Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cheekyfella Dreaming

It looks as if I might publish seven books this year, which is ridiculous even for me. The seventh, 'Cheekyfella Dreaming', is to be brought out by Halcyon Press (Ireland) in time for Christmas. It has an interesting background.

Several years ago I wrote a children's book called 'Kookaburra Dreaming' which was published by Scholastic in Britain, but fell foul of political correctness in Australia, where the book was set.

A white Australian editor decided the book's hero, an Aborigine boy, should not have been called 'Cheekyfella' even though the character was based on a real Aborigine with a similar name. (Similar, but not identical. The original was named Cheekybugger, which I thought might be a bit extreme for a children's book.) As a consequence, Scholastic declined the sequel.

I wasn't altogether unhappy. I'd objected strenuously to the cover of 'Kookaburra Dreaming' but lost the fight. (Few people realise that the standard publishing contract expressly debars an author from any input into decisions about the price, marketing, advertising, physical appearance or cover of his book. Most publishers will let you see a cover in advance as a courtesy, but if you don't like it, that's tough. And some don't even go that far. The first sight I had of the cover for 'Ruler of the Realm' -- due for publication in October -- was in a Bloomsbury catalogue.)

But Cheekyfella haunted me to such an extent that he popped back into my head when I was asked to contribute to an anthology of Christmas stories. The result was 'Kookaburra Christmas', a short fable about Cheekyfella that I think is probably one of the very finest stories I've ever written. The anthology came and went and while the story proved popular enough to be taken up and reprinted, I always regretted that it was never published as a stand-alone book.

Then Halcyon came on the scene, founded by two old friends of mine, Rita Kelly and Edel Connolly. Rita read a manuscript copy of 'Kookaburra Christmas' and took fire on it at once. The outcome was an offer to publish; and in time for sale next Christmas if physically possible. The name of the book will be 'Cheekyfella Dreaming' to avoid confusion with the anthology version.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wild Divine

Been playing a particularly interesting computer game lately, 'The Journey to Wild Divine', which uses biofeedback to enable you to interact with what's happening on screen.

The thrust of the game (and I'm not at all sure 'game' is the right word) is to teach participants various imaginal, relaxation, breathing and energy control techniques in an attempt to provoke a spiritual awakening.

You plug yourself in to the hardware, which reads off heart-rate and galvanic skin response, and learn to control your mind sufficiently to produce interesting effects on screen, like levitating rocks or shooting an arrow at a target.

When I installed the game's second module, called 'Wisdom Quest' the application crashed continually at the opening screen. I emailed the Wild Divine Project's technical support department late on Friday afternoon and had a cure for the problem (which affects certain Macs) within hours, an all-time record for back-up in my (extensive) experience of software glitches.

You can read more about Wild Divine at www.wilddivine.com.

Feile Draiochta

Trolled off to Dublin on Saturday to talk about out-of-body experiences at the Feile Draiochta, the annual Festival of Irish Magic and Spirituality. My wife Jacks also gave a talk about the Celtic Wheel of the Year and my old friend Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki did a two hour lecture on village witchcraft. Good attendances at all three sessions, a fabulous programme of events generally (there was one workshop on 'Voodoo for Eejits') and lots of lovely people. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

The organisers opened on a crisis note when they learned on the sweltering hot morning of the Festival that the hotel's air conditioning had broken down. But they rose to the occasion with helpers circulation with trays of iced water and banks of electric fans at the various events. The audiences were stoical and enthusiastic. My lot endured a theatre that was roughly the same temperature as the bottom oven of our Aga; and still managed to stay awake long enough to ask questions after I'd droned on at them for three quarters of an hour. That struck me as a magical phenomenon in its own right.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Faerie Lord went off to Sophie (my literary agent) this morning. A doorstop of a manuscript running to 532 typed pages. That's just short of 99,000 words, which makes it longer than any of the previous three books. That said, I've a tendency to overwrite (25,000 words came out of the first draft of Purple Emperor) so that could come down a little. Or even a lot.

The book itself is peculiar -- very archetypal, very odd -- but I think it finishes Henry's story in a satisfying way. At least I hope so. What next? God knows. I'll need a bit of time to recover, then onwards and upwards.

Meanwhile I heard this morning from my old friend Dave Donohue, who's in New York at the moment swinging on the chandeliers of the Waldorf Astoria, which he's using as one of the settings for his next book. His publishers, Scholastic, are planning a massive publicity campaign to launch Moon Man, his new Walter Speazlebud adventure. It's a fun book, original and quirky -- I read one of the early drafts -- so watch out for it in the shops.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Back home, stretch, yawn.

Just back. Packed the bucket and spade and a heap of books I'd had no time to read and headed for Tramore. 'Tra' means beach in Irish and 'mor' means big, so Tramore runs out as Big Beach, which just about sums it up, except for the amusement arcades and fairground which I never got around to visiting. Stayed at the Coast Townhouse, which has absolutely fabulous food, and slept a lot.

When I woke up I read Davey Stone's 'Dwellings Debacle' (that's David Lee Stone to you) and loved it. This is the latest in his Illmoor Chronicles, a fantasy series that's seriously gunning for Pratchet. Humour is extraordinarily difficult to get right, but Davey's aim is spot on. Couldn't recommend his books highly enough.

Mixing pleasure with pleasure, I met up with Rita and Edel, the Halcyon team who are threatening to publish a little book of mine this Christmas, about which more anon, once we can agree on a title for it. Came home to an advance copy Strange Powers of the Human Mind, the third in the Herbie Brennan's Forbidden Truths series Faber are bringing out. Like the first two, the cover looked brilliant. Along with the Halcyon Christmas, this means seven books coming out during 2006, which strikes me as ridiculous, but there you have it.

Off to start editing Faerie Lord now.