009

More Bronte

Nope, I definitely didn't read Jane Eyre before or I would have remembered. What an incredible story! What exquisite writing! And such deep psychological insight long before psychology came into vogue. I was caught from the very first page. And new words which I had to look up! (Excited noise. This rarely happens, except when I read John Banville. Even literature is dumbed down these days.) Inanition: exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment. Hmm, you could do a Ph.D. on the Brontes focusing on that word. Animadversion: criticism or censure. I shall have a long list by the time I have finished this glorious book. (And I shall be speaking like a person of that era for a while, the way I pick up accents.) Can't wait to use the new words in my own work. As far as I can tell, aside from the occasional complaint, my readers like that I send them to the dictionary, even as I like it when writers do that to me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jane Eyre

I am an eternal fan of the Brontes. (See past remarks about Wuthering Heights being 'the book behind the book' for The Summer King.) Recently my sister loaned me her copy of the BBC series on Jane Eyre. Utterly brilliant. Here's a fan trailer I found on youtube. Just got the book out of the library. I can't remember when I read it last. Hmm, did I read it? It may be one of those books I assume I've read but haven't. I do remember the old film with Orsen Welles as Mr Rochester. Well, I shall know for certain as soon as I start reading it. Can't wait. But first, to work.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter in Narnia

The Rector of Christ Church here in Bray, Co. Wicklow where I live is apparently as big a CS Lewis fan as I am. With the help of Signal Arts Gallery (which my sister Pat is involved with) and members of his parish, he transformed his church into a living story tale of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. An admission fee was charged which went to various charities and over 4,000 people visited. Best of all, he left the story tale intact for Easter service so off I went with a little gang to enjoy it all over again. Very fitting, of course, since the resurrection of Aslan is at the heart of the story. You can see from the pics that follow some of the scenes in the church. (The outside stone lions and eagles are a regular part of the church.) We went through fur coats into a snowy forest with a tall lantern lighted and then Mr Tumnus's cave with a lovely tea laid out, the arrival of spring (at front of church) and Aslan on the stone altar. Other scenes not depicted here included the witch's sleigh, Beavers' dam, Aslan's pavilion, the four thrones and so on. At the end of the Easter service - which included a poem by Sedulius Scottus and a reading from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (this is a church I will return to!) - there was smoke, a big bang, the altar flipped over and the Lion disappeared, and suddenly there was a great crack in the stone. Magic. (Photo credit: Tara Whelan)

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed

Yes, she's out at last and moving into bookstores across America: THE BOOK OF DREAMS, the fourth and final instalment of the Chronicles of Faerie. Must say, given these recession times, it's a bargoon at $20.00, a hardcover of 700 pages with a beautiful cover. Like the other three books in the series, The Book of Dreams is a stand alone and you could actually read this one first and then the other three like prequels. That said, I must point out - and I don't know quite how I managed it, will I call myself a genius? - but the four books are interlocking and, indeed, one leads into the next with the final book being the direct result of what happened in the other three YET they still stand alone and can be read in any order. Yeah, okay, I'm calling myself a genius. Now there is another issue surrounding these books - the Canadian/American one - which I have not discussed in order to avoid spoilers for my American readers. I promise to address this subject at the end of the year when the book has had a good run in the United States. If I forget, you can remind me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fabulous Findhorn

Just back from my Experience Week at Findhorn in Scotland. Here's where I stayed - Cluny Hill College on the edge of Forres, a beautiful Scottish town not far from Inverness. (Do I have a thing for big houses and castles or what?) Will tell more about that amazing week in future blogs. I am still a bit shaky as I managed to pick up a major bug while there. More anon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Low Road

As I've mentioned in my personal Blog, I am off to attend Experience Week at the Findhorn Community near Forres, in northern Scotland. Can't wait! This is research for my adult novel - People of the Great Journey - as one of my characters, a retired British Army officer, is a gardener at Findhorn. (I've got all kinds of odd sods and bods in this book.) Findhorn is a sister community of Auroville, in Tamil Nadu, India, which I visited many years ago. (Another character in the book is associated with same.) Once upon a time, I was a member of the Meitheal Community on Inch Island in Co. Donegal, which was a 'daughter' community of Findhorn, being much smaller in size. In fact, I mention Meitheal in The Hunter's Moon, in the scene where Dara and Gwen have a picnic by the sea. Did I call us old hippies?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beannactaí Lá Phádraig!

Well, I tried to post a Toyota ad of an Irish dancing pedestrian light but I couldn't. I don't usually post ads on my Blog but it's worth seeing; almost as good as the Guinness ad about the lads bringing the barrels of beer to the Aran Islands which, alas, is not to be found on youtube. Some of the most creative minds on this planet are wasted on the advertising business, but that's a personal choice made, no doubt, for monetary reasons. Which leads me to the hilarious comment made by writer and wag Brian Leyden over the weekend in Co. Clare (see my personal blog). We were all commenting on the fact that the Celtic Tiger had raced past us with little or no effect and Brian said, "we were always in the trenches, it's just that shelling has resumed." In lieu of the Irish dancing lights, here's a pic of a mural on the side of a little school house in Co. Clare. (PS found it! See my personal Blog.)

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Not long back from a big hike through Glendalough with Ger, Frank and Paul. We started near the Upper Lake and headed off towards Mullacor and then back down An Spinc. It was a rainy, sleety, snowy, sunny day (you get all seasons in a day in Ireland). When we stopped for lunch, it was like eating in a snow globe. I had my usual flask of Earl Grey tea, plus bagel with Emmenthal cheese, toasted sunflower seeds with soya sauce (try it, yum) and an organic apple; but I was seriously missing my standard two bags of crisps and a chocolate bar! (See Blog for Roman Catholic explanation.) This darling robin appeared out of nowhere, looking for a bit of lunch also, and we happily obliged. A snowy Glendalough is, of course, one of the settings in The Light-Bearer's Daughter. The mountainsides were cloaked with snow. The faint tracery of small animals, hares and birds, inscribed the ground. A winter's sun shone palely. (Photo credit: Ger Blake.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tarja Turunen

Here's an interesting video one of my readers alerted me to. (Thanks Ariel!) I don't know this singer or the group she originally belonged to - Nightwash - but I'm going to look into them. The eye make-up is a bit much and some of this is seriously camp, but I like the fairy tale element and the woods. It reminds me of Dana being attacked by the Oakmen in The Light-Bearer's Daughter.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bunreacht na hEireann

In keeping with the rant on my personal blog, this is one of the books I am reading now. The Constitution of Ireland. I figure it's something the government and/or the EU may well try to dismantle in the coming years, so it behooves all Irish citizens to be familiar with it, me included. It's a fascinating read, lyrical and well-written, as befitting a state founded by poets and school teachers. I was a bit knocked back to discover we are a patriarchal theocracy. Here's how it starts: In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred. We, the people of Eire, Humbling acknowledging all our 0bligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our Fathers through centuries of trial ..." What is really fascinating are the pages of "Amending Acts" from 1930 to 2004 which so tellingly reveal the changing face of Irish society: reduction of the voting age, *removal of the special position of the Catholic Church* (1973), various ratifications of various European treaties (not Lisbon), the right to information about abortion legally available in other states (1992), right to divorce (1996), removal of the death penalty (2002). It's interesting that Ireland changed slowly but surely with agreement by referendum. I think there is wisdom in that process. Change is difficult, especially the older you get, and this process allows time for people to adapt. It helps keep the fabric of society together, I think, as structures such as the Church and the Family inevitably decline.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Friary

It's been over a week since I got back but my heart and soul are still in Multyfarnham. Also, quite frankly, I am missing how much work I was able to do there, without the usual gazillion distractions. I was reaching a chapter a day even though some were as long as 20 pages, Now I am still on the same chapter I began on my return! I can't lose the impetus on this book. It's too complex and difficult. If I lose the thread, I'm lost in the labyrinth. The only solution: I'm off to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre next week for a week. That should get me back on track. This is the adult book, a work of "spiritual fiction." (Photo credit: Jessica Kelly, an artist who was at Multy on a previous residency. Have a look at her article on same: http://jessicakelly.wordpress.com:80/2008/07/16/a-new-initiative-the-friary-in-multyfarnham/. And here's an article by Ruth Lyons, another artist who was there: http://thegoodhatchery.wordpress.com/2008/06/03/living-in-a-friary-two-weeks-in-multyfarnham-by-ruth-lyons/.)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Beautiful Place

There's no doubt that I was inspired by my stay at the Franciscan Friary in Multyfarnham. I brought the adult novel up with me. I had just started the penultimate draft, the one that is always blood, sweat and tears, the one that is "99% perspiration" after the first fiery blast of vision and inspiration, the one that always convinces me I can't write or, at least, I am not good enough a writer for this particular creation. The first day was indeed hard work but I persevered. Soon, however, I was flying along thanks to the early risings, prayers and meditation, delicious meals, and heady conversations with Friars and fellow artists. I made it to Chapter 15 of a 35-chapter book; and I am really thrilled and excited about what I am writing. Hopefully I can keep up the pace now that I am back home with the usual hundreds of distractions. Once this draft is done there is only the final polish which is my favourite draft as it is all paintwork, jewellery and decoration, all play and little work. That means I could have this book done and dusted by the spring. Wouldn't that be brill. (PS More pics of place over on my regular blog.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Firewalk Dunderry Winter Solstice

Here's a video of a Firewalk at Dunderry Park, the centre where I did most of my shamanic studies and also which I return to as often as I can! This is the kind of work and play at the heart of my new book, People of the Great Journey. I have done three firewalks myself, one at Dunderry and two in the Wicklow Mountains. Absolutely love them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Children of Lir

Off on Monday for a 2 week residency in a Franciscan Friary near Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath. It is also near Lough Derravaragh, the place the children of Lir finally ended their exile as swans (cursed by their wicked stepmother) thanks to the bell rung by St Mochoneog. Fairy tale country and monastic life, ideal conditions for tackling a vital draft of my new adult book which I would describe as a work of spiritual fiction. I have no idea what the Friary will be like, but I read somewhere that it has a beautiful secluded garden with life-size statues of the Stations of the Cross. Will take pics when I am there. I'm really looking forward to this, not only because I will get to concentrate on my book without distractions, but also because I will meet new people, get cooked for (wa-hoo), and have interesting chats over meals and whatnot. It's not easy being an extravert in an introverted profession. (Sigh.) Photo credit: www.discoverireland.com.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Work, Work, Work

I'm reviewing the final pass of the American edition of The Book of Dreams, weighing in at a full 700 pages counting the glossary. (As opposed to the Canadian edition at 535. Don't know how that happened. I remember trimming, not adding, and no the print isn't bigger.) Have to say, despite the usual self-doubts and artistic torment, I think it's quite good. Meanwhile I am up to Chapter 5 of the penultimate draft of my new adult work. I'm quietly enthusiastic about that too, though I confess the book scares me betimes. Big ideas. Have I the skill to write them? I've got good news about my new YA book (first of a series of six) but I never count my chickens until the contract is signed. Those are the three books I am juggling at the moment. The film projects are more nebulous - at the idea, pitch, and treatment stage; but I am in contact with no less than two producers, one producer/director, and one director. Who says you slow down when you get older?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Terence McKenna

I love him. He is such a holy madman, a true continuation of those wild-eyed, locust-eating prophets. I've read Food of the Gods and True Hallucinations as part of my research for the adult novel I am writing. Here's a brilliant quote regarding the Big Bang:
We are asked by science to believe that the entire universe sprang from nothingness, at a single point and for no discernible reason. This notion is the limit case for credulity. In other words, if you can believe this, you can believe anything.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dream Poster

Here's one of the things I am looking forward to this year: publication of the American edition of The Book of Dreams. It will be interesting to see how it is received in the United States as events take place chiefly in Canada (as well as Faerie and Ireland). The three main characters of the first three books are featured - all older now - Dana, Gwen, and Laurel - plus a new gorgeous young man and a cast of thousands. This is the poster which my darling publishers have printed to celebrate the final book and the series as a whole. Sorry for glare, but it's full colour and glossy, so this is the best shot I could get of it. I'm utterly thrilled as I have always wanted a big poster and here is a dream come true thanks to The Book of Dreams! (Coincidence? We all know the party line on that ...)