Category Archives: Guest Blogs

The Slog of the Bog

A night out, a glass of wine or two and suddenly the conversation turns into animated laughter where everyone – but me – has a Bog story they’re dying to tell.

As a city dweller, my childhood included nightmares from one of the many scary books I’d just read or maybe even a paper cut or two. My country friends, it appears, experienced a different kind of horror – the bog. But their retelling of those, not so long ago days, were so hilarious that I made them each promise to write a flash fiction piece for my Blog – an opportunity for us city folk to get an insight into what we were missing!

First up, is Nikki Whelan, with The Slog of the Bog:     

The Bog: A place in Ireland where childhood labour is real, where midges kill, backs ache and summers are forever lost.

Every Sunday my dad would bring us on a mystery tour. In those days, there was no such thing as buckling up – there were no seat belts – so the five of us would pile into the back of his Ford Sierra Sapphire full of anticipation.

“Watch out for the Guards,” my dad would say, “two of you be ready to duck for cover.”

We rarely saw the Guards, but we would nod and laugh, bickering over which of us had to be ready to duck this week. These tours could bring us anywhere – from point-to-point race meetings in the backarse of nowhere, to horse sales in Goffs, the lakes of Blessington, Glendalough or even to view a dog trailer in Thurles. But each summer, one such trip would invariably bring us to the Clongory bog to pick a plot of turf.

When we’d arrive, Dad would get out of the car, make a big show of inhaling, then he’d turn to us with a big smile. “Doesn’t it look great?”

We’d all look at him confused and eventually reply that it looked the same as the plot from last year and the year before that. All our friends were excited about a summer in Spain, Cork, at their Granny’s or the Gaeltacht, while for us, our summer began at the bog …The Bog

After the turf was cut, it was time for our work to begin. First, we’d foot the turf. This involved stacking about 10 pieces of turf on top of each other, in different directions, to allow it to dry. A quicker alternative for drier turf was to clamp it (stacking in tepee fashion). That was too easy – we were hard core – we never clamped it. It was back breaking work. My siblings and I would compete to see who would get their line of turf footed first. I learned quickly that this was a futile exercise. Once you were finished your line, you would be directed to help the others.

After a few days of footing, with the summer sun beating off our backs, we’d all shuffle off the bog bent over like 90 year-olds. But this wasn’t the biggest evil of the bog – no, the biggest evil was getting eaten alive by midges. Swarms of them would come out, mostly in the evenings; it was an incentive to get our work finished early. They’d eat every unclothed part of us, leaving red itchy lumps the size of large grapes protruding out of us. We’d wear our socks pulled up high to save our shins. The only midge deterrent we knew of back then was smoking. Oh God, how we envied the adults who puffed away to midge freedom. My mom smoked tip cigars on the bog – but only on the bog – it was acceptable there. One day, I’ll be old enough to puff my way to midge freedom, I thought, totally unaware, back then, that I’d have gas central heating in Dublin and never have to spend another day on the bog!!!

When it was time to leave, if the turf still wasn’t fully dry, then we returned a few days later and we’d stack it then. I remember the days we’d wake to hear the rain pelting on the roof. How we loved rain, it was our saviour – the only thing that would spare us from the bog. Next was the bagging phase. The car and trailer were driven onto the bog so that we could throw the turf straight into the trailer. But, if the ground was too soft to drive on, then we’d load it into bags. These bags were then carried – or dragged, in my case – to the road and lifted into the trailer. Sometimes my Dad, after inspecting the ground and declaring it driveable, would get the car and trailer stuck in the bog. Amid laughs and shouts, all bodies on our plot and neighbouring plots would come together to push the car back out of the bog. Then we’d be back to square one, filling bags and dragging them out to the road.

We lived for our break, we’d eat ham, lettuce and salad cream sandwiches and buns. We’d drink as much Cadet orange as we wanted. We needed the sugar for energy. Our limbs would stiffen as we sat on the bog and we’d struggle to get up and back to our line.

Finally, when the trailer was loaded and secured, the proud journey home with the turf would begin. We’d sit in the back of the trailer on top of our loot, our bums bruised as they hit sharp pieces of turf as we chugged along. But we didn’t care. We’d make one stop on the way home at the local shop for orange Rocket ice-pops. Rocket Ice LollyThis was our prize for a good day’s work on the bog. Nobody batted an eyelid at our black dirty faces and hands as each of us traipsed into the shop to claim our prize. But our day’s work wasn’t quite done. Once we arrived home, we’d have to unload the bags of turf into the shed. We’d stack them high, leaving the shed with a sense of pride, knowing that it would be a warm winter.

I hated and loved those long summer days on the bog. The smell of peat was lovely, an awful lot nicer than the smell from some of our other summer activities like mucking out stables. And the comradery on the bog was fantastic; we survived it together. We always left with sore backs but a great sense of achievement. You’d sleep like a baby after the slog of the bog – that is if the midge bites didn’t keep you itching all night!

 

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Guest Blog: Louise Phillips

THE  DOLL’S  HOUSE  BLOG  TOUR

I am delighted to welcome friend and crime fiction author, Louise Phillips, as a guest as she continues on The Doll’s House Blog Tour.

Let me introduce you to the trailer:

When it went live, The Doll’s House book trailer, caused quite a stir.
You can be view it here, but be warned – it’s not for the faint-hearted!

Survived that? Check out the latest reviews:

THE DOLL’S HOUSE has been described by crime writer, Niamh O’ Connor, as ‘chilling, mesmerising. Gets under your skin and stays with you,’ and by Myles Mc Weeney of the Irish Independent, as, ‘A gripping, suspenseful story, peopled with well-drawn characters…’

And now, at last, the book itself:

The Doll’s House

The Dolls House

“Middle-aged male, multiple stab wounds, found drowned in the canal. You have my number. Call me.”

This is the message criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson receives one cold Saturday morning from Detective Inspector O’Connor, spoken in his usual curt manner. The middle-aged male in question is Keith Jenkins, the host of a popular TV programme, and as Kate and O’Connor begin their investigation, they find themselves faced with more questions than answers.

The past . . .

Following her mother’s recent death, Clodagh has begun to explore her past – her memories of her father, who died in a mysterious accident, and the dark tragedy that seeped through the cracks of her childhood home. When she begins to visit a hypnotherapist, scenes from her childhood begin to take shape, with interjections from a sometimes sinister cast of dolls.

. . . is waiting . . .

As Kate continues to investigate the disturbing details of the vicious murder, she is drawn closer to Clodagh’s unsettling family history. What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connects them to the recent murder?

Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate. And the killer has already chosen his next victim…

 

Now over to Louise for some questions:

 

What do you feel makes for a great character – one that the reader will remember a long time after the final page?

Creating characters can be a bit like life, sometimes they can surprise you! And by that I mean that on occasions they can arrive practically fully developed on the page, and at other times, you have to dig quite deep. I think for the most part I know I have a strong character when their voice is constantly in my ear, so that when I go to write, it’s almost like you’re not the one doing the writing. We all have our favourite memorable characters from novels, but by and large the ones that stay with you are the ones that strike a strong emotional cord. I like a character that runs through your bloodstream the deeper into the novel you get. If at the end of a book, a part of you is already missing that character, then it is undoubtedly a memorable one.

There was quite an amount of research involved in The Doll’s House and part of it involved hypnosis and regression. Knowing what your character, Clodagh, uncovered, how did you feel while you were awaiting the countdown for your hypnosis session?

I think researching hypnotic regression for The Doll’s House reminded me how complicated our minds are. I was fully committed to the idea, and really believed it would happen. I had no idea that my conscious mind would block me from being regressed. Perhaps with the research I had learnt too much. The whole area fascinated me, which is why I chose to write about it in the first place. We all think we remember things as they happened, but we don’t. We constantly compromise our memory, as each time we recall an event, instead of going back to the original memory, we shortcut back to our last recall. So, getting back to your question, I was both nervous and excited. I hope to make further efforts to regress, and when I do, I’ll let you know how I got on.

It looks like The Doll’s House was a sell-out at its recent launch in the Gutter Bookshop.  Were you surprised to find an even bigger turnout than at your debut novel, Red Ribbons?

Surprised and delighted. I was thrilled to see so many people there, and I think in part it was a testament to RED RIBBONS that so many people were keen to pick up a copy of THE DOLL’S HOUSE. I was amazed that whilst signing copies, on a number of occasions I looked up and saw that people were starting to read the novel on the queue! So far it’s got some fantastic reviews, so fingers crossed. The story seems to have really struck a nerve with people, and as a writer, you can’t ask for more than that.

About The Author:

louise-phillips

Born in Dublin, Louise Phillips returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. That year, she was selected by Dermot Bolger as an emerging talent.
Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won
the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTE Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition.

Her bestselling debut novel, Red Ribbons, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012) in the Irish Book Awards. The Doll’s House is her second novel and has recently hit the book shelves with a vengeance!

I can promise, an enjoyable read awaits you . . .

The Doll’s House and Red Ribbons are available from Louise’s site here.

Available directly from Amazon: The Doll’s House and Red Ribbons.

www.louise-phillips.com

Louise on Twitter

Louise on Facebook

Guest Blog: Catherine Brophy

A treat – for readers and writers alike: I’m sure you’ll enjoy the writing tips that Catherine Brophy, writer, story-teller and broadcaster has kindly shared with us. After a recent conversation with Catherine, about editing my first novel, these pointers couldn’t have come at a better time!

Catherine Brophy

Catherine writes film, T.V. and radio scripts and she also writes short stories. Her previous novels are The Liberation of Margaret Mc Cabe and Dark Paradise. Her latest novel, Burning Bright, is a comedy about money, fame and the Celtic Tiger.

According to Catherine, she lives a blameless life in Ireland but escapes whenever she can. She’s been rescued by a circus troupe in Serbia, had breakfast with a Zambian chief, ate camel stew in the Sahara, and was kicked by a horse on the Mexican plain.

Now over to Catherine!


WHO WROTE THIS HIDEOUS RUBBISH?

And who stole my beautiful prose?

Ah yes, I know the feeling well.   You’ve got a great idea. You’ve found the time to write.   You’ve gone at it full tilt. Your head is ablaze with ideas. It’s going great. You write and write and write till you come to a natural halt. You rise from your desk with a feeling of virtue and genius and general fabulousness. This must be how Shakespeare felt when he’d put the final full stop to Hamlet.

All you have to do now is run the spell check, tidy up the  punctuation, maybe change a word or a phrase here and there, and you’ll do that to-morrow. You go to bed that night and sleep the sleep of the just.

Morning arrives and you rush to your desk with a song on your lips certain you’ll get this finished to-day. You read what you wrote and OMG!  That blaze of ideas… that eloquence… where is it? It’s all disappeared! All that’s left is lumpen paragraphs and hobbled sentences. You want to howl to the heavens and collapse in despair. But, before you tie a millstone round your neck and jump into the river – read on.

Lodged somewhere in the back of our brains is the notion that a REAL writer sits down and writes. That inspiration flows from the angels, through her mind and her quill and directly on to the page. If only! REAL writers write and re-write and re-write and re-write again. So save yourself trouble and heartache.

  • Within all that cack-handed prose there are jewels. They need polishing and proper settings but they’re still jewels and when you calm down you will recognise them.
  • All writing is about clarification. You want to communicate your ideas as vividly as possible to your reader. You can only do that when you have clarified them to yourself.
  • Think of the first draft as detailed notes, the place for that clarification. Nobody expects notes to be perfect.
  • Don’t bother editing, correcting or polishing just keep going –you can waste a lot of time editing only to discover later that you need to cut that bit out!
  • Use all the clichés, slip shod grammar, poor punctuation, inaccurate phrases and colloquial expressions that comes to mind – they’re just shorthand.   You know what you mean and you can find the accurate word, the dazzling phrase on the next draft, or the one after that.
  • Don’t do too much research – you’ll waste hours on fascinating information which you don’t need. Only check facts that you know are essential.
  • Make notes as you write, put them in colour or bold. “Research this” “This needs to be in earlier.” “Insert more info about x” etc.
  • Keep writing on till the end.

Whew… the first draft is finished. It’s not undying prose but you’ve got what you need. More clarity. A better understanding of your characters, more information about your plot, some idea of themes and a firm foundation to build on. Step 1 of the process of writing is complete. Now for Step 2.


Burning Bright by Catherine Brophy

A COMEDY ABOUT MONEY, FAME AND THE CELTIC TIGERBurning Bright - Catherine Brophy

The Celtic Tiger is in his prime and the Kerrigans are splashing the cash. They have made it big time, so eat your heart out you small town snobs! But Daddy’s-girl Kirsty wants Celebrity and International Fame and devotes herself to pursuing this dream. Crashing Madonna’s Christmas party doesn’t help, neither does causing a stir on Big Brother but when a video clip of Kirsty goes viral on You Tube, fame arrives with a bang. But Tracey O’Hagan, a blast from a shady patch in the Kerrigan past, has appeared on the scene. She’s mad. She’s bad. And she’s definitely dangerous to know.

Set in the years of the Celtic Tiger, Burning Bright is told in the voices of Kerrigan family members and friends.   It’s funny. It’s believable. And it will definitely make you laugh.

 

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Website: http://www.catherinebrophy.ie
Twitter: @catherinewrites

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