Category Archives: Writing

Sunflowers on Steroids

Here’s a short story for your spring, now that we see the flowers growing like they’re on steroids – and they are, of course – for a flash fiction challenge about invasive species – a topic I’ve talked about before….

 

Invasive Sunflowers.

 

Always said them scientists would mess everythin’ up, playin’ round with Creation like they was God.

The environmental beatniks said it too, course, but they said all kind of whatnot, like the weather was changin’, that we didn’t listen much to them guys. Joel McCallum, though, he reads the scientific papers, and he said they reckoned the canola plants’d be the ones that did it, them being so common and close to weeds anyway. He said the genetically modified canola would mix with the field mustard plants, and lead to a superweed that nothin’ could get rid of. The idea of sunflowers takin’ over like they was on steroids, well, we none of us predicted that.

What we never saw comin’, either, was losing our land to the federal government after trying so hard to keep independent from them assholes in DC.

We bought the land fair and square, set up our town ten years beforehand. We were self-sufficient by then, hundred per cent, and all set for the apocalypse, should it decide to turn up. We never did think it’d turn out this way.

It was the federal government’s fault, though, too. Always knew that would be true. They were the ones invited that crazy sonbitch to plant those damn sunflower plants out our way. Gave him permission to use federal land we used to graze cattle off, not twenty miles from town. Well, we didn’t think no sunflowers’d stand the shallow soil there. No depth at all, after the dustbowl years took it clean away. Even the grass dried up when it didn’t rain in late spring. We didn’t think the plants would stand up in the wind, first time we went out there and they told us what it was they were growin’.

Joel tried to explain what they’d done to the sunflowers – struck in some genes from a creeper, a vine of some sort that was supposed to only change the roots from the deep taproots sunflowers supposed to grow, into wide spreading roots that’d keep the plants upright and get them enough water from what rains came. They’d spread the seeds out farther than normal to compensate. Well, Joel didn’t know what way they’d messed up – whether they’d put in the wrong piece of string or if the gene did more jobs than just make roots of one sort or the other, but mess up they did, good and well. Plants grew up stringy and creeping; stretched along the ground, covering the empty patches between plants till it was just a sea of green, with all trace of the rows they’d been planted in gone. The flowers were small, but each plant had four or five ‘stead of one. We was amazed that first year. The scientists just took notes. They harvested some, but with the way the plants were all higgledy-piggledy, they missed half the seed heads.

Course, we didn’t like to let the food go to waste. We was self-sufficient, but it’s a sin to waste such bounty as the Lord places before you. We planted some in our own plots – and planned to keep plantin’ it, till we realised it didn’t need no plantin’. The wind came through one night, the way it does, and the seeds flew everywhere on it. Next year, it was everywhere. It invaded the wheat fields, covered the town. It was kinda pretty at first. We used the oil for our trucks, couple of years. But we soon saw it was gettin’ serious when it covered the forest floors, started cloggin’ the creek, and broke half the corn plants before they got to cobbin’. It wrapped around everything – I mean everything – like vines, like morning glory, or that Japanese knotweed and them other invasive species they’re always goin’ on about. These creepers blocked out the light from every other plant, till there were was nothin’ else we could grow.

Well, we thought we could at least use the oil to cut and burn it out, but eventually, much as it galled us to do it, we had to ask the federal government for help. It was their problem, all said and done.

They came, in helicopters, since the roads were practically overgrown by then. One fella told Joel they was comin’ anyhow, whether we asked them or not. Their scientists told them to shut down the whole operation – and more. They was goin’ to move us – would’ve paid us to up and move sticks someplace else. But what we asked for help, they just took us out, told us to gather up our belonging, and make damn sure it was all clean of vegetative material, they called it.

We did as was asked – we weren’t no fools, wishing this upon everyone, or anyone else. That would be a sin not even God might forgive. Besides, we weren’t ready for this kind of apocalypse. Nor were we ready for any kind of reckonin’ without our land, our shelters, our supplies.

When they took us up in the helicopters, we saw them start the firebombin’ straight off. That shit smelt like the end of the world. No wonder them Vietnamese hated us, using that shit on them. I asked the pilot how much they was going to burn. Five thousand square miles, he told me. Hell of a lot of Napalm man. Of course, we had some Napalm ourselves, just in case. When I saw the town explode, I thought, well, there’s an end to it. We might not survive the next apocalypse, but at least we helped the world avoid this one.

That’s what I thought. That’s what we all thought, true as the Lord is lookin’ down on me.

Thing about sunflowers, though, even these crazy ass ones, was the seeds were real tasty. The kids in town used to go round all day, biting on them and spitting out the shells. Well, how can you put the blame on the shoulders of a little kid, not eight year old, instead of the scientist that made them seeds? She meant t’ eat them, of course, and all would’ve been well. But when she saw the explosion from all the stuff we’d in storage, well, she jumped so high she near enough fell out of the damn chopper herself. Only natural the bag slipped out her hand.

 

 

First Birdsong

This is a little embarrassing to post.

As a wildlife enthusiast, I should not admit to not taking my kids out into the wild often enough that my son has heard his first birdsong only after he’s been walking for three months…

But life is hectic with a one-year-old and a five-year-old doing dance and swimming lessons in winter, and even though Pamplona is a small city with wildlife all around (including BEAVERS in the river not 200 yards from my house as the crow flies) it’s damn hard to get out of the brick and concrete on a daily basis.

We do go to village on the weekend, where there’s plenty of birdlife (kites and bee-eaters etc…) , but the evening birdsong is not something I’ve experienced with the kids recently.

 

First Birdsong

 

I consider myself privileged

To see hills at a distance from

My window over the garden,

Graced by more than mere sparrows;

 

But my son has just heard birdsong

Today, for the first time, I had time to

Take him to city’s edge and embrace the

Twilit twittering of tits and thrushes

Scolding one another in the gloaming,

And experience, absent the ubiquitous din,

A blackbird’s sonorous cry to spring,

And say, “listen, hear the birdies sing.”

 

 

Leading the Pack, Silver Nights part 2..

 

So, after much quiet, the howl returns…

As I said in a post longer ago than I thought it was, I’ve been living in the real world these last many months.

But I’d done a year or more inside my imaginary city, the setting for the Silver Nights Trilogy.

I’m ready to publish the second and third instalments now.

Leading the Pack is out on Pre-order as of today!

you can get it for just 99c until publication on March 15th from Amazon….

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and Unleashing the Pack will be edited soon and the cover is nearly done…

It was a pleasure to return to the characters, but working on the two novels in tandem was a struggle while I was immersed in them, and I hope I’ve done justice to my original vision of the werewolf story.

The question I feel I have to answer, before anyone even reads part two,  is, “why go back?”

Because I didn’t need to.

The first book, Leaving the Pack, didn’t have an open ending. It was a stand-alone novel.

But I couldn’t leave it alone.

I had to go back and expand on the idea.

So I hope I’ve done the right thing. I hope I’ve not made a mess of the story.

One thing I hate is when writers and moviemakers go back just for the sake of it.

One of my favourite movies is Highlander, and I’ve seen it many times. I hate the sequels. I hate the series. Stupid films that made a mess of a great original story.

I’m watching Lonesome Dove, after having read the book, and now I have discovered there are sequels and prequels, but I’m wary about even going there, given some comments I’ve read.

Why mess with such perfect stories? Why corrupt the vision?

If you go back, you have to have a reason, a need, something else to say.

In my case, I wanted to explain the werewolves from different angles. Firstly, from the viewpoint of a new generation. Paul’s pack, in Leaving the Pack, is a disciplined machine. Paul has complete control (mostly) of his power. But is such camaraderie innate in a race so apt to violence? What is it like to feel such potency for the first time. I wanted to explore the line between being the alpha and what I called the leash – does power necessarily come with responsibility or vice versa?

Secondly, how do werewolves adapt to a new millennium? The twenty-first century is a world that such an ancient tribe as my werewolves would have trouble confronting, in terms of our more open, permissive and public society. How can you remain hidden in plain sight with so many cameras watching? The world is changing rapidly for us; imagine for a race who live so much longer. And at the same time, if they can embrace the future, then so can any other culture.

 

 

 

 

The Silver Nights Trilogy, rebooted

Twenty years is a long time. But always take the time you need…

Now the second and third parts of The Silver Nights Trilogy are ready to be launched, I can reveal to you the new look of the Leaving the Pack cover….

 

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This cover will tie the three books together with the same look.

The second part, Leading the Pack, will be published next month, and is going to be available for pre-order very soon. I’ll also have ARCs for my reviewers in a few days, so drop me a line at davidjmobrienauthor@gmail.com if you’d like to read and review…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth; at least This Part.

 

Sun rises over the mountains Christmas morn,

Shreds lingering mist strings off the oak slopes.

Starlings sing across vale from barn and shed,

Sparrows flit back and forth on tree and hedge.

Windmills steady, cows still not lowing, nor

Dinging. Dew dries, roof drips, while kite

Shifts on bough, readying to take to clear skies.

Robin skips in goodwill, trilling to a lone soul

Soaking silence embracing peace on Earth;

This piece, yet in the absence of men.

 

 

Wrote this on Christmas morning, sitting in that sun – it’s a remarkably relaxed time in Amatriain, where mass was the day before, and, dinner was very late, and  lunch has usually been taken care of already (and doesn’t consist of turkey).

Hope everyone has had a nice holiday season and that we will have some peace in 2017.

I’m about to start edits of Silver Nights Part 2, Leading the Pack…. almost as excited as a kid at Christmas!

90 Years of the Sun Also Rising

In Pamplona at the moment, we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the publication of Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises (a.k.a. Fiesta).

 

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There are several activities organised, and a large exhibition in the Plaza del Castillo of photos from when he visited Pamplona – of him, and taken by him and his friends.

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Some of the places he stayed are still here, under different names to those used in the novel, some have changed.

It was interesting to see that Heminway, though he never ran with the bulls himself, did get gored by a baby cow, which they release in the plaza after the encierro.

 

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I was struck by a quote they have printed on one of the posters, which he wrote to a friend: “Pamplona is the most enjoyable place you’ve ever seen.” It was true then and it’s true now.

And my good friend JD Martins would agree.

 

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Have you had One Night in Pamplona?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The College Election

It’s an important day in the US, and for all of us, given the way the world is heating up.

I know it’s a bad idea to dis the President if you want to get into the country, but for the secret service dudes reading this, please understand, this is an exception…

So here’s hoping it’s a happy holiday for us all, and we can see some people who went to see the musical Hamilton paid attention, and we can stop thinking about how bad things are going to be in the New Year, but instead have some hope.   Here’s a couple of poems to mark the occasion.

The Clown Fools Us All

Remember when we thought this guy was a joke?

And now it seems so serious; yet still,

Even at this late stage, he could

Be red flagging us:

Showing us he’s seriously taking the piss,

Waiting for us to see it for what it is,

And pull the plug.

Mixed Blessings?

Remember when we used to say:

“Jays, we were blest with the weather today,”

As if we’d got lucky, and we didn’t worry,

Nor wonder what was coming?

Poems from the past

2016 has been a fuckin’ doozie. Apart from the usual shite happening in politics and war and another 12 months of carbon added to the atmosphere, we’ve had a long list of inspirational people pop their clogs so far this year. All that’s left to make a fucking mess out of it is for David Attenborough to kick the bucket – hang in there Dave!

But I’ve had an interesting year at home. 12 months ago my son was born and he’s a lively character. We just celebrated his birthday (he was a bit surprised at the sudden bouts of singing, but loved the toys) and it made me think of a couple of poems I wrote then that after a year might be al right to reveal to the world.  It’s a strange time, waiting, wondering if despite the ultrasounds etc, things might not turn out exactly as we hope.

Still no photos of the sprog himself, so he can’t get angry with me when he’s older.

 

Outside the Maternity Hospital, Three AM

 

Me and my equivalent of a cigarette

The silent night air, empty of all but the watcher

Waiting, wondering of all that is to come

Compared to what went before, and

Content for that moment in between.

 

 

Emotion on the Birth of my New Boy

 

The work is done – wasn’t done by me;

I was but a watcher of the night, but

It wasn’t easy from where I was standing.

And the last worry lingered as the time went by

Until eventually he emerged, and a tear slid

Similarly out to see his face amid the mess,

So similar to my sibling, so obviously okay.

 

 

Real life keeping me from writing.

Haven’t posted in a while because real life is keeping me from any sort of writing.

I am back to work – the day-job stuff. Since I haven’t been flooded with movie option offers, or thousands in royalties, I’ve still got this nine-to-five teaching stuff to do.

And getting time to write fiction is very complicated; it’s hard to get some intellectual space to enter any imaginary realms.

This year I have increased my hours in the school so that I don’t have to do the evening classes I have been doing. This doesn’t give me more time to write. In fact, it gives me less.

I used to have a chance to get a few hundred words done in the spare hours between classes. Instead, the new schedule gives me time to do the things people do with their kids – collect them from school, go to the park, take them to swimming and dance class. Then there’s going home to have baths and prepare dinner. The six hours between 3pm and 9 go by faster than the six between 9am and 3pm!

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Collecting conkers in the park…

It hasn’t helped that my daughter broke her arm two weeks ago, and so can’t cycle her own bike, among many other inconveniences and incapacities. That means I spend more time commuting back and forth, to collect push chairs and catch buses.

I have had a chance to read a few pages of novels while the kids play or take the bus, but I haven’t written anything other than a shopping list in the last two weeks. I am one of the last letter writers left, and I love to write and receive them, but I just sent a birthday card to my sister and I didn’t include a handwritten latter – for the first time in the sixteen years I’ve been away from home.

Not only have I not had a chance to write letters, but I can’t keep up with my emails. I usually read or delete the mails in my inbox within a day or two. Sometimes I leave one or two pending – longer mails or links to articles. At the moment I have four hundred to get through. Many of them with links to longer texts. I open my mail each morning hoping that I can delete as many as possible without even opening them. Much of these would be interesting if I had time, but my priorities don’t include reading mails.

I have also been busy living life. I’ve been out collecting mushrooms in the beech forests north of Pamplona. I am not much into mushrooms myself, but any excuse to get into the woods is good, even at dawn. And foraging is my second favourite food collection method after hunting!

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Pickin’ mushrooms with the lads.

I’ve been collecting veggies and making tomato sauces for jarring, roasting and preserving peppers, and I have prepared my patxaran, a local liqueur like sloe gin but with anis.  These are all excellent ways to spent time, both in terms of healthy eating and zero-kilometre food, and in the simple manual labour tasks that are communal and relaxing.

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not a big fan of this myself, but friends and family love them, and it’s foraging – second only to hunting in my favourite food collection methods!

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My tomato sauce stash, made from fruits picked off the village veggie plot. Should keep me for the year.

And while such activities don’t remove the urge, and need, to write, they are therapeutic in their own way – better than colouring books, in my humble opinion, in reducing stress. Which reminds me of a poem I wrote back in August, when I had time to think. Apologies to my friends who are fans of adult colouring books!

Colouring Books for Adults

I know someone who bought a book

To colour in, in her spare time.

It’s the new trend in stress relief,

She says; takes her mind off thinking,

Relaxes in its repetitive actions,

Easy, simpleminded tasks that pass

The time of a dark evening

Much more calming than movies

Or reality TV.

I think it’s akin to knitting;

If you didn’t have a niece who needed a scarf,

Or whittling sticks; since who wants to hoover

Up the shavings off their sitting room floor?

Or darning socks that are too darned thin to bother nowadays,

Or jarring jam, or bottling sloe gin, or

Washing up; which filled in time, once upon a time,

As we talked between dinner and sleep.

Misgivings

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An Absence in Abundance

 

Lavender lays sideways under the weight of wind and blossom

But the bees clinging to the swaying stalks are few and far between.

An exuberance of blooms festoon the garden; from geraniums to clover,

But the butterflies are almost all white. Where is the abundance?

The humming profusion we should see before us?

The insects are ever scarcer on the farm – apart from houseflies –

And sparrows are ousting the house martins.

Those looking closely can see the cracks and give voice

To our misgivings that something’s got to give.