Tuesday, 27 May 2014

M is for May, Mary and Memories.

When I was little at school we always had a May alter to Our Lady, Mary. Each day we would bring in flowers and not necessarily garden flowers but daisies and buttercups or weeds if they looked pretty. We placed them in front of her statue. Then we would sing Queen of the May or some other hymn that honoured Our Lady. It was a simple but beautiful ritual each school morning.
Ballinspittal grotto
I remember having my own little alter at home, with a small statue of her and put my offerings of a flower from my mother’s garden in an eggcup that acted as a vase! Most homes then had their own alters and some still do.
It is an age old tradition in Ireland to visit a grotto or shrine in honour of Our Lady three times during the month of May and ask for her blessings. It is something I like to do and a few days ago, although late in the month, I went with some of my family on our trip to see Our Lady.
Our first port of call was to Ballinspittal, Cork. This beautiful grotto was in all the media in 1985 when there were reports of the statue moving.
Whatever you believe it is a lovely grotto to visit. We had our picnic with us and sat at the tables there in glorious sunshine and had our lunch. We moved on to Bandon and up the steep hill to St. Patrick’s church, where we lit a few candles in front of Our Lady’s shrine.
Then on route home we paid our final call to the local Blessed Well in Ballyhea, Charleville. It really is a secret garden and a place of peace.
Ballyhea, Charleville

We usually make a day out of this old tradition and stop off in various towns along our route to shop and look at places of interest. This year we stopped in Innishannon and who did we meet but the lovely writer Alice Taylor, author of so many popular books, her latest being The Gift of A Garden.
Courtesy of The O'Brien Press
After our chat with her and asking her to stand in for a photo hadn’t my batteries in the camera died a death but hey the memories live on.

Happy Writing 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Guest Interview with David O'Brien

This morning I welcome David O'Brien to my blog for a chat. Earlier this week I introduced Dave during the #MyWritingProcessBlogHop, he will be hosting the blog hop on Monday 19th so do remember to go read his thoughts on writing. But for now let’s sit back and have a chat with David and get to know more about him.

David O'Brien
Mary Bradford:  Have you a favourite author?
David O’Brien:  I think Hemingway was my favourite for a long time, and hasn't really been replaced. I'm a big fan of Hardy, despite a bad experience at school with The Mayor of Casterbridge, but that world is a little too distant to me. Whereas the things Hemingway wrote about are more immediate, and apart from war, thank God, I've experienced a lot of them to some degree. That allows you to see just how expert he is at crafting his stories.

MB: When did you start writing, are you a full-time writer?
DO’B: I started writing poetry as a teenager and soon branched out into short stories, but prefer to write novels, because unlike Hemingway, and more like Hardy, I am very wordy when I write. It takes a great effort to cut things out, even when I know they're superfluous. I am not a full-time writer, though I give more of my time to writing now that I am only teaching part-time this year, and have had my first novel accepted for publication
MB: Do you have a set time for writing? Are you a morning or evening writer?
DO’B: I am a disaster! I write when I have time and the inclination and the energy all at once. I am lucky that the inclination is nearly always there, so it's just a matter of having time while I still have the energy. I'd love to be one of those people, who can get up at 5am and do their writing before the world awakens, but I love my sleep too much, and I stay up too late at night - I blame that on the Spanish timetable, but it's a lack of discipline, really.

MB: Tell us a little about your latest work.
DO’B: Paul is the oldest of a new generation of a race of people, who the rest of us would call werewolves, if we knew of their existence. They are hidden in plain sight, though, as they are identical in appearance to Caucasians. They differ physiologically, however, in having much stronger lunar rhythms, to the point where during the three days and nights of a full moon they are almost completely controlled by their hormonal instincts. They have been persecuted for centuries and the remnants of the race have escaped Eastern Europe but are so dwindled that Paul has been given leadership of a group of young men who must seek wives outside their own kind. The Pack, as they call themselves, has roamed the city for years, and Paul has done well in keeping them controlled and out of trouble. Paul has always known he must settle down and leave the pack to roam under someone else's leadership. But when he meets Susan, someone he instantly recognises as a potential life mate, he discovers that actually handing over control is going to be hard to do. More difficult than that is the step of telling Susan the secret of his identity - something his family insist he do, so that Susan can decide for herself if she wants to marry what she'd have called a monster. Not only is it hard to voice something he has always hidden, but he is afraid that she will be abhorred by him once she finds out the truth.
For her part, Susan believes Paul is the perfect man - besides his juvenile tradition of going off drinking with his mates every month. She wants him to give all that up, but sees that Paul is a creature of habit, and that it will be hard to settle him down completely. However, she discovers she is pregnant and decides that Paul has to decide between continuing to act like an adolescent every month, and becoming a grown man and father who stays at home. 

MB: Do your books require much research?
DO’B: It depends. Most of my books have something of science and ecology in them, so they need a certain amount of fact checking, just to back up the general ideas that are in the back of my mind from my academic life. Leaving the Pack needed little extra information because it's physiology of the werewolves is imagined, and only loosely based on the little biochemistry I know. My next novel, Five Days on Ballyboy beach (which I am currently working on editing to make it digestible!) only required a few paragraphs about surfing added to bits and pieces of real experience and imagined scenery. My long-term WIP, Palu and the Pyramid Builders though does require a lot of research. It is set in the Pre-Columbian Caribbean, and the setting is based somewhat on a holiday in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as short trips to Mexico and the Greater Antilles, I don't know near enough about that environment to be able to just pull things from memory. So I've been taking notes on several books and plan to read more when I get back to it.

MB: Where can we buy/see your work?
DO’B: Here are some links to my blog and places where you can buy Leaving the Pack.

D O'B: Thanks for having me on your blog and for asking such interesting questions!

MB: It has been my pleasure David. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Monday, 12 May 2014

My Writing Process Blog Hop

Before telling you my writing process, I think it best to explain what #MyWritingProcess is about

“We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook...”

So I was asked to participate by a good friend and talented writer Daniel Kaye, thank you Daniel for the invitation. To read more about Daniel you can do so at http://daniel-kaye.blogspot.ie/

What am I working on?
Well presently I have a number of projects on the go. My second novel which has a working title of Room to Hell, is a story which pitches Fr. John against Satan, a story that takes place within the confines of a room in the old abbey where Fr. John lives. I am also putting the final touches to a play which I hope will be finished shortly and I am also writing a novella in a genre that I have not written in before, so this is a refreshing challenge.
My local library where I write.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This question is thought provoking to say the least. I suppose my writing is my voice, the style is mine alone so in that sense, my work differs from others. My genre over the years has been general/women’s fiction, family playing a big part. My experiences with family and with friends give me thoughts/ideas and so I form the base for my novel/short stories/plays.

Why do I write what I do?
I honestly don’t know. My stories can differ greatly in content. My 1st novel, My Husbands Sin, which is due out on July 1st 2014 with Tirgearr Publishing, is a story revolving around the Taylor family and then my 2nd novel is about a priest pitched against Satan in a room with no way out until John has rid the room of Satan. I think when I get an idea or a character pops in to my head for a story and having thought about that idea/character, I question how I feel, a plot has to grip me and get me thinking, yeah that would be a good story. Does that answer this question?

How does my writing process work?
Like I mentioned earlier, when an idea or a character for a story comes to me, I think about it for awhile and then once I’m comfortable with it, I make notes. I like to use the spider map or mind map as it is called too. The characters name or the idea is put in to the centre circle in the centre of the page, then coming out from this are other characters, their relationship to the central one, places/locations in another outer circle and so on. This would not be very detailed just the bones of a story. I know the end, I know what i want to happen so then I must figure out how to reach that ending and as I write the story, it is revealed. So although I put down some details, this is only to whet my appetite for the book and those in it, after that, the characters take over and they bring me to the conclusion of the story. There is no right or wrong way to approach writing, it is what works for you is the important thing.

There you have it. Some thoughts about my writing and how I go about it. I want to thank Daniel again for asking me to take part. The good news about a blog hop is that it continues and I want to introduce to you a writer who I know you will want to read more of.

Introducing David O’Brien, a fellow Tirgearr author, I shall let you read Dave’s bio to find out more.

David J O’Brien is an Irish ecologist, poet, fiction writer and teacher. He currently lives in Pamplona, Spain, where he teaches and writes. His poems have been published in several anthologies and journals, such as such as Albatross, Houseboat, and Misty Mountain Review. He has written about deer watching for Ireland’s Wildlife and deer management for the Irish Wildlife Trust. His first novel, Leaving the Pack, will be published in 2014 by Tirgearr Publishing. He is currently seeking homes for his four other novels and working on his next four. More of his writing, including blogs about re-wilding and wildlife management, can be found at http://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/

My next post is in fact an interview with David, where he will reveal more about his writing to us and links to interact with him.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Six Word Stories

Every now and then I and my writing friends go through some exercises to challenge our word-play or get the creative juices bubbling. It was time for a few six word stories, made famous by the late Ernest Hemingway. The following are a selection of which I came up with. Why not give it a go and have a bit of fun with your writing?
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Pretty seashells, echoes the oceans song

Exhaustion, one final push, new life

Morning sunshine promises family day out

Magpies gather, calling loudly, treasure found

Storm clouds roll, warnings go out

Breaking and entering, Goldilocks charged, guilty.