Tattooed lady

This is a painting by Jaques Le Moyne de Morgues, 1585, A young Daughter of the Picts.
Romanticised but rather beautiful.


E-book publication creeps closer

A few days more.  Katie Hickman (with her Mexican circus experience) has been brilliant in agreeing to review my novel -  so waiting for her comment before publishing. Realised downside of e-books is no free advertising. No-one on the tube clutching my book in their hands, whilst weeping with emotion at my wordsmithery. Kindle needs a little backscreen which would say "I am now reading..." but you'd have to be able to override it in case you were reading something really trashy and didn't want anyone to know...If they do it - remember you saw it here first.


inside job

That is  the name of a documentary I've just watched although would also be a good name for a Steve Jobs biopic.  However it was a Storyville - on BBC about the financial crisis - terrifying in that all the guilty parties and institutions have not been punished and many of the individuals are now advising the US government on how to escape the crisis with  as few regulations imposed as they can get away with. The notion that bad people get their punishment and the good are rewarded is so persistent that I can still be shocked by the brazeness of these people. Both Pan's Labyrinth and Woody Allen's film Crimes and Misdemeanors (brilliant), affected me in the same way - leaving me hungry for justice which  of course is never served up.  I am still foolishly wedded to the idea that these people will get it in the end or that Karma will visit its own justice upon them.  I'm sure they are not happy - but then nor are those without a pension or with a home about to be repossessed and at least they have the comfort of silk pyjamas when sleep eludes them.

Never Knowingly

Just found out I've had a story- Never Knowingly- selected by Liar's League, Leeds for their Christmas theme 'Peace and Goodwill'.  Really pleased because last time I had one chosen for Liar's League London, I met Gary Albert Hughes, musician/Actor/composer and we ended up writing a musical together based on my story, The Kandy Kottage.  He is currently in Mother Goose at the Oxford Playhouse and due to appear on our TVs in January on E4 in a show called 'Playing it Straight.' The Liars League in case you don't know it, selects stories each month based on a theme, and chooses actors to perform them in a venue (currently The Albany in Portland Place in London) and Milo on Call Lane Leeds, 19th Dec.  Its very entertaining and worth every penny.


Does my bum look big in this?

Global Shorts - it may sound like underwear for lard arses but it is in fact a great collection of winning short stories from The Global Short Story Competition now available on Amazon.  My story, The Bet, is set in the febrile atmosphere of an Anglo/Irish home in 1970 when Dana beat the glorious Mary Hopkin. If you buy it please give me a comment - it's getting very lonely here on Planet Blog.


Manet's The Execution of Maximilian

Something a little more serious after my last post.  I've begun a story inspired by this painting by Manet that's in The National Gallery.  I wrote the draft off the top of my head in the writer's group, WOOA that I belong to.  When I got home I decided to do some research. What a strange  story I uncovered. Maximilian was imposed by the French on Mexico in 1864 as a puppet emperor much to the fury of the Mexicans. However he was not a bad egg but just rather naive.  In fact he and his wife Carlota (Charlotte) were appalled by the inequalities they found and tried to bring in some liberal reforms.  He found himself caught  in a political mire which he didn't seem to understand and was eventually executed but by whom?  A firing squad (or possibly three) were recruited to execute him and two of his generals. Were they French or Mexican.  Manet shows them wearing French style uniforms - a political attack on his own country for possibly authorising the murder.  The work could never be shown in France and was cut up and then bought up in pieces by Degas. There are many horrible aspects to the story but two stick in my mind - apparently soldiers were given a pouch of gold- or possibly a gold coin- by the emperor if they would promise not to shoot him in the face, - he wanted his mother to view his body -  one source claims they took the money but shot him in the face anyway. The embalming was then a disaster and his blue eyes liquified, so someone ran to the local church and removed the brown glass eyes from a statue of the Virgin.  How will I now get all this into the story? Watch this space...


Christmas crackers

It's that season, where you get to read dire jokes in the name of tradition - except I LOVE Christmas cracker jokes if they are puntastic.  So on the N 171 on the way home from Scooterworks in Lower Marsh I came up with my own Christmas cracker joke - in keeping with my novel of course:
Q: What's Mexico's favourite novel?
A: Tequila Mocking Bird.
I'm wasted as a novelist, or maybe I was just wasted.
I'm sure I'm not the first one to come up with it, but until someone tells me otherwise - I will take ownership - I'm not proud.  I've remembered the one that I heard on Radio 4  ...
Q:What do you get if you cross a pig with a telephone?
A: Crackling on the line.
Tee hee hee.


toads predict earthquakes

I got very excited when I heard this on Radio 4 this morning  mainly because I thought it said Toes predict earthquakes - alas art doesn't quite imitate life in my case but according to scientists "vibrations in rocks beneath the Earth's crust before an earthquake release particles that react with groundwater once they reach the air. The toads are so highly attuned to their habitat that changes in the chemistry of the environment cause them to leave days before the earthquake occurs. Positive airborne ions are known in the medical community to cause headaches and nausea in humans."  So its not a huge step to imagine Joey Pachuca's ability to predict earthquakes to be a possibility....


In case you were wondering, the translation of the banner on my book cover is "God finds the mouth to tell you what you need to hear."


Birdskin birth

I'm getting close to the moment of submitting my manuscript for e-book formatting.  There is something slightly dodgy about being a self-publisher - a bit like Lonely Hearts columns used to feel before the internet.  Do you remember when the classifieds were considered the refuge of Cupid's failures - those who couldn't hack the real world of hard-core, face-to-face dating combat?  Even if you'd met George Clooney through a small ad you would never have admitted it, and any friends who knew would be sworn to secrecy.  I tried it once and only felt able to tell my hilarious tale once safely in a relationship - thus proving I wasn't a saddo. 
Now the whole world meets online and no-one thinks any less of them.  So I'm hoping that very soon I won't have to follow "I'm publishing an e-book," with "because..." and a garbled apology.  As anyone can self-publish - the smartmouths will say - then anyone will, and then who will separate the wit from the chav?   Those of us who didn't manage a deal will just yawn and remind you of Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" which was rejected by dozens of well-known publishers (before eventually being picked up by a small press who I believe paid her no advance and had no publicity budget) while her other six published books, made her no money at all! Still I wouldn't say no to a six figure deal and a promotional tour if anyone is offering.


So what's it about?

Born with feet so sensitive they can even feel the restless shifting of the earth, Joey Pachuca is king of the highwire, thrilling crowds in the Mexican circus, but he carries a secret. He may have changed his name, but the tragic events that caused him to run away from Ireland all those years ago will not let him go.
An adult fairytale, The Birdskin Shoes is a lyrical story of love, loss and earthquakes that transports the reader from the grey skies of rural Ireland to the dazzle of the Mexican circus in the company of Joey, a young man with a remarkable gift but a guilty conscience.

This novel was inspired by a conversation in a taxi on the way to Sevenoaks with an Iranian acrobat who had beautiful feet.  He was the driver and I found out all about his life, how he'd left Iran to make his fortune and ended up in the circuses of Las Vegas before coming to the UK and marrying an English girl. I was on my way to a writing weekend so I began to write a story about him,  "The Seismic Acrobat of Tehran." In the story - which I never quite finished, the rulers of Iran insist that all its acrobats have to spend a day a month on one of its faultlines "listening"  for earthquakes.
Over the following months the idea grew and moved location - I'd spent a year in Mexico and knew how volatile a landscape it was - and decided to set the story there.  In 1995, when I lived in San Miguel de Allende, I'd  seen a solitary caged lion being towed through the streets by a van with a loud hailer announcing the arrival of a new circus in town.  This image of a forlorn lion in a battered cage stayed with me.
I'd also been obsessed for years by the Irish poem Donal Og.  I first heard it spoken  in the film "The Dead"-a film based on the James Joyce short story of the same name.  The imagery of the poem is startling and the emotion raw (see below).
 I wove all these elements together into this novel.  My acrobat became an Irish boy with highly sensitive feet who flees Ireland after a violent incident and eventually ends up in a Mexican circus where he finds fame and fortune until...
An early draft was one of the finalists in the Spread the Word novel pitch competition in 2006.  Its taken a while to finish!  It's due out as an e-book mid-December.

Donal Og
It is late last night the dog was speaking of you
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland
When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness.
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you forever.

My mother said not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she had for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

ANON from the Irish (trans’. Lady Augusta Gregory)