First prize and publication in Writers’ Forum

My story Death is the sound of distant thunder, strongly based on the third chapter of my novel, has won first prize in the monthly Writers’ Forum magazine competition and will appear in issue 168.

I was delighted with this, first big win since my story in New Irish Writing late 2013, and also because it reflects well on the novel.


Short list for two stories

After a long break mostly writing my novel, I have two short listings.

Death is the sound of distant thunder, a war/love story set in the same world as my novel is shortlisted with the Writer’s Forum Magazine, and I’m also on the shortlist for the People’s College competition:

Happy days!

Preview of my new novel, The Lightning Bird

Click here for a dynamic version of this synopsis (Scroll down once the image appears)

Click here to read three chapters


What would you do if you loved somebody so much that you were driven to destroy them? Two generations of the Slane family must answer this question, tossed about on the turmoil of one war after another, pursued by the dark power of the Lightning Bird. Jimmy and Maureen fight with the British Army in the Boer war, but evil follows them home from the killing fields of Ladysmith.

Their son Alex fights the same demon, first in the Royal Hibernian Military School, where he kills another boy, but persuades his friend Finn to take the blame, and later he is mobilised with the British army during the Easter Rising. Finn, meanwhile, fights with the IRB in the GPO along with Alex’s cousin Caer, who has sworn her love to him. Finn is wounded and, when they try to escape, they are nearly killed. Alex rescues them but is labeled a traitor as a result.

The three hide out in bleak west of Ireland, but Alex’s demon draws him into involvement with the IRA, and later, in the heat of the violence, he has an affair with Caer, leaving her pregnant. As the war of independence drowns them in bloodletting, they are forced to come to a realisation of themselves and each other. The ultimate revelation that Alex’s true mother was a Boer woman who died in a concentration camp drives him to discover things about himself and Caer that finally lead him to sacrifice himself to save his lover and child.

MJ Hyland Seminar

I had the pleasure of attending award winning author MJ Hyland’s fiction workshop in the Irish Writers’ Centre at the weekend. She’s a fascinating speaker, the day passed in a flash, even with the water protesters screaming outside.

She went through some great exercises on developing your style through studying other authors as well as knowing yourself. Came away with some interesting thoughts around the characters in my novel and a very long reading list. Two things to particularly recommend: and the fiction podcasts on the New Yorker, great authors read other stories previously published and explain what’s great about it.

Worth missing the greatest day in the history of six nations rugby? Well, I still have that to watch on the recorder.


20 years ago, Lesa and I were living in London with the greatest joy that life can bring, a beautiful and perfect one year old boy, Brendan. I was trying to develop as a writer and Lesa was finishing her art degree. One weekend, high on exhaustion and disinfectant, we produced a picture book. I wrote the words – I admit now I did not put enough effort into revision and re-draughting, and ignored some of Lesa’s advice – and printed them out on a noisy slow dot-matrix printer. Lesa set to with pens and brushes. I guess Brendan was a little on the young side, but we brought it out every year or two, and shared it with the girls too when they came along. Then it languished on the bookshelf. When the RTE Guide and Poolbeg announced a competition to write a story for the Jack and Jill Foundation, a little light switched on in our heads. We dragged the story off the shelf – the cover was decaying and the plastic pockets it was displayed in were sticking together. We applied love – and twenty years of experience, several draughts and some collaboration – and came up with a revised and, I hope, much improved version of the story. When we heard it was accepted for publication, we were delighted that this work can live again and bring not only joy to those who might read the book, but also bring some little help to the families and children that Jack and Jill helps every year. Please click on the link below and enjoy the graphics and, by way of appreciation, please purchase a copy of the book, Once Upon a Bedtime, when it comes out in October, all proceeds to Jack and Jill. The full original graphic story

New Irish Writing this weekend

Delighted to learn that Ciaran Carty of the Irish Independent is going to publish my story Thickened With Blood in his New Irish Writing section this Saturday (21st December). NIW normally appears last Saturday of the month but jumps a week forward on account of Christmas.

A must read: Being Alexander by Diarmuid O’Conghaile

I had the privilege to be at the launch of Diarmuid O’Chongaile’s first novel, Being Alexander. While I was waiting for the festivities to begin, standing in the Gutter Bookshop, I flicked through a few pages. The power of Diarmuid’s voice reached out to me immediately. It is a voice that rings strongly and consistently through the novel and is a major achievement for a first time writer. It puts me very much in mind of some of the great contemporary American authors like Joseph Heller and John Irving. The story that he tells is less of a journey and more of a sight seeing expedition. He stops and marvels at each little thing, filling in a bit of back story on each character, philosophising on each trivial event while all but ignoring the major plot turns, remembering fondly a childhood lost but grown sacred with memory.

There is a scene where Alexander has acquired a top of the range BMW; he climbs in, astonished by the quality of everything about the car. He goes to drive off, is politely informed by the satnav that he is going the wrong way and, still recovering from a very heavy night’s drinking, he vomits down the beautiful dashboard. I thought this was a  metaphor for Alexander as a whole. Privileged, well educated, with a girlfriend and family who care deeply about him, Alexander pretty much vomits on everything that could bring salvation to his life. He turns constantly away from anything good and seeks out whatever is destructive, soulless and empty.

He is not, though, a pitiful or malicious character, he is simply cast adrift in a vacuum lacking spirituality or values, itself a metaphor for the worst days of the Celtic Tiger corruption in which he is immersed. He watches himself as if from afar, as the reader does also,  curious to see what he will do next, what depravity he will choose to sink to. Despite his deep failings, Alexander is a charming host for this sight seeing tour. His looping deviations constantly entertain and amuse, and, as you drop your head in your hands thinking ‘what the hell is he at now’, you are already forgiving him and vainly hoping that he will find some direction and some happiness.

It’s a first novel, it certainly won’t be Diarmuid’s last given the fantastic prose and that voice.