The Perduror: Inspiration for the novel

This is from my novel The Perduror (available on Kindle):

"We pulled up outside the cemetery and got out of the car. We walked through the gate. In the summer heat, a swarm of mosquitoes was circling above a stagnant pool on the path we walked on that cut through the middle of the graveyard. The graveyard was divided roughly into two sections. The older section’s headstones were haphazardly arranged, arbitrarily placed in seemingly little order, almost as if people had come here to die and were buried where they had fallen."

The scene's setting is loosely based on a graveyard near where I grew up.  There's an old church on the cemetery grounds - among the very smallest churches in Ireland, no bigger than an apartment living room, and although it only dates back to around the seventeenth century, apparently there has been a site of worship on that same ground since at least 800 AD.

Although it's difficult to see the headstones in this graveyard from the photos, beyond the graves right next to the church, the other burial places are in fact haphazardly arranged around the chapel and throughout the old graveyard.

Headstones and tombs date back to the 1600s. They have faded over the last couple of decades; I could read them when I was younger, but the inscriptions are mostly gone now.

Maybe there's a purpose or pattern to the layout of the graves, but if there is, I don't know about it.

The Perduror is the second work of fiction that's been inspired by the little church.

The first is a short story called Ramsey and the Child, which won a short fiction prize in 2011. So the inspiration has served me well.

You can buy The Perduror for Kindle.

Morium by SJ Hermann: Book Review

SJ Hermann’s Morium, available at Amazon, features school kids who are emotionally overwhelmed with life. 

It would not be too glib to suggest that the concepts behind EMO behavior are probably more broadly embraced than by those who identify overtly with the culture, and they are rife in this novel.
One might ask why that is. What with pallid handsome Edward Cullen, and the grip of vampiric subculture on the zeitgeist in the last ten years, teen angst has its outlets in pop culture in ways that are darker than, say, 90s grunge. Sure, there were always Goths. But black, today, is the new tie dye.

Introspection is a little more profound in the teenager – and solitude brings negative thoughts. This is all made explicit in this impressive debut.

Hermann’s Morium – the first book of a series – tackles the issue of bullying through the prism of science fiction and the supernatural. The novel features broody moody (although decent) teens, bullied in high school, who find themselves endowed with supernatural powers that they struggle to control.

Lexi is a self-harming girl whose single-parent father struggles to find a job. Like Lexi, her friend Nathan is undermined at school by bullies. A third character – whose sexuality was questioned by even parents when she arrived in the area – rounds out the triumvirate.

Small-mindedness is shown to be not exclusively prevalent among teens. And as the story progresses, we find out that the superpowers discovered by our heroes can become messy.

The metaphysical problem of other minds is addressed too, and issues concerning what constitutes a soul, although not explicit, are woven into the plot.

Nathan and Lexi – the victims of school bullying – level-up. Their high school adversaries are supplanted by villains such as bank thieves, rapists and muggers. Both supernatural and science fiction elements feature– and it is clear here that superpowers often corrupt. It would be fair to suggest that although the characters are identifiable, there is no clearly defined good vs evil – and so too in life. The roundedness of the story – and the dysfunction of the central characters – means that good people can turn bad.

The old billboard posters for the original Superman (1978) advised that the movie was worth watching because you’d believe a man can fly. Hermann’s detail in the flight of his characters is rich enough that you’ll believe the same. And in the best way, bringing about supernatural powers brings on superhero themes. Think Spiderman's Uncle Ben on power and responsibility. Think the best of the Marvel Universe. And continuing the theme of movies that are like this book, in terms of character development and dynamics - splintered families, extraterrestrial stuff - it has touches of a great Zemeckis or Spielberg movie too.

There’s a dash of clever feigning on occasion – readers may be unsure sometimes who they’re following through the story for a page or two. But these sleights of hand have neat rewards.
Explaining the science bit also wraps neatly into the story. It is a tale with a moral core that impresses in this era where such details are rare.

You can get Morium today at Amazon. You can find other books in the series at SJ Hermann's author page. Follow SJ Hermann on Facebook and Twitter.

Ireland this St Patrick's Day: A report

Instead of Tuam babies, can we call it state genocide of the infants of single mothers from the early 20s to the 1990s? 

Something that doesn't make us sound like we still talk about shockin' holy saints and raise funds for the Knights of Columbanus Biafran Blight appeal for the big-bellied black babbies while we feed potato peels to the piglets under our arms.

And don't we show a great deal more agreement with the centre right internationally than we need to? We're a small country, with the reputation of a banana republic.
Start acting like it!
We should be more like Iceland. It's not all rosy in Iceland right now. But do they have a homelessness crisis? No. How is their healthcare? It's still all better than ours. 

Point out the articles about how people are poverty-stricken in Iceland, with their cars that they still own, their healthcare, education and housing. Poverty is relative. 5000 homeless in Iceland out of a quarter or third of a million would be passed off elsewhere as a margin-of-error glitch.
Taxes are crazy-high in Iceland. But they're still better off. If they are made redundant, they are cushioned by the system.

We're small enough to do stuff on our own, to show some initiative, and not to be disgracing ourselves in the process. If we do disgrace ourselves - if we had stood up to bondholders and it all went to shit, for instance - we try something else. And we do it quickly, because we can.

Even if it's mimicking whatever Dutch model or Swedish model or pilfering whatever policies can be found across the world that work. Maintaining of the status quo from this government is disappointing.
Look at how FG coalitions reacted to Veronica Guerin (setting up CAB) or their economic policy (lowering corporate tax) in previous governments. They were culture-changing measures.
And look at the government in these last two Dails, waiting for the boat to upright itself. Setting up portokabins for €80,000 a unit when it had been €5000 the previous week, or whatever it is.
The last six months, Minister Coveney has simply rattled off the same old stats on RTE tv at ten pm every couple of weeks. 
"Things are coming on stream!" 
He'll be there saying "The crisis is nearly as bad in Cork." 
But what did you do the day AFTER you told us that, Simon?
You're in the process of introducing a scheme that might encourage a landlord to reduce the number of farts from his tenants? It's been sent for independent review to the Dail committee and a mandarin ordinge.
Why DIDN'T you tax the fallow zoned land two or five or ten years ago?
Why can't you do it tomorrow?
Why did you let the Irish banks keep interest rates high when they were low in Frankfurt? Coz they needed the money?
There are houses available NOW. You basically OWN them. The banks OWE the government. Let people INTO the houses. 
The toilets won't flush? Pay someone €15 an hour to pour water into the cistern. Set up some kind of generator. 
It will cost less than the hotel accommodation.
Markets dictates XY and Z. Well, the market was artificially inflated by corporate tax rates that the EU and US suggested were anti-competitive and turned us into a tax haven and a bunch of gangster economists and worse. 
Back in the day, it took a few hours to set up a hedge fund at the IFSC. 
It took days in The City or on Wall Street. It wasn't because the Irish government had streamlined the whole process with amazing mathematical skills and prowess. 

It was coz in Ireland, under a No Smoking sign at the DART station, you're often likely to find a second little message that says "Keep it to yourself." 
The late Terry Wogan talked about how somebody from the Irish embassy phoned his agent and asked him to attend an event at the embassy. He asked if he could be there at 7pm. The agent said "No. You bring a car to pick up Mr. Wogan at the BBC. Because that's how it works."
They ask if Mr. Wogan can be outside the tv centre at 6.30. The agent says "No. The driver parks the car and goes in and asks for Mr. Wogan at the front desk."
Terry goes to the event. As he's entering the building, he's handed a programme, where it says that the event is being compered by Terry Wogan.
That's the culture we have, and to sit and do nothing when we can do something even on-the-fly, seat-of-the-pants, with a nudge and a wink IN A GOOD WAY - coz it can be GOOD as well as BAD - is no more than silly lip service to broader centrist dogma.

Three Writing Tips: Contests and Submissions

First tip here is plain and simple: When it comes to submission guidelines, do what they tell you to do. If their demands seem excessive and they're charging you for the privilege of entry, don't enter.
If their demands are excessive and they seem like a good outfit, take your time and make sure you do it all right.
This view is my own.
I tend to avoid any general fiction appeal with a submission guideline that stipulates "No pornography, erotica, gratuitous violence, children's literature, profanity, sci fi..."

Not because all of my fiction contains this stuff, but because there are degrees.
Does magic realism constitute science fiction? Does a child calling somebody a pooperhead constitute profanity? Does a woman getting beaten for calling her boyfriend a pooperhead - by her boyfriend - constitute gratuitous violence?
It's a straw-man argument, but these people have set themselves up as straw men.
If they say "No gratuitous violence" it is surely and purely a matter of taste as to what that is. But if a free-to-enter story contest theme is The Longest Journey and you have a story that fits, and the organisers say no erotica and there is no erotica in your story, send it in!

When filling in the form for a short story contest, if there's a space for "Title" and a space for "Name of Story", you should put Mr or Ms, etc in the Title field, rather than, like, "The First Will Toward Good vs Entropy", or whatever you call your OWN story. 

(That's just an example name of a story.) 

The reason for this is that if you put the title of the story in the Title field instead of the Name of Story field, you run the risk of receiving correspondence from the contest organisers that reads something like
The First Will Toward Good vs Entropy John Smith (instead of Mr John Smith). 

Well, folks, don't they always tell you to end on a joke? I'm outta here!

Novel background: The Perduror by Richard Gibney

My first collection of shorter stories, called Fade to Black, will be out some time in the near future.
I planned to bring it out last year but then an opportunity came up from four wonderful fellow writers to put my novel, The Perduror, into an independently produced boxset alongside their works.
Posing in front of a castle (really, this one is just a big old Victorian pile.)

The novel is now available on its own on Amazon and features a family at its core that has a (recorded) history stretching back many centuries – and I did a little research on this to see how feasible it would be to have this family history passed down from one generation to the next. 

It turns out there are some tribal clans in Ireland that would have a history going back to Pagan times, and some about three hundred years before Christ. The O'Briens - their most famous ruler being Brian Boru - would be one such family.

The Earls of Ormond – the Butler family – are another example.
One of them was apparently engaged to be married to Anne Boleyn before Henry the Eighth got his hands on her!

Another family is the Talbots, who owned a lot of the land around where I grew up, including Malahide Castle (a twenty minute drive through some leafy backroads) here.

Although the elements of my characters' family history are a little daft coz fiction, there is some crazy stuff in Ireland - from architecture to anecdotes both apocryphal and confirmed - that are inspiring.

So my hero (a young man called Blythe) is upper-middle class, his politics a little more conservative than my own, and his family have funny upper class names like Glascott.
That's about it. More on the book later! You can get it here.