Have you entered the big #BloggersBash Blog Writing Competition yet? If not, why not? It’s just a bit of fun, with a great theme – CONNECTIONS – and could win you some nice prizes! You have until March 1st… GO!


bbGOOOOOOOODMORNING bloggisphere… It’s the start of another year, and what a year it’s going to be. I have a little tickle in my tummy about 2017, and it’s screaming sparkle a…


CONNECTIONS #BloggersBash Bestest Blog Post Competition The Tree and Me

The Sacred Tree – na Bílí – is where I made my home, called by a voice unknown, challenged but in the end found worthy. The heart knows when it is home. I pay my respects from a distance, content to wait.

And trees have time to kill.

My life has been filled with trees, from the day as a teen when I missed my train to work because I was so busy writing a poem (Winter Trees) about the trees which bordered the platform, to the day only a few months ago, when I planted the first trees in my garden.

I love them. I admire them. I respect them. I cry when I see one cut down. I feel pain when I see the naked wound of pale, fresh wood.

Trees are tactile. They invite touch. Against my skin, the trunk is cold, hard, unyielding. The tree is not like me: I am soft, warm, weak flesh. Silent and strong he stands, old long before I was thrust into existence; he will remain long after I am gone.

The tree is not like me. He reaches for the stars, blossoms for the sun, always standing tall and proud, bowing to none, resisting. When the storm rages, he dances and sings, but he is resolute.

I am not like the tree. I drift where life’s breeze blows me. I shy from sun and storm. I am human, enslaved to my weak, warm flesh.

The broad path leads me through the forest, and I am dazzled by the myriad shades of green, by the capricious filter of sunbeams, by the golden fall of last years leaves, shed like autumn tears. Above me, branches interlace, shaping the vault of nature’s cathedral. Protecting. Embracing. Forming me into the precious relic contained within their shrine. I breathe, and the burden of life’s woes is lifted.

Beneath my feet, deep in the dark, damp earth, roots search out kin, binding, weaving together, supporting one another, connecting. They are all different – the oak, the scots pine, the rowan, the willow. And yet, they are all the same.

Just like us.

I was inspired to write this by the #BloggersBash Blog Post Competition, which this year is all about ‘Connections‘.

Submit your entry here.


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Friday Fantastic Flash with Geoff le Pard, Sacha Black and Rachele Baker


So the challenge I set you on Friday Fantastic Flash last time was all about…

Conflict: you’ve had a row. Harsh words were spoken, which can’t be unsaid. Do you fall apart, or kiss and make up?

First up it’s the Geoffle with a masterclass in dialogue and a very unexpected ending…

‘You used the f-word.’
‘Yes, but I…’
‘Dawn says if you are getting so angry, maybe I should worry about what might happen next…’
‘You’re not serious…’
‘I’m just saying, Dawn thought…’
‘But what do you think? Do you really think I could, what? Hit you?’
‘It’s in the paper ever week.’
‘Sure it’s in the Express. Hardly the home of accurate reporting.’
‘I don’t think I deserved to be treated like that. I was only asking…’
‘You said I don’t want you here.’
‘No, that’s what you wanted me to say.’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘You’ve never wanted me here.’
‘That’s what you said to me.’
‘What did I say?’
‘I really doesn’t matter.’
‘That I didn’t want you? I would never say that.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘No, if I’ve said something wrong tell me.’
‘There’s no point.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You’re my mother. I can’t divorce you or send you home can I? Shall I make some tea.’

Geoff has just completed a gruelling blog tour to promote his new book, My Father and Other Liars. You can read an excerpt from it here, when he stopped by my blog last week. His first book is called Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle,  and you can buy them both here. You can catch up with him on his blog.

Next, it’s Sacha Black with a piece entitled Verisimilitude, which also has a sting in the tail of the last line. Mind you, I love the very first line, too…

“I like my nails long, Paul. French polish, because it makes them tidy yet elegant.”

I walked round the chair he was tied to and stopped at his back. I leant into his neck and drew a nail up his skin digging as hard as I could. A trickle of blood oozed down his throat. How far was he willing to go for this?

“After what you did, Paul, I willingly sacrificed them. Can you feel their razor sharp point?”

“You’re a psycho, Shona, untie me.”

“You have to be joking, you’re never getting untied. In fact, you’re never doing anything again.”

I picked the hunting knife off the table and tapped the point.

“Excellent,” I breathed. It was just as serrated as my nails.

“Shona, this isn’t funny. I said I was sorry. Now, let me the fuck out.”

I slammed the knife down into the chair right between his bare legs. The point punctured the wooden base and stood erect like a soldier at attention. Sweat trickled from his forehead and splashed onto his thighs. I bent down and licked it off.

“Scared are we?” tingles of excitement raced through my body. I wasn’t even sure what I would do, what I could do. What was allowed?

“Shona, sweetie. Please.”

“Shh, now.” I said, placing an index finger onto his lips.

I drew level with his face, tension narrowing my glare to a cold slit.

“Are you ready?” I said, curving my hand round the knife and pulling it out of the seat.

I slammed the blade into the chair. His scream echoed around the theatre as applause erupted from our audience.

I turned and bowed. Paul gave a nod, still tied to the seat. The judges stood. My shoulders relaxed, tears spilled down my face as I breathed relief. We had smashed the audition.

Sacha currently has her first novel, Keepers, in the editing phase, and is also busy writing her second novel, Adultland, as we speak. You can find out more on her blog.

And now, I am honoured to welcome a new writer to Friday Fantastic Flash… welcome, Rachele Baker! Rachele is not new to writing, however, as you’ll see. Her piece is entitled The Courage to Love.

Marissa stared out at the grey sky. Rivulets of raindrops made their way down the window. “Perfect,” she mused. “Perfect weather for the mood I’m in.” Her mind was suddenly filled with an image of Jeff’s face. His intense blue eyes, his thick dark hair that was always a little unruly, his chiseled features that softened when he laughed.

“Why now?,” she thought. “Now, when everything was so perfect. Now, when, after all these years of carefully guarding my heart, I finally got up the courage to take a chance on love. And look where it got me,” she thought bitterly. “Brokenhearted. Just like I feared.”

She replayed the events of the previous night in her mind again. How excited and happy she had been that Jeff was finally back from his overseas assignment in Germany. He had been gone for months and she had missed him terribly. Everyone had told her that it was difficult to maintain a successful long distance relationship. But she had hoped that their Facetime chats, their frequent emails, and the little gifts she sent him to surprise him would keep their romance alive.

Reflecting on the last several months, Marissa realized that she had noticed a subtle change in their relationship that she had been unwilling to acknowledge. Jeff had seemed distracted when they chatted on Facetime like he was not fully engaged in their conversations. His laughter had not come as easily as it used to when she made little jokes. He did not seem as enthusiastic as she expected him to be when they had discussed what they would do when he finally came home.

Last night was a disaster. She had been so excited to see him. She had purchased a sexy new dress that she thought Jeff would love. She had left her long brown hair loose and flowing – just the way he liked it. She was wearing an exotic new perfume that she was sure would drive him crazy.

When she heard his knock on the door, she rushed to open it – slightly breathless and smiling happily. One look at him and she knew. The smile disappeared from her face. Her legs suddenly felt like they might not support her. A slew of emotions raged through her body. Disbelief, pain, anger.

Marissa stared at the man that she had been falling in love with. He stood silently on the doorstep and made no move to come in. When his gaze met hers, his eyes were no longer full of light and love. They were blank and devoid of feeling. It all seemed a little unreal.

She waited for Jeff to speak. Finally, in a voice she did not recognize, he spoke. “Hi, Marissa. How are you?” he said mechanically. They were only standing a couple of feet apart from each other but the distance felt cavernous.

Rachele is a veterinarian by day, and a writer at all other times. You can find her on her blog, where she dispenses great tips about looking after your pet, as well as information on various pet complaints and treatments. She has also published a very moving account of her mother’s final months with malignant pleural mesothelioma, Eighteen Months to Live. I have read this book; you can see my review here. You can buy Eighteen Months to Live on and

So, a mixed bag of wonderful stories for your delectation, and thank you very much to all this weeks participants for gracing the Friday Fantastic Flash.

And now to this weeks challenge, inspired by something Sacha Black said recently.

purple prose

I want your purple prose. Give me all the adjectives, adverbs, zombie nouns, and metaphors you can. Forget the rules, they’re made to be broken. Lay them on me, but make them classy, not trashy. No dialogue, just description. I want original, not cliché. So lean and mean is the fashion du jour in the writing world, who cares? We make our own fashion. You can describe a scene, a person, an incident, anything you like. Go for it.

You can submit here, I will include links to your blog and books. Entries must be under 500 words, but please remember that I write YA, so there may be young people on this site… please keep it family friendly. I really hope you will join me and take part in the craic!

Calling all budding junior JK Rowlings and Roddy Doyles out there! This could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!


Harper Collins are publishing a very special book later on in the year…and your story could be in it! Beyond the Stars is an anthology of short stories ‘of Adventure, Magic and Wonder’ written by such famous authors as John Boyne , Eoin Colfer (current newly appointed Children’s Laureate of Ireland), Roddy Doyle, Derek Landy, Judy Curtin and more, featuring illustrations by former Irish Children’s Laureate, Niamh SharkeyProfits from the book will go to Fighting Words,  a creative writing centre in Dublin for young people, established by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love.

The winning entry will be a short story, between 1500 and 5000 words written by…YOU! But only if you are aged between 8 and 16 years old. (I know, it’s a bit age-ist, I’d love to have my story featured in the same book as any of those authors, but never mind, lol!) The story must be winter-themed, imaginative and unique, and aimed at readers aged 8-10 years old.

The winning young author will get to work with editor Sarah Webb, have their story illustrated by Niamh Sharkey, have their story published with all those famous authors, and get to go to the launch party in London, along with four other short-listed entrants! Not only that, but your school will receive £250 worth of books for their school library! Not bad, hey?

Find out more HERE, inc terms and conditions. Closing date is 30th June 2014…so what are you waiting for? Oh, and GOOD LUCK!

Now I know how it feels to come 4th at the Olympics…

I’m only now recovering from my disappointment…hence the long absence from my blog. (Sorry about that!)

You see, I found out recently that I’m good, but not good enough. If you have followed my blog, you will know that for the second year in a row, I entered a story into the Fish Publishing Short Memoir Competition. And for the second time, I was shortlisted…from 810 entries down to the final 81. Not bad, eh? I was really hopeful. After all, I had worked on that story really hard. It was surely the best it could be. And Fish Publishing obviously thought it was good enough to print in their anthology, as they selected it for final judging by author, Molly McCloskey.

But Molly didn’t like it. I didn’t get into the Top Ten. My head was telling me that to be shortlisted was an achievement in itself, and that I should be pleased. But my heart was telling me it was not good enough. I must do better.

But how?

In despair, I decided never to write again, and to go and find a proper job. (That thought lasted, oooh, all of five minutes!)

Then I had an idea for a quirk in the synopsis of my new project, The Fenian King, and I was running for my laptop!

(By the way, have I introduced you to my laptop yet? Her name is FoxyRoxy, she’s red and shiny and new, and sits in pride of place on my equally shiny, red desk. This is where all my ideas are converted into stories.)

Would I be a better mum, wife, housekeeper if I didn’t write and got a proper job?


Will my boys remember, when they are adults, that the windows always needed cleaning, or that they had lasagne twice in a row one week because I was too busy writing to go food shopping?


But they will remember that I wrote a book; that I created a book trailer to go with it; that we visited all the sites featured in the book and I told them all the associated legends, and what happens there in my book; they’ll remember seeing my book on sale in our local bookshop and on Amazon, and they’ll know that if they really want something, and are prepared to work hard enough for it, they can achieve anything.

As Annalee said of Tir na Nog, “Anything is possible…”

Can she do it? Yes, she can!

Hang on a minute…actually, maybe she can’t.

You see, the deadline is Friday 26th April. This April. That’s five weeks and three days. Thirty eight days. And in that time, I have to produce another sixty seven thousand words. That’s thirteen thousand four hundred a week, or one thousand seven hundred and sixty three a day.

Hmmm…that’s a lot of words.

So, what’s it all about?

Well, Friday 26th April is the closing date for the Write a Bestseller Competition being run by Poolbeg Publishing in conjunction with The Morning Show on RTE. And as everyone knows, you’ve gotta be in it to win it!

As December 2012 morphed into January 2013, I thought, huh! Loads of time! True enough, I already had the story all mapped out. All I had to do, was put it into words that people might like to read. Easy.

But I hadn’t taken into account one vital draw on my time.


Carys, my daughter.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know she has a rare syndrome called CFC (cardiofaciocutaneous). It’s complex, because it comes not only with developmental delays, but many serious medical conditions.

One of these conditions kicked off last year in June, and has been steadily getting worse ever since. To the point that doctors don’t know what to do about it. Which means that while she is not treated, she has weeks where she screams day and night with pain, won’t eat or drink or take her meds.

When this happens, I can’t write. Hell, I can barely even think. I just muddle through the best I can. It’s heart breaking not to be able to help her.

So why do I care so much about some dumb writing competition? I mean, it’s so trivial, right? Not to mention selfish.

Mothering is what I do day in, day out. It’s my number one priority. But I need to be me, too. And writing is also what I do.

Now, this trivial writing competition works on many levels. First, it gives me a kick up the jacksy, as I work better with a deadline to meet. Second, it offers a one book publishing deal to the winner with one of Ireland’s major publishers, Poolbeg. And it comes with publicity built in, courtesy of The Morning Show on RTE.

So, does this mean I’m shallow, too?

I hope not. I’m not seeking publicity for myself, but for raising awareness for Carys’s syndrome. The book is about what it means to live with a mystery child like Carys. The more that is known about CFC, the better it will be for fund raising purposes, future research, and perhaps finding solutions to the horrible condition my daughter is suffering right now.

So, can I do it? It’s a tall order. A hell of a lot of words, in very little time.  And after all the effort, I may not win, or even come close.

But I have to try, don’t I?

Through to the Last Round!

I’m so excited…today I found out that my short memoir, The Sea-Bright Child, has been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Short Memoir Competition! I don’t know how many entries there were in total, but I am through to the final 81. Now they will go to author Molly McCloskey to be read and judged. The best ten will be published in the annual Fish Anthology. Results will be announced on April 1st, so please keep everything crossed for me!

I entered the competition last year, and my entry also made it onto the shortlist. It would be wonderful  to make it into the top ten this year! Well, only another couple of weeks to wait. Trouble is, I’ve never been much good at waiting…

UPDATE:  I got short-listed three times in three consecutive years for the short memoir competition, and rightly or wrongly, decided to leave it be for a while. I needed time to work out why it was missing the mark each time. I’ll get there one day…