A Little Story for Christmas

Tree is up, presents bought; now all that needs to be done is to shut up shop and head into the night/day. Before I leave you I thought I’d put up a little Christmas story that was published in the Sunday Independent in 2011 for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award. It being a Christmas-themed story, they naturally published it in April 🙂

It’s got 2000 words of little tenderness, a little love, a little music, a little C++ code, and a hint of Christmas. So I hope you enjoy and wish you all the best for the coming New Year.

Click here to read the story

Reflections on 2013

It’s that time of year again where it is customary to have a look back. For me today is a good time as I’m at home in our study with the rain hammering down, a roaring fire, Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Concerto in D minor on Spotify, and a mug of tea on my desk. The mug looks like this:

(that was taken when I was in the Czech Republic. I bought it in the monastery shop in Ampleforth.)

Continue reading “Reflections on 2013”

In Defence of Mental Weakness

…inspired by reading a ridiculous article originally posted in Lifehacker and then in Forbes Magazine entitled 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Triskadekophobic behaviour is presumably not on the list.

What is on the list is the usual bullshit – excuse me, but there is no polite word for it – I’ve made it my business to fight. On that site you can see an excellent article by Patricia Casey about the harm that can be done by using the wrong kind of language. This article pretty much hits the jackpot. I got into a discussion with fellow writers Niamh Boyce and Arlene Hunt about it over on the tweet machine and we were all, to a woman, unimpressed.

Firstly, its concept of “strength” appears irritatingly vague – is this the strength of tempered steel, or of the inexorable erosion of the sea; is it the strength required to lift 200lb of weights above one’s head, or the strength to give birth to a child? Does it consider this – oh no, wait, it’s not really interested in the nature of strength. It’s interested in the usual stigmatising nonsense. It’s full of bromides such as “Don’t dwell on the past” and “Don’t believe the world owes you a living / raise yourself by the bootstraps”. Don’t complain, don’t give up, keep going. Do you know what?

Mental strength is sounding a lot like corporate servitude from where I’m sitting. And I’ll tell you something else.

I’ll tell you what real mental strength is. It’s when you open up the blank page and the blank page is waiting back at you, infinitely patient and white. It’s when you drop every single artificial tactic of self-deception and “character-building” this article advocates, it’s when you unveil your naked, emotional, unresilient self, unattractively, embarrassingly open – as open the book as you’re about to write.

And start writing it.

Go on, I dare you to have the courage.

Red Lamp, Black Piano – Cáca Milis Cabaret Anthology Launch


My great friend Helena Mulkerns, compere of the Cáca Milis Cabaret in Wexford for five years now, is launching the companion anthology in Dublin and Wexford next week. I’ll be reading at the Irish Writers Centre for the launch next Wednesday if you fancy coming along and having a read of the Anthology there. More information below the line 🙂
Continue reading “Red Lamp, Black Piano – Cáca Milis Cabaret Anthology Launch”

I Am Good Enough, And So Are You

This heading is so important, I need to repeat it. I am good enough. And you are good enough too.

And anyone in your life who undermines that belief is someone you need to put space between.

Listen: if you seriously want to be a writer, or are pursuing that dream right now, you will face adversity enough. Its a profession/vocation which simultaneously requires the sensitivity to detect a fly’s wing quiver and the reinforced hide of a rhinoceros to deal with all the rejection and the long lead-in time.

The novel for which I signed my publication agreement in September took three years of hard work. I don’t know how it is for others, but I know that for me it took tremendous willpower. You will need, excuse the crudity, balls of iron and turbo-powered ovaries to shut everything else out and keep going. What you don’t need is people attacking you and undermining you.Continue reading “I Am Good Enough, And So Are You”

“The Past is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past”

The above is a quote by William Faulkner. It’s very relevant. I have a novel on the theme of the white feather of cowardice coming out next year, so was interested to see the below which a colleague of mine brought to my attention.


For those having problems reading the prose, it says: “This traditional White Feather is presented to you for your cowardice and betrayal of the Irish people. May this great shame be inherited by your children’s children for all time, may your name be come [sic] a byword for infamy.”

This is not a document from a century back, intended for a conscientious objector to World War I. This was sent to parliamentary representative Colm Keaveney late last year – 2012 – apparently for his opposition to welfare budget cuts.

When I wrote White Feathers, I really felt the dank, depressing energy of ill-will and stigma. That might pertain to World War I, but here we are, one hundred years later, and it’s still about.

And Christ, I feel like I need to plunge my aura into sparkling cold water after seeing that.

My Story “Those Little Slices of Death” out today on Daily Science Fiction

My 900-word story “Those Little Slices of Death” is now up at Daily Science Fiction. Head over and have a read! It’s another campaigning story; not a million miles away from Walking on Thin Ice, though this time the exploitation is a bit more Dickensian.

Hope you enjoy.

The Box is Unequal to the Task of Containing Them

Sinead O’Hart has written a beautiful, powerful post promoting the short story competition I’m running, Walking on Thin Ice. I’ve fully funded it, with some help from donations, but we’re in need of lots of subs, so I’ve extended the deadline to November 15. Here is a quote:

I wish we existed in a society where those who battle with a heavy mind could feel that help was at hand whenever they needed it. Instead, people are slotted into ‘boxes’, made to believe they are faulty when the box into which they’re put is unequal to the task of containing them, and forced to conform, under threat of shame. 

Walking on  Thin Ice aims to start the process of correcting that. I’ll be doing my bit to help, and I hope you will, too.

I also came across a wonderful piece of art by Susie Cambell here (link contains strong language.) It makes a great point about how we stigmatise mental health issues. I can think of several very recent, high-profile examples of this, which remain unatoned-for by the stigmatisers.


Looking forward to getting more subs 🙂