Historical Fiction – Christmas Gift Suggestion

Image of cover by Mary Anne Yarde at coffeepotbookclub.com

Well it is that time of year again, and if you are stuck finding a present for a friend or relative who loves entrancing stories, intelligent historical fiction and a bit of war – and by an Irish writer – why not buy them a copy of White Feathers or Lucia’s War, both available in paperback? (Or both, if you’re feeling it)

How about this quote to inspire you:

This book has a bit of everything. The most powerful thing it does possess; soul. Good, old-fashioned, soul. Beautifully crafted, immaculately researched and lovingly produced. Place this novel on your best piece of furniture, as it deserves to be displayed prominently, and admired regularly.

Margaret Madden, writing.ie

There is a limited number of paperbacks of Lucia’s War remaining on sale at independent bookshops in Ireland. As well as the wonderful outlets mentioned in the link (many of whom have reduced postage if buying within the ROI) I can also recommend Cobh Gifts shop where there are several copies still available. White Feathers is available at the outlets specified on the book page, including the publisher site. Both books are also available on Amazon.

I will be discontinuing the trade paperback of Lucia’s War in January and switching to a smaller paperback, so it’s last chance to get it before Edition 2 arrives!

Thanks and have a good one 🙂

“Significant Assertions in the Article Were Not Factual” – 10 Years On

From independent.ie – Kate Fitzgerald

(Note – Sorry for the disappearance. Rewrote the article slightly. Please note that every comment I make about the company in question is derived from testimony that is publicly available on record from employment tribunals, coroner’s courts, newspapers and the Press Council.)

The above text is from the Irish Times apology to the Communications Clinic, a PR firm run by influential PR maven Terry Prone and her son Anton Savage, dated Saturday Dec 2, 2011. Reading it was one of those watershed moments in my life. From then on, I was deeply, irrevocably radicalised against a particular Irish polity and society.

The apology was in response to an article written anonymously by Kate Fitzgerald, who died in August 2011 and whose article was posthumously published in September in the paper. At the end of her life, Kate was a PR consultant at the Communications Clinic but she was so much more than that. A passionate debater, admired and loved by many, a political advocate and a stalwart of Democrats Abroad (her mother is American), she was in the eyes of contemporaries destined for success in spite of spells of severe mental ill-health which she dealt with as best she could.

This day, the first Sunday of Advent in 2021, marks a decade since Kate Fitzgerald’s identity became known and the Irish Times redacted several paragraphs of her article, specifically those pertaining to allegations about her then employer’s behaviour towards her at work and its obligations under employment law when it came to mental illness, recovery and accommodating same. (It’s worth noting that the interviewers for her next position, a position she died before she could start, were deeply impressed by her presentation and professionalism and were about to hire her on the spot.)

The paper has never apologised to its readership for its apology to the company, even though this caused widespread offence and hurt and was subject to a Press Council Complaint. The Communications Clinic, although it has settled another Employment Appeals Tribunal action an employee took against it for bullying and poor treatment has never troubled itself to make a public statement about the loss of their employee, Kate Fitzgerald. Having read some articles about what happened and various witness accounts in the above public records, the lack of compassion and common decency shown here, if true, disgust me – and Prone’s appalling response to enquiries about the Tuam babies scandal in 2014 suggests that the witness testimony is not off the mark.

And knowing what they did, the Irish Times apologised to these people. And said the above text at the head of my piece.

At the time, I wrote this piece and others, but when my first novel came out, I was advised to stop. I deleted a few entries as a result. But while life has moved on and people have moved out of, and into my life, I have never forgotten Kate’s story. How she, an outsider, a foreigner of sorts, could never be good enough for Them. How even with her intelligence, her radiance, her acumen – They still defeated her. Because They were insiders and she was not and so all that radiance and intelligence and charisma didn’t count. And now we are deprived of someone who could have made life better for us, and stuck with individuals who have already – I think I can safely argue from the above – made our country’s discourse a fair bit worse.

Rest well, Kate Fitzgerald. I promise to never stop being awkward.

Lucia’s War – Apple and Kobo Pre-Order Discount!

Pleased to announce that I have a second edition of Lucia’s War out on 5th December on Apple and Kobo, other outlets pending! I also plan a paperback edition, a small-size one, which will come out early next year.

The main difference is that I have added a paragraph to the Acknowledgements section to name some of the wonderful people who have cheered on Lucia’s War in the interval between first publication 🙂

Also I have a pre-order deal up for all the non-Amazon sites to celebrate “going wide” for the first time. Get it for 99p in the UK, 99c in EU, and $1.99 in the US up until 5 December, when it goes live.

Happy reading 🙂

Words Ireland – Diversity and Inclusion session

I took part in a Words Ireland diversity and inclusion online meeting earlier in the week – well, more properly, the excellent speakers did, while I wrote long ranty questions in the chat margins 🙂 It was chaired by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan and participants included the Trans Writers Union and Small Trans Library, Poetry Ireland, Skein Press, Melanie from Darshan Bold and Sasha de Buyl from Cuirt Literary Festival.

I was really impressed with the meeting. It included real, measurable and practical ways of opening up the arts world for people who find the gates shut against them – and to be honest this benefits everyone, not just the marginalised folk who are shut out. This is because there is a cultural richness in this art – I don’t want to use the colonial extractive language such as “untapped” – perhaps “overlooked” is a better term?

Engaging with this meeting, I felt for the first time in a long time like a participant in the arts community and a serious practitioner whose opinions were not mocked or pooh-poohed. I really enjoyed listening to the contributors and how they endeavoured, from both inside and on the edges of the business, to create safety, community and just practices while also working on their art. It was a candid and morale-boosting discussion and if you’re in a space to have a listen to something longer, I’d really recommend listening back – and then joining in the good fight! Closed captioning has now been added too.

You can play the whole presentation here and read the comments.

(Or click on the Words Ireland picture above. Also check out wordsireland.ie for earlier clips and more resources on more equitable practices in the workplace.)

#BlackHistoryMonth UK Promo – and Why I am Making Lucia’s War Free

To mark Black History Month in the UK, I am putting Lucia’s War free on Amazon Kindle for 5 days. Click on the picture above to download!

People might ask me why I would put it out there and incur no royalties. The reason is that at present I do not have a financial relationship with my writing life. I do not make my money from my books, though thankfully I do make enough. Lucia’s War is self-published, so it is harder for me to have that marketing push, simply because it’s time-consuming and involves having a lot of time, and the clout of a powerful and focused publishing company – which I am not 🙂

Also, it’s been a hard and demanding season at the moment and if I have the chance to spread a bit of joy, escape and hope (and some emotional roller coastering!) I really feel the urge to do so. Not to mention that this is a labour of pure love, densely researched, intensely and professionally edited, fully sensitivity-read and the cover designed professionally also. It is probably of a higher standard than some traditionally published historical fiction. The only thing I lack is the ability to get the word out. To have people reading, enjoying and reviewing my work will help immensely. So everyone wins.

White Feathers – Bulgarian Paperback Edition

Delighted to receive the Bulgarian paperback edition of White Feathers (entitled “Beli Pera”) in the post today. So exciting to see the book in a different language and a *very* different cover but it looks fantastic. Surprised that I don’t entirely dis-resemble the cover pic! This is my joy and I’m delighted to share it. Thanks to O’Brien Press, Literature Ireland and Aviana Publishing for making this possible. And a *special* thanks to Dobromira Kirova, the translator for this book!

Launch of White Feathers

Seven years ago today.

If I’d known what was to come…I still would have changed nothing.

Thanks to all who’ve supported my work all this time.

Susan Lanigan - WWI Historical Fiction

Susan Lanigan, Launch of White Feathers, 27/8/2014 Susan Lanigan, Launch of White Feathers, 27/8/2014

Today is the day after the night before. And I am still processing, as one does after a major life event.

Last night, in Dubray Bookshop in Grafton St, O’Brien Press gave White Feathers the send-off of a lifetime. To a packed ensemble (I’d been generous with the invitations and there was a great turnout!) Michael O’Brien, founder, gave a rousing speech where he pledged his support for the novel and expressed his belief in me as a writer. It’s a great feeling to have the support and interest from one’s publisher and the speech filled me with good cheer.

Then Arlene Hunt, crime novelist and Novel Fair judge, was the guest speaker. She hit the ball out the park – i.e. was magnificent. She talked about reading the initial partial when adjudicating the Novel Fair, then going to bed, then picking it…

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Update on the Trans Writers Union Petition

Hello, a quick update on my earlier post about the Trans Writers’ Union petition to boycott the Irish Times until they stop endorsing conversation therapy of trans people and use more compassionate and respectful language when referring to same. It’s been moved here to avoid the abusive language used by TERFs on the previous page. It’s heartening to see so many genuine voices speaking up, and some quite close to the internal core of the Irish literary milieu.

(I signed it again. Sign early, and sign often :D)

I Support the Trans Writers Union

I have mentioned the Trans Writers Union before in the context of their complaint to the Press Ombudsman regarding a review of a contentious book in the Independent. Then, I expressed concern that authors weren’t sufficiently speaking up against bad behaviour against trans people in the Irish media, promptly got TERF-swarmed, and locked my account until they got bored.

Anti-trans activists take great pains to paint themselves, to quote transgender poet Harry Josie Giles, as “the reasonable people”. They say they are parents who are concerned, women who want “women’s spaces”, that what they are asking for is not too much. That the “trans activists” – dehumanised into an entity known as the “twitter mob” for having the nerve to speak up – seek to deny them that. They are loud in British media, getting louder in Irish media, and are fite fuaite (interwoven) with the Irish literary world to such an extent that detachment would be painful and difficult.

But not impossible. The latest initiative by the Trans Writers Union is to boycott the Irish Times until they stop describing trans people in hateful and dehumanising terms. (I’ve read and signed. I’m in the unique position of having little to lose.) This is a request that strikes at the very heart of the literary world nexus and its tightly-knit power structure, which is centred around that paper*, so unsurprisingly, the central core of Irish writerhood is silent. But many people are breaking ranks, speaking up and signing.

Which is why it’s rather galling to note that several of these “reasonable” individuals previously mentioned have rocked up to the petition and signed transphobic slurs, deadnamed many prominent trans people, and made disgusting puns that would not be seen scribbled on the back of a schoolboy’s textbook. It’s like when psychologist Stella O’Malley, who is “gender critical, was all about “addressing concerns” about transitioning and then next thing she is retweeting white feather propaganda from WWI. (I’m agin that, incidentally, haha.)

One could well argue that “the reasonable people” are not showing themselves in a very flattering light here.

Unfortunately there is little the TWU can do until they alert the host to the problem, since the site does not appear to afford them a dashboard for approving comments. But perhaps what might be useful is if authors stopped worrying about whether they’ll wreck their careers if they go agin the Irish Times and its embedded media, spoke up and signed the bloody thing. Because it appears the paper has gone down the wrong road, and if this sort of behaviour is connected with its ethos…that’s not good.

*By natural process rather than detailed plotting, but centred, nonetheless. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say there are several nexi, since it’s a complicated system historically based on patronage, dynasty, loyalty and patriarchy.

500 Downloads of Lucia’s War and Not a Single Tweet

I’ve been inactive on twitter for the last while. I just took the app off my phone 2 weeks ago and haven’t logged back in. I’ve spent that time cycling (a fair bit of that!), knitting, baking, writing and a fair bit of pottering about. I haven’t been promoting in a while either – I just found it too hard and exhausting to keep pushing my work.

Then last weekend, on a complete whim, I made Lucia’s War available for free on Kindle. I set the promotion from midnight Saturday to midnight Tuesday. Didn’t tweet, didn’t blog, didn’t Facebook. Didn’t tell anyone. Checked my dashboard a few times on Saturday night and Sunday morning and it was the usual small number. I forgot about it and we went to visit relatives. In the middle of the visit, I had a look at my phone and discovered to my considerable surprise that since that morning, I’d had 150 downloads. Throughout the afternoon the total continued to rise and rise. I updated family members as it increased – the eagerness to know on their part might not have been as much as mine, but still I was fascinated. Over that 24 hour period until Monday morning, I had 381 downloads, the vast majority being from the US.

To date, there are 500 free downloads – and counting.

What really surprised me was that all I did was drop the price to 0. No promotion, no services, nothing. By allowing generosity, I boosted my reader numbers. Who knows why it happened – could have been a longing on the part of an underserved readership, could have been luck, timing, whatever. Either way, it happened. And it forced me to realise that the rationale I had for using Twitter – that it helped me boost my sales – is, the data tell me, a pile of horse manure.

I’m looking forward to finding out what all these new readers will think of Lucia’s War. 🙂