Friday, May 26, 2006


I suppose if you live long enough, just about everything will happen to you eventually. This morning, I had an apport.

An apport, for those of you unfamiliar with the word, is a Spiritualist term which describes small objects that materialise out of thin air during a seance -- and sometimes spontaneously at other times. Although I've been a member of the Society for Psychical Research for many years now and have attended scores of seances, I've never seen an apport... until now.

It happened just after I stepped out of the shower and was in the middle of drying myself with a towel that had been hanging on a rack. The apport, a 2-cent piece, new looking minted in Ireland in 2002, dropped out of nowhere onto the floor.

I was alone at the time, obviously naked (and wet!) with nothing nearby that might provide any obvious explanation for the appearance of the coin.

Apports may or may not be connected with OOOPs (Objects Out Of Place) another phenomenon that's being taken very seriously by psychical researchers lately. An OOOPs occurs when you leave something down -- a ring, a brooch, whatever -- which has disappeared when you go back for it. OOOPs objects often turn up again, sometimes months later, long after you've searched the house from top to bottom and decided they've gone for good.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


A nice enthusiastic young woman named Ruth came over to me at the Summer School yesterday looking for advice on how to achieve her ambition to become a writer. In the course of the conversation she mentioned she'd approached a well-known author a short time ago and was told she shouldn't even bother trying because breaking into the business was now so hard. The professional also declined to reveal the name of her literary agent or give any helpful advice whatsoever.

Interesting to learn the begrudgers haven't completely died out in modern Ireland, although in the old days they usually waited until you succeeded before they started their nonsense.

For the record, it is difficult to get into print nowadays, as it always was. But it's not impossible. It's difficult to find a good literary agent, as it always was. But it's not impossible. If you want to write, write. Do it well and you'll get into print, I promise you. If you have something really interesting to say (and particularly if you tell a good story) I can even promise you'll make good money.

What more do you want -- a written guarantee?

Get writing.

Summer School

Lovely day at the Children's Books Ireland Summer School in Dublin yesterday. I had a discussion slot with the lovely Orla Melling (Chronicles of Faerie) where we had a wonderful time grumbling about publishers and bemoaning their marketing methods. We turned up nicely colour-coordinated in matching suits, which I thought was coincidence until Orla told me it really resulted from the fairies whispering in our ears during the run-up to the event. Hardback copies of Orla's latest book, The Summer King, had just arrived displaying an absolutely stunning cover. Can't wait to read it.

A hugely pleasing bonus was that immediately after our event we got to be present at the surprise presentation of a CBI Special Award to Robert Dunbar, the doyen of children's literature in Ireland. I'd been chatting to Robert beforehand and he told me he'd been out of circulation for nearly a year because of illness, but was now fully recovered and due back on Rattlebag shortly. The look on his face when the award was announced was worth the trip on its own.

This is the first time I've been to the Summer School and I was hugely impressed. They moved the venue from Pearse Street Library to Belvedere College because of the high volume of bookings, but the place was still packed. Better yet, the enthusiasm level was through the roof.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Halcyon Days

Attended a most enjoyable book launch last evening. The book was called 'Cherry's Farm' a hardback for very young children written and illustrated by Cherry Brandon, who's primarily a textile designer for people like Armani and rather a good artist when she's not looking after the animals on the real Cherry's Farm in County Laois.

I met Cherry six months or a year ago at a party and found her fascinating. Not a word of the book then -- it's her first. I gather the project was one of those unplanned, out-of-the-blue things that come up like thunder and then go like a dream from initial conception to finished product. I read the finished product before going to bed last night and found it utterly charming.

But the book was only half the excitement. 'Cherry's Farm' is the very first venture for a brand-new Irish publisher, Halcyon Days, set up by two very dear friends of mine, Rita Kelly and Edel Connolly. You can read all about them and their new business at

Watch out for the Halcyon name in future. I've a feeling it's going to be big.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Shock news

Shattered to hear news of the death of Clair Boylan on the radio this morning. I met her in the days before the publication of her first novel while she was still best known as a magazine journalist. I liked her immensely and while we never became close friends, I followed her career with interest from that point on. Unbelievable to think she's dead at 58. The country has lost a fine writer.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Fairy time

It's almost fairy time.

Several years ago I discovered that when I closely examined certain garden or hedgerow flowers, I could see a small 'energy signature' hovering above them, similar to, but a whole lot smaller than, the sort of heat haze you get shimmering over a tarmac road in summer.

The signatures seemed to be largely confined to bell-shaped flowers -- bluebells, foxgloves etc -- and were shaped (very roughly) like a little winged figure. At the time it occurred to me that if others had seen these energy shapes in the past, it might have given rise to the popular mythology of fairies as tiny winged creatures tending plants.

It now seems certain that others must have seen such shapes long before I did, since I discovered virtually anybody becomes aware of them when they are pointed out. Trial and error taught me this is largely a summer phenomenon, running roughly from end May to early September, with a June/July peak.

If you're interested in trying to spot these curious little energy shapes, warm sunny days are best. Find a blossom (preferably a belled flower, but any bloom is worth a try) and look carefully above and around it. Don't stand too close and don't make noise, which seems to disturb the phenomenon.

Good hunting.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Faerie Lord

Just got in a piece of fan mail from a 12-year-old who said that if she were a crowd she'd give my imagination a standing ovation. With a turn of phrase like that, that one should be writing books herself.

Meanwhile, Faerie Lord continues apace and has taken on a very archetypal structure. Christopher Booker in his The Seven Basic Plots makes a strong case for the notion that ALL fiction is archetypal at root because the human imagination just can't function any other way. (He makes the point, for example, that Jaws, Peter Benchley's hugely popular movie, had exactly the same plot as the saga of Beowulf, created 1,200 years earlier.) I suspect this is largely true, but sometimes the archetypal content is more overt than others and it's beginning to surface big time in Faerie Lord. This has happened to me a couple of times before, accompanied by a very creepy feeling.

Took time off yesterday to attend one of Jacks's crystal workshops. (Jacks is a psychotherapist and crystal healer.) It was a big day for her because she's managed at long last to persuade someone to establish an accredited crystal therapy training course in Ireland. Attendance at her workshops now count as credits for this course and as a result she introduced a few new exercises yesterday. One of them sparked a fascinating burst of psychism among participants. Always interesting to watch that sort of thing manifest, especially when it's unexpected.