I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

Adopt A Shameless Lion !

 
All 48 lions have now been adopted! All 48 lions have now been adopted! All 48 lions have now been adopted! All 48 lions have now been adopted! All 48 lions have now been adopted! All 48 lions have now been adopted!
 

I am so happy with the response to this lion adoption/writing circle project. There are now 48 of us!!

Please remember to link to the separate blog dedicated to the circle when you post your lions in your sidebars, so everyone can benefit from the networking. See excellent examples of lions in sidebars at Chick With A Quill, Doors Left Open, Skint Writer and A Wanderer in Paris, among others. Everyone will benefit from the linking up that this circle will offer, but bread trails have to be left. Posting your lion in the sidebar will also make him more visible, and he won't drop away buried among regular posts. The poems/prose are excellent so far ... don't forget there's a 48 word limit though. A roar a day keeps the writer's block at bay! Keep reading below for details on how you can adopt a lion and join the circle. I am keeping this post at the top of my blog for the timebeing, so sorry that normal posts are on hold for a bit.



WHAT IS THIS ?

This is an exciting opportunity, which aims to bring a lion's prestige and pride to some lucky creative writing and books blogs!

WHAT ?

The stars of my "Lions of Lyon" series are looking for permanent homes in the blogosphere, with the aim of creating an exciting new writing circle. These lions are wanting to work their magic in your writing, on your blogs, to bring you good luck.

WHO ?

The 48 lions in my series are lining up to be attributed to various writing blogs, to create The Shameless Lions Writing Circle. Places are limited, so you need to be in quick. Participating blogs must have creative writing/fiction/poetry/literature as one of their main focal points. Avid readers/books blogs are also welcome.

HOW ?

The adoption of a lion will require you to feature its photograph in the sidebar of your blog, accompanied by your own original poem or piece of prose (no more than 48 words) inspired by the lion. You will be encouraged to use a title or caption that says: "A member of The Shameless Lions Writing Circle ". You will also be encouraged to provide a link to A BLOG DEDICATED TO THE PROJECT. The newly created site will contain the photographs of all the adopted lions, the accompanying poems/pieces of prose, as well as the details and links of the members. See my sidebar on the right for an example of how your lion can be featured.

WHY ?

Your very own lion will be like your mascot, representing the power and strength you need in your writing. The other lions will be there to "roar" for you and provide strength in numbers. You will be free to find a name for your lion; it might be something close to your own blogging name or something else entirely. Once all the lions are settled into their new homes a contest will be organised to choose the top five lions in terms of their design and the best accompanying poem or piece of prose. It will also be more interesting for the contest to have a real person behind each lion.

WHERE ?

Please check out the list of Shameless Lions HERE and choose which one you would like to adopt. Lions already attributed will have "adopted" shown beside the number. Try to choose a lion that suits you, that you would be proud to have on your blog. You will need to get your choice in quickly as it will be a case of first in, first served.

So, what are you waiting for? Become part of The Shameless Lions Writing Circle, which can only bring positive things your way. Tap into the power of the king of the jungle! Spread the word on your own blogs about this possibility to adopt a shameless lion!

Please indicate your choice of lion here in the comments section or email me at: seak@caramail.com
Once I have said OK to your choice you will be able to download the photo from HERE (the enlarged version of the photo needs to be saved to your computer).

Don't be shy, let a lion roar about your writing!

The Lions Of Lyon (29) + Serenity

 

... and coming in at number 29 in my lion series! What a beauty! I love this marble effect, with a rich depth to the colour. Click on photo to enlarge.

* * *

I've had a few more rejections from New Zealand publishers who had a look at my novel The Olive Tree Manifesto. Don't worry, I have developed a thick skin when it comes to this process now and, strangely, I don't seem to be at all disappointed. Is this serenity a good thing? I must be good in my skin at the moment. Also, there are still some forks in the fire.

The latest rejections didn't contain any negative comments about the story or the writing; it seems to be the same old issue about "the market" and "genre".

The wonderful small publisher Victoria University Press said: "I think to succeed it would need to be appropriately packaged by a publisher with an interest in popular fiction, such as Random House or HarperCollins.

The big publisher Random House NZ said: "Your novel was certainly better than many we receive but unfortunately we felt the market for this genre would be too small."

So, I just have to hope I stumble across someone who feels differently about the possible market for this book. I skimmed through the manuscript again today (after not looking at it for a few months) and, without wanting to sound inflated, I really do believe in it. I hope one day you will get the chance to read it.

Meanwhile, my Dublin novel is seeping through me, becoming the engine for some pretty strange dreams. I feel a burst of progress coming on.

* * *

I'd also like to play my part in the search for Madeleine McCann.

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A Short Story

 
Photobucket

Paolo And The Snakes


He remembers the day he finally surrendered, lying down on the back lawn, realising with relief that he could do nothing but allow the thousands of little snakes find their way to the surface. They had won! Plasters covered what the doctors called ‘crisis points’, where his skin was purple and smarting, in some places crusting over in an unpleasant way. His beautiful, smooth vessel, which his aunties had described as being like soft porcelain, had been betrayed from beneath, by the cruelness of his own inner world.

It started when Paolo was 14, with a shadow across his upper lip, as though it were the work of a pencil - if it had first appeared somewhere else, such as down below, he says he would’ve remembered. He reckons he was the only one in his year who sprouted such a huge amount of curly body hair, his system functioning with cheerful abandon. If only the parents had been more alert to the goings-on of their only child: his need to spend long periods locked up in the bathroom, the pinching of his father’s razor blades, the bizarre desire to place his flighty hands over exposed skin. The cuts, the rashes, the slicing open of under age flesh? No one got the chance to forcefully point out the madness of it.

The unwitting comments of some of Paolo’s friends had driven him to start the shaving, a painful and daily chore that involved sweeps up both legs and arms, his stomach and chest. He hates to bring back the memory of those unkind words: monkey man, tarantula, the fuzz. They seem so harmless now, yet back then, for a boy who wasn’t able to appreciate the miracle of a body’s transformation, it was a terrifying and lonely struggle. Paolo’s body hair, the eternal growth he hadn’t chosen, had to be eradicated, like a noxious weed that crowds out everything else. It became medicinal to hack away the feeling of intrusion, the feeling of having something unseemly on his skin. Of course, people started to notice the plasters. The razor blades, often at the end of their lives from trying to keep the years off his father’s face, had to be pushed harder against the skin, scraped along as though soil were being ploughed. Teenage spots on his face were always sliced open, never given the chance to heal over, denying him a handsome launch into the future.

Poor Paolo was still a child. The hair hadn’t understood the innocence of its target and had no right to take up residence in what was still such a juvenile sanctuary. The new man was still among the boys, still in a land of milky complexions and angelic pureness.

Today the hair has begun to change colour, but it still continues to rise up from beneath. Suffice to say that Paolo and the snakes have never totally reconciled their differences. Every now and then, when he's alone, and the world gives him a little break from its relentless pace, he finds himself fantasizing about uncovering once again his smooth, pearl-coloured skin.


© Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney.

The Dangers Of Distinct Dialogue

 

OK, I'm going to admit something: I'm a spy. When I recently photographed this pub scene in Ireland, I was actually on a secret mission, the people chattering around me none the wiser. That's right, I sneak around foreign places and eavesdrop. I make mental notes. I try to remember everything I hear.

What I'm trying to do is avoid the dangers of distinct dialogue. My current project is set in Dublin and I want to make sure that my Irish characters speak in a credible way, just like the average Bill and Bonny in a Dublin street. I would hate to think that the work is slammed later for having dodgy dialogue: words, phrases and expressions that nobody in Ireland would ever utter. This is actually part of the process I enjoy, so I don't see it as hard work. I look forward to getting together a little "dialogue group" in Dublin at some point in the future. I will call on Irish family and friends to read my work and highlight anything that doesn't ring true. I wouldn't dream of putting the work out there until this has been done.

I bring all of this up because of some recent reviews I've seen of Lionel Shriver's latest book The Post-Birthday World. Rachel Cooke in The Guardian tears the book apart for many reasons, including the speech of one of the characters:

"I read The Post-Birthday World with a mounting sense of incredulity. Why did no editor step in to save Shriver from herself? It isn't only the broad strokes of her dual narratives that are silly; it's the detail that really lets her down (good writing can render almost any plot convincing, even, I suppose, one in which an American illustrator chats with Mrs John Parrot as their respective men toddle out to the baize). Ramsey Acton, for instance, speaks like no snooker player - no human being! - that you've heard before; one minute, he's a cockney of the Dick Van Dyke school ('It's queer how the thing what attracted you to someone is the same as what you come to despise about them'); the next he sounds vaguely - confusingly - northern (he uses 'you were' rather than 'you was' and calls women 'pet')."


Now, I don't need to tell you that Rachel Cooke's opinion is just one of many out there and she is not necessarily right. Yes, I often strongly disagree with reviews I read in the mainstream press. However, another review of the book brought up the same issue, although the overall verdict was a lot more favourable. Melissa Katsoulis had this to say in The Times:


"This is a compulsive, clever, wise and witty novel. There is, however, a fly in the ointment. And it’s a biggie. It is Ramsey’s bizarre Cockney patter. We eventually learn that he is actually rather middle-class, but having spent his whole life in snooker halls, among snooker people, he has adopted their way of speaking. Only nobody English speaks like wot he done. He starts almost every sentence with “Oi”, even romantic ones. Although South London born and bred, he calls women pets, fools, gobshites, and “hasn't a baldy” when he has no idea. Shite is confused with shit, tosser with wanker and, most alarmingly, not giving a monkey’s with not having one. These criticisms might sound petty – Shriver, who is based in London and New York, hasn’t been here long enough to gain an instinctive command of our English, and at least she has the guts to try, and to enjoy herself – but it is rare to be stopped in your tracks during the cleverest book you’ve read in years, by the stupidest thing you’ve heard in your life."


It has to be pointed out that the book has received much better reviews in the US, where the issue of the dodgy dialogue wasn't brought up. The New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani, who is renowned for her harsh reviews, described Shriver's novel as "engaging" and generally painted it in a good light.

When it comes to the whole thorny subject of detail in novels, some would say that a fiction writer shouldn't be bound by the constraints of reality. Why shouldn't they slightly deform the way a Londoner or a Dubliner speaks? It's fiction for goodness sake and lots of detail in the novel is imagined. Who really cares that distinct dialogue is not strictly portrayed? They have a point and I think the issue is not clear cut.

Oh, by the way, Shriver is the "chief fiction critic" at The Daily Telegraph, which means she often writes reviews about the work of her peers. She has written a wonderful article about the dangers she has opened herself up to with this new job. I also wonder whether reviewers at other papers might be tempted to give her a hard time because she is working for the "opposition", the "competitor". A novelist who was relatively unknown before the success of We Need To Talk About Kevin has suddenly become the chief fiction critic on a major newspaper. Her name and face is everywhere. That may irk some, make others a little bit jealous, no? Food for thought.

A Shameless Review

 
There are some subjects that lend themselves so well to fiction, that are perfect for spicing up that melting pot of elements an author needs to create something interesting. The Human Stain by Philip Roth chooses the delicious theme of "secrets", the hiding away of the darker aspects of our lives, the attempt to get away from our past and become someone else in the eyes of others. In Roth's hands, the theme takes off in beautiful but inevitably brutal directions. (See my recent post on Anne Perry for a real life example of how "secrets" can come back to bite).

This book, which runs to 361 pages, is about an elderly university professor in New England, Coleman Silk, who loses his job because of an alleged racist slur against two of his students. He also loses his wife in the consequent stress over the scandal and goes on to begin a relationship with a cleaner half his age. He then finds himself targeted by her unstable ex-husband, a Vietnam veteran. We get energetic glimpses at each character's past, slowly discovering that each is keeping something under wraps.

I won't spoil the book by going into the detail of Silk's ultimate secret, which Roth unwraps with perfect pitch and timing. However, I have to say that it was quite difficult to believe that a secret of that nature could be successfully kept from loved ones, close colleagues or friends. In some parts of the book Silk's "hidden truth" is portrayed as being easily uncovered by bit characters but is a big surprise to those who were closest to him. The imagination needs to be stretched.

The narrator is an author, Nathan Zuckerman, who has starred in other books by Roth. We learn that the novel we are reading is in fact the result of his probing into the real life of Silk, his background, what led to his downfall. Sometimes it feels a little strange in terms of viewpoint as there are aspects about Silk that Zuckerman couldn't possibly be in on - and yet, globally, it seems to work in the end. I also felt at times that I wanted to know more about Zuckerman, given that he was the one leading me through the maze. He tended to become an omniscient, know-it-all voice, with rants about the state of America, about the state of our freedoms; it was difficult, however, to take all that from someone who hadn't been totally integrated into the novel.

The book is set against the backdrop of the Clinton and Monica affair in the 90s, with thickly laid references to our overall theme. There is swearing and graphic detail about sex and general grimness, but it's all part of the ride in this America trying to reconcile its respectable and so-called "immoral" sides. At times there are episodes that go on too long, with precise detail that I found got in the way of the story. I found myself skipping chunks of text that read more like Roth simply having a bit of fun with the sound of his own words, almost trying to prove he has an agile, clever mind.

There is no doubt, however, that the characters in this novel stayed with me after I put the book back on my shelf. I am still thinking about some of the deeper issues invoked. What I like about Roth is his attempt to bring together beautiful language and deep ideas, without forgetting the necessary device of plot. I know that many writers nowadays have all but disposed of the idea of having plot in their work, but for me it's a must. I need to have that feeling of a hunt in a novel, to follow a line of crumbs that lead me to some kind of climax or resolution. I look forward now to delving into Roth's other books.

If Fate Had Taken A Different Course

 

Royal becomes France’s first woman president

PARIS (AS) – Segolene Royal was elected France’s first ever woman president on Sunday, surprising commentators and pollsters who had predicted an overwhelming victory for her conservative rival, Nicolas Sarkozy.

With just over 80 percent of ballots counted, Socialist Royal scored just over 56 percent of the vote, according to figures released by the Interior Ministry. Sarkozy phoned Royal to concede defeat.

“The country has spoken and I will not let you down,” an emotional Royal told supporters gathered outside the Socialist Party headquarters in Paris. “I will take time to listen to our social partners, to work out our first priorities for change.”

The result was a bitter blow for Sarkozy, a former interior minister and ambitious son of a Hungarian immigrant. He had been comfortably ahead in 100 straight opinion polls leading up to the second round run-off vote.

A visibly shocked Sarkozy, 52, told his UMP party supporters “naturally we are disappointed and disillusioned” but he told them that they had to “stay mobilised” for parliamentary elections in June.

Voter turnout in these elections is estimated to have been 85 percent, the highest in 40 years.

Tens of thousands of Royal supporters converged on key sites around the French capital, including Place de la Concorde and La Bastille, for celebrations likely to go on through the night.

The Socialist win will no doubt be a relief for police chiefs who mobilised thousands of officers over fears a Sarkozy victory could spark unrest. Sarkozy is unpopular in poor suburbs because of his hard-line approach to law and order.

Royal said she wanted to be a president for all French people, telling those who voted for Sarkozy that she would promote “inter-party dialogue and cooperation” and that her responsibility was “to protect and listen to all French people.”

Over the past few days Royal remained convinced that she had a good chance of winning, despite polls that suggested she was trailing Sarkozy by as much as nine percentage points.

Royal, whose husband is the head of the Socialist Party, is the first Socialist to take the country’s top job since Francois Mitterand, president from 1981 until 1995.

A Pause For A Poem

 


a goodnight kiss

suddenly
crossing town
between the madness
an old, bedraggled woman
stumbling in just her nightie
elegant fake pistol in bony hand
strangers are my only friends, she wails
and friends now just cocky strangers
hey, sweetheart, don’t be shy
this one for charity
one last memory
a goodnight
kiss


© Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney.