Monthly Archives: February 2016

Book Review: One Night In Pamplona By JD Martins

What a great review of JD Martin’s One Night in Pamplona – and today is the last day of the #TirgearrSale where you can get this book for 99c!

The (Really) Naughty Corner

one night in pamplonaJeff is an American tourist in Spain, enjoying a break from his stressful job in a Boston law firm. He’s arrived in Pamplona at the height of the famous San Fermin festival, a time when the whole town dresses in red and white and gets together to dance, drink, pelt each other with saffron powder, enjoy the fireworks displays and, of course, run with the bulls through the town’s narrow streets. It’s also traditional for single people to go on the hunt for fun and flirtation, and while Jeff doesn’t have any plans to ditch his bachelor lifestyle, the festival’s intoxicating atmosphere soon has him in the mood to make the most of his stay and hook up with someone. When he meets local girl Idoia and practices his rusty Spanish on her, he’s initially drawn by her beauty, but Idoia is more than just a pretty face. She knows…

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Tirgearr Anniversary Kindle Sale

Just wanted you all to know that my publisher, Tirgearr Publishing is having an anniversary sale this weekend, where all the books from this list of authors are marked down to just 99cents.

This includes three of my very own books, Leaving the Pack, The Ecology of Lonesomeness and Five Days on Ballyboy Beach.

I’ve been delighted with the recent new reviews that The Ecology of Lonesomeness has been getting.   This is a great chance for you to get it for less than a dollar, or a euro or a pound.

http://www.amazon.com/Ecology-Lonesomeness-David-J-OBrien-ebook/dp/B00XLYRD1Q

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ecology-Lonesomeness-David-J-OBrien-ebook/dp/B00XLYRD1Q

http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/OBrien_David/index.htm

Look up the hastag  #TirgearrSale on  twitter to see links to lots of other authors who your parents partners and friends might be interested in!

Happy Reading!

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Research: how much accuracy is actually appropriate?

My current work in progress is a Young Adult novel set in Ireland; my old stomping ground of south Dublin, and north Wicklow.

I have the layout – the streets and hills – down so well that a reader could navigate by it; follow the footsteps, or cycle tracks, of the characters, smell the pine woods and take in the views of Dublin Bay.

But I’m writing a court scene at the moment, and I’m not so sure of my ground. I’ve never been in court in Ireland. I was on the jury of a Coroner’s Court in Dun Laoghaire in my late teens – a very interesting experience. But I don’t know the exact way prosecutions are conducted in Ireland; what the prosecutor is called, who comes to collect the witness from the waiting area (or where they even wait) and take them to the courtroom, if witnesses are allowed to talk before or after they give testimony.

Do the barristers wear gowns and wigs nowadays? I think they do, but does it really matter?

That’s my question.

Do I need to mention the wigs, the gowns, where everyone sits in and Irish courtroom?

Everyone has their own image of a courtroom, created from movies and television. Why should I mess with that by creating a new one?

Why look up the particulars and detail each part of Wicklow County Courthouse (as I assume it’s called)?

I’ve never been to Wicklow County Courthouse. I probably never will. So I can bet that 99.9999 etc. percent of my readers won’t, either. Half of them might never step foot in Wicklow (a big mistake – it really is the Garden of Ireland, so go book a flight today), so am I just wasting my time and effort and in fact, messing with the plot by even trying?

Is it better to invent a little?

I’m not against research – as a scientist it’s the bread and water of life.

Nor am I usually against accuracy. The days of the full moon in my werewolf novels all correspond to the actual dates in the calendar of the year the books are set. I made a mistake once and had to rewrite a chapter because what I had written couldn’t have taken place on the particular date (full moon clashing with state holidays).

In this case, though, I think vagueness and actual invention might serve the story better.

It’s a bit like when the priest says, “You may kiss the bride” at a wedding.

I’ve been to a few weddings, including my own. The priest doesn’t say that; at least not in a Catholic wedding. But if you were to describe a proper wedding, it would be serious and fairly boring (seriously, I’ve looked at my watch on all three occasions I was Best Man).

Similarly, I am not sure (though a quick email to friends in the know would clear it up) if a court summons is served by a policeman or just a civil servant – or by post. I don’t really want to know, though, because my story is best served (ha ha!) by a nondescript civil servant knocking on my heroine’s door.

But should I find out?

Should I bend the plot to the whims of the Irish Judicial system?

Or should poetic licence extend to prose?

 

Wicklow Courthouse

Bray-courthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wicklow Courthouse, above (photo: http://www.independent.ie) is actually closed until further notice, so all cases are heard in Bray – a rather different building as you can see (photo http://www.courts.ie)… Some research is essential!

When you just don’t have a camera ready

Capturing Solar Dances

 

The sun, from its distant observation, shone

It’s light upon the far side of the moon,

Which hung out past our horizon;

A vast cloud bank over the mountains.

 

In the purple sky above a rising line of blue

Tinged yellow, the glow curled around

The curve of the moon – its back to Venus,

Reflecting the same light in

Full resplendence from much further away.

 

Had I had a camera, which could have

Captured the four Solar dancers

Through the window of the aeroplane

The way my eye did, well, it would have

Made a wonderful photo. But I didn’t.

 

Yet the scene is still forever captured;

Set in the store of my memory,

Seared upon my retina and etched

By my very nerve cells which shall

Never let me forget it.

 

I wrote this on the plane on the way to Israel last week as we flew the length of the  Mediterranean. I had my phone on airplane mode, but it just couldn’t do the scene justice, so I didn’t even bother.

Good News and Bad

We have good news and bad news.

No, not that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primaries, though for the natural world, and the rest of the world, it might be very significant in the long run.

I’m talking about things much closer to home, to Ireland and Europe.

First, the good news.

The European Parliament has voted to approve a report on the Mid-term review of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for the protection of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

They did this on the back of a huge public movement to urge their MEPs to protect the habitat, which shows the power of people to get the word out to their elected officials to do the right thing.

(Of course, we have to compare that to what happened in Ireland the other week, when the will of the people lost out to the vested interests of the farming community.)

 

The bad news is that protecting our wildlife might be too late for some.

It’s possible our efforts to save species are, in some cases, doomed to failure, due to past pollution we can’t turn the clock back on. Whales and dolphins in some areas will go extinct, including in Ireland, where despite our shores being a cetacean sanctuary, no orca calf has been spotted in twenty-five years.

Though the adults seem okay, the high load of toxins they carry from pollutants that have been banned for years seems to have rendered them unable to breed.

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Orca pod off Ireland’s coast. Credit: Lt Alan O’Regan, XO L.E. Clare

This reminds me of what might have happened to any real animals in Loch Ness, waiting for that last example of a long-lived species to die. Will we have some Lonesome Fungi, an old lone dolphin, or an orca, like we had Lonesome George on the Galapagos? Even worse, when we go whale watching will we stare into the eyes of an animal who knows that their numbers are slowly dwindling, and they are destined to die out?

 

The Letter or the Spirit of the Law?

Last month the Irish Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphries, decided change the law to extend the season during which burning and cutting hedges and other vegetation will be permitted, despite the protestations of thousands.

HeatherHumphreysMinister_large

 

Heather Humphries. The fake smile is probably because she knows we know she’s not qualified for the job we are paying her for…

Before this, farmers could cut and burn during February, then they had to wait until September to any further work of that nature on their land. This was to protect the wildlife, especially nesting birds.

But this year they can wait until March before burning, or start in August again. Though considered unnecessary by and large, this has happened because some farmers were burning illegally last year – what more elegant solution than to make it legal do conduct such burning?

I watched some of the debate in the Seanad on this legislation. It was frustrating, as well as hilarious at times, as some politicians tried to claim the change was necessary because hedgerows were taking over our country roads and making them impossible to walk – I’d say the speed at which cars travel the roads nowadays might be more important. There are roads I’d never cycle, never mind walk, which I did twenty years ago.

This extension to destruction season comes just as climate change means some birds are breeding earlier nowadays. This year has been an exceptionally mild winter and spring will come soon, and even stopping in March will affect some birdlife.

But though the rules have changed on the insistence and lobbying of some farmers and landowners, it does not mean that fires have to rage this year like they did (illegally) last year.

If the weather is warmer (and perhaps dry – it could happen!) now, then farmers can get their burning done even earlier than they used to. They don’t have to wait until after March just because they can. There is certainly no need to wait to get the hedge cutting done – ti’s something that can be done very quickly nowadays with the machinery available.

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Hedgecutting in action. You don’t need months to get this done any more, but choose the wrong month and there will be a lot of bird nests getting cut in this particular hedge. Photo from http://www.dublinplanthire.ie

The farmers who care about the land (and there are a lot of them, despite how it sometimes seems) can keep obeying the spirit of the former law, rather than the letter of the new law. The law says we can drive at 100kmph in many places that we don’t even try reach that speed.

We can always do what we think is right, regardless of what the law says we can do. Plenty of anglers release their fish even when they can legally take them home. Some hunters let the fox slink away and just watch it, rather than take a shot, though they could legally shoot that fox, since it’s considered vermin (and would be asked to if the farmer was also watching).

If we are to rewild our lands and our lives, and indeed, keep alive the little bit of wildlife we have left out there, we have to rely on the good will, and good sense, of the majority in the face of the selfishness and, ultimately, as can see with climate change, idiocy of the minority.

In farming as in other matters we need people to do right because that’s the thing to do…. like avoiding paying taxes – if we all avoided paying our taxes like the elites do, every country would come to a halt.

And a majority of people wanted this legislation stopped. A majority of the senators I saw speaking were against it. But those in power pushed it through.

We can only hope that when they are gone from power, soon enough, this legislation can be reversed to rein in those few outliers who don’t give a monkeys about out, and their, environment.

 

Red Skies

Waiting For Spring

 

Was a time when I would look for each tiny bloom

Of daisy, dog violet, Veronica and the like along paths

As if searching a stream for gold; each gleam a godsend

Lighting up my life as winter slowly died

After an icy age of snow and bare soil,C and spring sped well,

Bringing joy in the profusion of snow drops and crocuses,

Readying myself for daffodils and primroses.

 

However, as February begins, this year,

I think I haven’t waited quite enough;

Like a child looking forward to Easter

After only just emptying selection boxes,

It lacks lustre, seems not so sweet, even

Unto wincing when I spy a shoot protrude

Too soon, these should be delightful but

They descry the coming sickness

Like the shepherds said of red skies.

 

RedSkies

 

The sky outside my window…. A delight? or a warning?

Sometimes it’s hard to know.

We are having a wonderfully mild winter, when we are happy not to have to wear our woollies and have the heating on full blast… but we know spring is coming too soon to be good, and is more indicative of sickness in our midst…