The Eight Deadly Words

I should be writing – I’m working away on Novel 3 – but it’s the end of the week, and my brain is fried. So you get a blog post instead. And I’m speaking here as much with my reader hat on as my writer fedora.

I read quite a few books. I should read more, but the Internet and writing and the pull of daily life all have a vitiating effect. There are some books I adore outright, and quite a few I would have some criticisms for, but which still are redeemed at the end of the day by a character or plotline that wins my heart. For all that I fuss a lot about stuff on my blog, I’m actually a pretty forgiving reader. Because it’s my belief that most sins are forgivable.

There’s only one exception.

It’s when I read a novel of any genre and find myself saying

I Don’t Care What Happens To These People.

This coinage isn’t mine – it’s courtesy of Dorothy Heydt and known as the Eight Deadly Words trope. But it’s spot on. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the one sin that has you straight into Judecca, nothing more to be said. If I have Eight Deadly Words, chances are that your work is irredeemable in my eyes and if I finish it, it will be only through trickery and I’ll resent it.

(I’m still remembering the time in a certain novel a certain Mr Eight Deadly Words character printed out an airline ticket he’d purchased online. There followed a four-paragraph discourse on the history of airline tickets. Reader, I nearly Dorothy Parkered.)

Of course there is always the creeping fear that I will induce EDW in an unfortunate reader. In such a case, I would feel genuinely bad for them. I’ve tried every trick in the book to make sure that doesn’t happen, but there are no guarantees. It helps that I cared about the characters myself, far more than would be judged mentally healthy! Their story had to be told: it was obsession, not discipline, that powered me forward all those months and years.

About the only consoling thought is that what makes a reader care about a character can vary. Personally I think that when it comes to involving the reader in the fate of your characters, there can be no shortcuts, no prosy elisions, no “zooming out”. Again, as always, you need stay in the moment.

And as a reader I say to a writer – make me care. Make me care from the first page and do not disengage me. Give me a reason to walk that journey with you.



The Eight Deadly Words

Carousel AWARE Prize for Independently Published Authors

I have had the pleasure of conducting a workshop with Carousel Creates and am delighted to bring this new award to people’s attention. Please spread the word around.

This competition is for all non-traditionally published books with ISBNs published in the last five years. It is limited to those resident in Northern / Southern Ireland.

The cost of entry is €50, nearly all of which will go directly to mental health charity Aware. The competition is sponsored by Books Ireland.

Judges below and more details on their site. I will update with details on the prizes available once I can get that info from the organisers. Twitter’s on the frizz at present so it will be later on.

Best Novel to be judged by International Bestselling Author Jax Miller.
Best Short Story Anthology to be judged by Bord Gáis Award Winning Author Louise Phillips.
Best Non-Fiction Book to be judged by Books Ireland Magazine Editor Tony Canavan
Best Poetry Anthology to be judged by Award Winning Poet and Writer Eileen Casey.
Best Young Adult Book to be judged by Bestselling Young Adult Novelist Claire Hennessy.
Best Junior Book to be judged by Self-Published Author Carolann Copland in conjunction with the pupils and teachers of St. Comcille’s Junior National School, Knocklyon.

Carousel AWARE Prize for Independently Published Authors

An Interview with “White Feathers” Author, Susan Lanigan

Another great interview – this time on the 100 Great War Reads blog! The review is here (and linked to in the entry)

Thanks to Tamra at Great War 100 Reads for inviting me for interview – I had fun!

Great War 100 Reads

Susan Lanigan’s debut novel, White Feathers, tackles tough issues through the lens of the early 20th century that we still struggle with today … issues like bullying, mental illness, the fallout of war and the impact of stigma. I am pleased to welcome Susan to Great War 100 Reads today to share some reflections about her work.

Why did you write this book?

Susan Lanigan: At first it was simply because I was interested in World War One. Recently I unearthed the essay I’d written for my final history exam in secondary school. It was about the Battle of Verdun and “bleeding the French white”. I’d read about it in a book called Our Own Worst Enemy by Norman Dixon written back in the Eighties and it had fascinated me.

I’d been working on a short story on the theme of the white feather, including references to Bloomsbury…

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An Interview with “White Feathers” Author, Susan Lanigan

Morning, Excellent and Fair

Clontarf - Copy
Clontarf, Dublin, 10am Sat 9 January 2016

Happy New Year to everyone.

These past few months there’s been a quiet revolution going on in my head. I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic a little while ago (a wonderful, kind, positive book for writers and artists) and one passage resonated with me. She mentioned a botanist saying that many people were saddened at the degradation of the planet at man’s hands, yet had little to no relationship with nature at all. This was brought home to me when I was talking to somebody and despaired about the damage we were doing to our stripped, exhausted Earth and its non-human inhabitants. In response to my despair, that evening they gave me a plant, a small, unremarkable winter cherry picked up in a petrol station on the way home from work. I should take a picture for readers of this blog, but it is too dark at present. I can tell you that the shrub’s berries are fine and orange (and poisonous) while its leaves are a bit subdued, some dying off. I might repot it soon. But it’s still hanging on in there in the window in bright southern light.

For me, that plant is hope. A tiny bit of hope in humanity and in nature.

Continue reading “Morning, Excellent and Fair”

Morning, Excellent and Fair

White Feathers by Susan Lanigan – Book Review

“More than anything else they were trying to plain survive…”

Bharti C is a book blogger based in Pune, India. She kindly agreed to review White Feathers and her thoughts are below. Do visit her book blog at!

27 Book Street By Bharti


For those who have read the previous reviews on my blog, you know that I enjoy reading historical fiction. So when Susan Lanigan, the author of this great WWI story sent me a review copy I was a happy bird. It is a commendable debut and if I didn’t know it was a debut I would have easily imagined the author to be a seasoned writer. Now, I have read about WW2 fiction mostly and have missed reading about the beginning of the World Wars and how people at the time reacted to it. This story covers that well. Read on for my thoughts.


Title: White Feathers
Author: Susan Lanigan
Publisher: Brandon [The O’Brien Press Ltd. Ireland]
Published: August 2014
Format reviewed: Paperback
Rating: 4 stars


Two lives in danger – her lover’s and her sister’s. But she must choose only one. In 1913, young…

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White Feathers by Susan Lanigan – Book Review