Friday, December 6, 2013

Hellkite Launched

Thank you to all who made the launch of Hellkite in Dublin and Galway such a huge success.  Fellow writers, Vivienne McKechnie; Mary Turley-McGrath and Geraldine Mitchell
John and Vivienne with writer, Gerry Boland

With writer Aoife Casby

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dublin Launch of Hellkite

ARLEN HOUSE warmly invites you to celebrate the launch of  my new short fiction collection HELLKITE  on 
Wednesday 4 December at 6.00pm
Venue: Dublin City Library and Archive
138-144 Pearse Street
Dublin 2

RSVP: Alan Hayes, Publisher, Arlen House. Phone 086 8207617; Email:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This Street with Looking-glass Eyes

                                         Photo: Peter Moore

This Street with Looking Glass Eyes

‘Bring me back great stories,’ Andrew’s sister says. She is sitting up in bed her arms clasped around her knees, blue eyes waiting for him to sweep them clean of any dreams. ‘Bring me back a big slice of the city in your rucksack.’
‘With or without pepperoni,’ he jokes. Then he leans over, kisses her cheek and picks up his keys. He files away the tall order she has presented him with and head out the door, pulling his parka more tightly around him as he hits the cutting air. He makes his way along the street. People are already moving in and out of the day. He heads towards the shops, walks by the square where the homeless are scavenging the bins of the homed. They pull out chicken bones, empty pockets of pita bread; upend a can of coke to see if it still has a dreg of sugar left inside. He burrows his way through the aisles of the supermarket; buys what’s needed to keep flesh under their skin and heads back to where she is waiting for him. How thin his sister, how very sad her eyes.
‘What have you brought me?’ she enquires.
‘A bowl of fresh morning air.’
He curves his hands and holds them to her face. She feels the cold of the new day on his fingers and caresses them before she secrets her own back under the duvet.
            He sets up a tray for her, cheese from the new cheesemongers, bread still smelling of the oven it was saved from, some wild acacia honey. He takes out a fresh napkin depicting a scene of girls and bridges and blue weeping willow, tucks it under her chin.
‘My very own restaurant,’ she says, as she plays with dripping bee sweetness onto the bread, moves it around the plate he has placed before her. Stocks and shares fall on the other side of the city. Mortgages default. Businesses fold in on themselves while she cuts the bread into little cubes; stacks them into columns three squares high, playing with them like a child; pretends she doesn’t see his frown, his threats if she doesn’t eat. She knows that she is pushing her luck with him
Finally she takes a mouse-bite out of the wheaten loaf. 
‘Where are my stories?’ she demands, lifting the napkin to brush crumbs from her mouth. So he tells her, embellishes the things he has seen on his domestic expedition. How there were archaeologists excavating ruins near the top of the square. A woman in a high-vis jacket was sweeping soil from the bones of an ancient bird with a small paint brush while a man numbered shards of plates that still held a tracery of leaves and vines. Another turned to a collection of battered drinking vessels with the memory of some magic potion. Some day it would teach the world to sing. 
‘All those things you can see in a single trip,’ she says.
‘It’s simple,’ he replies. ‘All you have to do is look.’

 Extract from forthcoming short story collection: Hellkite

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Me and Nu at Coole Park Autumn Gathering

                                                            Photo: Peter Moore

As part of The Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering, which this year is celebrating Irish Women Writers,  Hedy Gibbons-Lynott and I  are  performing a kitchen reading of Me and Nu by Anne Gregory, as well as our own work tomorrow, Sunday 6th October. Many thanks to Marion Cox for inviting us. A day that is packed with inspiring events, times and venues are as follows.

10.30 The End of the Cycle: Lady Gregory and Yeats ‘A Vision’ Prof. Meg Harper, Glucksman Chair in Contemporary Writing in English, University of Limerick.
Venue: Coole Park Visitor Centre

11.15 Coffee Coole Park Visitor Centre

11.45 Strange Encounters – Interactive Ghost Stories & Strange Tales from Lady Gregory’s ‘Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland’
Dr. Cecily O’Neill, Author and International Authority on Drama and Arts Education
 Venue: Coole Park Visitor Centre

12.30 Coole Connections- a personal encounter with Lady Gregory and Coole
Hedy Gibbons-Lynott, Award-winning writer
Venue: Coole Park Visitor Centre

14.30 Me & Nu – A Kitchen Reading
Hedy Gibbons-Lynott and Geraldine Mills
The Gate Lodge, Coole Park

15.30 Out of Old Stories
Geraldine Mills, Poet & Short-story Writer
 The Gate Lodge, Coole Park

20.00 Lady Gregory’s Ingredients
A three woman play depicting the life of Lady Gregory
The Wild Swan Theatre Group
The Town Hall, Gort

Monday 7th October 2013
10.00 Creative Writing Think Tank (2 hrs) Gort Public Library
Yvonne Cullen, Creative Writing Workshop Facilitator

13.00 Literary Lunch with acclaimed Local Writers. Hedy and I will be there too.
 The Gallery Café

15.30 Book Launch: Spirit of the Burren  by Jackie Queally
 Gort Public Library

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Culture Night Reading

Lisa, Moya and I will be reading in Spiddal Library as part of  Culture Night. It's at 7.00pm the perfect time between other events so why not come along; it would be great to see you there.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A taste of my forthcoming collection Hellkite

From Frost Heave:

                                          Photo: Genevieve Hystad

He followed all her actions on Facebook. The whole world knew about her white-water rafting and the cycling, as well as driving her truck into great hills of snow. She was smiling out at him, holding up a snow rake that had precipitated a roof avalanche on top of her. Covered in white and laughing. He could imagine the snow that found its way down behind her scarf, melting as it touched the heat of her neck. She was pontificating about frost heaves as if she had never heard of potholes. She hadn’t realised, until she was where other people were, that this was where she wanted to be, she told anyone and everyone who bothered to read what she wrote.
Sounds wonderful, Gretta.
Wish I could be you, Gretta.
           That’s some man you’ve got there, Girl.
He could see her in the General Store, with its good old-fashioned charm. She was one of ‘the communidy’ now. The t softened to d, letting go of her own tongue to suck on someone else’s. Boars-head meat beside favourite frozen novelties. Walking in, being greeted by Barbara behind the counter. How rage boiled up in him. Lee Saoul playing her guitar over the soft rustle of newspapers as people turned them over and filled their coffee cups again, called out to her. A pan in the kitchen being scraped and potatoes mashed while she bought pastrami on rye, linguica, corned beef hash for her Tom. At least he wasn’t called Bud. Bud would have killed him entirely. That name opening up to her petal by petal. Sitting in the front yard on a love seat, a fucking loveseat with his square jaw and his hair streaked back, a cold beer, full-fitting jeans; blue jays in the trees.
She posted up pictures of their sugar house. Night temperatures cold enough to send the sap rushing back down the bole of the tree, followed by a warm day that drew it right up again. The two of them in their big, red ass pick-up as they drove out to the sugar bush, striking it while the sap was running, boring into the trees, the spigot drip, drip into the pail, bucket, whatever she called it now. All day and night the stove fed with kindling as they boiled off the water, reducing it all to sweetness. Bleeding sweetness out of the sugar bush as if she were born to it. Drinking in all its sickening sap.
Could she not have waited for his sugar time, good old promises between her lips, instead of packing up and taking the bus to the airport, fuck-friend waiting for her at the other end with his Shiloh Sharps.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


                                          Photo: courtesy of Peter Moore


The night the heat drove you to take
your bed out onto the balcony
when the wind came in off the sea
roughing the leaves of the tamarinds,
I didn’t follow.

Separate we slept with nothing to soften
the insistence of cars on the street,
and separate we woke to the sound
of the sun coming up over the lagoon.

A sparrow had come in the night
and settled as close as possible,
in the crumple of sheet beside you
as if she couldn’t bear to be without you.

I watched you both
the pulse in your neck now easy,
your arm nesting her,
head tucked into her breast, plump with sleep.

Sensing my breath in the air
she opened her wings and flew from you,
leaving behind some soft imagining of herself
curved and pale.

From Toil the Dark Harvest, Bradshaw Books, 2004

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Centre Cannot Hold

All night the wind has fought with our cottage.
It wakes and unsettles a part of me
that is unsettled by such noise
as it is by all  the colours of grey
we must live with throughout these summer days.

But your country has weather big enough for both of us.
It tumbles an outermost house into the sea
to careen  on a  stranger beach in Chatham,
or a tornado whips up Dorothy into another state.
Hurricanes with names benign as dimpled grand-aunts
come to tea and scones
but leave you stranded in their wake,
flood you with their grief.

A man once told me about the wind in Oklahoma.
It flung their screen door into Saul Weller’s garden,
whipped one blade of straw from the barn
and drilled it right through the glass
of  their kitchen window.
It held there, needle-straight, the pane intact,
lights blown, food in the icebox melting.

Before its contents folded onto the floor
they were allowed eat all at once;
pistachio, dark chocolate, black cherry,
while the straw lodged tight in its place,
breaking their mother’s back.

Our lives are built on vagaries of weather, 
one well-aimed gust and the sandbars
of memory crumble at our feet.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Assessing the Bird House for Property Tax

The Power of Poets

Ancient poets were mighty with their verse.
A house infested called the scribe to come
and rhyme away all rats, the nation’s curse.

Rats just had to hear the pen traverse
the lines of metaphor on soft vellum
and fear the poet who’d slay them with his verse.

Before the ink was dry, rodents or worse
were gone, young and old banished from that home
by rhymes too powerful for them to curse.

Times have come again for poets to coerce
those vermin who have cost this land some
pain, to show us all the power of their verse.

Bring those to shame who bled the fiscal purse
with biros blazing reverse this bleak outcome,
write lines too powerful for them to curse.

Rise up slammers, rhymers, long or terse,
become what you always wanted to become.
Ancient poets had power with their verse
now rhyme away these rats, the nation’s curse.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Writing out the Storm

This is early morning light. I sit at my table recording those first thoughts that spring from the chink of knowing between sleep and wake. The sky is a brooding indigo, augury of the shower coming across the hills, so big it will deluge us in no time. The wind begins to rise and I watch the shower as it moves in to attack. It beats off the glass as if trying to get in, so loud its heavy thud is bound to wake my sleeping family as it rages overhead.

I look out to the left and right and front of me. There are strings of water beads falling to earth, on  the long grass where the wind rushes the wintering of things, My cat comes  running down the field, a tortoiseshell roll in a  field of dying grass, finds the one cloche with an easy access and hides there from the demon overhead. The wind battles the naked branches of the rowans, the dried-out umbels of angelica. The clouds shift to pour down over the stone fort on the hill.

All signs indicate we are in for a bad day; but slowly the slowly begins to lighten from its indigo to something resembling blue and the storm clouds move off into the other villages, away over the Corrib to beat upon the islands of the lake. As the sky brightens, the house begins to purr like a giant cat being stroked by the hand of God. I have written the storm out.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Home Coming


I have been thinking a lot these dark days about the wolf that played puck with the three little pigs. How, in a few breathy huffs, he razed to the ground their ecologically-sound straw house, their sustainable wooden one, before he met his lupine demise in a boiling pot on the fire. However cautionary a tale this is meant to be, it didn’t deter my family from making a life-changing decision to move back to Galway in the late 90s and build a timber home.  It was built in a factory in Sweden and delivered to us on the back of a lorry on the winter solstice. It was pre-fairytale Tiger time, and in the long light of the previous summer the children and I settled into a small cottage close to our chosen site. We decided that my husband would remain in Dublin for the time being as he was the designated bringer home of the bacon.
 So I supervised all the ground work. PJ, the digger-man, ‘a tasty worker’ by all accounts, broke the earth with the metal claw of his machine and soon the foundations were taking shape. A woman out standing in her own field, I worked with my two loyal neighbours to get the water pipes in place, organise conduit for the electricity cables, oversee installation of the septic tank, the incessant rain seeping through every stitch of clothing while my beloved sat in a cosy office in Dublin, his back to the radiator. 
                        News soon spread throughout the village that it was to be delivered on the shortest day of the year. Another fairy tale: how could a real house be built on such a light-starved day? However, that morning the sound of a truck snailing along the low road drew neighbours from their beds to stand on mounds of earth and marvel with us at the sight of our home coming from somewhere beyond in Scandinavia.
Berries blazed as solstice rays began to gild the tops of the trees. Birds flew out for their days gathering while a mechanical crane manoeuvred its wheels up our driveway.  It grabbed a panel from the truck and a gable-end with three windows and the main door, designed to look out onto the burnt sienna of the mountain, swung precariously above our heads; then expertly lowered into place. Next to be positioned was the panel that held our son’s bedroom window, our daughter’s, followed by the large expanse of glass that would be the eye looking into the heart of our home.
Here was a triple-glazed barn-raising that the Amish would be proud of if they were ever guilty of such a deadly sin. Workmen, balanced like gymnasts, laboured on top of the now secured walls with not a whisper of wolf-wind to unsteady them.  We watched while panel after panel was slotted into the next as if it were a child’s block set.
Twilight witnessed the roof-felt being stretched across joists and beams, sealed from all weathers, and here was our house with its door open to the dark and the first lights glowing from the windows. In the shadows I’m sure I saw the slink of wolf.  He could save his breath to cool his porridge. No amount of huffing or puffing would blow this house down.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Next Big Thing

 My Next Big Thing

Thank you to my neighbour and award-winning writer, Celeste Augé, who has invited me to the on-line blogging chain called The Next Big Thing: a series of questions about a writer’s forthcoming project. I’m not sure where it started but the idea is great fun. As well as helping you to focus on work in progress it is also a way for readers to get a sense of your work. And you get to tag someone else. A worthwhile New Year’s resolution. My next big thing is my third short story collection. It's great to be another link in the literary chain.


What is the working title of your book? 
Hellkite.  It  encompasses the overall theme of the book as there are a number of cruel characters in it. It also picks up on the bird motif which flies in and out through the pages.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  
With a minimum of sixteen stories, ideas come from diverse places. They come unbidden, from an image, a foreign city, a chance encounter with a stranger or a dream fragment. These images hook into me and will not let go until I start to put flesh on them; they become a living thing; they take up their beds and walk.

What genre does your book fall under?
 I don’t think it will be found on the self-help shelf.  More like self-destruct.  These are character-driven stories so they would be in the literary fiction genre.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?     One of the stories called Frost Heave which was a winner in the Willesden Short Story Competition 2012 has a dark, laconic character called Folan. Night and the bitterness so much in his mouth that Folan could taste his own liver. I think after watching him in Taken, Liam Neeson would be my man. I have a really strong image of him holed up in the hen house with his shotgun cocked waiting for the mink to come slinking by to bloodlet his chickens. Folan is taking no more.  Poor Mink! 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The hearts of men

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  
This collection has been five years in the making. I published The Weight of Feathers in 2007 and have published two poetry collections in the meantime: An Urgency of Stars (Arlen House 2009) and my collaboration with Connecticut poet, Lisa C Taylor, The Other Side of Longing (Arlen House 2011).  It’s time these birds stretched their wings.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 I have no idea. I will leave that up to the reader.

 Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The characters who keep turning up and knocking at the door of my imagination. That,  and my love of the short story genre.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  
Because most of the stories are from the male perspective, where few of the female hellkites end up smelling of roses, it was a particular challenge to write. 

When and how will it be published? 
Galway County Council has been very supportive of the collection over the last two years and has awarded me a grant and a residency to work on the stories to get them to this point. My publisher, Alan Hayes, one of the best publishers in the land, has been very patient with me and come hell or high water it will appear at the end of this year from Arlen House.

I’m delighted to be able to tag Jacqueline M Loring and Lisa C Taylor who will blog on 16th January.

Jacqueline M. Loring poet and screenwriter, New Mexico, who was winner of the Doire Press International Chapbook competition 2012 for her debut poetry collection: The History of Bearing Children.
Lisa C. Taylor, poet and teacher from Connecticut. Shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize and nominated for the L.L. Winship Pen New England Award, Lisa has four collections of poetry, her most recent, Necessary Silence, from Arlen House will be launched in the US in February 2012.