A poignant short story.
Published in the Circle and Square anthology, December, 2015
(available for sale at Easons in The Square, Tallaght.)
It includes work from a number of writers, including Dermot Bolger, Martin Dyar, Mia Gallagher, Mary Guckian, Ferdia McAnna, Paula Meehan, Geraldine Mills, Louise Phillips, Kevin Power, Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen Casey, Doreen Duffy, Gavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish Nugent, Tony Shields and Michael J Whelan.
‘Lipstick?’ asks Mary, squinting at the label. ‘Paradise pink.’
I purse my mouth and close my eyes, enjoying the familiar sensation of the lipstick as it glides over my dry lips.
‘There you go, Lily, all done,’ says Mary.
That woman is a Godsend. She holds the oval hand-mirror in front of my face. I pull it towards me and bend in closer, pressing my lips together. I still find it hard to believe the white-haired woman looking back is me and I most certainly don’t feel my eighty years. It’s merely a number – an indicator to tell the world how many wars and recessions I’ve lived through.
It’s amazing how a splash of colour across my lips always lifts my spirits, but this has been a particular favourite which I’ve worn for the last fifteen years. A visit to the local shopping centre, for my retirement party, had me returning home with a new look courtesy of the make-up counter in Boots. Maybe it’s time for another visit and an overhaul. Nothing too drastic, mind you, I’m not going back to the smoky eyes and red lips of Lauren Bacall at my age. Besides, I’ve always been more of an Audrey Hepburn – wide-eyed and innocent. Or so I’ve been told.
‘Thanks, Mary, you’ve done a great job, as usual.’
Mary moves behind me, fussing and teasing my hair. Her finger hovers over the hairspray tin. ‘Close your eyes.’
I know the drill. Hiding a smile, I cover my face with my hands, only peeking through when the hissing of the spray finally stops. There’s no fear of Mary leaving anything to chance with these tresses. She knows I love to waltz, but I fear she thinks I love to tango and has visions of me with a rose between my teeth as I strut up and down the room with my dance partner. She will ensure that my hair remains unyielding; like spun sugar sitting atop one of those exquisite deserts in the swanky New York restaurants we frequented all those years ago.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Mary checks her watch, raising her eyebrows, before crossing the room to open the door. ‘That’ll be John, I suppose,’ she murmurs.
There are whispered voices and moments later, a tall, grey-haired man appears in the doorway behind her. I watch as he removes his overcoat, shaking specks of rain onto the linoleum. He is dressed in dark trousers with shiny shoes. A crisp white shirt and paisley tie peep through the neck of his navy jumper.
‘They didn’t forecast that downpour, Lily,’ he says, his brown eyes meeting mine. He crosses the room and kisses me gently on the mouth. My heart hammers in my chest. I gasp and turn away, but not before I see a look of dismay cross his face. What does he expect? Just because he’s a handsome man, it doesn’t mean he can take such liberties; we’ve only just met!
‘Lily, it’s me, love. It’s John,’ he says, as if by telling me his name he thinks he can excuse his shocking behaviour.
He sits in the armchair opposite me and tries to lift my hand, but I pull it away. The sound of his melodic voice soothes me as I practice the two-step in my head, my toes tapping. Suddenly he stops talking and looks deep into my eyes.
‘You look well today, Lily,’ he says, ‘I’ve always loved that colour on you.’
I look down at my dress and smile. ‘It’s my favourite colour,’ I tell him. ‘Periwinkle blue; it matches my eyes, I’ve been told.’ I laugh and pat my hair. ‘I had to make an effort to look extra nice today for my visitors. Did I tell you my son, his wife and their young daughter will visit later. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting my granddaughter. Her name is Mia; my very first grandchild. They’re flying in from . . .’ I look towards Mary, ‘flying from . . .’ I can feel myself getting agitated. I click my fingers, hoping that the words will magically appear. They don’t. ‘You know the place I’m talking about, it sounds like Koala bears.’
Mary hesitates. Usually as sharp as a new pin, it appears she has forgotten too. She looks towards the man beside me. They think I don’t notice his barely imperceptible nod before she answers. As if he is giving her permission to speak.
‘Do you mean Kuala Lumpur?’
‘That’s it,’ I say. “When Sean left America he toured the world before settling there.’ I shift in my chair and turn to look at the man beside me. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but you should probably leave soon.’ I give him my sweetest smile to take the sting from my words, ‘I’m sure you understand.’
I’m surprised to see his eyes are moist. And strange how I hadn’t noticed earlier what a beautiful shade of hazelnut brown they are; the same shade as Sean’s.
Mary turns off the radio and I glare at her. ‘What are you doing?’ I snap. ‘I always listen to the midday news.’ I didn’t mean to snap. My voice becomes softer, ‘it’s good to know what’s going on in the world.’
‘I just thought that as John was here—‘
‘I’m sure John will understand,’ I say, glaring at him instead. ‘Besides, my visitors will be here soon and I need to get to Mannings Bakery before it closes to pick up a few cream cakes. I must remember to get Sean’s favourite. He loves those gingerbread men. Maybe I should get one for Mia too.’
‘Good idea,’ he says, ‘but I’d like to wait a while. Sit with you. Just for a little longer.’
I suppose he must be lonely. And he’s doing no harm. We were always brought up to be charitable to those in need. I nod. ‘But you’ll have to stop talking while I listen to the headlines. I always listen to—
There is still no news for the relatives of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 missing since Saturday. The plane, along with the 239 people on board, vanished off radar screens while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The search continues . . .
I can’t breathe. My heart is thundering in my chest, but I can’t breathe. I bend forward, my arms folded across my chest; rocking, rocking, rocking. There is a loud keening noise, like a banshee. It’s blocking out the voice of the newsreader and getting louder.
The banshee …
‘Lily, please. You’ve got to stop!’
‘Lily, it’s okay. It’ll be okay,’ the man says, as he kneels before me.
My eyes fall upon my handbag, sitting beside my chair leg. I pick it up and rummage through it, emerging victorious with my lace handkerchief and mobile phone. I dab my eyes, then begin to press the buttons on the phone but my hands are trembling. Soon my entire body begins to shake and I am powerless to stop it; I feel as if I’m losing control.
‘Let me, love,’ he says, presumptuous as ever, it seems. But I allow him to take the phone.
It springs to life. I know he has dialled Sean because the ring tone is longer than normal. I hold my breath. It rings once, twice, three times and then I hear Sean’s voice. I allow my breath to escape. Only it isn’t Sean. Not Sean in the here and now. It’s the Sean in the phone. The Sean that wants me to leave a message and he’ll get right back to me.
I prise the phone from his shaking hands.
‘Sean, it’s me. I just wanted to check that you were alright. I’m looking forward to your visit.’ The tears have started to run down my face and I choke back a sob. ‘I love you, son.’
The phone slips to the floor.
I bend my head and examine the wizened hands sitting in my lap, where they twist a handkerchief round and round.
I am aware of a man and woman. The man has his back to me, his forehead pressed to the window, while his shoulders move up and down. The woman turns the dials on the radio, finally landing on Frank Sinatra. Fly Me to the Moon, bursts into the room.
The man turns from the window and looks straight at me. His forehead furrows and his red-rimmed eyes glaze over as if deep in thought. Suddenly, it is as if his well-worn face deflates like a popped balloon. I look away. I cannot bear to see such sorrow and it would be insensitive of me to ask what has caused it.
‘Would you like me to fix your hair?’
I turns towards the owner of the soft, country lilt and nod. The pretty, young woman smiles and I relax as the soft bristles of the silver handled brush, glide through my hair. Picking up the matching hand-mirror, I watch the soft white tendrils lift and fall around the face of the old woman in its oval frame. I notice she’s wearing my favourite lipstick, Paradise Pink. I must remember to pick up another tube.
Heavy rain begins to fall, drumming against the window pane. The sky is slate grey but the lush green grass glistens outside. The benches, scattered among the myriad of rose bushes, sit empty and desolate.
It will be nice to have a visitor.
The ghost of a smile reflected on the woman’s lips tells me she agrees.
Then it’s over to YOU for the open mic!
STACCATO is Dublin’s latest Spoken Word event. The idea is to showcase both established and emerging talent in prose and poetry.
FREE admission to Toner’s, Baggot Street from 7.30pm tonight, Wednesday, 30 December 2015.
Look forward to catching up with you all.
It includes work from a number of guest writers, including (in alphabetical order):
As well as a number of Platform One writers, many of who have won or been shortlisted for writing awards including:
the Hennessy Literary Award, the Listowel Writers’ Week Short Fiction Award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award, the Jonathan Swift Short Story Award, the James Plunkett Short Story Award, the RTE/Penguin Short Story Competition, the Patrick Kavanagh International Poetry Award and many more …
Trish Best, Annette Bryan, Joan Power, Niamh Byrne, Eileen Casey, Susan Condon, Doreen Duffy, Gavan Duffy, Brigid Flynn, Marie Gahan, Sue Hassett, James Hyde, Vivienne Kearns, Brian Kirk, Aine Lyons, Mae Newman, Trish Nugent, Tony Shields and Michael J Whelan.
“To open Circle and Square is like entering the sort of fascinating cafe which every shopping centre should ideally possess: a cornucopia of engaging voices and fascinating stories that any reader would happily eavesdrop on. Eileen Casey has deftly knitted together a compelling ensemble of poets and prose writers whose stories complement each other, as they ripple outwards in increasingly imaginative circles to explore the multiudinous facets of everday living. This is an anthology where a shopping expedition or a Luas journey can also bring you on a succession of intriguing and inventive voyages into the past and future. Prepare to be entertained.”
– Dermot Bolger
There will be a sneak preview of Circle & Square at the RED LINE FESTIVAL
on Tuesday the 13th October, 2015
at RUA RED Arts Centre
from 7.00 pm – 8.30 pm.
Guest writers Joan Power and Kevin Power (Bad Day in Blackrock) along with Eileen Casey will be in company with representatives from local trader organisations. The evening will feature the lyrics of WB Yeats put to music by Tony Bardon together with brief readings from Circle & Square (Fiery Arrow Press).
Admission is FREE, but booking is required via (01) 451 5860 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The official launch of Circle & Square is due to take place in November – details to follow soon!
Over the years, I’ve read and enjoyed all of Alex Barclay’s books. Darkhouse, up until now, would have topped my all-time favourite books. As an avid reader, that’s high praise indeed – but that was before I read Killing Ways. Don’t worry – I guarantee no spoilers – but if you enjoy your crime fiction gritty with plenty of twists and turns then look no further. Engrossed in the story and the characters, about half-way in I had my first of many “oh, my God” moments, as the tension, along with my blood pressure, ratcheted up.
Sitting on the Luas I nearly missed my stop and couldn’t wait to dive between the pages again on my return journey; half of me wanted to race through the pages to the end while the other half wanted to savour every moment.
It was reminiscent of reading childhood books where I became so engrossed in the story that my real world virtually dissolved. The characters were alive and I felt as if I knew them as intimately as close friends and family; my mind already worrying about their future, long after that final page. Barclay is, most definitely, at the top of her game!
About Killing Ways
In the game of vengeance, he holds a killer hand.
In her most shocking case yet, FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce takes on a depraved serial killer fuelled by a warped sense of justice.
A master of evasion, each life he takes ramps up Ren’s obsession with finding him. Then one victim changes everything and brings Ren face to face with a detective whose life was destroyed by the same pursuit.
Together, can they defeat this monster?
Or will he take them both down?
Ger Holland Photography Exhibition
Now there’s an exhibition not to be missed!
Ger Holland – a young freelance photographer based in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown – has her very first Photography Exhibition in dlr LexIcon running 4 March until 30 April.
I’ve been friends with Ger since we met some years ago in the Irish Writers Centre and although she’s a great writer, she’s an absolutely brilliant photographer with an eye for detail that transforms each shot into a unique and priceless piece of work. Ger has managed to capture shots of celebrity chefs, actors, musicians and writers and most recently has specialised in event photography where she has covered numerous literary gatherings including book launches, signings and festivals.
Ger has been photographing authors who have participated in the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival and also the dlr Library Voices series since 2012.
This exhibition provides an opportunity to highlight the vitality, energy and perception of her portraits.
Date: Wednesday, 4 March – Thursday, 30 April
Venue: dlr LexIcon, Haigh Terrace, Moran Park, Dún Laoghaire
You can catch a flavour of Ger’s work from her website http://www.gerhollandphotography.com and check out what others have to say:
” A joy to work with, Ger exceeds expectations at every shoot, blending seamlessly with guests, unobtrusively getting the shots required. I have used her on countless occasions to supply shots of everything from big busy events with high profile guests, to individual portraits. I cannot recommend her highly enough!”
Vanessa O’ Loughlin, Writing.ie
“It’s always a pleasure to see Ger Holland at my book events because I know that she’ll produce lovely work, and do it unobtrusively and sensitively. She’s a star.”
John Connolly, Writer
“In a relatively short space of time Ger Holland has become synonymous with event photography in the country’s capital. I absolutely look forward to witnessing the many exciting endeavors of this shooting star into the future.”
Louise Phillips, Writer
I’ve heard it said that you should never meet your heroes as more often than not you’re likely to be disappointed. Thankfully, with Alex Barclay, that was most definitely not the case!
We first met some years back at an event in Easons, O’Connell Street, and our paths have crossed at numerous writing events since. In The Civic Theatre last year, as part of the Red Line Book Festival, I chaired ‘Ladykillers’ which gave me the unique opportunity to delve into the minds of Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and former Boulder Coroner (and good friend of Barclay’s), Joanne Richardson. What I found most disconcerting was how angelic they all appear on the outside, while managing to conjure up the darkest of villains and crimes within the pages of their novels.
Barclay is the author of several bestselling thrillers. Her first novel, Darkhouse, was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller while third novel, Blood Runs Cold (the beginning of the Special Agent Ren Bryce series) won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award at the Irish Book Awards. Harm’s Reach is her sixth adult novel and the fourth in the FBI Agent Ren Bryce series.
Interest in plots and characters (especially villains!) or Homeland or tips for new writers?
Then read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.
About Harm’s Reach
FBI Agent Ren Bryce finds herself entangled in two seemingly unrelated mysteries. But the past has a way of echoing down the years and finding its way into the present.
When Special Agent Ren Bryce discovers the body of a young woman in an abandoned car, solving the case becomes personal. But the more she uncovers about the victim’s last movements, the more questions are raised.
Why was Laura Flynn driving towards a ranch for troubled teens in the middle of Colorado when her employers thought she was hundreds of miles away? And what did she know about a case from fifty years ago, which her death dramatically reopens?
As Ren and cold case investigator Janine Hooks slowly weave the threads together, a picture emerges of a privileged family determined to hide some very dark secrets – whatever the cost.
Hachette Books Ireland
are pleased to invite you to the launch of
by award-winning crime writer
“As fast-paced and thrilling as a rollercoaster.” Jane Casey
Date: Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Venue: Easons, St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Dublin 2
Writers, by-and-large, are a thoughtful, giving bunch, who do their best to impart nuggets of information that will spur you on to become the best writer that you can be. Crime fiction writer, Louise Phillips, goes out of her way to do that and more – and she succeeds. Two of her students have recently signed with literary agents, one (Jax Miller) with a major six figure publishing deal!
So if you are a writer with plans to start, finish or rework existing novel material (inclusive of memoir) then Louise Phillip’s, Write That Novel course, is for you.
It begins on 30 April in Carousel Creates and costs €120 for the six weeks – but be warned, it’s already booking up fast!
Here’s what Jax Miller had to say…
“There was nothing more pleasurable and informative than attending Louise Phillips’ Writing Courses at the scenic and serene enclave of Ireland that is Carousel Creates. Louise’s information and advice helped me to grow as an author and gave more confidence behind my pen. Learning from one of the best crime writers I know (and her reputation precedes her) was an experience I’d recommend to anyone I know who is looking to embark in the literary field, especially crime. I cannot vouch for her enough. She’s proven to be one of the best there is in the field and she certainly knows her stuff. It’s one course I’ll always remember.”
Louise Phillips is bestselling crime author of the psychological crime thrillers, Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House, Winner of the Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2013. 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 RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition. In 2012, she was awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from South Dublin County Council.
There’s plenty of events to keep all avid readers and aspiring writers busy and plenty more to come.
I thought you’d be interested in these two for starters!
Louise Phillips is the bestselling author of Red Ribbons and 2013 winner of Crime Novel of the Year for The Doll’s House.
This free workshop will cover all aspects of crime writing including: plot, character, tension, effective dialogue and so much more.
Click the poster for more information, including registration details.
Date: Thursday, 13 March 2014
Time: 7.00pm – 8.30pm
Venue: Manor Books, 3 Church Road, Malahide
Admission: Free event but registration essential.
A celebration to launch The Wolf in Winter
with music from John Kearney & Lucy Farrell
Smock Alley are delighted to announce another event in their ongoing series of author talks with neighbours, the Gutter Bookshop.
Join them to celebrate the launch of the twelfth Charlie Parker thriller, The Wolf in Winter. John Connolly will be joined by musicians Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell in what promises to be a unique and thrilling evening. There will be a book signing after the event in The Gutter Bookshop.
Date: Thursday, 20 March 2014
Venue: Smock Alley Theatre
Admission: Free ticketed event (€1 admin fee for on-line tickets)
What better way to get your writing year off to a great start than by joining one of the highly recommended writing classes about to start in Dublin. Find a selection below to whet your appetite:
Lecturer: Valerie Sirr, is a Hennessy New Irish Writer award winner with a B.A. Hons Psychology, M.Phil Creative Writing. This workshop is for those who want to discover and develop their creative writing skills by exploring the imagination, overcoming fear, developing a writing habit and finding a voice. Trigger exercises and writing games will be used and assignments will be set. Constructive feedback will be given to those who bring work.
There will be two terms of ten weeks each and participants can sign up to both or to either the first or second part.
Date: Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Venue: The Peoples College, 31 Parnell Square
Time: 6.15pm – 7.45pm
Valerie Sirr, Hennessy New Irish Writer award winner, began writing after graduating with her Diploma in Advanced Computer Programming at Trinity College, Dublin. She then graduated from University College, Dublin with a B.A. hons. Psychology degree, going on to study at London’s Institute of Psychiatry. She later returned to Trinity College, graduating with an M. Phil. in Creative Writing and also received a University College Dublin School of Film scholarship to study for her Certificate in Screenwriting.
This workshop is for those who want to discover and develop their creative writing skills. If you’re a beginner or if you’ve already done some writing, you’re welcome to come along.
Date: Monday, 20 January 2014
Venue: Crumlin College of Further Education
Time: 6.45pm – 8.15pm
Louise Phillips is bestselling crime author of the psychological crime thriller, Red Ribbons, shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2012. 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. In 2012, she was awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from South Dublin County Council. Her second novel, The Doll’s House, another psychological crime thriller was published August 2013.
There are many elements to successful crime writing – tension, pace, memorable characters, effective dialogue, a plot with twists and turns, and an uttering gripping story. Over the course of eight weeks you will examine these elements, along with looking at the area of research, rhythm and shape within the narrative, and through weekly critique, develop your voice as a crime writer.
Date: Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Venue: The Irish Writers’ Centre
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Imagine my surprise to be contacted by a member of the Tallaght Community Council to tell me that I am one of the shortlisted nominees, under Arts & Culture, for this year’s Tallaght Person of the Year!
I even received a certificate in the post – just to be sure I hadn’t imagined it all . . .
The 30th annual Tallaght Person of the Year awards takes place tonight, Friday, 29 November at the Maldron Hotel, Tallaght and among the list of nominees are non-other than Louise Phillips who, just days ago, won the The Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards for Crime Fiction Book of the Year with The Doll’s House.
There are eight categories and I was delighted to find, under the Business category, Noel Gavin, InTallaght Magazine and Emu Ink.
It promises to be an enjoyable and eventful night which I am looking forward to immensely.
I’ll keep you posted!
There’s plenty of events to keep all avid readers and aspiring writers busy over the next few weeks and plenty more to come. Check out a selection below.
Hope to see you there!
Trinity College Dublin and Glucksman Ireland House, New York University are holding a festival devoted to Irish crime fiction, featuring more than a dozen of the most exciting Irish crime novelists. This will be a memorable weekend, devoted to a key genre of contemporary Irish writing, so please make plans to join us.
Among the confirmed participants are Conor Brady, Declan Burke, Jane Casey, Paul Charles, Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Conor Fitzgerald, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, Gene Kerrigan, Kevin McCarthy, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, Stuart Neville, Niamh O’Connor, Louise Phillips, and Michael Russell.
We’re particularly pleased to announce that our weekend will conclude with a major event: for the Irish launch of his newest novel, The Gods of Guilt (Orion Books, November 2013), Michael Connelly will be interviewed by John Connolly. After the interview, and questions from the audience, Michael will be signing books, which will be for sale on the evening. Tickets are required for this final event, and they are €6 (inc. fees) from eventbrite.com.
Date: Friday, 22 – Saturday, 23 November 2013
Venue: Trinity College Dublin
Admission: Free events (€6 for Closing Event)
From the time she was born, Emma Byrne was different from other children. Shy and reclusive, her world revolved around animals, so much so that by the time she was 15, Emma was a much sought after horse trainer.
So who would try to harm this gifted young woman? Who was shooting in Crilly Woods on that fateful August day?
Emma’s twin brother, Anthony, is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to his sister, and in the course of his investigations makes a terrible mistake, one that will change all their lives forever.
The Outsider: sometimes those who love us most hardly know us at all.
Date: Thursday, 7 November 2013
Venue: The Gutter Bookshop